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How to plan the perfect UK summer road trip

Winding mountain road in Snowdonia National Park

The ongoing pandemic may have put a stop to your travel plans for the second year in a row, but that doesn’t mean you can’t get out and about and explore everything the UK has to offer.

From the dramatic coastlines and idyllic villages to the rolling hills and romantic ruins, with no shortage of scenic driving routes, this year is all about British road trips.

Step 1: Creating your itinerary

Planning your very own road trip gives you the flexibility to go where you want, when you want, for however long you want. However, it does require a little planning.

Luckily, creating an itinerary is easy, allowing you to map out a route with all the must-dos and must-sees, which also helps you to determine how many days you’ll be on the road.

Keep in mind how long you actually want to spend in the car versus out of the car and give yourself a little extra time to get lost.

Need some inspiration? Find a few of our favourite routes below.

Low tide at Stone Bay, Kent

A day trip out

Kent Coast

Seaside-seekers can’t go wrong with the Kentish coast. With its picture-perfect villages, neverending coastal walks, booming restaurant scene and glorious swimming spots, there’s something for everyone who enjoys the ocean breeze.

  • Where to stop:
    Whitstable for oysters, Margate for lunch and Botany Bay for an afternoon dip. If you’re feeling particularly active, try the three hour hike between Margate and Broadstairs.
  • Where to stay:
    Kent is full of fabulous boutique B&Bs and hotels but if you’d rather stay away from the crowds, set yourself up in an Airbnb in Deal.

Snowdonia

Long considered one of Wales’ most rugged landscapes, if you’re a fan of the great outdoors, Snowdonia National Park deserves a spot on your road trip bucket list. Snowdonia is less about driving and more about adventure, with lakes to fish in, mountains to climb and castles to conquer.

  • Where to stop:
    Beddgelert for ice cream, Llechwedd Slate Caverns for history and Llynnau Mymbyr for the sunset view. If you don’t want to spend the entire day driving, book a seat on The Welsh Highland Railway.
  • Where to stay:
    True adventurers will tell you that Snowdonia is all about camping but if you don’t own any of the equipment try glamping at one of the many luxury camping sites instead.

Cotswold village of Castle Combe

A long weekend

Cotswolds

The oh-so-charming Cotswolds is a perfect place for an extended weekend away. In summer, you could organise your itinerary around strawberry picking, country pubs and all the heavenly houses and gardens that make up the National Trust.

  • Where to stop:
    Kingham for Daylesford Farm, Castle Combe and Bibury for villages that look like real-life movie sets and Tetbury for Westonbirt Arboretum. If you’re a history buff, make sure you also schedule a stop at Blenheim Palace in Woodstock.
  • Where to stay:
    When spending a few days in the Cotswolds, it’s best to look for just one place to stay that you can use as a base. Check out Stow-on-the-Wold or Bourton on the Water, often referred to as the ‘Venice of the Cotswolds’ for its low spanning bridges that cross the River Windrush.

Norfolk North Coast

The Kentish Coast might have trendy seaside towns but the Norfolk North Coast has salt marshes and stargazing. The Norfolk North Coast has not one but two sites with Dark Sky Discovery Status, meaning the sky is so clear you can see the Milky Way, weather dependent, of course.

  • Where to stop:
    Blakeney Point for seal spotting, Cromer for crabbing and Kelling Heath Holiday Park or Wiveton Downs for stargazing. Head to Holkham beach when you’re ready for a refreshing ocean swim.
  • Where to stay:
    Start your trip with a night in Norwich before making your way to the coastline, where a night or two in Hunstanton is a must.

Portree in Isle of Skye

A week away

Isle of Skye

There’s never been a better time to tick the Isle of Skye off your bucket list. From the pastel-coloured homes and pubs of Portree to the majestic Old Man of Storr walk, no matter where you drive you’ll find ridiculous beauty.

  • Where to stop:
    The Fairy Pools in Glen Brittle for wild swimming, Loch Coruisk for a jaw-dropping boat trip and Talisker Distillery for a whisky tasting. If you’re looking for somewhere to have a picnic, pull off at Coral Beach.
  • Where to stay:
    Though you may be tempted to stay in one of the bigger towns, it’s well worth booking a couple of different rural cabins in the area. Search for accomodation near Kilmuir, Edibane, Sleat and Carbost for total peace and quiet.

Causeway Coastal Route

Northern Ireland’s Causeway Coastal Route from Belfast Lough in County Antrim to Lough Foyle in County Londonderry is all about drama. The castles! The cliffs! The history! Considered one of the best coastal drives in the world, as soon as you hit the road, you’ll see why.

  • Where to stop:
    The Gobbins Cliff Path and Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge for the thrill-seekers, the Dark Hedges Tree Tunnel for Game of Thrones fans and the iconic Giant’s Causeway for a fascinating natural wonder.
  • Where to stay:
    Glenarm, Cushendall, Ballycastle and Portrush are our top picks but you can’t really go wrong along the Causeway Coast and Glens. The best part? There’s something for every budget.

Cornwall

No UK summer road trip list is complete without Cornwall. And for good reason. From the art galleries and Michelin star food to the brilliant surfing and wholesome adventures, this county truly has it all.

  • Where to stop:
    Polperro and Port Isaac for charm, The Eden Project for the world’s largest indoor rainforest, The Camel Trail for cycling, St. Ives for a day of relaxation, Padstow for fish and chips… the list goes on.
  • Where to stay:
    Cornwall is expected to be busier this year so it might be a good idea to look at your accommodation options and then plan your road trip accordingly. Try Falmouth, Penzance, Truro and Newquay.

Checking air pressure of tyre

Step 2: Preparing your car

Depending on your itinerary and budget, it may be smarter to take the train and hire a rental car. But if not, consider the front seat of your car the new first class (without the hefty price tag!).

No matter how long or short your road trip, make sure you do a quick maintenance check before you go.

Before you set off, think about the following:

  • Is your tyre pressure within recommended guidelines?
  • Are lights working as expected with no faults or broken bulbs?
  • Is your windscreen washer level topped up?
  • Do you have emergency and medical supplies readily available if needed?

Senior man packing car

Step 3: Packing the essentials

While your driving license, MOT and insurance details may seem like road trip essentials, it’s important to double-check they’re up to date.

Don’t forget about your breakdown cover either — add the number for your breakdown assistance service on your phone.

Next up, pull together all things you’ll need in the car on a day to day basis. These could include your phone, phone charger, water, snacks, sunglasses, sunscreen, waterproofs and, of course, your road trip playlist!

Step 4: Hitting the road

Ready? Remember, there is no right or wrong way to do a road trip, so don’t worry too much if things don’t go according to plan. Plus, getting lost is part of the fun, right?

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