If you’re planning a trip to England it’s tempting to spend your entire visit in London. Big Ben, Buckingham Palace, the Tower of London … there are plenty of reasons to tour this fantastic city. But if you’re like me and you enjoy venturing off the beaten path while exploring an exciting new destination, consider spending a day or two driving north along the proverbial backbone of England.
A drive through the Pennine Mountain range is one of England’s best road trips and remains a well-kept secret among many international travelers. This gorgeous range of rolling hills offers travelers a chance to step back in time and enjoy an intimate glimpse of rural England: unspoiled countryside that you’ll never forget.
The Pennines (sometimes referred to as the Pennine Fells) are considered one of the most scenic areas in the United Kingdom and this is especially true of the Nidderdale, Bowland, Pendle Hill and the North Pennines – all designated as Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB). Several national parks worth visiting are the Peak District National Park, the Yorkshire Dales National Park and the Northumberland National Park. Avid hikers often travel to this region to enjoy Britain’s oldest footpath, the Pennine Way, which runs 268 miles along the center of the Pennine mountain range.
Drivers touring the Pennine Mountains can expect to enjoy rolling countryside bisected by weathered stone walls. The high hill country is populated by free-ranging sheep, flocks of which will sometimes cross narrow roads right in front of your vehicle. With few fences, ownership of these sheep is determined each spring when free-ranging ewes return to lamb on the open hillsides where they were born. Ancient traditions like this one flourish here and as you drive through the small towns that dot the Pennine hillsides you will be transported; every echo of modern culture feels a lifetime away up here.
Like most of England, the Pennine climate is temperate but you can expect a higher chance of precipitation and stronger winds than you’ll find in the surrounding lowlands.
The good news is that even in bad weather a drive through the Pennine range is one of England’s best road trips, making any season a good time to travel to England. In foul weather wind swirls through roiling waves of fog, offering awe-inspiring views of a landscape pulled straight from the film Braveheart. This part of the country has a deep history of military conflict and it’s easy to imagine William Wallace’s men hiding from British forces or to picture Roman soldiers as they pressed through this rugged landscape to construct Hadrian’s Wall, the northernmost point of their Empire.
England’s Best Road Trips: Northumberland National Park
The northernmost national park in England, Northumberland covers an area of more than 1030 square kilometers and extends from the Scottish border in the north to the southern side of Hadrian’s Wall. While it’s one of the least populated and least visited national parks in the country, travelers who make the drive to Northumberland are rewarded with gorgeous views of the Cheviot hills and rolling moorland below. Make sure to budget time to visit Hadrian’s Wall during your trip to Northumberland.
To visit Northumberland National Park from the south take A68 from Corbridge.
England’s Best Road Trips: Yorkshire Dales National Park
Often referred to simply as “The Dales,” Yorkshire Dales National Park is an upland area of northern England bisected by a number of river valleys. This region rises from the Vale of York to the hilltops of the main Pennine watershed to the west. While there are numerous walking and hiking trails within Yorkshire Dales National Park, many visitors prefer to drive, touring the striking countryside from the comfort of a rental car. Make sure to schedule time to explore Bolton Castle, the Aysgarth Falls and other points of interest in the park.
To visit Yorkshire Dales National Park from the south take M1 and/or A1. From the southwest the M5 and M42 link directly to the M1.
England’s Best Road Trips: Peak District National Park
This gorgeous upland area of northern England lies in northern Derbyshire, extending into parts of Cheshire, Greater Manchester, Staffordshire and southwestern Yorkshire. The Peak District National Park is the oldest national park in England and is known for its varied landscape. Gritstone-based moorlands are found in the north and limestone-based geology dominates the south. The National Park covers 555 square miles (1,440 square kilometers) and rewards travelers with stunning vistas of unspoiled countryside.
The main roads through the Peak District are the A57 (Snake Pass), the A628 (Woodhead Pass), the A6 and the Cat and Fiddle Road. The A635 cuts through the extreme northern end of the park.
Whether you choose to visit one of these three national parks or prefer to chart your own path through the Pennine hill country, a day trip in a comfortable rental car will introduce you to a side of England that offers as much history and beauty as any of London’s tourist hot-spots.
For over 60 years Auto Europe has been helping savvy globe-trotters explore little-known parts of Europe by guaranteeing the lowest rental car rates in the industry. If you’re planning a trip to London and would like to enjoy one of England’s best road trips call Auto Europe toll-free at 1-888-223-5555 and one of our award-winning customer service agents will be happy to help.
And remember – while you’re touring northern England you can connect with us 24/7 by tweeting pictures to @Auto_Europe. We would love to share photos of your adventure and inspire others to explore this gorgeous countryside!