Across the UK by rental car- 4-day UK road trip itinerary.
Have you ever wondered what the Loch Ness looks like? Ever wanted to visit Oxford – the famous University-city? See the home town of Manchester United?
This is your chance to tick these dreams off your bucket list! This travel guide takes you on a UK road trip that starts from London, England, and finishes in Inverness Scotland.
730 miles (1175 kilometers) in total
Planning- Before you leave
How long does it take to complete this road trip?
This road trip takes a minimum of 3-4 days to complete, the total driving time is about 15 hours.
The total length of the journey is about 729 miles (1173 km).
These numbers will be smaller if you decide to skip a few optional locations and shorten the length of the road trip.
This is a perfect route with a rental car, you can pick up the car from London and drop it off in Inverness. Many car rental suppliers support drop-off at another location, please take a look for available options using Rentalmoose.
Rentalmoose recommends starting this journey on the morning of the first day so you can visit all landmarks and enjoy the ride in a relaxed manner and finish the journey whenever you want – depending on how much time you decide to spend at each stop.
What is the best time for a United Kingdom road trip?
The best season for your UK road trip would be from March until October. Winters in England are mostly very rainy, grey, and frosty.
Road Trip Extensions to France
Are you a real road trip fanatic? Instead of flying directly to London, pick from a selection of fascinating destinations in France and explore a bit of the best places to visit in France before heading to the UK.
Can’t decide which city to pick?
Can tourists drive in the United Kingdom?
Absolutely! The UK accepts most of the driving licenses in the world, so do not hesitate to start riding on the left side of the road! If your license is not in English, you are required to obtain an International Driving Permit before leaving your home country.
Keep in mind that the United Kingdom is packed with speed cameras. If you’re caught speeding in a rental car, the ticket will be sent to the car rental agency and the penalty will be added to your car rental fee, usually with an extra surcharge.
The minimum speeding fine in the UK is 100 pounds (110 EUR).
Just in case – don’t forget the excess cover provided by Rentalmoose and for extra peace of mind, it is recommended to add it when booking a vehicle. Also, please do not forget to take check-in photos with the Rentalmoose app to qualify for a 50% rebate from excess coverage.
Now that you’re all set, let’s dive into this exciting UK road trip!
Famous Harrods – luxury department store in London
This is where the road trip begins. For maximum comfort, we recommend you to pick up the car from the airport where you enter the UK.
If you arrived here earlier, there are plenty of things to do and see in London.
Should you drive a rental car in London?
The city might not be the best place to travel around by car because of heavy traffic. If spending some time in London, then choose a hotel with parking so you can park your car for the days in the city – it’s easier to use public transport in London, rather than a private car.
Next: Stonehenge, 2 hours
Stonehenge photographed by Gareth Wiscombe/flickr.com
Visiting Stonehenge is actually optional on this UK road trip – depending on whether you are into historical monuments or not. Stonehenge is perhaps the world’s most famous prehistoric monument, so we strongly recommend stopping by!
Why is Stonehenge famous?
The monument consists of a ring of standing stones, with each standing stone around 13 feet high, seven feet wide, and weighing around 25 tons – which makes it one of the wonders of the world and the best-known prehistoric monument in Europe. If seeing this with your own eyes excites you, then hop on your rental car and drive to Salisbury!
Rentalmoose tip: Weekends can get very busy, so consider heading to Stonehenge early in the morning or an hour before closing.
If you do not wish to visit Stonehenge, you can just drive from London straight to Bath (about 2,5 hours) or Oxford (about 1,5 hours).
Next: Bath, 1 hour
The Roman baths. Photo by loseitlady/pixabay.com
Bath is one of Britain’s most picturesque cities to visit, it’s known for its Roman-built baths. Hence the name! Thanks to that, the city became a World Heritage site in 1987.
What is the history of Bath?
It was 60 AD when the Romans built baths and a temple in the valley of the River Avon, although hot springs were known even before then. A lot of history in this place! So no wonder that there are so many museums – including:
- Museum of Bath Architecture
- Victoria Art Gallery
- Museum of East Asian Art
- Herschel Museum of Astronomy
- Holburne Museum.
Take some time to explore the Roman baths, natural springs, and the Royal Crescent (a row of 30 terraced houses laid out in a sweeping crescent).
Lunch recommendations near Bath
For filling up in between your explorations, Rentalmoose suggests heading to Sotto Sotto – a classic Italian restaurant with a contemporary twist in candlelit vaulted cellars with bare stone walls.
(Booking in advance is strongly recommended!) or a more laid-back option The White Hart which is great for a quick fix.
As you probably want to enjoy more of the baths and the city and are already tired from driving, this will be another overnight stop for you on this UK road trip.
For a fine sleep in Bath why not stay at The Royal Crescent Hotel & Spa? You can tick off 3 things from the list at once – going to a spa, seeing the Royal Crescent, and having an amazing place to wake up!
You can also have a lovely place to sleep for almost half of that price (prices may vary depending on the day and how full the hotel is) – choose the Macdonald Bath Spa hotel.
Oxford University photographed by Alfonso Cerezo.
Your next stop on this UK road trip is the well-known town of Oxford. You can park your rental car on the street just near the world-famous Oxford University and see the historical site and other city landmarks. You can find more information about parking in Oxford here.
Tour of the University of Oxford
A good recommendation would be to book an Oxford University tour!
An easier way to find out a lot about this impressive institute.
There are different walking tours to choose from, check the Oxford Walking Tours website for more details. Each tour lasts around 90 minutes.
What can’t you miss in Oxford?
Oxford Castle & Bodleian Library
The best places to see in Oxford (after the famous University) would be the Oxford Castle and Prison, as well as the Bodleian Library – they definitely don’t do libraries like this anymore so it’s totally worth seeing this impressive place.
Bodleian Libraries, Broad Street, Oxford, OX1 3BG. Check the official website for opening hours.
Don’t forget to see the Blenheim Palace – a huge country house with epic gardens and a parkland that will take you around 20 minutes to drive to from Oxford. The estate is best known as the birthplace of Winston Churchill.
It’s not often that people genuinely get excited about visiting a museum.
A tour for Harry Potter fans
And finally something for the Harry Potter fans! There is a tour especially for you at Oxford – a tour of the locations used in the shooting of the Harry Potter films. See more information about it here.
Tired of the fish and chips already? Then we recommend tasting some authentic Thai food in Oxford! Head to Oli’s Thai for a delicious meal. Make sure to book your table in advance, as it’s one of the best picks in town!
Where to stay in Oxford?
While spending the day in the city of Oxford, Rentalmoose suggests driving a little outside to the UK countryside to spend a night there – just about a 1-hour drive from Oxford is the cute little village of Cotswolds – another pretty location to visit with its rolling hills, picturesque rural looking towns and beautiful history.
Just about 12 minutes drive from the center of the Cotswolds is Barnsley House – an old manor turned into a luxurious country house. Of course, they also have a spa where you can rest before hitting the road again.
Another great spa, restaurant, and hotel options are Thyme manor (it is located halfway from Oxford to Cotswolds) and Lords Of The Manor.
Are you a fan of stylish, authentic manors?
Consider heading to Estonia for your next road trip! The country is full of elegantly restored manors. Click here for our travel guide.
Birmingham river photographed by Wonjong Oh.
Out from the country living and straight into big city life – welcome to Birmingham! The second-most-populous city in the UK, after London, with an estimated 1,137,123 inhabitants. It is a must if you’re planning one of the best road trips in the UK.
What is there to do in Birmingham?
There are major cultural institutions in the big city – the Symphony Orchestra, the Birmingham Royal Ballet, the Birmingham Repertory Theatre, the Library of Birmingham, and the Barber Institute of Fine Arts. Just choose which speaks to you the most!
Rentalmoose recommends visiting the UK’s famous Cadbury World chocolate factory Café – especially if traveling with kids!
It is time for Cadbury World’s Afternoon Tea that gives the classic British experience with a chocolate-themed twist, combined with the best sandwiches.
Take your time to enjoy and later follow the route and ride via Birmingham city center for the next stop on your UK road trip.
Next: Manchester, 2 hours
Etihad Stadium in Manchester. Wikimedia Commons
What is Manchester famous for?
Manchester City is probably known to everyone in the world because of being the home of the Manchester United football team.
Whether you’re a die-hard football fan, or just visiting Manchester with your family, it’s for sure recommended to visit the National Football Museum here to enjoy the world’s biggest and best museum dedicated to football.
The Old Trafford
Football lovers should also visit the Old Trafford – a football stadium that is the home stadium of Manchester United, offering behind-the-scenes stadium tours and 75,000 seats for matches.
The Etihad Stadium
Then there is another big stadium just 8 minutes away – The Etihad Stadium (it’s currently known as the Etihad Stadium for sponsorship reasons) which is the home of the Manchester City football team.
The John Rylands Library
There is also another amazing library to see on this road trip – The John Rylands Library.
For those who set eyes on Deansgate’s (the main road through Manchester city center) The John Rylands Library for the first time, ‘library’ might not be the first word that comes to mind. This masterpiece of Victorian Gothic architecture looks more like a castle or cathedral.
Where The Light Gets In
For a lovely meal, go to Where The Light Gets In (aka WTLGI) – yes, this is the name of the restaurant.
Serious food fans from around the world thanks to an inspired seasonal tasting menu (most ingredients from their own farm nearby), a great wine list and relaxed but attentive service.
And of course the atmosphere – a loft in a Victorian restored warehouse with huge windows from where the light gets in 🙂
Another recommendation would be Hispi – an intimate dining room in a former bank, with an innovative menu offering set and a la carte options. Thumbs up from us!
What are the best hotels in Manchester?
Radisson Blu Edwardian
For your night in Manchester, consider choosing the Radisson Blu Edwardian hotel which is in a gorgeous old building but all new and modern inside.
