Top 10 drives for those who don’t fancy flying
For those who don’t fancy flying, and want a cool car driving experience, here are a selection of wonderful drives either within the UK or nearby.
Glasgow to Skye
The roads up from Glasgow to Skye are amazing. You pass many a loch – including Loch Lomond – and go through narrow valleys with staggering mountains either side of you, which are capped with snow even during the height of summer. There’s no other place like it in the UK! And the pay-off of Skye itself is just breathtaking.
Glasgow to Kendal
…Or you could go the other way, and take the M74 through postcard Scottish scenery, the A74(M) over the border (stopping briefly at Gretna to get hitched), and then down the M6 and into the Lake District. At which point you can crack open your Thermos of tea, sit back and let the loveliness wash over you.
Ballater to Blair Atholl
This road over Glenshee in the Scottish highlands is flabbergasting. And if you take a detour at Braemar to the Lynn of Dee, check out Mar Lodge, which is very lovely indeed.
The north Devon coast
If you’re heading right down the south west, then don’t just stick to the motorway. The drive along the Devon Coast between Minehead and Tintagel is superb. A number of the roads are privately owned and they are mere tracks through trees with great views of the sea and beaches below. And there are often honesty boxes with hand-made signs asking for a £1 fee to be paid. It’s a proper time-warp experience, and well worth doing if you’re in that neck of the woods.
Running from Winchester to near Heathfield in East Sussex, this road is so good that a book was written about it. Pieter Boogaart wrote A272 – An Ode to a Road in its honour, and I don’t blame him. It’s a rural route that’s peppered with quaint little places where folk play cricket on the village green of a weekend, splendid pubs and marvellous places to eat.
The A470 through Wales
This one runs almost the entire length of Wales, and is just shy of 300km. It starts at Cardiff Bay and winds up in Llandudno, zig-zagging through loads of stunning mountainous terrain, such as the Brecon Beacons and Snowdonia National Park. It’s quite a twisty route, so not necessarily recommended if you get car sick – but you’re sure to love it if you don’t.
Ring of Kerry
This is a 179km loop (N70, N71 and R562) around the Iveragh Peninsula, and it’s astounding. And narrow. So narrow, in fact, that all tour buses only travel anti-clockwise around it. Which way you go around is up to you. Going clockwise means you might leap out of your skin when meeting a tour bus coming the other way… I did mention it was narrow, right? Going the same way as the buses means you might get stuck behind them. But then, with countryside this lovely, who wants to rush?
Antrim Coast Road
A 40km stretch of the A2 in Northern Ireland is known as the Antrim Coast Road, and it’s a wonderful drive. It begins at the Black Arch near Larne, and ends at the Red Arch near Cushendal. En route, you can call at The Giant’s Causeway, the Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge, and Carrickfergus Castle to name but a few. You can also take in the Old Bushmills distillery, although this is admittedly better if you’re not the one driving.
Going a bit further afield again, this is a department in France to the south of the Dordogne. The north part of the department is replete with undulating wooded terrain, much like the Dordogne itself. The further south you go, the flatter and more agricultural it becomes. But that’s not to say it’s any less beautiful – there are practically deserted roads with fields of sunflowers either side. And there are plenty of small market towns where you can stop and sample the local produce.
And if you’re going this far, why not push on a little further to…
...the Millau Bridge
The Millau bridge in the Massif Central mountains in France comes highly recommended. The area is a little over 100km east of Bordeaux. The bridge itself is about 300 metres high – taller than the Eiffel Tower, in fact. So it’s not one for those with vertigo. There is no way on Earth I’d ever drive over it, but I have it on good authority that the views of the Tarn valley are absolutely spectacular.