2020 is the year of the staycation. And whilst the term ‘road trip’ might conjure up images of cruising along Route 66 in a convertible, there are plenty of awesome road trips to be found outside of the United States.
In fact, if you’ve got the United Kingdom on your travel list — whether you live in the country, or are travelling from abroad — you should consider hopping in a car and hitting the open road. There are some incredible road trip destinations in the UK, perfect for exploring the very best scenery in the country.
JET, one of the most popular brands of fuel in the UK, recently surveyed 2,000 drivers to find out their favourite road trips. So read on to discover the best UK road trips in 2020, as voted by British drivers — they’re the experts after all, right?
10. The Cotswolds
Voted in at number 10, the roads of the rural Cotswolds are well-deserving of a place on this list. The Cotswolds is an idyllic area of countryside in south-central England, covering parts of six different counties including Oxfordshire and Gloucestershire.
When you think of England, do you imagine thatched cottages, stately homes, rolling hills and quaint shops? If so, you won’t be disappointed with the Cotswolds. The countryside in this part of the UK is just made for long drives when you can soak it all up and make plenty of pit-stops at cute little villages along the way.
Burford is considered the southern gateway to the Cotswolds, located just off the A40, and is well worth a visit. Other top stops include Burton on the Water, sometimes called ‘Venice of the Cotswolds’, the historic market town of Stow on the Wold, the Cotswold Lavender Farm (perfect for snapping some Insta-worthy pics), and the beautiful village of Bibury.
9. Norfolk Coast
Norfolk, in East Anglia, boasts nearly 450 kilometres of spectacular coastline. It’s bounded by the North Sea to the north and east, and The Wash (a sprawling bay and estuary) to the northwest. A road trip here will take you to some of the UK’s best beaches, as well as cute seaside towns and impressive nature reserves.
Visit the Holme Dunes National Nature Reserve, run by the Norfolk Wildlife Trust, at Holme-next-the-Sea to get up close and personal with some of the area’s wildlife, including oystercatchers and ringed plover.
Stop at the pretty village of Brancaster, famous for its harbour and the delicious seafood the local fishing boats bring in (we recommend the mussels!). The beach at Brancaster is great for kite flying and watersports, the perfect way to work up an appetite.
Don’t miss Holkham Bay. With its white-sand beach, you could easily mistake it for the Caribbean in the summer months — but it’s equally impressive during winter and the North Sea breeze is sure to blow away the cobwebs.
One of the most iconic landmarks in the UK, it’s no surprise that Stonehenge made it onto this list. It’s not easy to get to Stonehenge by public transport, so you may as well make the most of the journey by turning it into a road trip!
You’ll get to experience those scenic Cotswolds roads as you make your way towards Stonehenge, which is arguably the world’s most famous prehistoric monument. Once you’ve admired those mysterious stones, head to nearby Salisbury to explore this charming medieval city and its impressive cathedral.
Avebury — a slightly less famous but no less impressive stone circle — is also a great side trip from Stonehenge.
7. Scottish Borders between Northumberland and Edinburgh
Follow in the footsteps of the Border Reivers as you explore this much-debated land along the Anglo-Scottish border. This scenic drive takes you from the lush, rolling hills of rural Northumberland, crossing into Scotland as the hills begin to get higher, before finishing in Edinburgh, Scotland’s historic capital city.
Take a detour near the start to Northumberland National Park, a beautiful, expansive park that also happens to be the least populated of England’s national parks.
Following the Borders Historic Route, you’ll pass by sections of Hadrian’s Wall, which are well worth exploring, as are the pretty Borders towns you’ll pass through on your way to Edinburgh, including Melrose with its famous abbey, and the historic town of Selkirk.
6. Snowdonia to Anglesey
A road trip in Wales will never disappoint, and this one in the north of Wales is a particularly beautiful one — it’s definitely a contender for the title of Wales’ most scenic drive!
Snowdonia is the most popular National Park in Wales, and you’ll soon see why, as you explore its vast expanse of 2,130 square kilometres, which are packed full of unspoiled scenery. Right at the heart of the park is Snowdon, Wales’ highest mountain — and if you don’t fancy the hike, there’s a train that’ll take you all the way to the summit!
