Great British drives

When it doesn't involve sitting in a traffic jam for hours on end or being your kids' personal taxi service, driving can be exhilarating and rewarding, entertaining and refreshing. Of course, it helps if there's some spectacular scenery to admire on your route, so we've put together a list of some of the best drives in Britain.

B3135 through Cheddar Gorge

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On my way back from Cornwall recently, I had a little detour through Cheddar Gorge and, oh my, was it spectacular. Magnificent cliff formations rise above you on either side as you wind your way along the road, making this drive one to remember. But should you fancy a break from the car before you hit the gorge, you can pop into one of the cheese shops and sample some truly tasty Cheddar or even visit the impressive caves. The key to this trip though is timing. If you arrive mid-morning, you'll struggle to get anywhere fast thanks to the coach-loads of kids on school trips and cars packed with tourists. But, by mid-afternoon, Cheddar will have quietened down considerably, and even have become a little sleepy, giving you the perfect opportunity to cruise on through as you take in the fantastic surroundings. As you leave the gorge behind you, the landscape starts to flatten out and you'll be able to enjoy a relaxing drive through some beautiful English countryside.

A82 Loch Lomond to Loch Ness & Inverness

You might not get the weather in Scotland, but you certainly get the scenery, and travelling along the 140 miles from Loch Lomond to Loch Ness is a journey well worth taking. Surrounded by mountains, hills and stunning lakes, you'll be dazzled by the vibrant colours around you and scenery that truly does take your breath away. It's hard to imagine your starting point is only half an hour away from the hustle and bustle of Glasgow! Some of the journey does involve stomach-churning bends, but there are also plenty of straighter sections where you can put your foot down. The route will also take you past Ben Nevis, the highest mountain in Britain – well worth stopping at if you fancy a leg stretch. In fact, no matter how much you're enjoying the drive, you can't beat parking up the car and exploring on foot – just be sure to take some waterproofs with you! Keep an eye out for castle ruins tucked away among the hills – the very best ones can be found off the beaten track and away from the tourist routes. Kilchurn Castle is my absolute favourite and a true hidden gem. Also take advantage of one of the quaint tearooms you'll pass if you need an energy boost. And if you claim to drive alongside Loch Ness without keeping an eye on the water, just in case, then I don’t believe you.

A303 Basingstoke to Honiton

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This might seem like a strange entry, but which other road takes you past Stonehenge and across half of the country from Hampshire to Devon? Personally, I love winding my way along this road with fields on either side. And given several of my friends are based in the West Country, it sure beats travelling on the M5 or M4 every time I head down that way. Patience will be required at times though as you're bound to get stuck behind lorries/caravans/tractors somewhere along the route – though, fortunately, a number of sections are dual carriageway, giving you the opportunity to overtake. You'll also have to apply the brakes as you reach Stonehenge and your fellow travellers slow down to take a look. But the scenery makes up for these inconveniences and there are numerous turnings into small towns and villages where you'll find some fantastic pubs to stop at for lunch – or simply for drinking ale in if you're handing over the driving responsibility to someone else!

A591 Kendal to Keswick

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The Lake District National Park is an area of outstanding natural beauty, so it would be madness not to include it here. The A591 bends and winds its way along for 29 miles through the national park where you'll be able to appreciate stunning views as you pass by rolling hills and lakes. You'll also come across the beautiful village of Grasmere as you continue your journey, where the ‘lake-land’ poets such as Wordsworth and Coleridge were inspired by their surroundings, as well as Windermere which houses a magnificent lake.

A494 Chester to Barmouth

Leaving behind the Roman and mediaeval delights of Chester, you’re soon gliding through the glorious Welsh countryside. There are a few twisty bits twixt Mold and Ruthin but the views are spectacular. Then there’s a brief stretch of the A5 (more of that particular highway later) before you swoop left down to Bala and its magnificent lake. Without wishing to reference Proust and his madeleine, I once had a bacon sandwich by the side of Bala lake at some ridiculously early hour of the morning – and years later I can still recall the intoxicating smell as the meat cooked on the BBQ. And the taste was mind-blowing. After Bala, it’s just 10 miles or so to lovely Barmouth and the sea (the last bit’s on the A496) with its bird-rich estuary white-sand beaches.

A515 Ashbourne to Buxton

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Take the A515 north out of Ashbourne and you’re heading up to Buxton, the highest town in England. You’re going deep into Derbyshire’s Peak District, but don’t expect a winding route – there are some cracking long straights and, if someone else is driving and you’ve a taste for bitter beer, the road is dotted with Robinson’s pubs, the brewery based 30 miles north in Stockport. Once you’re in Buxton, you can head west on the A537 towards Macclesfield. But take it steady – this switchback and hairpin-littered strip of tarmac is feted as England’s most dangerous road, especially for those on two wheels rather than four. Nerve-calming potions are available to non-drivers at the Cat & Fiddle, near the summit of the route. At 1,690-feet above sea level, it’s England’s second highest pub, so the views are astounding. The highest pub in England, by the way, is the Tan Hill Inn east of Kirby Stephen in North Yorkshire – it’s 1,732 feet up into the clouds.

Any Roman road…

There’s something uniquely thrilling about driving down a Roman road. Arrow-straight for miles at a time (how did they do that?), and haunted by the wayfaring ghosts of two millenia. It could be Watling Street (the A5 stretch from Dunstable to Milton Keynes is thrilling – honest), Ermine Street (the A10 north of Hertford towards Royston, and then the A15 north from Lincoln) or maybe the Fosse Way, carving through the south midlands. You’ll often find the old route continues on its uncompromising course when the modern highway swerves to bypass a town, giving you the opportunity to follow in some very old footsteps along a high street, country lane or even a bridle path.

What’s your favourite drive?

A remote Scottish mountain pass? The A470 over the Brecon Beacons? The north Norfolk coast route? Or just the journey home? Let us know your favourite drive… and we’ll see somewhere down the road. [text-blocks id=cta-banner]

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