Self-drive UK tour (13 nights)
The incredible array of historic sights could fill endless holidays in the UK. From the northern tip of Scotland to the southern reaches of Cornwall, it is hard to travel more than a few miles without stumbling upon a castle, stately home or historic village.
In this itinerary, we give you a glimpse of a wide range of British history: marvel at Stone Age monuments, wander through Roman remains, learn the fascinating stories of Medieval castles, abbeys and cathedrals, admire Tudor palaces and stately homes, and stroll among the Georgian and Victorian architecture in some of Britain’s most beautiful cities.
As well as the famous sights, this itinerary takes you to some less well-known but equally spectacular locations, with fascinating stories to tell. Your only problem will be deciding how many to fit in.
This itinerary can be shortened or extended to meet your requirements. Suggested extensions and alternatives are included at the end of the itinerary but please feel free to get in touch to discuss other options.
Days 1 and 2: Salisbury, Stonehenge and Avebury
Head straight for the chalky hills, ancient cities and prehistoric monoliths of Wessex (you will be returning to London for the end of your trip).
Stop in Winchester, the capital of Saxon England and where William Conqueror claimed the English throne in 1066, with its 1000 year old cathedral and narrow lanes filled with Elizabethan and Georgian architecture.
Another spectacular cathedral awaits you in Salisbury. This 13th century Gothic masterpiece must be one of the most impressive religious buildings in Britain. Salisbury itself is filled with reminders of times gone by – Georgian mansions, Tudor houses, Medieval city walls – as well as plenty of pubs, bars, restaurants and cafes.
Spend your first full day exploring two of the world’s most atmospheric ancient monuments: the instantly recognisable Stonehenge and the captivating Avebury Stone Circle.
With any spare time, take the chance to explore some of Wiltshire’s beautiful villages, filled with thatched cottages, old manor houses and traditional country pubs.
Accommodation: Stay in a Georgian townhouse, moments’ walk from Salisbury Cathedral, or opt for the village idyll, staying in a 17th Century country house or a traditional English Inn in the heart of an unspoilt village.
Day 3: Bath
Set off early for your short journey to Bath, one of the most beautiful cities in Britain. The sweeping Georgian terraces impress most visitors but the real gems for history fans are the well-preserved remains of the Roman Bath House and the stunning architecture of Medieval Bath Abbey.
After a big day of sightseeing, consider relaxing in the luxurious Thermae Bath Spa, the only place where you can sample Bath’s natural thermal waters, before trying out one of the many fine eateries.
Accommodation: Stay in classic luxury on the famous Royal Crescent itself, with stunning views over the city, or relax in a cosy boutique B&B in a Victorian townhouse, with excellent service, modern luxuries and a fantastic breakfast.
Day 4: Oxford
The famous university city of Oxford is only a short hop from Bath. Spend your day wandering through the lanes and alleyways that have been unchanged for centuries and exploring the unique university colleges.
There are many colleges to try: Christ Church College, the grandest of them all, founded in 1525; Magdalen College, with its vast Deer Park and 15th century tower; or Merton College, one of the three original colleges founded in 1264.
If any city is a great place to try out a few traditional English pubs, then Oxford is it. Many have been serving drinks for centuries and lay claim to being favourite drinking haunts of C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien and many other famous Oxford alumni.
Just outside the city, one of Britain's most impressive stately homes, Blenheim Palace, can be visited. Built in the early eighteenth century, Blenheim has been home to successive Dukes and Duchesses of Marlborough ever since.
Accommodation: Stay in an imposing building of classic Oxfordshire sandstone right on the picturesque High Street, described as one of the most beautiful streets in Britain, or try a lively ‘pub with rooms’ on the banks of the River Thames, with direct access to peaceful Christchurch Meadow.
Days 5, 6 and 7: North Yorkshire (via Chatsworth House)
Today you set off for the north of England. On the way, consider a short detour to Chatsworth House, in Derbyshire, probably the most impressive and beautifully situated stately home in the UK (and one you may recognise - it doubled as Pemberley in the 2005 Hollywood film of Pride and Prejudice).
Spend your next three nights in North Yorkshire. Even with two full days you will be hard pressed to decide where to visit in this county filled with history, beauty and charm.
North Yorkshire contains Britain’s finest examples of Medieval abbey ruins at Fountains, Bolton, Rievaulx and Whitby Abbeys.
