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Driving holidays in Britain

Pack up the car and explore somewhere new with these fantastic driving holiday ideas. Here's our top road trips for a fantastic staycation in Great Britain.

Before you set off, make sure you check that any sites, events, activities or adventure destinations are open and accessible.

Experience the New Forest and Jurassic Coast by car

This driving holiday will give you a fantastic look at the best of the New Forest whilst offering a great variety to explore along the historic Jurassic Coast. With the New Forest being just under a couple of hours from London and easy to get to from most central locations, it is a fantastic place to visit for that little get away.

Spend a few days in the forest experiencing the villages of Lyndhurst, Brockenhurst, Beaulieu and Lymington and make sure you include a trip to the beach. From Beaulieu you can take a short 20 minute drive down to Lepe Beach where you can park up and experience the beautiful scenery as you gaze over to the Isle of Wight. We recommend avoiding the crowds and heading east down the beach to the more secluded section of coastline. Here you can do a circular walk which will take you back round to the car park.

mother and child on beach

Stay overnight in the Master Builders Hotel in Bucklers Hard for a truly traditional sleeping experience. From Bucklers Hard you can take the fantastically maintained gravel footpath which loops through the trees all the way to Beaulieu.

After spending a few days exploring the forest and all it has to offer, it’s time to take a tour down the Jurassic Coast. Drive just under an hour to the undulating hills of Dorset.

durdle door

Here, you can spend a few days experiencing the Jurassic coastline and visiting the exquisite geographical features. Included in these are Lulworth Cove – the cove which looks as though it doesn’t belong in England with its bright blue waters and white pebble beach. The Jurassic Coast is home to Chesil Beach – a beautiful, naturally made shingle beach as well as the iconic Durdle Door. Durdle Door is a naturally formed limestone arch which has been weathered away from the main coastline to form a spectacular natural landform. Make sure you pack a picnic and find the perfect spot to take in the view as this truly is a feast for the eyes.

Don’t miss a trip to the birth place of Thomas Hardy which is nestled among some lovely quaint thatched cottages and have a look at the beautiful craftsmanship displayed on the thatched roofs. After a visit to Thomas Hardy’s cottage, head an hour further along to the west to experience a more rugged part Dorset’s coast where the county meets east Devon. It is said that this is one of the most scenic coastal routes in England.

If you are feeling super adventurous you can extend this driving trip to Devon and drive all the way down to Dartmouth and Salcombe – however these are separate holidays in themselves with oodles of things to do.

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A Northern England road trip

Take a fantastic road trip to enjoy the wonders of the Lake District, the North York Moors, Liverpool and Manchester.

Start in Liverpool and discover the vast cultural history the city has to offer. Learn more about The Beatles and visit where they grew up. Don’t forget to visit Blundellsands Beach whilst you are in Liverpool - a beach best known for its life-sized cast iron sculptures of several men. These sculptures by Antony Gormley are particularly striking with the sun setting behind.

Blundellsands Beach

© Copyright Mike Pennington

From Liverpool it's only an hour drive to Manchester where you can explore a number of great museums including the Museum of Science and Industry, which is great for families. For the football fans, be sure to stop off at the Manchester City or Manchester United stadium for a tour. For a break from the driving, stretch your legs with one of the walking tours available in Manchester. There's a Corrie-themed tour, street art tours and plenty of free, family-friendly city tours. Or, explore on your own by following a route in OS Maps.

From Manchester, head up to the Lake District National Park and stay put a couple of days. Make sure you visit some of the park's highlights like Lake Windermere and Coniston Water where you can have a go at boating, fishing and swimming in the lake. Be sure to take a visit to Beatrix Potter’s birthplace, Hilltop House. The lovely country cottage with vegetable patches and gardens inspired Beatrix Potter to create the delightful characters of Peter Rabbit, Benjamin Bunny and Jemima Puddle-Duck.. Once you've explored the beautiful Lake District, drive a couple of hours east to the North York Moors.

The North York Moors has numerous activities available for families, as well as the stunning scenery of the National Park. Be sure to check out the Ryedale Folk Museum in Hutton-le-Hole, offering historical buildings to explore across three-acres of open grounds. Dalby Forest is also an excellent place for mountain biking (hire or bring your own), with trails taking you on a variety of routes, with activities and scenery on the way. For the beach fans, make sure you visit Whitby Beach for the final leg of your Northern England road trip.

