Driving Seat

5 Festive Winter Road Trip Ideas

One look outside and it’s easy to see it’s farewell autumn and hello winter chill. Lucky for us, the start of winter means one step closer to Christmas! For most, Christmas time is spent visiting family and is the number one reason to hit the road, however, we understand that for many others winter is the perfect time to get our woolly hats and jumpers on and explore... To help those travellers, we’ve put together our winter road trips guide to inspire you this icy season.

Reminder: roads are extremely hazardous during the winter months, so ensure you’ve carried out a winter check on your vehicle prior to your trip and monitor the weather forecast leading up to your break.  

Manchester Through Snake Pass

Melt the winter blues this year by taking the whole family on an enchanted winter road trip along Snake Pass (the A57), a motorist’s dream road with spectacular views of the Peak District. Connecting Sheffield to Manchester, Snake Pass winds across the Pennines and runs right through the National Trust’s High Peak Estate.

Stop off along the way to explore the rugged moorland around Bleaklow and Kinder Scout. Tuck into a pub lunch in the Snake Pass Inn, which opened when the route was built in 1821.

On the other side, you’ll part with the snowy peaks and enter Manchester for some big-city fun. There are countless Christmas and winter events through late November to early February. This vibrant city is a perfect road trip destination for those who enjoy the hustle and bustle of a city with the friendly atmosphere of a smaller community.

Some of our favourite things to do over Christmas in Manchester include the various Christmas Markets open from 10 November, a few laps of the Cathedral Gardens ice rink which is open until New Year’s Eve and the Mancunian take on Winter Wonderland.

Before heading home, consider stopping off at some of the magical events in the surrounding areas. For the songbirds, there are carol services in Cheshire and the Greater Manchester area, including the Oldham Brass Monkey Winter Musical Festival. If you’re travelling with foodies, continue your journey to Cheshire Oaks Christmas Corner for an Apres-ski experience at the alpine themed bar.

Manchester in the winter is a magical place to visit, and if you travel to this vibrant city via Snake Pass in the Peak District you’ll experience the British winter in its full glory.

Escape to the Cambridge Countryside

If you’re looking to explore the countryside with a winter road trip, Cambridgeshire is where we recommend. Travel along winding country roads and through charming villages, and finish up in Cambridge. This historic city captures British heritage in the form of majestic college buildings and architecture through to the quaint passages and traditional market place.

Our first stop on the way is Grantchester village. It’s located on the River Cam and is a perfect spot for a leisurely waterside walk to enjoy the surrounding scenery. Afterwards there are quaint pubs like the Rupert Brooke to warm up and enjoy a pub lunch before resuming your travels to Cambridge.  

Once you’re in Cambridge ready to explore, expect scenic postcard views as the winter frost settles on the ground. Although January is typically the coldest month of the year, there are walking tours across the city all year round, so if you can brave the freezing temperatures, this is a perfect way to discover the hidden treasures of the city.

Just a short journey north of the city centre lies the architecturally outstanding landmark Ely Cathedral. Every year it opens its doors and hosts an abundance of Christmas events including markets, carol services and even a light display throughout December and January inspired by the Star of Bethlehem.

A visit to Cambridge University Botanic Gardens is another enchanting experience in the winter. Take a tour of the striking grounds or attend one their winter themed events such as winter nature drawing classes.

Whether you plan to shop or explore on your trip, we’ve given you just a few reasons to visit Cambridge this frosty season.

Seaside Stay in Southend-On-Sea

If you fancy a road trip to the coast this winter, venture down to Southend-On-Sea, Essex’s answer to the bright lights of Blackpool. Like many seaside towns, Southend is quieter during the wintry season so it’s a great time to gather the family together- including the dog. Only 40 minutes away from Chelmsford, this beach break is a firm favourite for any winter road trip.

