Discovering UK by car

 Have you ever wondered what the Loch Ness looks like? Ever wanted to visit Oxford – the famous University-city? See the home town of Manchester United?

This is your chance to tick these dreams off your bucket list as we have done all the planning for you for this exciting road trip! This travel guide describes a journey that starts from London, England and finishes in Inverness Scotland. The course takes minimum 3-4 days and is being divided into 1,5 or 2 hour driving sessions, total driving time for about 15 hours. Total length of the journey is about 729 miles (1173 km). These numbers will be smaller if you decide to skip a few optional locations. 

 This is a perfect route with a rental car, you can pick up car from London and drop it off in Inverness. Many car rental suppliers support this different location drop off, please take a look for available options in Rentalmoose: LINK HERE

 UK accepts most of the driving licenses in the world, so do not hesitate to start riding on the left side of the road! But just in case – don’t forget the excess cover provided by Rentalmoose and for extra peace of mind it is recommended to add it when booking a vehicle. Also please do not forget to make check-in photos with Rentalmoose app to qualify 50% of rebate from excess coverage.

 We recommend to start this journey in the morning of the first day so you can visit all landmarks and enjoy the ride in a relaxed manner and finish the journey whenever you want – depending on how much time you decide to spend in each stop.

Best season for the trip would be from March until October. Winters in England are mostly very rainy, grey and frosty. 

1. London

Famous Harrods – luxury department store in London

This is where the travels begin. For maximum comfort we recommend you to pick up the car from the airport where you enter the UK.  If you arrived here earlier, there are plenty of things to do and see in London but London might not be the best place to travel around by car because of heavy traffic. If spending some time in London, then choose a hotel with parking so you can park your car for the days in the city – it’s easier to use public transport there. 

Next: London – Stonehenge (less than 2 hour drive)

2. Stonehenge

Stonehenge

Visiting Stonehenge is actually optional in this trip – whether you are into historical monuments or not. Stonehenge is perhaps the world’s most famous prehistoric monument. It consists of a ring of standing stones, with each standing stone around 13 feet high, seven feet wide and weighing around 25 tons  – which makes it one of the wonders of the world and the best-known prehistoric monument in Europe. If seeing this with your own eyes excites you, then hop on your rental car and drive to Salisbury! 

NB! Weekends can get very busy, so consider heading to Stonehenge early in the morning or an hour before closing.

If you do not wish to visit Stonehenge you can just drive from London straight to Bath (about 2,5 hours) or Oxford (about 1,5 hours).  

Next: Stonehenge – Bath (about 1 hour drive)

3. Bath

The Roman baths

Bath is one of Britain’s most picturesque cities to visit, it’s known for its Roman-built baths. Hence the name! Thanks to that the city became a World Heritage site in 1987. It was 60 AD when the Romans built baths and a temple in the valley of the River Avon, although hot springs were known even before then. A lot of history in this place! So no wonder that there are so many museums – including the Museum of Bath Architecture, the Victoria Art Gallery, the Museum of East Asian Art, the Herschel Museum of Astronomy and the Holburne Museum.

Take some time to explore its Roman baths, the natural springs and the Royal Crescent (a row of 30 terraced houses laid out in a sweeping crescent). 

For filling up in between your explorations we suggest you to head to Sotto Sotto – a classic Italian restaurant with a contemporary twist in candlelit vaulted cellars with bare stone walls. (NB! Booking in advance is strongly recommended!) or a more laid back option The White Hart which is great for a quick fix. 

As you probably want to enjoy more of the baths and the city and are already tired from driving then this will be another overnight stop for you on this trip. For a fine sleep in Bath why not stay at the Royal Crescent? They have a hotel The Royal Crescent Hotel & Spa. You can tick off 3 things from the list at once – going to a spa, seeing Royal Crescent and have an amazing place to wake up! You can also have a lovely place to sleep with almost half of that price (prices may vary depending on the day and how full the hotel is) – then choose the Macdonald Bath Spa hotel

Next: Bath – Oxford (about 1,5 hour drive)

4. Oxford

Oxford University

 Your next stop in this UK road trip is the well known Oxford. You can park a car on the street just near the world-famous Oxford University and see the historical site and other city landmarks (You can find more information about parking in Oxford HERE. ).

 A good recommendation would be to book an Oxford University tour! Easier way to find out a lot about this impressive institute. These walking tours last about two hours and can be booked at the Visitor Information Centre at 15-16 Broad Street, or online HERE. 

