The top UK drives to enjoy this summer

The UK has some of the best driving routes in the world and the summer is the perfect season to get out and enjoy them.

Whether you’re dusting off the sat nav or road atlas and going on a short break away or are just looking to enjoy a Great British summer by going on a drive in your used Ford car, you need to take a look at our list of the top UK drives to enjoy this summer.

Isle of Arran Coastal Road, Scotland

Start of route: Brodick

End of route: Lamlash or back to Brodick

Isle of Arran Coastal Road, Scotland

The coastal round around Arran is 56 miles long, so don't think you can whizz round in an hour! Along the route you'll pass busting villages, beautiful golf courses, scenic shoreline, and granite peaks that take your breath away - you'll want to stop and take in more! The views are stunning, whether of the island itself, or the vistas over to Kintyre on the West, or Ayrshire & Bute on the East. At the south end of Arran, the panorama across to the Irish Sea with Ailsa Craig in the foreground is spectacular.

Sheila Gilmore, Executive Director at VisitArran  and The Arran Trust, explains some of the reasons why the route is perfect to drive in the summer.

She says, “In the summer you might see seals, otters, porpoises, dolphins and a variety of seabirds along the shoreline. Summer sunsets on the West coast of Arran are legendary - as are sunrises in the East. The inviting sea water is bright blue and clear, with golden sandy beaches adjacent. Watch out for wildlife all over the island, whether it's red deer on the hills, red squirrels in the trees or golden eagles in the sky! Take care with wildlife on the roads too, as deer and stray cattle or sheep can be found wandering, particularly, though not exclusively, in the north of the island!”

“Arran is rightly known as Scotland in Miniature, as the Highland Fault line cuts right through the middle, diving the island gem into the mountainous North (the Highlands) from the lush undulating farming pastures of the South (Arran's lowlands).”

Attractions & activities to try along the way

Arran Heritage Museum

The Isle of Arran Heritage Museum was founded in 1976 and the various exhibits reflect the social history and geology of the island.

There are lots of hands on exhibits for children, while adults can lose themselves in the displays about the regions impressive past.

During your visit you can enjoy classic home-made treats at Café Rosaburn and these include snacks or light meals.

Brodick Castle & Gardens

Brodick Castle and Gardens is another must-visit place and while the castle is currently closed for renovation work and doesn't re-open until Spring 2019, there is still lots to see.

You can explore the UK’s only island country park, which extends from seashore to mountaintop, and wander through beautiful gardens along the way.

There are waterfalls, ponds and lots of woodland trails you can discover during your visit and if you’re lucky you can even spot some wildlife like the red squirrel.

Children can enjoy the new Isle Be Wild play park, which features suspension bridges, slides and lots more.

You can also walk around the island castle and learn about how Brodick became a fortress to be reckoned with.

Atlantic Highway

Start of route: Barnstaple

End of route: Newquay

Atlantic Highway

Discover the scenic route into the very heart of the far west through North Devon and North Cornwall along the A39 Atlantic Highway.

This grandly named stretch of road gives access to some of the county’s prettiest fishing villages and a whole host of great attractions along the way.

There’s also a string of impressive beaches to explore around Bude, Port Isaac where the hit TV series Doc Martin is filmed or Tintagel and its historic, clifftop castle that has a number of Arthurian connections.

Attractions & activities to try along the way

Affinity Devon

With over 25 famous name stores such as Nike, Gap and M&S offering up to 60% off retail prices, Affinity Devon is a must see attraction along the Atlantic Highway for anyone wanting to pick up a bargain!

The centre has a range of men’s women’s and children’s fashion on offer as well as homeware and lots of cafes to eat and relax at.

There is also the Atlantis Adventure Park located at the centre and the all-weather, action-packed play area will keep children entertained for hours.

Conveniently located on the edge of Bideford just off the A39, the centre really is an essential respite along the Atlantic Highway!

A day trip to Bude and some food at Widemouth Manor

There’s a lot to love about Bude with so much to see and do, which has resulted in this popular seaside town being named the Best UK Coastal Town/Resort for three years-in-a-row at the British Travel Awards.

