UK Summer Road Trip Bucket List
- Causeway Coastal Route – Belfast to Giant’s Causeway
- Atlantic Highway – Bath to Falmouth
- Newcastle to Lindisfarne
- Cromer to Kings Lynn
- Snake Pass – Ladybower Reservoir to Glossop
- Gospel Pass – Abergavenny to Hay-on-Wye
- Military Road – St Catherine’s Point to Freshwater Bay
- St Ives to St Just
- The Great West Way – London to Bristol
- Isle of Arran Coast
- Birmingham to Harlech Beach
- Leeds to Whitby
- Edinburgh to Cairnmorgans National Park
- Windermere to Grasmere
- Woodstock to Stratford-upon-Avon
- Manchester to Edale
- North Coast 500
- Plymouth to Pedn Vounder Beach
- Stirling to Inverness
- Ashwick to Cheddar
- Lough Neagh Loop
- Dover to Margate
- The TT Motorcycle Course
- Pembrokeshire Coast 200
- Glasgow to Fort William
Summer Road Trip Bucket List
The UK comes alive in the summertime. Come June, most of the population is ready to emerge from indoors to explore the great outdoors, even if that means bracing for unpredictable weather. The UK is blessed with a rich and diverse landscape, from salty seaside towns to secluded munros – and summertime is the best time of year to make the most of them. Planning to tick off some of the UK’s most scenic spots this summer? We’ve cherry-picked 25 of our favourite summer road trip bucket list destinations in the UK.
1. Causeway Coastal Route – Belfast to Giant’s Causeway
Nothing quite prepares you for the jaw-dropping sight of Giant’s Causeway, so it’s worth making a day of it. This route, which begins in Belfast, offers plenty of potential pit stops along the way too. First, there’s Carrickfergus Castle, one of the best-preserved medieval castles in Ireland. Then, there’s The Gobbins – an adrenalin-fueled cliff path set high above County Antrim’s Islandmagee. There’s legend-rich Ballygally and picture-perfect Cushendun to squeeze in before the finale too. Legend has it that an Irish giant built Giant’s Causeway to fight a Scottish giant. On a clear summer’s day, you might be able to spot the coast of Scotland from here, as well as seals, dolphins and porpoises playing in the waters.
Getting there: take the M2 north from Belfast and you’ll reach the Giant’s Causeway in just over one hour.
2. Atlantic Highway – Bath to Falmouth
This salty stretch of the A39 starts just south of Bath and finishes outside Falmouth in Cornwall. The route serves up sparkling views over the Atlantic Ocean, as it darts past coves, cliffs and lighthouses. There are plenty of opportunities for picturesque pit stops along the way too. After meandering through Somerset’s rolling hills, the route winds through Exmoor National Park, past dozens of charming Devonshire villages and rolls up in Cornwall – the UK’s most popular summer holiday destination. Finish up with a stroll sound King Arthur’s birthplace, Tintagel Castle, catch a wave in Newquay or tuck into a traditional cream tea for the ultimate UK summer road trip.
Getting there: take the A39 south from Bath and you’ll reach Falmouth in around 3 hours 30 minutes, without stopping.
3. Newcastle to Lindisfarne
Located just off the coast of Northumberland, the Holy Island of Lindisfarne was the cradle of English Christianity in Anglo Saxon times and it’s remained an important pilgrimage site to this day. You’ll need to keep an eye on the time to get here though; the tidal island is only accessible at low tide twice a day. The route between the two blockbuster destinations is dotted with crumbling castles like Dunstanburgh and Bamburgh, charming fishing villages and miles of sandy beaches. If you can wait long enough, time your road trip to coincide with the ultimate end-of-summer party festival. Taking place from 1st–4th September, the Lindisfarne Festival serves up a heady and hedonistic weekend of live music spread across eight stages.
Getting there: drive north on the A1 from Newcastle and you’ll reach Lindisfarne in just over an hour.
