Trying to plan a UK road trip? Not entirely sure where to start? The UK is amazing and full of incredible road trip possibilities- but narrowing those down to fit an itinerary can be a bit daunting.
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How to plan a UK Road trip
The key to planning any road trip is figuring out how much time you have for your trip vs where you want to go vs how long you want to drive for each day.
The more road trips you plan, whether in the UK, Europe or anywhere else, the better you get at knowing how far you want to drive each day and how much time you want for sightseeing, relaxing and enjoying your break.
We’ve been roadtripping almost non-stop for years now and today we’re going to share our secrets for how to plan a UK road trip, step by step.
We are constantly amazed at just how pretty the UK is and how diverse the scenery, architecture, history, accents and customs are. If you’d like to grab some ideas for places to visit, here are some of our favourite UK road trip itineraries.
Just remember, wherever you go, you’re bound to have a good time. (Just bring a coat. And an umbrella. At all times.)
So, grab a cup of tea and a slice of cake (so English!) and let’s get started on how to plan the PERFECT UK road trip!
If you want to make life even easier, grab our FREE, printable Road Trip planner. It’s the best way to keep track of all your ideas, itineraries and locations.
Planning a UK road trip- How much time do you have?
I know the UK is small compared to some countries, but you are unlikely to see much of it in a week. It is possible to drive from the bottom to the top in about 24 hours… but all you’ll see is motorway!
Itinerary ideas for a one-week UK road trip
My advice? If you have a week to drive around the UK, you could do one the following areas:
- Split your England Road Trip into 4 quarters. You could do a part of each quarter in roughly a week.
- One or two of these best scenic drives in Scotland
- Wales – here are some great Wales Road Trip ideas
- Northern Ireland (and Ireland)
If you have extra time, then add more places in! Or take your time and really enjoy the places you find.
VERY VERY VERY IMPORTANT ROAD PLANNING TIP
Do NOT overface yourself. You are NOT going to want to drive 18 hours every day. Heck, what’s the point?
And you are probably not going to want to drive EVERY. SINGLE. DAY either, especially if you’re the only driver or you’re travelling with young kids. You need to allow time to explore the places you travel to. Also, remember many roads in more rural regions of the UK (like Cornwall and Scotland) are narrow and speed limits are much slower- which means travel times between places are a lot longer!
Planning a vehicle for your UK road trip
There are plenty of vehicle options for a UK road trip and all of them are available for hire (age and licence dependant of course! Check if you’re allowed to drive in the UK with a non-UK licence here.)
Our personal favourite method of roadtripping is a UK Motorhome (RV) or campervan holiday. We love being able to take our home on our backs and see where we end up- much more freedom than booking hotels or B & B’s in advance. We’ve extensively toured the UK and Europe in our motorhome and it’s a perfect way to take everything you need with you.
If you want to go wild camping, make sure you’re aware of the motorhome and campervan parking laws in the UK.
Hiring a motorhome or campervan? Make sure you ask these important motorhome rental questions first.
However, if a motorhome or campervan really isn’t your style, hire a car and set out on the open road! Don’t forget- it’s cheaper to start/ finish at the same place than pay a one-way fee BUT you may be able to see more if you don’t have to return to your starting point.
You’ll also save on the fuel you might use to return the vehicle, so a one-way hire might be a great option depending on the type of UK road trip you want to do.
For car hire, we use and highly recommend Europcar.
Lastly, how about a road trip by bike? Yep, that could be a pushbike (don’t underestimate the hills in the UK!) but why not treat yourself and road trip on a motorbike! There are some awesome biking roads all over the UK and plenty of biker-friendly accommodation options. You can even hire helmets and leathers.
Route planning for a UK road trip
So, once you’ve decided on your timescale and how you’re going to get around, you can start planning a UK road trip route and then your accommodation.
If you’re making it up as you go and wild camping in the UK or booking campsites/ accommodation on the fly, then this doesn’t matter so much, but if you’re planning a route in order to book accommodation, then remember my advice from above- many roads in the UK are slower and smaller than you might be used to, and distances can take longer to travel- particularly in places like Scotland, Wales and Cornwall.
READ MORE: Drive the national driving routes in Wales- the Wales Way– and see some of the best bits of this beautiful country.
Again, don’t try and cram too much in, or you’ll be arriving late each day utterly exhausted. Remember, at this stage you don’t necessarily need to plan each road you will take, but just which towns you want to visit, how long you want to spend in an area and how far driving distances are between each place.
You can record all this information on our FREE printable road trip planner so you can keep track of it all and adjust your route and itinerary accordingly.
TOP TIP: If you’re going to be booking a lot of accommodation, use Booking.com. They offer great discounts on hotels, BnBs, apartments and more & the more you book, so each night gets cheaper and cheaper.
We rarely plan actual routes, but when we do we use Google. Here’s everything you need to know to plan your route with Google Maps
Things to remember while route planning
- If you have a motorhome or large vehicle- get an appropriate motorhome sat-nav. You’ll need it. Make sure it’s in an appropriate holder if you’re looking at it whilst driving.
- Bring a car USB charger for phone/ ipad etc. You’ll need it- using maps on your phone takes more battery power than you might be used to.
- Make sure you have the best route planning apps to help you get the most out of your trip, whether it’s Park4night, Google Maps or one of the others we recommend.
Plan a UK road trip- Travel Documents to bring
Once your rough routes and accommodations are sorted, you need to make sure you have the appropriate travel documents with you. Here’s a list, along with a printable checklist for you to download.