Whether you’re a keen rambler, surfer or swimmer there are lots of top-class beaches and coastal walks to enjoy. In terms of beaches you could visit some of the below:

  • Summerleaze - home to the Bude Seapool and with easy access to the centre of the town.
  • Widemouth Bay – renowned for being a great beach for surfers with its large, open bay.
  • Northcott Mouth – a great beach to walk to along the top of the cliffs or if the sea is out you can walk along the beach.

After a day at the beach or rambling along the wild coastline you should head to Widemouth Manor for a well-earned drink and some fantastic cuisine, which includes the rack of ribs, hunters chicken and chilli con carne. The views from the Manor are unrivalled as you get some spectacular sunsets over the bay and the North Cornish coastline.

Hardknott Pass, Lake District

Start of route: Eskdale

End of route: Ambleside

Hardknott Pass

Hardknott Pass is a single track road that cuts right through the middle of the spectacular Lake District and whilst it’s a steep road with plenty of hairpin bends, it is regarded as one of the best drives you can enjoy in the UK.

There are lots of handy lay-by’s where the driver can either catch their breath or pull into if you want to capture some of the magnificent sights that you’re driving past.

Attractions & activities to try along the way

Windermere Lake Cruises

Windermere Lake Cruises is one of the Lake District’s essential ‘must-visit’ attractions; but it’s officially the most popular ‘paid for’ attraction across the whole of Cumbria.

Among their fleet on England’s longest lake are three famous ‘steamers’. They include the ‘MV Tern’, which is now 127 years old; the even larger ‘MV Teal’ – which in 2013 welcomed Her Majesty the Queen onboard; and ‘MV Swan’ – which this year celebrates her 80th birthday.

If you decided to go on a cruise with Windermere Lake Cruises you can sit back and enjoy the backdrop of iconic mountains and wooded shoreline along Windermere, right here in the Lake District; the UK’s newest World Heritage Site.

A spokesperson for Windermere Lake Cruises explains why people should go on a cruise with them.

“In a nutshell, it’s a great day out. We operate regular services all year-round, with more than 100 daily sailings at the height of the summer season. In fact, the only day we don’t sail is Christmas Day.

“We pride ourselves on making Windermere Lake Cruises as accessible as possible, so we offer lots of different ticket options including the popular ‘Freedom of the Lake’ option. That means visitors can cruise around the lake for 24 hours, hopping on and off at any stop as many times as they like.

“Windermere Lake Cruises makes several other nearby attractions as accessible as possible too. We work collaboratively with local attractions - all of which are easily accessible by one of our boats, including the Lakeland Motor Museum, Lakeside and Haverthwaite Steam Railway, National Park Visitor Centre at Brockhole, The World of Beatrix Potter and Lakes Aquarium.

Whether our passengers are travelling alone, with a partner or with the whole family, it’s a day they won’t forget! We’ve even welcomed David “The Hoff” Hasselhoff onboard!”

Lakes Aquarium

The Lakes Aquarium gives you the opportunity to come face-to-face with creatures from the lakes and the rest of the world.

From otters and British sharks to stingrays and Marmoset monkeys, there are so many animals you can see during your visit. You can walk through an incredible underwater tunnel and can experience the world’s first virtual dive bell where you can discover just how fast a crocodile can swim.

During your time at the aquarium you need to make time to enjoy the stunning panoramic views of Lake Windermere from Oscar's cafe and restaurant, which serves a mouth-watering menu.

Cheddar Gorge

Start of route: Cheddar

End of route: Ashwick

Cheddar Gorge

This great drive in the West Country incorporates the Cheddar Gorge and is just 10 miles south-west of Bristol and 8 miles east of Weston-Super-Mare.

In total the route is 14-miles long, but with scenery that'll get the juices flowing and a road layout that'll get the blood pumping, overlook this road and you'll certainly be the one missing out.

Attractions & activities to try along the way

A visit to Cheddar Gorge and the Cheddar Gorge Cheese Company

Cheddar Gorge is a three-mile long natural wonder, including Britain’s highest inland cliffs, soaring to over 450 feet high.

You can walk (or drive) right through it, but the best views are from the top of the cliffs themselves. There is a stunning, but strenuous, three-mile circular walk along the clifftops on both sides of the Gorge, but a shorter version can be undertaken from the top of the 274-step Jacob’s Ladder, to the highest point of the cliffs and back again.

