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From Game of Thrones country to Loch Ness, the 50 best British drives

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From Windsor and Windermere to Loch Ness and ‘Game of Thrones’ country: Buckle up for the 50 best British drives

High points: The soaring chalk cliffs of Tennyson Down on the Isle of Wight

High points: The soaring chalk cliffs of Tennyson Down on the Isle of Wight

Dreaming spires and Royal-watchers.

55 miles

From the world’s largest working castle to the historic university city, you’ll follow smaller roads through the leafy valley of the River Thames.

Leave M25 at J13, and take A308 and B470 to Windsor and Eton. The B3026 and lanes along the Thames lead to Cookham. Take the A4155 to Henley, then A4130 and A4074 to Oxford.

Park in Iffley Village on Oxford’s outskirts for a beautiful two-mile walk along the river into Oxford centre.

The old whitewashed Royal Oak, Bovington Green, has nearby Marlow’s gourmet food but not the prices (royaloak marlow.co.uk).

 

Inland waterways and coastal views.

100 miles

It might be flat but there’s plenty to see, from Norwich Cathedral to the Norfolk Broads. The coast road is a lovely drive all the way to the Wash at King’s Lynn.

From Norwich take the B1150 north to Coltishall, then B1354 and A1062 through the Broads to Bastwick, then left on the A149 to Stalham and B1159 to the coast. Use a road atlas to explore smaller coast roads to Cromer. The A149 runs right along the North Norfolk coast, then to King’s Lynn.

The best way to see the Broads is by boat – best place to hire one is Wroxham on the A1151.

With a restaurant and bedrooms overlooking the marshy coast at Brancaster, the White Horse gastro pub is a great spot to try fresh local seafood (whitehorsebrancaster.co.uk)

 

Drivers who prefer leafy country roads to motorways and dual-carriageways.

58 miles

Fields and woods through quiet villages and over the Downs to the seaside.

From M25 J6, take the B2235 to Godstone, then the long straight Tilburstow Hill Road south to join A22 at Blindley Heath. At Newchapel, turn on to B2028 and wind through villages to Haywards Heath. The B2112 leads to Ditchling, then take Ditching Road over the Beacon and down to Brighton.

You’ll pass the entrance to Wakehurst, one of Britain’s best gardens, which includes the Millennium Seed Bank. There are 500 acres of flowers, woods and water features to explore.

Stop off at traditional Bull Inn, Ditchling, for modern British food with ingredients from its kitchen garden.

 

Artistic inspiration.

70 miles

Lush riverbanks and thatched cottages that inspired some of Suffolk’s great landscape painters like Constable, Gainsborough and Munnings.

From Gainsborough’s and Munnings’ homes at Sudbury head east on A134 to Leavenheath. The B1068 and B10710 lead to Flatford Mill, and then the A137 winds up to Ipswich’s Christchurch Mansion art gallery.

Stop to visit Flatford Mill, where Constable painted The Hay Wain, one of Britain’s best-loved rural scenes.

Eat modern British dishes on the riverside terrace at the half-timbered Le Talbooth restaurant near Dedham (milsomhotels.com/le-talbooth)

 

Sea views, yachting, harbours and beaches.

60 miles

Quiet country roads without the busy dual-carriageways, roundabouts and hyper-markets of the mainland.

Start at ferry terminals in Yarmouth, Cowes or Ryde and circumnavigate the island on the A3055 with detours to the Needles, Bonchurch, Bembridge and Osborne House.

Turn into Love Lane from the A3055, a mile west of Ventnor. It leads to Steephill Cove, the island’s best ‘secret’ beach.

Waves splash against the wall of the Spyglass pub next to Ventnor beach. Expect hearty seafood (thespyglass.com).

 

Relaxed pottering through a fascinating but neglected patch of England.

100 miles

Easy driving between the sights on flat country A-roads with long straights.

Leave Bedford on A6 north, then use lanes to bypass Kettering to the east through attractive villages such as Grafton Underwood and the elegant Boughton House. The A43 and A6116 lead to a scenic drive on the A6003 up to Oakham. The A606 runs around Rutland Water to beautiful Stamford and Burghley House. The A6121 and A151 lead to Bourne, then head north on A15 and turn left on A52 to Boston.

Take a detour from A606 at the east end of Rutland Water to see Normanton Church, apparently floating in the reservoir.

Eat overlooking Rutland Water at the Finch’s Arms on a peninsula jutting into the centre of the lake (finchsarms.co.uk).

 

Towns and neat villages of the stockbroker belt. 

120 miles 

Winding roads through the Surrey hills and Kent Downs. 

