1. Cruise past coast and castles in Northumberland
Drive the wild Northumberland coast for awesome views of castles, islands and wild coastline. The Northumberland Coast AONB encompasses the history-rich and desolately beautiful Holy Island of Lindisfarne; Bamburgh Castle, an impressive medieval fortification that looms up above the road and sand dunes; and the enormous coastal ruins of medieval Dunstanburgh Castle. Swap road for sea and hop on a boat to the Farne Islands to see thousands of colourful puffins in summer or thousands of grey seal pups in autumn.
Find out more about the Northumberland Coast AONB
2. Follow Harry Potter through the Yorkshire Dales National Park
This drive will make your jaw drop, especially if you’re a Harry Potter fan! Start with a short walk from Malham village to Malham Cove, a 70 metre- (230ft-) high, gently curving limestone amphitheatre. At the top is a remarkable area of limestone pavement that featured in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part I. Hop back in the car and drive along narrow roads lined by dry-stone walls across the top of the dales, then follow the River Ribble valley north to the impressive 400 metre- (1,300 ft-) long Ribblehead Viaduct. The Hogwarts train crosses these 24 huge arches on its way from Platform 9 ¾ to Hogwarts. Magic!
Find out more about Malham
3. Let an enormous angel guide you along the A1
A colossal figure rises above the A1 between Birtley and Gateshead. It’s not an apparition! It’s Antony Gormley’s Angel of the North, one of the country’s best-loved contemporary artworks. At 54m (177ft) wide and 20m (66ft) high, it’s taller than four double-decker buses and has a wingspan as wide as a jumbo jet. It’s well worth stopping the car (the dedicated car park is just off the A167 on the other side of the statue) and getting closer. You’ll feel tiny as you stand at the angel’s feet, and take in the views across the Northumbrian countryside.
Find out more about Antony Gormley’s Angel of the North
4. Putter along England’s Golf Coast
This 22-mile (35km) coastal route from Liverpool to Southport is crammed with beaches, sand dunes, pinewoods, and some of the finest links golf courses in the UK. Book a time to tee-off at Royal Birkdale Golf Club – one of the best courses in the world and set to host The Open yet again in 2017 – and stretch your legs at Another Place, Antony Gormley’s surreal, haunting public artwork of 100 cast-iron, life-size figures spread across Crosby Coastal Park. In Southport, discover a tree-lined Victorian boulevard of shops, restaurants, quaint tearooms and the grand Wayfarers Arcade, and stroll along Southport’s pier, the country’s oldest iron pier.
Find out more about England’s Golf Coast
5. Trace the last journey of the ‘Pendle Witches’
The Lancashire Witches Driving Trail tells a fascinating story of superstition, fear and religious persecution through the places and landscapes associated with 10 people accused of witchcraft and executed in 1612. Follow the trail from Pendle Heritage Centre through the Forest of Bowland Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty to historic Lancaster Castle, where the witches were imprisoned and tried before being hung on the untamed moors just outside the city walls.
Find out more about the ‘Pendle Witches’
6. Twist and turn through the heart of Lakeland
The winding 30-mile (48-km) route from Kendal to Keswick through the Lake District National Park reveals some of Britain’s most spectacular views. You’ll join the northeastern edge of Windermere, the largest of the lakes, follow the road past Rydal Water, hug the eastern banks of fabled Grasmere and finally drift along the length of Thirlmere. Make time for a steamer cruise on Windermere and to visit William Wordsworth’s home Dove Cottage in Grasmere village. Break up your journey at the newly revamped Forest Side Hotel, about half-way along the route – it’s primed for gastronomic greatness.
Find out more about the Lake District
7. Drive back through time in the North York Moors
It’s a short but sweet drive from the A170 to Hutton-le-Hole, past moss-covered dry-stone walls and sheep-speckled fields. Hutton-le-Hole itself is a picture-postcard village with a stream, sheep roaming freely and a selection of tearooms and pubs. You’ll also find the award-winning Ryedale Folk Museum, a hidden gem of five centuries of English antiques and curiosities, including brain surgery tools.
Find out more about North York Moors
8. View Hull from the iconic Humber Bridge
With a huge span of 1,410 metres (1,542 yards), the Humber Bridge was the world’s longest single-span suspension bridge when it opened in 1981. It’s an iconic gateway to Hull, northeast England’s buzzing maritime city and UK Capital of Culture 2017, and costs £1.50 to drive across. It’s well worth parking the car in Humber Bridge Country Park, in the shadow of the Humber Bridge, and strolling back along the bridge’s pedestrian walkway to really appreciate the views down the broad estuary of the River Humber.
Find out more about Hull
9. Soak up views of (and from) iconic Penshaw Monument
You’ll spot the Penshaw Monument long before you leave the car to get up close to it. This charmingly incongruous landmark is visible for miles around. It was built to honour a local Earl in 1844 and is modelled on Athens’ Temple of Hephaestus, god of fire – a little piece of Greece in the rolling hills of Northern England. Park at the bottom of Penshaw Hill and take the short stroll up to the monument. In summer a secret staircase in one of the columns is opened and you can climb to the top for even more impressive views.
Find out more about the Penshaw Monument