Let’s face it: theft probably won’t be on most people’s radar this summer. Even if government travel restrictions are lifted, the idea of being sprayed with disinfectant before boarding, long quarantines after the trip and being in a sealed aluminum breeding grounds on a ship (formerly known as plane) for extended periods of time doesn’t look at all that is attractive right now. But we hope we can at least drive until our summer vacation this year, and that our neighbors, France and Ireland (we miss you) will be accessible. Here is our guide to the best British, French and Irish road trips that (fingers, toes and crossed suitcases) you may be able to do this year…
North coast of scotland 500
If you really want to get away this summer, how does the edge of the UK sound? Drive to the far reaches of Scotland on this famous scenic route, which begins in Inverness, follows the west coast to Applecross and then leads to Torridon and Ullapool. Stops in the north include Caithness and John o ‘Groats (the most north-eastern tip of Britain), and you will pass wind-blown coastal towns, remote Highland villages and some of the prettiest rugged landscapes (with car credentials to prove it) around the world. Ideally located at the start and end of the north coast road, the Achnagairn area is your best bet for laying your head (especially if you have camped along the most remote parts of your trip).
Dublin to Sligo, Ireland
One good thing to come out of the lock was Normal people (and the ability to watch 12 episodes in one session please) – and the scenery for the adaptation of Sally Rooney’s novel was just as attractive as the actors. Follow in the footsteps of Marianne and Connell on the three-hour trip between Dublin and Sligo, which includes loughs, woods and Ireland’s oldest megalithic ruins. Notable stops include Mullingar, Longford and Carrick-on-Shannon. In Dublin, you can be sure of Irish hospitality (and great madness) at the Wilder Townhouse near St Stephen’s Green. The ferry from Holyhead to Dublin is the fastest but there are also services from Liverpool.
Is there a more fabulous coastline than the French Riviera? If there is one, we haven’t found it yet. Get in a car (preferably a convertible), add a chic scarf and Grace Kelly canal (or Bridget Jones) for a cruise along the French Riviera, from St Tropez to Menton near the Italian border, stopping at Golden Antibes, artist-approved St Paul de Vence and really nice Nice on the way. Movie stars may not be in a rush at La Croisette for the famous festival, but I hope you can: Cannes is also on the road, as is the playground of the Monaco princes. There are several sacred hotels to visit, including the Grande Dame Hôtel du Cap-Eden-Roc and the more modern Cap d´Antibes Beach Hotel, where Roman Abramovich regularly likes to anchor; or play as the Provencal princess at the Château de la Messardière, worthy of a fairy tale in St Tropez. Otherwise, there may be room at Elton…
The Yorkshire Dales
The Yorkshire Dales and their attached AONB Nidderdale extend over several thousand square kilometers of heaths, valleys, green and picturesque hills, straight out ofPostman Pat villages, with one of Britain’s most spectacular jetty roads – so spectacular in fact, it has often been used for Top Gear road tests. The Buttertubs Pass (named after limestone potholes, or pots of butter, it passes) is the iconic route of the region, but with this bucolic beauty on your doorstep, there are many more trips to do . Settle in at Grantley Hall, where days of exploring the moors and buying cheese at Wensleydale end with Michelin-starred dinners, superb spa treatments, and rosé delivered to the outdoor hot tub.
The Atlantic Road
Technically, this portion of tarmac is called the A39, but we would much prefer its much more evocative alternative: the Atlantic route, which begins in Somerset and descends to the northeast corner of Cornwall. You will pass beaches with incredible names (Crackington Haven, Widemouth Bay, Strangles), pretty fishing villages and medieval castles; surf cities like Newquay; and the red deer trailing on Exmoor. There is even a museum of witchcraft and magic to stretch your legs. The summit is Land’s End, the westernmost tip of the country. Scheduled to open in July, the last Pig hotel – The Pig at Harlyn Bay, just outside Padstow – will (hopefully) be the perfect pit stop this summer.
Calais to Massignac, France
If the borders reopen and the ferries are running, taking the car to Dover and crossing to Calais will open the French countryside this summer. We hope that the great Champagne areas of Champagne will welcome visitors, as we can think of around 200 reasons to celebrate. If you drank a little too much during the lockdown, the Royal Champagne Hotel & Spa has a detoxification program – but with the Dom Pérignon vineyards lined up outside, it would be rude not to at least clink your glasses for a better future once or twice. Lower down in rural France and ideal for maintaining social distance this summer, the Domaine des Etangs (above) has no less than 2,500 hectares to keep away from other humans, and several isolated chalets for (continue to) hide.
Wales Black Mountain Pass
Brecon Beacons National Park may still be closed, but if the Welsh mountain range opens in time for summer, it will be the dream setting for socially distant driving and camping in the wild (we don’t don’t think sheep can spread Covid). The A4069, more romantic under the name of Black Mountain Pass, crosses the western part of the park, twisting and turning through Lower and Upper Brynamman, and climbing at 1600 feet before descending on Llandovery. Rest tired heads at the Felin Fach Griffin, who will also make sure to empty the stomachs with Welsh beef and lamb, game from neighboring areas and produce gathered from the vegetable patch.
Lake District Hardknott Pass
Drivers who aren’t afraid of hill starts or who have automatic cars will love the Hardknott Pass in the Lake District, which is part of the steepest road competition in England. Its very nickname testifies to its haste: “hard knott” (strictly harthr knutr) is Old Norse for “hard steep hill”. The pass is in the Esk Valley between the central Lake District and western Cumbria, and there are many more lakeside lanes to explore in this endlessly attractive part of the country. Quote Wordsworth as you advance from Grasmere to Windermere via Ambleside; hit the gas at Kirkstone Pass between Windermere and Ullswater, the highest pass in the lakes; trace the circular route around Bassenthwaite Lake; or spot the Herdwicks (rustic native sheep in the area) on the road between Keswick and Grasmere. The Spa Lodges at Gilpin Hotel & Lake House are exactly where to soothe cramped members after days in the car.
Ring of Kerry of Ireland
A ferry crossing to Dublin and a 2.5-hour journey south will take you to Cliff Beach House in County Waterford, where each room overlooks the Atlantic through floor-to-ceiling windows. Heading west, you will reach the Ring of Kerry in a matter of hours – and this summer may well be the perfect time to take the popular route to the South West of Ireland, as there will likely be far fewer tourists. . The iconic 120-mile circuit around the Iveragh Peninsula spans Killarney National Park, the Cliffs of Kerry and Ross Castle.
Wales Coastal Path
Follow the Coastal Way all the way from Cardigan Bay in West Wales from Aberdaron to St Davids, a 180-mile route with plenty of options for getting out of the car – including hiking Snowdon, sea kayaking under towering cliffs or surfing at Whitesands Bay. There is also the Pembrokeshire Coast Path for walking and the smallest town in Britain – St Davids, with its small population of 1841 inhabitants – to explore. Staying overnight in Aberaeron is a convenient stop; we love the comfortable cobalt Harbourmaster hotel, located on the quay.
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