View to a thrill: Leith Hill Tower, which was built in 1765

View to a thrill: Leith Hill Tower, which was built in 1765

Take A25 east from Guildford with a detour south to Leith Hill for impressive views. The B2126 and Surrey lanes lead to Colgate and St Leonards Forest. The B2114 and A272 head to the scenic A26 to Tunbridge Wells. Nip round the south of town via Sissinghurst to find the A28 and a grand rolling finale to Canterbury. 

 Climb Leith Hill Tower for a view of London to the north and the sea to the south. 

The beamed and flagstoned Parrot pub near Leith Hill serves food from its own farm (theparrot.co.uk). 

 

Driving through history.

40 miles

Appealing Sussex villages and coast views plus a big dose of heritage.

From the William the Conqueror’s landing beach at Pevensey Bay, follow the coast closely using the B2182 and A259. You’ll pass the ruins of William’s Castle at Hastings and follow the scenic route to Rye. Then use the B2089 and A2100 west to Battle.

Hastings is home to the UK’s steepest railway. The extraordinary Edwardian East Hill Funicular is a travel bargain at just £1.50 each way.

The aptly named William the Conqueror pub overlooking Rye harbour (williamthe conqueror.co.uk).

 

Historic cities and towns, and reminders of our naval past.

30 miles

From Winchester’s grand Gothic cathedral to Portsmouth’s old waterfront, an impressive journey across the South Downs to the sea.

Leave Winchester on the B3335 and B2177 via Bishop’s Waltham to Wickham and Drayton. Head into Portsmouth and Southsea on the rather spectacular M275.

Portsmouth’s Historic Dockyard is one of Europe’s top naval attractions and includes HMS Victory, the Mary Rose and the Submarine Museum.

A classic coaching inn refurbished in tasteful modern style, the Crown Inn in Bishop’s Waltham (crowninnbishops waltham.co.uk) is good for food, drink and overnight stops.

 

Weekend city explorers.

55 miles

London is packed with fantastic sights but traffic is a deterrent. Pick a quiet time and use side streets to dodge jams.

A circuit of Wembley, Hampstead Heath, Ferry Lane, Olympic Park, Greenwich, Crystal Palace Park, Wimbledon Common and Kew Gardens.

Choose Sunday for your drive – many parking restrictions don’t apply and there’s no charge to drive even in the very central Congestion Charge zone.

The Greenwich Tavern, an elegant three-storey pub next to Greenwich’s Royal Park serving modern pub favourites (greenwichtavern.co.uk).

 

Driving through glorious landscapes where Exmoor meets the sea.

72 miles

This excellent A-road sweeps through poets Wordsworth’s and Coleridge’s villages in the Quantocks and passes Watchet harbour, Dunster Castle and Minehead beach. Across Exmoor you’ll tackle steep hills but the biggest dangers will be amazing, distracting views.

Imposing: Medieval Dunster Castle, on top of a steep hill in Somerset

Imposing: Medieval Dunster Castle, on top of a steep hill in Somerset

Leave the M5 at Bridgwater and take the A39 west, sometimes signed as ‘The Atlantic Highway’. It leads to mid-Cornwall, although the best scenery ends at North Devon’s beaches such as Woolacombe, Ilfracombe and Westward Ho!

Take the A399 detour to Combe Martin and Ilfracombe for world-class seaside views.

A one-mile detour from Porlock leads to Locanda On The Weir, a restaurant overlooking the harbour (locandaontheweir.co.uk).

 

Swapping the busy main tourist roads for the bleak beauty of the moor.

42 miles

A spectacular drive across the middle of the wildest part of the West Country, with rocky tors, ancient stone bridges, sheep and ponies, and a famous prison.

Take the A30 from M5 J31, then the first exit signed Ide. Follow to the B3212, one of the West’s best ‘secret’ scenic roads. At Yelverton join the A386 south to Plymouth.

Never mind The Hound Of The Baskervilles, beware the chilling local legend of ‘The Hairy Hands’ that grab your steering wheel.

The Warren House stands on the B3212 but is as remote as any pub in the UK. Try the rabbit pie in front of the fire (warrenhouseinn.co.uk).

 

Unspoilt countryside in the footsteps of Thomas Hardy.

78 miles

Small roads, rollercoaster hills, greenery, thatched cottages, flint walls, hill forts and chalk figures.

Leave Shaftesbury on the A350 south and take the A357 west to Sturminster Newton, then B3143 to Duntish Cross and through the lanes for a detour to Cerne Abbas. Back on the B3143, head south through Puddletown to Hardy’s Cottage at Higher Bockhampton. Then take the A35 to Lyme Regis.

Just to the west of Dorchester is the hill fort Maiden Castle, Britain’s biggest. It’s free to visit.

