Great British driving routes for every season

Britain is blessed with driving routes that reveal the beauty of every season. You could find yourself cruising along rugged, sun-kissed coastal roads, crunching through autumn leaves at a castle with royal connections, or catching sight of a stag on a frosty winter wander through the Scottish Highlands. Discover some of our favourite driving routes below to help you make the most of Britain all year long.

1. Autumn colours on… The Cambrian Way, Wales – 5 Days

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In autumn, the Cambrian Way is 388km of luminous russets, golds and browns, jewel-blue reservoirs and historic houses bathed in gentle golden light. Starting in the Welsh capital of Cardiff, the route takes around five days.

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Wales is known for its history, myths and legends, and one of the best places to explore all three is Cardiff Castle. Step into 2,000 years of history at this former Roman fortress and discover a fantasy palace dripping in gold and bathed in a kaleidoscope of colours through its stained glassed windows. 

Get behind the wheel and head into the beautiful South Wales Valleys to discover everything from man-made beauty to natural wonders. A carpet of green in summer, the valleys are renowned for their gorgeous autumn leaf displays. Then travel to Merthyr Tydfil and visit Cyfarthfa Castle, a mansion that is now a museum and art gallery. Top tip: The Welsh language can be as tongue-twistingly tricky as it is melodic, but our friends at VisitWales have find some top tips on how to pronounce the names of major attractions on your next visit.

Also en route is the ever-impressive Brecon Beacons National Park. Unforgettable year round, the park is a riot of colour in autumn and is a designated Dark Skies reserve – making it perfect for budding astronomers and stargazers. Grab a map and venture through the park via the many footpaths or explore in a more leisurely way… on the narrow-gauge Brecon Mountain Railway

Step back in time with a detour to Gwydir Castle in the Conwy Valley. Open to the public until the end of October, it’s one of the best surviving examples of Tudor architecture in North Wales. If you’re a gardening enthusiast seeking autumnal inspiration, take a wander in the Grade I-listed Renaissance-style gardens and soak up the jaw-dropping views of the surrounding countryside. Say hello to the resident peacocks, the forefathers of which have been roaming the lawns since 1828. From gardens to ghouls, if you’re looking for a little taste of those myths and legends, why not stay the night in one of their private rooms? Rumoured to be one of the most haunted castles in Wales, it’s the perfect place to relax by a crackling fire and learn about ghostly goings-on as the autumn nights draw in.

2. Alternatively, try… The Lake District, England - 2-3 days

Heading North instead of West? Mixing quaint countryside living with stunning scenery, the Lake District is largely untouched by modern city life and is filled to bursting with cobbled streets dotted with cosy cafés, traditional pubs complete with open fires and scenery just made for rosy-cheeked riverside strolls. There’s a range of driving routes to choose from, but if you’re looking for a dash of history and literary inspiration alongside your autumn colours, one of the best runs from Ambleside to Keswick. 

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Travelling via Ullswater, you’ll drive through the awe-inspiring Kirkstone Pass, a plunging valley offering panoramic views of the surrounding countryside. At 454m above sea level, the pass is the highest driveable location in the region. Soak up the scenery with an overnight stay at the Kirkstone Pass Inn, a former coaching inn that is the third highest pub in England. Then follow the trail of former Lake District resident William Wordsworth, on a drive through the countryside that influenced his greatest works.

 If great literature is your cup of tea, take a trip to Hill Top, the former home of Beatrix Potter. Wander the pretty gardens and explore the country cottage that inspired the adventures of Mrs Tiggy-Winkle, Peter Rabbit and Jemima Puddle-Duck before continuing on to Buttermere, home to some of the finest walking country in the Lake District and a favourite spot of Lake District guidebook author and expert, the late Alfred Wainwright.

3. Winter magic on… The Snow Roads, Scotland – 3-4 days

This 145-km driving route allows you to take your time and enjoy the frosted glens and fairy-lit villages of the Scottish Highlands in all their glory. 

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Starting in the charming market town of Blairgowrie and finishing in the Highland town of Grantown-on-Spey, the route goes through the Cairngorms National Park via the highest public road in the country, ensuring picture-postcard views of some of the park’s prettiest snow-kissed countryside. 

If you’re an art lover, check out the Scenic Route Installations. Designed by some of Scotland’s finest architects, these innovative sculptures frame the area’s endless winter skies and staggering scenery, making them the perfect spot for your festive holiday snaps.

Fan of Scottish whisky and looking for a winter warmer? Head to Royal Lochnegar distillery where you can book a tour and savour a touch of the local spirit. For a cosy base from which to explore the surrounding area and experience the royal way of life, why not stay in the grounds of Balmoral Castle, located just a stone’s throw from the distillery? Although the castle is closed to the public during the winter months, the Scottish home of the royal family has a number of holiday cottages for rent throughout the year.

If winter sports are more your thing, strap on your skis and take to the slopes at the Cairngorm Ski area. Glide through 30km of ski routes as you explore some of the park’s most staggering scenery. Alternatively, don your snow shoes on a guided ranger walk of the Northern Corries, as you venture through the natural winter habitats of some of Britain’s most endangered animals. 

4. Spring sunshine… on the Cornish Loop, England – 5 days

Cornwall is one of the most popular destinations in Britain during the summer, but if you’re seeking relaxation, sunlit scenery and a taste of traditional coastal living in Britain outside of peak season, it’s also a fab destination in the spring. At 450 km, the Cornish loop round-trip from Penzance takes in tiny coastal villages, ancient castles, literary history, natural wonders and some of the area’s most beautiful spring gardens. 

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An alternative to the drive down from London is to hop on the Night Riviera, a sleeper train that run six nights a week from Paddington Station, arriving in Penzance the following morning. 

Then pick up a hire car at this salty-aired port town - once a hive of pirates - and begin a five-day journey that will see you call in at Mediterranean-esque bays, the world's largest indoor rainforest (sheltered in one of the futuristic biomes at the Eden Project) and quaint fishing villages where they speak Kernewek (Cornish) and English. In spring, you’ll also be greeted by glorious displays of wildflowers, including golden buttercups, delicate sea pinks and spring squills, all of which are native to the region.

As well as admiring the breath-taking clifftop flowers and the filming locations of Poldark, you can also venture inland, over the rugged, moody moors near the Cornwall-Devon border, where nestles Jamaica Inn (the setting for Daphne Du Maurier's haunting novel). Full of lush vegetation, the moors are bustling with wildlife in the spring. It’s the perfect place to get your walking shoes on and go for a wander.  

There are countless attractive places in which to break up your trip. Wander the sandy beaches of pretty towns like St Ives, Padstow and Fowey, which are dotted with slick art galleries, local pubs and boutique B&Bs. For a splash-out stay sure to induce pangs of envy on social media, check into the Headland Hotel - a Victorian country pile with a swanky modern spa, perched above the local surfing hot spot that is Fistral Beach. 

10 Mar 2020(last updated)

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