Disclaimer: this post is sponsored by Avis Car Rental.
Holidaying in 2021 is like nothing we’ve ever tried to muddle our way through before. With confusing red, amber and green travel lists changing every few weeks and a constant level of going-abroad uncertainty, more of us than ever are choosing to get our R&R (and adventure) right here at home in the UK.
Research by Avis Budget Group revealed that us Brits are planning a summer of ‘tapas tourism’, where we pick and choose day trips and short stays around the country rather than committing to a bigger holiday abroad. The research also found that the average British family will happily drive 87 miles for a day trip this summer, whilst the most popular destinations include the seaside, national parks and visiting family.
Recognising that travel plans often change, Avis is offering a flexible cancellation policy where customers can modify and cancel reservations up to 24 hours before a pre-paid rental, free of charge and will receive a full refund paid directly into their bank account. And, to ensure travellers feel safe, Avis has its Avis Safety Pledge, and Budget Worry-Free Promise demonstrating its relentless commitment to keeping every one of its customers and employees safe.
With this new travel trend in mind, we’ve rounded up the best UK road trips you can do in a single weekend this summer or autumn. There’s plenty of choices, whether you want to camp or stay in a swank spa hotel, go kayaking or eat Michelin star food, stay close to home or fly further afield.
Here’s our pick of the best…
Who needs the Pacific Coast Highway when you’ve got the Northumberland Coastal Route? Combining stunning views with postcard-perfect villages and some seriously good food, this stretch of coastline in the North East of England is guaranteed to take your breath away.
Do/Eat/Sleep: Bamburgh and Sycamore Gap are must-visits for movie buffs. The latter’s spectacular castle was featured in Downton Abbey’s 2015 Christmas special and as Hogwarts in the first two Harry Potter films and the former is home to the iconic sycamore tree from Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves. Walk or cycle at Kielder Water, England’s largest forest and the biggest man-made lake in Northern Europe, try some water sports at Druridge Bay Country Park or take a boat trip to the Farne Islands to meet the puffins. More the indoorsy type? Head to Cragside, the Victorian Arts & Crafts mansion, and Britain’s first “smart home”, created by Lord William & Lady Margaret Armstrong – it’s worth a visit for the interiors alone. The villages of Seahouses, Amble and Warkworth are worthy of any Northumberland itinerary too. Get your pizza fix at Embers, a wooden shack out in the sticks or enjoy seafood with a view at The Jolly Fisherman in Craster. Hexham’s Hjem, recently awarded a Michelin star, is Northumberland’s latest foodie hotspot. Tables are like gold dust, so it’s worth booking well in advance. The Ship Inn at Low Newton may not have Michelin status, but it’s definitely the most popular pub on the Northumberland Coastal Route, and sometimes equally hard to get into! Stay in a yurt, shepherd hut or treehouse via Canopy & Stars or check into boutique hotels Le Petit Chateau or The Joiners Arms.
The Isle Of Skye
Located on the north-westerly coast of Scotland, the Isle Of Skye is the largest island in the Inner Hebrides, with just over 600 square miles of pure mountainous beauty – making it the perfect size to explore over a weekend. Flights into Inverness Airport are frequent from other UK airports, and it’s just a two-hour drive onwards to the island.
Do/Eat/Sleep: At the top of your hit-list should be an expedition to the Quiraing which is home to some of the most dramatic of Skye’s landscapes (and was voted one of the best coastal walks in the UK), whilst Dunvegan Castle makes for a charming stop-off. Food-wise, there’s Kinloch Lodge (which has a Michelin star if you’re after something fancy), The Three Chimneys (which has acclaim from The New York Times) and Cafe Sia (for your coffee fix plus delicious wood-fired pizzas). The best way to sleep on the island is to camp, whether that’s by campervan or in a tent, and there’s two great campsite options: Glenbrittle or Sligachan. If that’s not your bag, both Kinloch Lodge and The Three Chimneys are also hotels, and there’s Dunvegan Camping Pods and Armadale Castle Lodges if you’re looking for something a bit different.
