The Best UK Road Trips!
If you’re looking for inspiration to find the best UK road trip then you are without a doubt in the right place!
We’ve got five epic UK road trip itineraries right here for you to point your eyeballs at and begin to salivate at the opportunities available right here in the UK.
From the drama of the NC500 in Scotland all the way down to the twists and turns of iconic Cornwall.
Each of these road trips will require a significant amount of time to do them justice so allow a minimum of a week or two to complete in order to get the most out of them.
If you don’t have multiple weeks available for your UK road trip then subscribe to our newsletter as we have a mini/weekend road trip roundup in the works which we’re very excited to get out.
These UK road trips are iconic – and as such they do get busy at peak times. If crowds blocking your insta snaps is giving you anxiety then keep an eye out for our sister post covering secret UK road trips as these will be slightly quieter during the busiest part of the tourist season – and we’d argue are equally as good as those listed here.
In our minds, the best way to complete an epic UK road trip is to hire a campervan or motorhome for the ultimate freedom on the road.
Scotland's North Coast 500 Road Trip
If there was such a thing as travel fashion then Scotlands North Coast 500 route would be right at the forefront leading the charge in contemporary design.
Through some excellent marketing and drive from within the Scottish tourist board you can hardly put the words UK road trip in a sentence without the NC500.
And in fairness – it is well and truly deserved. Stunning beaches that would be at home in the Caribbean interspersed with dramatic scenery, awe inspiring wildlife and unruly Scottish weather makes this route one to never forget.
We don’t have space to write a full article on the NC500 in this post but keep up to date as we will be writing a detailed breakdown of this road trip behemoth at some point.
NC500 Road Trip - The route
Inverness – Applecross – Clachtoll – Durness – John o’ Groats – Inverness
An age old argument – to go clockwise or anticlockwise…?
In truth it probably doesn’t matter as most travelers return to do the route in the opposite direction – it’s that good.
But we’d recommend going clockwise to keep that sea view on your side of the road.
Clockwise also seems to be the most popular direction of travel and therefore you’ll be going with the flow of traffic not against it – far easier if you’re driving a large motorhome!
Start from Inverness, head west across to Applecross and then simply follow the coast all the way around until, after roughly 500 miles, you find yourself back in Inverness.
This is rural Scotland, so you can expect some roads to be small, single track, steep and winding, so make sure that you are confident driving your vehicle, understand the limitations of your vehicle and how confident you are at manouvering your vehicle.
North Coast 500 Highlights
This truly is a beast of a UK road trip and we could spend days listing the highlights and must sees – but for the sake of clarity we have painstakingly narrowed down this list to our top, absolutely can’t miss stops.
Bealach Na Ba – an iconic high pass with unrivaled views, also claimed to contain the steepest ascent in the UK – Larger motorhomes be aware and consider taking the alternative route!
Lochinver and Assynt to Wester Ross – This drive takes you along the coastline next to the impossibly blue-green seas and whitesand beaches that would be perfectly at home on a paradise tropical island.
Ullapool – A proper Scottish village on the rugged West Coast offering up local craft eateries and shops, outlandish views and even wildlife cruises where you might see dolphins or even seals!
Clachtoll – A small village with a wild side. Surrounded by ancient lochs and mountains there’s opportunity here for some true space and fresh air – from kayaking on the lochs or climbing the old man of Stoer there’s plenty to do.
Melvich Beach/Clachtoll Beach/Big Sands/Red Point beaches – our highest recommended beaches for outstanding stretches of golden sand and fresh sea air.
Cape Wrath – Rugged and dramatic hillsides and cliffs giveway to a small oasis of perfect sand at the most North Westerly point of mainland Scotland.
Kishorn Seafood Bar – A highly rated seafood bar located in a large log cabin and serving up the freshest seafood that Scotland has to offer
Balbair Distillery – One of the oldest whisky distilleries in the world (1790!!) and right on the NC500. No NC500 road trip would be complete without a distillery tour to wrap your taste buds around some world famous Scotch Whisky!
Urquhart Castle & Loch Ness – Visit the ancient Urquhart castle on the banks of Loch Ness before taking a boat ride out to spot the mythological beast lurking in the depths of this icy loch.