4. Cromer to Kings Lynn
Nowhere does classic bucket-and-spade charm quite like Norfolk – and this 50-mile route ticks off some of its best sunny seaside spots. Pick up the road in Cromer, which is famous for its sweet crabs, faded Victorian glamour and the tallest church in Norfolk. Then head west for an alfresco stroll along the Sheringham Art and Sculpture Trail and a trip to the Fisherman’s Heritage Centre. Say hello to the largest grey seal colony in the UK at Blakeney Point, then pose for photos outside Wells-next-the-sea’s famous candy-coloured beach huts. Or, hotfoot down to wind-whipped Holkham Beach, before finishing up with fish and chips in Kings Lynn, the capital of West Norfolk. The entire stretch of this shoreline is an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, so you’re guaranteed good views at every turn.
Getting there: join the A149 at Cromer and head west. Kings Lynn is around 1 hour 45 mins away.
5. Snake Pass – Ladybower Reservoir to Glossop
Opened by George VI in 1945, Snake Pass connects Ladybower Reservoir to the charming market town of Glossop. In winter the route is prone to ice and it’s often the first main road to close in England due to its lofty 1,680-feet elevation. But come summer, the rolling green hills on either side of the snaking route are teeming with pretty wildflowers. Glossop is often billed as the “gateway to the Peak District”, so it’s an excellent hopping off point for those looking to explore one of the UK’s most popular parks. Do as the locals do and finish up with a frosty beer in a beer garden.
Getting there: join the A57 at Ladybower Reservoir and head north for 25 minutes.
6. Gospel Pass – Abergavenny to Hay-on-Wye
Wales’s highest road is one of its best driving routes too. This narrow lane snakes between Monmouthshire and Powys, over the Black Mountains. Sparkling views are guaranteed all year round, but the best time to explore this pocket of the country is during the summer months. Hay-on-Wye, dubbed the ‘Town of Books’, is renowned for its bookshops and two international festivals, the most famous of which takes place during the summer. From here it’s a scenic 18-mile drive past the romantic ruins of Llanthony Priory, Tretower Castle and the sapphire blue Usk Valley to Abergavenny. Arguably one of Wales’s loveliest towns, Abergavenny is set against the backdrop of three peaks that are perfect for leisurely summer hikes: Sugar Loaf, Blorenge and Skirrid.
Getting there: start in the Gospel Pass car park, just outside Hay-on-Wye and drive southeast along the single track pass. It takes around 45 minutes to drive to Abergavenny.
7. Military Road – St Catherine’s Point to Freshwater Bay
This short but oh-so-sweet road trip serves up sweeping views of pure National Trust coastline. This section of the A3055 was built during the 19th century as part of a defence network against a potential invasion from Louis Napoleon, linking forts and barracks from east to west. Best enjoyed when the wildflowers are in full bloom in early summer, you’ll want to tick this bucket list adventure off sooner rather than later – parts of the road are predicted to disappear soon due to coastal erosion. Start your journey in St Catherine’s Point, then wind your way west to Freshwater Bay – a beautiful grey flint and pebble beach set against the chalky cliffs. The Isle of Wight has its own microclimate and is at its hottest in August, which means you’re likely to get a good dose of vitamin D here too.
Getting there: Start the trip at Blackgang and follow the sights to Freshwater Bay for around 30 minutes.
8. St Ives to St Just
There might be quicker ways to travel between these two scenic seaside spots, but the 13-mile B2206 is the most exciting way to travel. The route follows the Tin Coast of the Penwith peninsula, famous for its rich mining history. Once upon a time there were thousands of mine shafts and engine houses dotted across the coastline and today you can still visit some of the surviving buildings at the World Heritage site. Start the route in St. Ives, one of the UK’s most beloved holiday hotspots. As well as boasting some of the best beaches in the country, it’s also home to the Tate St. Ives. From here, it’s a twisting, turning road between villages and sloping hills to St. Just. Unlike St. Ives, the foaming waters here are a haven for surfers in the summertime.
Getting there: Take the B3306 from St Ives northeast to St. Just, around 30 minutes away.
