Tempting as it is to stay wrapped up indoors when temperatures take a dive, winter is one of the best times of the year to enjoy a UK road trip. The car is cosy, scenery striking, and roads a little quieter than usual.
From the wild highlands of Scotland to the windswept Atlantic coastline, we’ve rounded up our favourite UK road trips across all corners of the country.
So, fill up a flask, turn up the heater, and plug in your favourite playlist. The UK is waiting to be explored from the comfort of your own car.
1. Lake District, England Best for: Classic countryside and pub lunches
The route from Keswick to Kendal via Windemere takes you through the heart of the Lake District National Park and along the largest natural lake in the UK, Lake Windermere.
The 34-mile route takes just under an hour-and-a-half, leaving plenty of time for a quick detour via The Punch Bowl Inn in Crosthwaite.
Nestled in the gorgeous Lyth Valley and dating back to 1829, this popular watering hole is a favourite among foodies. Using locally sourced ingredients, dishes include Creedy Carver Duck with truffle, mashed potatoes and blackberries and Pan-Fried Fillet of Halibut with artichokes, confit potatoes, leeks and truffle sauce. Fancy.
If you’re planning a longer trip, the Lake District has plenty of scenic drives and quaint villages that you can easily bolt onto this route to make a three- or four-day mini-break.
2. Giant’s Causeway, Northern Ireland Best for: Instagram-worthy photos
If jaw-dropping pics for the ‘gram are high on your priority list, The Giant’s Causeway in County Antrim, Northern Ireland is hard to beat. The 40,000 other-worldly hexagon-shaped rock columns that rise out of the earth must be seen to be believed – and have UNESCO World Heritage Site-status.
The surrounding Causeway Coast was used as a filming location for Game of Thrones, and fans will definitely want to take the 12-mile drive inland to The Dark Hedges – a stretch of road surrounded on both sides by 18th Century beech trees. You’ll need to wrap up warm to enjoy the avenue on foot, as cars are now restricted to protect the trees.
3. NC500, Scotland Best for: Dramatic landscapes
With soaring mountains, beautiful lochs, lush forests, and dramatic ocean views, Scotland is a magnet for road trippers from all over the world.
There are many incredible routes to choose from, but the most famous of all is the iconic NC500 (NC stands for North Coast). At 500 miles, this is by far the longest route on our list – but those with time will be rewarded with some of the best scenery across the Scottish Highlands.
The loop starts and ends in Inverness, the most northerly city in the UK, but you can join or leave the road at any stage to make the trip shorter, if needed. You won’t be doing this trip in one day, so add an overnight stay or two in a Scottish castle hotel to make this romantic winter escape truly memorable.
4. Black Mountain Road, Wales Best for: The driving experience
If twists, climbs and hairpin bends are your idea of a perfect drive, the Black Mountain Road from Llandovery to Gwaun-Cae-Gurwen across part of the Brecon Beacons National Park won’t disappoint. Along with an exhilarating driving experience, there are breath-taking views to enjoy around nearly every bend.
The drive is only around 20 miles, so if you have a bit of energy and time to burn you can stretch your legs on one of the many walking trails in the Brecon Beacons National Park.
As one of the most popular drives in Wales (thanks partly to a Top Gear episode from 2011), this road does get busy on weekends. It’s also best to avoid in icy weather, so choose a sunny winter’s day and make the most of the spectacular scenery, from inside the car and out.
5. Atlantic Highway, England Best for: Sea views and beach walks
Voted the second-best UK road trip in a poll of 2000 drivers (after the Lake District – our number one entry), this 70-mile stretch of coastal road between Cornwall and Devon offers incredible ocean vistas.
While the water may be less than inviting for a swim during cold winter months, a walk along one of the many empty beaches will repay your decision to get out of the car.
There are plenty of hidden (and not-so-hidden) gems around Bude, including Crackington Haven, Widemouth Bay, Strangles, and Bude Sea Pool for a safe but bracing dip if you’re feeling adventurous.
Driving in winter takes a little extra prep before you set off.
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