The Football Hotel
For football lovers, there is no other option than The Football Hotel. Also, it’s a great option when traveling with kids. The hotel is located opposite Old Trafford Football Stadium and close to Media City and Manchester City Centre.
Carlisle is the next stop on your UK road trip, located around 2 hours away.
Next: Carlisle, 2 hours
Carlisle Cathedral. Photo by DAVID ILIFF. License: CC BY-SA 3.0
A detour to the Lake District
Another optional visit when driving from Manchester to Carlisle would be The Lake District. It is a National Park which is one of Britain’s most stunning areas to see.
The hills and lakes have created a landscape that’ll leave you impressed and inspired to keep exploring. Visit the charming town called Windermere, walk up the hills, and enjoy the beauty of this region.
Now, back to our main track. Carlisle is a 2000-year-old city with two Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty and one World Heritage Site. The capital of Cumberland. This is where the Roman empire limited its expansion and built Hadrian’s Wall to protect the empire against Scottish tribes.
A city steeped in history, Carlisle is known as the ‘great border city’ and today is a vibrant place with great shops, a variety of places to eat and drink, and lots of culture from museums and galleries, theatre, music, comedy and events.
What can’t you miss in Carlisle?
Tullie House Museum & Art Gallery
Tullie House Museum & Art Gallery – a family-friendly Roman Frontier Gallery – is a good place to start. It tells the fascinating frontier story and shows the effect of Roman occupation on Britain through interactive exhibitions and Roman artifacts.
You can either opt to stay overnight in Carlisle and continue the trip the next day if you want to explore more or just visit for a day trip.
Where to stay in Carlisle?
There are plenty of nice historical hotels around, in case you decide to stay here for the night, a great recommendation for you would be Willowbeck Lodge that is situated in one of the most beautiful and spectacular locations in England.
The place offers free parking for those who stay in the hotel.
Next: Edinburgh, 2 hours
Clock Tower Edinburgh
Welcome to the capital of Scotland! It has a medieval Old Town and elegant Georgian New Town with gardens and neoclassical buildings.
What is Edinburgh famous for?
Looming over the city is Edinburgh Castle, home to Scotland’s crown jewels and the Stone of Destiny, used in the coronation of Scottish rulers. Edinburgh Castle is the most recognizable landmark in the city, it sits atop a volcanic peak and dominates the city skyline.
Mary King’s Close
Did you know that there is a secret city inside Edinburgh? It’s called Mary King’s Close. It used to be a part of the old town in the 16th century but then these buildings were buried and built on to make space for creating a more developed Edinburgh.
It is now open to the public. Go and wander in these hundreds of years old streets but be aware – there is a rumor that this place is haunted by the people that used to live there. Spooky.
The Devil’s Advocate
If you are not the one driving then treat yourself to the most well-known export that Scotland is known for – their whiskey.
And if whiskey is not your cup of tea (or a glass of shot should I say?) then try the very famous cocktail bar – The Devil’s Advocate. It’s said to have one of the best mixologists in the city! It’s not just a bar – you can get a decent meal from here as well. Come for lunch or dinner.
After visiting all the suggested places, head over the Queensferry Crossing bridge over the Firth of Forth, opened in 2017, for your next stop on your road trip.
Next: Blair Atholl, 2 hours
Blair Castle photographed by Guillaume Piolle
Out of the city and back into the countryside – Blair Atholl is a calm village.
What should you see in Blair Atholl?
Blair Atholl Distillery
It is time to take a break in Blair Atholl distillery and see how the best of whiskey has been made for centuries.
Rentalmoose tip: Beware of tasting all the good stuff, Scotland has harsh limits for allowed alcohol in blood, and drink-and-drive is prohibited. Enjoy whiskey only if you are in the passenger seat.
Whilst you are in the area, you don’t want to miss Blair Castle which is one of the most famous tourist landmarks in the area. The bright white fairytale-like castle is recognizable from afar. Now, where is the Sleeping Beauty?
Cairngorms National Park
The journey continues driving along Cairngorms National Park offering spectacular views for Scottish wildlife. Scenic drives are a must on any great road trip!
Inverness Castle. Photo by Dave Conner.
This is your final destination on this UK road trip. Scottish Highlands is a spectacular place to drive around and see the wonderful landscape including mountains and fjords. And who knows, maybe you will be lucky enough to meet the Loch Ness monster yourself!
We have chosen the best place for you to spend the night so you’d be ready to go and meet the monster the next morning. We recommend staying overnight at Inverness and Rentalmoose has selected a special place for the night: Loch Ness Country House Hotel.
Would you dare to try Scotland’s famous national dish, Haggis (a savory pudding containing sheep’s pluck; minced with onion, oatmeal, suet, spices, and salt, mixed with stock, and cooked while traditionally encased in the animal’s stomach)? It’s the cherry on top of your Scotland experience!
The next day (or whenever you have finished your explorations) you can drop off your rental car at Inverness and fly back home via Inverness airport that has many direct connections to various places.
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