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Top UK driving roads (part 1)

Test you and your car on one of our great drives


1. Moffat to Edinburgh, Scotland

Length 51 miles

Your day begins in the historic spa town of Moffat in the Scottish borders but pretty though it is, you’ll be wanting to leave the tea shops for the A701, heading north. The road climbs and winds between the shoulders of vast hills, four of which form the Devil’s Beef Tub where the feared Border Reivers took refuge. And now the fun begins as the road swoops, curls and spears its way through the wild scenery. As you pass through Tweedsmuir village look out for the Crook Inn, Scotland’s oldest coaching inn. Next comes Broughton village where John Buchan, who wrote the classic spy story The Thirty-Nine Steps, once lived. You can just imagine the hero, Scudder, being pursued over the hills. Things calm down beyond Penicuik and the outskirts of Edinburgh but for 40 miles or so, you’ve given your car, and your imagination, a total workout.

Technical difficulty:

★★★☆☆

Testing corners meet opportunist straights

Views:

★★★★☆

Massive skies, brooding hills and tumbling rivers

Drive it in: Subaru WRX STI

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2. Godalming to Chichester, Sussex

Length 30 miles

This fast-flowing drive on clear roads through some of the south east’s finest scenery begins in a town so quintessentially English, it could have been created by Hollywood.  In fact, Godalming did indeed briefly become Tinseltown when it was sprayed with fake snow for its starring role in the Christmas hit movie The Holiday. Leave the town heading south on the A3100 for Milford and thence to the A283, where your drive really kicks off. Most folk choose the A286 leaving you free to a) admire the picture-postcard scenery or b) engage Sport and, conditions permitting, give it some. Soon you’ll be passing the village of Chiddingfold with its strong music connections (the Stranglers and Genesis based themselves here) and within a few miles, historic Petworth House. Now join the A285 and just south of the village of Duncton ready yourself for a joyful but all-too brief switchback ascent of the South Downs escarpment. Thereafter the prospect of the sea carries you to the A27 and Chichester.

Technical difficulty:

★★★☆☆

Flowing bends, long straights, tricky Duncton climb

Views:

★★★☆☆

Olde England at its charming best

Drive it in: Bentley Continental GT

 

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3. Padstow to Newquay, Cornwall

Length 15 miles

Cornish charm, wild sea views and the surfer lifestyle – this quiet (at least in winter), meandering coast road serves it all up on a plate. Begin in Padstow with a hearty lunch at one of Rick Stein’s fish restaurants or better still, fish and chips on the pretty quayside. Then leap in the car and take the B3276 out of town, following signposts to St Merryn. The road is narrow and winding throughout this drive so be careful not to be distracted by the amazing views along the way, among them the Trevose Head lighthouse, built in 1847 and 88ft tall. Half way along your journey the road plunges down to the village of Mawgan Porth with its cafes, surfers and sandy dunes. A torquey diesel will make easy work of the steep ascent on the other side; the narrow, steep-sided inlet giving way to wide open fields and views to Newquay, your destination.  Leave the road as it joins the A3059, busy with surf tourists seeking more energetic pleasures on the town’s Fistral beach.

Technical difficulty:

★★★★☆

Narrow road requires vigilance, hair-trigger responses

Views:

★★★★★

Big sea, big skies, big countryside

Drive it in: VW Golf GT 2.0 TDI

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4. Black Mountain Pass, South Wales

Length 12 miles

Jeremy Clarkson made this route famous driving, appropriately enough, an AMG CLK 63 Black. The Black Mountains in South Wales are where the army trains and perfects survival techniques – it’s that wild and the weather that unpredictable. Head out of the quiet town of Llangadog on the A4069 signed for Upper Brynamman. You’ll wonder what the fuss is about at this point. The road gently winds its way through neat fields but as the bends become tighter you sense the mood change. Pretty soon the fields have gone to be replaced by craggy outcrops and moorland, the gentle corners by savage switchbacks and fast, open straights. In these conditions and with your senses alert to other road users and the changing weather, your humble Mondeo will be Clarkson’s CLK AMG. Well, you can only dream and after just 12 miles you can turn around and do it all over again.

Technical difficulty:

★★★★★

Expect poor weather on this demanding road

Views:

★★★☆☆

Good but you won’t see them – you’ll be too busy

Drive it in: Mercedes CL 63 AMG

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5. The Snowdon Loop, North Wales

Length 35 miles

You can start this wonderful tour of Snowdonia at Capel Curig but the real drama begins a few miles along the A4086 with the junction of the A498 at Pen-y-Gwryd . Staying on the A4086 you’re now heading along the Llanberis Pass, Snowdonia’s answer to the Lake District’s Hardknott and Wrynose Passes . So expect a road that twists and turns through wild, soaring scenery. On the way you’ll pass the Llyn Peris dam, otherwise known as the Electric dam. Its water is pumped to the Marchlyn Mawr dam above and released to drive turbines and generate electricity at times of peak demand. If you can bear to break off from your drive, you can visit the power station located deep in the mountain side. At Maes-y-Bryn avoid continuing to Caernarfon and pick up the road for Caeathro from where you return to the start via the A4085 and at historic Beddgelert, the A498.

Technical difficulty:

★★★★☆

Off-camber corners, road suddenly narrowing can catch the unwary

Views:

★★★★★

Soaring peaks, plunging valleys and fertile plains

Drive it in: BMW 135i M Sport

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Read Top UK driving roads part two here