UK road trip itinerary
When anyone mentions The UK, the usual suspects such as the Tower Bridge, The London Eye, Big Ben, and Buckingham Palace spring to mind. But there’s more than city life when it comes to big cities like London and Manchester – just hop into a car and check out these UK road trip ideas in the countryside.
With a variety of activities from trekking through multiple mountain summits to zipping down the world’s fastest zipline, here are the gems awaiting those who hop into a car and out of the city.
Table of Contents
UK road trip itinerary– Jurassic Coast – 1. Soak in mediaeval vibes at Tyneham Village2. Wind down at Worbarrow bay3. View dramatic landscapes at Stair Hole & Durdle Door4. Stay in the luxurious Lympstone Manor– Snowdonia –7. Ride the world’s fastest zip line at Penrhyn Quarry8. Ascend Mount Snowdon on a 100-year-old mountain railway9. Stay in Peckforton castle & live like Robin Hood for a day– Peak District –10. Enter the world of Narnia & journey into the Devil’s Arse11. Scale Mam Tor & explore an abandoned highway– Lake District –12. Take a scenic drive through Kirkstone Pass & Hardknott Pass13. Sail down Windermere LakeTips on driving in the UK
– Jurassic Coast –
As if the name “Jurassic Coast” doesn’t pique your interest, perhaps its scenic coastal views will do it for you. I began the journey along the Jurassic Coast from Worbarrow Bay, which is an approximate 3-hour drive (204km) southwest of London. The 152km journey through this UNESCO site ends at the west-most tip in Exmouth, which can be done in less than 2 hours.
1. Soak in mediaeval vibes at Tyneham Village
A good starting point to explore the Jurassic Coast would be the elusive Tyneham Village. Historians have gathered from the ruins that part of the settlement dates back to mediaeval times.
Today, visitors can expect to see historic remains of some of the original buildings such as school buildings, a row of 4 terrace houses, and even St Mary’s Church with roots dating to the 13th century. The remains of the village have been left intact taking visitors on a historic journey to the early 1940s when the village was abandoned during wartime.
2. Wind down at Worbarrow bay
The view at Worbarrow Bay.
For those who appreciate gorgeous scenery away from crowds, it’s a must to spend some time at Worbarrow Bay. The secluded coast is about a 30-45-minut stroll from Tyneham Village.
The path is not paved and can get a little muddy if it rains, hence comfortable hiking shoes are recommended. The countryside vibes were strong when I visited, as I spotted grazing cattle and sheep. Plus, I even got caught up in that movie-like thick fog so associated with the chilly English countryside.
P.S. Beautiful as this area may be, be sure not to use drones for pics as the bay is located within a military firing range and keep to the paths marked with yellow posts whilst hiking.
3. View dramatic landscapes at Stair Hole & Durdle Door
Stair Hole.Image credit: @p0000m
As one cruises further along the Jurassic Coast, stop by Stair Hole for a magnificent sight of natural caves, arches, and blow holes created by constant and ongoing natural erosion. Or, stroll along the white pebbled beaches of Lulworth Cove. Boat trips are available from Lulworth Cove throughout the summer months peaking from May through September.
Durdle Door.Image credit: @buto_0xa
Don’t forget to pay a visit to the majestic Durdle Door. Grandiose as it stands, it is a natural limestone arch formed almost 10,000 years ago.
On the 100m hike to the beach (approximately 30-minutes each way), you will encounter prehistoric rock formations dating back 180 million years. The descent can be slippery and steep but rewards hikers with majestic views of the ocean and cliff formations carved from centuries of erosion.
4. Stay in the luxurious Lympstone Manor
I ended my Jurassic Coast road trip at the picturesque coastal town of Exmouth, and was greeted by charming colourful buildings which line the riverbank. I’d recommend spending at least a night here, as its pristine beaches offer an array of watersports such as windsurfing, kayaking, and kitesurfing, making it a hotspot for families and children.
Just a 5-minute drive from Exmouth town is the luxurious Lympstone Manor which is helmed by Michelin-starred celebrity chef Michael Caines.
