For as long as I can remember I’ve dreamed about cruising down country roads. Having my windows rolled down, the wind whipping through my hair. Smelling flowers and grassy fields with nothing but blue skies kissing lush, rolling green hills. As I drive from town to town, the only thing causing a problem would be sheep crossing the road (yes, this is part of my dream)… I’d have to occasionally stop to make sure that they all crossed the road safely. I’d pass thatched cottages and villages that I’ve never heard of. When I stopped for gas or asked for directions the heavy English accent would drip from locals’ mouths and I’d fall head over heels for it every single time.
Finally, I decided it was time to make my dream a reality. This is the ultimate guide to a 7-day road trip through the UK.
I booked a one-way plane ticket, reserved an automatic car, made plans A, B, and C, and showed up in the UK. I arrived ready to conquer my fear of not only solo travel but also my fear of driving on the opposite side of the road. I took my time through the quaint English countryside and had a complete breakdown on the tiny roads in Scotland. I spent 15 days exploring the ins and outs of what both England and Scotland offer; with eight days on the road.
Below you will find a guide to navigating through the UK, which towns to make a priority, and how to plan the ultimate UK road trip in one short week.
The Ultimate 7-Day Road Trip Through the UK – Solo!
Day 1: Arrive in London, Train to Bath
Arrive in London (either the Gatwick or Heathrow airport) and immediately catch a 1+ hour train going west to Bath. Renting a car from Bath is cheaper than if you were to rent a car from London, and the train ticket from London to Bath should only run you about $30-40. I prefer to search for tickets on Omio. Keep in mind, you will not need a car in Bath so book your car reservation once you’re leaving Bath, not when you arrive. For tips on renting a car in the UK, read this post.
If you want to stay in the UK longer than a week, read my guide to spending 72 Hours in London
Days 1 & 2: Bath, England
As you pull into Bath, you’ll notice an attitude shift. Coming from London where everything is real and raw, and people are bold and fun, to Bath will be a change of speed. In Bath, slow down as you meander through town learning the history and meeting the kind locals. Dive into how the Romans have shaped and influenced Bath, to make it into the place it is today.
While you’re in town for two days make it a priority to visit the Roman Baths, a well-preserved historical bath site with an informational indoor museum. You can enter the site for a fee of £21-23 (depending on the day of the week), where you’ll receive a free audio guide guiding you through the museum. Expect to spend at least two hours walking through this historic site, learning how the Romans built the site, and what they used it for.
You’ll also want to make sure to visit Bath Abbey and shop on Pulteney Bridge. If you are interested in a quick day trip from Bath, the historic Stonehenge is only 30+ miles north of Bath. For more information on visiting Stonehenge from Bath, check out this website.
For more things to see and do in Bath, check out 10 Things to Do in Bath, England
Day 3: Stow-on-the-Wold, England
Once you pick up your rental car in Bath, make your way north to the Cotswolds. The Cotswolds is quintessential England and shouldn’t be missed on this epic UK road trip. While some think of the Cotswolds as being romantic (which it is), even as a solo traveler I encourage you to visit! It’s been designated the largest area of Outstanding Natural Beauty in England (and Wales).
While the Cotswolds is made up of many small villages that would take weeks to explore in-depth, I recommend staying at Stow-on-the-Wold. Stow-on-the-Wold is not nearly as quiet as the rest of the villages in the area, and there are plenty of pubs and restaurants to visit.
For more information on the Cotswolds and where to stay in Stow-on-the-Wold, read: Staying in the Cotswolds As a Solo Traveler
Day 4: York, England
Leave the charming town of Stow-on-the-Wold early, and hit the open road for a 3-hour drive north to York. Because you’ll only have one day, make sure to hit the ground running to see what this medieval town is all about. Walk along the old walls. Visit Shambles Street. Eat at Shambles Market and even stop for tea at Betty’s! While you’ll only be here a short while, York shouldn’t be missed. It’s an alluring city that was founded in 71 AD. From the moment you arrive in the city, to the moment you leave, you’ll be enveloped in the haunted, medieval feeling of the city.
For more information on visiting York, or if you want to extend your trip, read: Your Guide to York – What to Do in York, England in 48-Hours
Days 5 & 6: Oban, Scotland
After 48-hours in the medieval town of York, head further north into Scotland. A six-hour drive northwest will bring you to the quaint and quiet town of Oban. While you can certainly see Oban in one-day, I recommend two so you can also visit the Inner Hebrides. The highlights of the western part of Scotland include drinking whiskey at the Oban Distillery, eating fresh fish at Nori’s Fish and Chips, and a day trip to Tobermory.
For a more comprehensive guide to 48 hours in Oban and details on visiting Tobermory, click here.
Days 7 & 8: Edinburgh, Scotland
The last leg of your UK road trip will take you from western Scotland to eastern Scotland to visit Edinburgh. I would recommend dropping the car off at the airport (or wherever you’ve arranged for it to be dropped off at) and spend the next day or two exploring car-free!
Edinburgh has everything you would need to stay entertained. There are graveyards and castles, hip restaurants, and local bars. The streets are lively with men playing bagpipes and tourists and locals alike meandering down the old cobblestone roads. While you’re in Edinburgh don’t miss walking along the Leith Water Walkway, trying traditional Scottish haggish, and hiking up to Arthur’s Seat for sweeping views of the city.
For more information on spending time in Edinburgh don’t miss Complete Guide to Edinburgh
Reasons to Rent a Car (vs Travel by Train)…
The best thing about car travel is that you can take your time and move around as you please. Do you love Bath? Stay an extra day. Are you bored of Oban? Leave early. It’s just you and your car and the open road. Let go of other people’s agendas for you and just do as you please!
Not only can you meander through the countryside at your own pace, but you can get at as you please. If you see something interesting, you can pull over. If you decide that an attraction isn’t worth visiting, after all, you can keep driving. There are ample opportunities along the way to get out and stretch your legs as signs will scream at you “BEST VIEWS!” “BEST WINE!” And more!
Lastly, train travel throughout Europe is generally cheap. But train travel throughout the UK tends to be a little bit more expensive. Not only will you shell out a lot of dough to catch the train, but it also doesn’t seem to be a great route to travel. Excluding gas, my car cost $300 for an eight-day trip.
Traveling through the UK by car, was one of the biggest highlights of my travel experiences. Whether you’re a solo traveler or not, I urge you to consider a UK road trip as your next bucket list destination.
Before venturing off on your road trip, make sure to read 6 Solo Road Trip Tips – How to Have An Epic Road Trip When You’re Alone