Planning a two week self-drive visit to England and Wales caused a bit of a dilemma. There were so many places I wanted to include in my holiday yet I knew two weeks wouldn’t be enough time to see everything I wanted to, and that the time I had allowed in each place wouldn’t be long enough.
After a few hours spent poring over the maps, I put together the following self-drive itinerary of England and Wales to give us a good overview of the two countries. We definitely could have stayed longer in a number of the towns we visited, but overall the itinerary worked really well.
16 day self-drive itinerary of England and Wales
LONDON - CORNWALL - BATH - CARDIFF - NORTH WALES - LIVERPOOL - LAKE DISTRICT - YORK - COTSWOLDS - LONDON
This itinerary is based on self-driving. We pre-booked and pre-paid for our rental car and all accommodation in advance.
Day 1 - Arrive London
Our flight arrived in the evening so by the time we checked in to our apartment in Earl's Court and grabbed a bite to eat, it was time for bed.
Find the perfect location for your accommodation in this London where to stay guide.
Days 2 & 3 - London sightseeing
Two full days in London is never enough but we packed in as much as possible and managed to tick quite a few London attractions off our 'must-visit' list.
Day 4 - London to Cornwall
After collecting our hire car from the depot near Victoria Station mid-morning, we set off for Cornwall. The drive, to a small hamlet near Launceston, took us the remainder of the day with a lunch stop and another stop or two to ask for directions.
Day 5 - Cornwall
A full day's sightseeing was only enough to scrape the surface of pretty Cornwall . Having a car was a necessity as the smaller towns and villages aren't easily accessed (if at all) by public transport.
Day 6 - Cornwall to Bath via Stonehenge
After another hour or so of local sightseeing we headed to Bath via Stonehenge arriving mid-afternoon. We spent about an hour and a half at Stonehenge and then drove onto Bath, arriving in time for dinner.
TIP: If you can add another day to your itinerary, why not make a detour to the setting of the popular TV series Downton Abbey and do a Highclere Castle tour?
Day 7 - Bath to Cardiff
Staying in the heart of Bath was ideal as we were close to all the major sites and the Hop On Hop Off bus which we utilised to get around the city. About 4pm, we departed Bath for the drive to Cardiff.
Day 8 - Cardiff to Llandudno (northern Wales)
This morning we wandered around Cardiff Castle and the main shopping hub for about an hour before setting off for Llandudno in northern Wales. The scenic drive took us through the Breacon Beacons, where we stopped for morning tea, and Llandrindod Wells, our lunch stop. We arrived in Llandudno late afternoon.
Day 9 - Northern Wales
With so much to see and do in the area, it wasn't hard to spend the full day sightseeing.
Day 10 - Llandudno to Liverpool
More sightseeing today until around 2pm when we departed for the drive to Liverpool. There was even time for a wander around the shops in Liverpool before dinner.
Day 11 - Liverpool to Lake District
Around 9.30am, we left Liverpool for Bowness-on-Windermere in the Lake District. The relatively leisurely drive saw us arrive just after midday, allowing plenty of time for sightseeing in the afternoon.
Day 12 - Lake District
Full day of sightseeing around the Lake District.
Day 13 - Lake District to York
After setting off around 9.30am, we arrived at Castle Howard (15 miles from York) around 1pm where we had lunch and spent a couple of hours admiring the house and gardens. We then drove into York.
Day 14 - York to Cotswolds via Stratford-upon-Avon
The morning was spent sightseeing in York. Around midday we left York en-route to Stratford-Upon-Avon, stopping for lunch on the way. After a couple of hours at Stratford, we drove on to Chipping Campden.
Day 15 - Cotswolds
One full day was never going to be long enough but we thoroughly enjoyed our day of sightseeing in the Cotswolds. (I returned to the Cotswolds for three days in 2018 - this is my 3-day Cotswolds itinerary.)
Day 16 - Cotswolds to London
Leaving Chipping Campden at 9am, we drove directly to London and arrived at St Pancras station at 11.30am with enough time to return our hire car before catching the Eurostar to Paris.
Do you have more time to spend in the UK? Why not consider a visit to the Isle of Wight? Click here to learn more.
Our self-drive holiday was a great way to see England and Wales. The above itinerary was relaxed enough that we rarely spent more than three hours in total driving on any one day. Having a car also gave us the opportunity to stop where and when we felt like it for rest stops or if a particular town caught our eye.
England and Wales driving info
- The UK uses miles rather than kilometres for measuring distances.
- British cars are right hand drive and travel on the left hand side of the roadway.
- We found British drivers very courteous. We witnessed no road rage or tooting of horns, even in London.
- We used a GPS, which we purchased in London, for navigation and mainly travelled on motorways and major roads.
- The only toll we had to pay was on the Severn Bridge when crossing from England into Wales.
- We weren't asked to show an International Driver's Permit when collecting our hire vehicle but it is recommended that you carry one.
- To break our journey, we generally stopped at motorway service centres which have multiple services including fuel, cafes (sometimes even food halls), toilets, newsagents and, occasionally, supermarkets or pharmacies.
- We could easily have spent more time in some places and would have liked to have gone further north to Scotland, particularly Edinburgh. If time allows, you could include Scotland in your itinerary between the Lake District and York.
Car hire info
Our car was pre-booked and pre-paid before leaving Australia. (Get a free quote here.) We collected it from a depot near London’s Victoria Station and returned it to Euston Station (a few blocks from St Pancras Station).
I pre-booked all our accommodation for the above self-drive holiday. We stayed in a range of accommodation including hotels, B&Bs and self-catering apartments and cottages. You can compare accommodation rates here.
Have you enjoyed a self-drive holiday in England and Wales? What were the highlights of your trip?