September is the ideal month to get off the beaten track and experience one of the UK’s most scenic car journeys. From mountain valleys to picturesque coastal roads, the UK is home to some truly magnificent driving routes. We’ve compiled a list that will inspire even the most ardent home-lover to pack a picnic hamper and start exploring.
Glasgow or Edinburgh to Glencoe, Scotland
The route through Glen Coe is one of the most famous driving roads in Scotland – and quite rightly so. Towering mountains loom overhead as you wind your way through this majestic glen. Stop at the Glencoe Visitor Centre to find out how the glen was formed and discover its clan connections.
Travelling from Glasgow will take you along the banks of Loch Lomond and if you depart from Edinburgh, you’ll pass Stirling Castle and The Kelpies – famous horse sculptures.
With a route of 92 miles from Glasgow and 119 miles from Edinburgh, expect driving time to be around 2 hours 10 minutes from Glasgow and 2 hours 50 minutes from Edinburgh.
Looking for more adventure? Continue to Fort William, another great Glencoe drive. It only takes 30 minutes from Glencoe to Fort William, where you can see Ben Nevis, the highest mountain in Britain, tour Ben Nevis Distillery and discover stories of the past at the West Highland Museum.
Stornoway To Seilebost, Outer Hebrides, Scotland
This is the Scotland of rugged islands and long, deserted beaches. Get a ferry to Stornoway in the stunning Outer Hebrides. Join the A859 as you head out of the town and admire the beautiful island landscapes around you as you travel down through the Isle of Lewis to the Isle of Harris.
Stop off at the Isle of Harris Distillery to learn how whisky is made before travelling on to Seilebost, where you can admire the seascapes at Traigh Seilebost beach and the white sands of Luskentyre.
Stornoway to Seilebost is 46 miles and takes around 1 hour 10 minutes.
Isle of Arran Coastal Road, Scotland
Described as “Scotland in miniature, with a hint of the Med,” this leisurely 56-mile drive around the circular coastal route offers craggy highlands to the north, green lowlands to the south, with sea views all the way. Arran is an island that is packed with Scottish culture and history, dramatic mountain peaks contrasted with lush glens and ever-changing coastline. On a sunny day, the clear light and small dwellings tumbling down to the shore conjure a hint of the Mediterranean.
Start at Brodick, where the 45-minute ferry from Ardrossan on the mainland drops you. Drive anti-clockwise starting on the level, winding coastal route. Half-an-hour of driving brings you to Lochranza Castle sitting on a promontory and silhouetted against crashing waves. Now head south, enjoying the views to the Mull of Kintyre before the A841 snakes around to the wide beaches of the south – and back to Brodick.
Wrynose and Hardknott Pass, Cumbria
Featuring some of the steepest roads in Britain (Hardknott Pass has a 33% gradient at one point), this route is not for the faint-hearted. However, if you do brave this single-track route, full of twists and turns, you’ll be rewarded with spectacular views across the Lake District. You’ll pass the picturesque village of Eskdale and the town of Ambleside. It also passes the Hard Knott Fort, once one of the loneliest outposts of the Roman Empire. Built between 120 and 138AD, the archaeological site overlooks the pass which forms part of the Roman road linking Ravenglass to Ambleside, and Brougham to Penrith.
Alnmouth to Lindisfarne, Northumberland
This route from Alnmouth to Lindisfarne Nature Reserve follows the shoreline, offering sweeping views across the North Sea. The Northumberland Coast is also richly littered with castles, standing in isolation above the roads on hillsides; Bamburgh Castle is a highlight on this route. Originally the site of a Celtic fort, the imposing stone castle was built in the 12th century.
At the end of your journey, you’ll arrive in Lindisfarne, an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and a historic gem in northern England. The site of the first Viking invasion in 793AD, Holy Island and Lindisfarne Castle are both picturesque from afar. But if you get closer, be aware that the causeway leading to Holy Island becomes unusable at certain points due to tidal shifts.
It takes around one to hour drive the route.
Snake Pass, Peak District
Located in the Peak District, Snake Pass provides a route across the Pennines between the market town of Glossop and Sheffield. As you might expect from the name, Snake Pass is full of curves and bends, with each one offering a glorious view of its own. In the late summer, heather blooms across the surrounding hills, bathing the area in a dramatic purple hue.
