The idea of UK holidays is of course, quite on trend right now. Aside from the obvious reasons of international travel being that bit trickier, it isn’t hard to see why. The UK is beautiful and diverse. In this article, we’ve put together our ultimate 16-day itinerary for an incredible road trip tour presenting some incredible places the UK has to offer in terms of nature based experiences. 16 days might seem like a long time, but this is achievable in two full weeks off work, including weekends.
One of the things that has really become apparent to us whilst travelling in the UK is just how varied the landscape is. This has been something that has truly connected us – especially when travelling between different areas in such quick succession. You really notice how varied and incredible the biodiversity and even climates are between different areas. For us, this highlights just how important the UK’s natural spaces are with regards to their protection and especially in light of the UK government’s ability to change environmental laws in the wake of Brexit. Seeing, experiencing, and reminding ourselves just how fragile and beautiful our natural world is has made us feel even more passionate about our environmental work. You protect what you love, so to speak. This is something we’ve heard mirrored from so many people we know who have been travelling a lot closer to home – that they’ve developed even more of a ‘why’ for why they care so passionately about the places they explore and their protection. Even if you’re travelling from abroad to reach the UK, this sentiment still continues! The UK is simply full of some wonderful places. Think mountains, lush forests, hidden waterfalls and pools, deep, cold water lakes perfect to swim, coastlines that are rugged and windswept and even ski resorts in winter if there is good snow cover.
You’ll notice that throughout this article and itinerary, we’ve been purposefully vague with regards to accommodation. This is because there are so many options to explore here to suit your budget – so do what works for you! Please do note that whilst this road trip and adventure within it can be experienced at any point in the year, at certain points, things like camp sites may be closed. You may also find that depending on the time of year you visit certain locations, that particular hikes might not be possible due to snow fall for instance. So, whilst we can’t predict the weather, it is worth bearing in mind what you want from a trip like this, and if this needs to have an impact on when you decide to travel.
We’ve started our road trip from London – simply because this is our base and because many international flights land in London. However, there is plenty of opportunity to start this itinerary from any area and work around accordingly. The UK is very well connected in terms of its motorway network, but there are of course opportunities in some areas to take the more scenic route.
Want to hire a car? There are plenty of options for hire car out there which provide more sustainable options. Many of the main rental companies now offer electric options, and there are also a variety of options out there a little like AirBnb for car rental – such as Karshare or Camptoo for motorhomes.
This trip would be possible via train travel also. As we haven’t gone into too much specific detail about exact routes or things to do in each place, making this work around train travel is an option. Whilst many routes within the UK are sadly only accessible by car, many are also accessible from towns which have railway stations, or are on bus routes that connect to other places more remote. If looking at a trip like this by rail, companies like National Rail, Eurail/Interrail and The Trainline offer a variety of good value options.
ID: From left to right. 1: A landscape image. Fay is pictured close up looking at a hazy sunset view of hills. It is windy. The colours are golden. 2: A landscape image. Fay is pictured walking into the sea. Fay wears a black swimsuit. There is incredible blue light and oranges and red from the sunset and looks hyper real. 3: A landscape image. In the foreground are out of focus gorse bushes, and in the background are white cliffs – there is an almost painted feel to the image and there are clouds in the sky.
Day One – AM: London to South Downs National Park
By car: Roughly 90 miles / 2 hours
The South Downs National Park is one of the newer National Parks in the UK, receiving its status in 2009. With its rolling hills, green valleys and open views, it certainly gives a different view to some of the rest of the UK that you’ll visit on this trip, but it is incredible in it’s own right. Spanning 670 square kilometers, you certainly won’t be able to visit everything here in the time you have, much the same as everywhere on this trip. However, the South Downs boasts some of the most well maintained hiking and mountain biking trails. Looking for ideas of hikes and adventures to have in the area? Read our article all about hiking in the South Downs here. A highlight is to take advantage of the many coastal and hilly routes in the area. Beachy Head is an ever popular route, but it is often over subscribed. We’d recommend hikes further down the coast, starting from Seven Sisters Country Park instead. The sea swimming around this area can be amazing, if the weather is right – always look at tide times and swim within your ability. Looking for food and drink? The nearby Brighton offers an incredible range of vegan food options from vegan sushi to vegan burgers as well as a range of welcoming and inclusive venues, cafes and pubs.
