5 Unmissable Destinations for a UK Road Trip

Plus size blogger The Owlet in South Wales, UK


Hey Owlets, 


Lockdown is easing up and the world is beginning to feel a little more accessible again, but for a lot of people (including me) it feels just a little bit soon to be starting to travel internationally. Last summer Jack and I went on a mini road trip around the South West region of the UK; even though the idea was born out of being desperate to travel but not feeling safe to go abroad we absolutely loved it and I’m now totally sold on the idea of a road trip in normal times too, not just as a pandemic appropriate holiday. 


I know a lot of you came to my blog through a post about my first experience of international travel so I want to try and convince you that a road trip is the perfect way to holiday in the UK. In an attempt to convince you I thought I would share some of my favourite places around the UK to help you plan your next cross-country trip. I’ve tried to choose places that are fairly spread out, but I live in the South West so most of my recommendations will be in the South, the Midlands or in Wales because that’s where is easiest to get to from my home.


Sunset in Bristol at the SS Great Britain


Bristol

Okay, you can’t blame me for trying can you? I know I live here so I’m biased, but Bristol is hands down a “you can’t miss it” city. Bristol is an incredibly vibrant city where (in pre-covid times) there’s always something going on. There are amazing independent shops and cafes, restaurants serving more different types of cuisine than you could manage to name off the top of your head and an incredible nightlife. 


If cultural/educational travel is more your thing then Bristol also has you covered. Bristol’s heritage goes back to the 1300s when it was mainly a merchant city - you can still see evidence of that across the city today and there’s a whole host of free or low cost tours that will guide you around the sights and share stories of objects that you would walk past without giving a second glance. 


There’s actually so much heritage that I studied it for a project in university and it’s one of my favourite projects I’ve ever created, so if you fancy an article about Bristol’s history I would be more than happy to let my inner history nerd roam free on the blog for a while. 


Bristol is also known for being an incredibly arts-focused city - there’s a whole host of museums and galleries big and small, daily talks across the city, performances both on the street and in local venues and there are so many freelancers here. If you need a holiday to get the creative juices flowing then Bristol really is the place for you. Head to the nearest trendy cafe and spark up a conversation with anyone who feels too cool to talk to and I guarantee you’ll leave feeling inspired.


The beach on a sunny day in Bracelet Bay, Swansea, South Wales


South Wales - Cardiff and the Valleys


I realise this one is kind of vague, but there isn’t really a way that you can choose just one part of South Wales to visit - you could quite easily fill an entire road trip itinerary with destinations in South Wales alone. I worked with the tourism board a while ago - I arrived thinking I knew the region really well and left feeling like I’d visited for the first time. There are so many different places to visit and every single area has a totally different feel.


If you’re more of a city dweller then start in Cardiff. It’s a little similar to Bristol in some ways - it’s full of history and culture, but it’s docks were built to export goods like coal, and the history of industry in the area made the city grow in a different way to Bristol. If you love shopping then Cardiff city centre is second to none - you could get lost in St David’s Centre for hours. 


Cardiff is also full of history with a castle in the city centre and lots of remnants of days gone by everywhere you look. Cardiff is also very much known for being the setting of a huge amount of TV shows with programmes like Casualty and Hollyoaks being filmed there, and if you’re a fan of Doctor Who and Torchwood then you cannot miss the city centre or the bay because there will be so many streets that you recognise. Torchwood was a spin-off of Doctor Who and the death of a certain main character prompted fans to flood to one of the most famous filming locations to leave tributes. Torchwood ended exactly 10 years ago but Ianto’s Shrine is still there, and the water tower used in some of the most famous scenes in both Doctor Who and the spin off is still referred to as “Torchwood Tower” by locals. 


If you’re more into quaint villages or getting into the middle of nowhere then South Wales still has something to offer you. I talk in more detail in my Weekend Guide to South Wales article, but places like Llantrisant, Porthcawl, Penarth, Lllangollen and Tenby are beautiful. If you want to go for a walk in the middle of nowhere then head to Bryngarw Country Park, or my personal favourite is Parc Slip for it’s beautiful and seemingly-endless walks, stunning views and the tiny cafe to recover in when you’ve finished your adventures. In my mind South Wales is one of the ultimate road trip destinations.


Plus size blogger The Owlet in Plymouth Hoe Park


Plymouth, but Devon in general


If you follow me on Instagram then you’ll know that my trip to Devon was the inspiration for this post. Last year we wanted to go on holiday and one of the only places in the whole of Devon and Cornwall (I kid you not, I’ve never seen an empty booking.com search) that had availability was a Premier Inn in Plymouth. I honestly wasn’t expecting much - I just thought it was another city by the sea - but how wrong I was. Plymouth in itself is a stunning city - it has two sides to it. 


