The UK's best summer road trips

Planning to stay in the UK this summer? Pack up your car and explore some of the country’s most scenic highways with our pick of the UK’s best summer road trips

Written by Verity Hogan
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With travel uncertainty and changing restrictions still at play this summer, many of us are opting to take a staycation in the UK this year. And while the weather might not always be reliable, one thing is certain: there are some fantastic UK road trips on offer!

Whether you’re looking for stunning scenery, high culture or both, this country has it all. Here’s our pick of the best UK summer road trips in 2021.

Five UK road trip ideas for the summer holidays

1. The north coast of Scotland (North Coast 500)

Few places in Britain – in fact anywhere – are as wild and unspoilt as Scotland’s windswept north coast. The North Coast 500 starts and finishes at Inverness Castle, taking you on a tour of coastal towns like Ullapool and Dornoch, with a stop at the famous John O’Groats.

Looking to take things up a notch? Head to the dramatic cliffs of Caithness to go mountaineering or try canyoning in the Corrieshalloch Gorge. If you’re more in the mood for a cultural fix, Inverness is renowned for its indoor Victorian Market, 19th century cathedral, and the Inverness Museum and Art Gallery where you can learn more about the turbulent history of the Scottish Highlands.

Distance and Holiday Time Needed:

With 516 miles to cover and over 500 places to stop, you’ll need to allow five to seven days to get the most of this route.


2. The Cotswolds

You’ll want to keep your camera within easy reach on a Cotswolds road trip as you pass through idyllic picture-postcard villages, vibrant university towns, Roman ruins, and architectural masterpieces dating from the Tudor era to the 19th century.

Recommended stops include the honey-coloured cottages of Chipping Campden, the Roman ruins of Cirencester, and the medieval spires of Oxford. It’s one of the best summer road trips for anyone looking to explore the British countryside.

Distance and Holiday Time Needed:

If you start in Bath and end in Stratford-upon-Avon, you’ll drive around 149 miles. We recommend allowing a full week to make the most of all the sights on offer.


3. The Causeway Coastal Route, Northern Ireland

This spectacular coastal road runs from Belfast to Derry-Londonderry and offers drivers cliff-top views and a visit to the famous Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge (not for the faint-hearted!)

The route’s highlight is undoubtedly the Giant’s Causeway, a UNESCO World Heritage Site featuring thousands of interlocking basalt columns formed by an ancient volcanic eruption.

Distance and Holiday Time Needed:

With 130 miles to cover, you’ll need three to five days to give this route justice.


4. The Dragon's Spine, Wales

One of the best ways to see Wales is to drive from coast to coast. The typical route runs along the A470 from Cardiff in the south to Conwy in the north, passing through the scenic Brecon Beacons and Snowdonia National Park. It’s the perfect UK road trip for families looking for a little adventure.

Be sure to plan stops at the market town of Dolgellau, near the foot of Snowdonia, and the adventure sports hub of Betws-y-Coed, close to the Swallow Falls waterfall system.

Distance and Holiday Time Needed:

The route covers 186 miles, and you’ll need at least five days to take in all the sights.


5. The Atlantic Highway, Southwest England

Another coastal road trip is the Atlantic Highway route, which follows the A39 along the northern coasts of Devon and Cornwall. Starting at the medieval town of Barnstaple and finishing in the Cornish village of Fraddon, this route will pass through some of the most photogenic coastal settlements in Britain.

Explore the dramatic ruined castle of Tintagel (with connections to King Arthur) and the beaches of Padstow and Bedruthan Steps, and make sure to stop at surfers’ paradise, Newquay.

Distance and Holiday Time Needed:

This route is approx. 70 miles long but take your time and allow five days to explore the surrounding villages.

Our UK summer road trip top tips

Plan ahead if driving an electric vehicle:

Some rural areas have limited EV charging infrastructure, so make sure you’re fully charged before you set off and plan places to recharge during your trip.

Check the parking facilities

Many coastal areas get busy during the summer holidays, especially when the sun’s shining! That’s why it can help to research your parking options before setting off and find out whether there are spaces available a bit further away from the tourist hotspots.

Pack plenty of water

During peak summer holiday travel times, congestion can be a problem. Don’t forget to pack plenty of water just in case you get caught on a long traffic jam.

Plot your route beforehand

Use a Satnav or other route planner so you can get an estimate of how much time it’ll take to get to your UK road trip destinations and how much fuel you might need.

Verity Hogan

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