ID: From left to right 1: A landscape image. A close up detail of trees in a forest. There is golden light that is catching a bush in the foreground with yellow foliage. 2: A landscape image. A close up of legs in the back of a car – there is a brown hazy light. In the background are trees.
Day Two – PM: South Downs National Park to the New Forest
By car: Roughly 95 miles / 2:15 hours
Once you’ve finished your second day of adventures in the South Downs, heading down to the New Forest will give you a fantastic and very different treat. The New Forest has some of the most stunning heaths, forests, and areas of outstanding beauty there is. Be sure to keep an eye out (they’re quite hard to miss) for the ever-adorable New Forest Ponies. What is interesting about these wonderful creatures is that they are owned by local residents – the New Forest has been described as essentially a giant farm – with the locals having the right to graze their animals on the local land. Driving over the heath’s is a particularly cherished experience towards sunset when the sun can turn the land golden. Whilst there is so much to explore in the area, we’d highly recommend basing yourself around the town of Lyndhurst, where, on day three, a circular hike and accessible mountain bike trail can help you discover some of the best scenery in the area.
ID: From left to right 1: A portrait image. The scene shows sea cliffs. It is a hot day and there are plenty of gorgeous turquoise colours in the calm waters. In the background is a horseshoe shaped cliff. 2: A portrait image. A bend of rock as it creates a rock head in the water with small islands off to the side. The rock is white. There is a clear turquoise in the water and a pale sky. 3: A landscape image. The coast line pictured in this image hugs the edges of the image and the water is blue and turquoise.
Day Three – PM: New Forest to Jurassic Coast
By car: Roughly 44 miles / 1:15 hours
Once you’ve finished exploring the New Forest, heading to the coast is only a short drive away. The Jurassic Coast, in our opinion, is one of the most fantastic places to visit in the United Kingdom.The Jurassic Coast is the name given to a stretch of approximately 154km of the south coast of the UK between Studland Bay in Dorset and Exmouth in East Devon.The landscape along the coast varies from sea cliffs to pebble beaches and can change quite dramatically in the space of a few kilometres.Walking along the coast you will encounter a chain of bays and inlets – each one quite unique in its own way.You’ll also encounter numerous rock formations including natural arches and rock pinnacles emerging from the sea.In 2001 the area was awarded UNESCO World Heritage Site status.On day three, you’ll stay over and spend the following day, day four, exploring, where you’ll likely find you won’t want to leave! There are some utterly incredible adventures to be had in the area – from coves suitable for swimming, paddle boarding and canoeing to hiking trails spanning whole islands. Here you’ll find one of our other articles all about hiking on the Jurassic Coast with a number of ideas for places to explore, which can be found here.
ID: From left to right 1: A landscape image. Matt stands central in frame looking at a lake with a mirror reflection. In the background are mountains going straight to the lake. There are lots of browns and greens. He is stood with back to camera. 2: A landscape image. Fay is stood to the left of the frame in a mountain pool and wears a black swimsuit. In the background are green and browns and a waterfall which is feeding into the mountain pool. 3: A landscape image. Matt walks small in frame but central across a mountain path near a lake. The mountains are covered with cloud and it is quite dark. There are lots of greens and browns in the image.
Day Five – AM: Jurassic Coast to Brecon Beacons
By car: Roughly 146 miles / 3 hours
We’d recommend for day five to get an early start, so as well as the relatively long drive, you’ve still got time to make the most of your first day in the Brecon Beacons. The Brecon Beacons are a range of mountains in South Wales and is home to South Wale’s highest mountain, Pen Y Fan at 886m. There is so much to explore in this area, and again, one of our favourite places to spend any amount of time. The opportunities are endless for a whole range of adventures with the amount of mountain trails, rivers, and rapids. As you’ll only be basing yourself here for two days, we’d recommend checking out the River Wye, the Taff trail. There’s also the Llyn y Fan Fach and Fawr hike in the Black Mountain area which is one of our favourites. We also love Pen y Fan and Corn Du as a horeshoe hike taking in Cwn Llwch on the way up to the summit (this route is much quieter, and in our opinion more enjoyable than the main trail). This trail starts from the Cwm Gwdi car park.
