The British Grand Prix begins today as F1 teams descend onto Silverstone circuit in the quaint town of Towcester. So, as the teams warm up their tyres, I thought we’d take a look at some of the greatest driving roads to explore while you’re here in the UK.
While this little island may not look like it has that much to offer, you’d be surprised at the varied landscape, cuisine, and experiences available, so in this video, I’ll try to cover as much as possible as we dive into the 5 best driving roads across the United Kingdom.
The Atlantic Highways offers one of the most varied routes in this article, with almost 250 miles of rugged coastline, patchwork countryside, and winding, scenic drives.
Running down the west coast from Devon, through Dorset, and ending in Cornwall, you never stay too far from the coast as you explore the beauty Southern England has to offer all through a single road, modestly named the A39.
Beginning in Exmoor, it’s worth driving a little further North to explore the magical Exmoor National Park, a haven for wild horses, rare red deer, and incredible driving roads with very little traffic. These roads are sometimes narrow and winding, and be mindful of wildlife, but it can offer incredible vistas and adrenaline-filled driving experiences.
Start the drive South and you’ll visit plenty of charming little villages where you can enjoy traditional cream teas, and as you move closer to the coast, fish and chips. If you’re into surfing, stop at Bude to take on the waves, but if the water isn’t your thing, take a bike over the trails or simply enjoy the scenery.
Continue downwards and you’ll come to Boscastle which is full of history and one of the few unchanged harbour villages of Cornwall. Here, take in the history, explore the museums and exhibitions, and enjoy a cornish pasty before you continue.
Make sure to stop at Tintagel Castle and Bridge for some great photo opportunities, Lynton and Lynmouth for some of the best scampi I’ve personally tasted, and finally, you’ll end your trip at Lands End, which boasts some of the greatest views of coastline you’ll ever see with rock arches, sea stacks, and, of course, great seafood.
Nestled amidst the stunning landscapes between Manchester and Sheffield of Northern England, Snake Pass is a road that will leave you breathless at every turn. This 26-mile stretch of tarmac winds its way through the enchanting Peak District, offering jaw-dropping vistas and a driving experience like no other.
You’ll be able to put your car through its paces as you navigate hairpin bends, steep gradients, and sweeping twists and turns while witnessing the Peak District’s beauty unfold in front of you. Rolling hills, verdant meadows, and charming villages dot the landscape giving you plenty of photo opportunities.
But with beauty comes danger. Crossing the Pennines has its fair share of blind summits, dangerous corners, and random hazards, but as a car enthusiast, this only adds to the excitement. There can sometimes be a few mobile speed cameras, so use Waze or something similar to get alerts for these, but with changes in elevation and cambers, you’ll want to squeeze everything you can out of your car here.
These roads are usually closed during the Winter months due to ice and snow, but when the Sun’s out, you’ll be able to take in what is one of, if not the best-looking road in the country. From the river Ashop that snakes its way through the openness of the moorland to tall pine trees that make you feel almost claustrophobic at times.
It’s of no surprise that Top Gear used to do a lot of filming here as these roads really allow your car to breathe, but take a breather yourself at the Woodhead Reservoir, stop for a pub lunch at the inns dotted around the road, and fill up the tank before going for another lap.
The B3135, better known as Cheddar Gorge, is 14 miles and 22 corners of Outstanding Natural Beauty. It’s the largest and deepest gorge in the UK and is carved out of glacial meltwater formed during the last ice age. Linking Cheddar of the Sedgemoor district and Medip of Somerset, the winding road is one of the most spectacular roads in the world, yet alone the UK.
It’s best to split this journey into three sections, starting in the claustrophobic gorge itself. Cliff faces rise up either side of the road, which itself offers a tight and challenging drive. It’s beautiful but offers a good amount of danger so watch where your car sits on the road while you take in the view. If you want to enjoy the view without having to focus on the driving, you can park at one of the many car parks and walk the gorge instead with defined footpaths around the area.
The second section replaces rocks for trees, and tight chicanes with sweeping bends, and the third is almost entirely straight roads with subtle gradient changes.
Here, it’s all about the road, but there are several places you can stop and enjoy like Wookey Hole, a huge show cave that’s well worth exploring, Cheddar Reservoir, a place for beautiful walks and the odd watersport on the water, and some of the many cafes and shops. You can’t visit Cheddar without buying cheddar cheese which is actually made and aged in the cheddar caves themselves.
The Hardknott Pass runs through Cumbria between Eskdale and Little Landale, and is one of the country’s most dangerous roads. In fact, its name is derived from the words “hard craggy hill”.
It was destroyed entirely in World War 2 due to it being used for tank training, but when the war stopped, it was completely rebuilt. Despite this, caravans and other large vehicles are warned to stay away due to just how dangerous it can be, and even drivers of smaller cars could find this a heart-stopping drive.
It’s a narrow road, full of hairpins and tight, blind corners which lack the grip of modern tarmac. As you’d expect, it’s a no-go during Winter, and with traffic expected to give way to cars ascending the road, it’s extremely important to have recently serviced brakes and tyres with the gradient reaching 33% in some areas, the steepest you’ll find in England.
To make things even harder, there will likely be plenty of cyclists getting in the way, so car control is extremely important.
Starting at the bottom, any momentum you may have is sucked out of the car by a cattle grid, then you push up the tight road with a steep gradient almost straight away. There’s the odd bit of flat road, but then it’s soon back to tricky driving with plenty of switchbacks and steep climbs. Once you reach the top to gaze back at where you’ve come from, you’ll be amazed that you made it up such a difficult road.
If you’re brave enough, you can look out to the beautiful scenery, but I’d leave this to your passengers if I were you.
North Coast 500
The North Coast 500, a truly remarkable driving adventure, takes you on an epic journey through the untamed beauty of Scotland’s northern coast. Spanning approximately 500 miles, this legendary route weaves its way through rugged landscapes, ancient castles, pristine beaches, and charming villages, offering a feast for the senses at every turn.
As you embark on this awe-inspiring road trip, prepare to be immersed in the stunning scenery that unfolds before your eyes. The North Coast 500 showcases the breathtaking Scottish Highlands in all their glory, with towering mountains, deep lochs, and cascading waterfalls creating a dramatic backdrop for your road trip.
Driving along this winding route, you’ll encounter some of Scotland’s most iconic landmarks. From the majestic Dunrobin Castle and the mystical Loch Ness to the mystical ruins of Ardvreck Castle and the serene shores of Durness, each stop presents an opportunity to delve into the rich history and folklore of the region.
But it’s not just the landmarks that will leave you in awe. The North Coast 500 treats you to an ever-changing tapestry of landscapes. One moment you’ll find yourself navigating narrow roads hugging steep cliffs, offering panoramic views of the roaring ocean. The next, you’ll be surrounded by sprawling moorlands dotted with grazing sheep and colourful wildflowers.
The route also introduces you to the warm hospitality of the locals, who welcome visitors with open arms. Experience authentic Scottish culture in the charming villages along the way, where you can indulge in fresh seafood, sip on a dram of whisky, or simply engage in friendly banter with the friendly locals.
The NC500 is often referred to as the Ultimate Road Trip, and it’s no surprise that it lives up to every word as you circle one of the most incredible places on roads that leave very little to the imagination.