Start the journey in busy Windermere, the region’s popular hub. Amble through Keswick, its lake speckled with beautiful wooden boats, then dip south through Borrowdale, lined with teashops and cottages. After that comes the pass itself, followed by the descent besides lovely Buttermere, particularly good for local ice cream. Beyond, the hills subside to the coastline, past Cockermouth where Wordsworth was born, a peaceful backwater and former coal-mining community with a 17th century harbour.
Stay: the Kirkstile Inn, by Loweswater, has excellent food and cosy open fires. Doubles with breakfast from £112, kirkstile.com
WELSH RAREBIT: Chester to Shrewsbury, Welsh Borders
Chester may look Tudor, with all its half-timbered houses, but this foodie town has extensive Roman remains too, with its sandstone walls dating back to the first century AD.
It was built to defend the empire from the Wild and Woolly Welsh, and you don’t have to travel far west to cross the border, the road climbing steadily up Llantysilio to the Horseshoe Pass, so called because of its huge sweep of a bend.
At the bottom sits popular Llangollen, which has something of an Alpine resort about it, lodged as it is in the steep-walled valley of the River Dee.
Steam locomotives hoot their way in and out of town, and cyclists refuel with ‘bara brith’, a kind of spiced Welsh tea loaf.
A few miles east is Pontcysyllte aqueduct, a Thomas Telford-designed marvel which carries the Llangollen Canal across the Dee Valley to Chirk, from where the A5 heads south to Shrewsbury, the powerhouse of border country, with steep brick-paved lanes ensnared within a loop of the River Severn.
Stay: The Red Lion, a former coaching inn in Ellesmere, sympathetically combines new rooms with traditional features. Doubles from £75 with breakfast, redlion-ellesmere.co.uk
RETRO RESORTS: Southwold to Orford
Suffolk’s Heritage Coast is not a place of giddy cliffs and crashing surf, but of whimsical nuggets of forest and heath, marsh and reeds, its seaside towns linked by a meandering road.
Prime among them is the Georgian resort of Southwold, with its pier and the Sailor’s Reading Room, where the day’s tide tables are chalked on a board.
Around 10 miles south lies Thorpeness, which looks like a model village which has mistakenly been built actual size, with an artificial lake at its centre, complete with sailboats for hire.
Chester’s Tudor buildings and mountains reflected in Buttermere Lake
A colourful row of huts stands on the beach at Southwold in Suffolk
The former fishing village of Aldeburgh, beyond, has had an arty renaissance thanks to the annual festival started by Benjamin Britten at Snape Maltings, a complex of converted Victorian granaries and malthouses.
After Aldeburgh comes Dunwich, famous for no longer existing, being two-thirds under water thanks to coastal erosion, and finally Orford, a handsome town with its big ‘Ness’ – a 10-mile (and growing) otherworldly spit of shingle, much loved by film makers.
Stay: Aldeburgh’s boutiquey seafront Brudenell Hotel has doubles from £121, brudenell hotel.co.uk.
ONE TRACK MIND: NC500, Scotland
The North Coast 500, a 500-mile ribbon of narrow tarmac around the coastline of Scotland, starting and finishing in Inverness, has been the UK’s road trip success story of recent years. So much so that other parts of Scotland are following suit – such as the new Heart200.
But the NC500’s west coast scenery is unbeatable, from the Pass of the Cattle on the road to Applecross, with fabulous views across to the Isle of Skye, to the raw peaks of Assynt, piebald with grasslands and peppered with whitewashed croft houses and crisp immaculate beaches.
A 500-mile ribbon of narrow tarmac snakes around the coastline of Scotland
Stay: The Poolewe Hotel sits on the shores of massive Loch Ewe, with its fascinating wartime history.
Doubles with breakfast from £110, poolewehotel.co.uk
PUDDING RUN: York to Whitby, Yorkshire
The coast is everyone’s safety valve, and this route is loved by Yorkies in search of fresh air – and chips.