The Kent Coast
Forget sticks of rock and amusement arcades: the Kent coast has gone from kitsch to cool. Also known as the Kentish Riviera, work your way down from Whitstable to Broadstairs, exploring cute harbours and sunny beaches, eating delicious seafood as you go.
Do/Eat/Sleep: Take a boat trip from Whitstable to Red Sands Sea Forts, armed defence towers built in the Thames and Mersea estuaries during the Second World War, or work up an appetite on the five-mile scenic walk from Whitstable to up-and-coming Herne Bay. In Margate, embrace the seaside spirit with a spin on Dreamland’s dodgems, get a culture fix at the Turner Contemporary or treat yourself in Peony Vintage and Haeckels. Refuel with tacos and margs at Dive on Margate’s cool Harbour Arm, grab fritto misto in a cone to go at Flotsam & Jetsam in Broadstairs or feast on oysters with a view at The Whitstable Oyster Company. For accommodation that’s as instagrammable as the seaside sunrise, check into Club Jupiter, an achingly-cool caravan renovation created by interior designer Whinnie Williams, culture and travel writer Anna Hart and art consultant and stylist Emma Jane Palin. Whitstable’s seafront has plenty of super cute fisherman’s huts, while The Reading Rooms in Margate is an opulent 18th-century seaside retreat that delivers breakfast to your bed.
Home to some of the UK’s most gloriously breath-taking coastlines is the Welsh country of Pembrokeshire, which sits in the south-west of the country. If you’re arriving via England, there’s a direct route from Bristol which follows the M4.
Do/Eat/Sleep: Start off in the picturesque 13th-century town of Tenby which is home to glorious gold sandy beaches, pastel-coloured houses, and a fantastic array of places to eat and drink. For great casual food try Sandbar who serve seafood including garlic prawns served over fries, or Indie Burger who whip up new specials every week. There’s also a good mix of places to sleep, from Florence Springs Glamping and Camping Village for those wanting to be a little closer to nature, to Heywood Spa Hotel for complete and utter relaxation. Travel up the coast to find Pembrokeshire Coast National Park, which has numerous popular beaches – perfect on British summer days. There’s also Pembrokeshire’s famous Coastal Path which has different walking options depending on your ability and you’ll also find rock climbing and sea kayaking readily available. Other places to explore include Pembroke Castle, Carmarthen and Caldey Island, which is just a 20-minute boat ride outside of Tenby.
The Lake District
England’s largest National Park, the Lake District is home to 16 stunning lakes, rugged fells, brilliant walking trails and countless quaint villages. At 2,362 square kilometres, it’s vast, but you can definitely fit the main attractions into a weekend trip.
Do/Eat/Sleep: In the South Lakes, Windermere is the largest Lake in England and is heaven for outdoorsy types, with rowing, sailing, orienteering, horse riding and cycling on offer. Take a £13 boat trip from Bowness-on-Windermere to Ambleside or visit the World of Beatrix Potter. In Grasmere, keep your blood sugar levels up with a pitstop at Sarah Nelson’s famous gingerbread shop, enjoy Scandi fare at Mathilde’s cafe or visit Dove Cottage, the former home of poet William Wordsworth. In the North Lakes, Keswick is home to Derwentwater, another beautiful lake, plus the Cat Bells walking trail and fell. Another Place hotel boasts the best views of Ullswater lake and is the perfect base to explore the stunning Aira Force waterfall. Foodies flock to Cumbria to dine at The Drunken Duck, The Punch Bowl and Michelin starred HRiSHi at Gilpin Lodge Hotel and Lake House – the next best thing to staying in one of the beautiful luxury spa lodges.
Causeway Coastal Route
Starting at Belfast and zig-zagging its way along the jagged Northern Irish coastline is the 130-mile long Causeway Coastal Route which boasts UNESCO World Heritage Site Giant’s Causeway as one of its most breathtaking attractions. The route ends in Londonderry and can be done in a day, but is best enjoyed over two or three to really take in everything it has to offer.
