Drive from southern to northern England, taking in Welsh highlights en route, on this scenic two-week road trip through the United Kingdom. You'll start off getting to know London with a food tour and river cruise before heading to the university city of Oxford to go punting. Discover some of England's prettiest spots in the Cotswolds and handsome Bath, cross the border into Wales to see its coast, castles, and rugged national parks, and end your tour in the energetic northern city of Manchester.


  • Learn about London through your stomach on a food tour
  • Enjoy punting and a picnic in Oxford
  • Soak in Bath's thermal waters at twilight
  • Take in spectacular views from the Snowdon Mountain Railway

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in London, Thames River Cruise London
Day 2 Hidden Gems Food Tour, Westminster Walk & Churchill War Rooms London
Day 3 Drive to Oxford, Punting & Picnic  Oxford
Day 4 Visit Blenheim Palace & Gardens, Champagne Afternoon Tea Oxford
Day 5 Drive to Cotswolds, Private Horse Trekking Experience Chipping Campden
Day 6 North Cotswolds Discovery Trail, Hidcote Manor Garden Chipping Campden
Day 7 Drive to Bath via South Cotswolds Discovery Trail Bath
Day 8 A Literary Tour of Bath, Jane Austen Centre Bath
Day 9 Drive to the Brecon Beacons via Tintern Abbey Brecon Beacons
Day 10 Explore the Brecon Beacons Brecon Beacons
Day 11 Drive to Llandudno via Hay-on-Wye & Central Wales Llandudno
Day 12 Coastal Castles & Snowdon Mountain Railway Llandudno
Day 13 Conwy Guided Trail Experience, Drive to Manchester Manchester
Day 14 Depart Manchester  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in London, Thames River Cruise 

London Eye on the River Thames
Golden hour on London's River Thames

Welcome to London, the capital of England! This buzzing city with world-class nightlife, culture, history, and restaurants is the perfect place to begin an adventure in the UK. You'll be picked up from the airport and taken to your hotel in central London. Then, you're free to rest after your flight or beat your jetlag by immersing yourself straight into city life. You can tick off a number of iconic city sites in London in a relatively short space of time, whether you fancy heading to one of its parks, historic buildings, museums, promenades, bridges, or public spaces, such as Trafalgar Square and Piccadilly Circus

You'll be able to admire the city from the River Thames today, too, as you're booked onto a river cruise from Westminster to Tower Bridge Quay. Spot landmarks such as the Houses of Parliament, Big Ben, the Tower of London, and Tower Bridge, accompanied by live audio commentary from your knowledgeable captain. You'll leave the cruise knowing more about the history and significance of many of London's top landmarks. There's the option on the cruise to disembark at any of the stops, so this is an excellent way to explore central London.

Day 2: Hidden Gems Food Tour, Westminster Walk & Churchill War Rooms

Borough Market
You'll finish your food tour at the historic Borough Market

Learn about London through your stomach this morning on a hidden gems food tour. You'll be taken to tucked-away places to try tasty food and hear weird and wonderful stories about the areas you visit. Your tour starts near the Tower of London, and then you'll walk through the borough of Southwark, where you'll be given a flavor of the neighborhood through the food and drink you try. You'll visit six places in total, including a gin distillery, and will finish at the historic Borough Market, which was established in 1756.

In the afternoon, go on a walking tour of Westminster with a difference as you hear about World War II from the point of view of an inside operative. You'll be guided past big London sites, including Big Ben, 10 Downing Street, Westminster Abbey, and the Cenotaph National War Memorial. Afterward, descend into the secret lair and wartime bunker of Sir Winston Churchill, where an English-speaking guide will tell you about how tense it was living here during the Blitz. Time has stood still in the Churchill War Rooms, which are as they were in 1945. You can learn even more through interactive exhibits at the Churchill Museum.

Day 3: Drive to Oxford, Punting & Picnic 

Travel in style today aboard a hand-crafted Oxford punt

Your rental car will be ready to pick up first thing, so you can set off on the roughly 1.5-hour, 60-mile (96 km) drive to your next destination: the ancient university city of Oxford. Once you've arrived and settled in, you'll explore in style aboard a hand-crafted Oxford punt (a narrow flat-bottomed boat) with an experienced punter who will take you out onto the River Cherwell.

Set off south from the boathouse, passing Oxford's famous Botanic Gardens (the oldest in the UK) and the Magdalen College School fields before going through Christ Church Meadows, where Lewis Carroll taught when he wrote "Alice in Wonderland." Then you'll pass St Hilda's College gardens before returning to the boathouse. If you have longer, you can continue south toward the Isis (Oxford's name for the River Thames), where the river opens up, and there's picturesque scenery. You'll enjoy an al fresco picnic on your trip too. 

