The most beautiful UK road trip planner

It’s a nice feeling, knowing that wherever you are in the UK you’re only a drive away from your next destination, with a network of motorways, A-roads and B-roads connecting everywhere from southern Cornwall to northern Scotland.

Here at Holidaycottages.co.uk, we spend a lot of time travelling around the UK, ensuring our knowledge of the country is second-to-none. As such, we’ve taken in some beautiful driving routes, covering iconic landmarks, tasty pitstops and sensational scenery throughout the regions where we have holiday cottages.

Simon and Kirsty, two of our trusty travellers, have taken the time to put forward six of their favourites, explaining in their own words why they were simply unforgettable drives.

The South East

The best road trip in the South East

How better to enjoy the South East of England than by indulging in some of the region’s best bites, sights and bright lights? Simon took the journey from Kent to Sussex – and filled his stomach along the way.

“Oysters for breakfast? I felt as though I was in the south of France in the height of summer, but instead, I was supping on a sumptuous Whitstable Oyster at ten in the morning while the sun beat down on top of my head! After a short while exploring the town’s quirky shops and pretty seafront, I began my journey south, five miles to the ancient city of Canterbury. A place of history and heritage, art and culture, family fun and seaside attractions, there’s something for everyone here. I enjoyed my short time looking around the Norman-era Canterbury Cathedral, the headquarters of the Church of England and Anglican Communion, and revelled in its, and the nearby Tudor-style townhouses’, dominating architecture.

“From here, it was onto one of the UK’s best-known landmarks – the White Cliffs of Dover; a quintessentially British and iconic viewpoint. Had I had more time, I would have definitely enjoyed one of the wonderful walks along the coast or a visit to the lighthouse. Alas, my time was of a premium, so I had to be on my way. History, along with food, was a theme of the day, and my next destination was a hop over the county border to Sussex and the historic town of Rye. Mermaid Street, lined with medieval, half-timbered houses, is a must-visit, and it’s here you’ll find The Mermaid Inn, a lovely, ancient pub which dates back to the 12th century and was used in the past by the notorious, smuggling Hawkhurst Gang. Stop here for lunch and enjoy their extensive menu, all of which uses quality, seasonal, and local ingredients.

“Having had my fill, I continued my journey west towards central Sussex. My next stop was the seaside and Eastbourne, or, more precisely, Beachy Head, known for its famous red and white striped lighthouse and chalk cliffs. After soaking in the sunshine for a little while, it was time to move on to my final destination: Brighton. The vibrant city is a wonderful place for all, and families, couples and groups will all enjoy spending time here. I spent time wandering around the pretty city streets called The Lanes, full of independent boutiques and shops selling everything from designer clothing to homemade chocolate. It was then onto Brighton Palace Pier, one of the most popular attractions in the South East, for dessert – ice cream to be precise – and to revel in the sun setting over the English Channel. Bliss.”

Cornwall

The best road trip in Cornwall

Taking in many of Cornwall's finest towns, villages and attractions, this Cornish excursion has many pit stops along the route for you to sample local delicacies, stretch your legs, and breathe in that fresh sea air, as Kirsty discovered.

St Ives has always been a favourite town of mine ever since I was a child, mainly due to its quaintness and cute coastal nature. Heading west out of this glorious tourist hotspot, the roads are winding and sweeping, and I was in constant awe of the dramatic sea view that never faded from sight. Small hamlets appear from time to time, but the first key stop, particularly for Poldark lovers, is Botallack, where some of the show’s filming is done. As I continued south, the coastline became ever more spectacular, eventually giving way to the pretty Sennen Cove, and then on to one of the UK’s most prominent landmarks, Land’s End. Here you’ll discover plenty for all the family to do, as well an opportunity to have your photo with the famous sign; and if, like me, you just have to try the local cuisine, the smell of doughnuts just might be too much to resist.