Smoo Cave – An awe inspiring limestone cavern created by both the sea and the river. You can enter from the sea by boat or on foot from the land.
Rogie Falls – Dramatic yet accessible waterfalls for all the family. Visit during the summer and try to catch a glimpse of wild salmon jumping upstream (yes, you read that right, jumping, and upstream!!).
Fairy Pools – So yes, you’ll have to detour off the route a fair bit for this one and onto the Isle of Skye. But if you have the time it’s well worth visiting Skye anyway and this should definitely be on your list. If you’re brave enough why not take a dip into the chilly waters!
Chanonry Point & North Kessock – Visit to spot dolphins playing in the sea. The best chance to see them is at roughly 1 hour after low tide they like to chase fish into the shallows at this time.
Duncansby Head – Visit to spot seals lounging in the bay below and seabirds nesting in the craggy rocks and cliffs
Handa Island – Swing by Handa Island in May or June for your best chance to spot this elusive sea bird.
Suilven and An Teallach (Hiking) – You can’t visit Scotland without doing some ridiculous hikes into the wilderness and these two are some of the best. Read more here.
Pentland Firth (Surfing) – Fancy some surfing? The surf at Pentland Firth is supposedly some of the best Scotland has to offer – and it’s pretty too. Always nice.
Adventure – There is a ridiculous amount of opportunities available on the NC500 for outdoor adventure, from coasteering along the cliffs with the sea ripping at your heels, kayaking or canoeing on the lochs and rivers with the mountains rising above you, or perhaps shooting down a river doing something called “river tubing”… Find out more here.
Seriously – that’s us narrowing it down – allow a lot of time to truly explore this completely insane UK road trip.
For a more in depth look at Scotlands NC500 road trip subscribe to our newsletter as we will be publishing an in depth write up.
Where to Stay - Campsites on the NC500
So you have a choice to make – do you make a different stop each night and move slightly further along the route each day.
Or do you set up base for 2 or 3 nights and spend the time exploring a wider area before moving further along.
For us we’d choose the latter, and here are 5 stunning campsites set at roughly 100, 200, 300, 400 & 500 miles along the route. Spend 2 or 3 nights at each and you should have enough time to explore the North Coast 500 in a good level of detail.
When to visit the NC500
Anytime of year – the NC500 route is made up of normal roads and normal towns, villages and sites.
However expect more crowds and traffic in the summer months, but a better chance of decent weather and daylight hours.
Conversely in the winter it will be quieter and easier to get around, but the days will be very short and the weather inclement to say the least. It’s also worth spending more time checking the accommodation and tourist attractions are open during the winter the months.
We’d recommend a visit in May or September for the best balance of weather and crowds, or in January for a real test of your mettle!
Additional NC500 Resources
And while you’re at it why not kick things off with an epic whisky tour right at the start of your trip from Inverness to really dive straight in to Scottish culture.
Devon & Cornwall Road Trip
Devon and Cornwall, fudge and ice cream, cream tea and, well, cream tea…
There’s more to Devon and Cornwall than that obviously, from unique winding country lanes, craggy cliffs, desolate moors, wide beaches and turquoise seas, these two counties are famous the world over and for very good reason.
Devon & Cornwall Road Trip - The Route
Woolacombe & Croyde – Bude – Dartmoor – South Devon AONB – Looe – St Austell – Falmouth – Lizard Peninsula – Sennen Cove – St Ives – Newquay – Padstow, Wadebridge & Port Isaac – Bodmin & Bodmin Moor
This is an epic UK campervan route taking in both North & South Coasts of Devon & Cornwall as well as a detour up onto the epic tors of Dartmoor.
We recommend a minimum of 10 days to complete the entire route, two weeks if you can afford the time.
However if this route is too long and you’re short of time, any section of it can be done as a standalone trip that is brilliant in it’s own right.
Devon and Cornwall Road Trip Highlights
Woolacombe and Croyde – Two iconic beach towns of North Devon. Both have outstanding beaches and good surf for beginners to intermediates alike.
Bude – The gateway to Cornwall, Bude is an excellent place to start your Cornish leg of the journey. Whether you have a penchant for surfing or windsurfing, chilling on a gorgeous beach or just soaking up the culture and cafes.
