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English countryside road trip: London to Glasgow in 3 days

English countryside road trip: London to Glasgow in 3 days

This post was originally published on A Globe Well Travelled in 2018. The content has been revised and updated with fresh information.

Most international travellers who visit the UK will go to London, but many don’t bother leaving the city.

Having been to London a handful of times, only once had I left the city to visit Hull – a small city in Yorkshire – as part of a press trip with Visit Britain in early 2017. My first trip out of the city to explore another part of England had me hooked; I couldn’t wait to see more.

Then Rob was invited to attend a work meetup in Brighton. It gave me an idea – why not plan a trip up to Scotland at the same time, squeezing in an English countryside road trip along the way? This was my chance to really explore the country in much more detail.

English countryside road trip: London to Glasgow in 3 days
English countryside road trip itinerary: London to Glasgow

I planned a rough route which started with renting a car in London then driving to Glasgow over 3 days, with a total driving time of around 11-12 hours. We avoided motorways, and instead took our time on highways and backroads for most of the journey.

Note that this is definitely not the most straightforward route from London to Glasgow. If you want the quickest way (aside from flying, of course), you can take the motorway the whole way or even hop on a train and the journey will only take 7-8 hours.

There’s really no point driving from London to Glasgow unless you plan to stray from the motorway and see the countryside, as we did. And it’s definitely worth it! The English countryside was well worth the trip.

This itinerary passes through adorable farms, historic small towns, beautiful national parks, and cute seaside villages. If you’re not from the UK and will be driving this route, you might want to do some research on the local road rules and permits including your International Drivers Licence before your trip.

Cows in Peak District, England, UK
Hathersage town in Peak District, England, UK
Top: Fields of cows in Peak District / Bottom: The town of Hathersage

Day 1: London to the Midlands

On the first morning of our road trip, we picked up our rental car from St Pancras in London. Getting out of London required a short stint on the motorway, but we soon pulled off towards Ashbourne – a super cute town just south of Peak District National Park.

In Ashbourne, we walked around the pretty market square then stopped for lunch at The Bridge (where I had a very British meal of veggie savoury pie with mash, peas, and gravy – yummm!). After lunch, it was onwards to the Peak District – a hilly area in the Midlands that was declared national park in 1951 (the very first national park to be created in England).

I wasn’t expecting much from the Peak District, but as we drove in through the narrow, windy roads lined with tree tunnels, my jaw dropped. It was so beautiful! As there were already people living in the Peak District when it became national park, it was almost as though it had been frozen in time. The area had rolling hills with historic farms and adorable stone buildings, some of which were over 1000 years old.

We passed through a number of small towns along the way – I think the prettiest was Bakewell, though Hathersage was also lovely. Our day ended with a walk over Ladybower Reservoir and a sunset cider at the local Inn.

Where we stayed: Our evening was spent at Halifax Hall in nearby Sheffield. While the hotel was in a slightly odd location on the grounds of a university, this historic building provided surprisingly nice accommodation where we had a renovated room overlooking a rose garden. Would definitely recommend!

York Minster from the city walls, England, UK
The waterfront in Whitby, England, UK
Top: York Minster from the city walls / Bottom: The waterfront in Whitby

Day 2: Yorkshire and the seaside

Our itinerary on the second day was almost completely made up as we went along! I’d booked us a night at a B&B in northern England, but we didn’t have any set plan as to which route we would drive.

On the advice of my cousin, Rob and I decided to make York our first stop. This little city had so many historic buildings, including the lovely York Minster, which features gothic architecture from the 7th century. Walking around the fortified city walls was a highlight, as was the cream tea (Yorkshire tea served with scones, jam, and cream) that we indulged in at Little Shambles Tearoom.

Rob was keen to see the coast, so we departed York and took the scenic route through North York Moors National Park to the seaside village of Whitby. What a surprise! This historic town is totally adorable and has maritime heritage – it’s actually the place where Captain Cook learned his seafaring skills. Walking up the stairs leading to Whitby Abbey was my fave activity, as the historic ruins are perched on a hill by the sea with gorgeous views of the coastline.

Our last stop of the day was at Durham to see the cathedral, as I’d discovered the courtyard was used as a filming location for some of the scenes in Harry Potter. Unfortunately it was somewhat of a disappointment, as we arrived just as they were setting up for a private event. There were people running about and tables everywhere, but we just managed to take a quick walk around the courtyard before they closed up.

Where we stayed: In northern England, we stayed in Blenkinsopp Castle Inn – a B&B housed in some converted stables, connected to the ruins of a historic mansion. How cool is that!? I absolutely loved this place, it was one of the best accommodation experiences of the trip and the Vegetarian English Breakfast was to die for!

Hadrian's Wall, England, UK
Driving along Hadrian's Wall, England, UK
Top: The countryside at Birdoswald Fort / Bottom: Driving along Hadrian’s Wall

Day 3: Northern England

We only had one stop on our way to Glasgow – Hadrian’s Wall. This UNESCO world heritage site in northern England, built in AD 122 by the Romans to protect their territory, once stretched from coast to coast covering around 70 miles. It was also used by author George R.R. Martin as inspiration for ‘The Wall’ in Game of Thrones!

We stopped in at Birdoswald Fort to check out the archaeological site, then drove for a while along the road that follows the crumbled remains of the wall (confusingly, the road is also named ‘Hadrian’s Wall’). It was amazing to learn about this stone structure which has literally been standing there for nearly two thousand years.

It was back onto the motorway for the last stretch of our drive, then we arrived in Glasgow around lunch time. If you’d prefer to drive to Edinburgh instead of Glasgow, it’s easy to change the itinerary and make this your final destination, as it’s only an extra half hour of driving from Hadrian’s Wall.

I’m definitely glad that we chose to drive to Glasgow instead of flying or taking a train – we would never have seen so much of England’s beautiful countryside otherwise!

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