The vineyard at Lympstone Manor during spring.
Perfect for those who wish to wind down after conquering the Jurassic Coast drive, the manor is secluded and surrounded by vineyards. Serene vibes aside, there are biking trails, water gardens, and gorgeous views of the Exe estuary to soak up.
Image credit: Lympstone Manor
Some of the standalone suites have been converted into cabins with rustic and cosy finishings. These come complete with an outdoor BBQ area, a kitchenette, and even an outdoor bathtub which overlooks a small pond and vineyard. Stays start from £365/night (~S$584) in a Classic Room and can go up to £812/night (~S$1,299) in the Grand Estuary Suite.
Crab Ravioli at the Powderham.
For avid foodies, dining at the 1 Michelin star restaurant here takes centrestage. Choose between an a la carte menu (£155/person, ~S$248) or an 8-course signature tasting menu (£195, ~S$312). Their menu is branded as “modern cuisine”, but you can expect nothing less than fine dining gems such as French-inspired foie gras and Mediterranean spring lamb.
The narrow 2-way lane leading to Lympstone Manor.
P.S. The road leading to the manor is extremely narrow with the width of a bridleway, so drive cautiously.
Book a stay at Lympstone Manor.
– Snowdonia –
Snowdonia is the biggest national park in Wales, so it’s no surprise that you’ll find glorious views that can be spectated from the likes of hiking trails, villages, and historical sites. Despite the name, there isn’t much snow here in non-winter months, but the ~6-hour drive down from London or ~2-hour drive from Manchester is well worth it for its picturesque countryside vibes.
7. Ride the world’s fastest zip line at Penrhyn Quarry
Riders being prepped for launch down the zipline.
Located a mere 4-minute drive from the town of Bethesda in North Wales and neighbours the majestic Snowdon mountain range is Velocity 2 at Zip World Penrhyn Quarry (from £89/pax, ~S$143).
It offers adrenaline junkies the chance to zip down the longest zipline in Europe. It’s also the fastest in the world, where riders can achieve speeds well above 100mph. The speed might want to make you close your eyes out of fear, but we recommend keeping them peeled for panoramic views of the surrounding area.
A sneak peek of the views ahead just before you’re launched on the zip line.
When you’re dealing with such adrenaline-filled activities, safety is of utmost importance. Before your actual ride, you’ll go through a safety briefing and even experience a trial zipline over the bright blue waters of the quarry lake. It is however much milder in inclination and shorter in duration compared to the real experience.
This is followed by a rather bumpy and dusty 15-minute ride at the back of a truck to the summit of the quarry where the real experience awaits.
The bumpy ride up the quarry.
You’re not allowed to use your mobile phone on the zipline, but you can rent a helmet-mounted camera (£15, ~S$24) to capture the moment.
At Zip World, you can also try your hand at quarry karting (£40/pax, ~S$64) or even a much milder quarry flyer for the littles ones (£10/pax, ~S$16).
Those opting to continue on a scenic trail can take the 90-minute roundtrip quarry tour (£20/pax, ~S$32) to the peak of the quarry. Here’s where you’ll get those impressive shots of Ogwen Valley, Menai Strait, and Snowdonia National Park for your socials. The tour also includes a history lesson and ends with cake and tea at the Blondin Restaurant located onsite.
Address: Bethesda, Bangor LL57 4YG, United KingdomOpening hours: 9am-5pm, DailyContact: +44 1248 601444 | Zip World Penrhyn Quarry website
8. Ascend Mount Snowdon on a 100-year-old mountain railway
The diesel powered locomotive pulling into the station at the base.
Since you’re in Snowdonia, it’s only fitting to visit the mountain the region its’s named after. No need to pack trekking shoes for a hike up though – there’s the Snowdon Mountain Railway that’ll bring you all the way to the summit in comfort.
Image credit: @greg_phizacklea
It’s 45 minutes per way, with a 30-minute stop to explore and snap pics at the peak of Mount Snowdon. You’ll get either a traditional diesel or heritage steam locomotive for your ride but the difference in experience is negligible.
