Tune up: Britain’s top five drives and soundtracks

Done all your DIY holidays at home? Start dreaming about your next epic British road trip, taking in the best sights with a soundtrack to match. Feel the freedom as you coast around the nations, from Scotland to Cornwall, on country roads that avoid motorway jams and instead journey into the unexpected. Crank up the volume and get planning with our five top drives:

1. The Great West Way with Coldplay

From London to Bath and Bristol, the 200km-long Great West Way takes you through idyllic countryside, quaint villages and elegant towns. From Windsor Castle to Wiltshire’s white chalk horses, Stonehenge to Bath with its incredible Roman Baths and new World Heritage Centre, ending in hip Bristol, famous for Brunel and Banksy. For such an uplifting trip, the soundtrack has to be Coldplay: Viva la Vida all the way. 

Like this? Love English Gardens: Build in stops at some of the country’s most beautiful gardens, from Kew to Longleat.

2. The North Coast 500 with The Proclaimers

View from car window of deers and river, Glen Etive in Scotland

For an unforgettable journey, take Scotland’s North Coast 500 (NC500). This 830km route starts and ends at Inverness, where Outlander fans can visit the Culloden Battlefield. As Scotland celebrates its Year of Coasts and Waters, travel the Highlands’ wild coast roads, historic towns and seaside villages. Take in John O’Groats and the Black Isle, Wester Ross, as well as the exhilarating Bealach na Bà and Caithness. The soundtrack can only be Scotland’s favourite twins, The Proclaimers and I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles).  

Like this? Love the James Bond Tour: To celebrate the highly anticipated release of No Time To Die, visit Scotland’s James Bond filming locations or take a private tour

3. The Cornish Loop with The Beach Boys

A man paddleboarding at St Michael's Mount, Marazion, Cornwall, England

At the other end of the country, motor around the stunning Cornish coast, along a 450km loop that takes in the nation’s best surfing spots like Newquay, the world-famous gardens of the Eden Project and towns including St Ives, Padstow and Fowey, with their gourmet restaurants, art galleries and hip B&Bs. See the filming locations of Poldark and make time to visit St Michael’s Mount and Tintagel, rumoured to be the birthplace of the legendary King Arthur. They might not be from Cornwall, but the only option for such an epic coastal adventure has to be The Beach Boys

Like this? Love England’s Atlantic Highway. If you don’t fancy the whole circuit, just take the 113km stretch of the A39, from Barnstaple, in Devon, to Fraddon, Cornwall – known as one of the world’s best drives.

4. The Cambrian Way with Tom Jones

See the wonders of Wales, which is celebrating the Year of Outdoors, along The Cambrian Way. This 300km route roams coast to coast from Victorian seaside resort Llandudno, through Snowdonia and the Brecon Beacons National Parks, to the medieval might of Caerphilly Castle and cosmopolitan capital Cardiff. Download Tom Jones’ Greatest Hits, pronto. 

Like this? Love The Wales Way: This route is made up of three separate adventures – The Coastal Way, The Cambrian Way and The North Wales Way, so you can add on extras like the Italianate-style seaside village of Portmeirion, and Britain’s smallest city, St Davids.

5. The Lake District with Queen

Windermere in the English Lake District

The Lake District is a stunning place to drive around. Start with the 56km circular route from Keswick to Buttermere, taking in Derwentwater, Honister Pass and Borrowdale. You can then meander through the National Park to Windermere, Grasmere, Coniston Water, Ullswater and Scafell Pike, England’s highest mountain. And the soundtrack? Listen to Queen – Don’t Stop Me Now, voted the UK’s top tune to drive to by BBC series Top Gear. 

Like this? Love the North Pennines, located in north England: Another stunning drive nearby is along the A686, from Penrith in Cumbria. It’s a winding 72km route that passes the North Pennines and ends at Roman Corbridge and Hadrian’s Wall.

23 Jul 2021(last updated)

Related articles