Several fine castle ruins set in beautiful countryside are also well worth a trip: try Middleham Castle, the childhood home of Richard III, 900 year old Helmsley Castle, which has served as a medieval fortress, Tudor mansion and Civil War stronghold, and 600 year old Bolton Castle, still privately owned by the direct descendent of its original owner.
The countryside and villages themselves are little changed in hundreds of years and offer the perfect opportunity to get some fresh air and stretch your legs on the myriad of ancient footpaths and bridleways.
Accommodation: Stay in a stunning country house hotel on the edge of an unspoilt village or in a converted 18th century corn mill in the heart of the Dales.
Day 8: Hadrian’s Wall
Today you reach the Northern border of the Roman Empire: Hadrian’s Wall. Built across the width of Britain to protect the ‘civilised’ south from the ‘barbarians’ of the Highlands, the wall and its forts are the best preserved Roman remains in Britain.
Set in beautiful, wild countryside, combine a visit to Housesteads Fort, where 800 Roman soldiers patrolled the border, with a walk along part of the Hadrian’s Wall trail, to really get a feel for what it might have been like to live at this outpost of one of the world’s greatest civilisations.
Accommodation: Stay in a 14th Century Castle converted into a luxury hotel or a traditional village inn with beautiful, cosy rooms and modern comforts.
Days 9 and 10: Edinburgh
Crossing into Scotland, head through the border regions – filled with ruined castles and abbeys that tell the story of the turbulent relations between the Scots and the English in times gone by - to the fascinating city of Edinburgh.
The Old Town is dominated by the impressive Edinburgh Castle, perched on top of Castle Rock. Having faced endless invasions from the South over the centuries, Edinburgh Castle has a captivating history.
Edinburgh is a city for walking. From the steep, winding alleyways of the Old Town to the graceful Georgian terraces of the new town, there is a pleasant surprise around every corner.
If you have energy to spare, consider walking through the old royal hunting ground of Holyrood Park to the top of Arthur’s Seat, for panoramas over the city.
Accommodation: Stay in the ultimate combination of old meets new – a modern luxury hotel complete with vast roof terrace overlooking the city, hidden behind the façade of a 150 year old church - or a trendy boutique B&B in a Victorian townhouse.
Days 11, 12 and 13: London
Leaving your car behind, take the train back to the Capital and spend your last few days seeing as many of London’s historic sites as you can manage!
The Tower of London is a must visit for any history enthusiast. Having been a fortress, a palace, a refuge, a prison and a place of execution, it must have one of the most enthralling histories of any building in the world.
London has a wealth of fascinating churches, from the famous Westminster Abbey and St Paul’s Cathedral to some hidden treasures - 12th century St Bartholomew the Great in Smithfield, St Brides near Fleet Street or the Arts and Crafts style Holy Trinity in Sloane Street.
Royal residences are also plentiful – visit Buckingham Palace, Kensington Palace, Clarence House or St James’ Palace, all of which remain in Royal use today.
Just outside the city, the spectacular Tudor palace of Hampton Court Palace makes an easy day trip and is well worth the effort. Built by Cardinal Wolsey and gifted to Henry VIII (in a failed attempt to get back in the King’s good books), the palace is magnificently preserved and stands in extensive grounds on the banks of the River Thames.
Once the sightseeing is over, you will have London’s countless bars, restaurants and cafes to keep you fed and watered.
Accommodation: Stay in a luxury Georgian townhouse in the heart of the West End or a ‘posh pub’, moments from Oxford Street, combining a great bar, quality food and beautiful rooms.
Extra time: With a few extra days, consider:
- Heading out of London into ‘the Garden of England’, Kent, to visit iconic Canterbury Cathedral, picture perfect Leeds Castle, Anne Boleyn’s childhood home at Hever Castle and the beautiful house and gardens of 14th century Penshurst Place.
- Delving deeper into Scotland to discover the many castles set in the glens of Aberdeenshire and Moray.
- Spending a couple of days in Derbyshire at one of the hotels belonging to the Chatsworth Estate to explore the beautiful Peak District.
- From Bath, heading North West to the many castle ruins that line the border of England and Wales or North East into the historic villages of the Cotswolds.
If you have been inspired by this example itinerary, why not request your own tailor-made holiday itinerary.