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Driving northern UK

We have driven in the UK before. We would like to plan a trip August 2021,hopefully! We would rent a car north of London ,drive the eastern coast and into Scotland and finally down western coast and return the car where we rented it. Has anyone done this? Could you give us any advice or hints? Finally, is it doable? We love the UK !! Or tell me it's dumb!!! Thanks!!

Posted by
652 posts

If you have a few months its doable at a push, but it would rushed

Posted by
6354 posts

Sure, it certainly doable but depends on where you get the car, how far into Scotland you want to go, how much time you have, and how in-depth you want to explore. You could do a pretty nice 2 week road trip on that route but it would involve quite a bit of driving and it would be fast paced. If you have more time (3 to 4 weeks) it would be better, then you'd have more time to explore the different areas. It's definitely not a dumb idea but how satisfying it would be depends on your pace.

Posted by
1192 posts

Do you mean actual coastline or making time on the M Roads with side trips to the various Beaches? We have driven up and down the UK twice. I would go West first and include Wales which has good coastal access with some great actual castles. Then go to Chester and head North up the West Coast, stopping at Liverpool, then to the Lake District, then head to Dumfries, Scotland. There are several Castles in Dumfries and Galloway. Galloway Park has a Dark Sky designation. Head North to Glasgow, the Kelvingrove Gallery and Museum is a good place to get an overview of Scottish Culture. Go to whatever West Coast Island you for which you have time and reservations. Go To Loch Ness and Inverness. Go to Whisky Trail. Go to Edinburgh. Go to Stirling, etc. Go South to Jedburgh and Melrose for Ancient Abbeys,etc. Head South to Hadrian's Wall. Go to Durham for Cathedral, Go to York for Minster, if you are tired by now, you can take train to London, or you can keep driving and go to Chatsworth, etc. and so forth. You can easily do this in 15 days without the Islands or 21 days to really enjoy the trip. Check the National Trust UK and Visit Scotland websites. Bon Voyage
P.S. Flying into Manchester would save time, if you aren't doing Southern England this time. Spend 1st Night in Chester. Spend 2 days in Northern Wales and see as many Castles as you can fit in; return to Chester and go North.

Posted by
256 posts

Thanks for the ideas! I know we would only be doing the"tip of the iceberg" tour but my husband is still working. I'm a retired teacher (woohoo!) Someone has to pay for these trips so we have 2 week windows , for now!!! 👍👍

Posted by
4411 posts

For two weeks I would concentrate on either the East Coast or the West Coast, trying to cover both (and Scotland) in two weeks is pretty much impossible unless you want to do a circuit via the motorways and see very little.

Posted by
1972 posts

It's doable! I did an 8 or 9 day version of such a trip with my parents years ago. We started southwest of London (where I was living) and drove an 850+ mile circuit (direct route, does not include many side trips) up the middle of England, barely into the south of Scotland and back down the East coast.

Looking back at my postcards to jog my memory:

We had a medieval dinner at Warwick Castle our first night.
Visited Shakespeare's birthplace in Stratford-upon-Avon.
Took the ferry at Windermere to visit Beatrix Potter's home.
Dipped into southern Scotland to visit two castles with historic significance to my Dad's family. (They were poor tenant farmers, hence they came to America.) That's as far as we got in Scotland - it was the "important" part of our trip.
Drove east along miles and miles of Hadrian's wall.
Stopped at Durham Cathedral.
Drove through Scarborough, where summer traffic took its toll, but we sang the song as we passed through.
Stopped in Windsor on the way back to my village.

It was mostly one night stops. Would I do the same trip today? I'd rather spend 3 or 4 weeks, but I was working. We had a great time, drove a lot and saw a lot. I wouldn't trade that whirlwind trip with my parents for the world!

Posted by
4882 posts

With only 2 weeks, I would try to fly into Manchester or Edinburgh rather than London to save time and tedious motorway driving. See Liverpool, the Lake District, Glasgow, some of the Highlands, Northumberland including Holy Island, Whitby and York. This is a rushed trip and wouldn’t be a pace I would opt for, but you would get a mix of cities, great scenery, history and some fantastic coastline. Driving to and from London would be a 3-4 week trip.

Posted by
1423 posts

Note that The Fringe is happening in Edinburgh during most of August- it's a great experience. Whether you choose to avoid The Fringe or participate, just know that it's a huge event that takes over the Old & New Town areas, and hotel demand/prices increase greatly.

