Nov 11, 2020

At Dark Horse Wine, we love people with a passion for adventure. There's not a lot more liberating than packing up a car and heading out on the open road to explore. That's why we've pulled together this list of our favourite UK road trips to help you embrace the adventure on your doorstep - whether it's for a holiday or a weekend away.

There are so many road trips to choose from in the UK - including the extremely popular North Coast 500 in Scotland - but we love something a little more undiscovered.

So, discover exciting routes, get help on what to pack and tips on what to see along the way with this UK road trip guide.

Our favourite UK road trips

 

1. Scotland's South West Coastal 300

2. Northern Ireland's Causeway Coastal Route

3. Wales' Ultimate Road Trip

4. England's Atlantic Highway

The UK is a truly beautiful place to explore with friends by your side - you don't need to hop on a plane and travel to far flung destinations for dramatic landscapes or coastal beauty. Check out these four stunning routes for inspiration.

 

1. Scotland's South West Coastal 300

Scotland is full of beauty along with an abundance of famous road trips featuring magical lochs, hidden beaches and mountainous landscapes. To escape the increasing crowds heading to the Highlands and follow your own path - head to the South West Coastal 300.

Unsurprisingly, it's about 300 miles long, starting and finishing in Ayr. The route takes 3-4 days depending on how long you wish to take over each stop - you could easily spend longer on this too.

Highlights include:

  • Hiking and wild camping in Loch Trool
  • Miles of beautiful coastline and hidden beaches
  • Scotland's southernmost point - the Mull of Galloway
  • Head to Culzean Castle for views over to the Isle of Arran

Local delights

Once you’ve parked up for the evening, why not immerse yourself in the local cuisine? Tuck into locally sourced oysters accompanied by a dry white wine such as a Pinot Grigio.

 

2. Northern Ireland's Causeway Coastal Route

Not only is the coast of Northern Ireland strikingly beautiful, with dramatic landscapes, it's easy to navigate, making it ideal for a road trip. This Belfast to Derry route is popular but offers you the freedom to either stick to the main road or veer off course and head inland to explore routes a little less travelled. This route will take from five days, but a little longer if you head off piste.

Highlights include:

  • Explore the cobbled streets of Belfast, the capital of Northern Ireland
  • Gobbins Cliff Path - carved into the cliffs of Islandmagee overlooking the Irish Sea
  • Take a scenic drive through the Glens of Antrim
  • Torr Head cove - spot the Puffins and dolphins out to Rathlin Island
  • The Giant's Causeway - a popular but unmissable sight

Local delights

After a full day’s road tripping, a sumptuous and warm Irish Stew packed full of lamb, vegetables and potatoes will go down a treat. Order a rich and delicious glass of Merlot to accompany the stew, or even a bold Malbec.

3. Wales' Ultimate Road Trip

If you're in search of a truly epic UK road trip that will last you around a week, the ultimate trip around Wales is what you need - it takes in almost the whole of the country. You'll start in Cardiff and travel north to Llandrillo, onto Llandudno, through Snowdonia, onto Aberdaron and down to Aberaeron. This has it all - cities, mountains, coastline and villages.

Highlights include:

  • Kayak or canoe on Bala Lake
  • Walk to the Swallow Falls waterfall near the village of Betws y Coed
  • Have a go on the longest zip line in Europe at Zip World
  • Take a day to climb Mount Snowdon
  • Explore the beautiful beaches along the coastline

Local delights

How can you visit Wales without sampling a famous Welsh rarebit? Whether you visit a restaurant or café once you’ve finished for the day or look up a recipe and give a campfire version, this cheese and butter-laden is sure to satisfy. Choose an accompanying glass of wine to suit your mood – if you’re looking for a red, go for a Cabernet Sauvignon or an oaky Chardonnay if you’d prefer white.

 

4. England's Atlantic Highway

Just like the Causeway Coastal Route, the Atlantic Highway - from Bridgewater to Bude - isn't an undiscovered road in itself. However, it’s the fact that it opens up a gateway to exploring Devon and Cornwall that makes us love this route so much. This stretch is about 170 miles long and you can do as much or as little of it as you wish (but we'd advise taking at least 4-5 days to explore). You'll discover stunning wild beauty, beachy bliss, lively seaside towns and exciting options for lovers of water sports. What makes this route so great is the flexibility - head off the main route to follow your own path and explore a little further afield.

