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How to drive around London without using the M25 motorway and the staggering amount of time it would take

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Most of us who drive know that driving through Central London is never usually the quickest way to get from one part of the capital to another. The North and South Circular Roads move at a snails pace for most of the day too.

The M25 London Orbital motorway and the A282 Dartford Crossing form a complete, useful ring around the city to link one part to another.

However, not all of us are in a rush and might prefer the scenic option. There’s also the several categories of vehicle which cannot use motorways including provisional driving licence holders, selected motorcycles, oversized vehicles and vehicles which cannot meet minimum speeds such as tractors and construction vehicles.

READ MORE: The tiny, pathetic motorway that should have helped out the M25 but never quite did

The alternative is certainly pretty… but also pretty long.

There are three stretches of the North Orbital Road which remain, including this part which by-passes St Albans

The most obvious route around North and West London is the North Orbital Road, which parallels much of the M25 because in original plans for the M25, the motorway would have followed much of the current North Orbital Road route (which explains why the M25 bends around Watford).

The three sections which remain of the North Orbital Road, the A412, A405 and A414 provide a link from Uxbridge, through Watford to Hatfield, most of which is single or dual carriageway.

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The section through Rickmansworth and Watford does not take the North Orbital Road name as the North Orbital Road was once the M25 Watford bypass section before being upgraded to a motorway in the 1980s.

At Hatfield, the A414 road merges with the A1(M) for one junction before skirting around the town to Hertford. However, it is possible to simply drive alongside the motorway on the A1001 Comet Way to avoid the motorway restrictions.

The A414 road then continues through the Hertfordshire and Essex countryside to Essendon, Hertford, Harlow, North Weald and Ongar.

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Cutting through the Essex town of Ongar is a pleasant alternative to the M25

Originally the furthest north and eastern point on the London Underground, Ongar provides a perfect, picturesque location for a pit stop. Here the alternative route descends through High Street, to the start of the A128 road, turning left and passing the now not-so-secret “Secret Nuclear Bunker Museum”. Then the road traverses the capital of TOWIE land, Brentwood before the villages of Ingrave, Herongate and Bulphan.

As the Tilbury Ferry at the end of the road does not accept motor vehicles to cross the Thames at this point, vehicles would have to join the Southend Arterial and then A282 roads across the Dartford Crossing. Often incorrectly referred to as the M25 motorway, the tunnel/bridge combination actually has A-road status specifically to allow non-motorway vehicles to cross it.

Negotiating off the Dartford Crossing through the outskirts of the Kent town, the A225 road then provides a nifty alternative which parallels the M25, much like a ‘South Orbital Road’ would have.

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At the wonderfully named ‘Bat and Ball’ station, the A225 intersects the also wonderfully named A25 road which again parallels the southern M25. This long cross-country route takes you right from West Kent, through Surrey to Guildford. It’s almost entirely single carriageway meaning its not always the speediest solution.

To complete the loop around the capital, its the A320 road, Chertsey Lane (home to Thorpe Park), the Heathrow Airport perimeter roads and the local roads through Harmondsworth and Cowley which return you to the A412, the start of the North Orbital Road just north of Uxbridge.

Fancy that for a day out? Well, Google Maps estimates the journey time required for the tour described via the North Orbital and A25 routes as taking 5hrs 26mins for the 153 mile journey. In contrast, the M25 alone would be a mere 2 hours for a 122 mile loop.

Have you ever driven the scenic route? Tell us in the comments below.

Read all our transport trivia, news stories and features on our dedicated page here.

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