There’s plenty to see and do along the road as you head north from Snowdonia towards Anglesey. Caernarfon is a cute market town with an impressive castle, and it’s worth taking a detour to Bangor, the oldest city in Wales.
Anglesey is the biggest island in Wales, and is jam-packed with beautiful beaches and historic sites. Take a walk along the coastal path for spectacular scenery, and don’t miss out on a trip to Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch, a small village with a big claim to fame — it’s the longest place name in Europe and the second-longest in the world.
5. North York Moors
Expansive and moody, the North York Moors offers an atmospheric experience, spanning over 885 kilometres of beautiful landscape.
The area is one of the largest expanses of heather moorland in the UK, meaning it’s particularly beautiful in spring when the heather is in bloom, but it’s well worth a visit year-round.
Don’t miss the drive between picturesque Hutton-le-Hole and the charming seaside town of Whitby, a traditional seaside resort with some of the best fish and chips in the UK. Take time to explore the town as there’s plenty to discover, including its associations with Dracula and Captain Cook.
4. North Coast 500
The highlands of Scotland offer some of the most incredible scenery in the UK, and the North Coast 500 takes in the very best of it. The 830-kilometre route along the — you guessed it — north coast of Scotland starts and finishes at Inverness Castle.
It then heads towards the west coast, winding up the hair-raising Bealach Na Ba road to the beautiful coastal village of Applecross, and then northwards to the towns of Torridon, Ullapool, and the remote wilderness of Assynt and Wester Ross.
The route then takes you to some of the most northerly coastal points in Scotland, where you’ll travel through Sutherland, with the opportunity to explore some of the most incredible beaches in the country. Don’t miss the dramatic Smoo Cave near Durness, before heading to John o’ Groats and the rugged scenery of Caithness.
After all that stellar sightseeing, it’s time to head back down to Inverness, passing through the seaside towns of Easter Ross. Marvel at how different the landscape is on the east and west coasts, and make sure to take plenty of time to explore and discover what lies off the beaten track — we recommend at least five to seven days to fully explore this beautiful part of the world.
3. Peak District
Coming in at third place is the Peak District, a hilly area in northern England. Close to the cities of Manchester, Stoke-on-Trent, Derby and Sheffield, it’s popular with both local residents and tourists, and it attracts millions of visitors every year. It was the first national park to be established in the UK, in 1951.
The area is full of beautiful walks and hikes, but it’s also got some jaw-droppingly scenic drives for those who’d prefer to take in the scenery by car. Snake Pass is one of the most famous driving routes in the area, crossing the Pennine Hills between Glossop and the Ladybower Reservoir at Ashopton. You’ll be treated to spectacular views along this road, which reaches 511 metres above sea level at its highest point.
Winnats Pass is another unmissable drive, taking you through a limestone valley that’s packed with fossils from the sea creatures who once lived there.
2. Devon to Cornwall
The drive from Devon to Cornwall, two of England’s most beautiful counties, is a 112-kilometre stretch of the A39 that’s also known as the Atlantic Highway.
With these areas enjoying some of the best weather in the UK, there’s a good chance that you’ll feel like you’re cruising along a Californian highway as you explore. You’ll pass through pretty fishing villages, incredible beaches, and dramatic clifftop castles as well as stunning sea views along the entire route.
There are plenty of opportunities to jump out of the car and stretch your legs on one of many beautiful coastal walking trails, and lots of fresh seafood to be enjoyed along the way. The road is long and winding so take it easy and soak up the atmosphere.
1. Lake District
Could the top spot have gone to anywhere other than the Lake District? Located in the north of England, this stunning area is a favourite with walkers and cyclists — but it also makes for the perfect scenic road trip.
With long, winding mountain passes, an abundance of lakes, and charming little market towns, there’s something for everyone in the Lake District. Ambleside, located on the edge of Lake Windermere, is a popular stop.
If you’re a fan of Peter Rabbit, be sure to check out Beatrix Potter’s house whilst you’re exploring the town. Kendal is a must, if only to stock up on its famous Kendal Mint Cake — an essential if you’re planning to hike any of the area’s hills!
Speaking of hills, the Lake District is home to Scafell Pike, England’s highest mountain. Even if you don’t walk up the mountain itself, the drive to get there along Wrynose Pass is worth it for the views alone. Nearby Keswick is another bustling market town with plenty of options for refuelling after a long walk, or drive.