An Itinerary for a UK Road Trip

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, planning a UK road trip was a darker experience entirely; featuring 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 provided our suggested itinerary to help you plan a UK road trip, beginning in England’s southwest and finishing in Scotland. We hope it provides a valuable blueprint on which to base any Great British adventure. Tally ho and enjoy!

The Ultimate Guide to Planning a UK Road Trip

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 UK 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. A little further on and the mysterious Dartmoor also awaits – home to Conan Doyle’s mythical Hound and a notorious, wind-swept prison. If visiting Dartmoor, be sure to visit Agatha Christie’s summer home, Greenway: still brimming with all of her belongings.

View Devon hotels here.

An itinerary for a UK road trip

An itinerary for a UK road trip

An itinerary for a UK road trip

An itinerary for a UK road trip

An itinerary for a UK road trip

Somerset

Time from Devon: 1 hour

Leaving Devon behind on your UK road trip 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 (be sure to enjoy a spa break of your own), 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 when planning your UK road trip. 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  whilst on your UK road trip (home to that festival), for your fix of incense sticks, white-witchery and alternative culture.

View Somerset hotels here.

An itinerary for a UK road trip

An itinerary for a UK road trip

An itinerary for a UK road trip

An itinerary for a UK road trip

An itinerary for a UK road trip

An itinerary for a UK road trip

The Cotswolds

Time from Somerset: just under 2 hours

This next stop on your UK road trip will take you into the centrally located counties of Wiltshire and Oxfordshire, where you’ll discover 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 handsome Oxford; a short drive from many of the Cotswold villages.

View Cotswold hotels here or why not stay in a beautiful self-catered cottage, like we did?

An itinerary for a UK road trip

An itinerary for a UK road trip

An itinerary for a UK road trip

An itinerary for a UK road trip

An itinerary for a UK road trip

Herefordshire and Shropshire

Time from the Cotswolds: approximately 1 hour 30 minutes

Heading north on your UK road trip, 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 indulge, then try dinner at Mortimers in the heart of Ludlow. Or for an overnight adventure, try staying here in your very own wooden chapel, deep within the Shropshire woodlands. Perfect!

View Herefordshire hotels here.

The Peak District

Time from Shropshire: 2 hours 30 minutes

Leaving the leafy valleys of Hereford and Shropshire behind as you continue your road trip of the UK, head 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 when planning your UK road trip, 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).

View hotels in The Peak District here.

York & Harrogate

Time from the Peak District: 1 hour 30 minutes

Wave goodbye to Derbyshire and head into Yorkshire. If by now your UK road trip has already featured enough 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 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 on offer. Nowhere else in the country offers the opportunity to step back in time than York does.

An itinerary for a UK road trip

An itinerary for a UK road trip

Of course, 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.

Whilst in York, we stayed in the city’s only 5* hotel: the beautiful The Grand Spa & Hotel, York.

An itinerary for a UK road trip

The Lake District

Time from York: 1 hour 30 minutes

Rather than heading north, you’ll now be heading west on your road trip of the UK, entering Cumbria: home of England’s beautiful Lake District. Unsurprisingly, this region is one filled with vast expanses of beautiful, romantic lakes, with picturesque 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, when planning your UK road trip try the villages of Coniston or Cartmel, which may be a little less busy than the main towns of Kendal, Ambleside or Windermere.

An itinerary for a UK road trip

An itinerary for a UK road trip

An itinerary for a UK road trip

For literature fans, visit the homes of William Wordsworth, at Wordsworth House in Cockermouth, or Dove Cottage in Grasmere, and of course, Beatrix Potter’s cottage: Hilltop. 

View hotels in The Lake District here.

Dumfries and Galloway

 Time from the Lake District: 1 hour 30 minutes

Goodbye England, hello Scotland! We first encountered this lovely part of the country when planning our own UK road trip, as we headed 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 was as peaceful as it was 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 wilderness is the perfect place for star-gazing and huddling around open fires.

Views hotels in Dumfries and Galloway here.

An itinerary for a UK road trip

An itinerary for a UK road trip

An itinerary for a UK road trip

Edinburgh

Time from Dumfries: 2 hours 

Your last stop on this ultimate UK road trip finishes in the ever-beautiful Edinburgh. One of our favourite cities, Edinburgh is the perfect mix of winding historical lanes coupled with 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.

View hotels in Edinburgh here.

An itinerary for a UK road trip

An itinerary for a UK road trip

Finally – and if you have any miles left in the tank – then make your pilgrimage across Scotland to the Western Isles, particularly the Isle of Skye. A place of myths, apparent fairies and eye-wateringly beautiful landscapes, it’s a destination that sees people returning year after year, and the perfect place to end your UK road trip.

An itinerary for a UK road trip

An itinerary for a UK road trip

An itinerary for a UK road trip

An itinerary for a UK road trip

We hope our (rather ambitious) guide to planning a UK road trip will help you when planning your own adventure. Of course, it is impossible to mention every town or city worth a visit, so for further inspiration, please feel free to browse our more in-depth guides below. Most importantly, if you have any other suggestions, we would love to hear them.

Looking for more help planning your UK road trip? Take a read of our Itineraries for Microadventures in England blog post.

Or thinking of taking your road trip abroad? Why not read our two week itinerary for the ultimate European adventure.

In-depth guides to UK destinations:

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An itinerary for a UK road trip

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13 responses to “An Itinerary for a UK Road Trip”

  1. Claire says:

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

  2. Anne says:

    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

  3. Elles says:

    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!

  4. 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 🙂

  5. Sophia says:

    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!

    • The Twins says:

      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

  6. Gareth Mate says:

    Really great!

    Glad you included my childhood home of the Peak District.

    Keep it up!!

  7. Kat says:

    This is such a good way of seeing so much of what the UK has to offer. I am trying to see as much of the country as possible at the moment!

  8. Amelie Zuber says:

    Oh my god!
    The landscape, the rolling mist, the little rivers…everything is so full of nature and wonder! I cannot begin to tell you how much I envy you having been there.
    I am hoping to travel to some of these places myself, in part to improve on my spoken english skills, but also to simply take in all the wonderful sights and settings.
    Thank you so much for sharing these already!

    Amy

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