9. The Great West Way – London to Bristol
You could make the journey between these two superstar cities in little more than two hours along with the M4, but it’s only half the fun. Instead, hop over onto the A4 or the ‘Great West Way’, built on an ancient horse track that became one of King Charles I’s Great Roads. Along the route, you can pull into relaxing riverside towns like Henley-in-Thames, pilgrimage sites like Stonehenge and classical Georgian cities like Bath. Bristol is buzzing in the summertime too. From a hot air balloon bonanza in early August to the Harbour Festival in July, there’s plenty to keep you occupied while the sun is out.
Getting there: take the A4 west from London towards Bristol.
10. Isle of Arran Coast
Scotland isn’t short on spectacular driving routes, but if you’re short on time this route will give you a flavour of the whole country. Dubbed “Scotland in Miniature”, the Isle of Arran floats off the country’s west coast. During the summer, you can sunbathe on sheltered beaches and even take a dip in the sea. It’s busiest during this period, but it never feels too crowded. This slow and scenic drive takes in the best of the island’s sweeping coastlines, miniature harbours, waterfalls and castle ruins.
Getting there: Start the route at Brodrick and drive anti-clockwise around the coast.
11. Birmingham to Harlech Beach
Most people hotfoot to Britain’s ‘second city’ Birmingham for its multicultural attractions, superb shopping and wide variety of restaurants, but it’s also a brilliant base for summer road trips. Harlech Beach, in Gwynedd, Wales is a huge sandy beach backed by grassy dunes in the shadow of soaring Snowdonia. During the summer, the waters here are generally clear and calm, which makes it popular with families. It’s also popular with leatherback turtles from June to August too. As well as providing ample opportunity to top up your tan, Harlech Beach has earned a spot as a National Heritage Site. Nearby Harlech Castle was once one of Edward I’s mightiest coastal fortresses.
Getting there: take the A54 north-west and you’ll reach Harlech Beach in 3 hours from Birmingham.
12. Leeds to Whitby
This 20-mile route cuts right through the heart of the Yorkshire Moors, from buzzing Leeds’ city centre to an archetypal British seaside town. Along the way, you can stop off at York City, the pretty village of Stamford Bridge and Yorkshire’s food capital, Malton. As well as your usual bucket and spade fare, Whitby is well-known for its connections to Dracula. Bram Stoker admitted the town’s gothic architecture had inspired the backdrop of his famous novel. For a real dose of seaside summertime fun, time your trip to coincide with The Whitby Regatta in August. The two-day festival features yacht racing, rowing races and entertainment. Or, hang on until September and you can tuck into the Whitby Fish & Ships Festival – a weekend festival celebrating Whitby’s fishing heritage with live cooking demonstrations, concerts, sea balladers and lots of fish and chips.
Getting there: head northeast from Leeds on the A46 towards York, then onwards onto the A169. Whitby is roughly 1 hr 45 minutes from Leeds.
13. Edinburgh to Cairnmorgans National Park
There are just 2.5-hours between Edinburgh and the Cairnmorgans National Park, but the two locations feel worlds apart. Edinburgh is at its sunniest and busiest in August when temperatures are at their highest and the Edinburgh Festival Fringe comes to town. After a few days of belly-laughing at the world’s largest cultural arts festival, hop out on the open road to one of Scotland’s most epic national reserves. Located right in the heart of Scotland, the Cairngorms National Park is the most northerly park in the UK. It encompasses nature reserves, the lovely Loch Insh, golf courses and crumbling castles. In the summertime, you can go whitewater kayaking on the Feshie and Falls of Muick, canoeing on loch Morlich and even go wine tasting at the Cairngorm Brewery and Speyside Distillery.
Getting there: roll onto the M90 and A9 north to reach Aviemore in the Cairngorms in 2 hours 45 mins.
14. Windermere to Grasmere
This nine-mile stint along the A591 connects two of the Lake District’s most iconic spots – Windermere and Grasmere. While it might be short, it’s packed with pit stops along the way. Lake Windermere is England’s largest lake and a popular spot for canoeing and cruising. In summer, you could fool yourself into thinking you’re sailing along Lake Como. At Grasmere, you can hike Helm Crag and Loughtigg Fell, snoop around William Wordsworth’s former home, Dove Cottage, and tuck into some of the village’s famous gingerbread. In between, the road winds past chocolate-box villages, the River Rothay and breathtaking viewpoints.
