Autumn is a fabulous time to head off on a road trip. Here in the UK, the weather is generally mild, the roads quieter, the hotel prices cheaper and the trees that line the roadsides look glorious in their autumnal hues. Sunny days at this time of year are particularly lovely for driving, without the extreme heat and traffic jams that summer can bring or the icy roads of winter.
Maybe you’ve bought a new car (or are planning to buy one), and you’re getting excited about all the road trips that lie ahead for you. Or, perhaps, you’re itching to take a car you’ve loved for many years out on the road again.
Whatever inspires you, planning ahead will help you get the maximum enjoyment out of your trip. Here we share our favourite UK road trip, tips about how to get the most out of your adventure and a road trip checklist for your car.
Our top UK road trip itinerary suggestions
When planning a UK road trip there’s a bewildering number of scenic driving routes worth considering from Scotland’s North Coast 500 to the Sussex Coastal Road in southern England. Perhaps you’ve always dreamed of visiting Stonehenge on England’s Great West Way or the filming locations from Game of Thrones that lie dotted along Northern Ireland’s Causeway Coast.
The Great West Way, England
Bath, Castle Combe, Stonehenge and Windsor Castle are just a few of the highlights along The Great West Way, a 500-mile driving route winding its way from Bristol to London via idyllic countryside, charming villages and historic towns.
Recommended hotels: Berkeley Suites, Log House Holidays and Cliveden House
Above: Stonehenge, below: Castle Combe
The Causeway Coast, Northern Ireland
Running for almost 200 miles along the coast from Belfast to Londonderry (Derry), this Northern Ireland driving route overflows with stunning landscapes including numerous Game of Thrones filming locations. Add in a wonderful mix of clifftop ruined castles, whiskey distilleries, sweeping sandy beaches, and UNESCO world heritage sites and you’ve the perfect setting for an unforgettable road trip.
Recommended hotel: Bushmills Inn
Above: Ballintoy Harbour, below: The Giant’s Causeway and The Dark Hedges, one of many Game of Thrones filming locations worth making a slight detour for.
The Sussex Coastal Road, England
This 90-mile route runs from the historic town of Rye, said to be one of the prettiest in England, along the coast via Hastings, Eastbourne and the white cliffs of the Seven Sisters and Beachy Head from where you can either head inland along the South Downs National Park or continue along the coast to Brighton and Chichester. Take care on the hairpin bends just west of Eastbourne.
Recommended hotel: The Zanzibar Hotel
Above: Rye, below: Hastings
The North Coast 500, Scotland
Passing fairytale castles and wild, rugged coastlines, the North Coast 500 is Scotland’s ultimate driving route of over 500 miles starting and ending at Inverness. Explore the scenic byways, and historic towns and villages while discovering Scotland’s food and drink scene along the way.
Recommended hotels: Links House and Ackergill Tower.
Top tips for getting the most out of your road trip
Plan your route
It will make your life easier if you plan your route in advance, including where you are going to take a break along the way. Part of the joy of a road trip is the beautiful scenery so research your route, take the back roads and allow plenty of time, so you don’t have to rush.
When you’re looking into where to take a break, you’ll no doubt consider where to stop for a bite. Many country pubs make great pit stops, but it’s worth checking out in advance which ones have the best reputation and the prettiest locations.
The Causeway Coast: Bushmills Inn makes a great overnight stay or lunch stop when driving Northern Ireland’s Causeway Coast
And don’t drive by a famous beauty spot like the Seven Sister’s on the Sussex coast road, for example, without allowing time to stop, get out of your car and take a walk to see the stunning white cliffs themselves. Including sensible breaks in your driving schedule will not only make the journey safer, but it will also make it more enjoyable.
Book your hotels
Spontaneity may work well if you’re only heading off for the day, but if you’re planning an extended road trip, you’ll need to think ahead. The UK abounds with beautiful boutique, historic and unique hotels that would make beautiful stops along the route, so book early to guarantee you get the best of the best.
We’re adding new hotels to our directory all the time but only those that meet our exceptionally high standards will do. As soon as we discover any more that really fit the bill we’ll add them as recommended hotels above.
The Sussex Coastal Road: The Zanzibar Hotel in Hastings is a fabulously quirky, small boutique hotel that serves a particularly excellent breakfast that will set you up for the day ahead (and a parking space can be booked in advance).
Make sure you’re insured
If you’re buying a new car, you may still need to purchase insurance. A price comparison site like Quotezone.co.uk enables drivers to compare cheap UK car insurance policies from over 100 different providers.
Whether you already have insurance or are buying a new policy, if your road trip goes beyond UK borders and takes you into a different country, check that your policy covers you there too.
Consider buying breakdown cover too and likewise check it covers you abroad, if appropriate.
Take snacks and water
While you’re bound to find some restaurants, cafes or takeaway places along the way, no road trip would be complete without a wealth of snacks and drinks for the journey.
Whether you opt for healthy snacks or indulgent treats, is up to you but things like bananas, nuts and granola bars can give you a boost if you start to flag.
And take plenty of water or other refreshing non-alcoholic drink to stop you getting dehydrated while mints will help prevent your mouth from getting too dry in between breaks.
Fully charge your gadgets
When you are going on a long car journey, remember to charge your devices, especially your phone which you can use to navigate or call for help if you do breakdown. It’s recommended that you don’t charge your phone from your car’s USB point if it has one. Instead, use a portable power bank.
Scotland: You’ll want to make sure your phone is charged so you can capture any stunning scenes along the way
Carry out this road trip checklist
Possibly most important of all, give your car the once over to check you’re ready for the road.
Maintenance checks that you can easily do yourself, include:
- Washer fluid
- Tyre pressure and tread depth (including your spare tyre)
For extra peace of mind, have your car serviced before you go.
Before you set off…
Highways England offers a roadwork checking tool that allows you to check your route to help you avoid disruption.
It’s essential to check the weather forecast too so you can adjust your travel time if need be. Be sure to look out for any severe weather warnings.
Above all, don’t rush it and don’t bite off more than you can chew trying to drive too far in one day.
Have you decided where your next road trip should take you?
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We have some beautiful scenery in the UK and these are just a few of the road trips I’d love to take. The North Coast 500 in Scotland is especially appealing.
We wouldn’t disagree with you there!
Love a road trip, and you’ve picked some great spots. Rye is one of my favourites too, and Stonehenge!
They’re two stunning destinations you’ve picked there!
I’ve been to a few places along the way but I’ve not done any of these road trips yet – the NC500 has been on the wishlist for a while and must add the rest too now!
They’re all fantastic routes, each with something different to offer.