Eat seafood at the Anchor Inn in Seatown, Visit England’s pub of the year, right on the beach (theanchorinn seatown.co.uk).

 

 

The beaches and seascapes of the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park.

23 miles

Grassy headlands, rocky islands, swirling seabirds and the sandy coves of St Brides Bay, ending at our smallest cathedral city.

Little Haven is a quaint village on the west coast of Pembrokeshire

Little Haven is a quaint village on the west coast of Pembrokeshire

Start in the lane by the lighthouse at the tip of St Ann’s Head at the entrance to Milford Haven harbour, then head to Dale and the B4327. Turn left to Little Haven, left, and Broad Haven and follow this small road as it hugs the shoreline. At Newgale join the A487 to St Davids.

Boat trips to Skomer leave from St Martin’s Haven (welshwildlife.org). Trips to Ramsey Island leave from St Justinian (ramseyisland.co.uk).

The Cambrian Inn is a stylish restaurant in the harbour of Solva (thecambrianinn.co.uk).

 

Big skies, white horses and prehistoric remains.

40 miles

Stonehenge and Avebury World Heritage sites, Salisbury Plain and the grand old country towns of Marlborough and Devizes.

Leave the M4 at J15 on A346 to Marlborough and head west on the A4 past Silbury Hill to Avebury. The A361 leads across Wansdyke to Devizes, then the A360 leads down to Stonehenge next to the A303.

A perfect picnic spot is a one-mile detour north of Devizes. Roundway Hill has a white horse, hill fort, Civil War battlefield and amazing views.

There’s pub food and ghost stories at the thatched Red Lion pub in the heart of Avebury (greeneking-pubs. co.uk/pubs/wiltshire/red-lion).

 

The most mountainous landscapes in southern Britain with some of the best driving.

75 miles

A drive from the Monmouthshire town of Abergavenny to the village of Llangadog in Carmarthenshire’s Towy Valley passing Pen-y-Fan, the highest mountain south of Snowdonia, and the spectacular ‘Waterfall Country’ tucked away in forested gorges.

From Abergavenny take A40 along the Usk Valley to Brecon. Head south-west on A470, past north side of Pen- y-Fan and turn right on to A4059 to Hirwaun. The A 465, A4109 and A4221 take you along the southern edge of the National Park. After short stretches of the A4067 and A4068, you’ll reach the A4069 north to Llangadog.

The A4069 or ‘Black Mountain Road’ is a sweeping mountain pass known as ‘The Top Gear’ road by locals, after Jeremy Clarkson raved about this ‘great driving road’ during the TV show.

Tucked away above the A4059, The Red Lion is a popular spot (redlionpenderyn.com).

 

Mountain passes, lakes and daunting views.

50 miles

A breathtaking tour round Snowdonia National Park, including clear views of Mount Snowdon and towering peaks such as Tryfan, Y Garn and Glyder Fawr.

From Betws-y-Coed take the A5 to Capel Curig and Bethesda, then the lanes west to Deiniolen and the A4244 into Llanberis. The A4086 heads right past Snowdon to Pen-y-Gwryd. Take the A498 west to Beddgelert, then the A4085 north to Caernarfon.

Inspired but feeling unfit? The mountain railway from Llanberis offers an effortless way to conquer Snowdon (snowdonrailway.co.uk).

There’s an AA-rosette restaurant at the Bryntyrch Inn, Capel Curig, for fine dining with a view of the mountains (bryntyrchinn.co.uk).

 

Discovering the unspoilt heart of Wales.

106 miles

From elegant Worcester, drive through all the moors and mountains of mid-Wales to the sea.

Leave the M5 at Worcester and head west on the A44. Follow this all the way to the coast, apart from a short scenic loop to Llandrindod Wells on the A483, A4081 and A470.

A short detour south west from Rhayader on the B4518 leads to ‘The Welsh Lake District’, the picturesque Elan Valley.

Celebrate reaching the sea at Pysgoty, a highly rated harbourside seafood restaurant in Aberystwyth (pysgoty.co.uk).

 

Seeing Wales from top to bottom.

186 miles

From the heart of the Welsh capital to the wildernesses of two national parks, this road gives you a complete overview of Wales.

Simply follow the A470 from Cardiff Bay in the south to Llandudno on the north coast.

The highest point on the A470 is 1,444ft above sea level at the foot of Pen-y-Fan. The Pont ar Daf car park here makes a good stop-off, with toilets and catering vans.

The Drawing Room is a Georgian country retreat just north of Builth Wells with a smart restaurant and rooms (the-drawing-room.co.uk).

 

A narrow, twisting road between lichen-encrusted stone walls with sparkling seas on the horizon.