Note– there is NOT an official border between England, Scotland and Wales- you can drive between them in any vehicle you hire. However, for any country which requires a ferry (Northern Ireland, Isle of Man, Channel Islands) you might need a letter from the hire company saying it’s ok to take the vehicle out of the country. You will need to carry your passport/ proof of ID as well.
Another Note– this does NOT apply to the Isle of Wight on the south coast of England- that’s still part of England. It’s complicated, I know.
READ MORE: Here’s everything you need to know to plan a road trip to the Isle of Wight
UK Road Trip tips
Apparently, us Brits have a reputation for speeding. Having driven in both France and Italy, I think that’s a little unfair- but it’s also probably true. So, here’s the deal when you’re roadtripping in the UK:
- The speed limit on the motorway (3/4 lanes each side) is 70mph. You WILL see people going faster, but remember there are unmarked police cars all over the place.
- IF you see another speed limit on the motorway (for roadworks or traffic) obey that speed limit. There will be cameras everywhere- they are often on the bridges.
- Many motorways in the UK now have average speed cameras, which means they monitor you from one point on the motorway to another, and if your average speed is above the limit, they will send you an automatic fine.
- National speed limit (white circle with black diagonal line through it) is 70 on dual carriageways (unless otherwise marked) and 60 on single lane roads.
- In towns, the speed will often by 30mph, and sometimes 20mph near schools. Do not speed in towns- cameras (and kids!) are everywhere.
Driving Tips for the UK
- There is NO turn on red. Red means stop and wait. Always. Wait for green. If you’re turning, there might be a green arrow while the rest is on red.
- There’s no requirement to drive with your headlights on during the day.
- In the UK, we drive on the left. The slow lane is the lane nearest the curb, the overtaking lane is the one near the centre. DO NOT hog the middle lane- pull into the slow lane as often as you can.
- At a roundabout, the left lane is for either turning left or going straight on. Unless it’s marked differently.
- If you’re in a tall vehicle (motorhome!) know your height and width and PAY ATTENTION to signs for narrow roads or low bridges. There are MANY of them all over the place.
- In rural areas, you’ll find many narrow roads. Sometimes, you just have to go for it (slowly!) In a big vehicle, sound your horn before approaching a tight bend- don’t do this at night! These roads will often have passing places- these are NOT laybys, so don’t stop here for the night.
- Double yellow lines mean NO parking (there are some exceptions for disabilities). A single yellow line means parking is restricted at certain times. Don’t block entrances, driveways or bus stops.
- Talking of buses, do NOT drive in a bus lane. Most buses now have cameras on the back and they will fine you.
Driving in London
Personally, I hate driving in central London. Too many cars and the road system is crazy complicated. Add to that the taxis who just push through everyone, the lorries which are too big for the roads… yeah, I park up and catch the train in.
If you do drive into London, be aware of the congestion zone. You can pay it on the day- you don’t need to buy in advance, but DO NOT forget. Here’s the link for info and to pay.
You also need to be aware of several toll roads around the UK- they should be well signposted, but some you have to pay for via an app or online- if you forget, you’ll be fined automatically. That’s just one of many things NOT to do on a road trip!
Useful (and weird) things to know before travelling to the UK
- We drive in ‘miles’ (imperial), but we buy fuel in litres (metric). No idea why.
- Currency is in GBP- not Euros.
- The UK is no longer in the EU. Which means we are NOT in the Schengen area and visiting the UK doesn’t count towards your 90 days. If you’re travelling to Europe from the UK, make sure you comply with the correct conditions.
- Amex is only accepted in the bigger shops- many places won’t take it.
- Carry small coins (anything from 10p to £1) Many car parks require change to pay for a parking ticket. A rough guide is you’ll pay £1/ hour for parking. Expect to pay MUCH more in cities.
- The best UK weather is usually May-October- but that’s a constant source of amusement for UK residents. In 2018 it was blissfully warm from April all through the summer. In 2019, I was still wearing my winter coat in May. (In 2020, we didn’t leave the house so who cares!)
- It rains in the UK. A lot. Whenever you’re coming, bring a coat.
- If you’re into history, you have LOADS of places to visit. Many of them are run by the National Trust- you can buy a touring pass here to save money on the attractions. We also recommend getting an English Heritage membership so you can visit some of the best castles and historic monuments.
Activities for kids
Planning a UK road trip with kids in tow? I’m just going to point you in the direction of these amazing road trip activities for kids (and adults!) and quietly close the door. Feel free to rock back and forwards whilst gently hugging yourself. It will be ok.
Road trip songs
Any good road trip needs some TUNES. Here are 100+ of the best road trip driving songs!
Some of the best UK road trip destinations
Looking for some roadtrip inspiration? Here are a few of our favourite places to visit in the UK:
- Cornwall (Avoid Cornwall in July and August- crazy busy.) Here’s an amazing Cornwall itinerary (with map).
- Devon– here are some unmissable Devon road trip itineraries
- Dorset and Hampshire- here are some great places to visit in Hampshire and Dorset
- Wiltshire – (Think Salisbury, Durdle door and Stonehenge)
- Southern Wales. Don’t miss the waterfall walk or the show caves
- Scotland. Pretty much all of it. Here’s a perfect 7-10 day Scotland itinerary (with map), including the Isle of Skye
I hope this post has helped you plan a UK road trip and I wish you an incredible trip. Let me know where you end up!
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Kat never planned to buy a motorhome. She also never planned to quit her job as an air traffic controller, go touring around Europe in said motorhome, start one of the UK’s largest motorhome travel websites… or get a cocker spaniel.
If you’d like to connect with Kat, send her an email or follow her adventures on social media.