Planning an England Road Trip? Here are some of the best itinerary ideas, including road trips to/ from London all the way down to Cornwall, Cotswolds, Lake District and up to the Scottish border. Whatever you enjoy, there's an itinerary here for you.
When we set off for Norfolk (from Portsmouth), I didn't expect to be spending the night in Cornwall.
For those of you unaware of England geography, Norfolk is east. Cornwall is west. Portsmouth is in the middle. It's safe to say, something had gone awry.
The problem with road trips is that there is just SO MUCH to see. And it's so easy to change your mind (and head West, instead of East).
So, if you're planning an England road trip and feeling overwhelmed, here are 12 of the best itineraries to help you. We'll discuss the best bits of each area, why and when you should visit, how far it is from London and how long it takes to explore.
South England road trip
If you're visiting London and want to explore part of the country for a few days, south England is a good place to start. Of course, there are a HUGE number of places to explore in ‘South England', so I'm just going to pick a few highlights to inspire you.
Well, I already mentioned Cornwall, so it seems like a great place to start. We visited Cornwall with our motorhome during October, but I also spent 2 years living down there whilst in the Navy. I LOVE Cornwall, but there are some important things you need to know before you arrive.
Why is Cornwall one of the best England road trips?
If you want cute villages, incredible beaches and more history than you can shake a stick at, Cornwall is perfect. Also, they have some of the best ice cream IN THE WORLD (no kidding) and it's perfectly acceptable to eat a scone with jam and clotted cream EVERY day and no-one will judge you.
IMPORTANT: There is intense rivalry between Devon and Cornwall over whether jam or cream should go first on a scone. In Cornwall, they do jam and THEN cream, which is apparently the way the Queen prefers her scones. (Don't worry, they're used to tourists and won't stone you if you get it wrong. But be warned if you want to live there…!)
When should you visit Cornwall?
Cornwall is best anytime between Easter and mid-October. TOP TIP: Avoid July and August if you possibly can. The schools are on holiday and it feels like EVERYONE in England has travelled to the same small Cornish village as you. Beaches are over-crowded, parking becomes a struggle and there's a very real chance of shops running out of ice cream. Don't do that to yourself. You deserve that ice cream.
Also, many businesses and attractions close after mid-October for the winter, so you might find you can't do everything you want to outside the season.
How long should you spend roadtripping Cornwall?
How long is a piece of string!! But, as you can see on our Cornish road trip itinerary, we recommend 7-10 days minimum to see all the best places.
Where are the best places to visit in Cornwall on a road trip?
Did I mention that I used to live here? I have SO many recommendations for places to visit we could be here all week!!! Some of my absolute favourites (and this is like choosing my favourite child… or chocolate bar) include:
- Tintagel Castle (the home of Arthur and the round table)
- Minack Theatre (built onto the side of a cliff)
- Boscastle (where one of the best witchcraft museums in the world is!)
Recommended by Ben at Driftwood Journals
Famed for its endless rolling hills, craggy coastlines and clotted cream delights, Devon is unsurprisingly one of the most popular destinations in the UK – and a dream for rural road-trippers! With wild moors galore, cutesy towns and villages, and bountiful beaches, you don’t have to drive far in Devon to stumble upon scenes of unparalleled beauty.
Highlights and best places to visit in Devon
- Dartmouth- one of the best towns in the county (and home of the Royal Naval Officer training. I spent a year here…running up those bl***y hills! Hire a boat and explore the river.
- Paignton- the beach with the red sand
- Exmouth with its beautiful painted houses
- Salcombe Harbour
- Dulverton- head to the Copper Kettle tea room; you won't regret it!
Devon road trip ideas
Pack up your motorhome/ camper (or car with tent) and find a site with views across the Devonshire cow-grazed hillsides of the Lyn Valley, or out over Dartmoor. You can wild camp in Devon, but not on the moors. Find out more about wild camping in the UK.
