15 of the best road trips in the UK and Ireland

Want to whizz earlier postcard horizons, world-beating mountains, and dinosaur-era beaches? Get behind the drum for the trip of a lifetime with our pick of the 15 best road tours in the UK and Ireland

Riviera, Devon, England

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Everyone wishes to be overlooking the seaside, particularly when tootling south-west from Babbacombe Bay to Brixham history shimmering Torbay. The stunning coast of South Devon is ripe for leisurely drives and this road trip clothes history-steeped steam railways, shingly coves, and sailing clubs. From the former haunts of Agatha Christie – our favorite spot is the consort of crime’s former holiday home Greenway House – the coast offers traditional resorts that are now booming with creativity. The evening also delivers on the promise of the seaside’s another name, England’s Seafood Coast: come hungry for Brixham crab, Elberry Cove Mussels, and just-landed lemon sole.

Duration: two to three days.

Car hire: vacation autos offer starting prices of £198 for a week’s car hire in Devon with free cancellation.

Where to visit along the way: Salcombe Harbour Hotel & Spa is a waterside stay on yacht-dotted South Devon. The car place is free.

Yorkshire Dales, England

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To drive those rural ways is to discover a yearning sense of nostalgia. Hazy light shines on weathered rock walls and farmsteads roll from moor to dale, illuminating one of the UK’s most beautiful regions. There is history to uncover, from Cisterian haunts like Jervaulx Abbey to the War of the Roses, the conflict within the houses of Lancaster and York. Select the drive from Wensleydale to Swaledale, stopping at the Hawes cheesemakers so loved by Wallace and Gromit. Savor the Yorkshire Dales National Park from Buttertubs Pass. Map a path to market town Grassington. Or stress-out your dentist at The Oldest Sweet Shop In This World in Pateley Bridge.

Continuation: three to four days.

Car hire: holiday autos offers starting prices of £150 for a week’s car hire with free cancellation. Pick-up is from Leeds Bradford Airport or Doncaster/Sheffield Airport.

Where to wait forward the way: Yorebridge House in Wensleydale has rooms that appear with roll-top baths and private hot tubs. There’s a free car park with 25 periods on a first-come-first-serve basis.

Peak District, England

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The UK’s first state plaza is worth your time at the wheel for any number of purposes. Think about limestone plateaux, deep caverns, fully colored-in heather moorlands, and cozy pubs connected by screw-shaped roads that offer every sort of car rally thrill. Buxton, with its spa story and graceful heritage buildings, is the ideal starter, before you head east to Bakewell, for puddings and tarts. Once full to the brim, pushing north to ogle the underground jewels at Peak Cavern and Blue John Cavern. Produce a daypack for a hike – try Mam Tor for lung-emptying views – then tighten your seatbelt as the heartstring-plucking trip over thrilling Snake Pass to Glossop.

Duration: three to four days.

Car hire: holiday autos offers starting prices of £140 for a week’s car hire with free cancellation. Pick up is from Manchester Airport.

Where to stay along the way: the cozy Peacock at Rowsley is where the cast of Pride and Prejudice stayed while filming. There’s a free car lot which involves disabled parking areas if needed.

Cotswolds, England

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The honey-hued heart of England is swamped among time-stopped communities, castles, palaces, Roman lives, and enough swathes of outstanding natural excellence to make your head spin. There are 800 square miles to explore, but Chipping Campden is a great curtain-raiser on the 70-mile journey to Georgian-era Bath. Those boutiques of Broadway are browse-worthy, while Sudeley Castle, Cheltenham, and Gloucester do quintessential English history favorably than most. Further south, the Cotswolds of Laurie Lee is in the Slad valley near Stroud — literary lovers should visit his childhood home, as well as his favorite pub, The Woolpack Inn.

Duration: three to four days.

Car hire: holiday autos offers starting prices of £187 for a week’s car hire with free cancellation. Pick up is from Bath.

