Get off the beaten track for some truly great English car journeys. From mountain passes to picturesque coastal roads, England is home to some truly magnificent driving routes worthy of a road trip.
A3055 - Military Road
Isle of Wight
Running parallel with the west coast of the Isle, the A3055 (aka Military Road) is a road trip that should be taken sooner rather than later, as erosion along the coast could see parts of the road disappear!
The road itself dates back to the mid-18th century when it formed a key part of the island’s military infrastructure – hence the namesake. Linking St Catherine’s Point, near Chale, with Freshwater Bay to the west, the 11-mile route may be short, but it offers a wealth of sweeping ocean views and memorable country landscapes. No stopping is allowed on the section of road between Brook and Freshwater Bay, but there are a number of official areas where you can park up to enjoy the views.
Cutting a route through the Mendip Hills, designated an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, the B3135 (also known as Cliff Road) twists its way through cliffs and a gorge in central Somerset. Well known for its cheese, the village of Cheddar is also surrounded by lush, scenic country routes. Adventurous drivers can look forward to navigating the tight, winding bends through the spectacular Cheddar Gorge, before sweeping turns lead to the quiet village of Ashwick.
Despite not being the longest drive – around 14 miles – the stunning surroundings make for an unforgettable trip to England’s West Country.
If you’re dreaming of a road-trip challenge, Wrynose and Hardknott Pass is ready and waiting. Featuring some of the steepest roads in Britain (Hardknott Pass has a 33% gradient at one point), this route is not for the faint-hearted.
However, if you do brave the route one day, you’ll be treated to spectacular views across the Lake District, along with one hell of a story to tell when you head home. The single-track route has plenty of twists and turns between the picturesque village of Eskdale and the town of Ambleside. It also passes the Hard Knott Fort, once one of the loneliest outposts of the Roman Empire. Built between 120 and 138AD, the archaeological site overlooks the pass which forms part of the Roman road linking Ravenglass to Ambleside, and Brougham to Penrith.
Driving through the countryside can sometimes be a chore, but not on the Northumberland Coast. This route from Alnmouth to Lindisfarne Nature Reserve follows the shoreline, offering remarkable views across the North Sea. The Northumberland Coast is also littered with castles, towering above the roads on hillsides; Bamburgh Castle is a particular highlight on this route. Originally the site of a Celtic fort, the imposing stone castle was built in the 12th century and its walls have witnessed dark tales of rebellion and bloodshed.
At the end of your journey, you’ll arrive in Lindisfarne, an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and a historic gem in northern England. The site of the first Viking invasion in 793AD, Holy Island and Lindisfarne Castle are both picturesque sights from afar. But if you want to get closer, be aware that the causeway leading to Holy Island becomes unusable at certain points because of tidal shifts, and you don’t want to end up stranded! Expect to spend around an hour driving the route, although there are numerous opportunities to stop and admire the scenery along the way.
Located in the Peak District, Snake Pass provides a route across the Pennines between the market town of Glossop and Sheffield. As you might expect from the name, Snake Pass is full of curves and bends, with each one offering a glorious view of its own. In the late summer, heather blooms across the surrounding hills, bathing the area in a gorgeous purple colour – it’s a spectacular sight.
Once the main route linking Sheffield to Manchester when it opened in 1821, Snake Pass experiences regular snowfall in the winter months and is often closed during these periods. The leisurely 20-mile route takes about 30 minutes from start to finish, and is also popular with bikers and cyclists.
The B3306 might not be the quickest route between St Ives and St Just, but it’s definitely the most exciting. A 13-mile stretch of coastal road, the B3306 twists and turns between quaint villages and hills sloping down to the ocean.
The B3306 follows the ‘Tin Coast’ of the Penwith peninsula, where near Trewellard you’ll come across the Levant Mine and Beam Engine, part of the Cornish Mining World Heritage Site, which is home to numerous surviving mine buildings and a restored 1840s engine. Or venture to Pendeen, where you can see the Geevor Tin Mine, a well-preserved museum that stands as it was left by the miners in 1990.
With striking views all around you, those miles are going to fly by. That’s okay though – you can always turn around and do the whole road again!