Our road trip through the English countryside was among my favorite days in Europe. I love the freedom of a good road trip, so a southern English road trip was on my wish list for the trip, and the beauty of the bucolic green hills, sheep grazing and yellow rapeseed ablaze with spring colors was peaceful. Actually driving the narrow streets of England was another story, but you can read about that in 5 Reasons Americans Driving in England is Mad.
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Things to do in Cardiff, Wales
This is actually in Wales (it is the capital), not England, but was our starting point and was a town I was pleasantly surprised with. Although, its past history of an industrial capital was apparent, it is obviously evolving into a smaller, art-forward cosmopolitan city. We began here for a couple of reasons. It was the location of The Doctor Who Experience, as well as a major setting in the show, and two of my family members are big fans and really loved their time here. Sadly, the exhibit has closed, but you can still check out the locations. It is also just a short flight from Ireland from which we were coming from. It is, geographically, a great starting point for seeing western England. I was glad to have experienced a bit of a country I otherwise would have skipped, which would have been a shame because it is beautiful.
- Cardiff Castle– My son had just finished studying castles in school and this one has everything he learned about. Book your Cardiff Castle Entrance Tickets here.
- Cardiff Hop on Hop off Bus Tour- Book the tour here.
- Cardiff Bay- A large bay, with numerous art installations. Before it was dammed, it had the largest tidal change in the world.
- Walking tour with Paul at Cardiff on Foot.
- Ice cream made in front of us using liquid nitrogen at Science Cream.
- The Cardiff Hilton‘s location was ideal.
Our first stop was Bath, an old Roman town where they used the area’s springs to make baths around 60 AD. In the 17th century it became a popular Georgian spa town. The town is very busy, but quite picturesque. Strangely the scent of the town is curry. The U.K. really does have lovely Indian food and I’ve been told curry is a secondary unofficial national food. This is a beautiful little town and I wish I had a whole day just to spend here. I will return and do this in a couple of years when I return to England for Wimbledon.
- The historic Baths after which the town was named where you can learn about it Roman origin and even try the water.
- Have a cream tea (tea and scones) on Pulteney Bridge.
- Bath Abbey Church
- Bath Costume Museum
If you need to get to Bath through a tour, you can search for one here.
You can’t hit up England without stopping to view the stones of Stonehenge and there is a great museum.
For more information read How to Experience a Great Day at Stonehenge from Tracy’s Travels in Time.
Stow-on-Wold in the Cotswolds
When I asked for about what to see on a road trip through England, the Cotswolds were mentioned over and over, and for good reason. This collection of quaint old market towns with honey-colored stone villages set in rolling hills (wolds) made me feel like I was transported back in time to the Middle Ages, but only the happy parts. It is one of the most picturesque and peaceful places I have been.
My Stow-on-the-Wold Highlights-
- We stayed at Serviced Guest ApartSuites The Unicorn, a sweet inn with a large family condo.
- Shopping and dining on the beautiful market square where 20,000 sheep herded through alleyways in the past.
- Hiking through country- we hiked right outside of the town’s surgery center. What a wonderful area to see after waking up from surgery.
- Breakfast or tea at Lucy’s Tea Room
The Cotswolds is a place I would love to return, maybe to visit towns such as the Slaughters. Read more about my time in the Cotswolds.
If you don’t have a car and want to book a day trip from London, explore the options here.
I wanted to go to this castle after reading Phillipa Gregory’s historical fiction, The Kingmaker, about the Earl of Warwick. You can definitely spend the whole day in this castle wandering among the normal castle features like the grounds and impressive interior, including an arms exhibit. This castle has also been turned into an amusement park of sorts with many shows, including a dungeon show that my son liked.
Honestly, I could have skipped this castle and spent more time in the Cotswolds or Strattford-Upon-Avon, but my kids were big fans.
This cute little town contains the birthplace of William Shakespeare. If you are a fan of The Bard, it is more than worth a visit. If you are not, I imagine that you will leave with a much greater appreciation of the effect this poet, who was born 400 years ago, still has on the current world. His house also provides an insight into the lives of the middle class of the time and the town is worth a visit. Visiting his house will take about an hour, but there are other related homes and gardens that you can visit, including that of his wife, Ann Hathaway.
We returned our car in Luton so that we could spend the next few days exploring London and The Warner Brothers Harry Potter Studios, which is a must-do for any Potterphile! You can buy your tickets for the studio tour here– this is one that you have to buy tickets for before you go or you won’t get them!
If you follow the blog, you know that I don’t sit down very often. I was very happy with my taste of England, but most would probably spend more time on this road trip. When I will return to England I will definitely take more time to return to Bath and the Cotswolds, but without this trip I don’t think I would have discovered the Cotswolds at all. Visit A Broken Backpack for some interesting UK hotel ideas.