ID: From left to right 1: A landscape image. In the foreground of this coastal scene, the land is dressed with a golden light. There is purple heather in the foreground and the sea is a dark blue. 2: A portrait image. This dark overcast day shows a dramatic rock structure going into the sea with a small figure on the end of the cliff. There are lots of browns, greys and light turquoise in the image. 3: A landscape image. To the left of the image is pictured a rocky steep cliff, with white rocks and grassy green tops. The waves are crashing against the rocks and cliffs. The sky is dark blue and purple – the sun is setting with a wine dark sea.
Day Six – PM: Brecon Beacons to Pembrokeshire Coast
By car: Roughly 90 miles / 2 hours
As you head back towards the coast, you’ll really start to see the differences in intricate detail of the areas you’ve visited. On a cloudy day, this area can seem atmospheric and incredible. On a sunny day, you really do have to think twice if you’re in Wales! We’d recommend taking it easy after your drive and on day seven, making the most of exploring the coast line and the many incredible beaches, rock faces and sea arches this area boasts.
ID: Clockwise from left 1: A landscape image. Mount Snowdon from the summit – it is a clear day and there are lots of mountain tops, lakes and other hills visible. 2: A landscape image. A mountain detail of a waterfall on some rocky hills with cloud coming over the tops of the mountain. 3: A landscape image. A landscape facing Mount Snowdon pictured on a snow covered day – it is bright in the sky and the mountains look freshly covered. 4: A landscape image. Matt walks into the frame down the hill in this mountain scene. He is wearing black boots, trousers, top and a large bag. He is wearing a bottle on his front. It is a clear day and the mountains are very visible. 5: A landscape image. the Ogwen Valley pictured with a fresh coat of snow, it is a clear day with browns and greens visible from the mountains. 6: A portrait image. Fay is pictured walking in the midst of mountain rocks. In the foreground there is contrast with the brown rocks compared to the grey scree of the background. 7: A landscape image. the Ogwen Valley pictured with a fresh coat of snow, it is a clear day with browns and greens visible from the mountains.
Day Seven – PM: Pembrokeshire Coast to Snowdonia National Park
By car: Roughly 135 miles / 4 hours
When you’ve finished exploring the Pembrokeshire Coast, the long drive you have ahead to reach Snowdonia may feel like the last thing you want to do in the evening as you’ll find it hard to tear yourself away from the coast. However, that will gain you back time in Snowdonia the next day and will be worth it. Snowdonia National Park probably needs no introduction. Sat prominently in North Wales, the National park hosts Wales’ tallest mountains – with Mount Snowdon being the tallest at 1,085m. Whilst a hike up Mount Snowdon is an amazing experience, it is important to note that since the pandemic, the variety of routes up the mountain have become very popular, can induce long queues and have become very over subscribed. There are many incredible places to explore in this rugged landscape – with hiking, scrambling, climbing and mountain biking a plenty. Snowdonia also offers some fantastic options for cold water dips and swims in the various mountain pools and lakes. We’ve written whole articles about Snowdonia, from routes and ideas for adventures through to photography related ideas in this area. You might also enjoy this article focusing on quieter Snowdonia routes. check out our Snowdonia routes here. However, we’d also recommend checking out the Ogwen Valley hike up to Y Garn (the views are some of the best in the area). As well as one of our all time favourite hikes; Aberglaslyn, Llyn Dinas, and Cwn Bychan – which involves so much variety it’s unreal! Looking for somewhere amazing to eat? We love the Hangin’ Pizzeria in Betwys-y-Coed who have a full range of vegan options, are sustainable and support a great cause!
ID: Clockwise from left 1: A landscape image of a lake. In the foreground are rocks and stones. In the middle is the water from the lake with a mirror reflection of the lake. The sky is slightly overcast with bright blue behind. It is a fair weather day and the light is golden. 2: A landscape image. Matt stands on a rock outcrop looking at a mountain view in front of him. The air is hazy and so this is impacting the focus of the mountains. He looks out to the right and is pictured from behind. He wears grey trousers, grey hoody and grey and green backpack. 3: A landscape image. In the foreground is a rocky shaped mountain side with lots of grass and green and greys from the rocks. In the background are hazy jutting peaks. It is overcast but there is a highlighted quality to the image. 4: A landscape image. Fay is pictured swimming in a wild swimming spot at the base of a waterfall. The water from above is white and fast flowing. Around the pool are lots of big rocks. The image is quite brown and Fay is looking at the waterfall wearing a black swimsuit.
