Where are the longest roads in the UK?

Where are the longest roads in the UK?
In 2017, Government figures estimated the total length of UK roads at a staggering 246,700 miles (397,025km).

While the vast majority of these miles (87.3%) can be found on minor roads, some of the country’s major roads make for excellent cross-country drives.

Here’s our complete guide to the longest roads in the UK, and what to do if you fancy taking them on.

What is the longest road in the UK?

The longest road in the UK is the A1 which stretches 396 miles in total. The top three longest roads in the UK are:

  1. A1: Central London — Central Edinburgh: 396 miles (637km)
  2. A38: Bodmin, Cornwall — Mansfield, Nottinghamshire: 309.8 miles (498.6km)
  3. A30: Land’s End, Cornwall — London: 284 miles (457km)  

READ MORE: Driving from Land’s End to John o’Groats: need to know facts

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What’s the longest motorway in the UK?

1. M6: Catthorpe, Leicestershire — Gretna Green, Dumfriesshire: 236 miles (379.8km)

The longest, oldest and arguably most important motorway in the UK starts in Catthorpe in Leicestershire and sweeps past some of the country’s greatest cities before finishing in Gretna Green, just north of the Scottish border.

The prominence of the road probably explains why it so often appears on the RAC’s warnings about holiday-time traffic jams.

Looking for some M6 stop-off tips?

From Catthorpe, head north through the West Midlands towards the Potteries of Stoke-on-Trent.

After checking out the excellent Trentham Estate and its monkey forest — located just off J15 — you’ll squeeze between the Northern powerhouses of Liverpool and Manchester, perfect if you fancy some retail therapy and big city vibes.

From there, the route wraps around Preston before taking in some of the exquisite Lakeland scenery on the way to the border — just be sure to detour off if you want to soak up the very best of the Lake District.

READ MORE: Six alternative stop-offs to the same old service stations

2. M1: Staples Corner, London — Hook Moor, Yorkshire: 200 miles (321.9km)

Despite its name the M1 was not the first motorway to be built (the Preston bypass section of the M6 holds that honour) but remains one of the key road connections in the UK, linking London with both Yorkshire and the southern end of the M6.

From Staples Corner, the motorway winds through London before heading out towards Milton Keynes, Leicester and eventually, Sheffield and Leeds.

For drivers with kids, ZSL Whipsnade near J11 is one of the best zoos in the south of England, while further north the National Space Centre near Leicester is just a 15-minute drive from J21 and hosts the country’s largest domed planetarium.

3. M4: Chiswick, London — Pont Abraham, Carmarthenshire: 191.9 miles (308.8 km)

The only part-Welsh road on our list, the M4 stretches out from West London and down through the Thames Valley on its way to picturesque South Wales, taking in the impressive Second Severn Crossing as it does.

The motorway is often busy during peak summer season as holidaymakers from the South East head down to the West Country.

While the journey through West London is relatively uneventful, historic Windsor is only a short drive from J6, while further west on J11 Reading is home to one of the best retail offerings outside of London.

After Reading, the M4 winds through the North Wessex Downs and the southern edge of the Cotswolds before hitting Bristol and the Severn Crossing.

Once you’ve paid your toll, head across South Wales, taking detours to cosmopolitan Cardiff and the breath-taking Rhossili Bay on the Gower.

READ MORE: A guide to UK toll roads and bridges

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What’s the longest ‘A’ road in the UK?

1. A1: London — Edinburgh: 396 miles (637km)

The longest road in the UK is the A1, also known as the Great North Road, which runs from Central London in the south to Central Edinburgh in the north.

Stretching almost 400 miles, the road has a number of different personalities as it travels north through the UK, from urban carriageway to rural motorway and back again.

Take in one of the A1’s best attractions before you’ve even left London with Edgware’s RAF museum, before heading north towards one of Lincolnshire’s prettiest towns, Stamford, and the grand stately home of Burghley House nearby.

If you’re hitting the A1 further north but still fancy indulging in some heritage, why not check out Lindisfarne, a tidal island off the coast of Northumberland and important religious and conversation site.  

READ MORE: Six of the best road trips in Scotland

2. A38: Bodmin, Cornwall — Mansfield, Nottinghamshire: 309.8 miles (498.6km)

At over 300 miles in length, the A38 used to be called the “longest country lane in England” and was notorious for tailbacks during the peak summer season.

The opening of the M5 alleviated a lot of the traffic stress and these days the road is (fairly) quiet as it travels from Bodmin in Cornwall all the way up to Mansfield in the East Midlands.

Traveling east from Bodmin, both the former copper mine at Morwellham Quay and Plymouth Aquarium offer great day-out options for families.

After skirting Dartmoor, the road snakes past Bristol, Cheltenham, and Gloucester before hitting Birmingham, where it plays its part in Spaghetti Junction with the M6.

Before you head into Mansfield, the Belper North Mill, an Industrial-Revolution era cotton mill on the banks of the beautiful River Derwent, makes for a fascinating excursion.

3. A30: Land’s End, Cornwall — London: 284 miles (457km)

Once one of the country’s major coaching routes — and the quickest way to get from London to the West Country — the A30 is still a popular choice for holidaymakers looking for something a little more rural on their way to the South West, and it can get pretty busy during peak periods.

While Land’s End itself is a great spot for all the family, a short detour from the A30 will take you to both the Minack Theatre, an amphitheatre carved into the clifftop, and bustling Newquay, with its excellent array of beaches.

For much of its length, the A30 is little more than an average country road, giving it a different feel to the other roads on this list and taking you through some lovely ‘Wessex’ villages as it nears London.

READ MORE: Dartmouth, England: the most remote place in southern England

What’s the shortest road in the UK?

longest roads in UK

At the other end of the spectrum, the shortest road in the UK is the A962 in Kirkwall, Orkney, which measures just 393 ft (120m) in length. The shortest roads in the UK are as follows:

  1. A962: Kirkwall, Orkney: 292 ft (120m)
  2. A5016: Ridley, Cheshire: 525 ft (160m)
  3. A3125: London: 525 ft (160m)

What to prepare for a road trip?

If driving the UK’s longest roads is high up on your motoring bucket list, or you’re looking to incorporate some of these routes into your next road trip, make sure you take all the necessary precautions before heading off on your adventure.

The most important thing to remember before heading off is to get the right breakdown cover package for you.

If the worst does come to worst, make sure you know what to do by reading our handy guide on what to do if you breakdown.

Also make sure that your car is ready for the journey.

There’s a raft of common problems that can lead to an unwanted breakdown, so make sure you’re aware of the simple things you can do to protect your motor.

For more information on how to prepare and pack your car, watch our video guide to everything you need to know before heading off.

Did you know, you can get fined for moving out of the way of an ambulance?

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