Enjoy 5 of the best coastal road trips in the UK & Ireland

Posted on 12/06/2020 by Mike, Spaceships Crew


Your Spaceships campervan or motorhome is a great way to visit the coast. Here is how you can enjoy 5 of the best coastal road trips in the UK & Ireland.

  1. North Coast 500, Northern Scotland
  2. Wild Atlantic Way, Northern Ireland & Ireland
  3. A39 & The Atlantic Highway, South West England
  4. Swansea - Aberystwyth, South & Mid-Wales
  5. Norfolk Coast Drives - Eastern England

 

1. North Coast 500

Scotland's answer to Route 66 covers over 500 miles of the stunning northern coastline. Starting in the UK's most northerly city, Inverness, this circular coastal road trip can be travelled clockwise or anti-clockwise. Clockwise, head west to Applecross with amazing views over the sea to the Isle of Skye. You'll also get the chance to drive up Bealach na Ba, the UK's steepest road which twists uphill to over 2,000 feet. Its name means Pass of Cattle, so keep a lookout for the Highland "Coos".

A Spaceships Voyager campervan in Northern Scotland

Can you spot the Spaceships Voyager campervan on a breathtaking coastal road trip in Scotland?

It's difficult to pick out highlights of this amazing drive, but if you love white, sandy beaches with azure blue waters, try Mellon Udrigle or Achmelvich. You'll pass through the bustling town of Ullapool before heading along the north coast of Scotland towards John O'Groats with its iconic sign post. Take in Dunrobin Castle, the largest in Scotland and make a stop at the Fairy Glen waterfalls near Rosemarkie.

The North Coast 500 is a truly spectacular road trip, and every section will give you breathtaking views and lifelong memories.

Don't Miss

Smoo Cave near Durness. Walk in or take a guided tour into the caves and witness the amazing 60 foot waterfall that crashes into the cave.

What to Eat

Haggis. It's offal and barley in a sheep's stomach, and tastes, unsurprisingly, much better than it sounds. Scotland also produces world-class seafood and shellfish and some of the best raspberries in the UK.

What to Drink

Whisky. Once you've finished the day's driving, call in to taste a "wee dram" at Glenmorangie or Glen Ord distilleries, both en route.

Top Tip

Take warm & waterproof clothes. The weather can change quickly and soon turn "dreich" (dreary & bleak).

 

2. Wild Atlantic Way

The island of Ireland's Wild Atlantic Way is one of the longest coastal road trips in the world, stretching over 2500kms from County Donegal in the north to the south eastern tip of County Cork. 

Here are some of the highlights heading north to south. The road trip starts at Mallin Head, the most northerly point in Ireland. It's a good place to see the Northern Lights (Aurora Borealis) which regularly appear over the sea.

There is no shortage of cliffs on the Wild Atlantic Way. Slieve League (Sliabh Laig in Gaelic) is 3 times higher than the breathtaking Cliffs of Moher. The sea stack at Downpatrick Head in County Mayo is where St Patrick himself founded a church, while further south in County Kerry you can look over the sea to Skellig Islands. Home to monks in the 6th - 12th centuries, they are now a UNESCO World Heritage Site as well as a location in the Star Wars movie, The Last Jedi.

A Spaceships motorhome on the Wild Atlantic Way

A Spaceships motorhome on the Wild Atlantic Way

The Wild Atlantic Way passes Mizzen Head before ending at the Old Head of Kinsale in County Cork, a large promontory reaching out into the sea with its own golf course and lighthouse.

Don't Miss

Galway, with its winding, cobbled streets, live music, cafés and bars.

What to Eat

Galway Oysters, Soda Bread, Irish Stew and Broxty, a pancake made from potatoes.

What to Drink

Guinness (Other stouts are available Wink ), Irish Coffee with Whiskey & whipped cream or Club Rock Shandy, unique to Ireland.

Top Tip

Be patient. There's an art to pouring Guinness and it's a slow process...

 

A word or two about Whisky and Whiskey

In Scotland, Whisky has no "e", whereas Irish Whiskey has an "e".

 

3. The A39 & The Atlantic Highway

You will have heard the line "Get your kicks on Route 66" but in the West Country of England, it's more a case of "Feelin' fine on the A39"! This road runs from Bath through Dorset into North Devon, before becoming The Atlantic Highway as it heads along the coast into Cornwall.

You could begin your A39 road trip in the Roman town of Bath, before heading south west via Wells, Glastonbury and Bridgewater. As we're looking at 5 of the best coastal road trips, we'll focus on the stretch west of the M5 motorway, along the coast and up into the hills of the Exmoor National Park in Devon. From there, the A39 drops down to Barnstaple where The Atlantic Highway really begins.

You'll cross into Cornwall at Welcombe Cross, just north and west of the River Tamar that marks the border between Devon and Cornwall. From there you'll pass the beaches at Bude before going past Tintagel Castle, the birthplace of King Arthur, as legend has it. The road zigzags along the Cornish coast passing close to Padstow and on to Newquay. From there, the road becomes the A30 for a short time before branching onto the A39 inland to Truro and Falmouth on the south coast. You could stay on the A30 to end your road trip at Penzance or go all the way to Land's End at the south western edge of the British Isles.