Day Eight – PM: Snowdonia National Park to Lake District National Park
By car: Roughly 153 miles / 3 hours
Heading straight from Snowdonia to the Lake District really starts to show just how incredible and varied the mountain landscape of the UK is. Whilst we absolutely adore many of the other areas of the UK, the Lake District just keeps us coming back and has a special place in our hearts. When you get to the Lake District, you’ll likely be tired, so take it easy in the evening of day eight and allow yourself to get excited about the next couple of days. There are literally thousands of adventures to be had in the Lake District – and as the name suggest, there are plenty of lakes, meres, waters and tarns to check out. The Lake District is also home to England’s biggest mountain, Scafell Pike, at 978m. Whilst this is a great mountain to explore, there is so much variety here that we’d personally recommend exploring what else is on offer. We’ve written various articles which focus on the Lake District and include a variety of routes – but our favorites are around the Borrowdale range and near Grasmere. Here and here are some links to check out for ideas of adventures in the Lake District.
ID: A landscape image. Fay stands with back to the camera in a black swimsuit in a loch. It is misty and moody and quite dark. There are ripples forming circles around Fay’s legs.
Day Nine – PM: Lake District National Park to Loch Lomand and the Trossachs National Park
By car: Roughly 170 miles / 3 hours
We know that many of the days in this last section have had lengthy drives between them in the evenings – if you have more time, by all means stretch this out or feel free to cut out certain sections. However, making the effort to drive from the Lake District to Scotland in the evening after your day exploring will be worth it when you gain back the day following. Loch Lomand and the Trossachs in Scotland borders the Scottish Highlands and in our opinion is one of the most beautiful places in the UK. It gives you something very different to what you have already experienced and if you’ve spent any amount of time in the German or Austrian Alps, this area will have a distinctly familiar feel for you. Think towering pine trees with layered vistas and you’re half way there. Even though it admittedly rains a lot in Scotland, do not let this put you off as some of the most incredible views we’ve seen here have come from days where mountains are being hugged by foreboding clouds. On day ten, we’d recommend taking a drive around the National Park – there is a recognized road loop that can take you the majority of the way round and be sure to check out some of the little villages and loch side’s along the way. If you fancy it, Loch Lomand itself is fantastic for wild swimming and you’ll see many other people indulging in the benefits of cold water connection – particular good areas for this are Luss and Firkin Point. You’ll also notice some incredible inlets and sea lochs along the way that are worth exploring and taking a moment to really breathe in all that fresh air on offer.
ID: From left to right 1: A portrait image. A small white house is pictured in the centre of the frame next to a tree. In the background, a green hill heads up to a Rocky Mountain which is covered in cloud. It is an overcast day. 2: A landscape image. A mountain scene pictured at sunset. In the foreground, the mountains are in silhouette and are black, just made out by their tips. In the mid ground, light is streaming over the mountain peaks, creating haze and shafts of yellow light. In the background are clouds and hazy sunshine as it sets.
Day Ten – PM: Loch Lomand and the Trossachs National Park to Glencoe
By car: Roughly 35 miles / 45 mins
Once you’ve finished exploring Loch Lomand, driving into the Highlands is an incredible treat. The views become more vertical, and you feel like you’re entering another world of excitement and beauty. Base yourself somewhere around Glencoe on the evening of day ten and on days eleven and twelve, explore the many hikes, drives, glens, lochs, waterfalls, mountain tops and everything in-between that this truly stunning place has to offer.
