View of Castle Combe, a village and civil parish within the Cotswolds Area of Natural Beauty in Wiltshire, England

A road trip guide to England

Discover the hidden gems and natural beauty of England with this road trip into the heart of the country. Ancient castles, industrial powerhouses, postcard perfect villages and stunning natural landscapes will be highlights along the way. Start the circular route in either Harwich or Liverpool – making it easy to take the car or motorhome with Stena Line from the Netherlands or Ireland.

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Cambridge and the Fens
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Only a 90min drive from Harwich, the ancient university town of Cambridge is a wonderful place to start your road trip. Wander cobbled streets, marvel at the gothic architecture, punt down the river Cam, and enjoy the ambiance of a place that oozes intellectual brilliance. Kettle’s Yard or the Fitzwilliam Museum host exhibitions, and the town’s bars and eateries make it a pleasant place to relax after all that brain stimulation. If you are a nature lover, the Fen Rivers Way is a long-distance path running between Cambridge and King’s Lynn, taking you into the peaceful wildlife haven of the Fens. 

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Beautiful view of college in Cambridge with people punting on river cam
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Punting on the river Cam, Cambridge
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Chatsworth House and Derbyshire
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Heading north from Cambridge will destine you for Derbyshire and the magnificent Chatsworth House. Like something out of a period drama, the stately home is full of opulent interiors and fine art collections. The 105-acre garden and woodlands are pleasant to walk, and the farm-to-fork restaurant offers local flavours. Set in the heart of the Peak District, the surrounding hills are a great place to pull on hiking boots, and the charming market town of Bakewell is the perfect place to tuck into the famous raspberry and almond tart that originated here.

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Chatsworth House, Derbyshire
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York and the Yorkshire Dales
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Located half-way between London and Edinburgh, York easily mixes modern culture with medieval history. Take a tour of the iconic York Minster, walk along the Shambles and join a ghost tour to uncover the city's spooky tales. With the Yorkshire Dales and North York Moors right on the doorstep, it’s easy to explore the area’s rustic villages and rolling hills. Or take a steam train journey on the North Yorkshire Moors railway and experience the landscape with all the charm of a bygone era.

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The Shambles in York
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The Shambles, York
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Durham
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Set in the sunny northeast, Durham is a hidden jewel in England’s cultural crown, having recently voted ‘Best city in the UK’ by Condé Nast’s Traveller magazine readers. Home to the magnificent Durham Cathedral and Castle, both UNESCO world heritage sites, it is a joy to visit, with cobbled streets, the River Wear meandering through and spectacular coastal light bringing a unique quality to the area.

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Durham Cathedral
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Durham Cathedral
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Northumberland and Hadrian’s Wall
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Fancy hanging out with the stars? Kielder Observatory in Northumberland is in the largest gold tier-protected dark sky park in Europe, meaning the night skies are simply breath-taking. The observatory is architecturally spectacular too, forming part of the open-air gallery in Kielder Water and Forest Park. Elsewhere in Northumberland, Hadrian’s Wall has its largest section in this region. Get up close to the former frontier of the Roman Empire along its official walking trail, visit the market town of Haltwhistle or go full Centurian at Birdoswald Roman Fort.

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Milecastle 39 part of Hadrians Wall in Northumberland on the Scottish Border
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Milecastle 39 on Hadrians Wall
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The Lake District
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Famous for its natural beauty and scenic walking trails, the Lake District National Park is less than a two-hour drive from Northumberland. England’s largest national park and a UNESCO world heritage site, enjoy driving between charming towns such as Kendal, Keswick, and Ambleside. Lovers of the great outdoors can enjoy hiking, water sports at Windermere and Ullswater, as well as views that have inspired poets and painters for centuries. You might even be inspired to pick up a paint brush or climb England’s tallest mountain, Scafell Pike.

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Sun rising above the horizon illuminating the landscape with stone wall and stile in foreground.
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The Lake District, England
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Liverpool and Manchester
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England’s northern powerhouse cities each have their own character, and Liverpool and Manchester are no exception. In Liverpool, visit the Beatles Story Museum, stroll along the iconic Albert Dock, wander the galleries of Tate Liverpool, and soak in the city's vibrant music scene. Manchester is known as the birthplace of the industrial revolution. Take time to visit the People's History Museum, or attractions such as the Imperial War Museum North and Chester Zoo. And of course, both cities are world famous for football, as well as seriously good shopping and nightlife. 

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Liverpool Skyline building at Pier head and alber dock at sunset dusk, Liverpool England UK.
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Liverpool, England
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Bath and the Cotswolds
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It’s hard to beat the spa destination of Bath if you’re looking for a relaxing stopover. Famed for its healing waters since the Roman era, the UNESCO world heritage site has beautifully preserved Roman baths, luxury retreats, spectacular Georgian architecture and, for literary fans, the Jane Austen Centre. Just under four hours’ drive south from Manchester, the journey to Bath will take you close to Stratford-Upon-Avon if you want to stop for some Shakespeare, as well as through the stunning Cotswolds. Towns to put into the sat nav include Bourton-on-the-Water, the medieval market town of Stow-on-the-Wold, and Bibury with its picturesque row of 17th-century weavers' cottages.

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The Pulteney Bridge in Palladian style crosses the River Avon in Bath
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Pulteney Bridge, Bath
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Stonehenge
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No trip to England’s heart would be complete without a visit to Stonehenge. One hour southwest of Bath, the world heritage site celebrates England’s neolithic past, even if it doesn’t fully explain exactly why the monument was first erected. Stand in the enigmatic stone circle, step into a neolithic village and come face to face with a 5,000-year-old man in the museum exhibition. 

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Close up view of Stonehenge monument. Sunset sky. United Kingdom.
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Stonehenge, England
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Windsor
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Crowned by Windsor Castle – the largest and oldest inhabited castle in the world and an official residence of His Majesty The King – the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead brings a touch of royalty to this road trip. Less than 90minutes from Stonehenge, come to explore the castle, visit Legoland® Windsor Resort, relax on the banks of the river Thames or spend a day at the races at Ascot Racecourse.

 

It’s a fitting end to this road trip, from where you can choose to either skirt around London and back to Harwich, or take time to explore England’s iconic capital city before your journey home. 

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Windsor, Berkshire, England, UK. 2020. A tourist passeneger boat on the River Thames at Windsor, Berkshire, UK.
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Windsor, England
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Quick Facts

Distance from Harwich to Northumberland

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Distance from Harwich to Northumberland
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Travelling via the destinations mentioned in this guide, it is 709km

Distance from Liverpool to Harwich

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Distance from Liverpool to Harwich
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Travelling via the destinations mentioned in this guide, it is 735km

Distance of full road trip

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Distance of full road trip
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Roughly 1720km, depending on which towns and villages you visit along the way!

Good to know

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Good to know
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Times of journeys mentioned here depend on which route you take and traffic conditions.

Time for more

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Time for more?
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The southern counties of Dorset, Devon and Cornwall are popular with tourists for their quaint fishing villages, Jurassic coastlines and pretty coves. 

Selected destinations for this guide

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