Getting there: head southeast from Windemere along the B5285, then onto the B5287.
15. Woodstock to Stratford-upon-Avon
This leisurely 30-mile drive starts in Woodstock, a historic town just north of Oxford. It’s moments from Winston Churchill’s former home, Blenheim Palace, which is well worth a visit. During the summer, the magical manor house hosts a dizzying calendar of events, from Blenheim Palace Flower Show to Battle Proms Picnic Concert to the UK’s number one classic American car show. From here, you can weave your way down quiet two-laned roads through traditional Cotswold villages. Stratford-upon-Avon is delightful during the summer months too. Best-known as the birthplace of William Shakespeare, you can catch a summer show at the Royal Shakespeare Company, visit his birthplace and stroll around the UK’s largest tropical butterfly farm.
Getting there: hop onto the A44 from Woodstock, then onto the A3400 towards Stratford-upon-Avon.
16. Manchester to Edale
Music-mad Manchester has enough to keep you occupied throughout the summer, but it’s also within striking distance of some of the country’s most idyllic rural locations. The charming hamlet of Edale sits at the start of The Pennine Way, which snakes through mountains, forests and sparkling streams on the route to Mam Tor. On a balming sunny night, it’s one of the best places in the region to go stargazing too. While you’re there, it’s worth hopping on a short train journey along with the Manchester to Sheffield line, widely regarded as one of the most scenic railway routes in the country.
Getting there: take the winding A624 southeast of Manchester and Edale is one hour away.
17. North Coast 500
No list of epic road trips in the UK would be complete without mentioning the North Coast 500, the UK’s answer to America’s Route 66. Connecting over 500 miles of stunning coastal scenery, it will take you the best part of a week to complete the entire route, but you can take a few shortcuts along the way. One of the most scenic stretches along this route stretches from Glencoe to Inverness, along Scotland’s wild, westerly coast. Summer is one of the busiest times to make the trip, but it’s also one of the best times of year to experience the route. Many shops, restaurants and tour operators shut up shop for most of the year, so if you’re looking to hop on a whale-watching tour or explore the Summer Isles, head here during the summer.
Getting there: head north onto the A9 from Inverness. The NC500 is signposted all the way.
18. Plymouth to Pedn Vounder Beach
Proof that you don’t need to travel to the Caribbean for sparkling sapphire waters and white sandy stretches this summer, Pedn Vounder Beach is one of Cornwall’s loveliest (and remotest) beaches. Set against the dramatic backdrop of limestone cliffs, the beach is located at the eastern end of Porthcurno Cove. At low tide, you can reach the beach from Porthcurno Bay, otherwise, it requires a steep clamber down the cliff to reach it. The route from Plymouth takes you through Bodmin Moor, the rugged heart of Cornwall. If you’ve got time to stop, it’s worth taking a stroll through this Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty between June and August, when the heat has dried up most of the moor.
Getting there: take the A38 and A30 southwest to reach Pedn Vounder Beach in two hours.
19. Stirling to Inverness
Possibly one of the best-looking A-roads in the country, this road trip will tick all of your bucket list boxes. The route starts in Stirling, an appealing city mix of craggy castles, cobbled streets and vibrant community. It’s also where you’ll find the monument to William Wallace, whose story inspired the movie, Brave Heart. It takes just a little over 2.5 hours to drive between the two cities, but you’ll find lots to distract you en route. As the capital of the Highlands, Inverness is the perfect base for a summer adventure. From cruises across Loch Ness to sunset snaps on the Caledonian Canal, it’s an idyllic outdoorsy getaway.
Getting there: head north on the A9 from Stirling and drive for 2 hrs 30 mins to Stirling.
