Looking for a coastal drive? Here are eight of the very best coastal routes in the British Isles, according to Martin Dorey, author and ‘campervan man’ – each spectacular in its own way. Photographs: Martin Dorey
1. THE BEST ROUTE FOR COMBINING CULTURE WITH WILD WOWS: ST IVES TO SENNEN, CORNWALL
How is it possible for Cornwall to be so bright and shiny yet so wild? All you have to do is head towards Sennen Cove and drive the B3306 from St Ives, the shimmering jewel in Carbis Bay. St Ives has it all: beaches, gulls, galleries, crowds, pasties – but hit the coast road and you will be a world apart among heather, ancient granite, ruined engine houses and the real wild west. The road winds along the coast for most of the way, offering staggering views and stop-offs. Pendeen Lighthouse watches over this part of the coast, while Cape Cornwall was once thought to be England’s most westerly point. Before you hit Sennen’s golden sands, stop off at Escalls Cliff and look down over Sennen. You’d be forgiven for thinking you’re somewhere tropical. But no, this is England.
STAY: Treen Campsite, St Levan, Cornwall TR19 6LF (treenfarmcampsite.co.uk)
COST PER NIGHT: £4.50 per camper/motorhome with awning, £6 per adult, £3 per child
RENT A VINTAGE CAMPERVAN: The Cornwall Camper Company, St Austell, Cornwall, PL25 4LR (07815 808181, thecornwallcampercompany.co.uk)
RENTAL COST: From £300 for a weekend in low season to £700 for a week in high season
2. FOR CRUISING THE SEAFRONT: HASTINGS TO WORTHING
Open the windows and crank up the music as you creep down some of England’s finest promenades at Hastings, Eastbourne, Brighton and Worthing. Take tea and art at the De La Warr Pavilion in Bexhill before ambling through Eastbourne on the A259 and up into the Downs towards Beachy Head. If you’re in a vintage camper it’s a bit of a chug but then there’s the freewheel to Birling Gap to see one of England’s most famous views – the chalky cliffs of the Seven Sisters – after you reach the zenith. Once you hit Newhaven it’s low and slow all the way to Brighton, and the view towards the Marina is stunning. Stop at the pier for amusements, and then it’s on to Worthing for the final cruise along the coast until the A259 heads finally inland. Ice cream? Don’t mind if I do!
STAY: Hastings Touring Park, Hastings, East Sussex, TN35 5DX (01424453583, hastingstouringpark.co.uk)
COST PER NIGHT: Pitch from £22
RENT A CAMPERVAN: Active Kampers, Brighton, BN1 4QD (01273 855 166, activekampers.co.uk)
RENTAL COST: £125 per day (minimum 7 days) in high season for a 2016 VW California
3. FOR GIANTS AND BEACHES: THE CAUSEWAY COASTAL ROUTE, NORTHERN IRELAND
This is the original and best great British coastal driving route – if you do just one, then do this one. It’s a wonder from start to finish, offering more than mere sea glimpses all along its length. In some places you drive for miles along the edge of the water, below huge cliffs, skirting villages and ports and wowing at every turn. There are tourist stops at the world-famous Giant’s Causeway and Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge as well as a chance to walk The Gobbins Path, which is a newly restored coastal walk that was out of action for more than 60 years. You could also consider heading inland a little in Antrim to explore some of Northern Ireland’s nine glorious glens, while off shore there are opportunities to spot whales, dolphins and a huge variety of seabirds. Some people come to this area to search for the locations from smash-hit TV series Game of Thrones, while others like to surf, swim or simply walk on some of Ireland’s most beautiful beaches. Take your pick…
STAY: Jordanstown Loughshore Caravan Park, Newtownabbey, Co Antrim, BT37 0PY (antrimandnewtownabbey.campstead.com/Jordanstown-Loughshore-Park)
COST PER NIGHT: £23 per night in high season
RENT A VINTAGE CAMPERVAN: Causeway Campers, Portrush, Co Antrim, BT56 8PB (07790 775471, causewaycampers.com)
RENTAL COST: £950 for a 6-berth motorhome in high season
4. FOR TOOTLING ALONG THE FLAT: CROMER TO HUNSTANTON, NORFOLK
If you come to Cromer you might need to like crab… it’s an unwritten local rule that you have to try some. Cromer is a Victorian resort with a pier of the year (2015) and a lovely beach. Strike out and pass through the Runtons (a famed local surf spot) and Sheringham (learn the history of the town through its boats at the Mo-Sheringham Museum) before hitting open country among the poppy fields. Next, stop off at Wiveton Hall for a tasty treat and to meet its eccentric owner. Once you hit Cley-next-the-Sea (beautiful windmill) and Stiffkey (a great pub and campsite) the road ducks behind salt marshes so the sea views are further away than you might like. But it’s easy to detour to see seals at Blakeney and brightly painted beach huts on stilts at Wells-next-the-Sea. Stop off at Brancaster Staithe port to pick up more crab and a bottle of local Whin Hill cider to wash it down.
