UK Road Trip – not Route 66, but equally as fun!

As you know, I like a road trip but TBH I’ve never really done one in the UK.  Our trips here have generally been A to B and that’s it.  However, we recently did an epic trip (well after the last 18 months, it felt epic!) 

We left home on a Wednesday and drove to Cambridge.  Arriving mid-morning, we found a good place to park and set off to explore.  After a quick coffee, we walked past some shops and found various colleges.  Beautiful buildings, but sadly not open to the public at the moment.  Grabbed some lunch from the market and ate it on the grass outside Kings College.  We decided not to go on the river due to time restrictions, although we would have loved to spend longer here.  The day was glorious and we walked through The Backs with the colleges to our right.  The views were great and we managed to get lovely photos.

After Cambridge, we headed towards our stop for the night.  However, en-route we stopped at Grafham Water.  This is a lovely lake with a café and you can hire bikes to explore more.  It’s England’s third largest reservoir and also has a marina so you can enjoy some water sports.  Our stop for the night was Market Harborough, here we found an unexpected delight.  Foxton Locks is home to the longest and steepest staircase locks in the UK.  We walked from the lowest lock to the highest and it is an incredible feat of engineering.  We were there too late in the day to see any boats going through as the locks are shut at 4pm.   

Our next day started with a long drive to the RHS Garden at Harlow Carr, near Harrogate.  We had intended to enjoy the food at Betty’s Tea Rooms in the gardens, however there was a very long queue (about an hour).  So, we just enjoyed the gardens and took loads of photos to plan our garden for next year!  As we like finding unexpected delights, we decided to take a detour to Fountains Abbey (didn’t like the long detours due to roadworks though).   Definitely worth the detour and our National Trust membership.  This is a beautiful site and we could have stayed here for hours but the day was getting on and we’d definitely hit our step count for the day! 

The next day was a definite highlight for us.  Our first stop was at the Angel of the North, there is a little park by the sculpture so you can stop and take photographs, while you marvel at the huge scale of the Angel itself.  Then the weather improved to be warm, sunny and clear as we headed for the Holy Island of Lindisfarne.  The tides were also in our favour as we could drive easily across the causeway to the island.  The car park was busy but with still lots of space.  We walked out to the castle with the bluest skies I’ve seen in months!  The little chapel was beautiful and we sampled the facilities at local cafes and pubs.  Our sandwiches today were eaten in a layby with a wonderful view.  The drive to Edinburgh followed, with our route taking us along the A1, mainly along the coast and again the sun shone all the way. 

Saturday in Edinburgh and the weather was still fantastic.  We walked from our hotel up to the castle.  It seems that wherever you stay, it will be a steep walk up to the castle.  The last time we were there, it was for the Military Tattoo a few years ago.  That event takes place on the Esplanade outside the Castle itself.  A good couple of hours exploring the castle – definitely don’t miss the Scottish National War Memorial and the Military Prison.  After all that sightseeing, we needed some liquid refreshment.  Apart from the expensive bars immediately outside the Castle, it’s quite a walk down the Royal Mile until you reach a pub.  We then strolled back towards Princes Street, stopping for a while in the Festival Village on top of Waverley Station.  This is a pop-up area with bars, food trucks and live music.  On a hot Saturday in September, it is a great place to be – everyone very sociable and chatty.  We were staying on Rose Street which is one street back from Princes Street.  It’s a good place to stay, near the shops and sights, but with a plethora of pubs and bars along the Street.  We enjoyed a delicious Chinese meal on Saturday evening at the Rendezvous Chinese Restaurant.   

Sunday saw us braving the Edinburgh buses – the journey from the city centre down to the port in Leith takes about 30 minutes.  We were booked on a tour of the Royal Yacht Britannia and this was a very interesting tour.  Like the Castle, we had to book in advance for this.  The ship is bigger than I thought and could house a car for the Queen to use while on tour as well.  It is kept sparkling clean and all the photos around the ship remind you of the good times that the Royals had onboard.  There is now a very good tearoom onboard to finish your tour.  We then took the bus back to the city, to Grassmarket which is one of the most lively areas of the city, great restaurants and quirky boutiques.  Dinner tonight was at the Amarone Restaurant, Italian this time and again delicious. 

Monday – the day started with rain and TBH it continued for most of the day.  We therefore got very wet walking to the car park.  Not many city centre hotels in Edinburgh have their own car park, but ours gave us a discount at the Station car park so it wasn’t too expensive.  Getting out of the city was fairly straightforward, in other words we didn’t get lost!  Our first stop was at Rosslyn Chapel.   They do a guided talk every 90 minutes or so.  We caught the end of the talk but it was very interesting and gave us a history of the chapel and the significance of the beautiful carvings inside and out.  Obviously they had a huge boost when The Da VInci Code was published as this was an important location for the book (and film).  It’s only a few miles outside of Edinburgh so I’d recommend a stop here if you’re driving.  A drive through the beautiful countryside followed with a quick stop at Gretna.  We eventually found the  Lake District, although the Sat Nav was determined to keep taking us back to the M6.  The first lake we found was Ullswater and we drove along the western side of the lake.  We stopped at Aira Force Waterfall (National Trust)   and walked some distance up along the falls, but it was very muddy so we didn’t go too far. We skirted round Lake Windermere and drove through the town, which was extremely busy.  Lots of walkers enjoying the autumn sunshine as the sun had finally come out.  Our overnight was in Lancaster. 

Our final full day saw us leave Lancaster and drive to Liverpool.  Despite it taking ages to actually find our way out of the car park, we thoroughly enjoyed a couple of hours here.  We did a quick tour of the Museum of Liverpool and then a walk round the Tate at the Albert Dock.    The art in there was a little strange, not a Rembrandt in sight, so not really our taste, but if you like modern and challenging art, this is for you!  On our way out of the city, the rain started again and followed us all the way to Lichfield.  we enjoyed a delicious meal at the Eastern Eye restaurant.   Lichfield is a very nice little city with a cathedral and lots of pubs!  We shared our breakfast next morning with DJ Craig Charles – we played it cool, just a nod and a good morning!   

Our final leg took us through the countryside, but we were wary as this was at the start of the fuel crisis so we didn’t want to go off on long detours.  We stopped at the National Trust property at Baddesley Clinton  Lovely gardens and a huge book shop.  Fascinating history in the house and the guides in each room really loved the house and were very informative.  Lunch and a walk round Woodstock in the sunshine was our last stop before finally getting home. 

A trip of 1021 miles, 5 hotels, loads of photos and fun.  I love planning road trips anywhere in the world.  I have some great tools here to ensure you don’t drive too far on any day or miss any sights on the way.  All you need to do is send me some ideas of what you want to see and how long you want to be away – let me do the rest.  (Charges will apply if I don’t book hotels or flights in the itinerary for you) 

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