Dartmoor – Wild and desolate Dartmoor is one of our favourite places in the UK and we find ourselves back here time and time again for a good detox from modern life. Check out the ancient trees on a walk through Wistmans Wood, go wild swimming at Spitchwick, test your mountain biking skill by taking on the Widow Maker and generally get outside and enjoy the great outdoors.
St Michaels Mount – A small tidal village built on a rock out to sea. Accessible only by boat or a causeway at low tide this really is a unique destination within the UK. Legend has it that a beastly giant once inhabited the island… Also paired with Mont St Michel in France.
Looe – As a working fishing village, Looe strikes the perfect balance between old school Cornwall and modern tourist Cornwall. Right on a perfect beach for swimming in sheltered water, lounging on the sand or exploring fishing tackle there’s plenty for everyone.
Kynance Cove – Our favourite beach in Cornwall found right on the tip of the Lizard point. A steep and uneven path winds down through the cliffs leading out to a gorgeous little beach and cafe.
Minack Theatre – An outdoor theatre built right into the cliff face with views out over the sea! Bring plenty of coats and you’ll be sure to have an experience you won’t forget in a hurry.
Tamar Valley – An oft overlooked area of Devon & Cornwall Tamar valley is a perfect break from the coast for a few days to discover pretty villages, bustling towns and plenty of outdoor adventure. Read more here
Eden Project – A large botanical garden with a focus on sustainable living and education. The Eden project is home to a massive tropical botanical biodome containing the largest rainforest in captivity in the world.
St Austell Brewery – A great brewery of local beers and well worth taking a tour of.
Sennen Cove – A long stretch of white sand at Cornwalls most westerly point. Home to a plethora of ancient myths and tales of the sea (from mysterious druids to ghosts of lives lost at sea) Sennen cove is a must visit during your road trip of Cornwall.
St Ives – A traditional Cornish town with a lively buzz. Boutique shops, independent eateries and surf shops line the narrow and twisty streets – do not attempt to drive into St Ives itself – you have been warned!
Padstow, Wadebridge & Port Isaac – More Cornish than a pasty these three towns on the north coast make for delightful day trips, for shopping, surfing, fishing or just general exploration. A great way to spend a day is to cycle along the Camel Trail cycle path that runs along the old railway line (and as such is nice and flat) between Padstow & Wadebridge.
Bodmin Moor – If you’re into the isolated and bleak nature of moors then a lovely way to finish off your road trip is to ascend up onto the heath covered moor. Take some time to explore the area surrounded by ponies, and yes, more ancient Cornish mystique.
Visit Dozmary Pool to try and catch a glimpse of Excalibur which is rumoured to be lost to the depths. Or take a midnight walk to try and find the beast of the Moor – apparently a panther like beast that roams at night and destroys livestock… Or brighten things up a bit with some inland water sports at Siblyback lake.
When to Road Trip Devon & Cornwall
Cornwall & Devon are awesome every single day of the year – but expect crowds in the summer and many beaches won’t be dog friendly throughout peak season.
So the best time will differ for everyone but we like late Spring or the depths of Winter.
Where to stay - Devon and Cornwall Campsites
Further Devon & Cornwall Road Trip Resources
The Cotswolds Road Trip
If you’re told to picture a quintessential English countryside village then more than likely your minds eye will conjure up something similar to the picture above.
The truth of the matter is, the Cotswolds is home to some of the most beautiful English villages and countryside available.
If you want a traditional taste of rural England this is where you need to come.
A Cotswolds Road Trip - The Route
Marlborough – Westonbirt – Banbury – Stratford Upon Avon – Bourton on the Water – Castle Combe – Bath
Probably the UK campervan route than will make you feel the most English of all. Before you know it you’ll be speaking in Queens English, drinking tea out of tiny china cups and burying your problems deep down never to be shared.
Not as massive as some of the other UK road trips we’ve highlighted in this article you could probably get away with a long weekend or 4 or 5 days to complete this road trip of middle England.
The Cotswolds Road Trip Highlights
Marlborough – A unique market town due to it’s extremely wide high street lined on both sides by independent pubs, cafes and shops this is a must for those seeking out the UKs cafe culture and local craft. Also home to the disputed burial of the Wizard Merlin (we’d be more inclined to dispute the wizardry ourselves but that’s a debate to be had over a pint, perhaps on the high street of Marlborough). Aim to arrive on market day to discover the town at it’s buzzing best.