“As I hit the road once more, the next stop off is only a short drive, but for good reason. When visiting this remote part of the country, the Minack Theatre is a must-visit, so detour off at Porthcurno and experience a truly unique experience. The beach here is also remarkable, so it’s worth wiggling your toes in the sand, too. Journeying further east back along the south coast, the pretty fishing villages of Mousehole and Newlyn are essential for those who want to sample the catch of the day or be really adventurous and order a Stargazy Pie from the local pub! Through the picturesque town of Penzance and onward to Marazion, the resplendent St Michael’s Mount had me in absolute awe and is certainly a worthy pit stop to walk across the causeway – just keep an eye on the tide times! On the final stretch, I saw many a fine Cornish town and village, and earmarked Flambards Theme Park for the next family jaunt back down south, before eventually arriving at the most southerly point of Britain. The Lizard boasts views across the Channel that are both humbling yet impressive, as I contemplated whether anyone would ever see a more perfect view besides that one again.”

Wales

The best road trip in Wales

The beauty of Wales really does need to be seen to be believed, from its northern tip to its southern fringes, but on this particular trip, it was the fact that so much variety was encompassed that captured Kirsty’s heart.

“Beginning at Holyhead, I took the North Wales Expressway across Anglesey, through the famed village of Llanfair PG and across the Swellies to mainland Wales, before heading south to Caernarfon. This beautiful town is packed with history, with the majestic Caernarfon Castle a must-visit on your trip. After a smattering of culture, the journey continued east along sweeping roads and tight bends, where sea views made way for extraordinary valleys and dramatic lakes along Llanberis Pass. This, in turn, gave way to quaint villages and breath-taking waterfalls along one of the country’s most renowned roads, before I was left in awe of the enchanting Swallow Falls in Betws-y-Coed.

“The final leg of the journey took me south-west, directly through the heart of Snowdonia, alongside the picturesque Afon Lledr for many miles. As you follow the route yourself, stopping off just prior to Blaenau Ffestiniog is a must, as the Zip World Slate Caverns are one of the finest attractions in Wales for all ages. Continuing for around another ten miles, the end point of Portmeirion certainly did not disappoint. You’ll be able to park up before wandering the enchanting streets, entranced by the magical colours of this incredible coastal village.”

Scotland

The best road trip in Scotland

Starting in the shadows of the UK’s most alluring peak, Ben Nevis, before tracing a route westward towards world-famous viaducts, lochs and pretty coastal villages, Simon fell in love with bonnie Scotland on his drive towards the isles. 

“Stood beneath the beautiful mountain of Ben Nevis, I muttered to myself: ‘could it get any more beautiful than this?’. How do you better the beauty of the highest mountain in the British Isles, with its snow-dusted peaks and viridian mountainside begging to be looked at for just a little while longer? Forcing myself into my car, I set off west, joining the A830 on the outskirts of Fort William and, from there, it was a short drive to the world-famous Glenfinnan Viaduct. As a mad Harry Potter fan, this was a big deal for me – and I just wished I was driving a Ford Anglia by the time we’d reached it.

“A few selfies and wizard hat photo filters later and I was back in the car, and back on the A830 for around 40 minutes, turning left onto the B8008 so I could enjoy my lunch at the beautiful Camusdarach Beach: an arc of white, glistening sand with spectacular views over to the rocky, mountainous Isle of Skye – our next destination. If you get easily seasick, this route may not be best for you as, to get over to the scenic Isle, I needed to take the Mallaig-Armadale Ferry. Once back on land, it was a drive up the A851, past the beautiful Armadale Castle, to the fjord-like sea loch, Loch Hourn, before continuing up the A87 to our resting place; Portree. The fishing village has got to be one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever set eyes on, with pastel-coloured houses sat on the harbour, adjacent to fishing boats, bobbing in the harbour, while dramatic mountains dominate the background beyond. I got here for sunset and am so glad that I did – it’s a place that will stay with me forever.”

Dorset

The best road trip in Dorset

Beginning on the fringes of Devon and embracing all that the Jurassic Coast has to offer, Kirsty found this Dorset road trip a dream, with a mix of history, beaches and beautiful towns to uncover along the way.

