Autumn is the perfect time to explore the outdoors by car with many beautiful scenic drives to choose from.
From awe-inspiring blustery coastal vistas to woodland settings packed with autumnal tones, here’s our guide to the top autumn drives you don’t want to miss.
With its woods of crimson and brown, fine scenery and picture-perfect villages, the Cotswolds are arguably best visited in all their autumn glory.
Rambling and cycling are understandably both popular in the area but a drive along the B-roads can prove just as pleasing.
A lazy drive along the B4632 from the fine Regency town of Cheltenham to Shakespeare’s Stratford allows you to view one of England’s best known landscapes. You’ll wind through green hills and enjoy incredible views of the wooded slopes.
Broadway is a lovely place to stop for lunch and you could pop up to Capability Brown’s Broadway Tower folly (drive up Fish Hill on the A44) which overlooks the town and offers stupendous views of nine counties on a fine day. Fans of Shakespeare should allow plenty of time in Stratford to explore his fascinating birthplace.
The Dark Hedges, Ballymoney
Fans of Game of Thrones will recognise this stunning avenue of beech trees as the King’s Road, but you don’t have to be a fan of the series to appreciate their splendor.
One of Northern Ireland’s most photographed spots, the Dark Hedges attract visitors from around the world.
Planted in the 18th century, these magnificent trees are especially alluring in autumn, when their orange leaves shower the road.
Perth to Inverness, Scotland
It’s easy to see how the A9 between Perth and Inverness has gained a reputation as one of the best road trips in Scotland – but beware of the average speed cameras. You won’t want to travel too fast though as the views are spectacular and, in many places, remote. Make sure your fuel tank isn’t approaching empty either as filling stations are few and far between!
The road takes you directly over the beautiful Loch Faskally, fed by the River Tummel, near Pitlochry and the Blair Atholl Distillery. The trees are reflected in the clear water and in autumn bear every glorious shade of the season.
The route skirts the Cairngorms National Park. Here you’ll find more spectacular scenery and woodland and tourist spots, including the Dalwhinnie Distillery (Scotland’s highest) for anyone who appreciates a wee dram – but not while driving of course. The route ends at Inverness which has much to offer – and is a great centre from which to explore the Highlands, the picturesque wooded Black Isle and, of course, Loch Ness and the Great Glen.
Llandudno to Merthyr Tydfil, Wales
The A470 stretches much of the length of Wales and is not to be missed during autumn. The road starts in Llandudno, a lovely Victorian seaside town that includes the unusual Great Orme tramway. At the top there are splendid views over the Menai Strait towards Anglesey. The road heads south past Conwy whose castle is worth a visit. It then follows the River Conwy valley into Snowdonia National Park with the old slate workings of Ffestiniog and through Gwydir Forest.
You can witness the beauty of seasonal sights such as the Coed-y-Brenin Forest from the road, but you’ll have to climb 1,170ft to the summit of the Oerddrws Pass in the Cambrian Mountains to really appreciate some of the most spectacular scenery in Wales.
Continuing south, the road then follows the Wye Valley with some wonderful autumnal vistas, eventually reaching the pleasant town of Merthyr Tydfil. It’s a long road with lots of opportunities to stop so allow plenty of time – even a couple of days – to make the most of the trip and all it offers.
Kendal to Keswick, Lake District
This winding stretch of the A591 is considered one of the most spectacular road trips in the Lake District and, in an area of such outstanding beauty, that’s really saying something.
This drive provides unmatchable views of Lake Windermere and Lake Thirlmere and the surrounding Lakeland fells, as well as the opportunity to stop off in the pretty village of Grasmere for a spot of sightseeing and lunch.
The surrounding tree-carpeted hills are ablaze with seasonal colour during the autumn months, adding to the unrivalled views.
The Yorkshire Dales
A favourite with 4×4 drivers, the Yorkshire Dales aren’t just for the off-roaders.
The small, sleepy country lanes offer a vast array of views, from waterfalls to pretty purple heather moorlands, which come into flower in early autumn.
Taking the circular drive via Hawes, West Witton and Kettlewell is a popular choice. Or head for the B6255 to experience some impressive areas of natural beauty, as well as the imposing, man-made Ribblehead Viaduct. The huge 400-metre construction soars over 32 metres (100ft) high and was built in the 1870s as part of the spectacular Settle-Carlisle railway. If you’re lucky you might even see a steam train cross it as it’s regularly used for steam train tours and appeared in some Harry Potter film scenes.
St Ives to Land’s End, Cornwall
If you’ve got a convertible and fancy some coastal wind in your hair, try one of the UK’s top road trips and embark on the journey from St Ives to Land’s End – or indeed, the other way around, ending at the south-western tip of the UK mainland.
The A30, then the B3306 transport you through the unspoilt Cornish coast, a sight to behold at any time of year, whatever car you’re driving. Expect amazing views of Whitesand Bay, Sennen Cove and the Cornish Cape.
Continue just north of Land’s End on the B3306 to explore Cornwall’s incredible 19th century mines, redolent of the ‘Poldark’ TV series.