Westonbirt Arboretum – A great way to spend an afternoon exploring
Jolly Nice Farmshop & Kitchen – A converted petrol station come farm shop and burger joint – an excellent, one-of-a-kind pit stop and place to stock up on supplies.
Cirencester – discover the thriving town of Cirencester that is oft overshadowed by it’s glitzy show off neighbour Cheltenham. Brilliantly English this town thrives on its underdog status. Wander down one of the many side streets to stumble across craft shops and eateries creating some of the best England has to offer. Make a beeline for Black Jack street and the Corn Hall if short on time.
Bourton on the Water & Upper & Lower Slaughter – Possibly the most famous and paradoxically least grim towns/villages to be found in the Costwolds. Bourton on the Water is famed for its shallow and wide stream cutting straight through the centre of the town. Spend some time exploring the back streets and upmarket bars. Bourton does get very busy during the peak tourist season so plan accordingly.
Banbury – One might wander why Banbury is on this list. It’s not large, or crammed with shops or bars. It has no claims to fame or ancient history. But if you’re after a true English village, nothing fancy, no crowds, and great walks from your doorstep – then drop by and you won’t be disappointed.
Stratford Upon Avon – “I like this place and could willingly waste my time in it”, William Shakespeare (As You Like It)
Yes, Stratford-Upon-Avon is the birthplace of that bloke who wrote a couple of plays a few years back. Not technically within the Cotswolds but near as dammit and well worth the detour from the northern edge of your trip.
An interesting town in it’s own right with plenty to offer, interesting architecture, wobbly buildings and a delightful market to top it off.
Gloucester Quays – Stop off for your shopping fix and perhaps indulge at one of the many bars and restaurants casting light out over the river creating a lovely dappled atmosphere come the evening.
Castle Combe – We’re gonna use that phrase “quintessentially English” again, but really, it is. This small village has been named the prettiest in England on numerous occasions and for very good reason. Sandstone, or perhaps limestone (some sort of beigy stone) houses with perfectly neat front gardens and knee high gates line the country lanes that connect the village to the outside world. Purchase small baked goods from outside a locals house and wander along to sit on the bridge and eat with a view over the stream. Also home to a world famous racecourse you can self drive or hire a vehicle to take on the circuit.
Bath – And to finish off visit the small but packed university city of Bath. Take a tour of the Roman baths, shop until you drop or drink until you, well, being honest, drop! With world class parks to lounge about on a sunny day, fascinating streets and buildings and more great eatieries than you can shake a stick at, Bath is the perfect place to finish your Cotswolds Road Trip.
Where to stay - campsites in the Cotswolds
Additional resources for a Cotswolds Road Trip
The Lake District Road Trip
A Lake District road trip really does have something for everyone.
Water sports, outrageous views, demanding hikes, meandering walks, epic mountain biking, excellent food, fishing, pretty towns, friendly locals, abundant wildlife and nature, majestic beaches, tumbling waterfalls, awe-inspiring views – we really could keep listing all day but we’re pretty sure you get the point by now.
The Lake Distrcit Road Trip - The Route
Kendal – Windemere – Coniston – Haverigg – Scafell Pike & Wast Water – Cockermouth – Buttermere – Keswick – Ullswater
Start in the bustling town of Kendal before making your way across to the first great lake of the trip, Windermere.
From here we head over to the coast via Coniston and follow the coast up to Cockermouth, dipping briefly inland to check out the unmissable Scafell Pike and Wast Water.
After a brief respite in Cockermouth we plunge back into the heart of the Lakes taking in Buttermere, Keswick, Helvellyn and finishing our road trip at Ullswater.
Highlights on a Lake District Road Trip
Kendal – The gateway to the Lakes. Use Kendal as a rest stop after your journey here, stock up on provisions and fuel, and spend an afternoon or evening wandering the streets in search of local made craftware and seasonal offerings in the plentiful bars and restaurants.
If you’re planning on some strenuous activities on your road trip then make sure to grab some Kendal mint cake, quite possibly, the original energy bars! We have no evidence for this – but some of the first ascents of Everest involved using Kendal mint cake as compact and easy to carry sources of energy.