18 miles

Sea views: The Old Success Inn is right on the beach at Sennen Cove

Sea views: The Old Success Inn is right on the beach at Sennen Cove

Poldark- style backdrops of mine workings on inspiring windswept clifftops, bracing coastal walks and rocky Atlantic beaches.

The B3306 leads from St Ives harbour to the cliffs above Sennen Cove.

Park at Sennen Cove for the short and memorable clifftop walk to Land’s End, avoiding the busy and pricey car park at the westerly headland.

From the bar at the Old Success Inn you can sometimes spot dolphins while eating fresh local seafood (oldsuccess.co.uk).

 

 

A totally different experience from taking the M5 for the same journey.

60 miles

Wind through the Wye Valley, Forest of Dean and Malvern Hills, seeing Chepstow and Monmouth castles, Tintern Abbey, Offa’s Dyke and Ledbury.

Leave the M48 at J2 for Chepstow, take the A466 along the Wye Valley to Monmouth. The A4136 leads to Upper Lydbrook, turn left on to B4234 to Ross-on-Wye. The A449 heads north east to Little Malvern, then take the B4232 along the edge of the hills to Malvern itself.

One of Britain’s best views is said to be from the high eastern riverbank at Tintern. Walk up the path to Offa’s Dyke to find the prominent stone platform called The Devil’s Pulpit.

The Seven Stars, a half-timbered Tudor inn at the heart of Ledbury, is an acclaimed gastro-pub (sevenstarsledbury.co.uk).

 

Chocolate-box panoramas of golden stone cottages, pubs and churches among neat hills and valleys.

70 miles

Cheltenham’s Regency grandeur, pretty villages like Broadway and Stow-on- the-Wold, traditional country towns like Burford and Moreton-in-Marsh, and miles of classic Cotswold countryside.

Leave the M5 at Cheltenham, then head north on the B3462 to Broadway, and follow the A44 to Moreton-in-Marsh. The A429 goes to Stow- on-the-Wold, then the A424 heads down to Burford. The B4425 leads to Bibury, then take the lanes through Chedworth, Withington and Dowdeswell to return to Cheltenham.

Just south of the village, stop to climb Broadway Tower, an 18th Century folly. On a clear day they say you can see 16 counties.

The stylishly renovated Lion Inn, the village pub at Winchcombe (thelion winchcombe.co.uk).

 

Discovering the country towns and landscapes to the west of the Midlands.

85 miles

Great country towns like Hereford, Ludlow and Ledbury, and panoramas of the traditional Welsh Marches farming country between them.

From the M50 J3 take the B4221 then B4224 to Hereford. Follow the A49 north to Ludlow then the A4117 east to Pound Bank, and the A453 to J3 of the M5.

The A49 passes the entrance to Queenswood Country Park, one of the UK’s best arboretums to visit, especially in the autumn.

The restaurant at Castle House Hotel, Hereford, is pricey but would be a memorable part of any journey (castlehse.co.uk).

 

Discovering pretty rural roads close to major urban areas.

60 miles

Be surprised by the leafy countryside between the M6 and M42.

Leave the M6 at Stafford and take A513 east. At Croxall, head north on the unclassified road following the river north to Burton upon Trent. Pick up the B5017, which becomes the B234 heading east to Abbots Bromley. Take the B5013 north to Blount’s Green, then the A518 back to Stafford.

You’ll pass the entrance to the FA’s National Centre at St George’s Park. For a full tour, including the replica Wembley pitch and stars’ dressing rooms, book at thefa.com/about-football-association/st-georges.

The Swan at Walton is a popular village pub that combines innovative food and real atmosphere on the banks of the Trent (theswanatwalton. co.uk).

 

Dispelling stereotypes. You’ll see there are plenty of beautiful drives between the cities of the North West.

50 miles

Alderley Edge’s viewpoints, the smart homes of Cheshire’s affluent ‘Golden Triangle’, Jodrell Bank visitor centre, Delamere Forest Park, Chester city centre and Ness Botanic Gardens and Country Park.

From Alderley Edge the A535 leads to Holmes Chapel and the A54/A51 to Chester. Then take the A540 to Wirral, turning left at Puddington Lane for a scenic route to the old waterfront at Parkgate.

You’ll pass Chester Zoo at Upton, one of the UK’s largest, with more than 20,000 animals. It’s the country’s most visited wildlife attraction.

An award-winning whitewashed inn on the edge of the Delamere Forest, The Fishpool Inn, specialises in British and Italian food (thefishpoolinn.co.uk).

 

Newstead to Clumber Park

A Robin Hood-themed scenic detour from the M1.

50 miles

Nottingham Castle, Newstead Abbey, Rufford Abbey, Clumber Park, Robin and Marion’s church at Edwinstowe and, of course, Sherwood Forest.

