If you’re starting to go a little stir-crazy with lockdown fever, why not plan a stunning drive through some of England’s green and pleasant land to help you feel less confined?
Following the easing of the rules on travel in England, there is no limit on how far you can drive and it is possible to meet with friends and family from outside your own household in a small social bubble as long as you remain outdoors.
As this article in Metro points out, however, you are still not permitted to enter Wales or Scotland who have laid down different rules and you are not allowed to stay anywhere overnight. With public conveniences not in operation as well, you should use your own judgement on how far you can travel without needing toilet facilities!
For those who are just craving a drive to take in some new sights, however, we thought we’d compile our list of favourite driving routes throughout England that are just waiting for you to discover.
A drive through beautiful countryside or quaint villages can be a great way to clear your head and give you a fresh perspective on things.
While you may not be able to stop off for a quick pint in any local pubs just yet, or pop into a roadside café for a bacon butty or burger (unless there’s a takeaway option of course), there’s no reason why you can’t remain safe in your car and take a picnic to enjoy at the end of a relaxing and inspiring drive.
Please feel free to add to our list if you’ve found a spectacular drive near you.
Stafford to Newport, West Midlands
As we’re based in the West Midlands ourselves, we thought we’d start with a route close to home that we’ve enjoyed countless times prior to lockdown.
This countryside drive is around 27 miles long with looping lanes that take you through some lovely little leafy villages.
From Stafford, pick up the A5013 to Great Bridgeford, then head onto the B5405 to Woodseaves. Find the A519 then join the A41 before heading back towards Stafford on the A518.
You’ll pass through Gnosall and Haughton village and the route takes you around a beautiful nature reserve and lake, the Aqualate Mere Nature Reserve, which we can definitely recommend for a stroll and to eat your picnic before heading home.
Going up north
Snake Pass, Derbyshire
You can’t go far wrong with a drive through the Peak District, but Snake Pass is a must if you’re heading through Derbyshire. It crosses the Pennines and the Ladybower Reservoir, and is renowned for its twists and turns – hence the name.
You will snake around snug corners and this drive is best enjoyed when you take your time! The pass is 42 miles in length and will take you around one hour 15 minutes to complete, traffic dependent.
It’s a thrilling ride on two or four wheels and you’ll be rewarded with glorious views across the National Trust’s High Peak moors.
If you’re looking for somewhere to stretch your legs in Derbyshire after the drive, the National Trust has re-opened some of its gardens and parks including Calke Abbey and Hardwick Hall. Please check their website before visiting as you may need to book a parking space.
The Cat and Fiddle Road
Staying in the Peak District, the A537 which runs between Buxton and Macclesfield offers equally magnificent views across the Cheshire plain and Peak District National Park.
The road takes its name from the historic Cat and Fiddle Inn, which opened in 1813. Another great fact about this pub is that it’s the second highest in Britain, sitting at the road’s summit at 515m (1,689ft) above sea level.
The road is edged with dry-stone walls and has plenty of twists and turns to make it an interesting challenge for bikers or motorists. It forms a triangle with the B5470 and A5004 and is well worth Stop along this twisty road with its dry-stone wall edging and you can take in incredible views of Greater Manchester, the Cheshire plain and the Peak District National Park. It joins the B5470 and A5004 to form a triangle, perfect for bikers and motorists looking for a technical challenge.
North Yorkshire Moors
Further north is an undulating 21-mile drive along the A169 Whitby Road from Pickering to Whitby, taking in the spectacular North Yorkshire moors as you wind your way towards the coast for a spot of sea air.
Whitby is a much-loved seaside destination, so you may not be the only ones to venture to its shores, but the drive to the harbour town is as enjoyable as the walk along the sea front in our opinion.
In ’normal’ times, we would suggest stopping for a spot of breakfast or lunch in one of Whitby’s tasty tea rooms or cafes, but we can’t guarantee these will be operating just yet. There may be some offering takeaway services, but please check before you go.
If you’re feeling energetic and want to tackle a physical challenge at the end of your drive, you can follow in Bram Stoker’s Dracula’s footsteps and climb the 199 steps up to Whitby Abbey. This English Heritage site may be reopening to the public mid-June. Please check the website for full details.
The Buttertubs Pass
While this short five and a half mile drive only takes around 15 minutes to complete, it’s worthy of the list as it was once described as ‘England’s only truly spectacular road’ by none other than Top Gear’s driving guru, Jeremy Clarkson.
Starting in Thwaite, just off the B6270, the route towards Hawes offers an incredible driving experience for motorists who thrive on a challenge. It combines steep climbs, rapid descents and tricky tight corners and is definitely geared towards experienced drivers.
The awe-inspiring, dramatic vista you’re rewarded with along the way is out of this world.
