If you have only 2 weeks for your road trip in the UK, these are the best places we visited and highly recommend. These off-the-beaten-path towns will give you an opportunity to see frist hand some impressive history and do a few great hikes, some of which require a bit of scrambling to rugged peaks. This trip is geared towards road trippers in campers (or tents), but you could easily find hotels and Airbnbs nearby.
In 2016 when we took our family on a six-month road trip through Europe, we had to buy some time outside the Schengen countries, so we took our camper across the English Channel and drove around for a month. These are the most radical places we discovered for outdoor adventures in the UK.
It’s a no-brainer that if you are going to visit the UK you should see London. Even though we have a tendency to search out off-the-beaten-path destinations, and on this UK road trip it was no exception, we knew a trip to Britain wouldn’t be complete without visiting London. These were our favorite places that we recommend you don’t miss:
- The great architecture of Saint Paul’s Cathedral (make sure to walk across the Millennium Bridge to get the best view)
- The energy of Piccadilly Circus (go at night)
- The history of the Tower of London (try to book a tour)
- If you are a Harry Potter fan, get in line and pose a picture at Platform 9 3/4
Tips for London in a Camper
I recommend giving yourself 2-3 days here to take it all in and if you are in a camper, you’ll want to camp outside the city and take public transportation in. If you’re driving an RV, pay to park at the London Zoo (you can even overnight here!) because you definitely don’t want to try and bring an RV downtown in London. Trust me, we did and it was a nightmere!
Tip: Download the app Visit London to plan your itinerary. We used it to map out the most efficient way to get around the city. Also, buy a One Day Bus and Tram pass for only £5 and get unlimited rides all day long.
As beautiful as I found London to be, there is only so much money I can spend on tours, shopping, eating, and crowds. And I’m sure Brighton, Cornwall, Newcastle, Cardiff, Stirling, and Edinburgh are all famously wonderful destinations and with a different budget we may have opted to check these out. But instead, we headed for the hills and had a fabulous one-month ACTIVE holiday in the UK.
Why we don’t recommend heading south from London
If you only have 2 weeks in the UK and are looking for history and an active vacation, I would recommend two days in London and the other ten days in Wales, Scotland, and northern England.
Optional: If you have more time and you want to see southern England, we did enjoy our stay at Durdle Door and walking out to Old Harry Rocks. On the way stop at Stonehenge and Salisbury Castle. Then grab a surfboard in Cornwall and catch some waves before heading towards Wales. But compared to the rest of the places on this itinerary, these were mediocre IMO.
Gower Peninsula, Wales
The first destination on your UK road trip is the Gower Peninsula. But don’t go straight there. Spend part of one day in Oxford, have dinner in the Cotswolds, or check out Bath.
We also spent a day in Brecon Beacons. It was very wet when we visited here, but I liked the scenery all the same. Since the views were erased that day by the blanket of stratus clouds, we sadly had to skip hiking Pen y Fan and headed for lower ground to hike the waterfalls trail. This hike doesn’t get as much attention as Pen y Fan, but trust me, you don’t want to skip this one. I loved this hike. The waterfalls are so picturesque with the moss covered rocks and frothy white falls.
After the business of London, you will love the solitude of Gower. Specifically Llangennith Beach, where the beach vibe is going strong. If it weren’t for the howling wind and being surrounded by green pastures, I’d have thought I was back home at my favorite campground, San Elijo.
Staying at Hillend Campground on Llangennith Beach has almost everything we look for in a camping spot.
- Right on the beach, however walking across the campground and through the sand dunes does take about ten minutes.
- A cafe and mini market next door if you need supplies or food.
- Beautiful scenery with the dunes to the west and pastures and mountains to the east.
- A trail past many roaming sheep, that my son loved to run, linking you to the next town of Rhossili.
- Plus, rock climbing in the cove under Rhossili (but we had enough fun surfing that we skipped it).
The best part is it’s only £20 a night including electricity and free hot showers. The only downfall was I didn’t get any cell service (or is that a positive?) and the nearest WiFi was in the small town a mile away. The town is made up of a church, surf shop and an inn/pub…gotta love the priorities there. Make sure you check out the camp host’s artwork in the office too!
Detour: Freshwater West in you like surfing or to Pembroke if you like cool castles
Freshwater West is what it must have been like in the days when Doc Paskowitz vagabonded at Tourmaline and San Onofre years ago.
When we pulled up to Freshwater West there were a dozen other RVs and vans parked in the parking lot with fellow surfers ready to jump in and paddle out when the conditions were right and then sleep in their cars right there at the break.
The water was absolutely freezing here but some decent waves made it worthwhile. Thankfully we packed our Patagonia R3 wetsuits along with gloves and booties which kept us warm enough to surf the brisk waters of Freshwater West. Get FREE Shipping at Patagonia.com on all orders of $75 or more!
Related Blog: 7 Adventurous Things to do in Wales
If it wasn’t for the freezing wind and rain I could have stayed for weeks, but then again if it wasn’t for the weather the place would be so crowded there’d be condos built up all over the place.
Instead, it was just a dozen surfers, some cows, and a seaweed truck. Yep, seaweed. No tacos sold here. Instead, a local boy started harvesting kelp and created gourmet recipes to sell delicious high-quality food by the beach…Genius!
