See The Real Great Britain With These Road And Rail Journeys

28 September 2017

Great Britain is a land of many unrivalled discoveries. Flaunting centuries of fascinating history, from famous playrights to grand castles that now stands in ruins, and an effortless play of natural beauty across the lands, the only way to get up close and experience it properly is on a journey that takes you beyond the obvious, most well-known capital cities.

Thankfully, Great Britain is a wonderful place for self-drive holiday, and for those who don't want to get behind the wheel it's just as enticing, and easy, to get around by rail. We've pulled together some of the best journeys to take you around Great Britain - many of which you can mix and match to create exactly the kind and length of journey you wish for. 

Great Britain Road Trip A road trip is a wonderful way to take in the highlights of Great Britain.

To self-drive or to travel by rail? 

A self-drive journey around Great Britain is great for those who relish the thrill and spontaneity of taking the road less travelled. With a hire car, you can go from A to B, without having to return your hire car to the same city as where you started. Driving like this offers the freedom to travel at your own pace, whether you meander along and stop as you please or take a more direct route. There are no timetables - simply set your GPS, switch on a good driving tunes playlist and go!

A rail journey is also a fast and inexpensive way to get around, from the grand cities to the lovely rural landscapes. The best part? You can sit back and completely relax as you travel to the heart of your next stop. Travel in comfort with Wi-Fi, quiet carriages, power sockets and refreshments. And if you really want to explore with more freedom once you arrive, you can still hire a car locally to get out and explore further afield. 

When's the best time to go?

Anytime from April to October is typically the best time to travel Great Britain by self-drive or rail, with the countryside in full bloom from April to June. Of course, summertime is peak season, so be sure to book well ahead and consider any special events that might be on while you're there, such as the Chelsea Flower Show in May or the Edinburgh Military Tattoo in August. 

Here are some of the best routes to do Great Britain by either road or rail: 

Road Trip 1: The 'Great' Britain (13 - 24 nights)

London – Bath – Oxford – Straford-Upon-Avon – Manchester – York – Lake District – Edinburgh  

From London to Edinburgh, this wonderful road trip offers an all-encompassing glimpse at all that beautiful England has to offer, with a final stop in Scotland's grand capital. Weaving through lush country landscapes to many historic stops along the way, including Bath and Shakespeare-infused Stratford-Upon-Avon, you'll also get to admire the the naturally beautiful landscapes of the Lake District and beyond. Along the way discover insightful museums, beautiful architecture and a wealth of English history. 

Big Ben in London. Start your journey in the heart of London, before heading off to explore.

London: 4 - 7 nights

  • Take a red double-decker bus tour
  • Get panoramic views on the London Eye
  • Tour the historic Tower of London
  • Step inside many world-class museums

Train: 1 hour and 20 minutes direct to Bath  OR  Drive: 2 hours and 40 minutes to Bath

Bath: 1 - 2 nights

  • See the Roman Baths by torchlight
  • Visit the nearby site of Stonehenge
  • Admire new and old at the Fashion Museum
  • Taste a Sally Lunn bun

Train: 1 hour and 15 minutes with one stop to Oxford  OR  Drive: 1 hour and 40 minutes to Oxford

Oxford: 1 - 2 nights

  • UK’s oldest university town
  • Founded on top of natural hot springs
  • A punt down the river is a must-do
  • Famous for its elegant Georgian architecture

Train: 1 hour and 30 minutes with one stop to Stratford-Upon-Avon  OR  Drive: 1 hour and 5 minutes to Stratford-Upon-Avon

Stratford-Upon-Avon: 1 - 2 nights

  • Market town with over 800 years’ history
  • Visit key William Shakespeare landmarks
  • See a Royal Shakespeare Company play
  • Admire Europe's largest butterfly farm

Train: 3 hours with two stops to Manchester  OR  Drive: 2 hours and 30 minutes to Manchester

Sunrise in the Bluebell Woods near Stratford-Upon-Avon.

