7 stunning coastal stop-offs for a UK road trip
*This UK road trip blog post is a collaboration
With international travel looking a bit unpredictable for 2020 – it’s no wonder we’re all excited for a UK road trip this year. Now that lockdown is over and we’re free to travel (safely) again. I’m planning lots of lovely domestic trips to explore the best of what the UK has to offer. I see this as a great opportunity to explore more of the UK while I’m here for a while, and a chance to appreciate what we’re so lucky to have on our doorstep. I’m definitely guilty of always choosing international travel and not seeing as much of the UK as I would have liked. So now is the time to really make the most of the UK.
Growing up on the North Norfolk coast, I’ve aways felt that it remained one of the UK’s best kept secrets. This hidden gem has some of the most pristine and untouched coastline and yet is still the perfect place to escape the crowds. I’ve been loving taking these last few weeks to get out and explore the beaches, nature parks and stately homes. But I’ve been dreaming of getting away and seeing more of the UK. My dream would be to spend a few weeks on an ultimate road trip – perhaps from North to South along the coast from the East of England, where I live, to the south-west. With the weather as good as it has been lately, it’s the perfect time to slap on some sunscreen and hit the road.
- Read: 8 of the best Norfolk stately homes to explore
- Read: The 13 best Norfolk nature reserves & parks
7 stunning coastal stop-offs for a UK road trip
They say there’s no place like home, but when you’re from North Norfolk, there truly isn’t. It’s such a beautiful part of the world and truly has some of the best of what the UK has to offer. From white sandy beaches that stretch for miles without crowds, towering red cliffs and wild coastline. Better yet, so much of Norfolk is protected, so you can be sure you’re going to see absolute perfection. Amazing nature reserves, wildlife sanctuaries, woodlands, marshes and much more.
There are so many amazing beachy stop-offs in North Norfolk, you could pass through for a day or easily spend a week here. Don’t miss Old Hunstanton and Brancaster Beach for huge empty beaches and cute beach huts. Then head to Holkham and Wells-next-the-Sea for raw natural beauty and old seaside town charm. If you plan to visit Norfolk, don’t forget to pick up fish & chips or go crabbing at Cromer and Sheringham.
Get an early start to beat the traffic for four-hour drive to the next stop on your UK road trip. It’s time to head to Brighton, one of my favourite UK cities and where I almost went to university. Such a vibrant seaside city with all the old-world charm and the the more modern, quirky personality. You can’t visit Brighton without an ice cream and a stick of rock as you walk along the pier – just watch out for the huge seagulls! Head to the Lanes for a day of shopping or browsing the cute boutiques. There’s so much amazing live music to enjoy, and if you visit in the summer – don’t miss popular music festivals like The Great Escape. Best of all, there are some really adorable B&B’s available right on the seafront, just be sure to book in advance to secure the one you want.
Less than two hours drive and the next stop on this UK road trip. Southampton is the cruise capital of Europe and a bit of a change from the beaches of the previous locations. Head to Southampton for the bustling port and pop over to the shingle beach on the Weston Shore for a walk along the water’s edge as you spot tiny boats, huge ships and cruise liners floating by. This is the place to plan some time for shopping, dining out, live music and theatre. Visit Southampton to walk the medieval walls and discover the city’s maritime heritage, or visit one of the many art galleries to get your culture fix. Or visit during Music in the City for the city’s largest free music festival featuring over 1700 acts.
A short 45 minute cruise down the road, you have Bournemouth right on your doorstep and this is one you’ll want to save your energy for. With huge endless beaches and stunning coastline, this is the perfect place to get outdoors and get active. There is no end of action-packed pursuits, from walking, cycling and even surfing along the coastline, exploring the historic parks and gardens or even catching a sunrise over the award-winning coastline. Don’t forget to check what big events might be taking place when you visit – you could plan your UK road trip around them. There are food, drink and live music events throughout the year, with the Bournemouth Air Festival in the summer. Visit Bournemouth for a great stop-off in Dorset – there’s so much to explore in this area whether you stay on the coast or head inland.
