Britain is the ideal destination for a self-drive or chauffeur-driven road trip. Relatively compact and filled to the brim with interesting places to discover, my husband and I try to do a road trip to a different part of Britain whenever we can. The Brits would disagree as they seem to think that the various towns and cities of their little island are incredibly far flung from one another – but in the time it takes you to drive from Philadelphia to, say, Boston, you could get from London Heathrow to Scotland! Now I naturally do not recommend doing that all at once since you will be on highways the whole time and miss so many wonderful places in between!
For a road trip I always recommend choosing a compact area so that you really have the time to slow down, explore, and truly enjoy every moment of the trip. There are a hundred amazing itineraries for road trips in Britain, but a few of my favorite places are the Cotswolds, the castles that make up the Iron Ring in Wales, Cornwall’s Roseland Peninsula, the Norfolk Coast, and the Yorkshire Moors. For many destinations (Cornwall for example) if you are short on time, I do not recommend renting a car from Heathrow and starting your drive there. You can take a good bit of time off the trip by getting a train farther out to where you want to begin and renting a car from there.
One sticking point that my clients always ask about is driving on the other side of the road. I can understand the concern! I felt nervous myself the first time I rented a car in Britain. After having done it many times and coached clients through the process I do have a few tips for you. First off, I want to tell you that it really is something you get the hang of faster than you expect. In my experience, it does take a bit more getting used to for the passenger because you’re sitting in what you feel should be the drivers seat but instead you are just sitting there watching cars come at you from strange directions! To get comfortable with driving, I always recommend renting your car for the first time outside of major city centers. Driving on city streets is stressful enough normally, let alone when you are still getting the feel of driving on the other side of the road.
You should also make yourself familiar with the road signs that you will see in Britain since they are almost
all completely different from what we are used to here at home. I provide my clients with a handy reference guide but please make sure you take a moment to look through it before heading out on the road. Most of it is common sense and of course it is (mostly) in English, but it is always advisable to make sure you recognize a speed limit sign when you see one. I say mostly in English because you will see signs in certain places - like Wales - will be in Welsh, though they have the English translations prominently displayed as well.
I would also recommend to get a car with GPS built in so that you can figure out where you’re going, and make the ride more pleasant for everyone by avoiding the need for maps (and the general shouting and wild gesticulating that sometimes comes with getting lost). While the locals are always happy to give directions, just know that some regional dialects are very strong and asking a Scot for directions can be, at times, hard to understand no matter how well meaning he or she may be. While you are making your life a bit easier with GPS, also opt for a car with automatic transmission. Even though automatic transmissions cost more and are a bit harder to come by in Britain, it definitely helps not having the gear box the other way around while you’re still getting used to driving on the other side.
All that being said, a road trip in Britain is one of my favorite ways to travel. You travel at your own pace, have the flexibility to stop along the way as you please, and you have the sense of independent exploration that we so often crave. If you still feel as though perhaps renting isn’t quite for you, or if you just want to all be able to look out the windows and enjoy the scenery as you drive, then I would recommend a chauffeur driven experience. Your chauffeur is so much more than just the person who drives your car. He or she is a local expert on the destination, will serve as your guide, and be an invaluable resource every step of the way. You also have the option of our small group guided tours to Britain. With a maximum of 14 travelers plus your Travel Director and guide, our intimate groups are the perfect way to see Britain as effortlessly as possible.