Manchester: 1 - 2 nights

  • Browse the National Football Museum
  • Visit the world’s oldest public library
  • Tour the Old Trafford stadium and museum
  • Cruise the city’s winding canals

Train: 1 hour and 20 minutes direct to York  OR  Drive: 1 hour and 45 minutes to York

York: 1 - 2 nights

  • See one of Europe’s largest Medieval cathedrals
  • Don’t miss York Castle Museum
  • Experience the vibrant café culture
  • Wander cobbled laneways of The Shambles

Train: We recommend to access the Lake District a a side trip from Manchester.  Drive: 1 hour and 45 minutes to Windermere

Lake District: 1 - 2 nights 

  • Hike and bike the stunning landscapes
  • Visit poet William Wordsworth’s famous residence
  • Take a cruise on the beautiful lakes
  • Sample the famous Kendal Mint Cake 

Train: 2 hours and 30 minutes direct to Edinburgh  OR  Drive: 3 hours and 30 minutes

Edinburgh: 3 - 5 nights

  • Scotland’s bustling, vibrant and historic capital
  • Explore the world-famous Edinburgh Castle
  • Visit the National Museum of Scotland
  • Discover beaches, hills and wildlife nearby

 

Edinburgh. Edinburgh is a great highlight on any Great Britain itinerary.

Road Trip 2: Cornwall & Devon Delights (10 - 19 nights)

London – Bath – Exeter – St Ives – Plymouth – Salisbury 

Get up close and personal with Southwest England on this road trip to the lovely seaside town of St Ives, by the Celtic Sea. Admire stunning cathedrals and palaces, abbeys and castles, bridges and famous national icons too. With many stops in seaside towns and cities there'll be plenty of ocean-filled vistas to take in, from wandering along beach boardwalks to stepping foot in character-laden fishermen's cottages. Finish it all off in Salisbury - the gateway to Stonehenge - or continue the journey back to London where you began. 

London: 4 - 7 nights  

  • Admire the impressive Buckingham Palace
  • See a play at Shakespeare Globe Theatre
  • Take a picture with Big Ben
  • Admire the beauty of Westminster Abbey

Train: 1 hour and 20 minutes to Bath  OR  Drive: 2 hours and 40 minutes to Bath

Bath: 1 - 2 nights                               

  • Admire Georgian crescents and architecture
  • Visit the Jane Austen Centre
  • Admire the historic Pulteney Bridge
  • Take a day trip to Kew Palace

Train: 1 hour and 45 minutes to Exeter  OR  Drive: 2 hours and 10 minutes to Exeter

Bath, England. Admire beautiful architecture and ancient baths in Bath.

Exeter: 1 - 2 nights 

  • Step inside the gothic Exeter Cathedral
  • Take a break at the picturesque Quayside
  • Wander the historic city walls
  • Tour nearby coast and countryside

Train: 3 hours and 15 minutes to St Ives  OR  Drive: 2 hours to St Ives

St Ives: 2 - 4 nights  

  • Go from beach to beautiful beach
  • Take a boat trip to Seal Island
  • Soak up the rich artistic heritage
  • See fishermen’s cottages and cobbled streets

Train: 2 hours and 10 minutes to Plymouth  OR  Drive: 1 hour and 50 minutes to Plymouth

Plymouth: 1 - 2 nights 

  • Renowned for its maritime heritage
  • Don’t miss the historic Barbican district
  • See the Royal Citadel and Crownhill Fort
  • Explore fascinating museums

Train: 2 hours and 50 minutes to Salisbury  OR  Drive: 2 hours and 40 minutes to Salisbury

Salisbury: 1 - 2 nights 

  • Join a tour to Stonehenge
  • Admire the 13th-century Salisbury Cathedral
  • See one of England's finest stately homes
  • Feel medieval ambiance of Cathedral Close

Train: 1 hour and 30 minutes to London  OR  Drive: 2 hours and 50 minutes to London

Road Trip 3: Scottish Highlights (10 - 18 nights)

Glasgow – Oban – Isle of Skye – Inverness – Pitlochry – Edinburgh

See the best of Scotland in one go on this grand trip taking in a long list of Scottish highlights, from the historic and cosmopolitan cityside wonders of Glasgow and Edinburgh to the rural beauty of the countryside, like the Isle of Skye and Inverness - home to the famed Loch Ness Monster. There'll be castles, fortresses and churches to explore, seaside and countryside panoramas to soak up, and islands to explore by day trip too. This is the quintessential Scotland itinerary. 

