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Published on May 24, 2015 with No Comments

Driving holidays in the British countryside.


With chic places to stay and cuisines that make the most of fresh, local produce, now is the time to take a driving tour of the British Isles. Here are a selection of itineraries that cover the length and breadth of the nation. Whether you prefer dramatic mountain passes, rolling hills or stunning coastal drives, you will find a suitable route here.

Southwest England


A long weekend or three-day jaunt that offers unmatched variety is easily accessible from London. Within a couple of hours, heading south-west takes you into the New Forest with its eponymous ponies that roam freely among heaths and ancient woodlands. In under an hour’s scenic drive from there, you’ll find yourself in the rolling Dorset hills of Thomas Hardy country, named after the novelist inspired to write his Wessex series of books about this gorgeous region.

Among the many quaint thatched cottages, you can visit the one where Hardy himself was born. Drive on for a further hour through Dorset’s officially designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty before crossing into Devon. Unwind in style at the Salutation Inn – a venerable hostelry with contemporary features and elegant dining at Topsham on the River Exe.

Devon is home to more than rugged vistas, including the brooding expanse of Dartmoor. Head south for half an hour through rolling farmland to the county’s major foodie destination, Dartmouth. Its stunning estuary location is home to many fine restaurants, none more stellar than top chef Mitch Tonks’s The Seahorse.

Head back along the winding Jurassic Coast roads that link east Devon and Dorset, perhaps England’s most scenic route, with natural features such as the phenomenal shingle bank known as Chesil Beach and the limestone arch of Durdle Door. A full day with stops to take in all the views.


Fife and Perthshire


In three days, you can see the best the Scottish lowlands have to offer. Crossing the Forth Bridge to leave Edinburgh, head east into the Kingdom of Fife, home to broad beaches and colourful fishing villages – an hour and a half away in Anstruther you find the Fish Bar, one of the country’s best fish and chip shops.

An hour and three-quarters north and away from the coast, you enter the solitude of Perthshire’s wild forests. You’ll find the beautiful Blair Castle not too far ahead, which makes for a worthwhile stop, surrounded by elegant conifer plantations.

For discrete luxury, head west for an hour and a half, then down a single-track lane to the boutique hotel Monachyle Mhor, with individually designed rooms and a chef that sources ingredients from its surrounding estate


Northern England



This four-day journey shows off the best of northern England’s bracing countryside. From Manchester, you are only an hour’s drive from the Lake District National Park, a magical landscape that has inspired everyone from the Romantic poet William Wordsworth to children’s author Beatrix Potter. At the heart of this unique region, Surprise View near Ashness Bridge offers a hidden panorama of picturesque Derwent Water before you reach the spectacular vistas displayed below Honister Pass.

An hour and a half’s drive takes you through the wild open spaces of the North Pennines into Northumbria. You will know you are near Scotland (but not quite) when you hit Hadrian’s Wall, the best preserved boundary of the Roman Empire. See how legionaries coped at the most complete British fort, Housesteads.

For more tranquillity, head further north for an hour to the Kielder Water and Forest Park. Take advantage of light-free skies at its Observatory (booked events only; prices vary). You will find many cool places to stay nearby, though nowhere as unique as the Sky Den, a contemporary take on a treehouse. It takes two and a half hours to head south into the softer scenery of the Yorkshire Dales, though you still find photogenic locations such as Hardraw Force, England’s tallest single-drop waterfall. Retire for the evening and enjoy your well-earned rest in one of the cute, hand-crafted shacks nearby at The Bivouac.


Loch Lomond and Oban


Scotland is rightly famed for the quality of its fresh fish and seafood with some of the best places to sample this fare easily accessible with this three-day excursion from Glasgow. Within 45 minutes, you find yourself in Loch Lomond & Trossachs National Park, passing serene, wooded hills and the peaceful lake, Britain’s largest stretch of inland water.

Your route then meanders along Argyll’s rugged coastline for two and a half hours via Lochgilphead to Oban, known for its restaurants as Scotland’s seafood capital. Check out the fishing boats in the harbour, before a stiff walk to McCaig’s Folly for its grand seaward panorama. Stay outside the town at the Isle of Eriska Hotel, a castle with restaurant that has recently been awarded a Michelin star. An hour’s drive takes you to Fort William, with its dramatic location by Loch Linne and in the shadow of Britain’s highest mountain, Ben Nevis, an area renowned for outdoor activity.


South Wales



Wales boasts three stunning national parks, all with natural, unspoilt wonder, yet easily accessible from major cities – Cardiff to the south and Liverpool to the north. The Brecon Beacons are just 40 minutes from Wales’s capital Cardiff.

En route, watch out for the immense pink sandstone walls of Raglan Castle. The Brecon Beacons national park features bucolic villages such as Crickhowell, nestling amid green valleys. Abergavenny is Wales’s foodie capital, and nearby is the relaxed, yet Michelin-starred Walnut Tree Inn where you can rest in style and comfort for the night.

After Brecon, the A40 swings south for an hour and 40 minutes to the gorgeous Pembrokeshire coast. Stay at the cool St Brides Spa Hotel in the small seaside town of Saundersfoot, for a spot of pampering and an infinity pool with some of the best views around. From here, head for an hour into the Pembrokeshire National Park, with its stunning cliff-top views and long beaches before reaching Britain’s smallest city, St Davids.


North Wales



This two-day tour from Liverpool takes you into the peaks and lakes of Snowdonia National Park. Start with an hour and 50 minute drive that heads south to pick up the A5, the smoothest route through its towering peaks and a testament to the talent of famed engineer Thomas Telford.

You will also pass another monument to British ingenuity – the impressive Pontcysyllte Aqueduct that carries a canal dizzyingly high over the River Dee. Then it’s into the park and the pretty village of Betws-y-Coed with its varied craft shops. The road over Pen-y-Pass takes you through some of Britain’s most majestic views, including the highest mountain in Wales – and England – Snowdon.

On the far side of the park (an hour without stopping) lies the curious village of Portmeirion, the Italian-style vision of architect Sir Clough Williams-Ellis. Stay in luxury at Castell Deudraeth Hotel and enjoy matchless views across Cardigan Bay. Driving back via the north coast, you soon reach Porthmadog where you can board a steam train ride on the Welsh Highland Railway. History is also preserved in stone, with the formidable ramparts of Caernafon Castle (half an hour from Porthmadog) and the mile-long town walls of Conwy (another half hour) to admire before you head back to England.


Belfast and the Causeway Coast



Two days gives you plenty of time to explore Northern Ireland’s breathtaking Causeway Coast from Belfast to Derry/Londonderry. The fine vistas begin just outside the former with the soothing Belfast Lough shoreline at the mouth of the River Lagan.

Half an hour away, stop off at the pretty seaside town of Carrickfergus, dominated by its 12th century Norman castle, then head 15 minutes inland to the dramatic Glenoe waterfall, a torrent flowing down from the majestic Glens of Antrim. Northern Ireland’s famous Ulster Fry breakfast should set you up for the next day, so stay at a B&B, such as the beautifully restored Shola Coach House on the edge of Portrush, just over an hour away. You’re also a giant’s stone-throw to the unforgettable Giant’s Causeway. A UNESCO world heritage site, you can imagine the astonishing basalt columns leading out to sea were built by mythical figure Finn MacCool to reach Scotland.

Only 10 minutes west, yet way from the crowds, lies the romantic ruin of Dunluce Castle, accessible only by stone bridge and offering its own sweeping views. For a visual feast and exquisite food, it is 20 minutes to Harry’s Shack on the beach at Portstewart (its chef learnt under celebrity restaurateur Heston Blumenthal).

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