Once the main route linking Sheffield to Manchester when it opened in 1821, Snake Pass experiences regular snowfall in the winter months and is often closed during these periods. The leisurely 20-mile route takes about 30 minutes from start to finish and is also popular with hikers, bikers and cyclists.
B3135 - Cheddar to Ashwick in the West Country
Cutting through the Mendip Hills, designated an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, the B3135 (known as Cliff Road) twists its way through cliffs and a large gorge in central Somerset. Well known for its cheese, the village of Cheddar is surrounded by forests and quintessential English countryside. Adventurous drivers will enjoy the winding bends through the Cheddar Gorge, before sweeping turns lead to the charming village of Ashwick.
It's a short drive, at around 14 miles, but an ideal taster of England’s West Country.
A3055 - Military Road, Isle of Wight
Running parallel with the west coast of the Isle, the A3055 (known as Military Road) is a road trip with a potential expiry date, as erosion along the coast is unfortunately causing parts of the road to disappear.
The road dates back to the mid-18th century when it formed a key part of the island’s military infrastructure – hence the name. Linking St Catherine’s Point, near Chale, with Freshwater Bay to the west, the 11-mile route is short, but offers a wealth of sweeping sea views and changing country scenery. No stopping is allowed on the section of road between Brook and Freshwater Bay, but there are a few places where you can park up to take in the views.
B3306 - St Ives to St Just, Cornwall
The B3306 isn’t the fastest route between St Ives and St Just, but it’s the most adventurous. A 13-mile stretch of coastal road, it twists and turns between picturesque villages and hills sloping down to the coastline.
Fans of Poldark will appreciate old mine buildings scattered along the route. The B3306 follows the ‘Tin Coast’ of the Penwith peninsula. Near Trewellard you’ll come across the Levant Mine and Beam Engine, part of the Cornish Mining World Heritage Site, which is home to numerous surviving mine buildings and a restored 1840s engine. Or venture to Pendeen, where you can see the Geevor Tin Mine, a well-preserved museum that stands as it was left by the miners in 1990.
Wild Snowdonia, Wales
For epic views of Mount Snowdon this 70-mile route has mountains, moors, coastline, pretty villages, steam trains, waterfalls, and the chance to climb Snowdon on foot.
Start at Portmeirion, a fantasy “folly village” created in 1925 which deserves at least one day of your time. Drive through picturesque Porthmadog and Tremadog, taking the A498 and winding B4410 through Rhyd.
Turn left on to the A487 by the Oakeley Arms and left again onto the A496 to Ffestiniog, turning left onto the B4391/B4407. The landscape becomes more rugged as you climb from the village but softens towards Betws-y-Coed on the A5. Find a place to stop on the A4086 for photographs of 3,560ft Mount Snowdon in the distance next to the waters of Llynnau Mymbyr and from the Pass of Llanberis.
Drive past – or climb – Mount Snowdon before a 20-minute drive to Caernarvon Castle, which stands at the mouth of the Seiont River.
Belfast to the Giant’s Causeway, Northern Ireland
Called Northern Ireland’s most beautiful road, this 130-mile route offers pure driving pleasure as it follows the rugged contours of the Northern Ireland coast beneath overhanging cliffs and past rocky peninsulas.
Start by heading north from Belfast, swiftly reaching rolling green countryside as the M2/A2 meets the coast and the Causeway Coast Route, past Carrickfergus Castle and Glenarm where the landscape becomes wild, with sweeping sea views to your right, dramatic hills to the left.
After the rugged and windy views of Garron Point, turn left, climbing steeply into Glenariff Forest Park, which resembles Swiss Alpine scenery. Follow the B14 past Tievebulliagh mountain, through the pretty towns of Cushendall and Cushendun, to rugged Torr Head.
On a clear day from Torr Head you can enjoy views of Scotland before following signs through Ballycastle, Bushmills, then along the A2 to the ruined castle of Dunluce on the North Antrim coast. Spectacular though it is, it’s a mere curtain-raiser for the amply signposted and mind-blowing Giant’s Causeway nearby.
Source: Visit England, Visit Scotland & The Telegraph Travel Guide