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.
We've travelled extensively in the UK for the past 2 years, from Lands End in Cornwall all the way up to John o'Groats (if you're not from the UK, that's a really popular road trip itinerary if you have the time!) We are constantly amazed at just how pretty these countries are and how diverse the scenery, architecture, history, accents and customs are. Wherever you go, you're bound to have a good time. (Just bring a coat. And an umbrella. At all times.)
So- let's get started. Grab a tea and a slice of cake (so English!) and let's plan the PERFECT UK road trip! There's a short video of some of our favourite UK destinations below- just click play to watch. 🙂
Planning a UK road trip- How much time do you have?
I know the UK is small, 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!
My advice? If you have a week, you could do the following areas:
- Split England into 4 quarters. You could do each quarter in roughly a week.
- Northern Ireland
- Channel Islands
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.
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 by Motorhome (RV). 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.
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.
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 route. If you're making it up as you go along and 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 that 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.
Again, don't try and cram too much in, or you'll be arriving late each day utterly exhausted.
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
- Don't worry about hiring a GPS with your vehicle- get Google Maps on a phone (or even better an iPad) and use that instead. 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!
Plan a UK road trip- Travel Documents to bring
Once all that's sorted, you need to make sure you have the appropriate travel documents with you. Here's a list, along with a printable checklist.
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.
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.
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:
- 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.
- 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!) 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.
- 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. We LOVE this app to help us find a route which works for our vehicle.
- 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 disabilites). 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.
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.
- 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. A rough guide is you'll pay £1/ hour for parking. Expect MUCH more in cities.
- The best (ha!) weather is usually May-October. In 2018 it was blissful from April all through the summer. In 2019, it's May and I'm still wearing my winter coat. It's COLD!
- It rains. 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. Here is one of my favourite castles in the UK!
Best Road Trip planning apps
After road tripping for a couple of years, we've tried (and rejected!) many many rubbish apps. But these road trip planner apps are genuinely worth using and keeping on your phone.
Activities for kids
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 150 of our favourites road trip songs!
Some of my favourite places in the UK to visit on a road trip
Looking for some UK road trip inspiration? Here are a few of my favourites:
Cornwall and Devon. (Avoid Cornwall in July and August- crazy busy.) Here's my favourite Cornwall itinerary (with map).
Dorset and 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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