Stuck in a traffic jam? Take the scenic route...

Simon Calder travels down Britain's best bank-holiday B-roads

Millions of British travellers were inspired by the unprecedented run of public holidays and equally unusual April weather to begin spring holidays yesterday. But across the nation they soon discovered, beneath the sunshine, a familiar litany of travel misery.

Flights at the UK's major airports were delayed as the outbound rush began, while Easter closures at key locations on the national rail network spelled lengthy, awkward journeys.

There was gridlock on roads as motorways were filled to fuming point. But frustrated drivers sweltering in their cars and dreading the mass return to reality on Monday evening need only reach for their atlases to discover there is another way to travel.

Before the motorway age, motorists enjoyed a far closer and rewarding engagement with the country through which they travelled. Britain is latticed with a chronology of thoroughfares from Iron Age tracks via Roman roads to Thomas Telford's magnificent works connecting London with NorthWales. As these were superseded by roads that were wider and faster (at least in theory), many of them were relegated to B-roads – bestowing the UK with a shadow network of highways for motorists keener on the quality of the journey than sheer speed.

While the French have a long and proud tradition of using "D" (départemental) roads as alternatives to the routes nationales and autoroutes, Britain's motorists have yet to waken to the joys of using what Private Eye scornfully called "Rural Rides". One leading motoring figure claims that B-road Britain is blossoming, with light traffic on a wide range of secondary roads running parallel to trunk links.

Edmund King, president of the AA, told The Independent "When you've got four bank holidays in a row, B-roads are the way to go. They're not like B-movies, they're like road movies." In Sussex yesterday, the B2038 offered a pretty and tranquil alternative to the M23/A23 corridor to Brighton as Londoners flocked to the seaside to enjoy the first of the sequence of bank holidays on the beach. At the other end of Britain, the main A82 through the Great Glen between Inverness and Fort Augustus was very busy for the opening weekend of the Highlands tourism season.

Yet on the scenic B862 on the other side of Loch Ness, following the course of General Wade's Military Road, cars were outnumbered by cyclists and hikers enjoying the spectacular views.

Mr King advised motorists to: "Take your time, stop off at a pub in then middle of nowhere, and enjoy the drive through woods and across rivers that you never experience on the M4, the M5 and the M25."

Rarefied Roads Your Sat-Nav Won't Know

B3181, M5 junction 27-Exeter

Circumvent the final four junctions of the M5 by taking the B3181 that meanders over the motorway several times and deposits you in the beautiful centre of Exeter. If you sense that the road seems surprisingly good for a B-road, that is because it was once the main A38.

B390 & B3095, Stonehenge-Gillingham, Dorset

The M3/A303 ‘fast track’ to the South-west becomes frustratingly slow in good weather. This pair of B-roads may therefore save time as you meander across Salisbury Plain, as well as providing a satisfying journey through ancient landscapes.

B2036, Gatwick airport-Burgess Hill

Bank-holiday weekends drive Londoners in their tens of thousands to the nearest ‘proper’ seaside resort, Brighton. Avoid the constricted M23/A23 corridor from Gatwick airport by taking this picturesque and undulating link through wonderful unspoilt villages.

B1176, Stamford-Grantham

The A1(M) is one of Britain’s most dispiriting highways, bypassing almost everywhere of interest. But patches of the old Great North Road remain, and this section connects two historic market towns and reminds drivers of the loveliness of Lincolnshire.

B5381, St Asaph’s-Llandudno Junction

The main route along the coast of North Wales towards the Llyn Peninsula, Anglesey, obscures views of Snowdonia and the shoreline. So steer off the for a dozen junctions on this scenic byway.

B7078, Abington Services-Hamilton

Forget the M74 link between Glasgow and Carlisle: the Borders offers a serene alternative – and even has long stretches of dual carriageway to help ease caravan rage.

B862, Inverness-Fort Augustus

Main Street for the Highlands is the monstrous A82. Far better to take the high road on the opposite bank of Loch Ness. Besides sublime views across the mountains, there is even the option to take a sub-byway in the shape of the B852 along the shore.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Recruitment Genius: Product Advisor - Automotive

    £17000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Due to the consistent growth of...

    Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Automotive

    £18000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity exists for an ex...

    Recruitment Genius: Renewals Sales Executive - Automotive

    £20000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity exists for an ou...

    Recruitment Genius: Membership Sales Advisor

    £18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The fastest growing fitness cha...

    Day In a Page

    Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

    Climate change key in Syrian conflict

    And it will trigger more war in future
    How I outwitted the Gestapo

    How I outwitted the Gestapo

    My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
    The nation's favourite animal revealed

    The nation's favourite animal revealed

    Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
    Is this the way to get young people to vote?

    Getting young people to vote

    From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
    Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

    Poldark star Heida Reed

    'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
    The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

    The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

    Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
    Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

    Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

    Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
    Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

    David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

    The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
    Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

    Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

    Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
    With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

    Money, corruption and drugs

    The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
    America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

    150 years after it was outlawed...

    ... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
    Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

    Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

    The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
    Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

    You won't believe your eyes

    Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
    Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

    Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

    The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
    War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

    The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

    Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn