Experience the best of England's natural wonders and historic highlights on an epic self-drive tour around the country. Over 10 event-filled days, you'll visit the most beautiful regions in northern and southern England, including the Lake District and Dorset County. Even better, you'll have the freedom to explore on your terms as you pick and choose which villages, sights, and landmarks to stop at along the way.


  • Stroll the cobbled streets of medieval York
  • Hike along waterfalls in the stunning Yorkshire Dales
  • Visit the most beautiful locales in the Lake District
  • Experience the coastal majesty of Dorset, in southern England

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Train From London to York & City Walk York
Day 2 Yorkshire Dales Road Trip & Drive to Lake District Ambleside
Day 3 Explore the Lake District  Ambleside
Day 4 Explore the Lake District  Ambleside
Day 5 South to the Cotswolds Bourton on the water
Day 6 The Cotswolds to Bath Bath
Day 7 Explore Bath Bath
Day 8 Bath to Dorset Dorchester
Day 9 Lyme Regis & Historic Dorset Dorchester
Day 10 Return to London & Depart  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Train From London to York & City Walk

Off to York

Your adventure through the English countryside begins at London King's Cross railway station, where you'll leave on a 2-hour train ride north to York. This ancient city was established by the Romans back in 71 CE. It's as much an open-air museum as it is a city, one filled with historic landmarks. These include its medieval defensive walls, 13th-century York Tower, and York Minster, the largest Gothic cathedral in Northern Europe. 

After checking into your hotel, you can stretch your legs on a walk around York. Step back into the Middle Ages as you stroll the cobbled streets of The Shambles, a popular enclave whose brick-and-timber houses date as far back as the 14th century. Perhaps stop at one of the city's famous "haunted pubs" for a pint. York indeed boasts over a dozen pubs reputed to be haunted by the ghosts of many folks, including nuns, friars, prostitutes, and spurned lovers. 

But York's rich history pre-dates even medieval times. Back when it was a Viking territory, around the 9th century, it was called Jorvik, and the Norse monarchy held the city until the middle of the 10th century. Make reservations in advance to visit the interactive Jorvik Viking Centre, where you can learn more about this unique period in York's history.

Day 2: Yorkshire Dales Road Trip - Drive to Lake District

Meadows and hills in Yorkshire Dales

In the morning, take one last quick walk around the historic sights of York before picking up your hire car and heading off to the Lake District. You'll travel through Yorkshire Dales, a national park in Northern England famous for its moors and green valleys topped with limestone plateaus. The scenery on this route is jaw-dropping, as you'll drive along gorgeous green countryside lined with dry stone walls. 

Break up the drive with a stop at Malham Cove. Also located in the national park, Malham is a large limestone formation carved out by a waterfall. It's dry now, but occasionally, the falls come back to life under the right weather conditions. When it does, it plunges 260 feet (80 m) into a river below, making it the largest waterfall in England. Another fun fact: Malham Cove was one of the filming locations for "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows."

There are plenty of hikes and excursions in this area. For example, you can follow a short footpath to Gordale Scar, a limestone ravine with two smaller waterfalls. Or take a short drive north to Malham Tarn, a large glacial lake. On the way, you could stop off at Bolton Abbey, on the grounds of which lie the ruins of a priory church that dates to the 12th century. 

Afterward, continue the drive northwest to Ambleside, which will be your base for exploring England's Lake District over the next couple of days. Upon arrival, check into your accommodation.

Day 3: Explore the Lake District - Day 1

Views of England's largest lake: Lake Windermere

The Lake District National Park covers 912 sq. miles of northwest England’s Cumbria region. It’s one of the most popular holiday destinations in the nation due to its unspoiled countryside, long ribbon lakes, fells (mountains), and literary heritage. Among others, it was once the stomping ground of legendary Anglo scribblers William Wordsworth and Beatrix Potter.

There are numerous lakes, valleys, and villages to discover in this park. You’re in luck because Ambleside’s central location and proximity to Lake Windermere (England’s largest lake) make it a convenient base to explore the area. The village itself is nice as well. Old stone houses sit atop arched bridges, and there are many quaint shops and fantastic restaurants.

