Warmer weather and longer days mean we're now into the best of road trip season. To help you make the most out of the UK spring and summer, we've put together a faff-free guide to some of the nation's best road trip routes - and even offered up suggestions for which cars to use on them. Our favourite UK driving roads are below:
The North Coast 500
It may not be as famous as America’s Route 66 but Scotland’s North Coast 500 can claim some of the most beautiful scenery in the world. Winding just over 500 miles from Inverness Castle via the cathedral town of Dornoch on the wild North Sea Coast to John O-Groats, Durness and Ullapool, the route then comes full circle back to historic Inverness.
This is proper Highland territory so you’ll need the right car. It can get quite tight and twisty at points, so something compact and nimble would be ideally suited to the job. A Toyota GT86 feels perfectly set for the workload, while also being appropriately entertaining for when the road opens up. Oh, and the two-door sports car will look terrific against a dramatic Scottish backdrop.
The Jurassic Coast
Whilst it may only be 95 miles from Exmouth via Chesil Beach to the Isle of Portland and then the Old Harry Rocks in Swanage, you can take plenty of time to discover 185 million years of history along the Jurassic Coast. The route traces England’s only World Heritage Site and includes landmarks like luscious Lulworth Cove, the limestone arch at Durdle Door, endless Chesil Beach, sleepy Seaton, fossil-rich Charmouth, and the beautiful Isle of Portland.
For a jaunt along the south coast on a hot summer’s day, it feels only natural to go for a convertible sports car. A dream option would be a Porsche Boxster, but you'd have just as much fun in an Abarth 595, especially if it's one with the folding fabric roof.
Oxford to Cambridge
The quickest way to get from one seat of learning to the other is via the M40, M25 and A1M but that’s not a drive anyone wants to make unless their favourite colour is grey and their ideal view is the rear end of a lorry. Instead, why not head north from Oxford to Bicester and then east through Buckingham towards Bedford? Be sure to detour around Milton Keynes and you’ll soon be cruising the Great Ouse through the bustling market town of St Neots before arriving in Cambridge.
It’s only around 90 miles but you could easily take the weekend over the trip. Your car of choice? The Jaguar F-Type ticks a lot of boxes, as does its SUV sibling, the F-Pace. Both are great handling, British beauties, with the former offering sports car thrills and the latter providing space for your mates and luggage.
Touring the Lake District
Come rain or shine – no guesses as to which the English weather has served up this year so far – a tour of the Lake District should be on everyone’s bucket list. From Kendal to Keswick and Coniston to Windemere, you can’t fail but be impressed with the lakes and mountains in the national park. You can also pop to Whitehaven on the coast or trek inland to Scafell Pike, England’s highest point. Now you might be expecting us to recommend something rugged for such a journey but we’d actually go for a Tesla.
Let’s immediately deal with the elephant in the room: there are dozens of charging points in and around the national park, because the priority here is to keep the air clean and the roads quiet for nature. More than 10 are rapid 43kW+ outlets too, so you can plan your journey to make sure your lunch stop meets one of them. A round trip with stopovers is only about 150 miles anyway, which all Tesla models are claimed to be capable of managing on a single charge. We'd go for a Model 3 because it's nimble and spacious.
The Norfolk Coast
There’s plenty to see and do on England’s eastern coastline. Why not start your trip with a visit to Norwich Cathedral before heading east to The Broads, a maze of navigable inland waterways? There are more than 40 miles of sand on six Blue Flag beaches, and you can always stop to admire the seal colony at Blakeney Point or the Happisburgh Lighthouse. It’s also worth visiting towns like Cromer and Great Yarmouth for a bit of top-down tanning in the car you should be driving.
We're thinking a Mini Cooper S Convertible would do the job nicely, because of its punchy turbocharged engine and agile handling. Minis are - as the name suggests - a little mini on the boot space, but the Norfolk Coast can be explored over a long weekend, so you needn't pack much.
The Atlantic Highway
The A39 sounds like a poor second to Route 66 but the 70-mile section between Barnstaple in North Devon and Newquay in Cornwall often gets mentioned in the same breath. With rolling hills on one side and a sparkling coastline dotted with tiny fishing villages on the other, this is King Arthur country. From sea swimming in Bude to the Museum of Witchcraft & Magic in Boscastle, and from Tintagel Castle to the cove at Port Quin, you’ll wonder why you’ve not made the trip before.
This is proper surfing country too so you’re going to want to be at the wheel of a capable SUV that can carry all your gear on the outside and keep you looking cool on the inside. We'd suggest the Jeep Renegade. It’s more than capable of handling off-road tracks down to the beaches, it won’t mind a layer of sand in the footwell at the end of the day, and it’ll look great parked outside the pub while you’re enjoying fish and chips in the sun.
The North York Moors
The North York Moors National Park is a spectacular mix of forests, streams, heather moorland and sleepy villages. The best part is that they’re all linked by some of the most enjoyable pure driving roads in the UK, meaning there's something for both enthusiasts and scenery-lovers in equal measure. This is God’s Own Country, afterall.
A mighty region demands a mighty car, so we'd be looking to BMW's range of sporting models, like the M3 or M440i coupe. These cars are quick, great handling and well-equipped, plus they're comfy for any motorway driving before and after the holiday.
Discover North Wales
If you’ve got a few days to kill and fancy a journey that takes in lakes, mountains, beaches, islands, quirky architecture, timeless villages and sprawling castles, then North Wales ticks a lot of boxes. A roughly circular tour from Powis to Portmeirion and then on to Bangor, Anglesey, Betws-y-Coed, Conwy and Denbigh before returning to Powis covers around 250 miles in the shadow of Snowdon. The route is a mix of open A roads, B-road hill-climbs and tiny rural routes on Anglesey so you’re going to need a car that can handle anything you throw at it while also punching above its weight on the storage front.
We at cinch can’t speak highly enough of the new Ford Puma. The car’s mild-hybrid system uses a small battery to improve performance and increase efficiency, which is exactly what you’ll need on undulating roads in the mountains. The Puma even has built-in wireless hotspot technology so you can stay in touch with the rest of the world – if you can be bothered – and clever hidden storage space beneath the boot floor. Combine all this with its stunning looks and this is a car for all seasons.
Cruise the Cotswolds
The rolling hills of the Cotswolds are the perfect backdrop to a three-day jaunt. Discover peaceful medieval villages like Chipping Campden and Burford, Roman settlements like Cirencester, the spa town of Cheltenham, and stunning Bourton-on-the-water.
In an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, you’re best off driving the automotive equivalent: an Alfa Romeo Giulia. The Cotswolds are the natural habitat of the Range Rover, Jaguar, BMW and sporty SUV so the glorious Giulia stands out from the crowd, especially if you can reach the most exotic version of the car: the Quadrifoglio. Drool.
Still can’t decide which car to take?
Don’t worry, we’re here to help. Just visit our Help Me Choose section and we’ll guide you through every step so you end up with the perfect used car for your needs and budget.
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