The UK is a country full of charming little villages, fabulous medieval cities, imposing castles and diverse landscapes and thereby an ideal destination for a road trip.
The following are 10 of the most stunning and unique locations in Great Britain (England, Scotland and Wales) that should without a doubt be included if you plan to visit the entirety of the island from South to North.
Note that this guide excludes London, since it’s the most obvious British destination but not really suited for a road trip across the country.
1. Brighton & Eastbourne
After visiting the White cliffs of Dover, Brighton & Eastbourne should be the first two stops on England’s southern coast.
Brighton: The city of Brighton is one of the major beach towns in Southern England and although most people do not associate England with beaches, Brighton does have a clean and beautiful beach along its coast which, albeit incomparable to a beach in Southern Europe is still a nice place for a stroll or a swim on rare occasions in summer. Brighton is moreover well known for its various Piers which contain markets, food stands and rollercoasters.
Eastbourne: Eastbourne is a smaller and less well known city where charming English architecture and delicious seafood restaurants line the coast. If you prefer a quiet, less affluent coastal town, Eastbourne will suit you since it is a lot less touristy than Brighton but still a great place for a short stay.
Stonehenge is one of the most famous sights in the UK and comprises several circles and other shapes of standing stones which are about 4m high and 2m wide. The sight, which is located in the Wiltshire region is believed to be a prehistoric monument built between 3000 and 2000BC and this is where the scientific knowledge about this remarkable place ends.
The landmark’s construction and purpose are in fact complete mysteries. There is no clear historical evidence on why the site was constructed although most archaeologists and historians believe it was a burial site.
The more pressing question however relates to the building techniques and transport of the stones. The closest place where these stones could have come from is Wales, which is situated a whopping 400km away, an extreme distance at that time. It is moreover completely unknown how these prehistoric tribes were able to lift these heavy stones on top of each other, which renders this site a truly bewildering place.
Although Stonehenge is quite touristy and ‘only’ consists of rocks, it is still an absolute must visit place due to its historical interest and the mysteries surrounding this landmark and it should therefore definitely be included on your UK roadtrip.
3. Oxford & The Cotswolds
Oxford is world famous for its universities and the Bodleian Library which have featured in various films, such as Harry Potter. The city is moreover one of the most innovative cities in the UK and due to its large student population, it is also a nightlife hub. Apart from bright young minds who study and party in Oxford, history lovers will be delighted by the city’s medieval buildings and its many well maintained churches.
The Cotswold villages have been called the most beautiful villages in the world and their small ancient stone houses are truly magnificent. This is a stunning part of Britain and a famous one, where most British actors and celebrities like to spend their free time in cottages surrounded by beautiful forests and colourful hills.
Going north, Liverpool is the city this guide recommends in the Merseyside region. The city has in fact seen tremendous redevelopments and has regained its path to prosperity after decades of industrial decay. The Old Town Harbour is a Unesco world heritage site and the new glass structures constructed alongside the old harbour buildings create a formidable contrast symbolizing both Liverpool’s past and future.
The city is moreover the home town of the Beatles which is a reason in itself to visit Liverpool. You will find lots of Beatles themed pubs and remnants of the fact that this city has given the world one of the greatest bands ever.
5. York & North Yorkshire Moors region
York: The city of York is the academic hub of the region and attracts students, researchers and young professionals from all over the world. The city moreover contains the Shambles, the fourteenth century street which inspired the Harry Potter street of Diagon Alley.
York is furthermore known for its large variety of medieval pubs that have been around for centuries, such as the Pub of Trembling Madness (48 Stonegate)
The Minster, York’s perpendicular Cathedral is moreover one of the largest churches in Europe and its observation deck at the top provides fantastic views over the city.
North Yorkshire Moors: The Yorkshire Moors are one of the most unique natural attractions and one of the largest national parks in the UK. The colours of the distinctive plants that make up the Moor are breathtaking, especially in autumn.
Driving through the vast expanse of heather moorland feels like driving through an impressionist painting and the beauty of the region is furthermore enhanced by the Moor’s stunning B roads.
Durham: Durham is a small town which is known for its stunning Cathedral and its picturesque medieval streets. The town is therefore a great destination for a day trip when visiting this region.