Standing by the lighthouse in Hoe Park, if you look to the right there’s lots of pretty little buildings that you would expect to find in a seaside village, but look behind you or to the left and it’s all modern. Plymouth is a student city so it goes without saying that it’s got a good nightlife, but there are also so many nice restaurants, and you can’t visit without taking a tour of the distillery.  Plymouth has a long history as a naval base so there’s a lot of interesting museums to visit and interesting sights around the city that are easy to spot. There’s also a huge aquarium, a famous zoo and so many coastal walks that are accessible straight from the city centre. 


Plymouth is also a perfect place to set up base for the night because it’s perfectly located for visiting the rest of Devon and Cornwall. Half an hour’s drive East of Plymouth will take you to well known seaside destinations like Torquay and Weymouth. If you drive a little West then you hit Cornwall just as you’re leaving the city. When you think of quaint English villages and little chocolate box houses then you’re probably imagining a village in Devon or Cornwall. 


Whatever kind of adventure you’re looking for you will absolutely find it in Devon. Head to Dartmouth to ride a steam train and see the only railway station that never opened (Brunel got a little too cocky, but we’ll save that story for another day), you can ride a funicular railway in a little Victorian town (Lynmouth), or get lost in the hills on Dartmoor National Park. If you’re looking for another big city to visit then head to Exeter to explore beautiful architecture and make the most of the river with a country walk.


UK Blogger The Owlet in Looe, Cornwall

Cornwall


You knew this was coming, didn’t you? I don’t think I can really mention Devon without also mentioning Cornwall. A lot of guides tend to lump them in together as if it’s all one place but they’re two separate counties and I would argue that they offer very different things. In my mind Devon is the slightly more modern place - it’s still relaxed but a little more fast paced and much of the county is inland so it’s more about stunning hill walks and forgotten little villages. Cornwall has a lot of that too, but it boasts a lot more coastline and it makes the most of it.


I honestly challenge you to find a village in Cornwall that doesn’t feel like it’s been taken straight out of a fairytale - inland you’ll find tiny market towns that feel a bit higgledy-piggledy but somehow still make sense. Towards to coast you’ll find quaint villages that welcome surfers and feel like you could stay there forever without time ever moving forward. Even the big cities like Falmouth feel like a sleepy market town on steroids rather than an actual city. If you love getting lost down winding streets but then Cornwall is the place to go. Equally, if you love watersports, going on long hikes or you travel with a bike or surfboard as a prerequisite then you’re still bound to love it.


Plus size blogger The Owlet in Manchester, UK


“Up North”


I appreciate that this is a little more vague, but it’s because I shamefully haven’t seen that much “up North” yet. As a Southerner when I say “up North” I mean places like Manchester, Leeds, Sheffield, Liverpool, York etc. The thing that I find mad is how close together all of these major cities are - from where I live London is 120 miles away, Cardiff is about 50 miles and Plymouth is 120 miles away. 


If you look at all of the major cities I mentioned Liverpool is the furthest West, so if we start there Liverpool to Manchester is 35 miles, Manchester to Sheffield is 35 miles, Sheffield to Leeds is 45 miles and Leeds to York is 30 miles exactly. That means that the North of the UK is the perfect place for a road trip - either to start one or to build your entire itinerary around that region. 


There are so many beautiful historic towns and bustling cities that I desperately want to visit and even though I’ve only mentioned the major places, if you’re travelling by car then there are an unending amount of picture-perfect villages where you can stop to explore on the way.


As a Southerner the North has so far been on the list but not ticked off because even the closest of those cities is over 3 hours away by train or car. However, I’m genuinely considering booking a cheap train ticket or flight and then just travelling between the major cities for a few days. Let me know if that’s something you would be interested in and maybe I can make it happen sometime this year.


UK Blogger The Owlet in Bristol

I hope that these suggestions give you a few really good starting points or at least some inspiration to plan an epic UK road trip, or even just a few mini region-specific road trips. Whatever route you decide to go down (pun most certainly intended), you’ll be sure to have the most amazing time and discover things that you probably never expected to find a few hours drive from home.


Have I missed a really obvious place to visit? Let me know and I might make a part two!


Love and Feathers, 
 The Owlet 💜 
You can find me on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram & Pinterest

No comments:

Post a Comment

Have your say; it's a hoot!