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Melanie Grandidge March 29 2022

From rolling hills to crashing waves, the UK offers a magnificent array of scenic roadside views.

Absolute Escapes have specialised in self-drive holidays since 2004 and to celebrate the launch of our brand new multi-country road trips in the UK, we’re shining the spotlight on the most spectacular driving routes in Scotland, England & Wales.

Find inspiration for your next self-drive holiday in our guide to the most scenic drives in the country.

 

Scenic Drives in Scotland

Applecross Pass and the Bealach na Bà, Scottish Highlands

  • From – Tornapres to Applecross in Wester Ross
  • Distance – approx. 11 miles / 18 km
  • Time – approx. 30 minutes
  • Perfect for – mountain scenery, exhilarating drives

Throughout its many unpredictable twists and turns, the Applecross Pass in the Scottish Highlands provides astonishing mountain views. But these views won’t come easy to you as this road is regarded as one of the most challenging drives in the country.

The winding Bealach na Bà (Gaelic for ‘Pass of the Cattle’) is a narrow single-track road built in 1882. Driving over it seems like something out of a video game. Just look at the curves and inclines in the photograph below!

Nevertheless, for all the hard work you are rewarded with breathtaking views and an unforgettable and exhilarating driving experience. There are many scenic places to stop on the Applecross Pass including some quaint communities. Shieldaig is a picturesque village adorned with pebble-white cottages and views of the Torridon mountains. If you start in Torridon, pass Shieldaig, then around the Applecross Peninsula, you can end in style on the Bealach na Bà.

This road is part of the North Coast 500 route so there’s also the opportunity to extend this memorable road trip. Read about our Travel Specialist Sine’s experience in our blog post: North Coast 500: The World’s Best Road Trip? She even talks about her experience visiting the Applecross Inn which is there to reward brave drivers of the Bealach na Bà.

 

East Neuk, Kingdom of Fife

  • From – St Andrews to Upper Largo on the A917
  • Distance – 25 miles / 40 km
  • Time – approx. 50 minute drive but a few days is recommended to see the sights
  • Perfect for – quaint fishing villages, coastal views

If high-adrenaline roads aren’t your thing, a drive along the coast of the East Neuk of Fife might be more your cup of tea. With a whole collection of picturesque fishing villages, this road trip has plenty of places for you to park up and explore.

The A917 is a 25-mile road that runs along the edge of the coast from St Andrews to the village of Upper Largo. This road takes you through a charming selection of fishing villages including Crail, Anstruther, Pittenweem, St Monans and Elie. Bonus; each of these fishing villages is only around a 5-minute drive from the next.

Crail is a great place to start with its rich medieval history as a market town and a Royal Burgh. Discover its heritage at the picturesque harbour and take a stroll along the sandy Roome Bay Beach and see what you can spot in one of the many rock pools.

Once you’re feeling peckish, take a quick drive over to Anstruther to sample the famous fish and chips from Anstruther Fish Bar. Take a moment to sit, eat and watch the boats coming in and out. If you’re curious for a bit more history, pop into the Scottish Fisheries Museum to learn more about historic everyday life in a fishing village and how the trade has developed over time.

If you fancy a break from driving, it’s a delightful half-hour walk from Anstruther to Pittenweem on the Fife Coastal Path. Take in the fresh sea air walking along the coastline. Watch out for golfers! You’ll know you’re in Pittenweem when you’re at a harbour with the most wonderful colourful houses. Once you’ve taken in the sights, I recommend the Cocoa Tree Cafe for a sweet treat.

Do you like the sound of the East Neuk? Our Travel Specialist, Pippa, wrote a lovely blog post about her day trip there: A Wonderful Wander in the East Neuk of Fife.

 

Three Lochs Forest Drive, Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park

  • From – Aberfoyle on the A821 around the three lochs finishing in the Trossachs
  • Distance – 7 miles / 11 km
  • Time – Quick 15 minute drive in total but take a day to fully explore.
  • Perfect for – forest scenery, beautiful lochs, wildlife

This short drive will transport you through beautiful dense forest to marvel at three awe-inspiring lochs; Lochan Reòidhte, Loch Drunkie and Loch Achray.

