It’s important to prepare carefully for a road trip – it’s no fun being stuck roadside because you’ve run out of fuel, or getting a puncture with no spare wheel. If you’ve not got a banger of your own, that’s no problem: there are plenty of rental companies offering competitive deals. Better still, hire an electric car and help protect the pristine landscapes you’re driving through. Be sure to check charging points along your route, or – if you’re car isn’t electric – fill up the tank before you leave.
If you’re taking your own car, it’s worth a trip to the garage before you leave to check it’s in good shape. Make sure you’ve got all your car documents on hand, as well as a spare tyre in the boot. It also pays to pack a first-aid kit and some non-perishable snacks, just in case. Take out breakdown cover and keep the emergency number handy.
1. North Coast 500, Scotland
This circular route is a greatest hits of Scottish icons, stretching across 805 km of back roads. Skirting the coast from Inverness and the Black Isle, past the seaboard crags of Caithness, Sutherland and Wester Ross, it offers up gothic ruins, rugged fairways, historic castles, shingle-sand beaches, tiny fishing hamlets and peaty whisky distilleries. Even the name is a doff of the cap to The Proclaimers.
Along the way, the road becomes a symphony, building note after note, bend by bend, from its rallying start through the east coast villages of Dornoch and Wick to Aultbea, Poolewe and Gairloch on the savage west coast. Here, it reaches a crescendo below the impregnable peaks of Loch Maree.
Finally, the road reaches the brilliant Bealach na Bà, which loops up and over the Applecross Peninsula like a piece of gigantic spaghetti. It could scarcely be more isolated or awe-inspiring.
2. A Yorkshire circuit, England
In Yorkshire, the roads move from moor to dale through centuries of dark medieval history, once a backdrop to the War of the Roses, the bloody struggle between the royal houses of Lancaster and York.
Here the mix of A- and B-roads create a daisy-chain link between some of the most beautiful villages, waterfalls and rolling backdrops in northern England. When heading through fields of summer grasses over the Buttertubs Pass from Wensleydale to Swaledale, the road twists and turns like a thrashing snake.
Set off on the A59 from Harrogate towards the historic market town of Grassington before boomeranging back to Aysgarth Falls, a wide, multi-tiered falls that’s perfect for a hazy summer ramble.
Next, putter along the valley floor to the Wensleydale Creamery Visitor Centre at Hawes to stock up on Wallace and Gromit ’s favourite cheese, before plunging over into Reeth and looping back to your start point via Jervaulx Abbey. A spooky Cistercian monastery in the moors, the abbey also has an excellent tea room if you need a pitstop.
At the end of a long day’s drive, there’s nothing more satisfying than the promise of a pint of Black Sheep ale from Masham Brewery. The welcome here is warm, the people friendly, the surrounding landscapes wild, and the beer strong. It’s undoubtedly one of the best road trips in the UK.
3. Coastal Circuit, Northern Ireland
Plan a journey around the knuckle-shaped fist of the Northern Irish coast and you won’t regret it. There’s a hypnotic quality to this 195 km route from Belfast to Derry/Londonderry, one that can see you detour off the road to find smaller villages. It’s one of the most varied road trips in the UK in our list.
First, head for the Gobbins Cliff Path, an ambitious walkway chiselled out of basalt rock with hammers and rudimentary tools. North of Belfast, it carves a path through caves, over bridges and gantries, and down steep drops. Following a £7.5 million investment, the path reopened in 2015 for the first time in more than 65 years.
As the journey continues, stories, both ancient and modern, will pull you over. Detour to Antrim to see the Dark Hedges, a tree-lined road used in Game of Thrones , while making sure to stop at Ballintoy harbour (also another GoT location).
Stare in awe at the 40,000 jigsaw pieces of the Giant’s Causeway, then pop into the Old Bushmills Distillery for a refresher of Irish whiskey.
Freedom on a road trip like this is only limited by how far your imagination takes you. After Londonderry, the road keeps going south into Ireland, to Sligo and Galway or Dublin. Simply roll down the window and keep on driving.