 The places to see in Oxford (after the famous University) would be Oxford castle and Bodleian Library – they definitely don’t do libraries like that anymore so it’s totally worth seeing this impressive place. Also don’t forget to see the Blenheim Palace – a huge country house with epic gardens and parkland that will take you around 20 minutes to drive to from Oxford. The estate is best known as the birthplace of Winston Churchill.

 It’s not often people genuinely get excited about a museum. The Natural History Museum is one exception, and so is the Pitt Rivers in Oxford – world-famous museum of archaeology and ethnography. Best news is that the entry there is free!

 And finally something for the Harry Potter fans! There is a tour specially for you at Oxford – tour of the locations used in the shooting of the Harry Potter films. See more information about it HERE.

 Tired of the fish and chips already? Then we recommend to taste some authentic Thai food in Oxford! Go to the restaurant Oli’s Thai for that. 

 While spending the day at the city of Oxford we suggest to drive a little outside to the UK countryside to spend a night there – just about 1 hour drive from Oxford is the cute little village of Cotswolds – another pretty location to visit with its rolling hills, picturesque rural looking towns and beautiful history.

 Just about 12 minutes drive from the centre of the Cotswolds is Barnsley House – an old manor turned into luxurious country house. Of course they also have a spa where you can rest before hitting the road again. Another great spa, restaurant and hotel options are Thyme manor  (it is located on the half way from Oxford to Cotswolds) and Lords Of The Manor

Next: Cotswolds – Birmingham (about 1,5 hour drive)

5. Birmingham

Birmingham city view

Out from the country living and straight into big city life – welcome to Birmingham! The second most-populous city in UK, after London, with an estimated 1,137,123 inhabitants. There are major cultural institutions in the big city – Symphony Orchestra, the Birmingham Royal Ballet, the Birmingham Repertory Theatre, the Library of Birmingham and the Barber Institute of Fine Arts. Just choose which speaks to you the most! 

 We also recommend you to visit the UK’s famous Cadbury World chocolate factory Café – specially if travelling with kids! It is time for Cadbury World’s Afternoon Tea that gives the classic British experience with a chocolate-themed twist, combined with the best sandwiches. Take your time to enjoy and later follow the route and ride via Birmingham city centre for the next stop. 

Next: Birmingham – Manchester (about 2 hours drive)

6. Manchester

Etihad Stadium in Manchester

 Manchester City is probably known to everyone in the world because of being the home of Manchester United football team. Whether you’re a die-hard football fans, or just visit Manchester with your family, it’s for sure recommended to visit the National Football Museum here to enjoy the world’s biggest and best museum dedicated to football.  

 Football lovers should also visit the Old Trafford – a football stadium that is the home stadium of Manchester United, offering behind-the-scenes stadium tours and 75,000 seats for matches. Then there is another big stadium just 8 minutes drive away – The Etihad Stadium (it’s currently known as the Etihad Stadium for sponsorship reasons) which is the home of Manchester City football team.

 There is also another amazing library to see in this road trip – The John Rylands Library. For those who set eyes on Deansgate’s (a main road through Manchester city centre) The John Rylands Library for the first time, ‘library’ might not be the first word that comes to mind. This masterpiece of Victorian Gothic architecture looks more like a castle or cathedral. 

 For a lovely meal go to Where The Light Gets In (aka WTLGI) – yes, this is the name of the restaurant. Serious food fans from around the world thanks to an inspired seasonal tasting menu (most ingredients from their own farm nearby), a great wine list and relaxed but attentive service. And of course the atmosphere – a loft in Victorian restored warehouse with huge windows from where the light gets in 🙂

 Another recommendation would be Hispi – intimate dining room in a former bank, with an innovative menu offering set and a la carte options. Thumbs up from us!

 For a night in Manchester we chose Radisson Blu Edwardian hotel which is in a gorgeous old building but all new and modern inside. For football lovers there is no other option than The Football Hotel. Also great option when travelling with kids. The hotel is located opposite Old Trafford Football Stadium and close to Media City and Manchester City Centre. 

Next: Manchester – Carlisle (about 2 hours drive)

7. Carlisle 

Carlisle Cathedral

 NB! Another optional visit, when driving from Manchester to Carlisle, would be The Lake District. It is National Park which is one of Britain’s most stunning areas to see. The hills and lakes have created a landscape that’ll leave you impressed and inspired to keep exploring. Visit the charming town called Windermere, walk up the hills and enjoy the beauty of this region.