Taking aim: The statue of Robin Hood outside Nottingham Castle museum

Taking aim: The statue of Robin Hood outside Nottingham Castle museum

Leave the M1 at Nottingham for the castle, then head north on the A60 to Newstead Abbey. Take Longdale Lane down to the A614, turn left and head north to meet the A57 with a slight detour to Edwinstowe on the way, then head west via the A619 to return to the M1.

Energetic families will want to stop at Wheelgate Park, a Robin Hood-themed and waterpark on the A614.

The Little John Inn pub (littlejohnravenshead.co.uk).

 

Finding interesting roads, landscapes and sights between the M1 and M40.

21 miles

Waterside strolls and picnics at Draycote, the Grand Union Canal, the grandeur of the spa era at Leamington and one of Britain’s finest castles at Warwick.

Leave the M45 at Draycote Water and take the A426 to Southam. The A425 leads through Leamington Spa to Warwick and the M40.

Hatton Locks on the west side of Warwick is one of the sights of the Grand Union Canal, with 21 locks in two miles.

For a break on the A425 try the White Hart Inn at Ufton and don’t miss the views from the garden (thewhitehartufton.co.uk).

 

Twisting roads through deep valleys, steep hills, rivers and reservoirs between the M1 and M6.

110 miles

Reflection: A bridge over Ladybower Reservoir in the Peak District

Reflection: A bridge over Ladybower Reservoir in the Peak District

A journey from the heart of the Potteries to the home of steel via beautifully rugged Peak District landscapes with roads that are fun to drive.

From Stoke take the A52 to Ashbourne, then A515 north to Buxton. Use the A537 via the Cat & Fiddle to Macclesfield, then the B5470 to Whaley Bridge. The B6062 leads to the A624 north to Glossop, then take the A57 east through Snake Pass to Ladybower Reservoir, then the A6013, A6187 and A625 down into Sheffield.

Did you know, the wiggly Snake Pass isn’t named after its bends – it refers to the serpent on the aristocratic landowner’s coat of arms?

Sleep, eat and drink at the welcoming Yorkshire Bridge Inn, Bamford (yorkshire-bridge.co.uk), but don’t be confused – it’s in Derbyshire.

 

Escaping the M6 and discovering the Welsh Marches.

55 miles

A series of attractions amid unspoilt countryside, including Aqualate Mere National Nature Reserve, English Heritage’s Haughmond Abbey, Shrewsbury’s castle, abbey and historic centre, Powys Castle and Offa’s Dyke.

Leave the M6 at Stafford and take the A518 west to Newport, then the B5062 to Shrewsbury. The A458 leads west to Welshpool.

Cross the River Severn on the quirky little Victorian Kingsland Bridge in Shrewsbury. Believed to be England’s cheapest toll, it costs just 20p for a car.

Take a break that mixes Georgian roots and modern food at The Ugly Duckling just south of Crudgington (theugly-duckling.co.uk).

 

Completely dispelling Lincolnshire’s flat and boring reputation.

90 miles

Old Lincoln including the cathedral, The Wolds Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, Georgian market town of Louth and Bolingbroke Castle.

From Lincoln head northeast on the A46, then take the B1203 from Market Rasen to East Ravendale. The A18/A16 leads south past Louth to Sausthorpe where you pick up the A158 back to Lincoln.

Kids will love the family-friendly Woodside Wildlife Park off the A158 (woodsidewildlife.com).

The Ship Inn in the village of Barnoldby, just off the A18, serves fine restaurant cuisine at pub prices (the-shipinn.co.uk).

 

Confident drivers with a taste for adventure.

30 miles

Start amid pretty lakeside gift shops and end up at challenging, steep mountain passes and England’s highest mountain.

Round the neat and genteel north shore of Lake Windermere, then head west into the wilder fells. Take Wrynose Pass and the fearsome Hardknott Pass, looping round the lanes to Wastwater and Wasdale Head.

Watch for Herdwick sheep wandering across the road. They think they belong here more than cars…

The Boot Inn serves fine pub food and has cosy rooms in the heart of some of England’s wildest countryside (thebooteskdale.co.uk/new).

 

History fans who fancy stopping for a stroll.

100 miles

A scenic adventure from Maryport where Roman fortifications began, along the little-known Solway Coast then a drive back in time following the world’s largest Roman remains, Hadrian’s Wall, across the rolling northern hills to the priory and castle at Tynemouth.

From Maryport follow the coast north, through Solway Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty to Bowness-on-Solway, then east, taking the A689 to skip around Carlisle. You’ll need a road atlas to follow smaller roads close to the Roman wall and fortifications as far as Wallsend and the mouth of the Tyne.

