There is something about a road trip that creates a state of heightened excitement. No matter the destination, a road trip unfolds at the same, ascending rhythm.
Prepping for your trip
It’s important to prepare carefully for a road trip – it’s no fun being stuck roadside because you’ve run out of fuel, or getting a puncture with no spare wheel. If you’ve not got a banger of your own, that’s no problem: there are plenty of rental companies offering competitive deals. Better still, hire an electric car and help protect the pristine landscapes you’re driving through. Be sure to check charging points along your route, or – if you’re car isn’t electric – fill up the tank before you leave.
If you’re taking your own car, it’s worth a trip to the garage before you leave to check it’s in good shape. Make sure you’ve got all your car documents on hand, as well as a spare tyre in the boot. It also pays to pack a first-aid kit and some non-perishable snacks, just in case.
North Coast 500, Scotland
This circular route is a greatest hits of Scottish icons, stretching across 805 km of back roads. Skirting the coast from Inverness and the Black Isle, past the seaboard crags of Caithness, Sutherland and Wester Ross, it offers up gothic ruins, rugged fairways, historic castles, shingle-sand beaches.
Along the way, the road becomes a symphony, building note after note, bend by bend, from its rallying start through the east coast villages of Dornoch and Wick to Aultbea, Poolewe and Gairloch on the savage west coast. Here, it reaches a crescendo below the impregnable peaks of Loch Maree.
Finally, the road reaches the brilliant Bealach na Bà, which loops up and over the Applecross Peninsula like a piece of gigantic spaghetti. It could scarcely be more isolated or awe-inspiring.
The Atlantic Highway, England
A storied ribbon of tarmac and maritime history, this 275 km road has the wild beauty that has become the hallmark of southwest England: it’s all about the big views.
Sandwiched between barley fields and a succession of bays and beach breaks, the A39 from Bridgewater to Bude is a magical concertina that creases and folds along the Devon and Cornwall coasts. Beyond the roadside hedgerows, the windswept dunes become the territory of shaggy-haired surfers, where foaming waves beat the shoreline.
Stop off at Exmoor National Park for hikes across the hilly moors, before driving south from Barnstaple through the salt-tanged seaside towns of Bude (for surfing), Padstow (for seafood) and Newquay (for weekend partying). Then it’s onwards to Land’s End – the place Cornish residents once thought was the end of the world.
Coastal Circuit, Northern Ireland
Plan a journey around the knuckle-shaped fist of the Northern Irish coast and you won’t regret it. There’s a hypnotic quality to this 195 km route from Belfast to Derry/Londonderry, one that can see you detour off the road to find smaller villages. It’s one of the most varied road trips in the UK in our list.
First, head for the Gobbins Cliff Path, an ambitious walkway chiselled out of basalt rock with hammers and rudimentary tools. North of Belfast, it carves a path through caves, over bridges and gantries, and down steep drops.