By now we’re in the south-west of England and after a 2.5 hour drive you pull up in Torquay, nicknamed the English Riviera. Now in Devon, it’s a great place to pause on your UK road trip to really enjoy the UK’s coastline. Head to the harbour for the marina, shops and restaurants where you can sit and enjoy a glass of wine as you watch the boats bob past. Explore Paignton, Hollicombe, Goodrington and Breakwater beaches, Fairy Cove, Preston Sands and Saltern Cove. Visit Torquay for sea kayak adventure tours, or head to The Lucky 7 Club for cabaret and burlesque show. Take long dog walks on the stunning beaches, or head to Dartmouth Castle to explore the 600 year old ruins. Try the three-day Dart Music Festival if you fancy some entertainment.
Head down the South Devon Highway and Plymouth is waiting for you. This port city is known for its maritime heritage and historic Barbican district with narrow, cobbled streets.Expect breath-taking views and plenty to keep you active with lots of hiking, mountain biking, fishing and water sports. Fresh sea air and lots of great dog walks. Visit the lighthouses set on the cliffs, explore the Royal Citadel and explore the historic fortress. Head inland to one of Britain’s largest national parks – Dartmoor – perfect for walks, hikes and trails. Or learn more about the city’s history and heritage by visiting the local sites. Visit Plymouth as a perfect stop-off between Devon and Cornwall and enjoy the coastline and romantic hidden coves.
It wouldn’t be right to finish the trip without taking in some of the most beautiful beaches in the UK. Head just 45 minutes down the road to Visit Cornwall where you will find sandy beaches and wild moorland on the south-western tip of the UK. By now you’ve covered the whole of the North to South route at 360miles from your starting point and just a six hour drive from home. From iconic sandy beaches to intimate sheltered coves, Cornwall boasts 300+ beaches. They have everything you could want and more. From the surf at Fistral Beach, the turquoise waters at Porthcurno or crabbing at Treyarnon Bay. Make time for this spot, there is a lot to enjoy down in Cornwall and you’ll want to make the most of your time there. If you visit in the summer – check out some of the epic festivals down there including Boardmasters.
5 ways to prepare for your UK road trip:
Make sure you complete all essential car checks
Getting all that car maintenance done before you travel can be the difference between the road trip of a lifetime and getting stuck on the M25 when you break down in rush hour. Trust me, do the checks. When planning a UK road trip, you’ll want to take into account the traffic and heat you may be travelling in. Plan ahead and be sure your car is up to the journey. Simple things like tyre pressure, water coolant and brake fluid. Make sure you know how to check your vehicle’s levels en route if you come into any difficulties.
Plan your route and campsites/accommodation
This one is especially important this year as international travel is limited which means more people than ever will be travelling the UK instead. Planning your route and the times you choose to travel could really help you avoid the traffic. Even more important, make sure you have a place lined up to camp, stay or park for the night. A lot of accommodations have reduced their capacity to ensure safety during Coronavirus which means they are getting booked up much faster. Don’t risk it and turn up, make sure you book ahead so you can ensure your safety during your stay.
Sign up for fuel cards or discounts
If you’re planning to travel a lot this summer and want to stretch your £££ on your UK road trip. Why not look into fuel cards as a way of saving money or getting discounts on travel? There are so many available on the market and if you require fuel cards for business anyway, it could be a great way to utilise them during your holidays. There are also fuel cards available for sole traders so if you’re a freelancer or independent business owner, you could be saving money on travel.
Prepare the ultimate playlist
Getting the right soundtrack is a really important part of the road trip. After all, our memories are tied to the songs that we hear, the smells, tastes and sights we experience. You know that feeling when you hear a song and it instantly transports you back to a moment? That’s the feeling you want for years to come after this trip. Sweet Disposition by the Temper Trap is one of my absolute favourite UK road trip songs and it always takes me back to amazing times.
Stock up on snacks
The number one thing to remember when planning a trip. Road trips make us all want to snack so make sure you do a big shop before. Or even home make a picnic for the car. It will save you a fortune on stopping at expensive service stations. Instead you can find a nicer place to stop off on the journey. The best snacks have to be chips & dip, and one of my healthy favourites is getting a bag of carrots!
Have you planned a UK road trip this summer? Would you love to visit any of these destinations?