Love of personal mobility and the role that transport plays in our lives can be best summed up by going for a marathon road trip and I am delighted to reveal that a handful of UK driving route favoruites topped a list created by a survey of 2000 motorists, conducted by National Geographic. The Top 10 UK Driving Routes results were released in March 2023 to celebrate 10 years of its TV programme Car SOS. The 11th season of the show also debuted in March.
While the UK’s top 10 driving routes are notable, I think they missed some of the most entertaining roads in Ireland (both North and South. Among my personal lengthy favourite driving routes not featured are the A68 from Darlington to Edinburgh, and the A5 from London to Anglesey, if you’re making a bucket list of great UK drives.
Here are the UK’s 10 best driving routes, according to National Geographic:
- The North Coast 500 route starting from Inverness, Scotland
- Cheddar Gorge through the Mendip Hills
- Snake Pass (A57) in the Peak District National Park
- Kendal to Keswick in the Lake District
- Snowdonia’s Llanberis Pass, Wales
- St Ives to St Just in Cornwall
- Best of the Moors (A169 and A170) in Yorkshire
- The Cotswolds: Cheltenham to Stratford
- Cat and Fiddle route (A53 then A54 followed by the A537) in the Peak District
- The Black Mountain Pass in the Brecon Beacons, Wales
I’ve taken a look at the top 5 and have some insights to share.
Whether you’re going solo, with a partner, or with the family in tow, a scenic cruise on any of them makes for a great UK driving adventure.
1. Scotland’s North Coast 500
Not surprising to any driving enthusiast, Scotland’s North Coast 500 was crowned as the UK’s best driving route. The giant loop road road goes from Inverness to the northernmost point of the UK in John O’Groats, winding through mountains, crossing over lochs, with plenty of gorgeous coastal views as it makes its way back to Inverness. It is regarded as both the ultimate test and a senior league motoring adventure, with a growing number of fans worldwide. Careful planning is the key to maximising the experience. Deciding where to make your overnight stops is essential and there are a great number of parking areas, caravan parks, B&Bs, and lovely hotels along the way.
Bealach na Ba
Although only 14 miles long, this road twists through the nature carved Mendip Hills (B3135) and then towards the Roman City of Bath. With 22 bends flanked by towering limestone cliffs in England’s largest gorge, it rightfully earns its spot on any UK drives list. Located in the south-west of England, Cheddar Gorge is never short of wonderment and the warm hospitality of Somerset makes any journey here one to add to your road trip bucket list.
3. Snake Pass (A57) in the Peak District National Park
Set high in the East Midlands of England, the A57 (aka Snake Road/ Snake Pass) is one of the UK’s more notorious driving roads, going west to east (or vice-versa) across the Pennines, in England’s Peak District National Park, between Manchester and Sheffield. The pass reportedly takes its name from the serpent-headed coat of arms of the Dukes of Devonshire and peaks at over 1600 feet (it can get snow in the winter). The road also contains a very challenging drive through a valley, from either Sheffield, or Chesterfield, past the Ladybower Reservoir (where the famous ‘Dambusters’ tested the WW2 bouncing bombs; an intriguing diversion) and a tortuous tree-lined route, before coursing down a long hill into Glossop. Personally, I would not recommend towing a caravan along this road.
The Devonshire Family’s stately family home, Chatsworth House, is nearby and a worthy diversions,
4. Kendal to Keswick in the Lake District
England’s Lake District is is peppered with many magnificent driving roads that feature spectacular views, perilously steep hills and impossibly narrow single track roads carrying names like Honister, Wrynose and Hardknott, all of which are worth exploring. However, motorist picked the scenic drive along the A591l between Kendal and Keswick as one of the Uk’s best driving routes. It stretches for 30 miles while taking in stunning views, including Lakeland Fells and the banks of Windermere in the heart of the Lake District. It’s a favourite of mine too, and a very beautiful driving route.
5. Llanberis Pass, Snowdonia, Wales
The A4086 road is a superb resource for exploring the entire Snowdonia National Park in north-west Wales. The pass is 17.05 kilometres/ 10.6 miles long, and runs from Llanberis to Capel Curig in the historic County of Caernarfonshire. The road to the summit is very steepOften difficult to see, Mount Snowdon is just off this road that runs for a mere five miles between Llanberis and Pen-y-Pass. A regular bus service (open-topped in summer) can provide the best views of the mountains that fill this region and there are numerous walking routes to enjoy, once you have driven the pass.
Snowdonia is also renowned for its outdoor sporting activities, the narrow gauge mountain railway, and the slate quarries, all of which are worth visiting.
England’s Lake District
10 Tips for Road Trip Success
Remembering that speed restrictions are in place along many of these routes,
Avoid crowded times and set your departure times for early morning.
Ensure your vehicle is in its best possible working order.
Let other people know the routes you are taking, in case of unavoidable incidents (with sheep, or the geography), as remoteness is a feature (and main attraction) of several of them.
Plan routes and overnights (if necessary) ahead.
Drive safely and thoughtfully.
Create a soothing/ inspiring/ rock-star driving playlist.
Bring a camera.
Pack snacks and water.
Take a break, stretch your legs, rest your eyes, and enjoy fresh air and the views.
Author bio: Iain Robertson