Looking for the best drives for your classic car? Well, look no further!
1. Classic drives: Peak District
Starting in Ashbourne, turn right onto the A515 and go up the steep hill leading out of the town centre towards Buxton. Keep an eye out for a sharp left turn signed Dovedale about a mile outside Ashbourne and carry on towards the village of Thorpe. If you can recall the days when a Wurlitzer-style organ rose from the floor of your local cinema, a stop at Dovedale Garage just before you get into the village is a must. Installed in the former showroom next to the garage’s workshop is a restored Compton theatre organ.
After passing through Thorpe village, follow the signs to Dovedale and Ilam. If you want to try out the famous stepping-stones crossing the river at Dovedale, there’s a car park down the lane on the right hand side off Ilam Moor Lane. Driving past the turn off to Dovedale, you now get your first really good view of the Dales while heading towards the country park at Ilam and on to the village of Stanshope.
Turn right at the junction before you reach Alstonefield and then follow the road through Milldale until you reach the A515 again. Turn right and after a mile, turn left between a pair of narrow stone pillars and carry on into the village of Tissington.
Leave Tissington with the hall on your right and turn left by the village school. Bear right after the pond and drive past the car park for the nature trail that runs along the abandoned Ashbourne-Buxton railway line and continue out into the open countryside, watching out for grazing cattle and sheep on the way. After going through a shallow ford, turn left onto the B5056 and after a couple of hundred yards, take the right turn to Bradbourne. Once in the village, turn right again (signed Kniveton and Carsington) and follow the lane to where it meets the B5035 and then turn left.
This road winds alongside Carsington Water for a couple of miles and to reach the visitor centre and restaurant located on the shore of the reservoir, turn right at the brown tourist sign just after the pub.
Other visitor attractions along the B5035 include the National Stone Centre at Middleton and a nearby narrow gauge railway.
Turn left on the B5023 into the village of Cromford, where it’s worth visiting Arkwright’s preserved mill complex. Leaving Cromford on the A6, the next village we pass through is Matlock Bath, destination for one of Thomas Cook’s first organised tours. Next is Matlock, on the way up the A6 to Bakewell, home of the famous pudding (call it tart and you’ll be run out of town), it’s worth turning right onto the B6012 at Rowsley and paying a visit to Chatsworth House and from there, it’s a matter of doubling back to join the A6 via the A619 and heading down to Bakewell or nearly by Haddon Hall for a wander around the town centre before continuing to Buxton, the gateway to the Peak District National Park..
Before heading south down the A515 back to the starting point at Ashbourne, a dash out on the A537 towards Macclesfield to the Cat and Fiddle pub makes an interesting diversion as this road sweeps through the barren moorland and is a joy to drive even though the speed limit is restricted to 50mph and strictly enforced by cameras. If time is no object, take a quick diversion down the B5053 and B5034 to the village of Hartington and pick up some artisan made Stilton and Derbyshire Sage before heading back to the A515 at Heathcote.
2. Classic drives: Wales
Starting at the Parkway Hotel and Spa in Cwmbran, join the nearby A4051 in the general direction of Abergavenny until joining the A4042 at Sebastopol. As the road skirts Pontypool and then meanders through the villages of Penperlenni, Goetre and Llanover, and nears Abergavenny, the scenery becomes ever more pleasant and expansive.
Leave Llanover towards Llanellen, the Blorenge mountain looming into view as you head towards Abergavenny. From here, it’s a short hop along the A40 to Crickhowell. Rejoining the A40, keeping the Bear Hotel on the right, head towards Brecon and travel for approximately three miles before switching to the A479 by the Nantyffin Cider Mill Inn. Stay on the A479 for about two miles then keep a sharp eye out for the sign to Tretower Court and Castle.
Leaving Tretower in the opposite direction takes you to a T junction with the A40. . Turns right and climb towards the village of Bwlch. But, just before Bwlch, on a tight and sweeping right-hand bend, peel off left, and take the B4560.
Once safely across the River Usk, and after a hundred yards, take the lane on the right and continue through Llangynidr, following the B4558 towards Crickhowell for about a mile. Look out for a road on your right, the B4560 mountain road (signposted Beaufort) and ready yourself for the challenge ahead: a driver’s delight and long-time favourite with motoring magazines
Descending into Garnlydan, take a left onto the recently-improved section of the A465 ‘Heads of the Valley’ road and continue along until the roundabout at Brynmawr. Take the second exit, the A467 until a small roundabout. Look for the first exit, signposted Blaenavon (it has a brown heritage logo too).
From Blaenavon, the route descends gradually, taking you along the A4043 through Cwmavon, Abersychan, Pontnewynydd, the outskirts of Pontypool and to the large roundabout nearby. Here it’s on to the A472 for a short time before picking up the A4042 and A4051 and retracing our steps to Cwmbran.
3. Classic Drives: Cotswolds
Starting in Cheltenham Spa, the home of National Hunt racing and indeed of international espionage in the shape of GCHQ, head out of town towards Evesham on the A435, passing the famous racecourse and the Gloucestershire Warwickshire Steam Railway (GWSR)
With the Cotswolds escarpment clearly visible to your right, take a right turn on to Malleson Road through the village of Gotherington and on past the famous Prescott hillclimb. From here the road twists and turns its way towards the town of Winchcombe. Taking a left in Winchcombe on to the B4632, leads to the picture-postcard Worcestershire town of Broadway. Take a right turn up the high street which once took you directly up the infamous Fish Hill before the bypass was built, passing Broadway Tower, and follow the A44 through Bourton-on-the-Hill to Moreton-in-Marsh.
