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The tiny country of England is famous for its long history, the Royal family and quaint traditions. It is also known for impossibly pretty villages, hedgerow-lined country lanes and a wonderfully diverse landscape and coastline, all of which make England a must for travelers.
Perfect for a road trip, England is small enough to get around easily, meaning you can see more of the country in less time! From the capital city of London, most of the country and its attractions can be reached by car in a day!
We’re Brits who are addicted to being on the road and have years of experience road tripping in England. We got together with some road trip pals and have put together a round-up of our favourite road trips in England for you, to help you see the very best of this amazing country.
Are You in the Right Place?
England is a country of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, also known as the United Kingdom or UK for short. The other countries in this sovereign state are Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
Great Britain is not a country but a landmass, which is home to the countries of England, Scotland and Wales.
The British Isles is the name of the group of islands which are made up of Great Britain, the entire island of Ireland, The Isle of Man, The Isles of Scilly, The Channel Islands (including Guernsey, Jersey, Sark and Alderney) and lots of other much smaller islands.
So, if you’re looking for road trips around the rest of the UK, in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, check out these awesome posts. If you’re in the right place, then read on for the very best English road trips!
Getting to England
Fly into London’s airports of Heathrow, Gatwick, Standted and Luton for the south of England, Birmingham for the Midlands and Newcastle and Manchester for the north of England. We recommend booking through Skyscanner for live deals and the best prices.
You can hire a car at any of these airports and be on your chosen UK driving route within an hour of landing. Book your rental car well in advance and use a car hire booker like Rentalcars.com who will provide the best deals from all the top car hire companies. How? Because they have such a large market share, they’ve got way more buying power than individuals and can negotiate much harder on price.
For a real adventure, hire a motorhome or campervan in the UK. We recommend Motorhome Republic, an aggregate booking site who pull together all the best deals from a number of rental agencies, to offer you a wide choice of options alongside an excellent English speaking expert motorhome Concierge Team.
Best Time to Take an England Road Trip
December to February
The winter months in England are generally cold and wet. It is likely to be even colder and wetter, and possibly snowy, in the north, which can cause disruption on the roads. Although other visitors will be thin on the ground, this would be our least favourite time to road trip England!
March to May
Late spring is a wonderful time for visiting England, as the cold and wet retreats. Wildflowers appear, baby animals abound and life picks up a lively pace again – we Brits even start to wear t-shirts! But, remember that England is so lush because it rains, so always be prepared for a downpour, or a few drizzly days at this time of year.
June to August
Summer brings sunshine to all of England, with Devon and Cornwall getting the best of the warm Gulf Stream weather. The south coast enjoys the hottest summer with temperatures well into the 70s, whilst East Anglia is the driest part of the country. This is the perfect time to road trip around England, especially if you want to stop and hike or spend time enjoying the beautiful coastline.
September to November
Autumn is a fantastic time to visit England. The roads will be quieter but the weather still warm, and the glorious colours of autumn bring vibrancy to the countryside. Don’t leave your trip to England too late though, it will be cold and wet again by mid-October!
Is this your first time visiting the UK? Get all the information you need in our United Kingdom Travel Guide, including what to pack, the best time of year to go, getting there and practical tips to help you have the best trip!
The Best Road Trips in England
The Yorkshire Coast
Explored by Hannah of Get Lost Travel Blog
For some of the most diverse and dramatic views on an England roadtrip, you’ll want to explore the Yorkshire coast. This seven day road trip will take you from the seaside town of Whitby to the stunning nature reserve at Spurn Point, as you meander between the eastern edge of the desolate North York Moors and the coast.
Stops along the route include Robin Hood’s Bay, Scarborough, Filey, Flamborough and Hornsea. However, with so many beautiful stops available on the Yorkshire coast, you can easily customise the trip to fit your preferences.
The Yorkshire coast is renowned for its striking natural beauty and undulating bays and headlands, created by the unique geology of the coastline. This road trip includes the best seaside towns, shingle and sandy beaches and natural wonders along the coast.
To make the most of each stop on the trip, you will ideally want to spend one night at each destination. However, Whitby’s charm and Scarborough’s nostalgia could easily tempt you to extend your stay to two nights in both these locations.
The Lake District
Explored by Phil & Izzy of The Gap Decaders
The rugged Lake District in Cumbria is known as ‘Wordsworth Country’ and boasts some of the most scenic roads in the United Kingdom. Whether you’re looking to get away from it all or have an adventure, this road trip has something for everyone, and is one of the best road routes in England for active families and couples.
