Staycation UK: The best places to stay this summer
Having free reign of international travel is not looking likely this year, so where is the best place for a UK staycation? Well, we’ve got the lowdown from Ferrari to help answer that question - from the UK’s own version of Route 66 to where Netflix’s award-winning The Crown was filmed.
We understand that not everybody will be able to cruise around in a 3.9-litre V8 turbo Ferrari Portofino M, but that shouldn’t stop you exploring the UK in whatever car you drive.
Honister Pass, Lake District
The Lake District’s finest uninterrupted driving is to be found on the Honister Pass, which is the section of the B5289 between Seatoller and Gatesgarth. The Honister Pass is only 3.7 miles long, but if you start in Keswick and take the B5289 south past Derwent Water, follow the Honister Pass west and take the right hand turn north up the Newlands Pass to Braithwaite, then take the A66 east for a few minutes back to Keswick, you’ll have racked up 23 miles of smiles.
- The Pass skirts the Honister Slate Mine, the last working mine of its kind in England. It’s also a tourist attraction, offering underground tours, climbing and abseiling.
- Something the Lake District is not short of is fine dining. There are more Michelin-starred restaurants here per capita than London, Paris and Tokyo combined, as evidenced in Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon’s comi-travel series The Trip. Top of the list is L’Enclume.
You may also wish to pay your respects to the region’s most famous speed demon. Donald Campbell CBE set the world water speed record on Ullswater in 1955 at an average speed of 202.32mph. He would die in 1967 at Coniston Water, aged 45, trying to go faster still, and is now buried in the churchyard. Campbell’s headstone is easy to spot - there’s a bluebird on it.
A686, Cumbria and Northumberland
The Pennines never disappoint, and the A686 is a particularly majestic marriage of geography and engineering, full of zig-zagging and gear-changing joy throughout. You will insist on manual-mode here.
The beguiling 37 miles that connect Penrith, Cumbria, with the village of Haydon Bridge in Northumberland ranks as one of the north of England’s top three bits of blacktop. Crossing the River Eden, the road starts climbing and the landscape begins to brown from Melmerby to 580m above sea level at the Hartside summit, providing views across the Solway Firth and to Scotland.
The well-sighted road leads to Alston, a charming village with quaint cobbled streets which claims to be England’s highest market town (they’re locked in a bragging battle with Buxton). The A686 beyond Alston cruises through another astonishing panorama of windswept upland before blasting down to the River Allen’s wooded gorge and throwing in some more stellar switchbacks for good measure.
Northumberland’s most acclaimed hotel of the moment is the Lord Crewe Arms, 20 miles south east of Haydon Bridge, in the honey-hued village of Blanchland. Its beauty has drawn poets including WH Auden and Philip Larkin. The fabric of the building dates back to a 12th century priory. Blanchland Abbey was lauded for its hospitality for 400 years until its dissolution in 1539. It passed through different private ownerships and from the 1720s, as the Lord Crewe Arms, served pints to miners after their shift.
The pub part is now housed in the vaulted crypt. Food is worshipped upstairs, either in the Bishop’s dining room or beside a fireplace big enough to toast the toes of his entire flock. It’s so large that Tory politician, landowner and rebel ‘General’ Tom Foster hid inside it during the 1715 Jacobite rising, and the hotel is said to be haunted by his sister, Dorothy.
Black Mountain Road, Brecon Beacons
So wild is the Brecon Beacons’ wilderness, that this is where the SAS train. The roads which criss-cross it are as majestic as the land itself. There’s the B4560, A470, A470, A4059, A4067, and best of all the A4069, aka Black Mountain Road.
Located in the western area of the national park, it’s famous for its twists, dips and climbs, and is known to many petrolheads as ‘the Top Gear road’. Stretching from Upper Brynamman up to Llangadog, it’s 20 miles long and reaches a height of 493m above sea level. From a driving perspective, the road is best tackled from north to south, especially the hairpin known as Tro Gwcw, or ‘Cuckoo Turn’, but the breathtaking views of the Tywi Valley are best appreciated going the other way, so you should turn around and come back the way you came.
Located on the A465 in the small village of Llanfihangel Crucorney, the 12th century Skirrid Mountain Inn is said to be the most haunted pub in the country, having once been a rallying point for those revolting against the rule of Henry IV.
North Coast 500
There are many roads around the world capable of vying for the title World’s Greatest. From the scenically spectacular - Australia’s Great Ocean Road, say, or California’s Pacific Coast Highway; and the exciting - Italy’s Stelvio Pass and Mount Fuji’s Touge roads; through to the dangerous - Bolivia’s Yungas Road or, for that matter, Germany’s killer Nürburgring. But we’ll wager that the most joyfully sublime route of them all is right here in the UK: Scotland’s northernmost coastal and highland roads.
It’s become known as the North Coast 500. Some call it Scotland’s Route 66; a 516-mile loop from Inverness to the tip of the isle and circumnavigating back. It’s popular in Summer with supercars, caravans, bikers and cyclists, each tackling it at their own pace but pausing regularly to absorb the cracking views.
Drive the route anticlockwise and you’ll find the scenery just gets more and more spectacular. Take the A9 out of Inverness, cross the Black Isle, named after its dark farming soil, and pass the Dalmore whisky distillery to make your way up the east coast.
Pass the turreted Dunrobin Castle and continue along the A9 until Dunbeath. Take the A99 and keep an eye out for dolphins. At Wick, you may wish to visit the five-storey 15th century Ackergill Tower. Transporting you back in time, this castle (which has lately been used as a filming location for The Crown) is stocked with interesting antiques and furniture, taxidermy and tartan, and boasts an enchanting vista of coal-black rock stacks and crashing waves.
The scenery, unbelievably, continues to improve. Through South West Sutherland, you will pass the dramatic peaks of Canisp, Cul Mor and Ben More Assynt. This Geopark consists of some of the most ancient and unique geology on the planet, dating back three billion years. Park at Gruinard Bay, and admire its rocky coves and unusual pink sand leading out to island-studded waters.
The twistiest part of the journey is the Bealach na Ba mountain pass. The views across to the Isle of Skye here are incredible and it feels like you’re on the edge of the world. At Applecross, look out for bobbing seals.
Careful of the fog that often descends on Beinn Bhan mountain, for the drops are sheer. Once back on the A832 you’ll be able to put the hammer down and the threescore of these final 516-miles will flicker in the rear-view mirror.