For a coastal trip, explore sea towns like Salcombe and Dartmouth (where you can take a boat up to Greenway, Agatha Christie's summer home) and round to Exmouth, before heading north to Woolacombe, Dawlish and the fishing boat bobbing harbour of Ilfracombe. Enjoy the bustle and culture in the capital of Exeter or discover the notorious prison of Dartmoor.
If you have more time (and fuel) to burn, take to the A386 between Appledore and Plymouth, traversing through forested valleys to picture-perfect towns like Great Torrington and Tavistock, where you can tour the tearooms and plan the rest of your trip in the park while dangling your toes in the River Tavy.
But the true beauty of road tripping in Devon is that you don't really need to plan too extensively. You’ll never be far from a cream tea pitstop, and the verdant country roads will offer up some of the most perfect picnic spots you’ll ever see. All you need is is a full tank, and a little patience when stuck behind tractor after tractor!
When is the best time to visit Devon on a road trip?
As with Cornwall, the best time to visit Devon is Spring to Autumn, but avoiding the high summer months if you can.
Can you visit Devon on a day trip from London?
You can, but it's quite a long drive. I'd say you'd need at least 2 or 3 days to really be able to explore anything.
Dorset- one of England's best road trips
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The Jurassic Coast stretches 95 miles across Dorset in southern England. With an iconic coastline of towering white cliffs, it’s an excellent destination for a classic road trip. Stunning scenery, historical sites and local breweries make the Jurassic Coast one of the best places to experience the beautiful English countryside.
Dorset road trip- best places to visit?
The main highlight of a road trip in the area has to be Old Harry’s Rocks – a collection of white stone monoliths that have been carved out along the coast. It’s one of the most impressive stretches of scenery in the UK with dazzling chalk stacks assembled like a jigsaw puzzle waiting to be completed. If you get time, be sure to enjoy one of the many fabulous Dorset walks- you won't regret it.
Not far away, Corfe Castle stands as a reminder of England’s 11th-Century past. It was one of the earliest Norman castles built and today it glows in dilapidated glory overlooking the Dorset hills. It’s a stunning, photogenic inclusion on a UK road trip.
For another natural phenomenon, Durdle Door is possibly one of the most recognisable symbols of the Jurassic Coast. Over time, crashing waves have eroded limestone stacks in the sea leaving a glorious natural arch. It’s a beautiful stretch of beach, ideal for a long summer stroll.
Editors note: (I (Kat) actually jumped off the top of Durdle Door on my hen party!)
After soaking up the stunning scenery, Lyme Regis is a quaint town with a vibrant independent retail scene. The historic Cobb Harbour set against moody cliffs is well-preserved and houses some of the best coffee in the area.
When is the best time to visit Dorset on an England road trip?
The best time to visit the Jurassic Coast on a road trip is from May to early July when the surrounding countryside will be verdant green and covered in wildflowers, but there's not too much traffic!
Isle of Wight road trip
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The Isle of Wight, famous for its beautiful views, is an island on the south coast of England, just below Southampton. With a motorhome or car, you can reach the island by ferry from either Southampton or Portsmouth – book in advance during summer. There are also a couple of foot passenger ferries and a hovercraft from Southsea.
Why is it one of England's best road trips?
The Isle of Wight is like going back in time. It's worth a road trip here for even a weekend, to escape the hustle and bustle of normal life, ride bikes and take a walk on the cliffs.
What is there to do?
You can start exploring the island in Shanklin – one of the coastal villages famous for its beautiful beaches. On the promenade along the sea you will find many restaurants and hotels – most of the Island is typically tourist-oriented.
From Shanklin drive to the western part of the island. The most characteristic point is The Needles – three chalk rocks emerging from the sea. At the end of one of the columns a small lighthouse was built. You can get to Needles by car and then follow the path on foot to the cliff slope. It's a fabulous place for a picnic.
Next to Needles is Old Battery, a military fortification dating from the nineteenth century, in which memorabilia from World War II were collected, various exhibitions are also taking place.
While driving around the island make sure you get to Carisbrooke Castle near Newport. Its construction began in the 12th century. It is worth taking a moment to walk around the castle, relax in the Edwardian-style garden.