STAY: High Sand Creek, Stiffkey, Norfolk, NR23 1QF (01328 830235)
COST PER NIGHT: Pitch from £22
RENT A CAMPERVAN: Retro Campers Norfolk, Sheringham, Norfolk, NR26 8AF (01263 821999, retrocampersnorfolk.co.uk)
RENTAL COST: Retro campers from around £700 per week in season
Photo: Oscar Johns/Shutterstock
5. MOST UNDERRATED ROUTE: THE COPPER COAST, REPUBLIC OF IRELAND
Don’t miss out this short-but-sweet route from Hook Head to Dungarvan. It’s got it all: geology, history, sand, sea, surf, shore fishing, and fish and chips. Begin at the world’s oldest working lighthouse at Hook Head, cross the River Suir on the Passage East ferry (€12 single) and head for Dunmore East. Pint in The Strand Inn? Lovely. On to Tramore, a cheery resort with surfers, sand, chips and amusements. Visit Guillamene Cove for open-water swimming. Enter the UNESCO Copper Coast Global Geopark, famous for copper mining. You’ll pass ruined engine houses as you meander along the coast road. Seek out surf at Annestown, Ogham stones at Bunmahon and a playpark at Fenor. Finally, hit Clonea’s strand and Dungarvan, a busy, pretty town with lovely quayside pubs and eateries.
STAY: Newtown Cove Caravan and Camping Park, Tramore (+353 51 381979, newtowncove.com)
COST PER NIGHT: €8 per camper/motorhome, €6 per adult, €3 per child
RENT A CAMPERVAN: Lazy Days Camper Hire, Three Mile Water, Wicklow (+353 87 2885771, lazydays.ie)
RENTAL COST: €980 per week (high season), €100 per day (low season)
6. THE BEST FOR VARIETY: ABERDOVEY TO ABERSOCH, WEST WALES
The western fringes of the Snowdonia National Park offer wild views, wild swimming and one of the best-located campsites ever. This journey is full of surprises. Swim in the Blue Lake above Fairbourne, go crabbing in Aberdovey, scoff chips on the beach at Barmouth, play 1960s spy in Portmeirion and explore ancient Harlech Castle. West of here, enter the Llyn Peninsula. Wakeboard in Pwllheli, surf at Hell’s Mouth, sail in Abersoch, walk on the ‘whistling sands’ of Porth Oer and climb up to the top of Carn Fadryn for views of the whole lot. Fabulous!
STAY: Cae Du, Tywyn, Gwynedd, LL36 9ND (01654 711234, caedufarmholidays.co.uk)
COST PER NIGHT: Pitch from £10. Family, £15
RENT A CAMPERVAN: Conwy Camper Hire, Conwy, LL28 5TD (07831 307031, conwycamperhire.com)
RENTAL COST: 2 berth VW T5 in high season £700
7. THE MOST WILD BY MILES AND MILES: DUNNET HEAD TO DURNESS, SCOTLAND
Unless you already live in the north of Scotland you will drive past some great scenery on the way here, but this coast makes it onto this list because it is truly superlative. Start at mainland UK’s most northerly point at Dunnet Head Lighthouse and stare out towards Orkney before heading west along Britain’s northernmost shore. At the far end, you could extend the trip with a hike into Sandwood Bay, the UK’s most remote beach, from Kinlochbervie. Between Dunnet and Sandwood are some of Britain’s finest beaches and coastal scenery. Maybe even otters, Highland cattle and a seal or two. The Kyle of Tongue is sublime, while Bettyhill is a lovely spot to stop, camp and swim (it has a pool).
STAY: Sango Sands Oasis Campsite, Durness, IV27 4PZ (07838 381065, sangosands.com)
COST PER NIGHT: £8 adult, £6 per child over 5. Showers and pets free
RENT A VINTAGE CAMPERVAN: Deeside Classic Campers, Finzean, Aberdeenshire, AB31 6PB (01330 850 555, deesideclassiccampers.com)
RENTAL COST: £930 for a week, high season; £228 for a weekend, low season
8. FOR MARITIME AND GOTHIC HISTORY: SCARBOROUGH TO SALTBURN-BY-THE-SEA, YORKSHIRE/CLEVELAND
The route through the North Yorkshire and Cleveland Heritage Coast requires a few diversions to see the best bits – but it’s worth it. Begin at Saltburn-by-the-Sea, with the only remaining pleasure pier on the northeast coast. Heading south see some of Yorkshire’s wonders: the tumbling fishing village at Captain Cook’s Staithes, huge cliffs, golden ammonites on the reef at Sandsend, Whitby with its abbey and Gothic connections, the beautiful bay at Runswick, the geranium-filled alleys of Robin Hood’s Bay and Wainright’s Bar. After that, set out over moorland to Scarborough. Take the A165 coastal road and cruise along Marine Drive. Pitch up at Crows Nest Caravan Park in Cayton Bay and enjoy the sea views.
STAY: Crows Nest Caravan Park, Gristhorpe, Filey, YO14 9PS (01723 582206, crowsnestcaravanpark.com)
COST PER NIGHT: Motorhome for four (high season, super pitch), £35
RENT A VINTAGE CAMPERVAN: Castle Coast Campers, Hart, Near Hartlepool, Co Durham, TS27 3AL (07939 955 165, castlecoastcampers.co.uk)
RENTAL COST: From £775 per week