Park at Walltown Quarry Country Park, (nine miles west of Housesteads) for a short walk to find the best views of the wall.

Reward yourself at the eastern end of the drive with award-winning seafood at Riley’s Fish Shack overlooking King Edward’s Bay at Tynemouth (rileysfishshack.com).

 

Rolling hills and great driving roads.

60 miles

Quaint villages and traditional market towns along exciting winding roads with impressive views of the Yorkshire Dales National Park. The drivers’ highlight will be Buttertubs Pass, once judged ‘England’s only truly spectacular road’ by Jeremy Clarkson.

From Kendal (or M6 J37) head east on A684 to Hawes, then turn north through Buttertubs Pass and east on B6270 via Swaledale villages towards Richmond and the A1.

Just behind the Green Dragon pub at Hardaw on the road to Buttertubs you’ll find Hardraw Force, England’s tallest waterfall.

Take a short detour north of Thwaite to the remote Tan Hill Inn, Britain’s highest pub (tanhillinn.com). It attracts everything from car rallies to famous live bands.

 

Moorland hills covered in heather and distant sea views.

100 miles

A circuit of small roads across the moors between the A19 and picturesque harbours at Staithes and Whitby.

Picture perfect: The pretty harbour at Staithes

Picture perfect: The pretty harbour at Staithes

Start at Thirsk, head via the Hambleton Hill to Hawnby, north through Blisdale on the B1257 and past Great Ayton on the A173. Take the A174 to Staithes and Whitby, before turning inland through the lanes of Eskdale and Rosedale to the A170 and back to Thirsk.

Rosedale Chimney Bank is a twisting stretch between Rosedale Abbey and Hutton-le-Hole. There’s an alternative route, but try one of the UK’s steepest roads for a driving challenge.

The Carpenters Arms, Felixkirk, is a renovated country inn next to the church in a village north of Thirsk (thecarpenters armsfelixkirk.com).

 

Sights that inspire poetry.

30 miles

From steamboats to tea shops, museums to historic homes, this route includes the sights of the poet Wordsworth’s famous Lake District.

Start at the M6 or the town of Kendal, take the B5284 over the hills to Bowness, then follow the lake shore north through Windermere to Ambleside. Then use the A591 to head north between Thirlmere and Helvellyn to Keswick.

Stop for a short stroll in the poet’s home village of Grasmere. There are five free National Trust walks available here (nationaltrust.org.uk)

Follow fellow poets Tennyson and Coleridge’s footsteps to find fine pub food at the Royal Oak, Keswick (royaloakkeswick.co.uk).

 

Wide open countryside, long straight roads and big skies.

85 miles

Beverley and Howden’s impressive minsters, Bridlington’s classic seaside and Flamborough’s dramatic cliffs.

From the M62 head for Beverley then Bridlington and Flamborough Head. Turn inland through Wolds towns like Driffield and Pocklington back to the M62 at Howden.

At Pocklington, Burnby Hall’s spectacular lakes are home to the national water lily collection (www.burnbyhall gardens.com).

Splash out on the Michelin-starred food at the family-run Pipe And Glass pub near Beverley (pipeand glass.co.uk).

 

Old mills, tea shops and pubs.

25 miles

The rugged moors and industrial landscapes that inspired the Bronte sisters around Haworth.

Leave the M62 at J24 and take the A629 as it loops dramatically down into Calderdale. At Sowerby Bridge follow the lane south of the river through Boulderclough to Mytholmroyd. At Hebden Bridge, the A6033 leads north across the moors to Haworth.

A short detour from Hebden Bridge takes you north into the pretty hilltop weaving village of Heptonstall, where writer Sylvia Plath is buried.

The White Lion Inn, Hebden Bridge (whitelionhotel.net) is a tastefully modernised 17th Century boutique hotel with acclaimed pub food.

 

Ancient castles and windswept beaches. 

53 miles 

England’s least spoilt coastline with a sequence of clifftop castles, such as Bamburgh, Berwick, Dunstanburgh and Warkworth, long, empty, sandy beaches and the famous island monastery of Lindisfarne. 

 Spiritual: The tidal causeway to the Holy Island of Lindisfarne

 Spiritual: The tidal causeway to the Holy Island of Lindisfarne

Head north from Alnmouth Bay on the B1339 and follow the coast to Bamburgh. You’ll need a few miles on the A1 before turning off again for an essential detour to the Holy Island of Lindisfarne. Continue through Berwick up to the beautiful finale at St Abbs Head. 

Check tide times carefully before crossing the causeway to Lindisfarne. It is submerged for about half the time. 