Day 4: Visit Blenheim Palace & Gardens, Champagne Afternoon Tea

Blenheim Palace with champagne
Enjoy a day trip to the magnificent Blenheim Palace and Gardens

Set off for a day trip at Blenheim Palace and Gardens first thing this morning. Home of the 12th Duke of Marlborough, and the birthplace of Sir Winston Churchill, you'll be able to look around its gilded State Rooms to see the famous Marlborough Tapestries as well as its Long Library, where there are more than 10,000 books. After your introduction in London, learn more about the life of Sir Winston Churchill in on-site Churchill Exhibition.

This impressive stately home is set in more than 2,000 acres (809 ha) of parkland, and after exploring the palace, you can take a free walking tour of its formal gardens. You'll see the spot where Churchill proposed to his wife, Clementine, as well as the Secret Garden, the Rose Garden, and its beautiful Water Terraces. For a real treat, end your day with a decadent Champagne Afternoon Tea in its Orangery Restaurant, which has a high glass ceiling and tables overlooking the formal gardens. 

Day 5: Drive to the Cotswolds, Private Horse Trekking Experience

Horse trekking Cotswolds
Head out for a horse trekking experience from the pretty Cotswolds village of Stanton

It's just over an hour's drive to your next base on your tour, Chipping Campden, located roughly 40 miles (64 km) northwest of Oxford. Once you've checked into your hotel, you'll head out for a horse trekking experience from the pretty Cotswolds village of Stanton, which is at the foot of the Cotswolds escarpment. Depending on your ability, you can choose between a slow, quiet walk or, if you're a more experienced rider, a brisk canter and a hop around one of the nearby cross-country courses. The riding center even offers a pub ride, which stops en route for lunch.

Your ride will be in the hills, on the miles of paths and bridleways, and you'll enjoy magnificent views over some of England's prettiest countryside.

Day 6: North Cotswolds Discovery Trail, Hidcote Manor Garden

Cotswolds village
Learn about the history and heritage of the Cotswolds on today's route

Using the Cotswold Discovery Trail North, which consists of treasure trail maps and a trail pack, you can explore the local area today both in your car and on foot. The maps and tools in your pack will teach you more about the history and heritage of the Cotswolds as you're guided to some famous locations as well as those off the tourist trail. You'll be given information about each spot you visit and can answer clues and questions to find out more. A highlight will be finding a "hidden village" using clues before heading to Winchcombe, with Sudeley Castle close by, as well as Belas Knap, a Neolithic long barrow.

Plan your trip to United Kingdom
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.
If you have time afterward, you could drive to the Arts and Crafts Hidcote Manor Garden to wander in serene surroundings and look around its intricately-designed themed rooms. Narrow pathways lead to each room, and you can make stops to drink in the scenery at the ornate benches that are throughout the garden. There's the option to follow the Monarch's Way path, too, to the handsome village of Hidcote Bartrim, which has traditional thatched stone cottages.

Day 7: Drive to Bath via South Cotswolds Discovery Trail

Bilbury Cotswolds
You'll visit Bibury today, a picturesque Cotswold village

Your base tonight lies 70 miles (112 km) southwest in the spa city of Bath, but take your time along the two-hour drive and explore more of the Cotswolds on the South Cotswolds Discovery Trail. This will take you to many Roman sites, including a Roman amphitheater near Cirencester and a Roman villa close to Chedworth. You'll also visit Bibury, a picturesque Cotswold village situated on the River Coln, Painswick Beacon, and Painswick village. Here, if you're feeling energetic, you can hike to the summit of the Beacon for 360-degree views. Minchinhampton, with its famous and picturesque common grasslands and freely roaming cows, is another memorable spot on the trail.

Relax in the evening at Thermae Bath Spa on its Twilight package. You'll be able to wallow in its thermal waters indoors and in the open-air rooftop pool for up to two hours and will enjoy a meal and drink in its Springs Restaurant.

Day 8: A Literary Tour of Bath, Jane Austen Centre

Bath Abbey
Enjoy a literary tour of Bath today

Jane Austen lived in Bath from 1801 to 1806, and on a guided literary tour of the city this morning, you'll be given an insight into her life and the Regency period. You'll walk past iconic facades and down local lanes, hearing the stories behind the buildings and learning about social etiquette and what life was like for women in Regency England. While Jane lived in Bath, it was a hotspot for fashionable society and a spa resort, with the great and the good coming to socialize, drink three glasses of water in the city, and dance at balls.

Armed with your new knowledge, visit the Jane Austen Centre in the afternoon, where you can discover even more about the life and works of Jane Austen and the Regency period. It's an interactive attraction with guides dressed in Regency costumes, period decorations, and exhibits about the famous writer.

Day 9: Drive to the Brecon Beacons via Tintern Abbey

Tintern Abbey
Tintern Abbey is well known due to the early writings of William Wordsworth

Today, you'll journey about 85 miles (137 km) northwest to the Brecon Beacons, over the border in Wales. En route, stop an hour into the drive at Tintern Abbey, a once-thriving monastery that was founded by Cistercian monks in 1131 and immortalized in the early writings of English Romantic poet William Wordsworth. Now ruins, you'll still be able to make out its intricate and fragile architecture with soaring Gothic arches, ornamental stonework, and the gaps for once-magnificent windows. You'll also spot the remains of a system of drains and sewers, as well as cloisters, an infirmary, toilets, and more.

