When we lived in London, we loved taking road trips across England. There are so many places to visit within easy reach of the capital, even if you only have a long weekend to spare.
It’s pretty safe to drive in England too so you should have an easy time getting around and it won’t be a crazy driving experience. These are just 5 of the many amazing places you should not miss when planning a road trip from London.
Road trip stop 1: Oxford, Oxfordshire
First and the quickest to get to from London is Oxford, home to the ancient Oxford University. A blend of historic architecture and modern lifestyle makes the town appealing to many, so add this place to your road trip journey.
Tourists flock to the city for a glimpse of the dreamy spires of the stunning churches and colleges. Locals and visitors from the neighboring towns seek shopping and relaxed days out in the quirky cafes and quality restaurants.
The compact city center allows visitors to easily explore it on foot or bicycle and with many streets being closed to cars it’s best if you hit the streets. Spare at least half a day to discover some of the most exquisite Gothic architecture in the city like the Sheldonian Theatre inspired by the open-air U-shaped theatre of ancient Rome.
Check out the Bodleian Library, a part of the University of Oxford, housing a collection of over 9 million items. The library is so large it can accommodate up to 2,500 readers.
Within the city center, you will be hard pushed to miss the domed structure of the marvelous Radcliffe Camera. You can admire the building from outside, but a tour needs to be arranged to visit the ‘reading room’ inside.
While exploring Oxford’s greatest buildings, make sure you leave enough time to visit the oldest gardens in Britain too. The Botanic Gardens are located on the banks of picturesque Cherwell River which provides a peaceful stroll and a hideaway from the hustle and bustle.
Built-in 1071 for William the Conqueror, the Oxford Castle Quarter and its notorious Execution Tower is worth having a peek in too. Don’t fear, the last execution took place in 1863. For a small fee, you can climb the remaining grassy mound for excellent panoramic views.
Visiting London? Full London Pass Guide.
Road trip stop 2: Burton-on-the-water, Cotswolds
Next up on our road trip was the Cotswold Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. The Cotswolds should not be missed, not only for its rolling hills but also for its one of a kind golden Cotswold stone architecture.
There are many villages to visit in the area from the beautiful Castle Combe to Chipping Campden known for its annual Cotswold Olympic Games. However, after some research and careful consideration, we chose Bourton-on-the-Water in Gloucestershire, regularly voted as one of the prettiest villages in England.
The beautiful evergreen village on the picturesque river Windrush crossed by arched stone bridges is often called the ‘Venice of the Cotswolds’ and rightly so. Imagine dormer windows, stone mullions and steep stone-tiled roofs around the village, all entirely made from the local yellow stone, forms a picture-perfect oasis of tranquillity.
When visiting charming Bouton-on-the-Water make sure you visit its Model Village, built and officially opened in 1937! This amazing one-ninth scale replica of the real Bourton-on-the-Water village still stands today.
There is the river Windrush with its famous stone bridges and the buildings that existed in 1930. The churches have little stained glass windows and you can hear the choir singing as you walk by! There is also a Model Village of the Model Village itself! It’s brilliant!
If you are looking for overnight accommodation, check out the beautiful period stone house Trevone. Located in the heart of Bourton-on-the-Water the B&B offers a comfortable and cozy place to stay.
Road trip stop 3: Cirencester in Gloucestershire
We really enjoyed our quick stop in Cirencester, the largest town in Cotswold District. This lovely market town, also made from the yellow Cotswold stone, is full of character.
History and evidence of Roman, Saxon, and Norman times are everywhere you look and it’s definitely worth adding to your road trip circuit.
Spare an afternoon to check out some of the lovely sights in the town such as the beautiful Gothic-style St John the Baptist parish church. In Market Square, you will also find one of the oldest Baptist Churches in England dating back to 1651.
If you have enough time on your hands, check out the Bathurst Estate in beautiful Cirencester Park.
The park is free for visitors to explore on foot or if you like, on a horseback. But make sure you only stay in the designated areas and stick to the park rules.
Visiting London? Full London Pass Guide.
Road trip stop 4: Bath, Somerset
Included into the UNESCO World Heritage Site listings in 1987 and known for its hot springs and 18th-century Georgian architecture, Bath is a unique and truly beautiful destination to include into your road trip itinerary.
Personally speaking, Bath completely exceeded my expectations. The city is packed with wonderful sites to visit, food to eat, natural spas to enjoy and shopping to do.
The Georgian architecture and the honey colored stone used around the city is compelling. There is something stunning to look at on every corner.
The Roman Baths are the essence of the city and a must-see site. It has a well-preserved Roman spa where you can hear stories about Romans, their beliefs, life and health as you walk around the site.
While wandering around this natural wonder, try the healing waters in the Pump Room. The spa water contains 43 minerals and it’s believed to have medicinal powers so take a sip!
Founded in the 7th century, Bath Abbey is a beautiful piece of Gothic architecture. Take a quick tour and climb the 212 steps up to the Bath Abbey Tower, the views across Bath are great.
The sculptures of angels climbing Jacob’s Ladder, also known as the ‘Ladder to Heaven’ on the west front of the Abbey is a significant piece of the abbey so do check them out.
Also be sure to visit the stunning Royal Crescent, a row of terraced houses built between 1767 and 1774. This Grade I listed building is considered to be one of the best examples of Georgian architecture in the country.
Today the Royal Crescent is a mixture of private residences and flats owned by the housing association. Number 1 Royal Crescent houses a museum exposing the wealth of the 18th-century residents. The crescent appeared on a number of television sets including the 2008 film The Duchess starring Keira Knightley.
Road trip stop 5: Stonehenge, Wiltshire
We capped off our road trip with a visit to the prehistoric bluestone circle in Stonehenge. When exploring the Neolithic monument, don’t forget to pop into the new visitor center and visit the world-class exhibition showcasing 250 ancient objects.
Try timing your trip with various events taking place around the mysterious stone circle. Why not time it with the Summer Solstice and witness the spectacular sunrise, peeking above the Heel Stone outside the circle.
We really enjoyed the ‘Fire Garden’ exhibition created by the French outdoor alchemist Compagnie Carabosse. He transformed the huge stones into a glowing and mystical fairytale space, making the site look incredibly atmospheric in the dark.
It’s really worth checking the English Heritage website for more information about the events taking place at Stonehenge.
Have you taken a road trip from London? Where did you go? let us know in the comments below…