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The North Coast 500

The clue is in the name. With more than 500 miles of breath-taking coastland and countryside to be explored, the North Coast 500 is a road trip not to be missed. Located on the northern edge of Scotland, this route takes you from Inverness past amazing sites of Black Isle, Caithness, Easter Ross, Sutherland and Wester Ross. This scenic drive boasts a fantastic selection of wildlife, history and culture.

The North Coast 500 has many different route options available depending on what suits your needs. There is something for foodies, golfers, cyclists, motorcyclists, and campers but our favourite itinerary is the 8 day Active Adventurer, which is filled with jaw dropping adrenaline and amazing activities to be had.

scottish highlands

This trip starts in Inverness. From here, take a westerly drive towards Beauly which will take you through Strathpeffer and Wester Ross. Head through the Bealach na Ba, which is a beautiful road which passes right through the mountains from Applecross. This crossing is full of exciting hairpin bends and steep gradients that reach 20%. Stay the night in Applecross ready for an early start the next day.

At Wester Ross you have more to explore than you will ever have time for, including beautiful beaches, wonderful waterfalls, crazy canoeing, and glorious gardens. A highlight of Wester Ross is the nearby whale cruises where you can go wildlife watching to see dolphins, porpoises, whales and sharks. This coastline is perfect for wildlife spotting as it is home to colonies of seals, otters and all sorts of wild birds including the white-tailed eagle and the famous puffin.

loch ewe

Canoe on Loch Ewe with Ewe Canoe which offer a variety of paddling adventures including canoes, kayaks and family canoes. Spend the night around Ullapool ready to hike the challenging climb of Suilven the next morning. A 15-mile hike with steep cliffs and remote sandstone flanks awaits you. The mountain is extremely remote so be sure to do some careful planning and preparation before you set out.

Day four will take you on a drive along the whole of the north coast of Scotland from east to west, starting at Durness and ending at John O'Groats. The drive is incredibly scenic and takes you through some beautiful villages. When you reach the most easterly point of Wick be sure to visit Duncansby Head Lighthouse. Together Travel in John O’Groats offers the perfect overnight stay to refresh before your final leg of your journey.

Duncansby Head Lighthouse

Day five will take you on the beautiful drive all the way back to your starting point to Inverness. If you love exploring on two wheels, you must stop off to rid the amazing Highland Wildcat MTB Trails. There are 18km of trails to explore so whether you have time for a quick half hour ride or want something a bit longer there is something for everyone. Finish the final leg of your drive as you head back down to Inverness.

Buy OS Road Map 1: Northern Scotland

The Cotswolds and Bath

The Cotswolds is a great place for a driving holiday as there is so much to see all within a reasonably short driving distance. From the North, enter the top of the Cotswolds and start your trip at Stow on the Wold – a picture perfect little village which boasts beautiful tea rooms, a market square and a church. Spend half a day wandering around before heading down to Bourton-on-the-Water. Enjoy a full-filled afternoon visiting Birdland and the dragonfly maze. Spend the night in one of the gorgeous guest houses nearby. Don't miss out on having a paddle in the Bourton-on-the-water's shallow stream and a wander around the gorgeous independent shops before you leave.

Stow on the Wold

As you leave Bourton-On-the-Water drive through both Upper and Lower Slaughter where you can stop for a picnic. Lower Slaughter is the perfect place for the kids to do a bit of fishing! Head south to Burford, to soak in the quaint village atmosphere before heading own to Cotswold Wildlife Park where you will be treated to sightings of penguins and rhinos.

Over the next few days’ drive south to Cirencester where there is plenty of family activities including the Cotswolds Waterpark, Cotswolds Country Park and Beach and the Thames Path National Trail – 184 miles of walking trails to have a go at. For your final leg of the journey, head down to the National Arboretum, the most impressive arboretum in the country where you will be treated to a display of 15,000 different types of species of trees from all over the world.

Experience the STIHL Treetop Walkway where you can get sky high views of the park below and really become at one with the trees. A fantastic experience for the budding botanist! Finish your Cotswolds road trip with a drive south through beautiful scenery all the way down to Bath for an overnight stop in the historic spa town.

Buy OS Road Map 7 - South West England

OS Road Maps

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Edited: 03/09/2020