When we decided to embark on a road trip through the UK, there were a few things I expected. I knew the stress of driving on the left side of the road might cause a few arguments. I knew some beautiful sights lay in our future. And I knew we were getting ready for the adventure of a lifetime. Trust me, our UK road trip did not disappoint and visiting the UK was the best idea ever!
Alfred and I arrived separately to London; he flew in from the US and I flew in from Israel. As soon as we arrived, we hopped on another plane and made our way to Edinburgh, Scotland where our grand UK road trip began. We spent the night in Edinburgh and the next day began our journey to the far north of Scotland. From the moment we started driving, I knew all my expectations would be met and, at times, exceeded. Of course, driving on the left side of the road is pretty stressful to those of us from the rest of the world…but aside from that, we didn’t have very many arguments. As a couple who travels together, we try to deal with arguments before they turn into an issue. Plus, who has time for arguments when your met with such incredible sights everywhere you look? Road trips are great for that!
The music, the road, the stunning Scottish, English, and Welsh countryside, the two of us…it’s the perfect recipe for an adventure and definitely a time I’ll always cherish.
Why UK road trip?
Originally, we planned to take a trip to London for about 12 days. Then I came up with the idea of using half those days for a UK road trip, make our way back down to London, and spend the remaining half in the city. Most foreign visitors only visit the bigger or more popular cities in the UK such as Edinburgh, Glasgow, Cardiff, Bath, and (of course) London. But the country, just like any country, has a lot more to offer besides its cities. During a UK road trip, you are bound to see natural vistas, ancient abbeys, ruins, and a few quaint, and sometimes quirky, villages.
Not only that, you’ll meet some incredible people and have some amazing cultural experiences. Imagine our surprise when three guys walked into a pub in Inverness and began playing lively traditional Scottish music as we sat around having a pint. None of it was planned…the guys randomly started playing their instruments and before we knew it, we were having a gay old-time drinking and stomping to the music. That’s why you should try to go on at least one UK road trip. You gain a better grasp of the place and all that it encompasses.
What makes a road trip in the UK so special?
Taking a road trip through the UK is pretty special because the scenery is stunning. Imagine standing at the edge of a cliff with a castle behind you while you face the sea. Sounds like something you might read about in a fairy tale but it’s reality as you travel through the UK. One of the best things about a UK road trip is not many people do it. That means many of the attractions you stumble upon won’t have very many people in attendance. So you can capture some pretty great photos and have time to reflect on your experience. Speaking of fairy tales…you’re bound to encounter some pretty well-preserved castles as well as ruins. You can create your own fairy tale situation and pretend you’re a king or queen looking out over your realm. Most importantly, exploring the UK’s thousands of years of history is fascinating. There’s so much to see and do!
UK Road Trip Itinerary
To make planning your own road trip easier, I’m including the route we took during our UK road trip here. Of course, it’s always important to do your research and figure our what your must-dos
are before planning your route. I suggest listing out everything you’d like to see in the UK then planning your route based on that list. Make sure to take travel time into account. Some days you may travel for a few hours, visit a site, and then find you’re tired. Most importantly, try your best at being flexible. It’s a road trip so you should, literally, go with the flow of things. You don’t have to hit everything on your list and if you stress about that, you’ll blemish all the awesome experiences you’re having at the moment.
If you don’t feel like planning your own road trip out, just use my itinerary. It’s pretty thorough but bear in mind that the time slots allotted are simply suggestions. My itinerary had a heavy focus on castles and manor houses which is something to keep in mind. Make it your own!
UK Road Trip Day 1: Edinburgh
On the first day, we flew from London to Edinburgh and spent the day in the city. Edinburgh has a lot to offer from a beautiful castle fortress with incredible views to some great bars that’ll make you feel like your having a real Scottish experience. This city could be a trip all on its own but we decided to head out into the Scottish highlands to chase the true spirit of this region.
UK Road Trip Day 2: Inverness and Loch Ness
From Edinburgh, we made our way to Inverness taking the A9 all the way. It’s about a 3.5 hour drive on a road considered one of the most beautiful scenic highways in the world. Driving through mountains, forests, a few bogs, and tiny towns is the highlight of this journey. You top it off by ending the day in the small and picturesque village of Inverness where you can explore the pub scene as well as Inverness Castle (which is still used as a courthouse today). Be sure to eat at the Rendezvous Cafe which was once a nightclub frequented by The Beetles.
Loch Ness is also near by, famous as the home of the mythical Loch Ness Monster. But don’t tell the locals you think it’s a myth…it’s definitely not according to them. You can drive around Loch Ness or take a cruise to gain the beautiful views of the lake and if you’re lucky you might see Nessie herself. Situated on the banks of the lake, and technically in an area called Drumnadrochit, is Urquhart Castle …well worth touring. The castle ruins date to the 13th Century and make for an excellent photograph.
UK Road Trip Day 3: Alnwick and Newcastle
This was our longest day of driving. We drove from Inverness, Scotland to Newcastle, England. Originally, we intended to drive to Alnwick and then head to Newcastle but our time calculations were just a little off. This is a great example of when things didn’t go as planned but we just rolled with it. If you ever get the chance to go to Alnwick, you should because there is a beautiful castle you can tour there and some parts of the Harry Potter movies gained inspiration from this castle.
