If you squeal at the sight of cute cottages, delight in cobblestoned lanes, and crave lush green scenery, add a UK road trip to your bucket list ASAP.
London may have the red buses, telephone boxes and buzzing nightlife, but you can’t get a pint in the overpriced capital for £2.50. And that’s only the beginning of the countryside’s allure…
Get lost in the secret gardens of… CAMBRIDGE
Why go: More than just a prestigious University, the cluster of castles that is old town Cambridge has all the charm you’d expect from the English countryside, with a splash of class and… cash. It’s impressive, breathtaking and surrounded by a moat (yes, really). You may feel like an imposter as you walk through the high stone archways, but then you’ll see someone taking a selfie with a gargoyle and all will be well.
When to go: Any time of year. It makes a great day trip from London or as a stop off on your way to the Peaks District.
Hot tip: Get your coffee at Bould Brothers. The baristas here put a lot of loving into their beans and the milk is like silk.
Climb to the castle in… EDINBURGH
Why go: Didn’t know Scotland was part of the UK? Let’s blame it on your tenth-grade geography teacher. But yes it is AND you can drive there (or get the much faster train/plane). Edinburgh is quite rightfully Scotland’s capital, and the cobblestoned Royal Mile which runs through the centre of old town and up to the castle is filled with performers, poets and pubs. It’s like stepping into a world where kings and queens still rule, and you could be slain by a dragon at any moment.
When to go: August. The Fringe Festival is on, which means free comedy shows and an amazing atmosphere. The Edinburgh Military Tattoo is also taking place, which transforms the castle into a Triwizard Tournament stadium.
Hot tip: J.K Rowling’s stamp can be found all over Edinborough. Head to the graveyard in the middle of town to find the headstones of Tom Riddle and McGonagall.
Follow the fairies through… ISLE OF SKYE
Why go: If you only go one place outside of Edinburgh in Scotland, make it Isle of Skye. The island, connected by a solitary bridge (or ferry of your choice) boasts beautiful ocean views wherever you look and has many hidden fairy homes among it’s mountains. Head to the Fairy Pools, Fairy Glen and The Quiraing. If you’re lucky, you’ll spot some seals and otters frolicking on the coast as you drive.
When to go: While many people think summer would be best for island exploring, it’s also midgee season and they loveeee Isle of Skye. So if you’re not keen on tiny bugs invading your personal space every second of the day, head there during the shoulder seasons.
Hot tip: If you’re driving from the mainland, go via Glencoe. It’s the most beautiful, scenic drive in Scotland. So much so, that it was a feature location in Skyfall.
Travel to the ends of the earth at… Seven Sisters
Why go: Coming from Australia, the coastlines in England can appear mediocre at best. But one place worthy of the short uphill hike is Seven Sisters. The jagged cliffs that poke out between the green hills and blue ocean are stark white, making for a contrast worthy of your main feed.
When to go: Another easy day trip from London that makes for a great day out in summer. If you wake up and see blue skies, go. Or combine it with a Brighton weekend getaway.
Hot tip: Pack a picnic and a rug so you can sit atop the cliffs and take in the views for longer.
Go down the rabbit hole in the… Lakes District
Why go: The Lakes District is worthy of a visit for the waterside and mountain views alone, but if you really want to see something out of a storybook, head to Beatrix Potter’s house in Hilltop. Left to the National Trust, the author’s cottage remains the same as the day she passed. You can even see the original letter where she conceived the tale of Peter Rabbit and match her illustrations to locations in the village.
When to go: Spring, when the wisteria hanging over the cottages and the tulips in the gardens are in full bloom.
Hot tip: If you’re a keen hiker, Scafell Pike (the highest peak in England) can be climbed nearby or for an easier walk with stunning views, try Orrest Head.
Find your cosy cottage in… The Cotswolds
Why go: You can’t beat the Cotswolds for that signature English countryside charm. Thatched roofs, tiny wooden doors and market squares can be found in each village and you’d be mad not to stop in for high tea. It’s the kind of place where you imagine every cottage owner is a painter, poet or author.
When to go: The area offers a lot year-round, but spring is when the streets really put on a show.
Hot tip: Stow-On-The-Wall is generally the number one village recommendation but Chipping Camden has all your Instagram background needs.
Words and images by Samantha McMeekin.