Road trips are the ultimate way to see a place, and they seem to inspire people in a way that two weeks lying on a beach just doesn’t (no offense to two weeks lying on a beach, we know you’re important in a different way). Just look at the books and films that have been inspired by them – On The Road, Travels With Charley, Thelma and Louise… even Little Miss Sunshine.
Lots of people think the road trip is a quintessentially ‘American’ thing though – and to be fair, they do know how to do it properly over there. But we have some some seriously incredible driving routes over this side of the Atlantic too, so don your driving gloves and get the ultimate driving playlist ready – here are some of Europe’s ultimate road trips.
This is the drive that dreams are made of. It’s spectacularly beautiful, very glamorous (darling), sunny… sure, even the air is filled with the fresh scent of world famous Amalfi lemons. What more could you ask for? (Maybe Italian food? Yeah it’s got that too).
This is the sort of place that the superstars flock to, so why not rent yourself an upgraded car – a convertible is always a good look – tie a silk scarf around your head, stick on the hugest pair of sunglasses you can find, and get fully involved.
Salerno is a good place to start, and not too difficult to get to from Rome. From Salerno, just get yourself onto the stunning Strada Statale 163 and head west along the coast. The road has sheer cliff face on one side, and a sheer drop into the Tyrrhenian Sea on the other, so make sure whoever’s behind the wheel knows what they’re doing – but the views are like nothing you can imagine. We recommend a stop at the gorgeous little town of Ravello, a taste of the local limoncello, and a visit to the beautiful (but cheesy and crowded) Grotta dello Smeraldo. Oh who are we kidding, we recommend it all. Take your time, see everything. Send us a postcard.
This is Grimm country…
The fairy tale route is an absolute dream of a road trip that takes you on a driving adventure into the magical German countryside that inspired your favourite fairy tales. You start just outside Frankfurt in Hanau – it’s the birthplace of the Brothers Grimm, so it’s a pretty good jumping off point. From there, the drive is roughly 600km North to Bremen, the final point on the route and an absolutely charming little city that is the setting of the ‘The Town Musicians of Bremen’.
On the drive, you’ll pass through eight gorgeous Natural Parks and loads of spa towns, and there’s a good chance that along the way you’ll realise just how much you’ve totally underestimated Germany’s beauty. It’s incredible. You’ll also get the chance to see some great Grimm landmarks, such as Little Red Riding Hood’s house, the Snow White Museum, and more fairy tale castles than you can wave a magic wand at. Don’t miss Neuschwanstein Castle (pictured), which is about as close to a perfect princess Disney castle as you’ll ever see in real life.
This is the sort of Ireland that you think about when you think about Ireland. The Wild Atlantic Way stretches all the way along Ireland’s epic west coast from Donegal in the North all the way down to west Cork, It’s wild and rugged and green, just like Ireland is supposed to be, and if you’re blessed with good weather, driving some or all of its 2500km is a little slice of heaven here on earth. Even if the weather is rubbish (which can happen in Ireland’s wild west!) it’s an incredible experience – after all the landscape didn’t get the way it is because of year-round sunshine mild breezes…
You can stick to the coast if you have the time and inclination to cover 2500km, but even if you choose portions of the route to really explore and skip a few others, you’ll have an unforgettable experience. Go whale watching, see the Cliffs of Moher, canter along white sands in Connemara… do whatever you like along the way, but prepare for the cobwebs to be well and truly blown away by this one.
Romania’s Transfagarasan Highway is a seriously serpentine stretch of beautiful road that takes intrepid drivers over Transylvania’s Fagarasan mountain range. Ok, it’ll take around three hours just to get there from Bucharest, but if you’re looking for a really epic drive, you better be prepared to drive a measly few hours to get to it. This is totally worth it, a – there are some amazing things to see along the way – and it means you have a great excuse to make a two or three day trip of the whole thing.
If you watch Top Gear, you might know that Jeremy and his motley crew once proclaimed that the Stelvio Pass in Italy was the best drive in the world. Well, they did. Until they drove the Transfagarasan Highway, and promptly changed their minds. The mountains and lakes are just stunning, but that’s not the only draw of this drive; it’s an intense one – dicey in parts, it’s not for the faint-hearted… and there’s a fighting chance that you might get stuck in a traffic jam consisting mostly of sheep. It’s one of those road trips that should be on every real driver’s bucket list.
This is England. Well it’s one particularly picturesque, rural, idyllic part of England. It’s the kind of England that makes you think of clotted cream and strawberry jam; afternoon tea and ploughman’s lunch; local ales and farmhouse cider – and it makes for one of the prettiest road trips in Europe. A drive through the Cotswolds is pure pleasure – picture lush valleys and rolling hills, punctuated by village after gorgeous little village, all higgledy-piggledy with beautiful cottages. It’s endlessly endearing and totally romantic, and you will be charmed.
You can really take any route you like here, but a popular place to start is Chipping Camden, often touted as England’s more ‘perfect high street’. Now far be it for us to appoint ourselves the arbiters of perfection as far as high streets go (airlines, fair enough, but not high streets), but this one is quite lovely. Tally-ho old chums.
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- Dee Murray