Visitors from overseas often find it a daunting task to drive around the island country of England. We have a lot of roundabouts, and many roads swoop and dive into valleys and climb into hills with stomach-flipping rises and falls. In some more rural areas of the country, the roads are old, single-lane tracks, and in other places confusing junctions and one-way systems make navigating a new city an interesting adventure. Put simply, England is a small country with old roads that weren’t designed to take the amount of traffic that now travels on them; but England is also a beautiful country to drive through.
The hills and valleys, the lakes and moorland, the rolling and dramatic scenery, all make driving in England a joy. And no place is all that far away from anywhere else. You’re never far from the coast, and you can easily drive from one part of the country to another in the same day. Here are five gorgeous scenic drives to experience in England.
1. Alnmouth To Lindisfarne
It might be quicker and easier to get to places by motorway in England, but there’s something magical about taking the slower, scenic roads. Starting in Alnmouth, this coastal road follows the shape of the land, and you’ll take in the most incredible views of the sea on one side and castles and countryside on the other. You’ll pass Bamburgh Castle, built in the 12th century on the site of a Celtic fort. The castle towers over the land and can be seen from miles around.
When you reach Lindisfarne, the history deepens. This is a holy island, accessed by a tidal causeway, so you’ll need to time your drive right if you want to travel over to the island — and crucially, if you want to get back across the water again. Lindisfarne was the site of the first Viking invasion of the UK in A.D. 793, when it was a monastery, and today it’s a tourist attraction, historical site, and place of pilgrimage.
Perfect For History Lovers
This drive is just right for anyone with an interest in history, but especially the Vikings. Also, anyone with an interest in religious history will love Lindisfarne.
Length Of Drive
It takes about an hour to drive from Alnmouth to Lindisfarne, though there are some stunning historic stops along the way that could make it longer!
Alnmouth and Lindisfarne are located in Northumberland, in the North East of England
2. Keswick To Borrowdale To Buttermere
This is a round trip through some of the Lake District’s most stunning scenery. Starting at the market town of Keswick, drive south to Borrowdale. The landscape in this part of England is a wilderness of mountains, valleys, and lakes. There are no motorways here, no fast way to make it around. This drive is all about taking it easy and enjoying the journey.
When you’ve left Borrowdale and you head to Buttermere, the Honister Pass will rise before you as if you’re driving up to the clouds. This mountain pass snakes its way through the land between the peaks. It’s a thrilling drive and takes you to the beautiful village of Buttermere. Passing by Crummock Water, there’s a brooding atmosphere of history and remoteness as the mist hangs low over the mountains. The village is a lovely place to stop off for a short walk or for a drink in one of the two pubs. There’s also a little tiny chapel on the hill that’s a nice place to dip into for a look around. From here, you’ll drive to Whinlatter Forest and then back to Keswick.
Perfect For Aesthetes
This drive is just right for anyone who likes rugged landscapes and dramatic drives. Even when you stop off in one of the villages, the atmosphere remains one of remoteness and drama.
Length Of Drive
The round trip will take around an hour, depending on how slowly you drive through the scenery and whether you stop in Buttermere.
The points on this drive are all located in the Lake District of Cumbria, in the North West of England.
3. Manchester To Peak District National Park
The big city of Manchester has its charms, and it’s a great place to live or spend some time in, but when the city gets too busy, you can take a drive out into the beautiful Peak District National Park.
Drive to the small town of Glossop and then take the Snake Pass over the Pennines. The Snake Pass is an experience in itself. Opened in 1821 to link Manchester with Sheffield, the road snakes through the land, twisting and turning while the incredible peaks begin to rise around it. In winter this road is often closed due to snow, as it reaches 1,600+ feet above sea level.
On the other side of the pass, turn right into the Peak District and you have Ladybower Reservoir, Castleton, the Hope Valley, and Bakewell, all within easy reach of one another. The scenic drive continues as you make your way around the Peak District, through cute little villages and around breathtaking landscapes.
Perfect For Outdoor Enthusiasts
This area it attracts walkers, hikers, climbers, and cyclists from all over the country. Getting here is easy, and it’s a beautiful drive, but if you come on a Sunday you might find it difficult to park.
Length Of Drive
It takes around an hour and 15 minutes to get from Manchester to the opening of the Peak District. The rest depends on how much you want to experience while you’re there.
Manchester and the Peak District are located in the North of England.
4. Cheltenham To Stratford-Upon-Avon
The Cotswolds are a beautiful part of England to explore, and driving through the picture-perfect towns and villages brings a sense of true old England.
Take the B4632 from Cheltenham, and you can take a leisurely drive through some of the most beautiful English countryside. Thatched roofed cottages and quaint villages roll past as you make your way through the landscape toward the birthplace of Shakespeare. Some of these villages are practically unchanged since the bard was here. Stop off on the way at Chipping Campden and enjoy the English countryside in all its glory. When you reach Stratford-Upon-Avon, visit Shakespeare’s birthplace and his grave in the church, pop into the butterfly house, take a boat out on the river Avon, and see a play at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre.
Perfect For Restoration
The drive is perfect for those who like quiet country drives and historic towns and villages, while the destination is perfect for anyone who likes history and culture.
Length Of Drive
The drive itself only takes about an hour, but the towns and villages on the way are so beautiful, you might want to stop a few times to enjoy the scenery.
This drive takes you through the Cotswolds, a vast area in the center of England.
5. The Atlantic Highway
This is perhaps the most stunning and scenic drive in England. The drive through the counties of Somerset, Devon, and Cornwall takes you right down the coast in the South West of England.
The drive begins in Eastover and takes you along the Somerset coast. From Somerset, you drive along the North Devon coast. The coastline here is stunning, and with the sea beside you, it’s a lovely leisurely drive. Stop off at Bude to see the beautiful sea pool. Carry on down the coast and into Cornwall, where you can stop at Fistral Beach to catch the surf. The drive ends at the piece of land that juts out into the sea at the bottom tip of Cornwall. At Lands End, the sea is fierce, and the coastline is dramatic.
The entire drive is a coastal drive, but there are points in the drive where it’s not possible to hug the coastline quite so tightly. In these areas, you’ll drive through historic woodland and the Exmoor National Park, where you might see red deer roaming. The fishing villages of the coast and the quaint villages inland are cozy places to stop for something to eat.
Perfect For Ocean Lovers
This drive is perfect for anyone who loves being by the sea. Although it does take you through various kinds of landscapes, the sea is always by your side. If you love the salty air of the English seaside and historic little fishing villages, this is the drive for you.
Length Of Drive
This is the longest drive on our list and will take you around 2 and a half hours, but of course, it will take longer than that because you’ll want to stop so many times. You can easily do the trip in one day, with stops, or you can plan your trip with overnight stops to get the most out of these beautiful locations.
This drive takes you through the counties of Somerset, Devon, and Cornwall, all located in the South West of England.