An Itinerary for a UK Road Trip

June 20, 2016
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Who doesn’t love a road trip? Piling into the car with your friends, you’ve got the roof down and the wind in your hair. Ahead of you is nothing but miles of empty road, adventure and freedom.

Except this version of a road trip only ever happened in Britney Spears’ cinema debut: ‘Crossroads’. For the majority of us growing up in the UK, the road trip was a darker experience entirely and featured neither sunshine nor a summer romance with an incredibly handsome American man.

Queues of traffic, stuffy cars and arguments, the Great British Road Trip was less Route 66 and more a congested M25, with short respites inside overcrowded service stations.

Despite the lack of sunshine and Ford Cadillacs, however, the UK is an ideal place to travel by road, not least due to its size. Roughly 874 miles long from top to bottom, you can explore the length of the UK in the time it would take you to cross just one US state. Furthermore, the diversity of the UK is incredible. From its palm-tree filled southern peninsula, to mountainous Scotland, a UK road trip provides the opportunity to experience mountains and lakes; beaches and cities, all within the space of a few short days.

Below we’ve therefore provided our suggested itinerary for a UK road trip, beginning in England’s southwest and finishing in northern Scotland. We hope it provides a valuable blueprint on which to base any Great British adventure. Tally ho!

Devon

Time from London: 4 -5 hours drive

Devon: England’s land of rolling hills, beautiful coastlines and clotted cream. Although not as centrally located as some destinations within the UK, we would highly recommend beginning any road trip down in this beautiful part of the country.

Devon offers space and freedom: whether it be its wild moors (perfect for windswept walks), rugged beaches or creative towns. England’s southwest is the perfect antidote to a busy and claustrophobic London. If you’re looking for a coastal trip, then try towns such as well-heeled Salcombe, scenic Dartmouth, the award-winning beaches at Woolacombe, Victorian Dawlish or the windswept Illfracombe. Heading inland? Definitely visit Exeter – the ‘capital’ of Devon – or the wild moors of Exmouth. For something a little different, pay a visit to Agatha Christie’s summer home, Greenway: still brimming with all of her belongings.

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Somerset

Time from Devon: 1 hour

Leaving Devon behind and you’ll soon cross into Somerset; a county offering much more than its legendary cider (although that’s definitely worth a try!) Perhaps its most famous city is beautiful Bath: a town boasting natural hot springs, Roman Baths, stunning Georgian architecture and an unparalleled culture scene. Once the home of Jane Austen, this romantic town offers a wealth of historical sites, fantastic shopping and diverse eateries. Definitely try and book ahead for a meal at The Circus: one of Bath’s best restaurants and for a bit of luxury, check in at the The Royal Crescent Hotel.

Aside from Bath, there are plenty of other towns worth exploring. Frome, just outside of Bath, hosts an ever-growing monthly market: The Frome Independent. This diverse market is crammed full of local produce, talented artisans and creative folk; perfect for a walk around on a lazy Sunday. Alternatively, why not spend a few hours exploring the fabled Glastonbury (home to that festival), for your fix of incense sticks, white-witchery and alternative culture.

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The Cotswolds

Time from Somerset: just under 2 hours

Leave England’s southwest behind and head inland for a tearoom-fuelled visit to the idyllic Cotswolds. We’re not sure that anywhere else typifies the English countryside better than the many honey-coloured villages that make up this beautiful region. Filled with pretty thatched cottages; village churches; smoking chimneys; and cosy pubs, the Cotswolds are like something out of a Beatrix Potter tale. Although each village is as pretty as the next, our suggestions would be Bourton-on-the-Water, Snowshill, Painswick and Lower Slaughter. If you tire of afternoon tea and country pubs (unlikely) then head into Oxford; a short drive from many of the Cotswold villages.

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Herefordshire and Shropshire

Time from the Cotswolds: approximately 1 hour 30 minutes

Heading north, take the time to pass through the beautiful counties that border Wales, as you follow the Wye Valley. Towns worth visiting along this route are the beautiful Ross-on-Wye: a historic market town close to the Forest of Dean (definitely worth staying in a log cabin here if you can!) or Ludlow: a foodie paradise crammed with delicatessens; cheesemongers; bakers; and amazing restaurants. If you really want to splash the cash, then try dinner at Mr. Underhill’s: a Michelin starred restaurant housed within a spectacular old corn mill. Or for an overnight adventure, try staying here in your very own wooden chapel, deep within the Shropshire woodlands. Perfect!

The Peak District

Time from Shropshire: 2 hours 30 minutes

Leaving the leafy valleys of Hereford and Shropshire behind, continue your journey north to the rolling Pennines and the Peak District. For any walking or climbing enthusiasts, this is definitely the place to visit. Far removed from the neatly trimmed lawns and flat villages of the Cotswolds, the Peak District offers stone villages, rocky hills and isolated stately homes. It’s beautiful in an entirely different way. Perhaps one of its most famous towns is pretty Bakewell: a town famous for its ‘Bakewell Pudding’. To try this firsthand, visit The Old Original Bakewell Pudding Shop (although be warned, the town is extremely busy throughout the summer!)

You might also want to try visiting Buxton: a town bordered by the sweeping Derbyshire Dales and home to Georgian terraces, beautiful gardens and an original spa, housed within a Victorian Bath House. If you fancy a fuller tour of the town, you can hop on a vintage milk-float, which will take you on an hour long ride around this lovely town (although be warned, its maximum speed is just 12mph!)