David Thorpe, Customer Service and Bookings Administrator for Cheddar Gorge, recommends visiting Gough’s Cave and getting a Cheddar Explorer ticket.

He says, “Gough’s Cave is one of the most beautiful stalactite caverns in Britain as well as an historically important site. It contains a replica of the oldest complete human skeleton ever found in Britain, the 10,000 year old ‘Cheddar Man’. Cox’s Cave, also exquisitely beautiful, contains an audio-visual attraction called Dreamhunters, which tells the story of man’s development from just another hunted species into the relatively sophisticated hunter-gatherers who lived here in Cheddar Man’s time.

“The Cheddar Explorer ticket also includes the Museum of Prehistory, a cinema giving an educational ‘virtual tour’ of the Gorge and Jacob’s Ladder.”

Nestled at the bottom of the Gorge and at the heart of the old village is The Cheddar Gorge Cheese Co. Here, behind the shop, you’ll find the working Dairy and Visitor Centre.

Open from 10.00am – 3.00pm visitors can watch all or part of the cheesemaking process still done by hand in this award-winning Artisan Cheesemakers.

Mark Brady, Marketing Manager for the, Cheddar Gorge Cheese Company, adds, “The company produces the only cheddar still made in Cheddar! And still do, to a time honoured traditional method first collated by the Father of Cheddar, Joseph Harding. Visitors can also take advantage of a free tasting of the full range of Authentic Cheddars that the company produce, ranging from 6 months old Mellow to the venerable and British Cheese Award winning 18th month old Vintage.”

The renowned company’s Cave Matured Cheddar is still matured in the nearby Gough’s Cave, where the constant temperature and high humidity make perfect conditions for a maturing cheddar. Visitors to the Cave will be able to see the truckles of cheese high up in the cave.

Enjoy some food at the Riverside Inn

The Riverside Inn boasts an upbeat lounge bar and an airy restaurant/conservatory. Its policy is simple: Great food, great company, and first class service!

The pub is located in the heart of the Mendip Hills, at the foot of Cheddar Gorge, and it’s is renowned for its menu as it uses the best local produce available, with lots of comfort appeal. Fresh fish, great steaks, seasonal vegetables with plenty of lighter options including freshly prepared salads and pasta alongside olives, dipping bread and delicious platters to share.

There is also a varied children’s menu if you’re visiting with your family.

Hills of West Wessex Salisbury Cathedral, Stonehenge, valleys and rugged hills

Start of route: Salisbury

End of route: Wilton

Salisbury Cathedral

This spectacular route gives you fantastic countryside views and allows you to head to some of the region’s most famous attractions.

You can stop-off at Stonehenge, Old Sarum, Frome, Wells, Cheddar, Glastonbury and lots of other iconic destinations.

Attractions & activities to try along the way

Salisbury Museum

Salisbury Museum is located in The King’s House – originally built as a palace for the Abbot of Sherborne in the early 13th century. Its rich history includes two visits from King James I in 1610 and 1613, resulting in the renaming of the building.

Using the extraordinary breadth of its collections, exhibitions and events, Salisbury Museum brings to life the narrative of this part of the English landscape - of the people who shaped it and have been inspired by it for over 500,000 years. The Wessex Gallery, which opened in 2014, houses one of Europe’s most extensive collections of Stonehenge and pre-historic artefacts. There are also galleries devoted to the History of Salisbury, costume, ceramics and glass, and the Main Exhibition Galleries feature regularly changing and nationally important exhibitions. There is a museum shop stocked with books, cards and gifts and the Museum Café serves delicious food - its garden has the best view of Salisbury Cathedral in town!

Adults can access the museum for just £8 Adult, £4 for children or £20 for a family ticket.

Stonehenge

Stonehenge should be a must-visit destination along this route and it’s here that you can walk in the footsteps of your Neolithic ancestors.

This wonder of the world is the best-known prehistoric monument in Europe and as well as being able to walk around this iconic attraction you can even step inside the Neolithic Houses to see the tools and objects that were used in everyday Neolithic life.

The monolithic stones has attracted a steady stream of pilgrims, poets and philosophers for the last 5,000 years and during your drive you can spend a few hours or most of the day at this phenomenal attraction.