Enjoy real ale, homely food and an open fire amid nautical nik-naks overlooking the waves at The Jolly Fisherman, Craster (thejollyfishermancraster.co.uk). 

 

Exploring the wonderful wilds of Northumberland National Park and the Scottish borders.

100 miles

Quiet, scenic roads through unspoilt farmland, forests and moors.

Take B6277 north west from Barnard Castle to Alston, then A689 to Lambley, through the lanes north to the A69, and on to the B6318 at Greenhead. This winds through pretty hills into Scotland where you turn on to the B6357 north to Jedburgh.

At the old stone bridge over Kershope Burn near Pentonbridge you’ll be crossing one of the quietest but most picturesque border points between England and Scotland.

Just before crossing the border, the Pentonbridge Inn offers pub grub, fine food and stylish rooms with glorious views (pentonbridgeinn.co.uk).

 

Short walks, long views and traditional tea shops.

56 miles

Rolling countryside dotted with historic sights and classic North Yorkshire country towns and villages.

Take the A59 west from Harrogate to Bolton Bridge, then B6160 to Appletreewick, cut through the lanes to Hebden. The B6265 leads east to Ripon, then use the A61 to return to Harrogate.

Leave time for sights along the route, such as Fountains Abbey, Studley Royal Park, Brimham Rocks and Bolton Priory.

Craven Arms, Appletreewick (craven-cruckbarn.co.uk) is an atmospheric country pub with accommodation in pretty shepherd’s huts in the garden.

The famous no-limits race track – plus some of Man’s most scenic roads.

80 miles

Follow the race circuit through dramatic mountains… plus some gentle drives round the pretty coastline.

The TT start grid is on Glencrutchery Road, in a leafy Douglas suburb. Head south on the A5 to Castletown and Port St Mary, then take the A31 detour to Calf Sound. The A36 winds up to The Round Table crossroads. Turn left on the A27 for Peel, then the A4 for Kirk Michael. Rejoin the TT circuit on the A3 to Ramsey and A18 back to Douglas.

Over the TT mountain section you can go as fast as you like… but watch out for superbikes practising at speeds of up to 200mph.

The family-friendly Sound Cafe is built impressively into the headland overlooking spectacular Calf Sound at the tip of the island (facebook.com/TheCafeAtTheSound).

 

A major driving expedition up Scotland’s fabulous west coast.

225 miles

Some of Europe’s finest driving roads passing awe-inspiring mountains, moors, lochs and islands. Highlights include Glencoe, Glen Shiel and Kyle of Lochalsh.

Leave Glasgow via the Erskine Bridge and take the A82 to Invergarry, then A87 to Skye.

They look like A-roads on the map but in the Highlands they can be narrow and winding, so allow plenty of time.

Eat local produce at any time of day at the Restaurant at the Old Pines, Spean Bridge, overlooking the mountains (oldpines.co.uk).

 

A world-famous coastal drive to the Giant’s Causeway.

60 miles

Dramatic scenery with rocky shores, sandy coves, and the epic Causeway.

It’s simple: from Larne take the A2 coast road and keep the sea on your right all the way to Bushmills.

Celebrate the end of the drive at Bushmills with a single malt whiskey from the world’s oldest distillery.

The elegant Bushmills Inn has an AA-rosette restaurant and a casual pub-food bar (bushmillsinn.com).

 

Fans of the TV show who want to see the real locations.

150 miles

Dramatic scene: The Dark Hedges in Northern Ireland

Dramatic scene: The Dark Hedges in Northern Ireland

Castle Ward Estate (Winterfell), Tollymore Forest (frequent location), Dark Hedges (Kingsroad), Downhill Beach (Dragonstone), Binevenagh (Dothraki Sea) and Ballintoy Harbour (Iron Islands).

From Binevenagh, take the A2 via Downhill Beach to Ballintoy, then south through the lanes to The Dark Hedges at Stranocum. Follow the A26, M2 and A24 through Belfast to Tollymore Forest Park near Newcastle. The A2/A25 takes you to the grand finale at Castle Ward.

Have a drink at the Dark Horse bar in Belfast, home of one of the iconic Game of Thrones doors (dukeofyorkbelfast.com/venues/the-dark-horse).

The Fullerton Arms, Ballintoy, features another of the ten Game Of Thrones doors carved from trees in the Dark Hedges (fullerton-arms.com).

 

Exploring the beautiful seascapes of this lesser-known Irish coastal drive.

85 miles

Small towns and villages with harbours and beaches on one side and views of the mountains on the other.

Start at Donaghadee harbour and head south on the coast road to Portaferry, cross the mouth of Strangford Lough by ferry, then take the A2 along the coast to Warrenpoint.

