10 unforgettable driving routes in Britain

Escape Britain's motorways and you'll be amazed at what you can discover. From mountain passes to scenic coastal drives, Britain has plenty of stunning driving routes that are ideal to build a driving holiday around.

1. A82 - Loch Lomond to Loch Ness

The A82 as it It passes Though Strath Fillan. Credit: Visit Scotland/Paul Tomkins.

This scenic route is widely regarded as one of the most iconic in Britain. Starting in Glasgow, the A82 stretches north into the Scottish Highlands, passing Loch Lomond before heading into arguably the highlight of the route – Glencoe. This stunning area has been called the most spectacular location in Britain, and one look makes it easy to see why. Film buffs will also recognise the area from the James Bond film, Skyfall.

After Glencoe, the A82 rounds Loch Leven before passing through Fort William. On this stretch of road, you’ll be able to spot Britain’s tallest mountain Ben Nevis towering above you. If you’re feeling particularly adventurous, stop in Fort William and attempt to climb the mountain’s peak.

Continue your journey north on the A82, and you’ll encounter another iconic British location – Loch Ness. Drive alongside the Loch and see if you can spot the legendary Loch Ness Monster, or stop off and take a relaxing walk around the area to finish your road trip in style. The ruins of Urquhart Castle date back to the medieval period and stand proudly overlooking Loch Ness too. Trace your way through 1,000 years of history while taking in the remarkable nature that surrounds you.

The 140-mile route can be completed in around three-and-a-half hours, but it’s worth stopping off at numerous locations along the way to take in the sights!

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Loch Lomond

2. A3055 - Military Road (Isle of Wight)

Running parallel with the west coast of the Isle, the A3055 (aka Military Road) is a road trip that should be taken sooner rather than later, as erosion along the coast could see parts of the road disappear! Landslides have reduced some sections of the road to single file traffic and marker boards along the route will illuminate to shut it immediately in the event of another landslide.

The A3055 dates backs to the mid-18th century when it formed a key part of the island’s military infrastructure. Linking St Catherine’s Point, near Chale, with Freshwater Bay to the west, the 11-mile route may be short, but it offers a wealth of sweeping ocean views and memorable country landscapes. No stopping is allowed on the section of road between Brook and Freshwater Bay as it is a designated Clearway, but there are a number of official car parking areas where you can stop to enjoy the views.

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Military Road

3. B3135 - Cheddar to Ashwick

Cheddar Gorge is a limestone gorge in the Mendip Hills, near the village of Cheddar. The gorge is part of a Site of Special Scientific Interest now called Cheddar Complex.

Cutting a route through the Mendip Hills, designated an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, the B3135 twists its way through cliffs and a gorge in central Somerset. Primarily known for its cheese, the village of Cheddar is also surrounded by lush, scenic country routes. Adventurous drivers can enjoy tight, winding bends through the spectacular Cheddar Gorge, before sweeping turns lead to the quiet village of Ashwick.

Despite not being the longest drive - around 14 miles - the stunning surroundings will make you glad you took the trip to England’s West Country. There’s plenty of other attractions in the area too, but none offer a sense of adventure quite like your drive through Cheddar Gorge. Set aside around 30 minutes to complete the route.

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Cheddar

4. Wrynose and Hardknott Pass

Road winds through the Hardknott Pass through the Lake District, range of hills and valley view.

If you’re up for a challenge, Wrynose and Hardknott Pass is ready and waiting. Featuring some of the steepest roads in Britain (Hardknott Pass has a 33% gradient at one point), this route is not for the faint-hearted.

However, if you brave the route you’ll be treated with spectacular views across the Lake District, along with one hell of a story to tell when you head home. The single track route has plenty of twists and turns between the picturesque village of Eskdale and the town of Ambleside. It also passes the Hard Knott Fort, once one of the loneliest outposts of the Roman Empire. Built between 120 and 138AD, the archaeological site overlooks the pass which forms part of the Roman road linking Ravenglass to Ambleside, and Brougham to Penrith.

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Hardknott Pass

5. Evo Triangle

Named after Evo magazine which often uses this route to test or review new cars, the Evo Triangle combines three roads in North Wales. Starting on the A5 near Cerrigydrudion, head west towards the quiet village of Pentrefoelas, before taking a right turn onto the A543, where the Evo Triangle really starts to shine.

Tight bends and sweeping vistas make the uphill climb a joy, with the road veering off ahead almost endlessly. Eventually, you’ll pass the Sportsman’s Arms, where you’ll want to take a right onto the B4501. This is arguably the finest stretch of the route, featuring panoramic views across the Alwen Reservoir and a twisting, turning road that supplies plenty of thrills. At just over 20 miles, the route takes around 30 minutes to complete, and you might even see the latest sports cars being tested!

