5 of the best road trips in the UK

Plan your next break around the best road trips in the UK for epic scenery, delectable food and historical finds

Car driving in the hills of England on a sunny evening representing the best road trips in the uk
(Image credit: Getty)

The best road trips in the UK make for memorable, multi-generational family getaways and allow you to see some of the best scenery the country has to offer from the comfort of your car.

The UK has some of the best driving routes in Europe, combining breathtaking scenery, great hotels and restaurants and, yes, even empty roads, if you know where to go. 

Our top five favourite road trips in the UK combine all of these things as well as the chance to taste some of the best produce the country has to offer and experience the British countryside at its best (weather permitting, as always, of course). 

The best road trips in the UK to take in 2022

Brecon Beacons

Country Road, Trapp, Brecon Beacons, Wales

(Image credit: Getty)

Best for: Welsh gastronomy 

Length: 66 miles

Time needed: 2 days

This trip is a celebration of both the verdant Brecon Beacons and also the fantastic chefs at work in the towns and villages along the way. The route begins in Abergavenny, the gastronomic heartland of Wales, where the town’s annual food festival showcases the best cheeses, meats and vegetables, much to the delight of the crowds.

From Abergavenny, take the A465 to Skirrid Fawr, a wonderful hill to climb for far-reaching views of the Black Mountains. 

Having caught your breath back at the National Trust carpark, it’s time to head for the A40 towards Brecon and lunch at the Three Horseshoes, just outside the town, with views of Pen Y Fan, another walker’s paradise. 

From there, it’s a short drive to the prettiest piece of road in the area: the B4520, which runs between Brecon and Builth Wells: all gorse, grass and big skies - the very finest Wales has to offer.

Garden of England, Kent

The River Medway near Maidstone, Kent, UK.

(Image credit: Getty)

Best for: Sunday relaxing

Length: 50 miles

Time needed: 1 day

A road trip through the heart of the Kentish countryside, down to the windswept coast, offers a fine mix of bucolic fields and wild seascape. 

Beginning in the historic village of Penshurst, where Anne Boleyn spent time at the stunning pile that is Penshurst Place, head out towards Tunbridge Wells. Then it’s south on the A21, past Scotney Castle, which provides a great family day out, and left at Flimwell, towards Hawkhurst. The lanes wind between sheep fields, past churches, manor houses, orchards and brick-clad oasts. 

Eventually you will come to Rye, a medieval town perched on a hill looking out over marshland. Turn left towards Camber and eventually you’ll arrive at Dungeness, home to the nuclear power station but also a private reserve, established to protect this strangely futuristic landscape for future generations.

The Lake District

Autumn, Grasmere, Lake District, Cumbria.

(Image credit: Getty)

Best for: Dramatic scenery

Length: 33 miles

Time needed: 2-3 days

Take your time because there is so much to see and do on this road trip in the UK. Starting in Windermere, wind your way northwards, through Ambleside with its excellent cafes and bars. The roads through the Lake District national park are stunning: hills rise on all sides, rocks and plants tumbling back down in mossy cascades.

The A591 winds its ancient way through Grasmere, past William Wordsworth’s Dove Cottage, and runs along the eastern shore of Thirlmere, a remote, glowering body of water. 

Soon you’ll arrive in Keswick, worth an overnight stay, with plenty of accommodation clustered round the market square, and Derwentwater at the southern end.

The next day, head west to Buttermere, via the Honister Pass and the chance to climb the Via Ferrata over the slate mine, for one last breathtaking view.

The Peak District

Car driving in the hills of England on a sunny evening

(Image credit: Getty)

Best for: Urban detox

Length: 60 miles

Time needed: 2 days

Starting in Matlock, this UK road trip takes in the best the Peak District has to offer visitors. Head north on the A6 to Bakewell. This sweet market town is home to the famous Bakewell pudding, a buttery, jammy, warm mouthful of home-cooked comfort in a bag. 

Take one for the trip, as you continue north, past Hathersage. Pealing off left will bring you to Castleton and the start of a six-mile round walk taking in the famous Mam Tor and its views.

Back in the warmth of the car, continue north to the awe-inspiring Snake Pass, a hair-raising road that winds its way up to magnificent views (when not encased by fog) and back down again. Be warned it’s often closed due to bad weather. 

On the return trip to Matlock peel off right at Hathersage to Baslow and on to Chatsworth, possibly the finest stately home in England, for an astounding tour through the history of the Devonshires.

The Cotswolds

Famous Village of Castle Combe, Wiltshire, England

(Image credit: Getty)

Best for: Good shops

Length: 50 miles

Time needed: 1 day

This beautiful loop of the Cotswolds takes in all the major honeypot villages with their picturesque greens, streams, tea shops and houses. Begin your trip in Broadway, a handsome town that’s home to the lovely Lygon Arms as well as some great shops.

Head south, to Stow-on-the-Wold, where the roads gather round a central square and yet more interesting antiques and furniture shops plus a few good pubs. 

From Stow on the Wold, it’s directly south again on the A361 to Burford, where the buildings all tumble down a steep hill to an ancient arched bridge. Stop here for lunch and excellent window browsing. 

After Burford, the visitor has a choice of joining the A40 and heading into Oxford for the afternoon or, as we did, diving left and forth again, into the heart of the Cotswolds, and Kingham, where the magnificent Daylesford Organic Fram lies just off the A436. Browse the shelves for cheese, soups and pastries or furniture next door: you’ll leave with groaning bags for the car boot.

Published as part of our Driven series with Ford.

Erin Baker

Erin Baker is Editorial Director of Auto Trader and an award-winning motoring journalist. She regularly appears on TV and radio, championing the motorist, and runs We Drive workshops with car brands for budding female motoring journalists, in order to narrow the gender gap. She reviews cars for Marie Claire and consults for Goodwood.