With a one-way system and a speed limit of 10 mph, it’s easy to keep your eye out for picturesque places to stop. Although you can’t really go wrong as there are so many perfect places for a nice short walk and a lovely picnic. Make sure you take some time to admire the peaceful natural beauty of this area, and bear in mind that there’s a small charge of £3 to enter the road.

 

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The Snow Roads, Cairngorms National Park

  • From – Blairgowrie to Grantown-on-Spey through the Cairngorms
  • Distance – 90 miles / 145 km
  • Time – about 2 hours to drive but take 3-5 days to explore
  • Perfect for – outdoor activities, history, and hopefully… snow!

Experience some of the Highland’s most dramatic scenery on this 90-mile journey in the heart of the Cairngorms National Park. You’ll pass through some quaint Highland villages and towns where there’s a wonderful selection of shops and eateries with fresh local produce, and there are boundless outdoor activities to suit any taste including, skiing, snowboarding, fishing, golf, mountain biking, canoeing, kayaking and even llama trekking!

There’s history and culture to explore too, with many castles along the route including the famous Balmoral Castle. Queen Victoria had this castle built here when she fell in love with the region.

Take in the stunning landscape in a unique way with the three art installations along the Snow Roads. ‘The Watchers Art Installation and A Moment in Time’ offers views from the Lecht Road towards the 16th century Corgarff Castle, the ‘Still Art Installation’ offers a moment of peaceful reflection overlooking the spectacular views of Tomintoul, and you can discover the contours of the landscape with the ‘Connecting Contours Art Installation’ that is sculpted into the hillside.

There’s a whole array of beautiful walks around this area suitable for all different levels and tastes. Read 9 Amazing Hikes in the Cairngorms National Park for a full breakdown.

 

Scenic Drives in England

The Snake Pass, Peak District National Park

  • From – Glossop to Sheffield on the A57
  • Distance – approx. 27 miles / 43 km
  • Time – approx. 1 hour
  • Perfect for – short woodland walks, aerial city views

The aptly-named Snake Pass connects Manchester to Sheffield through the beautiful Peak District. My most memorable time driving down this road was during autumn when crisp leaves provided a blur of warm golden colours. As I drove out of the forest, I was hit with breathtaking views of Sheffield. The stark contrast between countryside and city is captivating. If you start the drive before sunset, it will be dusk by the time you get a beautiful show of city lights.

There are lots of lovely woodland walks to explore nearby, with my favourite being the Rivelin Valley. If you’re looking for a more challenging hike, make the 2.5-hour climb up Win Hill. This hill is close to Ladybower where you can discover the spectacular man-made reservoirs of Ladybower and Derwent. After all that exploring, take a comfy seat by the cosy fire in the Ladybower Inn and treat yourself to some tasty pub food.

 

Hardknott Pass & Wrynose Pass, Lake District National Park

  • From – Eskdale to Little Langdale via the Hardknott Pass and then the Wrynose Pass
  • Distance – approx. 11 miles / 18 km
  • Time – approx. 40 minutes
  • Perfect for – adrenaline-filled drives, countryside scenery

It seems some of the best scenery is always at the top of a winding single-track road. But do not fear, you will certainly be rewarded with gorgeous views across the much-loved Lake District. Just keep your admiration for the summit as you’ll need your eyes firmly on the road for this one!

These passes curve through the middle of the beautiful countryside of Cumbria. As the Hardknott Pass was built by the Romans in 110 AD, you can see the remains of a Roman Fortress on the Eskdale side of the pass. I always thought the Romans famously built straight roads but apparently not! There’s a small car park nearby but you’ll have to give the car a rest and walk up the steep hill to where the Roman fort lies. Once you reach it, stop for a break and admire the view of gorgeous hills and lakes just as the Romans once did.

Once you reach the end of Wrynose Pass in Little Langdale, carry on driving a bit further to the lovely town of Ambleside. You’ll notice it’ll be a lot busier than the remote areas you’ve just been exploring. But for good reason! Every time I go, I always stop at the delightful family-run Apple Pie Cafe and Bakery which has been a favourite of mine since I was younger.

