For most travelers, a visit to England might actually mean a visit to London and a few surrounding stops, but it is travel beyond the capital that provides the quintessentially English experience. What about picturesque towns such as Bath, York or Canterbury? Exploring the famous university towns of Oxford and Cambridge? Discovering the music scene in Manchester and Liverpool or head to the coast to Bristol, Cardiff or Brighton? England has so much more to offer than just London, and given how small the island is, you can actually see much of the country in a week to ten days.
Hire a car and visit the Cotswolds or the Lake District
England has a fantastic train system and plenty of good bus connections, but there are a few places where it pays off to have a car, such as a trip to the Cotswolds with its scenic little villages and rolling hills.Already in the 1960s designated as an ‘Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty’, the Cotswolds are one of the most popular places to visit in England, and only a short 2-hour car ride from London, they make for a perfect weekend getaway if you hire a car.
The best way to see as many of the little villages such as Bibury, Broadway, Tewkesbury or Bourton-on-the-water and charming small towns like Stroud, Cheltenham and Gloucester is definitely by car. You can drive along the country roads at your own pace and stop in as many places as you’d like, exploring the area without the time restrictions of a train or bus schedule. To get an authentic Cotswolds experience, pick a random village and rent a little cottage for a few days – we stayed in our own cottage in Snowshill and loved every minute of it.
If you don’t feel comfortable driving on the left side of the road, you can visit almost any place in England by train. Manchester and Liverpool can be reached from London in just under two hours on a fast train, and even Edinburgh is only four and a half hours away.
With some advance travel planning, train tickets don’t have to break the bank, either. TheTrainline.com is a great source for discount train tickets, such as to Brighton for as cheap as £5.00 (instead of £23.10), tickets to Edinburgh for as little as £19.10 (instead of £60.50) or to Manchester for £18.00 (instead of £49.00). The trains in England are quick, comfortable and mostly on time, and can be a very enjoyable experience.
For the absolute cheapest way to travel in the UK, we recommend Megabus. Their buses run across all of Britain and there are constant promotions for £1 ticket sales. If you know where you want to go about three to four weeks ahead, these tickets allow you travel, practically for free. Megabus also goes all the way to Edinburgh and Glasgow for under £10 – cheaper than the train, but also a much longer journey (usually an overnight bus or an all day journey). For shorter distances like Oxford, two hours away, Megabus is a great option.
Fly to Scotland or Cornwall
Even though Britain is relatively small, there are some places that are reached quicker by plane, and often not more expensive – if not even cheaper – than the train. With budget airline Easyjet, you can find tickets from London to the Scottish Highlands (Aberdeen or Inverness) for only £30, making it as cheap as the train, but cutting down your travel time. Flybe, another budget airline, offers flights to Newquay in Cornwall for £37 (sometimes even cheaper) and other destinations in the UK and might also be worth checking when you are planning to visit other cities in the UK.
For those travelers looking to see England at a snail’s pace, England rolling geography is perfect for rambling, hillwalking and cycling, with long-distance paths criss-crossing the country. There are several week-long breaks that can be booked with various tour companies, and these simple, slow breaks also make the English countryside pub the perfect end goal of each day!