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The most incredible European road trips for late summer

Nothing beats the joy of hitting the open road – especially when Europe's most epic scenery is flashing by your windshield. With mountains, lakes, and a few surprises along the way, why not finish your summer in style by driving one of these incredible European road trips?

1. North Coast 500, Scotland

Driving the North Coast 500, Scotland’s answer to Route 66, is the best way to discover the raw and remote beauty of the Scottish Highlands. The evocative loop around the northernmost chunk of Great Britain takes in some of the country’s most spectacular countryside. Historic castles, deserted beaches and a fair few distilleries will vye for your attention as you drive through regions like the Black Isle, Caithness, and Wester Ross.

Start (and end) point: Inverness

Distance: 500 miles (yep, just like The Proclaimers song)

Look out for: the Berriedale Braes, a challenging set of hairpin bends near Caithness where the A9 road drops from 150m to 20m.

2. The Arctic Fjords, Norway

The drive from Bergen to Trondheim cuts straight through fjord country. During the trip your constant companions will be rocky mountains, roaring waterfalls and ice-blue fjords. Drivers who like a technical challenge will really enjoy putting their skills to the test with the toe-curling Trollstigen road – 11 hairpin bends surrounded by jagged peaks – as well as the Atlanterhavsveien (the Atlantic Road). The latter is a series of steep, curved bridges hopping from one small island in the Atlantic to another: a bit like a self-drive rollercoaster.

Start point: Bergen

End point: Trondheim

Distance: 480 miles

Look out for:  The world’s longest road tunnel, Lærdal Tunnel, cuts through the mountains between Lærdal and Aurland. At a claustrophobia-inducing 15.23 miles long, it’s not for the faint-hearted.

3. Deutsche Alpenstraße, Bavaria

Bavaria is Germany at its most traditional. As you wind gently through the rolling foothills of the Alps you’ll spot plenty of lederhosen-clad locals, gingerbread-style houses and castles that wouldn’t look out of place in a Disney movie. Speaking of which, the route connects to the Romantic Road in the town of Füssen – so you can easily take a detour to Neuschwanstein Castle. The route offers lots of opportunities to stretch your legs, with sparkling lakes to swim in and forested trails to hike.

Start point: Lindau on Lake Constance: near Friedrichshafen Airport.

End point: Schönau am Königssee, on the Austrian border

Distance: 280 miles

Look out for: the occasional convoy of supercars – the wide roads and generous speed limits make it a haven for amateur racers.    

Find cheap hotels for every step of your road trip

4. Transylvania, Romania

Thanks to Bram Stoker, Transylvania has a well-earned place in the annals of pop culture. But there’s much more to this Romanian region than Dracula – although you will spot plenty of vampire-themed souvenirs. Stop in Sighisoara and visit the room where Vlad the Impaler was born, enjoy the view from the top of the 13th Century tower in Sibiu, and visit the underground theme park at the Turda Salt Mine. Skip Bran Castle in Brasov and climb (or cable car) to the top of Mount Tampa instead for truly breathtaking views.

Start point: Cluj-Napoca

End point: Bucharest

Distance: 400 miles

Look out for: the Transfăgărășan mountain pass with its hairpin bends, steep descents, and winding S-curves was featured on Top Gear.

5. Route One, Iceland

Late summer is the perfect time to drive Iceland’s iconic ring road, as there’s not much ice on the tarmac and it stays light until late – giving you more time to take in the mesmerising scenery. As the road goes round the entire country, this drive gives you the chance to try everything Iceland has to offer – such as bathing in hot springs, spotting whales off the coast, or hiking on a glacier. If that’s not enough, each day brings ever-changing scenery where snow-capped peaks give way to desolate black lava flows.

Start (and end) point: Reykjavik

Distance: 828 miles

Look out for: The 190 mile-round Golden Circle: a short route that can be done in one day and includes attractions like the Blue Lagoon, Gullfoss waterfall and the Strokkur geysir.

6. The Basque Coast, France & Spain

While anyone will be impressed with the lush coastal scenery of northern Spain and southwest France, we reckon foodies and surfers will be especially pleased with this route’s many distractions. Starting in one of France’s most prestigious wine regions, this road trip cruises past the surf capitals of Bayonne and Biarritz before crossing the border into Spain. After a quick pit-stop in San Sebastian – and a hop around its famous pintxo (Basque tapas) bars – the trip ends in the buzzing town of Bilbao.

Start point: Bordeaux

End point: Bilbao

Distance: 207 miles

Look out for: Step out of the car and stretch your legs at San Juan de Gaztelugatxe, which Game of Throne fans will know better as Dragonstone. This islet in the Bay of Biscay is connected to the mainland by a bridge and a zig-zagging path with 241 steps.

Wherever your summer road trip takes you, remember you can browse and find cheap car hire using our handy search tool

Feeling inspired? Read on for more travel tips. 

Before you get behind the wheel, swot up on the the rules of the road you need to know before your next driving holiday.

From bringing your own infant car seat to timing your pick-up and drop-off slots better, you don’t want to miss these tips on how to save money driving abroad.