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Road tripping through Great Britain is somehow equal parts a mesmerizing tour of ancient history, vast rugged and rural landscapes, and culture-rich cosmopolitan cities. We’d be hard-pressed to find a better adjective to describe the experience than the one in its name — great. Below we’ve created an itinerary that pieces together some of the gems not to be missed. From the southern shores of Cornwall to Scotland’s northern coast, here are the main stops for your Great Britain road trip.
Southern England and Wales
Whether you’re an international traveler or a born-and-bred Brit, London will be the best place to start your road trip. Before embarking, check out Road Tripping Essentials: The Do’s and Dont’s, then spend some time visiting London’s world-class museums, the centuries-old Gothic architecture, and the famed Houses of Parliament and Buckingham Palace. After working up an appetite, stroll through the Borough Market, or hunt for antiques at the Portobello Road Market, oh, and definitely find time to soak up the urban vibes in Soho. While in town, save some money by staying at one of the 6 Best Hostels in London.
From London, we recommend you head west towards one of Great Britain’s most recognizable monuments — Stonehenge. It doesn’t matter how many photos you’ve seen or how many theories you’ve heard, you will not fail to be impressed — and perplexed — by the landmark. Knocking this gem off your bucket requires just two hours of travel through bucolic countrysides, so you’ll arrive from London in no time.
Bath, Bristol, and Cornwall
Continuing your journey westward, we highly recommend stopping off at the historic city of Bath. Bath is one of those places that seems to be stuck in time, having not changed much since the Romans built a collection of comfortable bathing houses over two centuries ago. Today, the crumbling architecture is juxtaposed with a surprisingly cosmopolitan center with plenty of things to do.
Just west of Bath is Bristol, the city of bridges, balloons, boats, bikes, and Banksy. Walk across famous suspension bridges, go on a Banksy street art tour, and stop by any number of underground music venues, hip cafes, independent cinemas, and cool bars.
For those with some extra time, England’s Southwest Atlantic Highway is a road trip entirely in its own right. Flank the Cornish coast and discover barley fields, windswept dunes, and funky little surf towns. The Exmoor National Park is also a stopping point for the environmentally-inclined.
Cardiff — Wales’ capital city located just on the other side of the Bristol Channel — needs to be on your itinerary. To truly get a taste for Welsh culture, spend a couple days here strolling through the pedestrian-friendly city streets, visiting the Cardiff and Jacobs Markets, touring the Cardiff Castle, getting leisurely in Bute Park, and diving into gutsy modern British food and hoppy ales.
Heading north, Yorkshire is one of the most diverse counties in Great Britain. Your road trip will lead you through dramatic landscapes, pristine beaches, and cosmopolitan cities. Leeds tops the list as the best city in the region, and here you’ll find excellent shopping, fine dining, and all things luxury. It’s also a great university town with buzzing pubs, cafes, and music venues.
York and North York Moors Park
Head east from Leeds and stop off at York, the city at the heart of the county. Kick off your exploration here with the city’s most famous landmark, the Gothic Minster Cathedral. Those with a sweet tooth can visit York’s Chocolate Story, while the history buffs can check out the preserved remains at the Viking York Museum. Stop off just east of York in the North York Moors National Park, where history and nature combine to create for some pretty stunning scenery. Gawk at the expansive moorlands, discover towering cliffs on the coastline, and learn about eras stretching from the Iron Age to the Industrial Revolution.
Making your way further north still, Scotland may arguably be the best place for road tripping in Great Britain. The country’s capital is famous for jaw-dropping castles, locally-distilled whiskey, sprawling green spaces, and a lively old town that’s a treat for culture junkies. See some live music, spend some time in a museum or two, and get yourself a bespoke hipster kilt and be a part of the skirt-for-men movement.
The region of East Scotland lays claim to some of the best scenery in all of Great Britain, so head north from Edinburgh and discover the gems of St. Andrews along the Fife Coastal Route after stopping off on idyllic fishing villages. Also discover Dundee, a UNESCO city of design that boasts tons of quaint attractions. Finally, loop around to Arbroath, Stonehaven, and Aberdeen for some of the most stunning pastoral landscapes around. Breathtaking cliff top ruins, the site of the 1320 Declaration that asserted Scotland’s independence, and local restaurants are all in store.