There are so many beautiful places in the Lake District that you can explore after the Hardknott Pass and Wrynose Pass. Our Travel Specialist, Lottie, recently wrote a great blog full of first-hand knowledge on the most beautiful spots: 9 Most Beautiful Places in England’s Lake District.

 

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Cheddar Gorge, Somerset

  • From – Cheddar to Ashwick on the B3135.
  • Distance – approx 14 miles / 23 km
  • Time – 25 minutes
  • Perfect for – history, unique scenery, winding roads

For a unique change of scenery, go for a spin around the Cheddar Gorge in south west England. With monumental limestone cliff faces on either side of the road, you will be in awe of the views outside the window. Perhaps you’ll even spot one of the area’s famous goats!

This is a great place to travel through in a car as it’s the perfect way to see the whole gorge and there are lots of parking options. Park up and get a ticket to go inside the caves for a guided tour. This is where traditional cheddar cheese was made and stored!

 

Scenic Drives in Wales

Gospel Pass, Brecon Beacons National Park

  • From – Hay-on-Wye in Brecknockshire to Abergavenny in Monmouthshire
  • Distance – approx 18 miles / 29 km
  • Time – approx 1 hour
  • Perfect for – adrenaline rushing drives, all-encompassing views

Sitting at almost 2,000 feet above sea level, the Gospel Pass is the highest road in Wales. It’s so high that it usually gets quite a substantial snowfall in winter. This (mostly) single track road snakes through the Vale of Ewyas in the Black Mountains with the views getting better and better as you drive. Luckily, there are plenty of small car parks so you can stop to admire the scenery along the way.

At the end of the pass, visit the idyllic Llanthony Priory where a small country inn has been built into the 12th-century abbey ruins. Stay for a relaxing night in the hotel or just have a rest and enjoy a comforting home-cooked meal in the cellar bar.

 

The Coastal Way & Cardigan Bay, West Coast

  • From – Aberdaron on the Llyn Peninsula to St Davids in Pembrokeshire
  • Distance – approx 180 miles / 290 km
  • Time – approx 4-5 hours but 7 days is recommended for sightseeing.
  • Perfect for – dolphin spotting, seaside towns, secluded beaches, colourful houses

Golden sandy beaches and dolphins diving over rippling blue waves; there are so many wonderful sights to see on The Coastal Way. The trip starts in the Georgian harbour town of Aberaeron with its charmingly colourful houses. You can then explore many delightful coastal villages and towns such as Aberdyfi, New Quay, Llangrannog and Aberaeron – each with its own unique charms and wonderful sandy beaches.

With its Italian-inspired pastel-coloured houses, make sure to visit Portmerion en route. The entire village was designed with a vision to bring a bubble of Italy to Wales and is very different to anywhere else on the Welsh coast. Walking around here will make you feel like you’ve wandered into a fairytale.

A large section of this drive is through the 65 miles (105 km) of the stunning scenery and spectacular beaches of Cardigan Bay. If you fancy a break from driving, Cardigan Bay may be Britain’s Most Beautiful Coastal Walk. Beautiful Cardigan Bay is also well-known for its marine wildlife, especially bottlenose dolphins, and actually boasts the largest population of dolphins in Europe! You may get lucky and spot them as you’re driving along Cardigan Bay, but we would highly recommend taking a dolphin-spotting boat trip from New Quay.

 

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Ready for a road trip?

With all these wonderfully-varied landscapes all across the UK, where do you begin exploring? How about our Great British Road Trip? You’ll discover the best of the country as you travel through London, The Cotswolds, Snowdonia, the Lake District, Glencoe, Skye, Edinburgh and more. It’s a great way to see a variety of sights from one end of the UK to the other.

Take the scenic route and make the journey, as well as the destination, part of your adventure.

Melanie Grandidge
P.S. Don’t let tricky logistics ruin your experience. Instead, leave it to our knowledgeable team to plan your next self-drive holiday in Scotland, England and Wales. Our award-winning holidays allow you to discover spectacular scenery at your own pace.

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