Stop off at bucolic beauty spots, reroute for a city buzz. Take detours down country lanes, pause for sheep in no hurry to cross. A road trip isn’t just about getting from A to B – the journey is as important as the destination. And driving electric means you’re helping the environment too. We’ve put together a two-week, eco-friendly UK road trip planner. It steers you from the furthest south to north, with stops for some of the island’s best bits along the way.
Before you hit the road, find out everything you need to know about electric car travel. For the definitive guide to greener holidays in Great Britain and Northern Ireland, buy the groundbreaking guidebook, The Rough Guide to Green Britain and Northern Ireland.
Now, the record holders (Ben and Jeff Allan) for this EV trip conquered the drive in just under a day, but this two-week tour, from the far southwest of England to the far north of Scotland, follows a more leisurely route. We’ve highlighted our favourite sustainable attractions along the way, as well as some charming places to stay – but of course you can tailor the details to match your interests.
Start at Land’s End: admire the impressive views of the cliffs facing the Atlantic and make use of the on-site chargepoint if you want to start your trip fully charged. This cross-country drive is full of scenic sections, but one of the most striking comes at the start of your journey.
The North Cornwall and Devon coastline opens up an array of spectacular vistas – drink them in as you travel the Atlantic Highway. The stretch of the A39 between the outskirts of Newquay and Barnstaple is much loved: romantics flock to Tintagel in search of King Arthur, to Morwenstow in homage to the Reverend Hawker, and to Boscastle, where Thomas Hardy found his first love.
Take your time along the way to discover the surfing beaches at Baggy Point, or plump for a swim at the Art Deco Jubilee Pool in Penzance. The tidal seawater open-air lido is a shining example of sustainability. Heated with geothermal energy and sustainable heat pumps, the water has less chlorine than a glass of tap water, and chemicals are never drained into the sea.
Continuing into Somerset, stop off at the amazing geological phenomenon that is Cheddar Gorge. The limestone ravine cuts a jagged three-mile gash across the southern edge of Somerset’s Mendip Hills – a two-mile-long road squeezes between cliffs 450ft high.
It’s designated as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, a Site of Special Scientific Interest and a Special Area of Conservation. Many rare and endangered species live here, including greater and lesser horseshoe bats, dormice, water voles, otters and great crested newts. On the rocky outcrops and scree slopes are flowers so rare they only live in Cheddar: the Cheddar pink and the Cheddar bedstraw.
If you have time, pick from the many walks on offer to stretch your car legs – the National Trust will provide you with a map at their information point while your EV tops up in Cheddar.
From here, drive through the picturesque Cotswolds onto Oxford, penned by poet Thomas Arnold as the “City of Dreaming Spires”, where you can enjoy punting through peaceful backwaters on the River Cherwell. Punts can be hired from the Cherwell Boathouse – but if the idea of propelling yourself through the water standing up makes you nervous, take a chauffeured punt.
Continue to push the boat out by staying at the Old Parsonage Hotel. This intimate art-filled space is housed in a luxury hotel with bags of character; the walled terrace is a lovely spot for afternoon tea. The Parsonage Grill uses quality produce to prepare British classic dishes with a modern twist.
Head further north onto the Peak District. The is one of the longer stretches to cover, so be sure to bring plenty of supplies with you.
Leave your car behind for a couple of days as you make time to traverse the countryside of the Peak District on foot. Various walks take in the Peaks’ famous escarpment, Stanage Edge, most conveniently setting off from the village of Hathersage.
A kind of Peak District Table Mountain in miniature, the four miles of gritstone cliff have been scaled since the nineteenth century, while the surrounding dry-stone dykes, historic buildings and rugged moors have been sewn into England’s cultural and literary landscape for much longer.
Stay at Hoe Grange Farm for eco-tranquillity. Pretty-as-a-picture glamping pods, log cabins and gypsy caravans are fitted out with cutting edge infrared technology heating and LED lighting, all run from the farm’s own ground-source heat pumps, solar and wind power. There’s a chemical-free Swedish hot tub on-site and pods and caravans have firepits. There’s also an EV chargepoint on site, so you’re ready to go in the morning.
After a couple of days walking, you’ll want to get back out in your EV. Try driving Hardknott Pass in the Lake District, one of the steepest roads in the UK. The challenging terrain will mean you’re sure to notice the benefits of driving an EV – the batteries are often found in the floor of the car, providing excellent balance and weight distribution. It also makes the handling around corners extremely safe and reliable.
While you’re in the Lake District go kayaking or sailing on Coniston Water. Although not one of the most imposing of the lakes, it has a quiet beauty that sets it apart from more popular destinations. Hire a kayak or a sailing dinghy from the Coniston Boating Centre, where all profits go towards conserving the Lake District for future generations.
Continue into Scotland via Edinburgh to enjoy the excellent selection of fresh fish restaurants, which rely on ingredients from Scotland’s lochs, rivers and coastline. We’ve spotlighted Ondine, which turns out sublime dishes using native shellfish and seafood from sustainable sources and local family-owned businesses. Oysters are key to the menu, and are considered one of the most sustainable sources of protein on the planet.
Alternatively, head straight onto Loch Lomond and beyond to the Cruachan Power Station: witness the power of water as it’s transformed into electricity at the hydroelectric dam and take an illuminating tour inside.
As you motor into the final stretch of your journey, why not take a detour into the Cairngorms National Park for a spot of wild swimming. Glenmore Forest Park is a protected area that’s home to one of Scotland’s last remaining tracts of ancient Caledonian pinewood, as well as some beautiful lochs with sandy beaches.
A half-day) walk leads along a well surfaced forestry track from Glenmore Lodge up towards the Ryvoan Pass, and takes in An Lochan Uaine, known as the “Green Loch”. It lives up to its name, with amazing colours that range from turquoise to slate grey depending on the weather.
For a little less isolation, swimming from the beach at Loch Morlich close to the visitor centre is a great option – especially as you can hire wetsuits and warm up in the shoreline café afterwards.
The journey from the Cruachan Power Station to Glemmore Forest Park is over 100 miles, but there are chargepoints along the way. In addition, many new cars can travel over 200 miles on a single charge, so can cover the distance comfortably.
From here, pay a visit to the rewilding project at Alladale, which aims to restore this magical part of the Highlands to its former glory by reintroducing native plant and wildlife species. Success stories include red squirrels and Scottish wildcats, while there’s a hope of one day releasing wolves back into the Highlands.
Reaching your destination at John O’Groats, take a few days to rest on the coast. Enjoy the spellbinding coastal walks and spend time exploring the village. Stay at Mackay’s B&B if you can. Their handmade and vintage furniture, luxury linen, natural colours and genuine hospitality make this one of the best stays on the north coast. It also manages weeklong self-catering options: from a sweet cabin to carbon-negative, eco-chic Croft 103.
Plus, for more road-trip inspiration, read our guide to the best road trips in the UK
Top image: Coniston Water in the Lake District, Cumbria © chrisatpps/Shutterstock