Posted by
19187 posts

Honestly, I don't think it's a good idea to plan a trip that will have you sitting in a car for so many hours, with relatively limited time to walk around and appreciate the sights in the areas you're passing through. Before progressing to booking anything, I recommend you get hold of a detailed guidebook to Great Britain and make a list of the places you'd like to see. I think you'll find way more than two weeks' worth of stops long before you reach Hadrian's Wall. If Scotland is a really big deal for you, I suggest making use of the very fast rail link between London and Edinburgh (4-1/2 hours) and spending your 2 weeks in Scotland on this trip (or fly into Edinburgh or Glasgow to save time). I had 26 days in Scotland last year, and take it from me, the cuts were painful. To drive all the way to Scotland and have what would surely be no more than two or three days (probably none of them in the Highlands or islands) seems misguided, because you'd be whizzing past a lot of great places in England (not to mention Wales) in order to get to Scotland in the time you have.

If you've already done a lot of travel in the UK and don't need to revisit a bunch of places on this trip, that's a different matter.

Posted by
30 posts

Chriss, I second what Jennifer says, to start in the north of England. Driving in the UK is not like driving in the USA. The roads are much narrower, traffic is generally very heavy and frankly, driving is much more tiring and less fun than in the US, I’ve had experience of both. I also want to talk up the castles on the Northeast coast too, in Northumberland, Viking history, fantastic beaches and medieval castles with actual giants at the gates!

Posted by
3309 posts

We’ve broken the UK into individual trips to spend more time in each of the countries. On our Scotland trip, we started in Edinburgh went up to the Isle of Sky, then down to Stranraer and over to north England as far south as Harrogate and York before heading back to Edinburgh. We made stops along the route. That trip was between 2 and 3 weeks long.

Posted by
256 posts

Thanks all for the good advice..but what the heck is the Fringe?????

Posted by
26053 posts

An art festival

The Fringe is to an art festival as a black hole is to an elementary school student's magnet

Posted by
4944 posts

We did a four week drive tour of England and Wales and didn't stay in London at all. Originally, we planned to include Scotland, but the more I planned, the more I could see that we had to limit our trip to S. Wales and England.

Here is my trip review with details.
28 days in Britain and Celebrity Eclipse home

Here are some tips for your itinerary:
1) You plan to visit the west coast, which could involve going near the large cities in the Midlands (Birmingham and Manchester). Try to avoid those population centers. Traffic in Southern England as well as the western midlands is heavy.
2) Try not to drive more than about 2 hours a day. There are many great places to visit in Great Britain and it is easy to find stays consistent with that.
3) Some places in England are loaded with people in August, like Cornwall. I recommend skipping that area for later.
4) Also, consider some of the majestic Welsh places. It is loaded with castles and great scenic vistas.
5) Try to find B&Bs that are near the inner city so you don't need to take public transport to tour. Also, make sure that those places have parking available.
6) Be sure to carry coins for parking and toilets.
7) If you aren't used to driving on the left, then take great care, don't speed and don't be aggressive. British drivers are really polite and that makes it easy, but traffic can be heavy. Have someone help you with a map and navigation system. Also, they need to remind you to stay on the left.

I highly recommend visiting Bath, the Cotswolds (we used Chipping Campden as our base to visit Oxford, Blenheim Palace and Stratford Upon Avon).
Warwick is worth a day, visit the castle.
York and Durham are great cities, try to visit them, but those cities are farther east, but you can still do it.
If you like hiking and the outdoors, The Lake District in the NW of England is very scenic.
We also visited Winchester, which is great.
On earlier trips to England, we did Windsor Castle, Stonehenge, Avebury and Salisbury. Cambridge and Canterbury are great, but they are on the east side of London.

Warning, don't get stuck on the M25 Orbital parking lot.

We have been to Scotland, but not the western highlands (one day we will do that). Edinburg is great as well as Inverness.

Posted by
4411 posts

6) Be sure to carry coins for parking and toilets.

Whilst all parking meters will accept coins the continued rise of the payment app RingGo means that a huge number of car parks can be paid for without the need for searching for coins. You register your payment card with the app and with the ID number of the car park you simply select the duration of your stay and your payment will be deducted and your car registration will be recorded as having paid when checked by parking attendants/cameras.

As for toilets, most of them do not require payment. The only ones I've encountered are at the major railway stations in London and some other large cities and one in one of the Cotswold villages (I don't recall which one). Any attraction that you've paid to visit will not charge to use the toilet nor will any establishment that you're eating/drinking/purchasing in. Supermarkets, shopping malls and other large retail outlets will be the easiest to locate with guaranteed free use and a generally good level of cleanliness.