ID: From left to right 1: A landscape image. Fay sits at the top of the hill to the left of the frame and is facing away from the camera. Hair is over the right shoulder and Fay looks out to the left with black sunglasses on. Fay wears a yellow bag with a blue jacket and black trousers. There is a silver bottle in the side pouch of Fay’s bag. Fay takes in the view of the hills in the background which have green fields along them. The sky is blue with some clouds. 2: A landscape image. A highland cow sits looking straight to the camera in the centre of the frame. Around the central how are other cows sleeping in the hills. The cow is orange/ginger and the grasses and hills that are bathed in golden light seem to compliment the creature. In the background are hazy hills and mountains and the sky is a dark grey/hazy – it looks toward sunset. 3: A landscape image. Matt sits to camera right and to the side. He wears a blue and green backpack with black puffed jacket and grey hoody. He holds his phone with an Outdoor Active map of the area open. It is a sunny day and he wears sunglasses. He is sat near some grassy crops on a hill and in the background are more hills undulating.
Day Thirteen – AM: Glencoe to North York Moors National Par
By car: Roughly 288 miles / 5:30 hours
This is one of the longest days of driving on the trip, but the scenery you’ll take in along the way will more than make up for it – but admittedly, you may find it hard to leave Glencoe and the charm Scotland has to offer. If you’re anything like us, you’ll be planning another trip back ASAP! The North York Moors National Park really does present something different. Due to its location – towering moorlands, hills and rocky spires meet the sea. As you’ll likely be feeling a little tired from your drive from Scotland, we’d recommend taking it easy by checking out what the coast has to offer around Whitby. On day fourteen, exploring some of the fantastic hikes in the area will give you a good insight into the area – we particularly love the Wainstones Hike. Alternatively, we’d really recommend booking in with Alison at Adventures for the Soul for one of her wellbeing walks – which can really help you rejuvenate and feel refreshed. If you want something more unique, we recommend one of her made-for-you bespoke walks.
ID: From left to right 1: A landscape image. Fay is walking centre of the frame up a hillside. In the foreground are out of focus hazy grasses. In the background are steep hills. The ground is green and brown. Fay is wearing black trousers, blue jacket and black sunglasses. A black camera is over Fay’s shoulder. 2: A landscape image. Fay stands at the top of a cliff, to the right of the image. Fay wears red coat and grey trousers with yellow bag. Fay is very small in frame and gives a sense of scale for the magnitude of this mountainous environment. The rocks are very green, grey and red and the hills and mountain views in the background are undulating in a green, brown and blue tones. There are trees in the bottom left of the image which form a forest. The sky is dark grey, heavy and stormy.
Day Fourteen – PM: North York Moors National Park to Peak District National Park
By car: Roughly 93 miles / 2 hours
Once you’ve finished exploring what the North York Moors have to offer, your final stop off takes you to the Peak District National Park. The Peak District is one of the most visited National Parks in the UK due to its vicinity to a number of UK cities – particularly Manchester and Sheffield. However, this shouldn’t put you off as there is plenty of space that’ll leave you feeling like you’re the only other person on earth! Whilst some routes and places might be crowded, there are plenty of much quieter spots. The Peak District is one of our favourite places – and we’ve written a lot about the best hikes in the Peak District. Some of our notable favorites are Derwent Edge, Allport Castles and Curbar Edge – but there are literally hundreds of miles of trails to explore. The beauty of the Peak District being so close to major cities is that there is a full range of accommodation options nearby and a range of amazing places to try when you get hungry. In Manchester, we recommend V Rev, Budobust and the Hip Hop Chip Shop. In Sheffield, we recommend Ranmoor Friery, Italia Uno and Tamper, for their incredible vegan food.
Day Sixteen – Peak District National Park to homeBy car: if travelling back to London, roughly 185 miles / 3 hours
Depending on how you’re feeling on the last day, you might like to take advantage of the opportunity for a final adventure in the Peak District before you head home. If so, we’d recommend checking our our guide to the best hikes in the Peak District or, if you’re feeling all adventured out, take a slower journey home.
Of course, this is just a whistle stop tour – you won’t be able to explore everything. There might be areas that you wonder why we haven’t included – and there is no reason for this other than that you can’t fit everything in. So, if there is a particular area you’re dying to visit, please feel free to amend this itinerary to suit your needs. If you also need to make this itinerary work in a shorter amount of time, you could always look to remove sections and increase the driving distances between each place.
We know there is a lot packed in here – but it’s a route that can be adapted to be less intense if needed, allowing you to spend more time breathing in and breathing out and feeling excited to be alive. Enjoy!