Windemere – The largest lake in England and possibly the most famous lake of the district it is an apt place to begin your exploration. Whether you fancy a cruise on the lake, taking the helm or paddle of your own boat, hiking around the area or cycling up some massive hills – you’ll not be short of options here.
Our pick of the lakeside villages is the culture oriented Ambleside – also home to the majority of the lakes outdoor pursuits companies.
Coniston – A great base to explore Coniston Water and to hike up the ‘Old man of Coniston’. After your day out head back to the 400 year old Black Bull Inn to sample the famous Coniston Brewery selection of beers.
Haverigg Beach – The lake district has more than just lakes to offer. Head to the coast to discover world class coastlines and beaches. Haverigg beach being our pick for its brilliant sands and isolated feel.
Wast Water & Scafell Pike – Moving on we now come to the deepest lake in England and the tallest mountain in England! Climb Scafell Pike from the Northern end of Wast Water for a real challenge.
Cockermouth – Hometown of William Wordsworth. Bustling town and culture centre. Has an amusing name (c’mon, we all giggle when we read Cockermouth!). Rounding out the Northern half of our trip nicely. If necessary take a day or some time to recover here after watersports, swimming in the deepest lake and scrambling to the highest point and sample some local delicacies
Buttermere – This area has a more laid back and less extreme feel to it than a lot of the lake districts epicness and wild allure. It’s worth visiting for the drive through the heart of the lake district alone.
Buttermere itself is a a simple and small hamlet serving the lakes of Buttermere & Crummock water. No power boats allowed here and plenty of low lying, easier walks are to be found. Take the forested gorge to Scale Force – the highest waterfall in the region providing a drop of 170ft.
Keswick – After some time out in the wilds of the lake district perhaps by now you’re craving a little more hustle and bustle. Well head on to the charming market town of Keswick and surround yourself with hubhub of the main market square and dive off into any side streets and alleyways you spot to discover a plethora of hidden gems.
Helvellyn – Follow the A591 south from Keswick until you reach the slopes of Hellvellyn. A great climb for enthusiastic hikers, or a great picnic spot.
Ullswater – It wouldn’t be right to do an epic Lake District Road Trip without paying homage to Ullswater – in our opinion the most beautiful of the lakes and surrounded by several interesting towns. Swimming is possible, boats are available to hire and windsurfing courses are on offer.
When to Visit the Lake District
Again the Lake District is an all year round type of destination.
But for a higher chance of settled weather and to avoid the crowds that go along with school holidays visit in June or September.
Or for a chance of snow topped mountains January or February is your best bet – but then again it might just be wet and windy!
But no matter, this will be a cracker of a UK road trip!
Where to Stay - Campsites in the Lake District
Additional Resources for the Lake District
North Wales & Snowdonia Road Trip
The craggy and harsh North of Wales, valleys steeped in history, ancient folklore & myth, overshadowed beneath dark mountain peaks hidden by forboding swirling mist and cloud.
On your way you will encounter adventure, discover ancient legends, consume the finest Welsh food & drink and dive into Welsh culture in this Welsh speaking part of the country.
This truly is an absolute belter of a Welsh road trip.
North Wales and Snowdonia road trip - the route
Bala – Coed Y Brenin – Barmouth – Uwchmynydd – Nant Gwynant – Colwyn Bay
This road trip will take you from the waters of lake Bala lapping at your toes, to the wide sandy beaches on the coast, up the ancient castle at Harlech, to the end of the world at Uwchmynydd to the top of the world at Snowdons summit, through the Mediterranean village of Portmeirion before winding up to the sands of Colwyn Bay.
North Wales and Snowdonia road trip - Highlights
Bala – An excellent starting point for your North Wales Road Trip. Bala is a historic market town and a lake (Llyn Tegid) in the heart of the Penllyn area of Snowdonia. The mountain ranges in this area are vast and imposing, world class in their own right without encroaching on the stakes raised in Snowdonia itself. A world of less crowded rivers, forests and mountain peaks await you.
To swim at lake Bala head to the Loch Cafe on the north western edge.