Back on the road, you'll drive another 1.5 hours to arrive in the Brecon Beacons, check into your hotel, and relax for the evening.

Day 10: Explore the Brecon Beacons

Castell Carreg Cennen
Visit the ruins of Carreg Cennen Castle within the Brecon Beacons National Park

The Brecon Beacons National Park is a beautiful area to explore, with rolling hills, valleys, and moorlands. Today, you'll drive around taking a look at some of its best bits. Start by traveling to Pen y Crug Hillfort above Brecon. From here, you can look down over the Usk Valley. Then, head to the largest hillfort in south Wales, the Hillfort of Garn Goch, which is surrounded by imposing stone walls. While many have collapsed, it remains impressive, and you'll also see a huge burial cairn here.

Next, drive to the ruins of Carreg Cennen Castle, around 5 miles (8 km) away. The castle is in a spectacular spot on a limestone knoll and overlooks the Black Mountain in the western corner of the national park. The castle is believed to have been built by a Welsh prince in the 12th and 13th centuries, and if you're feeling adventurous, you can explore the tunnel under the castle—but bring a flashlight!

Day 11: Drive to Llandudno via Hay-on-Wye & Central Wales

Powis Castle
Discover the magnificent gardens and deer park of Powis Castle

You'll travel deep into north Wales today for a two-night stay near the coastal town of Llandudno. It's a 3.5-hour, 160-mile (257 km) direct drive to your destination, but give yourself more time and take some scenic detours, starting with a stop in Hay-on-Wye, a town famous for its books and bookshops. Here you can mooch around independent shops and enjoy a coffee on the banks of the River Wye. Then drive west to see the Wolf's Leap gorge on the famous Devil's Staircase road. You can also make a detour to see one of the most remote chapels in Wales, Soar y Mynnydd Chapel.

You could also plan stops in Llandovery to see the remains of its castle, which was fought over by English and Welsh forces, as well as between power-hungry Welsh lords. Then head north to the National Trust's Welsh fortress, Powis Castle, which has gardens and a deer park to wander around. From here, the drive north into Snowdonia National Park is a memorable one as you'll pass forests, mountains, and deep valleys. Once you've arrived at your hotel in Llandudno, relax for the evening.

Day 12: Coastal Castles & Snowdon Mountain Railway

Caernarfon Castle
Head to Caernarfon Castle today for a look at one of the great fortresses of the Middle Ages

The northern Welsh coast has three standout castles, Caernarfon, Conwy, and Beaumaris, and all are less than an hour's drive from your hotel. You'll explore Conwy with a guide tomorrow, so perhaps head to Caernarfon Castle today, which lies about 29 miles (47 km) away and is recognized as one of the greatest buildings of the Middle Ages. Look out for its eagle statues and multicolored stonework. Alternatively, take it easy and enjoy the fresh air in the seaside resort of Llandudno, which is known as "the Queen of Welsh Resorts."

You've got tickets to go on the Snowdon Mountain Railway today, too, which has been described as one of the most scenic railway journeys in the world. Trains leave Llanberis Station and climb up Mount Snowdon, with fabulous views along the way.

Day 13: Conwy Guided Trail Experience, Drive to Manchester

Conwy castle
You'll see all of Conwy's main attractions today with a knowledgeable local guide

Learn all about the history of nearby Conwy today with a local "Lady of Wales" guide, who will be dressed in a traditional Welsh costume, complete with a tall black hat. You'll hear all about conquests, river crossings, past and present inhabitants, and lots of other stories as you visit the town's main attractions—Conwy Castle, Plas Mawr Elizabethan townhouse, the Church of St Mary and All Saints, the town walls, the quayside and, of course, the Smallest House in Britain.

Afterward, it's time to make the 81-mile (130 km) drive east, crossing back into England and on to the northern city of Manchester, which takes just over 1.5 hours. Make the most of your last evening in one of the lively city's restaurants or bars. The central Northern Quarter or Ancoats neighborhoods are great places to head for exciting food and drink choices.

Day 14: Depart Manchester

Castlefield Manchester
Take one last look at Manchester before heading to the airport for your departure

It's the last day of your tour today. If you have time before your flight, stroll around the center of Manchester, perhaps visiting the waterside Castlefield area, where you'll find Castlefield Viaduct, a Victorian-era viaduct that's been transformed into a sky park that's reminiscent of New York's High Line. 

Then it's time to return your rental car and head to Manchester Airport for your flight to your onward destination. Until next time!

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Map of England & Wales Road Trip: History, Culture & the Great Outdoors - 14 Days
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