One of my favourite places on the Island is Osborne House- Queen Victoria's summer home. You can walk around the gardens and the house and even enjoy an ice cream on her private beach. Osborne House is run by English Heritage.
When is the best time to visit the Isle of Wight?
The Isle of Wight is a must-see for anyone who wants to admire the British climate and above all fantastic views. It is worth going here all year round – we recommend especially early Spring or Autumn, when there are fewer tourists and you can enjoy the views & roads!
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Sometimes you want nothing more than to escape the hustle and the bustle of everyday life, the noise, the bright lights, the never-ending pace of life. If you want to get away, the Norfolk Broads is pure escapism; big skies, plenty of peace and quiet and an abundance of wildlife.
Best places to visit in Norfolk on a road trip
- The Old Roman Fort at Burgh Castle with an elevated position and commanding views over the marshes – perfect for a walk in both winter morning frost or a hot and hazy mid-summer evening
- If you prefer a bit of activity, Wroxham is a bustling Broads village- home to Roy’s of Wroxham, possibly the largest village shop you have ever seen
- Plenty of riverside pubs and restaurants in Wroxham and all around the Broads- the perfect places to stop for a bite to eat
- St Benets Abbey
- If you are an animal lover, you will enjoy a visit to Wroxham Barns to feed the lambs or spot the grey seals on the Norfolk beaches
Norfolk Road Trip- when is the best time to visit?
You can explore Norfolk all year. In summer, if you would like to explore the best Norfolk beaches or Broads up close, why not hire a dayboat; these can be hired at various boatyards throughout the Broads. Waveney River Centre is another stunning place to stop and admire the view, either by boat or car.
The challenge is (as always in England!) the weather. In dry conditions, most paths are excellent, but it can get a bit more challenging in wet weather. However, over the years, an increasing number of boardwalks have been developed, increasing safe access to the Broads whatever the weather. Also, seeing the windmills and rivers on a crisp winter morning is unforgettable.
Time does not stop in Norfolk, but it really does feel like it slows down. To be able to watch the sunset across the broads any time of year is a magical experience and the perfect place to enjoy a chilled road trip.
Wiltshire & Cotswolds Road Trip – 3 day trip from London
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The Cotswolds is the largest Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) in England and Wales. If you look at a map of England, find Bristol (west coast, just below indent of southern Wales) and the Cotswolds is the area north-east of Bristol.
There is so much beauty and fascinating history to discover around the Cotswolds region and luckily you don't have to travel far from London to get there! You can reach Bath or Bristol easily in a day from London, but we recommend at least 3 days to really explore the area by car/ motorhome, plus explore Stonehenge and Salisbury on the way back to London. If you're travelling with children, don't worry- there's plenty of things to do in the Cotswolds with kids.
Highlights & Best places to visit in the Cotswolds and surrounding area
- Explore the charming stone villages of the Cotswolds
- visit the historic city of Bath
- marvel at the mysterious ancient stones of Stonehenge
- stop at the magnificent Salisbury Cathedral.
When is the best time for a Cotswolds road trip?
Although the Cotswolds can be visited all year, this road trip is best completed in the spring or summer months to ensure warmer and sunnier sightseeing weather. The days are also longer- allowing you to see more each day. However, unlike Cornwall and Devon, most places to NOT shut during winter, so feel free to explore whenever suits you!
Wiltshire & Cotswolds road trip itinerary from London
- Departing London, drive out to the Cotswolds. This is where you should spend 3-4 days exploring as many lovely little towns and villages as you wish to.
- A few of the prettiest Cotswolds villages include Bibury, Stow-on-the-Wold, Lower Slaughter, Bourton-on-the-Water, Castle Combe and so many more! The beauty of the Cotswolds region is that the villages are all located in close proximity with minimal driving time in between them.
- Once you have seen your share of lovely English villages, carry on to Bath which is only a 30-minute drive from the village of Castle Combe- well worth a visit.