Coed Y Brenin – World class mountain biking trails to test even the most experienced of riders, but more than enjoyable for intermediates as well. There is also a graded green loop for family groups taking in the nature and wonder of the forest park. Add in a visitors centre serving up hot food and you have the makings of a great day no matter what you’re after.
Barmouth – It’s not all vertigo inducing mountains tops and adrenaline adventures. Head over to Barmouth for wide sandy beaches, fish and chips and a little coastal therapy. Cross the Barmouth bridge with all its panoramic views and take the Madwch trail up the estuary for an easy and enjoyable walk or cycle ride.
Portmeirion – A little slice of the Mediterranean in North Wales. This place has to be seen to be believed. Colourful buildings built in this outlandish style seem so out of place in North Wales but make for a unique and interesting day out.
Pwllheli & Abersoch – Traditional North Walian towns with plenty to offer. Pwllheli is a great destination for a more laid back visit, a pretty harbour and relaxed atmosphere are conducive for really being able unwind and spend a day switching off. Whereas Abersoch will have your heart pounding and blood rushing as you take on various watersports on offer.
Bardsey Island – Take a boat trip across to Bardsey Island for a couple of hours to visit the traditional houses kept back in time, peer out and try to catch a glimpse of seals and a gluttony of sea birds. Rumour has it that puffins have also been spotted in recent years so keep your eyes peeled for these peculiar little characters.
Beddgelert – A picturesque village spanning the meeting point of the Avon Glaslyn and Avon Colwyn. When the weather is wet these two meet in a ferocious battle under the bridge.
Pop into the Prince Llywellyn pub to warm up in a cosy atmosphere and take the short walk to Gelerts Grave.
Legend has it that Prince Llywellyn went hunting one day without his faithful hound and returned to find his son missing and Gelert covered in blood. Furious he slaid the hound only to hear the cries of an infant shortly after. Llywellyn found his son unharmed and the dead body of a great wolf killed by his faithful hound. Legend has it that Llywellyn never smiled again.
It’s a really fun legend. Full of wonder and hope…
Zip World – What can we say about Zip World. Home to the fastest zip line in the world – fly over the magnificent Penrhyn quarry at speeds of up to a claimed 100mph. Or perhaps take on the quarry karts on the valley floor below. Plus plenty more.
Snowdon – The tallest mountain in Wales, with multiple routes up and down the mountain on foot, or the train up from Llanberis below. This mountain is accessible for nearly everyone.
Betws Y Coed – Nestled in a wooded valley in the centre of Snowdonia Betws Y Coed makes a great base for exploring the region, and is in and of itself a great place to visit in its own right. Blessed with some excellent outdoor pursuits shops, as well as independent craft shops, bars and restaurants.
Colwyn Bay – Finish up with a trip back to the seaside, only this time on the north coast of Wales. The unexpected triumph of North Wales is its fantastic beaches. So take the coastal route back out of Wales and perhaps stop for a quick explore or some lunch at Llandudno.
Where to Stay - North Wales Campsites
Additional North Wales Road Trip Resources
UK Road Trip Essentials
In our opinion, all great UK road trips begin with a campervan or motorhome.
What else gives you the freedom to truly explore and not be tied down staying in towns and cities.
If you don’t own your own then fear not as we’ve teamed up with the good folks over at Spaceship Rentals to get you some great deals, and check out our full article on hiring a motorhome or campervan.
Nervous about driving a rental motorhome? Check out our top Motorhome Driving Tips to give you the confidence you need!
The next item on your list is now going to be where can you stay on your exciting UK Road Trip!
Well fear not as we’ve got you covered on this one as well, check out our campsites and parkups section or browse through our Destinations Guides.
And finally your going to need to do a little bit of planning, whether you’re an experienced road tripper, a complete newbie or somewhere in the middle there’s always more to learn.
Once more, guess what, we’ve got you sorted! Check out exactly how to plan your perfect road trip. Not Sally from across the roads perfect road trip, but yours!
UK Road Trip Summary
Yes Yes Yes!
You’re inspired to do your UK road trip!
You’ve got your vehicle sorted!
You know where you’re gonna be staying overnight!
You know what you want to do on your trip!
So now you can get after it and Go Explore!
Let us know how you get on or what your best (and worst!) road trips ever are in the comments below!