Soon we’ll be allowed to take our cars for a spin on a long journey again – so what better time to sample a new driving road?
With travel restrictions set to lift soon, we’re looking forward to planning our first road trips in our classics. If you’re planning to do the same, here’s some inspiration: a lineup of the very best driving roads all over the country.
From coastal routes to mountain passes and picturesque countryside, our list includes some of the best driving roads in the world – with staycations set to be all the rage, we’re lucky to have so many world-class routes on our doorstep in the UK.
North Coast 500
While the official NC500 route conjured up by the Scottish tourist board starts and ends at Inverness, we suggest that anyone coming up from the south simply starts on the west side. Head north from Glasgow up the A82, which winds through Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park, to the convenient setting off point of Fort William. From here you have the option of spending an extra day visiting the Isle of Skye – well worth doing – or turning off the A87 onto the A890 to track the west coast.
The first NC500 landmark has to be the iconic Applecross Pass, which leads to the idyllic village of Applecross. Later you’ll come to Kylesku bridge, making your way into the most northerly part of the Scottish Highlands. Another hour east and you’ll get to Thurso and, soon after, Dunnet Head, the most northerly point of Great Britain, plus Duncansby Head, the most northeasterly point. Both are good places to drink in the view.
Heading south, The A9 flows along the coastline and allows for very relaxed cruising at a steady 50-60mph, even if it’s not the best outright driving road. The A9 continues through Inverness and conveniently into the beautiful Cairngorms National Park as a final treat before landing you on the edge of Edinburgh.
Shropshire to the Welsh Coast
This route has a running theme of industrial and transport heritage, starting in the town of Ironbridge, a monument to the Industrial Revolution, following various stops of historic railway and finally landing us at the foot of the Snowdon mountains and, of course, the dramatic Welsh coastline. From Ironbridge we suggest taking Thomas Teldford’s old London-Holyhead road, otherwise known as the A5, which will take you past Shrewsbury and onto Owestry.
Travelling west into Wales, we’d point our wheel a little south on the A494 towards Bala and past its picturesque lake. At the southern end of the A494 there’s the charming market town pitstop of Dolgellau, and the turning for our final road, the beautiful coastal A493. Past Cardigan Bay and alongside the Irish Sea, you’ll finally arrive at the seaside town of Tywyn. From here you might explore the surrounding mountains, the former quarry village of Aergynolwyn, or the remains of Castell-y-Bere.
Why not create a neat loop by taking the A489 back east towards Newtown and into the heart of the Shropshire Hills?
Lincolnshire – Leicestershire loop
Starting near Grantham, this route takes advantage of the empty roads and big skies with a route winding into the rolling Leicestershire countryside to end up at Belvoir Castle.
Starting near Grantham, head east on the A607 for a quick drive at the national speed limit down to Waltham on the Wolds. Taking a left turn off the A607 towards Stonesby, the network of country lanes running along each side of the A607 provides a perfect playground to put your classic through its paces.
There are plenty of great roads to enjoy as you work your way back to Waltham on the Wolds and on through the hamlets and villages of Easton, Branston, Knipton and Harston towards Belvoir Castle.
This drive begins in Somerset and explores Devon’s national parks, great scenery and coastal routes. We suggest starting in the West Somerset village of Dunster, joining the A39 ‘Atlantic Highway’ as it heads past Dunster Castle and Minehead into Exmoor. Here you’ll encounter Porlock Hill, which rises 400 feet in under two miles with a gradient of 1 in 4, though there’s a milder toll road too. Then it’s on to Lynmouth and Lynton, set amongst an area known as ‘England’s Little Switzerland’, where you can stop and explore the Lynton and Lynmouth Cliff Railway and the nearby Valley of Rocks.
From here its back on the twisty A39 to Barnstaple and Bideford, before getting on the equally twisty A386 as it follows the River Torridge – each is a great driving road. Head past Okehampton and stay on the A386 through the picturesque market town of Tavistock before continuing to Yelverton. Then it’s on to the B3212, which, though limited to 40mph, is an entertaining driving road with excellent views of the moors before its reaches its conclusion in Dunsford.
If you’re short of time, the A30 and the North Devon Link Road (A361) means both the Dartmoor and Exmoor routes can easily be done independently, too.
Pennines and the Peak District
This route offers hills, wide sweeping bends and massively spectacular scenery. Starting in the vibrant, modern city of Sheffield, head north up the A629 towards Chapeltown and then take the A616 past Stocksbridge above the steelworks before coming to Yorkshire Water’s Langsett Reservoir; over a mile long and a principal source of water for Sheffield and Barnsley.
After Langsett, the road becomes steeper then a lot more open and windswept. A few miles on, from here, you’ll spot a narrow road leading off to the left and dropping down below the road into the valley below; it’s not signposted but it’s the only turn off in this direction so you shouldn’t miss it if you fancy a visit to the former Woodhead railway station and the famous Woodhead Tunnels which run for three miles under the Pennines here.
Back on the A628 and shortly after Woodhead, take the A6024 right – though this isn’t signposted to Holmfirth it will get you there and via a slightly more impressive and enjoyable up-and-over route than the A616, through the Holme Valley with magnificent views. Pass through the small villages of Holme and Holmbridge before arriving at Pennine town of Holmfirth. From here you can either retrace your steps back up the A6024 and rejoin the A628 where you left it.
North Norfolk Coast
This scenic cruise along the Norfolk coast takes us past flint-built houses, round-towered churches, small harbours, bird and seal-watching, long coastal walks, and a well-known royal retreat. Starting from King’s Lynn, there’s over 100 miles of relaxed and winding driving road along the coast before meeting some lesser known but eminently charming seaside resorts at the end.
We suggest starting off with the A149 from King’s Lynn towards the seaside town of Hunstanton. On the way here you might pop in at the 12th century Caste Rising Castle, as well as the Royal residence of Sandringham which is home to a museum showcasing many well-known cars owned by royalty over the years, including some nice Rover, Vauxhall, Austin and Rolls Royce models. You might choose to stay and watch the sunset over the sea at Hunstanton before carrying on alongside Brancaster and Holkham Bays, with plenty opportunities to park up and dip your feet in.
Through just one of the small traditional seaside towns, Sheringham, you’ll reach the larger one of Cromer, famous for its crabs and long pier. Then why not take the inland route back, via the A148 and other charming villages such as Thursford and Melton Constable.
Starting in Redditch, head south to the market town of Evesham then south-east on the A44 to the picture postcard village of Broadway. From here, take the B4632 towards Winchcombe and on over the hill to Cheltenham, before leaving on the A436 to Bourton-on-the-Water, before continuing on the A436 and turning left up the A429 towards Stow-on-the-Wold.
From here back to the Midlands, the A429 is an excellent driving road with interesting twists and turns but still suitable for opening up a performance-type classic. The A429 from here to just past the A3400 turnoff to Stratford on Avon forms part of the Roman Fosse Way road which ran from Exeter to Lincoln, passing through Bath, Cirencester and Leicester.
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