Humber Brigde: The bridge crossing the Humber estuary near Kingston upon Hull was the longest bridge in the world, surpassing the Golden Gate Bridge’s span by 130m when it was completed in 1981 and is now the eighth largest bridge in the world. Due to its impressive length and its imposing stature, crossing the Humber Bridge is definitely a must when road tripping through Northern England.
Whitby: Whitby is a beautiful port town in Yorkshire which is well known for its fish and chips, rumoured to be the best in the world. The city is a prime example of a charming English port town and should therefore not be missed when visiting Yorkshire.
6. Newcastle upon Tyne
Newcastle: The seventh largest city in the UK is a marvellous blend of Old English industrial might and modern structures. The city centre on the river Tyne boasts seven bridges built in different eras and each one of them portrays a different time in Newcastle’s history. The award winning Millennium Bridge has delighted architecture lovers from all over the world since its opening in 2001. Apart from its architectural flair, Newcastle is also the cultural and economic hub of the region and benefits from a buzzing nightlife scene and should therefore under no circumstances be omitted when visiting Northern England.
Read this article for more info about Newcastle’s seven bridges
Hadrian’s Wall: The remains of the ancient set of Roman fortifications known as Hadrian’s Wall are located just a stone’s throw north of Newcastle. This impressive structure should definitely not be missed due to its historic significance and the fact that it serves as a remnant of ancient times when the Roman Empire came this far north and had to protect its cities from dangerous nomadic tribes living in modern day Scotland.
7. Lake District
The Lake District is one of England’s most beautiful national parks and a popular holiday destination. Its various lakes and mountainous backdrops are an excellent place for a hike and should therefore be included on a road trip across Great Britain.
Lake Windermere: Lake Windermere is the largest natural lake in England and its natural beauty is astounding, especially in the morning mist when the fog adds a tempting element of mystery to the lake’s shimmering blue surface.
Keswick: Keswick is the second lake this guide recommends to include on a trip to the English Lake District. A gorgeous spot for a hike, the lake is also well known for the charming medieval towns around it, which are in themselves worth a visit.
Wast water: Wast Water is the deepest lake in England and the most beautiful in our opinion. The peaks that surround this astonishing feat of nature create stunning imagery in any weather conditions. The beauty of this lake and the mountains that encircle it are one of the main reasons why this region ranks among the top national parks in the UK.
Edinburgh is without a doubt a contender for the most beautiful city in the UK and the absolute must visit city in Scotland. Its medieval flair coupled to its stunning architecture and its vibrant cultural scene has transformed the Scottish capital into one of the most liveable cities in the UK. When in Edinburgh, do not miss the National Museum of Scotland and the Royal Botanic Gardens, two of the most important attractions in the city.
Just outside Edinburgh you will find Arthur’s Seat, a striking geological formation atop of which you will have amazing views over the city.
Another main attraction is the Palace of Hollyroodhouse, a fantastic medieval castle which is definitely worth a visit albeit a bit touristy in the afternoon. On that basis there is plenty to do in Edinburgh before heading to Scotland’s primary treasure: The Highlands.
9. The Scottish Highlands
The Scottish Highlands are a truly bewildering region that every nature enthusiast will want to visit at least once in his life. The breathtaking scenery is unrivalled in the UK and matches anything in continental Europe. The peaks, forests and lakes create a fabulous image of harmony which defines the uniqueness of this area.
In addition to the gorgeous landscapes, the roads in the Highlands are a joy to behold and due to the sparse population density of this area, nearly always deserted.
The Highlands are moreover known for their Whiskey, which is arguably the finest Whiskey in the world and a true advertisement for Scotland.
Another must visit is Loch Ness, the lake which is rumoured to be home to a giant lake monster attracting a great amount of tourists from all over the world who believe the monster can be spotted.
10. Shetland Islands
The Shetland Islands, which are mostly known for their typical ponies, are a group of islands situated in the North Sea and one of the most amazing UK governed island groups in Europe. The unique nature coupled to the extremely remote location of the Shetland islands constitutes their charm and allure.
Nature lovers and travellers who like remote and untouched wilderness will be rewarded with a vast expanse of wilderness on these islands and should therefore definitely include the Shetland islands on their UK road trip.
They can be reached from the Scottish ferry port of Aberdeen or by plane and although the islands are located in the middle of the North Sea, their infrastructure is excellent which makes a stay on the islands even more enjoyable.