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Road trips are in this summer, and whether you prefer strutting through stately country homes or getting your shoes dirty hiking in forested mountains, we’ve got you covered. From the turquoise waters of the Cornish coast to the glacial valleys of Northern Ireland, here are seven of the best road trips – remember to check for closures before heading out.
1. The Yorkshire Circuit, England
Duration: 3 days
Best for: Nature and nibbles
Fill up on tea and scones in Harrogate before heading towards Ripon, home to Fountains Abbey, a well-preserved 12th-century monastery, then take a slight detour west to the three-tiered Aysgarth Falls. There are myriads of walking trails surrounding the falls, so spend a night here and explore in the morning. It’s time to head for the coast, but first, a stop in Masham for bites at the old market and ales at Black Sheep Brewery. Spend the rest of the day basking in the beauty of the woodlands of North York Moors National Park and stay at a country inn. End the journey at the seaside town of Whitby with fish ‘n’ chips by the shore.
2. The Atlantic Highway, England
Duration: 5 days
Best for: Beach escapades
Cornwall, with its colourful homes perched atop rugged wildflower-covered cliffs that descend quickly into turquoise waters, is the classic seaside holiday. And what better way to experience its cheery vibes than a road trip along the coast? Start with a spa treatment in Bath then head west and get on the A39, staying overnight at a different seaside town each day. Stop at Bude for surfing and other water activities and the fishing port of Padstow for lobster and seafood. On the last day, swerve off the A39 to the granite cliffs of Lands End, which locals once believed to be the end of the world. Don’t worry – it’s just the westernmost point of England.
3. Coastal Circuit, Northern Ireland
Duration: 4-5 days
Best for: Folklore buffs
This immensely varied route from Belfast to Londonderry passes caves and cliffs, harbours and heritage sites. From Belfast, head to Gobbins Cliff Path, a two-mile-long walkway of suspension bridges and staircases traversing caves and tunnels with stunning sea views. Spend some time in the glacial valleys, forests and waterfalls of the Glens of Antrin and pass through the haunting beech tree-lined road known as the Dark Hedges, then onwards to the rocky shores of Ballintoy Harbour – both places were featured in Game of Thrones. It’s off to the Giant’s Causeway, a series of 40,000 basalt columns, which, legend has it, was created by a giant named Fin McCool, before popping down to Londonderry.
4. Ben Nevis to the Isle of Skye, Scotland
Duration: 2-3 days
Best for: Wizards and muggles
Full of sky-high mountains, swooping valleys and moody lochs, the journey from Ben Nevis to Skye packs a lot. Begin in Fort William, home to the UK’s highest peak, Ben Nevis – no need to scale it but admire its rough granite exterior – then head to the Glenfinnan Viaduct, made iconic by the Harry Potter films when the black and red Hogwarts Express soars over the viaduct. Continue on the A830 to the fishing port of Mallaig, then loop around Loch Nevis to Loch Morar, the deepest freshwater lake in the UK and home to salmon, trout and its very own sea monster. End at Skye, where medieval castles and coral beaches await.
5. The Black Mountain Pass, Wales
Duration: 1-2 days
Best for: Dramatic landscapes
Situated on the edge of Brecon Beacons National Park, Llandovery is surrounded by mountains and woodlands, lakes and waterfalls. Spend a day of exploring the area around Llandovery, including the Llyn Brianne Dam and Reservoir and the ruins of the 12th-century Llandovery Castle. On the second day, head on the A4069 or the Black Mountain Pass. Buckle up because this meandering road is not for the faint-hearted. Throughout the twists and turns, keep your eyes peeled for wildlife, especially sheep, before ending the journey in the small village of Gwaun-Cae-Gurwen.
6. North Norfolk Coast, England
Duration: 4 days
Best for: Luxurious escape
Leave the slippers in the car and put on the pumps for a scrumptious multi-course lunch at Hambleton Hall, then drive to the 16th-century Burghley House and wander about the gardens. Day two: visit Sandringham Estate, a private country home of Queen Elizabeth II nestled in 20,000 acres of land. Have a late lunch at Tichwell Manor or Socius, then head to the colourful bathing boxes of Wells-next-the-sea. Day three: Explore the Norfolk Coast Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty which ranges from golden shores to salt marshes. On the last day, relax in Blakeney, home to England’s largest grey seal colony and end with seafood in Cromer.
7. Snake Pass, Peak District, England
Duration: 1-2 days
Best for: Short, scenic drive
A short but daunting drive, Snake Pass swoops up and down the green hills of Peak District National Park, linking Glossop and Ashopton. The historic market town of Glossop, with its outdoor markets and 19th-century mills that house bookstores, art galleries and fashion boutiques is the perfect place to start this short road trip. Get on the Snake Pass and drive for half an hour cutting through peaks and gliding by the River Ashop towards the Ashopton Viaduct. Stop for the Ladybower Reservoir Walk, a circular route with sweeping views of the national park. Then head on to Sheffield or perhaps, swoop south to Chatsworth House which was featured in 2005’s Pride and Prejudice.
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