In this year’s Unusual Road Awards, we’re celebrating five European roads and five UK roads, as we look further afield to select thrilling drives for motoring enthusiasts. Although the awards add a bit of fun to motoring, the message remains the same, ensuring safety first and that you’re fully prepared for your journey – check out our top 5 tips before hitting the road.
Five European Unusual Road Award winners
The longest road: European Route E40
European Route E40 is just under 5,000 miles long and spans ten separate countries – starting in the port city of Calais, France and ending in north-east Kazakhstan.
The E40 travels through Belgium, Germany, Poland, Ukraine, Russia, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and Kyrgyzstan before ending in Ridder – a town renowned for its rich metal deposits, having provided 50% of the USSR’s high-quality lead during World War II.
The longest road tunnel: Laerdal Tunnel, Norway
The beautifully lit Lærdal Tunnel spans between Lærdal and Aurland in Norway, covering a distance of over 15 miles beneath the Fjords. Not only is it the longest road tunnel in Europe, it is also the longest in the world.
Not strictly a road in its own right, the tunnel qualifies for our prestigious awards as part of the E16 – the main road connecting Norway’s two largest cities Oslo and Bergen.
The highest road: Veleta, Spain
Winding up the Sierra Nevada mountain range from Granada, this road is open to all drivers until Hoya de la Mora, at 2526m above sea level – but it doesn’t stop there.
The Veleta is the highest paved road in Europe, and is actually covered in asphalt until around the 3300m mark. Even then it doesn’t end – certain vehicles are permitted up to its highest point, which is a whopping 3380m above sea level.
The fastest road: Germany’s Autobahn
Germany’s Autobahn is the country’s equivalent to the UK’s network of motorways, but with a key difference – many sections don’t have a speed limit for most vehicles.
Away from cities and accident hotspots, the autobahns have a recommended speed limit of 130 kilometres per hour (81mph), but it’s not illegal for cars to go faster.
The most winding road: Lysevegen, in Norway
The closest category in this year’s competition, Lysevegen wins out for three main reasons: the 950m high summit, the 27 hairpin bends and the gorgeous view into the valley below.
Built to aid the construction of the Tjodan hydroelectric power station, which opened in 1984, the road provided the village of Lysebotn with a link to the outside world – before, they’d relied on boats.
The second road from Norway to win an award this year, drivers searching for scenic routes and new experiences couldn’t go far wrong if they booked themselves a cheeky Norwegian road trip.
Four UK champions from this year’s entries
The flightiest road: Sumburgh Airport, Shetland Islands
The main airport serving the Shetland Islands in northern Scotland, Sumburgh sits between the village of Toab and the settlement of Grutness at the southern tip of the mainland.
The only way to get from one to the other is on the A970, which crosses one of Sumburgh’s runways. A railway crossing signal prevents drivers from straying on to the runway.
Want to check out the airport? Shetland’s tourism website has a live webcam feed on its website.
The most mindbending road: Electric Brae, Ayrshire
Electric Brae in Ayrshire is a ‘gravity hill’, where, due to the layout of the surrounding countryside, a car without its handbrake on will appear to travel uphill – but don’t panic, it’s just an optical illusion.
The stretch of road is called ‘Electric’ because of the belief that the optical illusion was in fact caused by electricity, or magnetic fields, dragging the car uphill.
The steepest road: Hardknott and Wrynose passes, Lake District
The Hardknott Pass is a road between Eskdale and the Duddon Valley in the Lake District, which then becomes the Wrynose pass to Ambleside.
One of the steepest roads in the UK, this stretch achieves a 33% gradient in some places.
The most unusual bridge: Old Deer, Abbey Bridge, Aberdeenshire
It may be the smallest winner on this list, but it could also be the most unusual. Abbey Bridge, again in Scotland narrows halfway along its length for no perceivable reason.
Local rumour has it that two landowners either side of the South Ugie Water, which it crosses, began the build the bridge at the same time. However, as their carts were different sizes, they chose different widths – only realising when they reached the middle.
And one UK road for the mature motorists
To inspire retirees to enjoy the road, LV= has chosen a UK version of the famous Route 66 in America.
The 66-mile stretch in Scotland takes in dramatic scenery on its route from the town of Lochgilphead in Argyll and Bute to the Glencoe Mountains.