First stop is Malton, the market town famous for its foodie weekends and Yorkshire pudding; south of here is the Yorkshire Wolds, that understated rolling landscape recently celebrated by David Hockney, while up north is Pickering, start of the spectacular North York Moors steam railway (as in the Channel Five TV series).
The sea hoves into sight at Scarborough, with its faded grandeur and broad beaches, after which the road rises as it goes north to run along the back of Robin Hood’s Bay, whose picturesque fishing village is the endpoint of the Coast to Coast walking trail.
Whitby itself, a fishing port shoved into a river-carved cleft in the hills, is famous for its ruined abbey and its Dracula connections. Best known for its dozens of fish restaurants is the Magpie Café, often with long queues.
Stay: OK, it’s a hostel, but it is also a Grade I listed mansion right up by Whitby Abbey, with magnificent views.
Private rooms from £29, yha.org.uk
Tuck into fish and chips at pretty Whitby, a port well known for its abbey
UP THE TROSSACHS: Aberfoyle to Aberfeldy, Scotland
This succulent bit of Scotland is often missed by visitors heading for the coasts and the islands, but it has a bit of everything: forest, loch, mountain and glen, and it is easily accessible from Glasgow and Edinburgh.
Starting point Aberfeldy is an outdoorsy village in the Trossachs National Park, in loch-nestling hills tufted by forest and threaded by the long-distance path named after local outlaw, Rob Roy.
Head north past Loch Katrine, with its antique steamship, on a swooping road through Brig o’Turk. Then turn right at Lochearnhead to bob along the shore to posh Comrie, a village which has a remarkably intact SecondWorld War prisoner of war camp.
Beyond Crieff cut through the heather-clad Ochil Hills via what is locally known as the Sma’ Glen, into a Wild and wonderful slice of the Highlands, before descending again to verdant Aberfeldy, where JK Rowling and family savour the peace and quiet.
The Trossachs are often missed by visitors
Stay: Comrie Croft has forest glamping in Nordic kata tents, equipped to sleep six, from £99 a night, comriecroft.com
MOOR TO SEA: Langport to Woolacombe, West Country
There’s a medieval flavour to the Somerset Levels, with their ancient irrigation schemes, winter floods and monasteries and churches on little bumps of land, such as at Muchelney and Burrow Mump.
There’s a certain mystical spirituality here too, under the spell of nearby Glastonbury Tor.
From Langport head west to cross the M5 near Bridgwater, then make for Dunster, one of England’s most intact medieval villages, between the foothills of Exmoor National Park and the Somerset coast.
From here a real roller coaster of a road constantly distracts drivers, with great views and switchbacks, before plunging down into Lynmouth. Head inland up the forested valley of the river Lyn, up onto heathery Exmoor and Simonsbath, a crossroads hamlet in the middle of nowhere.
Finally strike west again for Woolacombe, and one of the most pristine sandy beaches anywhere in the country.
Stay: The Exmoor Forest Inn may be a bit old-fashioned, but its lonely Simonsbath location is superb. Doubles with breakfast from £87, exmoorforestinn.com
Barra to Lewis, Scotland For raw, elemental beauty there’s little that can match the Outer Hebrides.
And it’s not just the landscape and the Wildlife that’s compelling: the culture is too. Starting at craggy Barra, where incoming flights land on the beach. Be aware that once you get to North Uist the islanders are hospitable during the week, but disapproving of non-church activity on a Sunday.
Short ferry crossings connect the islands, and the most memorable route along the east coast of Harris is on the so-called Golden Road, because it cost so much to carve this tightest, twistiest hardtop through the rocky landscape.
On Lewis, be sure to divert to the standing stones at Callanish, a Celtic henge where you’re able to get right among the monoliths, unlike at Stonehenge.
You’ll end up in Stornoway, the Hebridean capital which features regularly on national weather forecasts, and for good reason: there’s a lot of weather up here!? Stay: Finsbay cottages on the’ Golden Road are a mix of new and old; Cliff Cottage sleeps four and costs from £400 a week, finsbaycottages.co.uk.