Make sure to check out Pembroke castle. It was one of our favorites mostly because it had a great falconry show, and as part of the show, they had the kids lie on the grass and an eagle flew over them so close its wing brushed my son’s face! This was his favorite part of all of Europe!
Related Blog: 6 Best Castles In Europe
Snowdonia National Park
We didn’t get a chance to hike to the top of its namesake, Snowdonia Mountain, which is now on our list to do the next time we visit, but we did get two very unique hikes here:
Tryfan is one of our favorite hikes in the world! If you hike Tryfan make sure you stay at the campground at base of the hike.
Even though the facilities are quite rustic, the views here are gorgeous and it makes hiking around the area easy and enjoyable. Check out the blog below for more details on how to hike Tryfan.
Related blog: 4 Fearless Hikes in the UK
There is also some low grade trad climbing here too if you have gear. And don’t forget about all the great rock climbing at The Slate near Llanberis, which was a cool town with great food and a good place to stock up on any climbing or sporting gear you may need.
Tip: If you want to eat out in Snowdonia National Park, make dinner reservations! When we rolled into there on a Saturday night after hiking 6 hours around Cadir Idris we couldn’t find a single restaurant to eat at. There aren’t many grocery stores either so stock up ahead of time.
I thought this place would be too touristy for me, but once you get north of Windermere, the crowds thin and the landscape expands.
This region holds some of the best scramble hikes in the world, perfect for hikers who like a little adrenaline rush.
The views are gorgeous throughout the park with its wide range of green hues in the mountains and organized pockets of forests scattered around. You will encounter many sheer cliffs on the paths here, making it all the more fun and exciting (unless you’re afraid of heights).
One thing to note is that in the U.K. hikes are measured by lengths of time it takes to hike, not distance. This is because on scambles, or in boggy terrain, you move close to 1 mile per hour or even slower.
There are so many great hikes + scrambles to do in the Lake District but these two are a must if you’re in the area:
Check out the blog below for more details on hiking Hellvelyn and the Striding Edge.
Related blog: Four Fearless Hike in the UK
If you need a break from being active and just want a day of arts, culture, and food, I recommend stopping in Manchester on the way to Lake District. There are a lot of free museums and you can get your fix of shopping, dining, or stocking up on groceries before escaping back to the rural areas of Britain.
The Yorkshire Dales
Again, a spot I was tempted to skip, but so happy I didn’t. You want quaint English countryside? This is the place to go.
Our visit here was shorter than I’d like, but long enough to”
- Get a fun day of climbing at Giggleswick
- Stock up on healthy groceries at the health food store in town
- Watch a gorgeous sunset from the top of the limestone pavement
- Walk to Malham Cove (did you know they filmed Harry Potter here?)
- And get coffee and pastries (Yes, coffee . . . I still haven’t even had proper British tea) at the cafe in town.
We really only saw the tip of the iceberg here and missed out on a lot of other amazing experiences that the Yorkshire Dales has to offer. Guess we will have to go back!
On your way back to London, stop by Cambridge.
I loved this beautiful college town and highly recommend spending the money to take a lovely punting tour down the river, eat Chelsea Buns at Fitzbillies, and walk through the Fitzwilliam Museum (free admission).
We loved Scotland for its beauty, nature, and solitude, however, be prepared. The midges are relentless (bring repellant) and so is the rain. If it weren’t for those 2 tangibles we’d have stayed in Scotland forever! If you are overzealous and want to add Scotland to this two-week road trip (or if you have a lot of time to kill), here were our 3 favorite places in Scotland.
Isle of Skye
This is another one I almost skipped for fear that its popularity was marketing driven and that the crowds would get to me, but once you get away from Portree the crowds thin and the landscape is incredible.
I liked that you can power your way around the Isle quickly so you don’t necessarily need a lot of days here, although if the rain subsided I may have found reasons to stay longer than we did. If you’ve been to Scotland you’d know that its a rarity to have a day without rain here.
Related Blog: 1 Day in the Skye
I read the Outlander Series and had romanticized visions of this area, all of which were actualized when I first stepped foot on the muddy soil in Glenfinnan to see the Viaduct (a bridge for trains) made famous by the Harry Potter movies.
I couldn’t even count the number of waterfalls we saw on the drive from Glenfinnan to Mallaig because there were so many!
We enjoyed hiking The Saddle (click here for details) on the eastern side of the Highlands and if it weren’t for the incessant rain and persistent midges, I would have found an excuse to stay here much longer than we did.
We weren’t originally going to even stop here, but the city was on our route headed south, and it was about that time of the week where we all needed our laundry done, so we decided to make a pit stop and get our laundry done.
We were shocked upon arriving in the city center to see the gorgeous hipster reboot of the brick architecture, chalkboard signs on every corner, artisan food stores, and new, trendy clothing shops. We only stayed for a few hours but wished we had more time to explore the city.
I never would’ve thought that the capital city of Scotland would be as hipster as it is.
We found a great cheese shop, George Mewes Cheese, and Victuallers was an amazing specialty food store. Don’t miss the amazing historic buildings in the square.
Hope we helped you plan your U.K. road trip and if you have any questions, feel free to let us know in the comments! We’d be happy to help you plan your road trip!
The great part of hitting all these off-the-beaten-path locations is that you get to create an active holiday, you save money by eating locally, there are endless vagabonding opportunities, and you’ll get to know the locals.Try this 2 week UK road trip and #braveforadventure!Click To Tweet