Highlights include:

  • Hike Exmoor National Park
  • Enjoy fresh seafood in Padstow
  • Soak up the buzzing atmosphere of Newquay
  • Head to Bude for surfing

Local delights

Devon and Cornwall are famous for loads of dishes, but this coastal trip screams fish and chips. When you’ve popped the car keys away for the day, counter the heaviness of the paper wrapped portion with a chilled glass of Sauvignon Blanc. This crisp and fresh drop will enhance every mouthful.

 

What to consider for your road trip

Although being spontaneous is the natural instinct of adventure lovers, it always pays to be prepared before you head off on the road. You'll definitely feel more free on a UK road trip if you've had a think about what to pack and also have safety tips ahead of time.

Packing ideas for your UK road trip

Always a task that gets left to the last minute - packing isn't anyone's favourite job, but it’s essential nonetheless. There are loads of things to consider when it comes to packing - especially if you're planning to camp instead of staying in B&Bs or hotels.

If you are thinking about camping along your route - here are our ideas for what to take.

  • Tent - with blow up bed or sleeping mat and sleeping bag
  • Torch
  • Camping stove
  • Camping chairs
  • Toiletries - including toothbrush, toothpaste plus everything you need to shower, including a towel (and a spare beach towel if water sports are on the agenda)
  • Strong pair of walking shoes
  • Clothing that can be layered for warmth or alternatively shed to match sunnier skies

To keep in the car:

  • Fully stocked first aid kit
  • Spare toilet paper
  • Tyre repair kit
  • Blankets and cushions (either for your tent, to keep you warm around the campfire or to sit on during beach picnics!)

Food and drink:

  • Meal ingredients that don't need to be kept fresh
  • Reusable water bottles
  • Crockery, cutlery and glasses
  • Picnic basket to fill with local produce for mouth-watering road trip picnics
  • A couple of your favourite bottles of Dark Horse to pop in the picnic basket or to enjoy once you’ve stopped for the evening

Safety tips

If you’re taking your own car on your UK road trip, then before you go you should:

  • Ensure your car has had a recent service
  • Have your tyres checked
  • Top up the radiator water
  • Check your oil levels
  • Ensure you have filled the washer fluid
  • Fill up with fuel
  • Keep your breakdown and car insurance details handy in case of emergencies

Making sure your car is ready to transport you from exciting destination to exciting destination will help your trip go smoothly.

Activity ideas

Research the area you're planning to head to before you go and you'll discover there's loads of ways to get stuck in to the action. The best road trips are those you build yourself - with a chance to head off and try activities that you see along the way.

Embrace water sports

If you're heading to coastal spots or somewhere with lakes close by, you'll discover loads of opportunities to give water sports a try. From surfing and kitesurfing, to paddle boarding, water-skiing, canoeing and kayaking, there's something for everyone to try.

Get the adrenaline rush

All across the UK, there's loads of opportunity to give something high octane a go - research beforehand and you'll discover where to go for activities such as indoor skydiving, bungee jumping, zorbing and even paintballing.

Indulge your inner foodie

Our guide to campfire cooking is perfect for helping you make the most of your culinary skills during your road trip. Grab succulent steaks from the local butchers, along with peppers and asparagus from a farmers market and set about making this delicious meal to enjoy under the stars accompanied by a gorgeous glass of our Cabernet Sauvignon.

Pause to take it all in

On an adventure break, you might feel the pressure for the whole thing to be non-stop. Pack the adrenaline-pumping fun into the day, so you can pause in the evening to enjoy long discussions. During the summer months, grab a chilled bottle of our Provence-style Rosé and sip as the sun goes down with some salty nibbles and during chillier months, wrap up in a blanket to share a Malbec with a luxurious spread of cheese.

You might want to include the best beaches in England to your road trip itinerary - that way you can hike, surf and paddleboard your way around the country's coastline in one great adventure.

Wherever you decide to explore, ensure you make time to stop and enjoy everything the area has to offer - dive into activities and apply the brakes for long, lazy evenings of sharing stories, a glass of Dark Horse wine and delicious food with friends. Here's to your adventures - cheers!

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