- Spend a full day and night in Bath visiting the Roman baths.
- From there continue to Stonehenge. A visit to this incredible ancient site can easily take half a day. We stayed overnight at Stonehenge and saw the most INCREDIBLE sunrise we've EVER seen. (Seriously, watch the video. It's breathtaking)
- From Stonehenge, it's only a short 20-minute drive to the medieval town of Salisbury which brings you to the final stop of this road trip.
- The highlight of Salisbury is the stunning Salisbury Cathedral which has the tallest spire in all of Britain! Spend one night in Salisbury before making the final 2-hour road trip back to London.
North England road trips- why you should visit
It's easy when planning an England road trip to get sucked into famous places like Cornwall, Devon or the Cotswolds- and those are all AMAZING places to visit. However, I strongly encourage you to visit the north of England as well if you have time. You'll find villages just as pretty, AMAZING food (chips, pie and gravy is the best thing in the world) and incredible history.
Again, we were lucky to live up here for 4 years- here are some of our absolute favourite places to road trip, although there are of course many more we have yet to discover! I hope they give you some ideas and inspiration for your next trip.
Peak District National Park
The Peak District is a huge and stunning area in Derbyshire, just to the east of Manchester. It's a perfect place for a road trip because there are so many things to see! A car or motorhome makes it easy to travel between the sites and there are plenty of campsites or hotels to use as you explore.
There are a multitude of hikes, walks and tors to climb and the area is famous for its caves, which people still lived in as recently as 1910!
The Peak District was the UK's first National Park and is also considered the real ale capital of the world! If you're exploring the Peak District with kids, there are steam trains, tramways, cycle paths and even a cable car taking you up to see some stunning views! There's also Alton Towers theme park – one of the best in the UK.
Best places to explore in the Peak District
Some of the highlights include:
- Chatsworth House
- Ladybower reservoir
- Alton Towers theme park
- Heights of Abraham cable car
Lake District road trip
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The Lake District National Park is a UNESCO heritage site that makes for the perfect road trip. Walking around the lakes and fells to see the magnificent scenery is one of the many pleasures of the area. Quintessential villages are plentiful as are traditional English pubs with real ale and hearty food. Don't just rush by on your way from England to Scotland; take a few days and enjoy all that the lakes have to offer.
Best places to visit on a Lake District Road Trip
Most people arrive from the south via Windermere, but to explore the areas hidden gems its worth spending at least three days here. The Lake District has some of the worlds best scenic drives and a trip along the Honister Pass and Kirkstone Pass are a must.
In the South Lakes, I'd highly recommend a visit to Grasmere. Here you can visit several homes of the famous poet William Wordsworth and enjoy Sarah Nelson's delightful gingerbread.
If you love Beatrix Potter, you can follow in her footsteps at Beatrix Potter World in Bowness- on- Windermere. Her home near Hawkshead is open to visitors, and Wray Castle is a beautiful spot where she enjoyed her family holidays.
In the North Lakes, the towns of Keswick and Cockermouth have plenty to explore. The Castlerigg stone circle, with its stunning views across the fells, is worth stopping at, and the “Surprise View” across Derwent Water is spectacular.
If you're not exploring in a motorhome or campervan, accommodation throughout the area is plentiful. There are boat rides and water-based activities to enjoy on most of the lakes and a plethora of outdoor pursuit centres for the more adventurous.
When is the best time for a Lake District road trip?
In the summer months, the National Park can be rather busy particularly on the main A66 road which runs through the centre. Hence if you want to avoid the crowds, consider visiting in the spring or autumn. While you're not guaranteed sunshine at any time of the year, the weather is probably at its best between April and September.
England road trip- Yorkshire & the Dales
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England’s largest county, Yorkshire, is a perfect destination for a road trip. There are so many diverse attractions to see within a relatively short drive of each other.
Highlights and some best places in Yorkshire to visit
- England's highest single-drop waterfall
- The longest show cave in England
- Visit the ‘Best Street in Britain'
- Marvel at the Ribblehead Viaduct
- Castles and ruins all over the place
- Stand on Hogsmeade station (or at least the station which played it in Harry Potter!)