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Photo courtesy of Lastminute.com

York & Harrogate

Time from the Peak District: 1 hour 30 minutes

Wave goodbye to Derbyshire and head into Yorkshire. If by now you’ve had your fix of pretty pastoral villages, then swing by Sheffield or Leeds: cities certainly worth an overnight stay.

Pass these and you’ll soon hit another Victorian spa town: Harrogate, before reaching medieval York: a city of winding, cobbled lanes and leaning cottages. Both these places are equally worth a visit, although perhaps York pips Harrogate to the post in terms of the sheer amount of history and medieval architecture it offers. Nowhere else in the country offers the opportunity to step back in time than York does. No trip to this historical city would be complete without a trip to the infamous Bettys: a tearoom offering the best afternoon in Yorkshire (so they say) or the wood-panelled Bistro, Mannion’s. After stuffing yourself with scones and jam, then be sure to visit York Minister, voted one of the most beautiful Gothic Cathedrals in the world.

DescriptionThe Shambles, York, Yorkshire, England, UK

 Photograph courtesy of The Beech House, York

The Lake District

Time from York: 1 hour 30 minutes

Rather than heading north, you’ll now be heading west into Cumbria, home of England’s beautiful Lake District. Unsurprisingly, this region is one filled with vast expanses of beautiful, romantic lakes, with villages neatly nestled around them. The UK’s most popular national park, there are plenty of villages and towns to visit in this area; each as charming as the next. If you’re looking for somewhere to stay, try the villages of Coniston or Cartmel, which may be a little less busy than the main towns of Kendal or Windermere.

For literature fans, visit the homes of William Wordsworth, at Wordsworth House in Cockermouth, or Dove Cottage in Grasmere. To experience the lakes, then try Coniston Waters: the lake said to have inspired Ransome’s classic: ‘Swallows and Amazons’.

Dumfries and Galloway

 Time from the Lake District: 1 hour 30 minutes

Goodbye England, hello Scotland! We first encountered this lovely part of Scotland on our monumental drive to the Isle of Skye. With red ferns coating the hills in an auburn carpet and small, stone bridges criss-crossing the many streams, this part of Scotland is as peaceful as it is scenic. When we visited, we stayed at this amazing old water mill: arriving on a stormy and windy night to  open fires and the sound of the rushing river.

Alternative route: rather than crossing straight into Scotland, travel via the Northumberland National Park. This magical park is the perfect place for star-gazing and huddling around open fires. Dreamy. To truly sleep beneath the stars, try staying at this treehouse, complete with opening roof!

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Edinburgh

Time from Dumfries: 2 hours 

Your last stop on this UK road trip finishes in the ever-beautiful Edinburgh. One of our favourite cities, Edinburgh is the perfect mix of winding historical lanes and an exciting creative scene. Visit in the summer and you’ll experience its international Edinburgh Fringe Festival (book ahead). Visit during the winter and you’ll experience snow-covered views of the magical Edinburgh Castle. For a true welcome to Edinburgh, head to Sandy Bell’s; home to Edinburgh’s Scottish folk music scene and great beers.

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Photography courtesy of The Telegraph

Any suggestions? We’d love to hear them! Please feel free to add below.

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9 Comments

  • Reply Claire June 20, 2016 at 2:06 pm

    A fabulous article! And I’m delighted to see my home village of Painswick included! Thanks 🙂

    • Reply The Twins June 22, 2016 at 9:11 am

      Yay! Lovely Painswick!

  • Reply Anne June 20, 2016 at 6:52 pm

    Delighted that you gave Sheffield a mention as a proud Yorkshire lass. To avoid any confusion though Betty’s is in Harrogate and not York

    • Reply The Twins June 22, 2016 at 9:10 am

      Thanks so much, Anne. There’s a Betty’s in York too 🙂

  • Reply Elles June 28, 2016 at 10:18 pm

    I love this! As a Merchant Cadet I get a lot of time ‘at home’, but not much pay so I love hearing of places in UK to have adventures while on shore leave, so thank you for adding to my ever expanding list!
    I’m glad to see Coniston gets a look in, as it doesn’t get the recognition it deserves, but also wee bit upset, that now people will know about it and I’ll have to share! Growing up in Haverigg (tiny village on the Cumbrian coast) I spent a lot of time in my little rubber dingy on Coniston, preferred it much more to the business of Windermere!

    • Reply The Twins June 29, 2016 at 7:56 am

      Thank you so much! Coniston is so lovely – sorry for sharing your secret!

  • Reply Hannah Butcher August 16, 2016 at 5:57 pm

    Bath has got to be one of my favourite places in the UK, but despite visiting more than 10 times, I *still* haven’t made it into the actual spa baths. Must address this soon! Great post; I’ll be sharing it 🙂

  • Reply Sophia February 8, 2017 at 3:44 pm

    I stumbled upon your blog as I was looking into hiking the Peak District. I just moved to London from the U.S. and am getting a handle on everything. If I were to do this itinerary, about how many days would you recommend this trip to be? Thanks for your post. Awesome blog!

    • Reply The Twins February 8, 2017 at 4:35 pm

      Hey Sophia! Welcome to the UK! I think if you wanted to do all of it – and do it properly without just whizzing around and getting tired – then leave at least a week to 10 days 🙂 You could always skip places out if you want to shorten it 🙂 Or fly up to Scotland xxxx

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