Where to tarry along the way: Dormy House in Broadway has a candle-lit eternity pool for long soaks after a long day of exploring. There’s a free car park with 25 spaces on a first-come-first-serve basis.

Jurassic Coast, Dorset, England

image from Durdle Door on the Jurassic Coast of Dorset

First comes an amazing roadside encounter — the sight of a 185-million-year-old dinosaur fossil. Then the scenic coast ahead brightens, silhouetting zoomorphic pinnacles and limestone stacks. England’s only fundamental World Heritage Site, the Jurassic Coast lives up to its name and unravels for 96 miles from Swanage to Exmouth. Exceptional natural beauty is guaranteed at Chesil Beach and Durdle Door’s stone arch, while you’ll need your sunglasses for Beer’s chalky cliffs and all the sugar-white sands in between. Finally, you’ll find palaeontological history in Lyme Regis, as well as a fossil hunter’s ground zero in idyllic Charmouth.

Duration: three days.

Where to visit the way: The Pig on the Beach is the fanciest hotel in the hamlet and overlooks Studland Bay. There’s a free on-site car park for hotel companies.

Seven-day trip of the Cornish coastline

The Atlantic Highway, Devon and Cornwall, England

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Only 70-miles long, this road trip has everything you’re looking for from England’s south-west. Seafront cottages and bobbing boats. Turquoise sea backed by squeaky sands. Seaside towns where anything less than lifetime-best fish and chips is a call to arms. Begin in Barnstaple before continuing south-west to delve into the Arthurian legends of Tintagel. While Padstow and Newquay, just 17 miles apart, are synonymous with surfing, salt-tanged seafood and Rick Stein, there is just as much to discover inland — particularly at Bodmin Moor, with its wealth of granite tors. This is a road trip that experiments with space and time; the object being to keep going, to finish up at Land’s End, where the road can take you no further.

Duration: three to four days.

Car hire: holiday autos offers starting prices of £198 for a week’s car hire with free cancellation.

Where to stay along the way: strike lucky with the weather and you’ll love swimming in Padstow Harbour Hotel’s outdoor heated pool. Free parking is available.

Wild Atlantic Way, Ireland

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Scouring the glassy-calm sea, you see a dolphin pod in the midst of a plankton feeding frenzy. Soon after, the silence on your wildlife-watching boat turns to screams with the emergence of a far larger prey: beside you is a 25ft-long Minke whale. This visceral overture off the West Cork coast sums up the thrills of the Wild Atlantic Way, the world’s longest uninterrupted coastal drive. From the sandy beaches and sea cliffs of Donegal’s Inishowen Peninsula to Kinsale on the Celtic Sea Coast, 1,550 miles of asphalt weaves through time warp seaside towns and myriad areas of outstanding natural beauty. Don’t rush it.

Duration: seven to ten days.

Car hire: pick up your set of wheels at one of Belfast’s two airports. Holiday autos offer starting prices of £123 for a week’s car hire with free cancellation.

Where to stay along the way: finish off the road trip with a stay this coastal townhouse in Kinsale.

Causeway Coastal Route, Northern Ireland

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This imagination-tingling 130-mile road trip is defined by fairy tale lanes, clifftop pathways, and mysterious basalt columns, and it doesn’t get much more magical than the Giant’s Causeway where the sea kisses the coast. From Belfast to Londonderry, you’ll discover stories, both ancient and modern, as well as landscapes primed with discordant wildness. Stop at the Gobbins Cliff Way, a walkway hewn from volcanic rock, before joining the fantasy world of Game of Thrones at Murlough Bay, Ballintoy Harbour, and the Dark Hedges, the ghostly boulevard of beech trees used as the way to King’s Landing. Just as suggestive and other-worldly: an aged Bushmills whisky at trip’s end.

Duration: three to five days.

Where to stay along the way: you’ll obtain the five-star cottages at Bayview Farm on the North Antrim coast, 2.5 miles from Bushmills, between Giants Causeway and Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge. There’s lots of period, a hot tub, and free parking.

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