Look out for the limestone potholes formed by the rock face along the journey. Local legends say butter was stored in these by farmers during the summer, and this is how the pass got its name.
Kirkstone Pass, Cumbria
If you’re lucky enough to live near the beautiful Cumbrian countryside, the Kirkstone Pass has to be on your list of great local driving destinations.
The Lake District is full of showstopping scenery, and you can immerse yourself in the heart of it along this stretch. The road reaches 1,489ft at its peak and offers breath-taking views as you wind your way from Windermere to Penrith.
As this area is a popular haven that attracts tourists and walkers from afar, however, you may find yourself caught in congestion before reaching the pass. If you’re in the vicinity already though, it’s a highly recommended detour!
Heading down south
Covering 787 square miles, the Cotswolds is the largest designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty in England and the second largest protected landscape in the country after the Lake District. It stretches from just south of Stratford-upon-Avon to just south of Bath and lies across several counties including Gloucestershire, Oxfordshire, and parts of Wiltshire, Somerset, Worcestershire and Warwickshire.
The reason for this geography lesson is, you can’t go far wrong by planning a drive anywhere within the Cotswolds’ boundaries!
Our suggestion for a full day of exploring this beautiful area is to start at Burford in Oxfordshire, then type the following towns into your Satnav in succession:
Northleach / Lower Slaughter / Stow-on-the-Wold / Moreton-in-Marsh / Bourton-on-the-Hill / Chipping Campden / Snowshill / Broadway / Stanway / Winchcombe
This is a real adventure through time and along the way you’ll pass Roman villas, Jacobean mansions, ancient churches and gothic towers, as well as quaint, quintessentially English thatched-roof cottages and rows of picture-perfect golden Cotswold stone houses.
The final destination of Winchcombe is an ancient Anglo-Saxon town, a walkers’ favourite and home to the wonderful Sudeley Castle and Gardens. Well worth keeping an eye on when this reopens as a visit would be the crowning glory of an amazing day trip.
Clifton Suspension Bridge, Bristol
If you’re more into urban landscapes and feats of engineering, you’ll appreciate a drive to (and across) the Clifton Suspension Bridge at Bristol.
Initially designed in 1831 by Isambard Kingdom Brunel, it took 33 years to complete and now connects Bristol to North Somerset across the Avon Gorge. The bridge spans 214 metres between its towers at a height of 76 meters above the water. If you’re feeling particularly brave, you can park up and walk across!
If you’d rather save the walking for a gentler, nature-inspired stroll, just a short distance further is Westonbirt Arboretum. They have recently reopened to the public but with a booking system, so make sure you’ve registered before you visit.
Cheddar is home to England’s deepest gorge, forged over a million years ago it is one of the country’s truly inspiring natural landmarks.
The 14-mile drive from Cheddar to Ashwick will take you along the B3135 where you can marvel at the rocky outcrops of the Mendips as well as the impressive views of the gorge itself. The drive will only take around half an hour, which leaves ample time to stop off and enjoy some fresh air and the spectacular sights.
While the extraordinary subterranean caves have to remain closed at present, there are outdoor walks to enjoy where you can take in the scenery en-route at a slower pace, such as the three-mile clifftop gorge walk.
Dartmoor National Park
Keep your eyes peeled for the Dartmoor ponies on the trail from Exeter to Tavistock, as you admire the ancient and rugged landscape of Dartmoor in the heart of Devon. Take the B3212 which will guide you right across the middle of Dartmoor via Moretonhampstead, then turn onto the B3357 at Two Bridges before following the signs to Tavistock.
It’s a thrilling ride of around 30 miles, full of sweeping bends and roads that unfold in ripples and wrinkles across the craggy moors. You’ll spy granite tors, bleak open plains and lush woodland with raging rivers as you traverse this sometimes harsh but beautiful landscape.
This is one that doesn’t lose its appeal whatever the season. Just try and pick a clear day to fully appreciate the far-reaching panoramas.
The Atlantic Highway
The Atlantic Highway was branded as such in the 90s as a tourist destination, and is waymarked by brown signs along the A39 from Fraddon in Cornwall to Barnstaple in North Devon. Around 70 miles in length, it’s a great morning or afternoon’s drive that allows you to enjoy some of Cornwall’s most beautiful beaches from a safe distance and the comfort of your own vehicle.
It’s true surfers country and on clear days throughout the summer you can usually glimpse surfers dotted along the coastline, riding the white-water waves.
You’re not far from some of Cornwall’s most popular tourist hotspots such as the seaside town of Bude and the pretty villages of Boscastle and Tintagel.
Immerse yourself in the legend of King Arthur at Tintagel Castle, which is set to reopen in July. Tickets must be pre-booked and will be available to book online from mid-June.
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