Don't Miss

Clovelly with its steep, cobbled street down to the harbour.

What to Eat

Cream tea, but be careful. It's a scone with clotted cream and jam on top in Devon, and a scone with jam and clotted cream on top in Cornwall! And of course, don't forget the famous Cornish pasties.

Enjoy a Cornish Pasty on your road trip in Cornwall

Enjoy a Cornish Pasty on your coastal road trip in Cornwall

What to Drink

West Country Cider or Scrumpy, but make sure you've finished driving - it's strong stuff. Maybe stick to tea with a scone and jam/cream or cream/jam!

Top Tip

Don't forget your surf board (or body board) to hit the Atlantic waves.

There are a wide range of campsites along the coast throughout the UK and Ireland. You can use our helpful campsite finder to locate and book a perfect campsite on your coastal road trip. Check out our Campsite Finder here

4. Swansea to Aberystwyth

The only one of our coastal road trips without its own name - maybe we should call it the "Flight of the Red Dragon"...

To begin, head to Swansea to explore the beautiful Gower Peninsula and superb Rhossili Beach, the first of many along the Pembrokeshire and Ceredigion coasts. Follow the coast up to Carmarthen and on to the seaside towns of Saundersfoot and Tenby. Your route then heads north to Pembroke, Haverfordwest and St David's, the resting place of St David and UK's smallest city.

Head north west towards Fishguard stopping to explore the Pembrokeshire Coastal Path around Strumble Head. Follow the A487 through Cardigan along the Ceredigion Coast to to the charming Victorian resort of Aberystwyth. You can stop at any number of villages and beaches like Aberporth and Aberaeron. 

Spaceships Strumble Head

The lighthouse at Strumble Head on the coastal path l Picture: Jayfredem - CC BY 2.0

Don't Miss

Dolphins. Ceredigion Bay is home to Europe's largest colony of Bottlenose Dolphins.

What to Eat

Welsh Rarebit, a supercharged Welsh cheese on toast, Bara Brith, a fruit cake, Cawl, a broth of Welsh lamb & leeks and Laverbread made of seaweed.

What to Drink

Tea with Bara Brith or a traditional beer from one of the 80 breweries in Wales.

Top Tip

Speak a little Welsh. Bore Da is Good Morning, Diolch, Thank You and Iechyd Da (Yaki Dar) is Good Health or Cheers.

5. Norfolk's Coast Drives

A beautiful road trip along Norfolk's east and north coasts from Great Yarmouth to Hunstanton.

Your journey begins in the seaside resort of Great Yarmouth, before heading north up the winding B1159 to Cromer, an stretch of about 35 miles of continuous beaches. You'll pass through Horsey, the only Norfolk coastal village on The Broads before seeing the distinctive red and white striped lighthouse on the cliffs at Happisburgh. It's the UK's last independent lighthouse and on Summer Sundays you can climb up to the lantern.

You'll drive through Mundesley with its colourful beach huts before reaching Cromer and its Victorian pier and beaches. Continue your road trip around the north Norfolk coast on the A149. Next stop is Sherringham, then Blakeney and Morston on the tidal salt marshes. Here you can take a boat trip to Blakeney Point to sea the seal colony.

Holkham Beach on a Spaceships coastal rod trip in Norfolk

Big sky, sea and sand at Holkham beach l photo: Histogram_man - CC0 1.0

If you arrive at Holkham Beach at low tide, you will barely see the sea across this vast beach. Your road trip continues through a designated AONB (Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty) and on to Hunstanton. It's the only west facing coastal town in Norfolk and is known locally as "Sunny Hunny". Don't miss the sun setting over Lincolnshire from the beach with its distinctive red and white cliffs.

Don't miss

Holkham and Wells-Next-The-Sea. The beaches join and the harbour town of Wells, is well, next to the sea!

What to Eat

Cromer Crab, Brancaster Mussels, Stiffkey Cockles (known locally as Stewkey Blues because of their colour from the salt marshes) and samphire or sea asparagus.

What to Drink

It's a beer at the end of your drive again. Norfolk has the finest malting barley in the country and more microbreweries than any other county.

Top Tip

Take binoculars. Norfolk's coast is brilliant for bird watching. The marshes attract migrant birds and waders and the RSPB Nature Reserve at Titchwell Marsh is home to avocets, marsh harriers and many more varieties.

 

Our top 5 coastal road trip tips

  1. Take your time. It's a road trip, not a race. Be prepared to stop on narrow roads and enjoy the journey
  2. Leave no trace. Take litter home and respect local communities and the environment
  3. Sneak a snack. Take plenty of snacks and drinks to stay energised and hydrated 
  4. Plan ahead. Pre-plan your stops to make the most of your road trip
  5. Quality not quantity. Don't take on too much. Better to enjoy a shorter stretch than aim for more miles

 

These are 5 of the best coastal road trips in the UK and Ireland. They will create lifelong memories for you, and now you can take your dog on a Spaceships road trip to the coast.

The only problem is which one? Don't worry, renting your Spaceship is such great value, the real question is which one first?

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