Head for the busy towns of Ambleside and Keswick or find peace and quiet by one of the sixteen beautiful bodies of water in this stunning English national park. Enjoy great hiking, biking and outdoor activities in the warmer months, or spend time on the water, with boat hires, kayaking and SUP all on offer.
Start your Lake District road trip at Ullswater, the second largest of the national parks lakes. Ullswater is nestled amongst some of the best fells the area has to offer and is home to the stunning Aira Force waterfall.
To the west of Ullswater, Keswick is a busy market town that lies between the natural beauty of Derwentwater and the imposing Skiddaw mountains.
Hike up to the prehistoric Castelrigg stone circle, literally surrounded by fells and sky in every direction, or try an easy trail like Catbells, which also has the added benefit of incredible views of the rugged and far-reaching landscape.
At the southern end of Derwentwater is the valley of Borrowdale, leading to the Honister Pass and the home of the Honister Slate Mine, the last working slate mine in England.
The mine has a visitor centre which provides underground guided mine tours and a range of adventure activities including a Via Ferrata (by ropes) course, a ropes course actually in the mine and a daring infinity bridge – kids big and small will love it here!
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London To Salisbury
Explored by Ann of The Road is Life
There are so many incredible sights to see and fascinating history to be discovered surrounding London. From historic cities to charming English villages and ancient monuments, the best way to see these highlights is by embarking on an England road trip. If you’re seeking an exciting adventure beyond the city, this epic one week road trip from London is just for you!
Departing from London, this road trip itinerary runs in a loop and passes through a few of the most beautiful Cotswolds villages, the historic cities of Oxford and Bath, Stratford-upon-Avon, the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Stonehenge and the majestic Salisbury Cathedral.
Each of these places has its own story to tell; take your time wandering the cobbled streets, stopping for a drink in a medieval pub and enjoying the peaceful atmosphere of village life.
Make sure you have travel insurance you can trust when visiting England. We recommend True Traveller for their 5-star TrustPilot reviews, variety of cover options, best activities cover as standard, great prices and excellent service.
The Atlantic Highway
Explored by Trisha of P.S. I’m On My Way
When I was living in London, I discovered so many road trips but the Atlantic Highway is my favorite. It is one of the best England road trips to do during the summer. In this itinerary, you will get to see the southwest coastal route of England.
Starting in Bath, I would suggest doing this road trip for seven days but if you don’t have more time, five days will do. You have to check the stops I recommended here to see how many days you want to stay in each location, but for you to have an idea, I did one night at each stop.
From Bristol, slowly head to Somerset, picking up the A39 coast road. I love Somerset and there are many more things to see and do here compared to other destinations.
The drive through Somerset to Devon is about an hour, but in between these two destinations, you can swing by Exmoor National Park where you can actually spend the night wild camping if you’re road tripping with a tent!
I spent a whole day here and this was my favorite highlight on this road trip – there are many things to do within the park and it’s best for adventure travelers! From Exmoor, head to Devon early in the morning.
If you have time, finish in Cornwall, where you’ll find gorgeous fishing villages like St Ives and Mousehole, St Michael’s Mount just off the coast of Penzance, glorious beaches and Land’s End, the southernmost tip of England – enough for a Cornwall road trip in itself!
RELATED POST – Cornwall Road Trip: The Best Itinerary, Map & Tips
Explored by Phil & Izzy of The Gap Decaders
One of the most beautiful counties of England, Norfolk enjoys an incredible and unspoilt heritage coastline and the famous Norfolk Broads, where you will find huge skies and mesmerising landscapes, making it one of the best road trip destinations in England.
The historic city of Norwich is one of the hidden gems of Norfolk. Considered the UK’s best-preserved medieval city, Norwich boasts a fine Norman cathedral, a lively and well-respected food scene, and the Norwich Lanes, a muddle of pedestrian alleys full of independent shops and boutiques.
Head from Norwich through the Norfolk Broads, stopping at pretty Wroxham for a boat trip – by far the best way to explore. From here it’s a pretty straight road to the coast, which is dotted with blue-flag beaches and seaside towns like Cromer to explore. Inland there are castles to scramble around, gardens to admire and stately homes to discover.