20. Ashwick to Cheddar
This 14-mile drive slices through the Mendip Hills, another Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty along the B3135. The route twists through cliffs and ends up in the village of Cheddar, famed for its cheese. If you’ve had your fill of Britain’s coastline, this bucket list destination is the perfect antidote. Cheddar is a charming village all year round, but in summer you can sit al-fresco sipping on ciders and nibbling cheese from Cheddar Gorge Cheese Company, which still uses the traditional method of cheesemaking. No trip to the area would be complete without a visit to Cheddar Gorge either. Formed over one million years ago during the last ice age, visitors can enjoy 360 degree views of the limestone gorge from footpaths along the tops of the cliffs. Or, you could get inside for the chance to get up close to Britain’s oldest complete skeleton.
Getting there: head east along the B3135 and drive for approximately 30 minutes to reach Cheddar.
21. Lough Neagh Loop
Lough Neagh is the largest lake in the UK and Ireland. Set just west of Belfast, it’s steeped in folklore, flora and fauna. The usually secluded driving route comes alive in the summertime when sailors, sunbathers and watersports enthusiasts hotfoot here to beat the heat. The 100-mile route circles the lake and its shoreline. The area encompasses Blue Flag beaches, award-winning marinas and wildlife-rich woodlands, which makes for an epic day out in the summer. The River to Lough Festival, now in its fifth year, is one of Northern Ireland’s most unique food festivals. Celebrating the world-renowned Lough Neagh Eel, this family-friendly event includes exhibitions, live music and fisherman demonstrations.
Getting there: Start the loop at Oxford Island and drive anticlockwise along the circumference of the lake.
22. Dover to Margate
Home to one of the UK’s most iconic landmarks – the White Cliffs of Dover – this scenic 30-mile drive is best enjoyed in the summertime. After exploring Dover Castle and the famous chalky cliffs, head north along the coast. The drive tracks the ‘Kentish Riviera’, which is famous for its sandy beaches, historic towns and Tudor castles. Popular stops along the way include Deal, Walmer, Thanet and sweeping Sandwich Bay. The area has undergone significant regeneration in recent years, and these days you’ll find chic cafes, boutiques and private galleries sitting alongside fish and chip shops. The route winds up in Margate, which is home to the Turner Contemporary. In the summer, you can visit Dreamland Margate too, a summer-only amusement park that hosts music festivals, big-name concerts and dozens of thrilling theme park rides.
Getting there: Start in Dover and head east along Deal Road, before heading onto the A256.
23. The TT Motorcycle Course
You don’t need to be the bravest road racer to venture onto this world-renowned route, though you might want want to avoid heading here for the TT Races in May and June. Every year, for two weeks only, the world’s speed seekers head here for a thrilling 37.5-mile race past Braddan Bridge, Glen Helen, Ballaugh Bridge, Guthrie’s Memorie and Creg-ny-Baa averaging speeds of 135 mph. Later in the summer, you can take things a little slower and settle into views over the Irish Sea. Summertime is one of the best times to visit the island, when you make the most of its beautiful beaches.
Getting there: Start the route at the TT Grand Stand and follow the A18, A3 and A1.
24. Pembrokeshire Coast 200
The UK’s newest road trip, this 200-mile driving route only launched last year. It’s a hefty drive that showcases the best of Pembrokeshire’s lesser-explored coastline, so you’ll want to set aside at least three days to complete the entire route. Thankfully, there are lots of lovely campsites open in the summertime along the way. The drive begins in picture-perfect Amroth, then wiggles down the coastline to St. Dogmaels. There are blockbuster sights to see along the way too, including the Blue Lagoon and Britain’s smallest city, St. Davids.
Getting there: Start the route in Amroth for the best views. It takes roughly 3.5 days to complete the entire route.
25. Glasgow to Fort William
This 3-hour drive sweeps through some of Scotland’s most awe-inspiring locations. Hop on the high road from Glasgow along the winding road of Dukes Pass, past the stunning scenery of the Trossachs to your first stop– Loch Lomond. In the summer, you can hire a speedboat to explore some of the loch’s most majestic islands and beautiful beaches, like Inchmoan. From here it’s around 1.5-hours to Glencoe, a jaw-dropping valley of ancient volcanoes and glaciers. The final leg of the journey is all waterfalls, lochs and tumbling castles.
Getting there: drive northwest out of Glasgow on the A82 and you’ll be in Fort William in under three hours.