You’ll have the freedom to enjoy this area however you see fit. Perhaps take a boat trip on Windermere and enjoy the stunning views of the surrounding green mountains. Or drive to Grasmere, another picturesque village known for its tea shops and stone cottages. Wordsworth’s former home, Dove Cottage, is also located here, as is the Wordsworth Museum and Art Gallery.

Next, take a scenic drive to the perfectly serene Wastwater Lake. This glacial lake is surrounded by some of the highest mountains in England. The largest is Scafell Pike, which stands 3,208 feet (978 m) and whose snowcapped summit looks out over Wastwater. For other great views of this part of the region, you can walk up the valley from the tiny hamlet of Wasdale Head.

Day 4: Explore the Lake District - Day 2

Marvel at the 38 stones of Castlerigg, Lake District

Today you'll travel to the north of the Lake District and visit one of the unique landmarks in the park: the stone circle of Castlerigg. Located near the market town of Keswick, the 38 stones that comprise this archeological site were erected during the Neolithic period, around 3000 BCE. Unchanged in the intervening millennia, today, they stand stoically against a dramatic backdrop dominated by the high peaks of Helvellyn and High Seat

Then you can head east a few miles to Ullswater Lake and enjoy the gorgeous scenery from the deck of a converted Victorian steamer. Some of these vessels are almost 150 years old, and the company has been running tours longer than that. With their faux red smokestacks, the boats are easy to spot as they elegantly glide over the glassy surface of the lake, carrying passengers to the best walking routes and most beautiful sites around Ullswater. You can also partake in one of the company's special excursions, like a birding outing or wildlife trip or specialist photography cruise.

And if the scenery at Ullswater and Castlerigg doesn't satisfy your desire to take incredible photos, head to Langdale. This fertile green valley is surrounded by towering mountain peaks and is yet another of the most photographed landscapes in Cumbria. Afterward, enjoy a meal and an adult beverage at Sticklebarn, a country pub with great views of the rugged Langdale Pikes.

Plan your trip to United Kingdom
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.

Day 5: South to the Cotswolds

Bibury village
Bibury village in the Cotswolds

Today you'll do an about-face as you drive south from the Lake District to south-central England and the romantic Cotswolds region. Perhaps stop for lunch on the way in the city of Worcester, famous for its 11th-century Anglican cathedral. Not only is this church a marvel of Norman/Gothic architecture, but it also houses various crypts, cloisters, and even the royal tomb of King John.

From Worcester, it's a short drive to the Costwolds, which enjoys "AONB" (Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty) conservation status. This protected rural area of southern England covers parts of six different counties and has earned its romantic reputation. The region is denoted by rolling green hills, medieval villages, and charming cottage homes constructed of a distinct yellow limestone mined in the area for hundreds of years.

Spend the day meandering through the beautiful Cotswold hills while visiting a host of lovely stone-built villages along the way. Standout towns include Bourton-on-the-Hill, Burford, Bourton-on-the-Water, Bibury, and Castle Combe. We'll provide you with a detailed map and itinerary that outlines the most scenic routes to make the most of your Cotswolds tour. You'll overnight in Bourton-on-the-Water.

Day 6: The Cotswolds to Bath

Pulteney Bridge, Bath
Cross the River Avon over Bath's Pulteney Bridge

Continue your journey south through the Cotswolds, admiring the stunning panoramas and visiting quaint villages, until you reach historic Bath. This compact city is built on the side of a hill and straddles the idyllic River Avon, where canal boats ply the slow-moving waters. Bath is famous for its well-preserved Roman baths, which date to the 1st century and which you can tour.

Bath also has countless examples of outstanding 18th-century Georgian architecture. These include The Circus, a circular street of refined townhouses, and Pulteney Bridge, completed in 1774. The magnificent interiors and exteriors of Gothic Bath Abbey also merit a visit.