As you continue along the coast, you’ll come to the more wild part of Norfolk, and the North Norfolk Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. This is where you’ll find the vast swathes of sand, blue seas and huge skies that the county is famous for, as well as a couple of outstanding nature reserves made up of salt marshes, sand dunes and horizons stretching far out to sea.
Stop at Blakeney to admire the traditional flint cottages, practice your crabbing skills in the harbour, or take a trip out to Blakeney Point to visit the UK’s largest Common and Grey seal colony.
On the west coast and close to King’s Lynn lies the royal estate of Sandringham. Set in beautiful woodlands, perfect for walking, you can also visit the house, gardens and transport museum before heading to see the St Mary Magdalene church, where the Queen and her family attend services when they are staying at Sandringham.
For more information about all things Norfolk, visit the local’s guide to Norfolk at Norfolk Travel Guide.
Dover to Dorset
Explored by Paulina from Ukeveryday
If you are traveling from France and looking for the best road trip in England, start your journey in Dover. You can get to the port of Dover from France by ferry, or on a train using the Eurotunnel. There are beautiful white cliffs in Dover, as well as Dover Castle, from which to admire the views of this coastal town.
A road trip in England without visiting London cannot be complete, so make sure to spend at least one day in the capital. It takes around two hours to drive to London from Dover. We suggest parking on the outskirts and using public transport like the London Underground to visit the city center.
It’s easy to see the main London attractions in a day, using our London one day itinerary. Make sure not to miss the highlights of Big Ben, Buckingham Palace and the London Eye.
Make sure to also stop at Virginia Water which is a hidden gem just outside London. Walking around the lake and admiring beautiful flowers is one of the best things to do in Surrey.
Next day, visit Salisbury which is a two hour drive from London. When you get there, explore the impressive Salisbury Cathedral and the pretty market town, before heading the 20 minutes north to Stonehenge. The trip to see this magical stone circle is so worth it.
On your last day, relax at Durdle Door beach. The incredibly pretty village of Lulworth, where you need to park to walk to the beach, is around an hour’s drive from Salisbury, through the beautiful rolling countryside of Wiltshire and Dorset.
This iconic landmark on the ancient UNESCO World Heritage Jurassic Coast attracts many visitors, so make sure to arrive there early, especially in the summer months. Spend the day admiring one of the most famous natural landmarks in England, the spectacular Durdle Door arch.
RELATED POST – A South England Road Trip to Dorset & The New Forest
The Yorkshire Dales
Explored by Phil & Izzy of The Gap Decaders
In ‘God’s Own Country’ of Yorkshire, the roads ribbon between glacial valleys, patchwork fields, flat-topped hills and rocky outcrops, punctuated by pretty villages with quaint pubs, and windswept hiking trails.
There’s history aplenty too, in this land that was once host to the War of the Roses, the bloody struggle between the royal houses of Lancaster and York.
Start in the well-heeled and elegant Georgian town of Harrogate, known then as ‘The English Spa’. On the edge of the Yorkshire Dales National Park, this is a great starting point for your Yorkshire road trip.
Malhamdale is in the Pennines, at the southern end of the Yorkshire Dales. Malham itself is a pretty village, surrounded by the limestone buildings and the dry-stone walls so common in the Dales, with a stream bubbling through the centre of the village.
Malham is best known though for the glacial lake, Malham Tarn, and the majestic Malham Cove, a vast curving amphitheatre-shaped cliff formation of limestone rock. The sheer cliff face is about 80 metres high. If you’re lucky, you may see Malham Cove waterfall, which appears in the centre of the cliff face in spring and after heavy rain.
The lush sweeping valley of Wensleydale is distinct for its wooded hillocks and rushing waterfalls, the most famous being the triple flight Aysgarth Falls and Hardraw Force, England’s largest single-drop waterfall.
The capital of Upper Wensleydale, Hawes, is a lively market town with many hotels and tearooms. Local craft and artisan industries thrive making pottery, wooden toys and the famous Wensleydale cheese, Wallace and Gromit’s favourite.
One of the northernmost dales in the national park is Swaledale, a deep and winding valley that is home to the pretty cobbled market town of Richmond, which boasts a rich and vivid history.
Sitting high above the town, Richmond Castle dominates the skyline. The views from the top of the massive keep are far-reaching between the hills of Swaledale to the west, the Vale of York to the south and in the far distance to the east, the stunning North York Moors.
Be aware that this whole area is a mecca for tour buses which cause major headaches both on the roads and in car parks at the most popular spots. We say avoid the summer months if you possibly can.
