Can You Drive From The UK To Spain?
Swithering about a trip to Spain? We’re looking out our window at the pouring British rain and we can’t blame you! Just imagine lying on the beach catching some rays, slowly sipping an ice cold sangria, taking a refreshing dip in the sea and then towelling off before enjoying some delicious tapas. Yes please!
Catching a flight to Spain used to be as easy as hopping on a bus to the next town. But constantly shifting pandemic restrictions mean that it can now become bamboozling – which means many British motorists are considering driving down to the Spanish sunshine instead.
Once you check and comply with the current UK Government foreign travel advice for France and Spain (you’ll drive through France to get to Spain), you can definitely drive all the way down. And what’s more, we’ve gathered together some great advice about your best routes – enjoy!
Roads & cross-channel connections from the UK to Spain
European Route E15 is the main road from Britain to Spain – it stretches all the way from Inverness in Scotland down to Algeciras in Spain and on the UK side, features roads you’ll be familiar with like the M90, A9, A720, M8, A1, A1 (M), A282, M25, and M20.
Once you reach the south coast of England, you can choose to cross the English Channel via ferry or the Eurotunnel. Here’s some facts on both of these options, to allow you to weigh up your options:
Once you reach the south coast of England, your options for crossing the channel to France by car are a ferry or a train on the Eurotunnel. Here’s a little more information to help you weigh up which is best:
- The Eurotunnel takes just 35 minutes to get from England to France and it’s one of the most economic and fastest routes. You don’t drive through the Eurotunnel, but rather park your vehicle on the car transport train, which then travels through. The system is so well organised that driving onto the train feels like parking up in a garage and everything is very well marked. You should arrive at the terminal at least half an hour prior to departure – you’ll need ample time to get into the boarding lanes and pass through security and border controls. You’ll be glad to know that once you get through to the French side, the exit system is designed so that there’s no way you can emerge onto their roads driving on the wrong side – you’ll be safely driving on the right side from then on until you arrive at your destination in Spain.
- Ferries to France are available from several UK locations and there are routes to suit all types of travellers. Some drivers prefer the ferry to the tunnel too. The cheapest crossing is from Dover to Calais and if you opt for late night or early morning crossings instead of peak times, you’ll save even more. Meanwhile, ferries from Portsmouth are more expensive but enable shorter driving distances when you’re heading down to Spain (because you won’t have to drive back westwards from Calais once you reach the other side to get onto your optimal route. There are other channel ferries from Hull to Zebrugge, Newhaven to Dieppe, Poole to Chaerbourg and Plymouth to Roscoff. These services might suit you if you’re staying in a nearby French location for a day or so, but they’re not the most direct routes down to Spain. As ever, if you’re able to book your ferry in advance, you might pick up a bargain.
Driving from the UK to Spain
As you can see, there are several options for driving from the UK to Spain. Which is best for you will depend on several factors, such as where you’re departing from in the UK, where your final destination is, and whether you want to stop off at specific places in the UK, France or Spain on the way. Budget is always a factor too – you’ll need to balance what you’re prepared to pay in petrol and Channel crossing fees with the most convenient route.
If you’re driving with kids and/or elderly relatives in tow, you’ll definitely want to factor in comfort breaks, and you should pack sufficient water and snacks for the duration of the journey. For many UK drivers, using Eurotunnel is the cheapest option and if you prefer the ferry, Dover is the hotspot for rapid crossings, but you might want to consider the Portsmouth crossing to cut down your driving time to Spain on the other side. UK to Spain is a considerable journey but roads are well-signposted, and you can also use SatNav. Either way, it’s probably not the best journey to undertake if you’ve only recently passed your test.
How long is the journey from the UK to Spain?
The length of your journey from the UK to Spain obviously depends on where you’re departing from in the UK and which part of Spain you’re driving to – Londoners are much close to Spain than Fifers, for example! The duration of your journey will also be affected by whether you use the Channel Tunnel or one of the ferry routes.
Driving times & distances from the UK to Spain
Here are the distances and durations from several major UK cities to Bilbao in Spain. These distances are non-stop – obviously we would never advise driving without taking a break every few hours and even including an overnight stay.
- Driving from Belfast to Bilbao takes 23 hours 30 minutes and the distance is 1318 miles.
- Driving from Glasgow to Bilbao takes 21 hours and the distance is 1245 miles.
- Driving from Birmingham to Bilbao takes 16 hours and the distance is 983.6 miles.
- Driving from Newcastle to Bilbao takes 18 hours 30 minutes and the distance is 1222 miles.
- Driving from Liverpool to Bilbao takes 18 hours and the distance is 1078 miles.
- Driving from Cardiff to Bilbao takes 16 hours 30 minutes and the distance is 997 miles.
- Driving from London to Bilbao takes 14 hours 30 minutes and the distance is 857 miles.
How can you drive to Spain from Scotland or Northern Ireland?
Driving from Scotland to Spain is an epic road trip, but if you build in plenty of breaks, it’s perfectly manageable. Let’s take a journey from Glasgow to Bilbao as an example. You’ll take the M74 out of Glasgow, then the A74, A1(M) to get down to Cambridge area, then M11, M25 and M20 to get around London and on to the coast. Crossing to Calais, take the A16 south to Abbeville, then the A28 to Rouen. Then it’s the A138, A28, A10 and A63 all the way down to Bilbao.
You can take a similar route from Belfast to Bilbao once you reach the European mainland, but you’ll have to take the Larne to Cairnryan ferry to get to Scotland and then drive right down through Scotland and England to take the ferry from Dover or the Eurotunnel.
How can you drive to Spain from the North of England?
Driving from Newcastle to Bilbao, take the A1 (M) south as far as Cambridge, then the M11, M25 and M20 to get around London and on to Folkstone/Dover. From Calais, take the same route to Bilbao as we’ve recommended for the aforementioned routes.
How can you drive to Spain from the Midlands & Wales?
For an alternative route down to Spain, take the M4 from Cardiff to Portsmouth and catch the ferry to Cherbourg, then follow the A63 south to Bilbao. From Birmingham, take the M40 and A34 to Portsmouth, then the ferry to Cherbourg and take the same route directly south to Bilbao.
How can you drive to Spain from London?
The fastest route from London to Bilbao is taking the Eurotunnel, then the A16/A28/A10/A63 through France and northern Spain to Bilbao. You could also choose to take the ferry from Dover or from Portsmouth if you prefer the more direct route south once you reach the other side.
Driving from the UK to Spain is definitely doable but you should always check the latest official foreign travel advice before leaving. Depending on your departure point in the UK and your budget, you can choose the rapid Eurotunnel crossing or decide between several ferry crossings. This is a substantial journey even from London, so be sure to build in time for as many breaks as possible and perhaps consider sharing driving duties.
If you’re a keen and experienced driver, hitting the road for a trip to Spain might be a great alternative to flying – especially in the current climate. Stay safe on the road and enjoy your road trip adventure!