Whilst it might boast a huge wealth of arts, culture and history, the UK is a surprisingly small country. As a comparison, the State of California is 1.7 times bigger than the whole of the UK. During the COVID pandemic, this has been both a blessing and a curse. A curse because we’ve felt boxed in over the early summer lockdown, and a blessing due to Great Britain’s surface area being very manageable for holidays within the country.
For those who have not wanted to risk leaving the country on their holidays under the shadow of the pandemic, there’s plenty to see on a simple road trip. With a collection of motorways providing easy access to all areas of the country and a train service that runs from London to almost every county (excluding those in Northern Ireland of course), there’s no time like the present to get exploring. After all, the social distancing measures put in place at accommodation such as the Montcalm Hotel Finsbury Square London and many other fantastic hotels across the country will have you rest assured that you can travel freely and safely.
Whilst the state of nationwide restrictions is fluid at the moment, planning well in advance and stocking alternative routes for a UK road trip will mean you can enjoy exploring the UK on your own terms. One of the most popular trips for landlocked holidaymakers is the great London to Scotland expedition. If you’re feeling extra adventurous, then a circling back through the Peak District is also an option.
This blog will focus on the main routes, sites and cities that you can enjoy on a countrywide trip from south to north and back again.
London To Edinburgh
The longest leg of the round trip of England and Scotland, this journey can take up to 7 hours without a stop, so make sure to rest up well and get a good meal in at one of the restaurants near Finsbury Square and the Montcalm Hotel, otherwise, you might be looking at service station food for the foreseeable! If you’re planning on driving the near 400-mile journey, make sure to take the M11 out of London towards Cambridge, before turning to the A1 which will take you up the spine of England and to Edinburgh.
Where To Stop On Your Journey
You don’t have to drive the whole hog in one day though, even if you have rented from the best car hire near me in London. There are plenty of amazing beauty spots and exciting cities to explore along the way.
One of the first stops along the M1 will be Cambridge, about a 2-hour drive. With its famous University dating back to the year 1209, the history of Cambridge is actually even older than that, with archaeological excavations dating settlements there as far back as the Bronze Age. What with that and Cambridge’s beautiful canal system, the University tours and quaint town centre make Cambridge the perfect taster of England’s east.
As the third-largest city in England, Sheffield rests on the eastern edge of the Pennines and its industrial-era architecture and thriving English folk culture certainly makes it a scenic and absorbing stop. With a thriving arts and culture scene, as well as beautiful walks through the centre and the tributary laden River Don, the city consists of 61 percent green space, making it a great stop off for enjoying the great outdoors.
Leeds is probably the best-known city in Yorkshire and provides a central hub that overlooks the beautiful and rugged Yorkshire Dales as well as a thriving music and bar scene. With its history dating back to the 13th century, this is another historic industrial city that’s full to the brim with beautiful architecture, providing domestic travellers from London with a window into the North of England.
With its famous cathedral awarded with the status of UNESCO World Heritage Site, Durham is easily missed on the journey to Yorkshire but may very well be one of the best examples of North East England Englishness. If it’s twee countryside and medieval history you’re after for a day, make a stop in Durham.
Newcastle Upon Tyne
Newcastle Upon Tyne is a thriving North East university city that is not only a thriving centre for education but boasts a long history of shipping, museums and culture that is bound to make you fall in love with “Geordie” culture.
Between Newcastle and Scotland, make sure you stop off at the beautiful Northumberland Coast. Even if just to stretch your legs for an hour or two, the Northumberland coastline is well worth a pause, comprising of cut off islands, rugged cliff faces and sandy beaches, this duo of National Nature Reserves is a certified British Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and perfect respite for wellness travellers pining for wildlife and a breath of fresh air.
Berwick Upon Tweed
Berwick Upon Tweed lies on the border between England and Scotland and provides a beautiful mixture of medieval history and Scottish lowland landscapes. Try one of the many pubs and restaurants in Berwick for some true Scottish hospitality.
The historic city of Edinburgh is well known for its international film festival and fringe arts festival. Often overlapping and taking place every summer, the centre for Scottish politics becomes a colourful haven for performance, entertainment and culture. That’s not to say there’s nothing to do for the rest of the year, Edinburgh holds the Scottish castle once resided in by Mary Queen of Scots as well as dozens of other museums and galleries to explore.
Rising to prominence in the Victorian era as the second city of the British Empire, Glasgow is set on the River Clyde and has grown to be one of the most populated cities in the UK. with a famous art school and university, Glasgow’s become famous for its thriving cultural scene, boasting local music and art as well as a wealth of history.
Glasgow to Peak District
Take the M74 motorway out of Glasgow and follow it down the opposite side of England. Once you hit the Solway Coast, the M74 will turn into the M6. Follow this down towards the Peak District. IN total, your journey should take around 4 hours without a stop. That being said, there are plenty of towns, cities and beauty spots to take in along the way.
Located in Cumbria at the mouth of the rivers Esk and Eden, the Solway Coast provides scenic nature parks and beautiful Scottish villages such as Bowness-on-Solway and Port Carlisle. Make sure to visit the Solway Coast Discovery Centre just outside Bowness-on-Solway to learn more about the history and geography of the area.
Another beautiful area on the way out of Scotland, the Lake District is a Cumbria based World Heritage Site and spans over 2300 square kilometres of lakes, forests and parklands. For a camping trip during your journey, there’s nowhere better than this beautiful wildlife reserve.
This North-West industrial hub is one of the most culturally significant cities of the North for a variety of reasons. Known for holding the most populous university in the country, Manchester certainly serves up a great nightlife and unique northern lifestyle for it’s younger residents.
Nestled between Sheffield and Manchester, the Peak District is a stunning and very varied national park, the first designated in fact, and is made up of rugged moorlands, mountain trails and stunning valleys. Whether camping or renting a cottage in one of its rustic villages, the Peak District is easily reachable by both road and rail and attracts tens of millions of visitors a year.
Back To London
And now for the last leg of our journey and back to the luxurious rooms at the Montcalm Hotel London, follow the M6 motorway through Birmingham until it becomes the M40. Below are some of the stops you should make along the way.
Birmingham’s canal system is historic for leading right into the heart of London and is probably the most famous city of the midlands. Make sure not to miss its thriving city centre, that holds cultural gems such as the Birmingham Rep Theatre and the Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery, which provides a peek into the history of the city and vast collection of Pre-Raphaelite and pre 1800’s master paintings.
Stratford Upon Avon
Birthplace of Shakespeare, Stratford Upon Avon is just 22 miles out of Birmingham and is home to Royal Shakespeare Companies repertoire company as well as a tourist site centred around the grave of Shakespeare himself.
Before heading back into London, make sure not to miss the beautiful city of Oxford. Located just outside of the country idyll of the Cotswolds, Oxford is famed for its 924-year-old university and the culture, history and city that formed around it. Take a tour of the world-famous colleges and browse through the wonders of the Ashmolean Museum, giving you glimpses into the pasts of famous figures such as Guy Fawkes, Pocahontas.