The Peak District
Explored by Moumita & Sankha from Chasing the Long Road
Britain’s first national park, the Peak District is one of the best places for a road trip in England. There are plenty of amazing things to do in the Peak District to keep you busy. The road trip adventure starts at Sheffield and ends in Buxton, and it typically takes about four days to explore this national park. The drive following the twists and turns of Snake Pass is spectacular and rivals that other famous UK road, the Black Mountain Pass of Top Gear fame.
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Explored by Joanna of The World in My Pocket
The best way to explore the Cotswolds is by road trip. The public transport in the Cotswolds is not very reliable and, if you want to explore the best villages at your own pace, you must go there by car.
A good way to split your Cotswolds road trip is to explore the south one day and the north the other. For this, the best base for your day trips would be Gloucester, which is located fairly in the middle.
On the first day, you can explore the town of Gloucester, which is famous for its cathedral as well as the marina area where you will find plenty of trendy restaurants and bars.
On the second day, explore the north of the Cotswolds. Some of the most beautiful villages here are Bourton-on-the-Water, Stow-on-the-Wold, Moreton-in-Marsh, Broadway, Bibury, and Lower Slaughter.
Bourton-on-the-Water is a very popular village and this is why it is advisable to make it your first stop of the day, to avoid the crowds. Bourton-on-the-Water also has very limited parking, which is another reason to arrive here as early as possible.
On the third day, check out the south of the Cotswolds. The most beautiful villages here are Castle Combe, Painswick, known as the ‘Queen of the Cotswolds’, Nailsworth, and the Roman town of Cirencester, the capital of the Cotswolds.
If you have more than three days, you can always extend the road trip and spend more time in each of the villages.
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Northumberland Coast Route
Explored by Phil & Izzy of The Gap Decaders
This northern England road trip takes you along the stunning Northumberland coast, passing through the beautiful landscapes and seaside fishing villages of the county.
Northumberland is home to some of England’s most dramatic castles, an iconic holy island and Hadrian’s Wall, on the border with Scotland. There is fantastic coastal walking in the region, huge sandy beaches that seem endless and a warm welcome for visitors.
Start at Alnwick for the spectacular Alnwick Castle and country house, the seat of the 12th Duke of Northumberland. It was built following the Norman conquest in 1071 and renovated and remodelled a number of times, to the castle you see today.
Film and TV fans shouldn’t miss a visit here – the castle has been featured in Transformers: The Last Knight, Elizabeth, Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, as the magnificent Brancaster Castle in Downton Abbey, and probably most famously, Hogwarts in the first two Harry Potter movies.
As you head north, spend a night in one of the traditional fishing villages such as Craster, Seahouses, Bamburgh and Beadnell.
End your trip on the tidal island of Lindisfarne, which lies off the northeast corner of England near Berwick-upon-Tweed. Also known as Holy Island, it is one of the most important centres of early English Christianity. Irish monks settled there in 635CE and the monastery became the centre of a major saint’s cult celebrating its bishop, Cuthbert.
In 793CE the Vikings attacked Lindisfarne, looting the monastery and killing or enslaving many of the monks. It was the first time the Vikings had attacked a monastic site in Britain, and the attack came as a major shock for medieval Christians.
England Road Trip Resources
Here are the websites and services we personally use and recommend for traveling in England.
Information About Driving in England
Whether you’re road tripping England in a car, camper or motorbike, make sure you’ve got all your documents handy and your spare tyre is in good condition. If your England road trip itinerary is longer than a few weeks, you may want to consider a vehicle service before you go, and breakdown cover is probably a good idea.
- Drivers from non-EU countries may require an International Driving Permit. The general rule is that if your licence is not in Latin script, then an IDP will be required. Check with your hire company or embassy if you’re in doubt.
- You must have at least 3rd party insurance for your vehicle.
- Your car must be considered roadworthy in the country in which it is registered.
- Your headlights must be adapted for driving on the left if your vehicle is registered outside the UK.
- Unlike France, the UK does not have laws that require you to carry certain equipment in your car, but that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t. Being prepared in the event of an accident or a breakdown is invaluable. Ideally, you should carry a reflective jacket, a warning triangle, a first-aid kit and a fire extinguisher.
- Understand insurance options, mileage limits and fuel policies before booking a rental car.
- Check the car for damage on collection and make sure anything you spot is noted, and the same again when you drop it off.
- Remember to drive on the left during your trip to England!
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