Load up the car – or the campervan – and take off on a road trip to remember! Tick some attractions off your bucket list, explore some favourite film locations in the Cotswolds, see why the Lake District has inspired so many writers and artists, and discover the best place for dolphin spotting in Scotland.
With so many exciting trips to take at destinations all over the country, SoGlos rounds up 10 road trips to set off on from Gloucestershire, ideal for a motorhome holiday this summer.
The Dragon’s Spine in Wales
Named among Britain’s best road trips, The Dragon’s Spine covers 180 miles up the Eastern Welsh border. Starting off in Cardiff in the south, it takes in the Brecon Beacons, market towns including Dolgellau and Machynlleth, passing Snowdonia National Park – home to Zip World Velocity 2, the fastest zip line in the world – and ends in Llandudno in the north.
Assuming you’re in no hurry to complete your Welsh road trip, the A4069 Black Mountain Pass, otherwise known as ‘Top Gear Road’ since being immortalised in an edition of the motoring series fronted by Jeremy Clarkson, may be one detour well worth taking. Linking Llandovery to Gwaun-Cae-Gurwen and crossing over the Black Mountains in the Brecon Beacons, Top Gear Road promises plenty of twists and turns – with unrivalled views of the Tywi Valley and surrounding countryside.
The Atlantic Highway in Devon and Cornwall
Take in Somerset, Devon and Cornwall, as you make your way along the Atlantic Highway, stretching 125 miles from Barnstaple to Land’s End, where you’ll find the iconic signpost for that all-important souvenir snap of your trip to the most westerly point of mainland England.
En route, you’ll come to Tintagel, where the most spectacular footbridge provides a picturesque route to the ruins of King Arthur’s Castle that clings to the cliff. Further down the coast, quintessential Cornish fishing ports like Port Isaac and Padstow are famous for good reason – fill up on the freshest fish and chips and lose yourself in their narrow lanes, before heading for the beach in Newquay, where keen surfers can catch some waves and burn off a cream tea (or two).
The North Coast 500 in Scotland
Said to be ‘the ultimate road trip’, the North Coast 500 (NC500) or Scotland’s answer to Route 66 is an epic 516 miles in total, starting – and ending – in Inverness-shire. As the capital of the Scottish Highlands, no less, this is where Loch Ness is located, so have your binoculars at the ready!
If Nessie proves elusive, the Black Isle peninsula is only a short drive away and renowned as one of the best places for dolphin spotting in Scotland. And the surprises just keep on coming, as white sandy beaches await in the Wester Ross region, while Caithness is home to the iconic starting point for those travelling the length of Great Britain, John O’Groats.
The Lake District
Home to 16 lakes, including Lake Windermere, on which Arthur Ransome’s Swallows and Amazons is partly based, the Lake District National Park has endless scope for water-based adventures and an impressive literary heritage. It’s not hard to see why the Lake District has inspired famous writers and artists, including William Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge, as well as Beatrix Potter, whose Cumbrian cottage can still be visited today.
However, the most famous historical landmark in the Lake District has to be Hadrian’s Wall, which celebrates its 1,900th anniversary in 2022. Cruising around Coniston Water on the Victorian steam yacht gondola is another must for the historically inclined.
Snake Pass in The Peak District
Every year, over 10 million visitors flock to Britain’s first designated national park. Those who really enjoy their driving can even stop by Derbyshire’s Great British Car Journey, a museum given over entirely to classic British cars.
Snake Pass (also known as the A57) promises to be more exciting still, as the scenic 26.1-mile route winding its way from Glossop to Sheffield, offers spectacular views of the Ladybower reservoir and surrounding area. Meanwhile, foodies can plan a pitstop in the birthplace of the Bakewell tart, while the spa town of Buxton – famous for its natural mineral water, as well as its thermal waters – is an ideal spot for some rest and relaxation.
A convenient starting place for a Northern Irish road trip itinerary, Belfast is also the beginning of the Causeway Coastal Route leading to Derry.
Explore the world’s largest Titanic visitor experience while in the capital; dip into five of the six counties that make up Northern Ireland as you make your way around Lough Neagh, the largest lake in Great Britain; and seize your chance to visit the UNESCO-listed Giant’s Causeway, which visitors are welcome to walk on. Comprised of 40,000 interlocking hexagonal basalt columns some 60 million years old, this unique rock formation is a geological marvel to behold.
Somewhat closer to home for Gloucestershire residents, covering parts of our home county, as well as Oxfordshire, Wiltshire, Somerset, Worcestershire and Warwickshire, the Cotswolds Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty offers plenty of scope for driving around the area that everyone from David and Victoria Beckham to Kate Moss and Patrick Stewart have made their second home.
In fact, many towns and villages in the area are famous in their own right, starring in films like Bridget Jones’s Diary, which was filmed in Snowshill; Harry Potter, which was filmed in Gloucester and Lacock; and James Bond which features Bourton-on-the-Water. As you hop from charming tearoom to cosy gastropub, you can always stretch your legs in between at stately country homes and gardens, such as Sudeley Castle in Winchcombe; Sezincote near Moreton in Marsh; Owlpen Manor in Dursley; Woodchester Mansion and Berkeley Castle near Stroud.
The New Forest
With Hampshire’s national park home to 5,000 free-to-roam ponies – not to mention 200 donkeys; five species of deer; cattle and pigs – with right of way on the roads, driving in the New Forest iS not without its unique challenges. Little has changed since William the Conqueror named the area his ‘new hunting forest’ in 1079, however it is well catered for with campsites and despite the grazing animals, there are plenty of great walks for dogs, as well as beaches where they’re welcome in winter.
Families may be tempted to organise their trip to coincide with the New Forest Family Fest in September, but with over 40 miles of coastline to explore, there is so much more to this ‘forest’ than its 193,000 acres of woodland.
The Isle of Skye in Scotland
Known as Scotland’s ‘land of fairies’, you can get to the Isle of Skye by driving through the Highlands from Glasgow. Tick off some essential Scottish experiences while you’re in the area, stopping off at the Talisker Whiskey distillery and enjoying some Highland cow spotting.
Kilt Rock, said to resemble a tartan kilt, is another must-see on the Isle of Skye. Scotland’s second largest island is also a popular place to enjoy road cycling, hiking and wild swimming, while keen photographers can take advantage of endless opportunities to capture the rugged mountain landscape, waterfalls and other mystical water features, like the fairy pools. Equally picture-perfect is the isle’s colourful cultural hub, Portree.
Kent, the ‘garden of England’
The large number of orchards, vineyards and hop gardens in the southeast have earned Kent the nickname ‘garden of England’. However, Kent’s coastline has plenty to explore too, like the white cliffs, sandy Blue Flag beaches and traditional seaside towns – one of which is home to the Turner Contemporary gallery.
In fact, Kent’s coastline was the only part of the UK that made the Lonely Planet list of the world’s best regions to visit in 2022. Further inland, there are some spectacular castles to explore as well, Dover Castle, Leeds Castle and Hever Castle among them, plus historic towns like Royal Tunbridge Wells and the cathedral city of Canterbury.