Road Tripping in the UK
A lot of people are intimidated by driving in the UK and it’s not surprising. Hitting the road in a foreign land can be daunting and the challenge of driving on the opposite side of the road just adds to the difficulty. In many cases though, it’s best to face your fears and embrace the open road. There is no denying that the public transport system in the UK is top tier, but generally speaking they will only get you from town to town and city to city. That leaves an abundance of hidden gems unexplored that lay in the countryside and off the beaten track. It is possible to access many of these places via special bus tours, but you will be at the mercy of the tour operator’s schedule and more often than not herded along in what is a less than intimate experience. Sometimes you feel like letting someone else take control and just enjoying the ride, but the sense of satisfaction and discovery from exploring on your own can’t be beat.
Several years ago my partner and I rented a vehicle to explore the southwest of England and to visit some of my distant relatives that I had not met. Along the way we strayed from the plotted course, got lost, and ultimately discovered a side of England that I had never seen before. Sometimes getting lost and immersing yourself in your surroundings allows you to take ownership of your experience in a way that watching the scenery fly by a bus window just can’t match.
In my last trip to the British Isles and we stuck to public transport. While in London it is more often than not easier to take the tube and avoid city traffic. I would also suggest the bus in London. It’s not as speedy as the tube, but it lets you see where you are going and allows for a better sense of the city. For the last leg of our trip we went to Edinburgh via the train, which I believed would be less expensive than a car rental in the UK. It was not. Not only was it expensive but as I watched the farmland and seaside towns whizzing by, I couldn’t help but think of the exploring we could of done if we had driven from London to Edinburgh.
Long story short, if I am staying in the city I will stick to the subway and bus, but you do yourself a disservice if you miss out on the opportunity of a good road trip while abroad. Take to the open road, turn off the GPS and discover your own special places. You won’t regret it.
Wes Davidson is travel writer and photographer that lives and works in Portland, Maine. He recommends Auto Europe for your next car rental in Europe.