Top 5 drives for a dream tour of Britain

Looking forward to the freedom of the open road? Here are five British road trips ready for your bucket list! Hop between the country’s prettiest villages, discover famous surfing spots and get lost in secluded landscapes. From cruising through Cornwall beside views of the Atlantic Ocean to passing historic towers along the Scottish border, these journeys are packed with opportunities to create lasting memories of Britain.

1. A39 – Explore castles and coastlines

Newquay harbour at dawn, seen from the town on the hillside. Harbour wall and sheltered moorings.

Devon and Cornwall’s Atlantic Highway encompasses coastal heritage, mythical history and some of the best surfing spots in Britain. This 71-mile stretch of the A39 road sprawls from Barnstaple in Devon to Fraddon in the north-east of Cornwall, with some must-see stops along the way.

Following the coastline of the Atlantic Ocean is a path bursting with picturesque beaches, ideal for a bracing swim, sampling local seafood or a day of water sports. If you’re longing to catch some Cornish waves, you can stop off at Bude, an area famous for its golden beaches and big swells. A few surfing hotspots include Summerleaze Beach, Widemouth Bay and Sandymouth Bay, which is known for bigger waves that aren’t for the faint hearted!

At the midway point, you’ll have the opportunity to explore Tintagel Castle, which is rumoured to be the birthplace of the legendary King Arthur. Wander the cliff-side ruins, spot the life-size bronze statue of the fabled monarch, explore Merlin’s sea cave and perhaps even spy some grey seals! You can also enjoy magnificent views over the Cornish coast on a stroll across the bridge that connects the castle from the headland to the mainland.

Why not extend this coastal itinerary by visiting Newquay? The seaside town on the Atlantic Coast is a surfer’s paradise and is just a 15-20-minute drive from Fraddon.

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Barnstaple

2. A44 and A429 – Village-hop through the Cotswolds

Traditional Cotswold stone cottages in the picturesque Cotswolds village of Broadway, known as the 'jewel of the Cotswolds'.

Historic market towns, chocolate box villages and glorious gardens, this driving tour through the Cotswolds has it all. Starting at Tewkesbury, where the River Severn and River Avon meet, or in the market town of Moreton-in-Marsh, this looped driving route passes the unspoilt towns and villages of Broadway, Chipping Campden and Winchcombe, all awash with period cottages, traditional tearooms and independent boutiques.

If you’re a lover of horticulture, you can plan to travel just a few miles off-route to visit Kiftsgate Court Gardens, a tranquil outdoor haven developed by three generations of female gardeners. Here you can wander through the white sun garden, rose border and wild garden, as well as enjoying a floral carpet of blue each spring, in the Bluebell Wood.

Driving time for this route is approximately three hours, but can be spread across a few days if you’re looking to stay a little longer.

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Tewkesbury

3. A66 and B5289 – Enjoy a loop of Lakeland

Couple with picnic near shore of Derwentwater, Lake District.

From lakes and valleys to expansive views, this 35-mile circular route from Keswick to Buttermere passes through some of the Lake District’s best beauty spots. Starting at the quintessential Cumbrian town of Keswick, you can plan to stroll through the picturesque high street, enjoy bite to eat in one of the cosy pubs and perhaps even enjoy a game of petanque among the floral displays of Hope Park. From there, adventurers can dream of exploring nearby Derwentwater, which can be experienced by boat with the Keswick Launch Co., or on foot, by taking a short walk to the Friar’s Crag viewpoint.

This route is laden with unforgettable sights, including rich woodland, ancient stone bridges and mountain-filled vistas. One of the most breathtaking parts of the journey involves driving through Honister Pass – the meandering road is one of Cumbria’s highest, rising more than 350 metres, and is enveloped by the surrounding landscape, allowing you to fully immerse yourself in the beauty of the Lake District.

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Keswick

4. A686 – Discover rugged countryside and Roman history

Northumberland National Park, Northumberland, England

If you’re dreaming of northern England you can explore two counties known for their stunning scenery along the A686, which links Penrith in Cumbria to Corbridge in Northumberland. This winding 45-mile route passes the North Pennines and ends at Hadrian’s Wall World Heritage Site, giving you a taste of the area’s rugged beauty, as well as passing the villages of Melmerby, and Langwathby. One of the journey’s highlights is Hartside Pass, a summit sitting more than 500 metres above sea level. This viewpoint’s panoramas reach as far the Lake District and southern Scotland, making it a popular spot for a countryside walk or a delicious picnic with a view.

Next stop is the highest market town in England, Alston. Factor in time to wander the cobbled streets, explore its historic church, enjoy a vintage locomotive ride along the South Tynedale Railway, or even walk some of the Pennine Way, England’s oldest National Trail.

Switching to the B6305 for the last stretch of the journey, you can look forward to crossing into Northumberland and seeing the medieval town of Hexham, as well as the Roman town of Corbridge, located along Hadrian’s Wall. Here you can discover the Corbridge Collection, the largest assortment of artefacts and finds from along the wall, which provides an in-depth glimpse into life in Roman Britain.

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Penrith

5. A7 – Drive through Scotland’s heritage

Abbotsford House exterior, Melrose, Roxburghshire, Scottish Borders

Dreaming of a history-themed road-trip through Scotland? The Borders Historic Route helps you create an all-encompassing itinerary. This 89-mile journey explores the remote countryside along the Anglo-Scottish border, passing many cultural must-sees along the way, before ending in Edinburgh. Heritage gems include the 16th century Gilnockie Tower and Lochcarron of Scotland, where you can learn about the process of weaving traditional tartan. Other stop-offs can include Lindean Mill Glass studio, the home of Scottish writer Sir Walter Scott at Abbotsford, the National Mining Museum Scotland and the imposing Edinburgh Castle.

If you’re longing to explore the nearby surrounds, you can stop off at Dalkeith Country Park, near Scotland’s capital. Its 1,000 acres of outdoor serenity are ideal for strolling or hiking, and include a family-friendly adventure park and the chance to spot local wildlife, including roe deer, otters and buzzards.

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Gilnockie Tower

Restrictions on travel to and around Britain are in place due to Covid-19. You are encouraged to always check individual websites for the latest information, as details are subject to change.

30 Jun 2021(last updated)

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