Day 7: Explore Bath

Royal Crescent, Bath
The famous terraced houses of Royal Crescent in Bath

Spend your second day in Bath, wandering around its captivating mix of narrow medieval alleyways and Georgian streets. This will be an unguided walking tour where you can discover Bath's architectural highlights at your own pace.

Must-visit sights include: Pulteney Bridge, with its narrow shops and cafés overlooking the river; the Circus, known for its magnificent Georgian architecture in a circular design; and the extravagant Royal Crescent, a row of 30 terraced houses designed in a crescent formation and which is regarded as one of the finest examples of Georgian architecture in the country. 

Beyond the architectural highlights, Bath is also home to numerous museums and galleries. These include the Fashion Museum, which displays historic attire from the 18th century onward, and the Victoria Art Gallery, named for Queen Victoria and which houses art and oil paintings from the year 1700 until today. The city's lively gastropubs make for a fun dinner and night on the town.

Day 8: Bath to Dorset

Gaze at Durdle Door in Dorset

In the morning, you'll hop back in your car and drive an hour south of Bath to the Saxon hilltop town of Shaftesbury, located in the beautiful county of Dorset. Shaftesbury is famous for Gold Hill, a steep cobbled street lined with thatched cottages. There are wonderful views from three sides from the top, looking down past the town to the vales and the rolling green hills beyond.

After Shaftesbury, continue south toward the Dorset Coast. This region has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage site for its fascinating geological features. The landscapes span 185 million years of the earth's history and contain a number of fossils.

There are many interesting places to stop in Dorset County. The historic village of West Lulworth, for example, is known for its charming cottages. You'll want to hike down to Lulworth Cove, a circular bay on the English Channel. Or walk over the hill to gaze at Durdle Door, a natural limestone arch and one of England's most iconic coastal sights. A longer walk is possible to the chalk cliffs, dominating the coastline and offering spectacular views. You can head east of Lulworth to explore the towering ruins of Corfe Castle, which dates to the 11th century.

Then continue onward to Studland, a village that sits on a chalk ridge overlooking the coast. Stop en route for unique views over Poole Harbour, the second-largest natural harbour in the world. The route from Studland past Old Harry Rocks makes for another beautiful walk, as do many others in the area. You'll overnight in the town of Dorchester. 

Day 9: Lyme Regis & Historic Dorset

View from the summit of Golden Cap

From your base in Dorchester, you can explore a variety of sights on the south coast as well as the beautiful Dorset countryside. For example, 25 miles west of Dorchester is Lyme Regis, a seaside town known as the “Pearl of Dorset.” Head to the picturesque port for a stroll along its famous harbor walls, or explore the beaches in Charmouth, which are renowned for their Jurassic fossils.

Also located in this region are several charming villages like Burton Bradstock and Abbotsbury, known for their 17th century thatched cottages. Nearby is Maiden Castle, one of the largest and most complex Iron Age hillforts in Europe—the size of 50 football pitches. Its multiple large ramparts, mostly built in the 1st century BCE, once protected hundreds of residents. 

Other natural wonders in Dorset include Golden Cap, the highest cliff on England’s South Coast. Because of its height, Golden Cap offers dramatic views over the coast and inland. Bonus that this protected area is stunningly beautiful, with a topography covered in green grasses and wildflowers in the summer. 

Another spot worth visiting is Chesil Beach. This long shingle beach stretches eight miles, creating a lagoon on its landward side. The area is good for birding (look out for dunlin and oystercatchers), and there’s also a nature reserve here.

Day 10: Return to London

Corfe Castle, Dorset
Dorset's 11th-century Corfe Castle

In the morning, you'll drop off your hire car in the coastal town of Poole and then return to London by train. This concludes your unforgettable road trip. Until next time!

More Great 10-Day England Itineraries

Looking for more inspiration for your trip to England? Check out these other 10-day England itineraries, with outdoor adventures, cultural trips, and best-of tours to hit the highlights. 


Map of English Countryside by Rail & Road  - 10 Days
Map of English Countryside by Rail & Road - 10 Days