As you head up, look out for landmarks like the Ceunant Mawr Waterfall. The railway is the only way to get uninterrupted views of the falls, so have cameras at the ready for your Kodak moment. You’ll even get to see the ruins of a town leftover from the industrial revolution.
The misty view of the diesel locomotive at Clogwyn Station.
For the rest of 2022, the rides will take you as far as Clogwyn Station, which is about 3/4 the way up Mount Snowdon as the tracks beyond are closed due to maintenance. However, adventurous folks can continue onwards to the summit on foot which is a 1.5-hour hike from Clogwyn Station.
Mother Nature can be quite unpredictable hence postcard-ready views are not always a given here. On bright sunny days, visitors will be treated to views of the lush green valley below and even the brilliantly blue Llyn Peris Lake in the distance. There’s less cloud cover in the summer months, but do check local weather conditions before making the trip up.
Price:Return trip: £35/adult (~S$56) | £25/child 3-15 years (~S$40)Single trip for adult: £25/adult (~S$40) | £15/child 3-15 years (~S$24)
Address: Llanberis, Caernarfon LL55 4TU, United KingdomOpening hours: 9am-3pm, DailyContact: +44 1286 870223 | Snowdon Mountain Railway website
9. Stay in Peckforton castle & live like Robin Hood for a day
An aerial view of Peckforton Castle.
If you’re a kid of the ’90s or just really into mediaeval era movies, Kevin Costner’s Robin Hood: Prince Of Thieves would probably ring a bell. Now here’s your chance to live in the place where the movie was filmed – Peckforton Castle.
Peckforton Castle at sunset with its knight in not so shiny armour.
The castle is tucked away in Cheshire, a 6-minute drive from the village of Peckforton. You’ll know you’ve reached your destination when you arrive at huge wooden gates. Enter here and you’ll be greeted by mediaeval stone walls.
The castle features 48 rustic guest rooms with a mix of contemporary and classic decor. They offer rooms ranging from single rooms (from £169, ~S$271) to lodges that can accommodate up to 9 adults and 2 children. Its unique setting and decor also make it a popular location for intimate weddings which are held within either of the castle’s 2 function rooms.
Guests may test their Robin Hood skills at the outdoor archery range (from £31/pax, ~S$50) or even commandeer a British Land Rover (from £99/pax, ~S$159) that takes you off-road through steep inclines, rock crawls, and deep rivers.
Lamb served at the castle restaurant 1851.
After the day’s activities, dine like kings and queens at the 1851 Restaurant. A 3-course lunch will set you back from £27.50/pax (~S$44) and you’ll be dining on a mix of classic French and modern British cuisine in a semi-formal setting. However, do make a reservation early as the dining room tends to fill up pretty quickly.
Book a stay at Peckforton Castle.
Address: Peckforton Castle Drive, Stone House Lane, Cheshire, Tarporley CW6 9TN, United KingdomContact: +44 1829 260930 | Peckforton Castle website
– Peak District –
Peak District National Park is about a ~4-hour drive from London, but much more accessible from Manchester (~1 hour) if you prefer to head over from there. That said, you can expect adventures ranging from cave exploring to cycling in the countryside.
10. Enter the world of Narnia & journey into the Devil’s Arse
The entrance to the Devil’s Arse.
Excuse my French; Enter Peak Cavern, fondly known as the Devil’s Arse, and explore the hidden caves beneath Peveril Castle which also happens to be the largest natural cave in the British Isles.
A rope-making demonstration with interactive audience participation.
The tour is approximately an hour long with ticket prices ranging from £10/child aged 5-15 (~S$16), and £17/adult (~S$27). It takes visitors into the depths of the various caverns and sheds light on its history – complete with an experienced guide who entertains guests with his British humour.
There is even a demonstration of how ropes were made by settlerswho occupied the caves in the early days. This was also one of the sites where the movie Narnia was filmed.