Yorkshire Road Trip Itinerary
Start your road trip in the rolling hills and river valleys of the beautiful Yorkshire Dales. Visit the 11th century Skipton Castle or descend underground to marvel at the formations in White Scar Caves, the longest show cave in England.
Clamber over Brimham Rocks or hike the stunning landscape around Malham Cove. Browse the independent shops in the Victorian spa town of Harrogate.
Places to visit on the Yorkshire Dales
The Yorkshire Dales are packed with attractive waterfalls. Choose between the plunging falls around Ingleton, popular Aysgarth Falls or, my favourite waterfall, Hardraw Force which is England’s highest single drop waterfall. Before leaving the Dales, visit the impressive monastic ruins and landscaped gardens of Fountains Abbey.
Continue your road trip by exploring the historic city of York. This compact city is easily navigated on foot and is an ideal location for history buffs. You can visit Viking, Roman, Georgian and Victorian sites all in one day! See the iconic York Minster, walk the city’s medieval city walls and stroll along the cobbled Shambles, which has been voted the ‘Best Street in Britain.’
Road trip over the Yorkshire Moors
End your Yorkshire road trip with a drive across the wild Yorkshire Moors. Take a scenic trip on a steam train across the Moors to visit charming Goathland train station which doubled as Hogsmeade station in the Harry Potter movies. Alternatively, your legs with a hike at the Hole of Horcum, a huge ancient natural amphitheatre.
How long should you spend exploring Yorkshire on a road trip?
You could ‘cover’ Yorkshire in a couple of days but to truly appreciate all it has to offer I would recommend at least one full week.
When is the best time to road trip to Yorkshire?
Yorkshire can be explored all year around- and expect rain at any time! But Spring is incredible on the moors- with the wild flowers blooming and the days getting longer, it's a perfect time to visit. Autumn also offers spectacular views with the leaves turning colour, providing an incredible backdrop.
England road trip idea- North East Coast
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Northern England’s east coast is full of charming towns and villages, and is the perfect destination for a road trip.
Best places to visit on a North East coast England road trip
- Saltburn-by-the-Sea (to search for fossils)
- Lemon top ice-cream
- Staithes- picturesque fishing village
- Whitby Abbey
- Robin Hood’s Bay (where smuggling was commonplace
- Scarborough Castle
North East England road trip itinerary
Start in Saltburn-by-the-sea. Be sure to search for fossils throughout your visit. I actually found one in Saltburn-by-the-Sea, but you can get lucky in any of the places on this list! Saltburn-by-the-Sea is home to the historic Saltburn Cliff Tramway and affords beautiful views from the bluffs above town.
You can walk along The Cleveland Way, a historic trail that runs through each of the 5 locations mentioned. I’d also recommend trying Lemon Top Ice Cream, or vanilla ice cream with a dollop of lemon sorbet on top.
Staithes is a quaint fishing village laden with narrow pathways and quirky cottages.
The Whitby Abbey towers above the town, giving it an eerie feeling – it’s even credited as the inspiration behind Bram Stoker’s Dracula!
Robin Hood’s Bay has a long history with smugglers, and its red rooftops and crowded buildings conceal hidden routes. In Scarborough, you can enjoy rides at the Luna Park amusement park or visit the historic Scarborough Castle!
When is the best time to road trip England's north-east coast?
Although you can visit this area all year round, I’d suggest visiting in the summer or fall. It rains much of the year in this region of England, but there’s a higher likelihood of sunshine from July through October.
How long to spend on this England Road trip?
You can complete this road trip in less than 2 hours, but I’d suggest spending at least a few days exploring the region. Each Yorkshire coastal town has its own charm and activities to offer, so you certainly don’t want to rush!
How far is it from the North east coast to London?
Scarborough to London takes about 5 hours by car. Avoid travelling Friday afternoons or Monday morning- those are the peak road traffic times.
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