London isn’t a city that’s known for its traversability by road. Many people who live in London don’t even own a car! The fact of the matter is that when living in the UK capital, there’s a lot of options for navigating from one area to another and with the Central London congestion charges, commuter rushes and pedestrian-centric ethos of the city, the car is often the least attractive option.
That being said, many people might have found that owning a car was a godsend over the COVID pandemic. Driving – albeit locally – has given many people some respite from the claustrophobia associated with the last year’s lockdowns. It still can as we emerge from the other side. Whilst international tourism may have to wait a little longer, many people are planning their visits to the best spa hotels in London from across the country whilst Londoners expand out to broader horizons for their summer holidays.
Whether you’re a local or a visitor capitalising on the best London hotel deals, one of the best ways to get a taste of London’s surrounding area is also by car. This blog explores the many scenic drives you can enjoy from the city, and what it tells you about the home counties and south coast’s character and history.
London To The Cotswolds
You can easily reach the Cotswolds by train from Paddington Station, but then you’d be missing a lot of the fun. The Cotswolds itself offers plenty of stop-offs, and as an area that is best navigated by road, you’re in for a whole range of surprises. From animal safaris to secret Roman ruins, the Cotswolds offers up a lot of tourist attractions whilst cruising through its many villages.
The Cotswolds themselves are an area steeped in history, both culture and geologically. Located in the southwest of the country, the 787 square mile Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty consists of rolling hills, meadows and streams that flow into the upper Thames river. Expect Jurassic limestone built villages, pastoral idylls and beautiful valleys along your drive.
Taking about two and a half hours, the drive to the Cotswolds will have you travel through the southwestern home counties and provides visiting Londoners and guests from the Montcalm Hotel with plenty of stop-offs along the way. Standout towns and villages include twee-named Chipping Campden, Bourton On The Water and Bibury, as well as borders with potentially five different counties.
The Surrey Hills are easily reachable from London, being the county just to the southwest of the city itself. On a 4 hour drive through and around this scenic area, you can enjoy the sights and sounds of historic towns and cities such as Guildford, Woking and Leatherhead, but the main draw is of course the Surrey Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Park your car in Pixham and stretch your legs in the beautiful North Downs summit of Box Hill, a picturesque example of why it’s so important to explore further afield than the UK capital.
Southeast Coast Drives
The drive to the south coast of England is only about 50 miles, especially if we’re talking about a trip to Brighton, but the reality is that once you’re on the beautiful coastline of the English Channel, there’s a lot more to see. The South Downs area of outstanding natural beauty extends onto the coast between Eastbourne and Seaford in the county of Sussex, and whilst here, visitors will be able to drive along chalky cliffs and through sleepy Sussex villages to the famous Beachy Head. Drive back towards the west and visitors can travel through Brighton, Shoreham and Arundel, giving you the chance to enjoy Regency era towns and villages as well as the stunning views of the sea.
A round trip from London to Brighton to Eastbourne should take about 4 hours. Approximately the same can be said if you turned West from Brighton and headed to Littlehampton before heading back to London.
South Downs Drives
If it’s more England’s pastures green that you’re searching for, then before you hit Brighton and the coastline, deviate into the hilly chalk-laden countryside of Sussex. Here the stunning views from atop the South Downs await. The valleys and escarpments of the Weald, an area that spreads across Hampshire, Sussex and Surrey, is a real feast for the eyes and easily reachable within an hour from budget hotels in London. With plenty of parking space at hotspots like the Devils Dyke and Ditchling Beacon, you can easily appreciate the views of Sussex and Surrey alongside paragliders and dog walkers.
London To Norwich
A drive from London to Norwich should take under 3 hours, and once you’re out of the ring roads of outer London, will transport you all the way through Essex, parts of Suffolk and Norfolk countryside. Passing Brentwood, you can travel through nature-rich forests and reserves like Weald and Hutton County Parks as well as Dedham Vale and beautiful East English villages. The flat fields and marshes of the Norfolk area mean that you’ll have views for miles in every direction, making this a journey you can really drink in.
London To Cambridge
London to Cambridge will share a part of the leg of the journey to Norwich but will see you take a diversion at Greater Chesterford on the M11 and head towards Cambridgeshire’s titular University town of Cambridge. The journey will take you through East London’s Epping Forest and towards beautiful thatched roof villages across Essex and Cambridgeshire. We recommend Arkesden and Stickling Green as slight deviations, for a taste of country life.
London To Stonehenge
From east to west, our last journey, which should take around just over two hours, is to Salisbury’s Stonehenge. Alongside seeing some of the southwest of England’s vibrant landscapes, you can enjoy the rugged fields and monolithic henge itself, before heading into the rustic cathedral city of Salisbury. It’s here that you can enjoy fine dining by the banks of the River Avon and the spire of the city’s world-famous cathedral.