The filming location of the scene in Narnia where the children entered Narnia.
Although it is a fairly easy trail, it does require a fair bit of flexibility as certain parts of the caves are pretty low, requiring participants to bend at hip level. Proper footwear is also advised as portions of the tour can get a little slippery.
Certain low ceiling portions of the tour.
Do take note that the attraction does not have car park facilities onsite. However, the nearest car park near the Castleton Visitor Centre, an approximate 5-10 minutes walk away. There are also no toilet facilities available at this attraction, so be sure to empty your tank before heading over.
P.S. Watch out for the occational showing of nostalgic movies or even concerts are held within the cavern.
Get tickets to Peak Cavern.
Address: Peak Cavern Road, Hope Valley S33 8WS, United KingdomOpening hours: 10am-4pm, DailyContact: +44 1433 620285 | Peak Cavern website
11. Scale Mam Tor & explore an abandoned highway
Sunset amongst the lush greenery in Mam Tor.
Nature lovers in search of a breath of fresh air and looking to let loose their inner gazelle, scale Mam Tor, also known as “Mother Hill”. Hikers can take a longer summit hike and explore the surrounding peaks. Ready the cameras on the drive in as you meander through the valley.
Mam Tor and the surrounding peaks
The beginning of the climb.
The hike from the visitor car park to the summit of Mam Tor is an easy one that’s paved the entire way without the need for elaborate hiking gear.
Marked gates at various points of the trail.
There are multiple trails of varying distances and difficulty which are numbered clearly on a series of sign posts and gates indicating the respective routes. A map can be found at the carpark at the start of the trail detailing each route.
It’ll take you an approximate 45 minutes to hike 550m worth of lush green valleys. Look out for herds of grazing livestock such as sheep and cattle – I had to literally make my way through the herd, and even got chased by a territorial sheep. Nevertheless, the 360-degree panoramic views from the summit made the slightly steeper final ascent worth the climb.
The summit of Mam Tor.
Pro tip: Take note of the timing and give yourself enough time to descend from the summit before the sun goes down. The shortest path to the carpark takes about 45 minutes.
The view along the summit hike.
Should you choose to continue to explore the surrounding peaks on a summit hike, it could be as long as ~11km requiring a total of about 5 hours both ways. This route will take you from the peak of Mam Tor to Hollins Cross and finally Loose Hill. It is a fairly easy hike with the occasional steep incline but rewards hikers with spectacular views especially at dusk.
My hiking companions. Don’t panic if the occasional curious cattle or sheep decides to walk over to say hello.
The Broken Road
Portions of the Broken Road.
While you’re in the area, a must-see is the Broken Road. As its name suggests, you’ll see the chunky remains of the original A625 highway scattered over the hillside due to it being located on a landslide hotspot. Although the road has been abandoned since 1979, it is still accessible to visitors by a short hike.
Today the only traffic it sees are those from grazing livestock as it is no longer passable for vehicles. The easiest way to access the broken road is to take your vehicle to the end of the old Mam Tor road which would end at a wooden gate. From there, it is about a 5-10 minutes walk.
– Lake District –
For avid travellers, Lake District would’ve probably been on your radar for its serene lakeside towns surrounded by dramatic mountains. It’s about a 5-hour drive from London, and a 1.5-hour drive from Manchester, if you prefer a shorter route.
12. Take a scenic drive through Kirkstone Pass & Hardknott Pass
Image credit: @prestopatriciavirgin
If you fancy road trips and slightly challenging roads in exchange for stunning views of small lakes and streams, this drive is perfect for you. The historic Kirkstone Pass – also known as A592 – is located in Cumbria, about a 5-hour drive from London.
You can either start at Ambleside in the district of Rothay Valley and end at Patterdale in the district of Ullswater Valley or vice versa.
Image credit: @nothannahclarke
It is also the highest pass open to motor traffic in the Lake District at an elevation of 1,489 ft. Slowing down at this point might be a good idea for two reasons: to take in the views of the surrounding hills and to carefully manoeuvre through the winding and narrow roads especially during the winter months.