Turning right in Moreton on to the A429, you’re joining one of the oldest roads in Britain, the arrow-straight Roman-built Fosse Way originally constructed to connect Exeter and Lincoln. In Stow-on-the-Wold, head out of town down the hill to Bourton-on-the-Water where the motor museum is a little gem, then head south on the A429 before taking a right by the pub in the town of Fosse Bridge. The road follows the River Colne and takes us past Chedworth’s Roman villa to the village of Withington, where a left turn takes you to the A435 at Colesbourne, once the main road between Cirencester and Cheltenham but now a quiet backwater which eventually takes you back to Cheltenham. Following the signs to the town centre brings you to the town hall, where amid the posters advertising ’80s revivals and stand-up performances you can also taste the water which gave the town its full name of Cheltenham Spa.
4. Classic drives: Somerset coast
Before the Severn Bridge was opened in 1966, the way to cross the river was via the Aust ferry which ran until 1966 and in fact appears on the cover of Bob Dylan’s No Direction Home soundtrack album. Starting by the remains of the old terminal, follow the A403 through the grim undustrial port of Avonmouth and hop on to the M5 for one junction to cross the water while getting a great view of the docks. Leave the M5 again at junction 19, following the A369 to Portishead and then the B3124 along the top of the coast, passing through Weston-in-Gordano and Walton-in-Gordano before ending up in Clevedon where the B3133 heads away from the cost again, over the motorway to the town of Congresbury where a right turn on to the A370 heads you towards Weston-Super-Mare.
From Weston the A370 runs inland to cross the River Parrett, so take a right in the village of Lympsham and head towards Brean and enjoy running your classic on the open sands. head south again, passing through Burnham on Sea and take a brief detour through Bridgwater on the A38 to cross the River Parrett, then at Cannington turn off the A39 and follow the minor roads to the coast, passing through Stogursey and Strington before rejoining the main road at Kilve, and turning off the A-road after East Quantoxhead towards the pleasant harbour town of Watchet.
Head to Minehead down the coast on the B3191 racing the steam locos from Watchet with the road following the coast for much of the way. After Blue Anchor, head inland once more to join the A39 at Carhampton, which takes you to Minehead.
Beyond Minehead lies the village of Porlock and the infamous Porlock Hill, scene of many a breakdown back in the day with its 1 in 4 gradient. Your trundle down the Somerset coast complete, you have the choice of either retracing your route up the coast or heading inland across the Somerset Levels, across Exmoor to Whaddon Cross on the A396 before taking the B3224 to Elworthy and Bishops Lydeard where we take minor roads to North Petherton to avoid Taunton. Joining the A38 briefly cross under the M5 at junction 24 and take minor roads to Burrow Bridge to join the A361 by the charmingly named Burrow Mump, a ruined 18th century church high on the hill.
The A316 takes you up to the A39 and through Glastonbury – the town rather than the festival – where you take a left on to the B3151, singposted to the Isle of Avalon caravan park. The B3151 takes you all the way to the town of Cheddar, home of the famous Wookey Hole and the Cheddar Gorge. From here you can rejoin either the M5 or the A38 to get you home.
5. Classic drives: Lincolnshire
Starting from Bourne on the A151, pass through the villages of Edenham and then Grimsthorpe, with its castle close by. Twelve miles out of Bourne, use the flyover to cross the Great North Road, better known as the busy A1 bringing you first to Colsterworth, and then to Woolsthorpe Manor, a little gems of a National Trust property. Make the short hop back into Colsterworth, then hang a left onto the B6403. This is Ermine Street, an old Roman Road that ran from London to Lincoln and York.
When you get past the charmingly named Woodnook village, there is a turn to the left which keeps you on the B6403 – look out for the red signs to RAF Cranwell as they are hard to miss. Cross the A153, and then you reach the end and turn right onto the A17 with the RAF College at Cranwell is immediately on your left, where Frank Whittle first started formulating the jet engine and where its first flight (in a Gloster E.28/39) took place in May 1941. The story is told at the Aviation Heritage Centre which is free to enter.
Head across the top of Sleaford on the A117 before turning left onto the A153 towards Skegness where the countryside really opens out. The next landmark is Tattershall Castle rising majestically out of the surrounding countryside.
A little further along the A153 is RAF Coningsby, home to the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight with another WW2-era treat just a few miles further on, after branching off to the right on the A155 to East Kirkby, where you’ll find the Lincolnshire Aviation Heritage Centre.
Turn right along the B1192 towards Boston where the Bubble Car Museum is worth a visit. From Langrick, continue south across the pretty River Witham on the single lane steel bridge. You’ve passed through New York village a few miles back, but at the end of the road is the superbly titled Witham and Blues New York Bar and Grill. Turn right here onto the A1121, then right again onto the A17 heading back towards Sleaford. Turn left into Heckington and then left again to the Heckington Windmill, the only surviving eight sailed working windmill in the country. You really cannot visit Lincolnshire without visiting a windmill!
From here, continue south (a word of warning that at Helprington, there is a turn on the left you have to take to continue on the B1394 which is easy to miss). The straight stretches of road here are joined by some very sharp 90 degree bends to keep you on your toes. Crossing the A52 and continuing on the B1157, this last little stretch from Billingborough to Haconby is a lot of fun and eventually merges with the A15, which carries you back full circle to the centre of Bourne.