“As the sun shone down on Beer’s idyllic shingle bay, the journey around Seaton and along the clifftops into Dorset offered many glimpses of the sparkling sea through the trees, before eventually dropping down into the mystical town of Lyme Regis. I parked up for a break from the drive to explore this gorgeous place, where cream tea and fresh chips are top of the must-eat list for all who visit. Slightly further on from Lyme, the fossil-famed shores of Charmouth are a wonder, with prehistoric relics to uncover in every rock and stone. Journeying onward through the pretty villages of Morecombelake and Chideock, I couldn’t resist stopping at West Bay, the home of Broadchurch. The golden cliffs lining the coast are infamous for their appearance in the serial drama, and it’s one I’m not ashamed to admit I’m addicted to.

“Through Burton Bradstock and beyond towards Abbotsbury, I couldn’t believe my eyes with the views of Chesil Beach below. The crystal waters met the cloudless sky on the horizon and I just had to pull into one of the many lay-bys to appreciate just how spectacular the landscape was. Hopping back on the road, country lanes and villages aplenty greeted me before the welcoming sight of holiday hotspot Weymouth gleefully came into view. If you can’t spare a whole day and want to complete your road trip, at least try to spend an hour or so exploring this seaside gem – though you’ll likely want to go back sooner than later! Exiting the town heading east, I spotted the White Horse close to Osmington, a chalk figure on the hillside, whilst winding country roads thereon took me towards Lulworth Cove, where you can stop and wander to see the striking Durdle Door. The final stretch was a magnificent tapestry of lanes and historic villages before Corfe Castle meant the end of a delightful drive through Dorset.”

Wiltshire to Somerset

The best road trip in Somerset

Not all the UK’s best road trips take place along the coast, as Simon found out when he took on the winding roads betwixt Wiltshire and Somerset, taking in some of the country’s oldest landmarks in the process…

“There are only two reasons I’d happily be up with the birds. One is if I’m going on holiday somewhere exotic, and I know I’d be napping in the sun in a few hours’ time, and the other is if I’m revelling in a stunning sunrise. This road trip started with just that – the latter, that is – and I channelled my inner bohemian for a once-in-a-lifetime Stonehenge sunrise. Spending a few hours’ watching the darkness around the prehistoric stone circle turn to beautiful reddy hues and then blues was a wonderful way to start the day, and I felt as though my soul had been refreshed – no need for a coffee before getting in my car!

“From here, it was an hour’s drive west along the A36 and A361 to Glastonbury Tor, the towering hill, topped by the ancient St Michael’s Tower, that’s often zoomed in on by TV cameras during Glastonbury Festival. After a few minutes spent enjoying the views or, if you’re feeling active, a climb to the top to revel in the views over the Somerset Levels, head north, where one of the country’s most scenic roads awaits. Cheddar Gorge, its winding roads, cliff faces and wild mountain goats, has to be driven to be believed, weaving through the Mendip Hills and the wondrous countryside that surrounds them. It’s a wonderful way to get to our next destination, the Roman city of Bath. Here, enjoy a few hours walking around the ancient city streets, enjoying views of Bath Abbey, the Roman Baths or Pulteney Bridge, before venturing north-west to another of Somerset’s wonderful cities; Bristol.

“The city is full of gems and is fast becoming a cultural hub, with independent shops, an arts scene to rival anywhere, and historical architecture to boot. If you time your road trip right, for the second weekend of August, you’ll be able to enjoy the Bristol International Balloon Fiesta and, as such, the iconic sights of colourful hot air balloons rising over the Bristol skyline.”

If you're still keen to find more beautiful spots along the roads of the UK, check out our ultimate UK Instagram guide to road trips, and for some stop-offs along the way we've also compiled a list of Britain's best service stations so you can plan the perfect pitstop. 

Discover somewhere delightful to rest your head after a day of exciting road trips and exploration with a stay at one of our holiday cottages. You can choose whether to soak away in a hot tub, snooze under the stars, or simply sink into a sumptuous bed; take a look at our complete collection here

Posted by Simon And Kirsty on 13th June 2018