An aerial view of Hardknott Pass.
A first hand piece of advice, novice drivers: I would recommend for you to call it a day and turn around once you reach Kirkstone Pass. But if you’re a more experienced driver, continue onwards to Hardknott Pass for some of the most challenging stretches of road you’ll ever encounter.
This pass has even been described by The Guardian as one of Britain’s “most outrageous roads.”
The notorious pass is flanked by cliffs and comprises narrow roads with barely enough space for one car to pass through as it meanders through the valley. It has steep inclines ranging from 25% with the final cliff pushing an incredible 33%. I found myself clutching my steering wheel intently as I manoeuvred the car though the sharp turns as the tires struggled to maintain its grip on the road.
The warnings for motorist to what lies ahead.
The route has occasional rest points for visitors to stop and admire the views of the surrounding mountains dotted with sheep or simply to stretch their legs by going on short walks into the valley.
The view from a bonnet mounted camera whilst inching past another car on the impossibly narrow pass.
Spot the sheep en route.
The narrow roads just before Hardknott Pass.
Therefore, for those who have little or no experience in driving on narrow country roads, do not even consider attempting this. It may be considered a daunting endless slalom to some, but to me, it was the drive of my life.
13. Sail down Windermere Lake
A “fisherman” swooping in for the kill.
A visit to Lake District without a day at a lake would almost be tantamount to committing a crime. Enter Windermere Lake, the largest natural lake in England, is located at Cumbria towards the southeast of the Lake District.
Electric boats for hire at Windermere Lake.
That said, it’s a must to explore the Lake District by boat. Boats are available for rent with Windermere Lake Cruises at 3 locations along Windermere Lake, Bowness Beach, Bowness Dock and Waterhead at £38/boat (~S$61) (1-2 adults) with an additional £6/adult (~S$10).
One does not require a powerboat licence nor boating experience of any sort. A short 5-minute safety briefing was provided by the vendor at the beginning of the rental before I was sent on my way.The electric boats are fairly quiet and easy to drive with your only worry being other traffic. It can get fairly crowded in the warmer months hence pre-booking is recommended.
Smokey and piping hot burgers fresh from the grill at a nearby stall.
Those opting for a more relaxing means of exploring the area can choose to sail, wind surf, row, or even take a ferry ride around the lake. Else, laze on one of the many patches of grass with your family and enjoy piping hot hotdogs from one of the make-shift food carts.
Tips on driving in the UK
One of the best ways to explore the English countryside is obviously by car. But for those who haven’t really driven outside of Singapore, here are some pointers to take note of.
Country roads can get pretty narrow especially in the Peak and Lake districts, so proceed with caution. During winter, the mountain roads tend to freeze over much quicker than the highways. Therefore, plan your route and conduct enough research before you book your ride.
A sign in the Lake District warning motorists of sharp bends and gradients.
While you’re at it watch your speed limit. Great Britain is one of the top 3 countries with the most speed cameras per km². Cameras in the UK calculate and issue tickets based on the average speed of each vehicle over a period of time. Most roads in cities carry a limit of 20-30mph and most highways bear a limit of 60-70mph.
Be sure to also fuel up when you can as it may be difficult for you to find petrol stations that are open 24/7. Try to keep a minimum of a quarter tank of petrol, depending on how far you plan to drive in the dark.
Another thing to take note of is to book attractions before embarking on your trip to avoid disappointment as pre-pandemic crowds have started to return. In addition, a few attractions have begun implementation of full cashless payment. This has been met with some difficulties especially with the receiving of OTPs to foreign SIM cards.
Going off the beaten track in England
Regardless whether you are in search of a relaxing road trip or the ride of your life, the UK countryside offers activities for those sniffing out adventures. Visit far-out countryside gems such as beaches with dramatic cliffsides, hills with lots of tottering livestock, and old towns that look right out of Downton Abbey.
Check out more things to do in Europe:
Story and photography contributed by: Ian Poh Jin Tze