So we decided to drive onward to Newcastle and stumbling upon Rosslyn Chapel which immediately became a must-do for us. The chapel, located at the village of Roslin in Midlothian, Scotland, dates back to the 15th Century. It’s small but its grounds are fun to explore. It’s also famously featured in the movie The Davinci Code! After this, we drove on and happened upon Tantallon Castle which is a partially ruined fortress dating to the 14th Century sitting on the edge of a cliff. You can explore every inch of this castle on your own and get stunning views of the ocean and surrounding countryside. You’ll also get a great view of Bass Rock from this vantage point. Nearby, you can access a private beach for £2 then hike around the cliff, by skipping on the rocks, to get an incredible view of the castle from afar.
As for Newcastle, it’s a rather large city and has all the things you’d expect a city to have including a pretty fun, thriving gay scene. Go out and have a good time! All the gay bars are located in one central location which makes things pretty convenient. There’s even a bathhouse if that’s something you might need.
UK Road Trip Day 4: Sheffield
When it comes to Sheffield, we honestly did not spend too much time in the city. We spent the night in the city and left early in the morning so I don’t have much to say about it. However, about 45 minutes away from Sheffield is the small village of Bakewell which is also the location of the famous Chatsworth House. The manor house is the abode of the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire and has passed through 16 generations of the Cavendish family. It’s well worth exploring this place. The house is as lavish and over the top as you’d expect it including a great restaurant, gift shop, and tea shop. Not to mention, the views from certain parts of the property are breathtaking.
UK Road Trip Day 5: Salisbury
From Sheffield, we made our way towards Salisbury with a couple of pit stops. We originally intended to visit Highclere Castle, otherwise known as Downton Abbey, because we both really want to walk through the castle from the show. However, it was closed so that didn’t happen. As I was fumbling with the GPS, Bombay Sapphire popped up as a destination. It was nearby, so we decided it was worth a visit. Touring the distillery was pretty awesome! We saw how the gin is made, learned about the history of this gin in particular, and the grounds of the distillery are quite beautiful.
Not only that, the distillery has a unique greenhouse where plants, used in the production of gin, are grown. I’ve definitely never seen a greenhouse like this before. At the end of our tour, we enjoyed a cocktail made based on our olfactory preferences which were determined in the sniffing room. Sounds like a weird place but the sniffing room is simply a space where you can smell the different herbs and other plants used for gin and rate them. It was definitely a great experience.
We also made a stop in the town of Watership Down, which is where the fictional children’s story about rabbits takes place, for lunch. Ultimately, we ended the day in Salisbury where we enjoyed dinner at a pub dating to the 12th Century and took a peek at the Salisbury Cathedral at night which houses the Magna Carta. Walking through the gates of the close was like taking a step back in time.
UK Road Trip Day 6: Stonehenge
During our UK road trip, we dedicated a whole day to Neolithic sightseeing. Early that morning, we drove to Stonehenge and, fortunately, we were one of the first to arrive. When we arrived, there was practically no one else there which made it easy to get some pretty great shots of Stonehenge and gave us a minute to reflect on the history of this ancient structure. For me, the magic wore off in about 5 minutes, once bus loads of tourists began to arrive. But it’s definitely one of those places worth visiting at least once.
After this we drove to the Avebury Circle, a henge monument with three stone circles surrounding the village of Avebury in Wiltshire, Southwest England. Not nearly as striking as Stonehenge because it is so spread out, it is still pretty incredible that stones have stood in their current places for close to 5,000 years. It’s also considered the largest megalithic stone circle in the world. It’s a pretty special place to me and Alfred because of a specific tree in one of the fields.
You’ll see old trees, lots of sheep, and the ancient stones during your visit as you take your self-guided tour. We actually stopped to take a nap in one of the fields and then had lunch in the picturesque town.
Later, we made our way to the West Kennet Long Barrow not far from Avebury. A barrow is basically an ancient tomb and this one, built in around 3650 BCE, once held about 50 people. I wasn’t really up for going to this particular Neolithic site but Alfred really wanted to see it. When we arrived, we hiked about a half mile to the barrow where we were able to enter it free of charge and free to explore on our own. Walking through something so ancient is a pretty interesting experience and it makes you reflect on what the area must have looked like back then.
This is the part where we were supposed to drive towards London and somehow ended up in Wales. To make a long story short…we had an argument and I decided to let Alfred navigate without me getting involved. Instead of ending up at Windsor Castle, we ended up at the Windsor Castle Hotel. Needless to say, it’s not the same thing. We had a good laugh and carried on our way. Like I said, people, roll with it.
UK Road Trip Day 7: Windsor and London
Windsor Castle was one of my top must-dos for this trip to the UK. Alfred wanted to see the Neolithic stuff and this was something I could not miss. We arrived at Windsor Castle early in the morning which allowed us to get tickets quick and jump ahead of the tourist crowds. It’s one of the largest castles in the world and the longest occupied.
Since it is a working castle, it’s fun to imagine the Queen might show up at any moment. But in reality, were the Queen to show up, none of us would be allowed inside the grounds.
Touring the castle is a great experience because there is so much history in one space. It dates to the 11th Century and was built by the Normans surviving every war and uprising since. Exploring the city of Windsor is quite nice as well because it contains just as much history with the addition of great restaurants that go back hundreds of years and plenty of shopping.
UK Road Trip Day 7-12: London
For the end of our trip, we hung out in London. There are a million and one things to do in London so that will be saved for another article. Needless to say, our UK road trip was filled with adventurous moments and we made tons of memories. You can take this itinerary and follow it exactly or you can switch it up and make it your own. No matter what, make sure you roll with whatever happens and be flexible. With some planning, a bit of an adventurous spirit, and an openness to serendipity, you’re bound to have a blast and better understand what makes the UK such a special place.
What do you think about going on your own UK road trip?
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