 Now back to our main track. Carlisle is a 2000 year old city with two Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty and one World Heritage Site. A capital of Cumberland. This is where the Roman empire limited its expansion and built Hadrian’s Wall to protect the empire against Scottish tribes. A city steeped in history, Carlisle is known as the ‘great border city’ and today is a vibrant place with great shops, a variety of places to eat and drink, and lots of culture from museums and galleries, theatre, music, comedy and events.

 Tullie House Museum & Art Gallery – a family friendly Roman Frontier Gallery – is a good place to start. It tells the fascinating frontier story and shows the effect of Roman occupation on Britain through interactive exhibitions and Roman artefacts.

 You can either opt to stay overnight in Carlisle and continue the trip the next day if you want to explore more or just visit for a day trip. There are plenty of nice historical hotels around, in case you decide to stay here for the night, a great recommendation for you would be Willowbeck Lodge that is situated in one of the most beautiful and spectacular locations in England. The place offers free parking for those who stay in the hotel.

Next: Carlisle – Edinburgh (about 2 hour drive)

8. Edinburgh

Clock Tower Edinburgh

 Welcome to the capital of Scotland! It has a medieval Old Town and elegant Georgian New Town with gardens and neoclassical buildings. Looming over the city is Edinburgh Castle, home to Scotland’s crown jewels and the Stone of Destiny, used in the coronation of Scottish rulers.

Edinburgh Castle is the most recognisable landmark in the city, it sits atop a volcanic peak and dominates the city skyline.

 Did you know that there is a secret city inside Edinburgh? It’s called Mary King’s Close. It used to be part of the old town at the 16th century but then these buildings were buried and built on to make space for creating a more developed Edinburgh. It is now open to the public. Go and wander in these hundreds of years old streets but be aware – there is a rumour that this place in hunted by the people that used to live there. Spooky. 

 If you are not the one driving then treat yourself to the most well known export that Scotland is known for – their whiskey. And if whiskey is not your cup of tea (or a glass of shot should I say?) then try the very famous cocktail bar – The Devil’s Advocate. It’s said to have one of the best mixologists in the city! It’s not just a bar – you can get a decent meal from here as well. Come for lunch or dinner. 

After visiting all the suggested places head over Queensferry Crossing bridge over the Firth of Forth, opened in 2017, for your next stop.

Next: Edinburgh – Blair Athol  (about 2 hours drive)

9. Blair Atholl

Blair Castle

Out of the city and back into the countryside – Blair Atholl is a village. Now it is time to take a break in Blair Atholl distillery and see how the best of whiskey has been made since… ages.

NB! Beware of tasting all the good stuff, Scotland has harsh limits for allowed alcohol in blood and drink-and-drive is prohibited. So only if you are on the passenger seat. 

 Whilst you are in the area, I am sure you don’t want to miss the Blair castle which is one of the most famous tourist landmarks in the area. The bright white fairytale-like castle is recognisable from a far. Now where is the Sleeping Beauty?

 The journey continues driving along Cairngorms National Park offering spectacular views for Scottish wildlife.

Next: Blair Atholl – Inverness (about 1,5 hour drive)

10. Inverness

Inverness Castle

This is your final destination at our travel guide. Scottish Highlands is spectacular place to drive around and see the wonderful landscape including mountains and fjords. And who knows, maybe you will be lucky enough to meet the Loch Ness monster yourself! We have chosen the best place for you to spend your night so you’d be ready to go and meet the monster next morning. We recommend staying overnight at Inverness and we have selected a special place for the night: Loch Ness Country House Hotel.

Also would you dare to try Scotland’s famous national dish Haggis (a savoury pudding containing sheep’s pluck; minced with onion, oatmeal, suet, spices, and salt, mixed with stock, and cooked while traditionally encased in the animal’s stomach)? That would be the dot on an i for your Scotland experience!

Drop Off

Next day (or whenever you have finished your explorations) you can drop off your rental car at Inverness and fly back home via Inverness airport that has many direct connections to various places. You can easily catch a flight to London or Edinburgh if your flight home departs from these cities. For your best flight options we suggest you to take a look at Skyscanner, Kayak or Momondo

Conclusion 

This route through the United Kingdom is perfect for couples but also for those travelling with children or other company. There are enough activities for all age groups, so don’t hesitate to start checking your flights and find a suitable car option from Rentalmoose: LINK HERE

 All the other planning has been done for you by us! Just book the places and enjoy your trip!

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