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Van Life: The best UK road trips

10 minutes

Hitting the great British roads for a classic road trip is easy when you’re a van owner. You just need to pack your essentials and hit the open road – that’s the beauty of van life.

Before you head off though, you’ll probably want to sketch out your road trip itinerary. To give you a few ideas, we’ve picked out five fantastic road trips that vans were made for.

Some might be familiar; others are hidden gems waiting to be discovered. All are in the UK and range from routes that can be driven on a day out to those that are perfect for a weekend away or a longer break.

Lochan Hakel in Scotland on the North coast 500 route

North Coast 500

Area: Northern Scotland
Route: Inverness to Inverness – circling Northern Scotland’s coast
Distance: 516 miles
Duration: Five to seven days

 

What’s the route?

Our first road trip is the longest. The North Coast 500 runs along Northern Scotland’s coastline in a circular route, starting and finishing in the city of Inverness. It runs clockwise, taking in several spectacular locations, including:

  • Muir of Ord
  • Gairloch
  • Thurso
  • John O’Groats
  • Dunrobin Castle

What makes it special?

The views along this route are unparalleled, offering unspoilt countryside and breathtaking spaces that outdoor enthusiasts will be itching to explore – no wonder it’s been called Scotland’s answer to Route 66.

An ever-changing landscape awaits, with plenty of spots where you can park up your van and soak up the rugged coastal landscape that surrounds you.

There are beautiful beaches to enjoy at Sutherland, while surf-lovers can hit the waves at Caithness. While you’re here, don’t miss the chance to try and spy the infamous monster at Loch Ness.

Tip
Some roads on this route become surprisingly narrow at certain points, so be prepared to give way to passing vehicles, especially if you’re driving a larger van.

 

The Salt Cellar on Derwent Edge in the Peak District

Peak District

Area: Central England
Route: Glossop to Glossop – circling through the Peak District
Distance: 67.2 miles
Duration: One to two days

 What's the route?

This road trip takes you through the Peak District National Park, making it perfect for outdoorsy types. A circular trip, beginning and ending in Glossop, it takes in all of the major sights within the sprawling park itself and can be extended to cover other areas nearby. Attractions include:

  • Snake Pass
  • Chatsworth House
  • Derbyshire Dales Nature Reserve
  • Poole’s Cavern and Buxton Country Park
  • Chapel-en-le-Frith

What makes it special?

Within the first 10 to 20 minutes of your trip, you’ll head along the winding roads of the Snake Pass, one of the most picturesque drives in the UK. From here, you’ll go on to encounter plenty more beauty and history, with a sprinkling of nature reserves and country houses along the way. Alongside that, there’s the handsome spa town of Buxton, which makes for a great excursion.

The park itself offers intrepid explorers the chance to enjoy some hill climbing and trail walking. Be sure to pack your bikes, as there are several cycle routes on offer here, ranging from easy going to those aimed at more experienced cyclists.

This is a relatively easy route to drive in a van, just take care when using the Snake Pass, as there are several hairpin bends to negotiate along the way.

 

Lake Idwal, Snowdonia National Park

North Wales Coast Road

Area: North coast of Wales
Route: Holyhead to Chester, via Snowdonia National Park
Distance: 136 miles
Duration: One to two days

 

What’s the route?

Our next road trip takes us to the beautiful North Wales coast. The route hugs the coastline for much of the journey, but also offers a detour to Snowdonia National Park. Starting at the port of Holyhead and ending in the walled city of Chester, highlights include:

  • Porthmadog
  • Snowdonia National Park
  • Betws-y-coed
  • Llandudno

What makes it special?

This road trip offers the best of both worlds, with amazing views, intriguing towns and charming villages to visit along the way. Hikers will relish tackling the imposing Mount Snowdon, while families can lap up seaside fun in the delightful coastal town of Llandudno.

First and foremost, this is a great countryside drive. Aside from the numerous walking routes in the National Park, there are also awe-inspiring views of the Irish Sea along the coastline.

The roads are wide enough for van drivers to comfortably travel on with spectacular views serving as the backdrop to your journey.

Rathlin Island bay, Northern Ireland

Causeway Coastal Route

Area: Northern and Eastern coast of Northern Ireland
Route: Belfast to Derry (Londonderry) via Rathlin Island
Distance:
200 miles approx.
Duration:
Two to three days

 What’s the route?

Across the Irish Sea lies the rural Causeway Coastal Route. This entire road trip hugs the northern coastline of Northern Ireland, starting in the nation’s capital, Belfast, and ending in Derry (Londonderry). Along the way, it’ll guide you to some iconic sights, including:

  • Carrickfergus Castle
  • Rathlin Island
  • Carrick-a-Rede
  • Giant’s Causeway
  • Roe Valley Country Park

What makes it special?

There’s a little something for everyone on this route. Fans of Game of Thrones will recognise many of the epic locations from the hugely popular TV series.

Outdoor explorers will love traversing the Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge, first erected by salmon fishermen back in 1755.

Meanwhile, the unique Giant’s Causeway offers a great day out for families – an incredible natural phenomenon steeped in myth and legend.

Driving a van on this route gives you the perfect vantage point to enjoy the spectacular scenery on display, including other fantastic locations like Rathlin Island.

 

Carbis Bay in St Ives, Cornwall

Cornwall Coast

Area: South West Coast of England
Route: Bude to Penzance, stopping off at Newquay, Truro and St Ives.
Distance: 101 miles
Duration: One to two days

 What’s the route?

Our final road trip is one that’s perfect for surfing enthusiasts. The county of Cornwall is the best place to ride the waves in the UK and this route takes in all the hotspots, from Bude all the way down to Penzance. Other hotspots along the way include:

  • Summerleaze Beach
  • Polzeath Beach
  • Newquay
  • Truro
  • St Ives

What makes it special?

Surf enthusiasts won’t find a better string of UK surfing locations than in Cornwall. This corner of the country may be renowned for its waves but there’s plenty more to get stuck into too.

From cosy villages that whisk you back in time to the impressive Eden Project eco park, there’s a real range of experiences on offer – if and when you step off the golden sand beaches.

Van driving is pretty straightforward on this route – although there are a few narrow roads to negotiate – and places like Newquay, Penzance and Truro offer good parking facilities.

Ready to start planning your van road trip? Cover yourself with van insurance and look forward to your next adventure.