Travelling to Southend from Essex will take you along various scenic A-roads such as the A130 and A127, and one of our favourite detours along the way is Hanningfield Reservoir. This nature reserve is bursting with Christmas-inspired events in December, kicking off the festive fun with a Santa in the woods trail to Santa’s grotto. Throughout the rest of the month there’s plenty to do and the festivities run until Christmas Eve with a Wind in the Willows family Christmas trail.

If you’re planning on visiting after Christmas, the New Year brings lots of outdoor adventures, making Hanningfield Reservoir a worthwhile reason to brave the cold!

As you continue on the trip, you can stop off again at various crafty events at the likes of Battlesbridge Antiques & Craft Centre or the Clay and Craft Cottage Pottery for some hands-on fun. Or if you’d prefer to drive straight into Southend, Adventure Island is the perfect family day out, with an indoor activity centre for those days when you don’t feel like braving the outdoors.

After a busy day of adventures, stroll along the shore and enjoy the views out to sea. Visit between the 1st October and 30th April and your furry friend is also welcome on the beach! With lots of dog friendly hotels and pubs in Southend, don’t let even the smallest, fluffiest family members miss out on winter road tripping this year.

Winter by the Riverside in Shrewsbury

Take your adventure around the West Midlands for a scenic tour of historic towns and icy rivers. Start out from Birmingham and head west along the M6 or A41 in the direction of Shrewsbury. This heritage town invites visitors to experience their winter celebrations every year and there’s plenty to see and do.

If you’re looking for somewhere to stop off on the way, why not join Santa and his elves at Telford’s newest Christmas event at the wonderful Winter Village. This seasonal event is an enchanting occasion that the kids will truly love.

After a fun-filled afternoon in Telford, proceed along the A5 and over the River Severn into the centre of town. There you’ll find the amusement continues with the eagerly anticipated Winter Festival. Located at the Quarry Park, this special event brings together mouthwatering food stalls and family-friendly crafting sessions. Here you’ll be able to shop till you drop and embrace the Yuletide spirit.

If you’re interested in the performing arts, Shrewsbury hosts an annual performance of Handel’s Messiah. It’s a beautiful show put on by the Shrewsbury School Community Choir and local musical scholars in aid of charity. Other musical events include Carols in the Square in mid-December and the family pantomime Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs runs until early January.

Having historical roots in the eleventh century, Shrewsbury is a heritage town brimming with history that can be experienced on a guided tour. The tours can be tailored to the specific period you are interested in and run throughout the year.

New Town Experiences in Milton Keynes

Recognised as one of the fastest growing towns in the UK, Milton Keynes has an array of treats for anyone looking for a road trip through Buckinghamshire. With a selection of urban spaces dotted around the town, there is really something for everyone! Better still, for those looking to explore the surrounding areas, Milton Keynes is a great hub to use as a base. Keep an eye out for some funny road signs on your travels out of the town.

Before discovering the areas outside of Milton Keynes, we recommend taking the kids to one of the many locations hosting a Meet Santa Event. It’s a great experience for smaller children and is the perfect way to kick-start the Christmas period.

Continue your travels through Milton Keynes to celebrate Christmas at Gulliver’s Theme Park Resort. Although the theme park runs throughout winter months so you can visit at any time, their Winter Wonderland pays homage to this magical time of year with Christmas rides, shows and attractions.

Enjoy more Christmas fun away from town at Bletchley Park, where you can experience a vintage Christmas in the 1940’s Grotto they have designed within the grounds. If you visit the park after Christmas visitors can soak up the history of Bletchley as the home of British codebreaking and a birthplace of modern information technology.

If you'd prefer to be out this winter, rather than indoors playing car games or other family fun, these five winter road trip ideas should take you on a frosty, festive tour around many special parts of the UK. Which is your favourite? Where are you planning to road trip this winter? Let us know on Facebook or Twitter!

Likewise, if you're looking for some car-related festive fun this winter, why not take our Driving Genius Quiz to test your driving knowledge before getting out on the road!