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Evo Triangle

6. Alnmouth to Lindisfarne

Car parked on the Holy Island Causeway on the St Cuthbert's Way in the evening, Holy Island, Lindisfarne, Northumberland.

Driving through the countryside can sometimes be a chore, but not on the Northumberland Coast. This route from Alnmouth to Lindisfarne Nature Reserve follows the coast, offering spectacular views across the North Sea. The Northumberland Coast is also littered with castles, towering above the roads on hillsides; Bamburgh Castle is a particular highlight on this route. Originally the site of a Celtic fort, the imposing stone castle was built in the 12th century and its walls have witnessed dark tales of rebellion and bloodshed.

At the end of your journey, you’ll arrive in Lindisfarne, and you’ll see why this is an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.  The sight of the first Viking invasion in 793AD, Holy Island and Lindisfarne Castle are both picturesque sights from afar. Beware if you intend to get closer; the causeway leading to Holy Island becomes unusable at certain points because of tidal shifts, and you don’t want to end up stranded! Expect to spend around an hour driving the route, although there are numerous opportunities to stop and admire the scenery along the way.

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Alnmouth

7. Bealach na Ba

Bealach Na Ba, Scotland. Credit: VisitScotland/ Paul Tomkins

Historically used to drive livestock across the mountains, Bealach na Ba (aka Pass of the Cattle in English) has been transformed into one of the most scenic drives in Britain. It’s a little intimidating at first, but your worries will all melt away when you near the midpoint and surround yourself with glorious views across the Scottish Highlands.

The winding single track road dates back to 1822 and was engineered in a similar vein to the great mountain routes in Alpine Europe. There’s no complex directions to follow on this one; just follow the road south of Tornapress towards Applecross, and you’ll begin your ascent across the Bealach na Ba. There’s plenty of stopping points along the 11-mile route, so make sure you get out and take time to enjoy the view!

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Bealach na Ba

8. A470 - Brecon Beacons to Snowdonia

The Cambrian Way, Wales.

The A470 runs across most of Wales, linking Cardiff in the south with Llandudno in the north, and if you venture northwards on the road, you’ll be able to see some of the best views that the country has to offer. North of Merthyr Tydfil, the A470 enters the Brecon Beacons National Park, surrounding you with rolling hills and a near endless horizon.

Continue onwards and the A470 heads into the Welsh countryside, passing through numerous tiny villages and communities. There’s plenty of opportunity to break off and explore the surroundings, but stick with the A470 and you’ll eventually arrive in Snowdonia. You’ll be surrounded by mountains in the distance and the views will keep getting better as you journey further north.

A mix of single carriageway roads and sweeping dual carriageways, the 178-mile route can be completed in around four-and-a-half hours. The Cambrian Way, a journey across the mountainous spine of Wales, follows much of the A470, with additional detours to sites including Welsh Royal Crystal at Rhayader and Adventure Parc Snowdonia.

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Brecon Beacons

9. Snake Pass

The landscape of the Peak District National Park.

Located in the Peak District, Snake Pass provides a route across the Pennines between the market town of Glossop and Sheffield. As you might expect from the name, Snake Pass is full of curves and bends, with each one offering a glorious view of its own. In the late summer, heather blooms across the surrounding hills, bathing the area in a gorgeous purple colour – it’s a spectacular sight.

Once the main route linking Sheffield to Manchester when it opened in 1821, Snake Pass experiences regular snowfall in the winter months and is often closed during these periods. It’s popular with bikers and cyclists during the rest of the year, with a leisurely drive along the 20-mile route taking in the region of 30 minutes.

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Snake Pass

10. B3306 - St Ives to St Just

The B3306 might not be the quickest route between St Ives and St Just, but it’s definitely the most exciting. A 13-mile stretch of coastal road, the B3306 twists and turns between quaint villages and hills sloping down to the ocean.

The B3306 follows the ‘Tin Coast’ of the Penwith peninsula and near Trewellard you’ll find the Levant Mine and Beam Engine, part of the Cornish Mining World Heritage Site. Take time out of your road trip to see the surviving mine buildings and the restored 1840s engine in action, or venture to Pendeen, where you can go underground at Geevor Tin Mine. The well-preserved museum stands as it was left by the miners in 1990.

With striking views all around you, those miles are going to fly by. That’s okay though – you can always turn around and do the whole road again!

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St Ives
08 Aug 2019(last updated)