Glasgow: 2 - 4 nights

  • Admire Victorian and art nouveau architecture
  • Be wowed by the stunning Stirling Castle
  • Venture to nearby Loch Lomond
  • Discover many great cultural institutions

Train: 3 hours to Oban  OR  Drive: 2 hours and 35 minutes to Oban

Oban: 1 - 2 nights  

  • Gateway to the Hebridean Islands
  • Enjoy seafood eateries by the harbour
  • Investigate ruins of castles and fortresses
  • Amble seaside streets and countryside

Train: 4 hours and 30 minutes to Isle of Skye OR  Drive: 3 hours and 40 minutes to Isle of Skye

Isle of Skye: 2 - 3 nights 

  • Take in rugged landscapes and vistas
  • Roam picturesque fishing villages
  • Spot medieval castles and Fort William
  • Stop in harbourside pubs and boutiques

Train: 2 hours and 40 minutes to Inverness  OR  Drive: 2 hours and 40 minutes to Inverness

Isle of Skye. The beauty of the Isle of Skye.

Inverness: 1 - 2 nights 

  • Cultural capital of Scottish Highlands
  • Try to spot the Loch Ness Monster
  • Enjoy beautiful outdoor walks
  • Discover castles, churches and galleries

Train: 1 hour and 45 minutes to Pitlochry  OR  Drive: 1 hour and 35 minutes to Pitlochry

Pitlochry: 1 - 2 nights 

  • Admire two special and unique castles
  • Taste test local breweries and distilleries
  • Relax in lovely gardens and tearooms
  • Try golf, cycling and adventure activities

Train: 2 hours direct to Edinburgh  OR  Drive: 1 hour and 45 minutes to Edinburgh

Beautiful Blair Castle near Pitlochry.

Edinburgh: 3 - 5 nights 

  • Get lost in brick and cobbled alleys
  • Tour the 16th century Holyrood Palace
  • Enjoy city views from Arthur’s Seat
  • Museum-hop on the Royal Mile

Road Trip 4: Wonderful Wales (7 - 14 nights as a self-drive)

Cardiff – Pembroke – Llandrindod Wells – Caernarfon – Llandudno – Manchester 

This Wales itinerary takes you on a winding journey that is an epic introduction to wonderful Wales. Starting in Cardiff and finishing in Manchester, you'll get to unravel Wales from the bottom to the very top, stopping in fascinating cities, many gorgeous national parks and historic sites. Wales is home to more castles than any other country in the world. You'll also get to peruse the history in museums, soak up the heritage of local streets and see Wales at its purest, from stunning lakes to lovely beach stops - and of course, with plenty of pubs along the way.

Cardiff: 2 - 4 nights 

  • Step inside the extravagant Cardiff Castle
  • Shop in lovely Victorian arcades
  • Find famous ‘Doctor Who’ TV locations
  • Unravel local history in museum

Drive: 2 hours to Pembroke

Cardiff As the capital of Wales, Cardiff makes a great starting point.

Pembroke: 1 - 2 nights 

  • Admire ancient ruins of St Govan’s Chapel
  • Daytrip to Brecon Beacon’s National Park
  • Take in historic palaces and castles
  • Wind along the stunning Pembrokeshire coastline

Drive: 2 hours to Llandrindod Wells

Llandrindod Wells: 1 - 2 nights

  • Daytrip to Snowdonia National Park
  • See artefacts in the Radnorshire Museum
  • Wander Llandrindod Wells Lake Park
  • Embark on local walks with beautiful views

Drive: 2 hours and 30 minutes to Caernarfon

Caernarfon: 1 - 2 nights 

  • Gateway for Snowdonia National Park
  • Visit Caernarfon Castle
  • Take the family to Greenwood Forest Park

Drive: 1 hour and 45 minutes to Llandudno

Caernarfon Castle The historic and charming Caernarfon Castle overlooks the town.

Llandudno: 1 - 2 nights 

  • Follow local walking and heritage trails
  • Ride the scenic Llandudno Cable Car
  • Enjoy boat trips and beach activities
  • Visit Colwyn Bay Welsh Mountain Zoo

Drive: 1 hour and 50 minutes to Manchester

Manchester

  • Admire the 13th century Manchester Cathedral
  • Explore world-class galleries and museums
  • Experience the local pubs and nightlife
  • Wander the Urban Heritage Park of Castlefield

Train: 1 hour and 30 minutes to London  OR  Drive: 2 hours and 50 minutes to London


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Tijana Jaksic

Tijana loves new adventures as much as she enjoys reliving old ones. Favourite stops on the map so far include Greece (beyond the islands!), Mexico City (hello ancient ruins and wonderful art), Poland (for the history and off-the-beaten-track finds), Berlin (so artsy and chilled) and Bosnia (ahhh the natural beauty). Choosing is always hard though - that's why her list is so long and she spends her 'real life' time writing about travel until she's out there on the road again.