Do/Eat/Sleep: If you’re driving straight out of Belfast then the medieval Carrickfegus Castle is a great early stop-off, along with The Gobbins Cliff Path which, with its suspension bridges, caves and tunnels, will absolutely test your nerve as you take in the landscape and try and spot dolphins in the Atlantic Ocean. If you’re choosing where to stay overnight on your trip, there are some great options including The Salthouse Hotel which has a spa and calls itself a luxury eco-hotel, as well as Causeway Country Pods, if you’re keen to get closer to nature. Other highlights to add to your must-visit list include a Game Of Thrones tour (a large part of the series was filmed in Northern Ireland), taking a boat out to Rathlin Island (gorgeous views and lots of wildlife), and of course, taking some time to properly explore the Giant’s Causeway. The site holds a staggering 40,000 basalt stone columns left by volcanic eruptions 60 million years ago and is full of myth and magic. Best places to eat along the route? Ramore in Portrush for six exceptional restaurants under one roof, Pyke ’N’ Pommes in Derry for tasty streetfood and Drayne’s Farm in Bushmills for an iconic ice-cream sandwich.
An insanely pretty collection of villages spread across six counties, it’s impossible not to be completely and utterly charmed by the rolling hills, chocolate box cottages, impressive stately homes and winding country lanes of the Cotswolds. If you’re looking for escapism, you’ve come to the right place.
Do/Eat/Sleep: Known as the ‘gateway to the Cotswolds’, Burford makes the perfect starting point. Check out the impressive St John the Baptist church, built between 1160-1475, then head to Huffkins for a cuppa and something sweet. From there, head to Bourton-on-the-Water. Nicknamed “little Venice” because the river Windrush runs through it, Bourton is tourist catnip and can get pretty busy, so try and get there early. Check out the model village – a miniature replica of Bourton – Birdland, nine acres of gardens home to 500 birds or the Cotswolds Brewing Company, a family-run brewery making craft beers, cider and gin. Just seven minutes from Bourton lies Stow-on-the-Wold, one of the Costwold’s prettiest villages. Hunt for antiques in some of the UK’s finest shops, then stop for lunch and a glass of wine at The Old Butchers. Finally, head to Broadway, on of the Cotswold’s bigger, busier villages. The tree-lined high street is the perfect place to mooch, with antiques, books, jewellery and trinkets on offer. Broadway Deli is a must-visit, whether you eat in or pick up something tasty to takeaway. If you’re into art and design, check out the Gordon Russell Design Museum and the Broadway Museum and Art Gallery, or head to the nearby Broadway Tower for beautiful views of the Cotswold’s rolling hills. When it comes to hotels, you’re spoilt for choice. Check into the historic Lygon Arms on Broadway high street or uber-chic country house hotel Thyme in Gloucestershire.
The Suffolk Coast
Just two hours outside of London on the easterly coast of England is the county of Suffolk, home to quaint beachside towns bustling with ice cream parlours, famous fish and chip shops and plenty of pastel beach huts. And, if you fancy extending your road trip – there’s also the not-too-far-away Norfolk coast to explore to continue your adventure.
Do/Eat/Sleep: The first trip on your road trip should be Aldeburgh, the perfect seaside town – which comes complete with street bunting – for which to mosey about at a slower pace of life. Lunch has to be chips from the high street’s fish and chip shop, but start queuing early because they have quite the reputation. There’s Two Magpies Bakery for a coffee and pastry stop or The Ice Creamery for something sweet – they mash up chocolate bars into their ice creams to make you custom flavours on the spot. Spend time exploring the beach or enjoy the high street’s independent shops. Once you’re ready to move on, there’s Southwold just 30 minutes along the coast, which is home to a pier (complete with kid-friendly arcade), a great array of charity shops, and The Swan – a v charming pub hotel decked out in bright interiors. Other Suffolk pit stops to make include Pump Street Bakery in Orford, Darsham Nurseries (for excellent homegrown grub), and Framlingham Castle (which is the inspiration for Ed Sheeran’s Castle On The Hill just FYI).