Earlier this year, we shared some our favourite summer staycation drives and destinations. Well, just because the weather’s turned colder doesn’t mean there aren’t still plenty of amazing places to explore and beautiful sights to see!
Here are some of our favourite winter wonderland drives and destinations in the UK.
Ambleside Loop, England
The Lake District has long been one of the most beautiful areas in the UK and there’s just something about seeing those shiny lakes surrounded by snow-covered landscapes that just makes it even more special.
There are loads of driving routes to choose from, but we’ve gone for one that takes you past several of the region’s famous lakes including Ullswater. The 47-mile circular route begins in the town of Ambleside before heading north to Rydal Mount, home of the poet William Wordsworth until his death in 1850.
Continue north and you’ll pass through Grasmere Village, a popular tourist village that’s surrounded by mountains, before reaching the stunning Thrilmere Dam. The dam dates back to 1890 and the road along the top provides the perfect photo opportunity.
Keswick awaits further up the road, between Derwent Water and Skiddaw Mountain, and there are loads of attractions to enjoy in this pretty town such as museums, parks and numerous eateries. Then it’s time to head out towards the Lake District’s most famous waterfall, Aira Force, taking in the ancient Castlerigg Stone Circle along the way.
To the south of Aira Force lies Ullswater (shown in all its beauty in the image above). Our route runs alongside this epic lake, passing through Glencoyne and Glenridding Village before reaching Kirkstone Pass. This famous pass winds it way through the mountains and offers some truly spectacular views before you begin the descent and return to Ambleside.
Mourne Coastal Route, Northern Ireland
Said to be the inspiration for CS Lewis’ magical land of Narnia, the Mourne Mountains is one of the most eye-catching areas of Northern Ireland. And like the land of Narnia, the mountains are something to see in the winter.
One of the best ways to take in the mountains is via the Mourne Coastal Route. The route is 102 miles in total and runs from Belfast to Newry along the south-eastern coastline of Northern Ireland.
The final stretch of the route covers the area around the Mourne Mountains. Beginning in Newcastle, you can either continue heading south along the coast or take the optional High Mournes Scenic Loop up into the mountains. This path will see you pass Tollymore Forest Park and Silent Valley Mountain Park, both of which feature walks with amazing views.
Whichever route you choose, you’ll end up back on the coast near the village of Annalong, which dates back to the early 1800s. Continue westward along the coast by way of Kilkeel, the so-called ‘Seafood Capital of the Mountains of Mourne’, and Restrevor. Here you’ve got another optional route up into the mountains, which travels past the Kilbroney Park & Rostrevor Mountain Bike Trail – perfect if you’ve taken bikes along for the ride!
Then it’s back to the coast once more and onwards to Newry, where Bagenal’s Castle and the Newry Heritage Trial await – along with a well-earned rest.
Find out more: https://www.visitmournemountains.co.uk/
Snow Roads Scenic Route, Scotland
The aptly named Snow Roads Scenic Route runs from the market town of Blairgowrie up through the Cairngorms National Park to the traditional highland town of Grantown-on-Spey. 90 miles in length, the scenic journey will show you the best that the Scottish Highlands has to offer (and probably leave you wanting more!)
After exploring the sights of Blairgowrie, it’s time to head north towards Braemar. You’ll pass a number of attractions along the way including the Bridge of Cally, Loch Muick and one of Scotland’s famous glens, Glenshee, which offers some of the highest peaks in the country as well as numerous outdoor activities.
Braemar itself is a charming mountain village with stunning views where you could pay a visit to Scotland’s highest 18-hole golf course or learn more about the village’s history at Braemar Castle. Then it’s on to Ballatar (passing Balmoral Castle, the Scottish holiday home of the royal family, along the way) where you’ll find a town with strong royal connections.
Continue heading north and you’ll come to the Bridge of Gairn, the mysterious ringing stone of Richachary and Corgaff Castle. Tomintoul – the highest village in the Cairngorms – is the next stop, where you’ll find a vast network of bike and walking trails.
Then it’s on to Granton-on-Spey, which sits on the banks of the River Spey, and the end of the route. Here you can find everything from a gin distillery to a Japanese pagoda, so there’s plenty to see!
Find out more: https://www.visitcairngorms.com/inspire-me/snowroads/
North Wales Way, Wales
Take in the best of north Wales this winter on this 75-mile journey, which stretches from Anglesey in the west to Mold and the surrounding area in the east.
There’s lots to explore on the island of Anglesey including the picture-perfect Beaumaris Castle, the tongue-twisting Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch station (unsurprisingly the second-longest place name in the world) and South Stack Lighthouse.
Once you’ve had your fill, it’s time to head across to the mainland and up the coast towards Conwy. With beautiful coastal views on one side and Snowdonia National Park on the other, there are sure to be some amazing photo opportunities!
Conwy is home to Conwy Castle, an impressive building that dates back to the 13th century. From here, you could take a quick trip north to the Great Orne Tramway or just continue east, passing the Welsh Mountain Zoo and the family-friendly museum at Bodelwyddan Castle and Park.
You’ll soon reach Mold, which is close to the border with England. While you could end your road trip here, why not take a slight detour south to visit the Clwydian Range and Dee Valley? Or if you’ve got a bit more time, even further south you’ll find the amazing Pontcysyllte Aqueduct. A World Heritage Site, the aqueduct is a masterpiece of Georgian engineering and a great place to bring any journey to a close.
Please note: The opening of some attractions and sights mentioned in this article may have been affected by COVID-19 measures. Please check the status of any attractions or sights you plan to visit before you depart.
Before you go
No one wants to set off on an adventure only to break down five minutes up the road, particularly during the cold and dark days of winter. That’s why we’d always recommend taking care of the basics before you set out to make sure that your car’s in top condition and that you’ve got the necessary essentials on hand in the event of an unexpected breakdown.
First, check that your MOT and service are up-to-date (and if they’re not, get them booked in quickly!). Next, why not take advantage of our 10-Point Winter Car Health Check? It’s a great way of getting a second opinion on the key areas of your car like your tyres and battery. Or if there’s a particular area that you’re concerned about, then one of our free car checks could be just what you’re looking for.
In terms of breakdown essentials, our must-haves are a tyre inflator, a puncture repair product and a motorist first aid kit. Products like these can help you to get you back on the road (or to your nearest garage, so that they can give you a helping hand). For added protection, there’s also Halfords Breakdown Cover, which comes with a range of exclusive benefits.
Finally, particularly given the length of some of these amazing trips, it’s worth having a little think about your in-car tech options. A sat nav will help you to stay on track, a dash cam will give you added peace of mind when it comes to staying safe on the road and a stereo will give you a way to play that perfect road trip playlist. Sorted!