The Strangford-Portaferry ferry runs every 30 minutes. It costs £5.80, takes just eight minutes but saves you an hour’s drive round the lough.

Conveniently alongside the A2, the Mourne Seafood Bar at Dundrum (mourneseafood.com/dundrum).

 

Our most extreme road adventure.

175 miles

A memorable drive along the remote chain of Western Isles linked by bridges, causeways and small ferries. See inspiring seascapes, serious mountains, and glorious empty sandy beaches.

Sail to Barra, make a short detour to the most southerly inhabited Hebridean island of Vatersay via a causeway, then head north across Eriskay, South Uist, North Uist, Benbecula, Berneray, Harris and Lewis for a ferry back to the mainland.

Get a CalMac ‘Island Hopping’ ferry ticket (about £200 for car and two people).

One of Scotland’s most acclaimed restaurants, on Harris (scaristahouse.com).

 

Seeing the big sights of the central Highlands from the comfort of the A-roads.

140 miles

Loch Ness, Urquhart Castle, the Caledonian Canal, Aviemore, Culloden Battlefield, lively Inverness.

Head south from Inverness on the A82 to Spean Bridge, the A86 to Newtonmore and A9 back to Inverness.

You’ll pass the entrance to the beautiful house and estate used as Glenbogle in The Monarch of the Glen TV series. It now offers self-catering holidays (ardverikie.com).

Looking along Loch Ness, eat next to an open fire at the Dores Inn (thedoresinn.co.uk).

 

Beautiful driving roads.

70 miles

Rolling moorland, rugged hills, the charming country towns of Moffat, Peebles and Selkirk.

Leave the A74 (M) at Moffat and head north on A701. The A72 will take you to Peebles, and the A707 to Selkirk. Then the A708 will lead back to Moffat and the motorway.

Just north of Moffat, to east of the A701 look out for the 500ft-deep natural bowl called The Devil’s Beef Tub where border raiders of the Johnstone clan would hide stolen cattle.

The smart 18th Century coaching inn at the heart of Selkirk’s market square (countyhotelselkirk.co.uk).

 

Exploring the famous mountains.

175 miles

Castles, mountains, rivers and sea views at villages and towns such as Stonehaven, Montrose, Brechin and the ‘granite city’ of Aberdeen.

Take the A93 west from Aberdeen through the National Park and Glen Shee to Blairgowrie, then the A926 and A90 to Brechin. The A935 will take you to Montrose, then follow A92 up coast to Stonehaven, and the A90 back to Aberdeen.

You’ll pass the entrance to Balmoral on the A93. It’s open daily from April to July (balmoralcastle.com).

Enjoy local catches at the Quayside Restaurant, Gourdon (quaysidegourdon.co.uk).

 

An easy drive around the sights and landmarks of the Kingdom of Fife.

110 miles

Rolling farmland, pretty harbourside villages like Crail and Culross, and major attractions including Dunfermline Abbey and all the sights of St Andrews – including the golf club.

From Kincardine take the A985 and A291 to Kirkaldy, then follow the coast road to St Andrews. Head west on the A91 via Cupar to Yetts o’Muckhart and head back to Kincardine on the A977.

You’ll pass Deep Sea World, a great family attraction at North Queensferry. Look out for daily shark feeding (deepseaworld.com).

From burgers to edible flower salads, the Strathkinness Tavern near St Andrews suits all tastes (strathkinnesstavern.co.uk).

Ten service stations that are worth stopping for

Local farm produce here instead of chain outlets. More than half TripAdvisor reviewers rate the food as ‘excellent’.

Family-owned services offering home-made local food. Their pies are legendary.

Offers a riverside picnic area and wide food range, including Asian takeaway.

Converted trunk-road petrol station between Harrogate and Skipton serves carvery lunches.

Acclaimed roadside farm shop on the A12 serves award-winning breakfasts. Kids’ portions available for everything on the menu.

Food is average service station fare but the view is great: sit overlooking a lake amid rolling greenery.

Kids love eating at this quirky A-road truck-stop cafe in an old double-decker bus.

Fast-food chains but with the thrill of eating inside a bridge above the carriageway watching traffic beneath.

One of Wales’s biggest organic farm shops conveniently sited alongside the A5 – and serves a sizzling roast of the day.

Amid fountains and water features, find the first Pizza Express at a British motorway service station.

 

Windswept, semi-bypassed site with unfortunate recent history as car park for bridge suicide attempts.

Came bottom of recent users’ poll of UK’s services stations.

One of UK’s busiest services where 63 per cent of visitors rate the restaurant as ‘terrible’.

SOften rated one of Britain’s worst. ‘The last time we ever stop here,’ said a recent review.

‘Potholes and filth’, reported one visitor on TripAdvisor.

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