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Exploring the UK by Car
Whether you’re an international visitor on your first trip to the UK or you’re a resident planning your first driving holiday, this brief guide to exploring the UK by car should help you on your way.
The important rule to remember is the brown signs on motorways and other roads in the UK point you in the right direction to all major tourist hotspots. Follow one of these signs and a memorable visitor attraction is waiting for you.
Driving a hire car in the UK is a fairly straightforward affair as all motorways and major roads are clearly numbered, while cities, towns and villages are well signposted. The UK’s main motorway is the M1, as it links the north of England to the south, while the M4 leads to Wales and the M6 connects northern England to the Midlands.
There are many highlights worth checking out on your journey through northern England, but the idyllic Lake District, with its beautiful lakes and scenic walks, and the equally amazing Peak District, with its pretty green hills and mesmerising views, should definitely not be missed.
Cities in the north of England that are well worth a visit include Manchester, which was at the heart of Britain’s industrial revolution. Attractions in Manchester include the Town Hall, the Urbis Museum, Castlefield’s Roman fort, Salford Quays, Chinatown, Old Trafford, and the Museum of Science and Industry. The city is easily accessible from the M62 and M60 motorways.
Home to the Beatles, Liverpool is another of the north’s most vibrant cities, with its shops, bars, restaurants, and other attractions such as the Merseyside Maritime Museum, the Tate Gallery Liverpool and the Museum of Liverpool Life. Liverpool can be found at the end of the westbound M62.
In the northeast you’ll find Newcastle, with its famous Tyne Bridge and Quayside, and Durham, which is home to a wonderful cathedral and castle. Both these cities are accessible from the A1(M). If you’re venturing to Yorkshire then make sure you check out Leeds, which is home to Roundhay Park and Tropical World, and York, where you’ll find the Jorvik Viking Centre. Leeds can be found via the M62 or M1, while York is accessible from the A1.
Heading to the Midlands, you’ll find Birmingham, which is home to the Birmingham Museum and Gallery, the National Exhibition Centre and Aston Hall, and Nottingham, where you can visit Sherwood Forest and the Robin Hood museum. Birmingham is easy to get to from the M6, while Nottingham is accessible via the M1. One of the UK’s most popular tourist attractions, the Alton Towers theme park, is also found in the Midlands.
The main city of the south of England is obviously London, the English capital. Here you can visit many tourist attractions, including Trafalgar Square, Leicester Square, Piccadilly Circus, the Royal Albert Hall, Westminster Abbey, Big Ben, the Houses of Parliament, the London Eye, and Buckingham Palace. If you are driving into London then you’ll probably need to use the M25 London Orbital, which takes you around outer London. You should then follow signs for central London, as most of the top attractions can be found there.
Also in the south is Dover, which is home to the famous white cliffs, while if you head to Hastings, you’ll be able to stand where William the Conquer stood when he won victory in his conquest of England. Also on the south coast is Brighton, with its bustling nightlife and scenic beaches, while the likes of Dorset, Devon, Cornwall and the Cotswolds are tranquil and picturesque.
In Scotland, you’ll want to visit the capital Edinburgh, which is home to a 1200-year-old castle, the famous Royal Mile, Dynamic Earth, the Museum of Scotland, the National Gallery of Scotland and Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art. Edinburgh can be found via the M8, A90 or A1.
If you head to Glasgow, a former European City of Culture, you’ll find the gothic Glasgow Cathedral, St Mungo's Museum of Religious Life and Art, and Provand's Lordship, while in the beautiful Highlands of Scotland there’s Inverness and Aberdeen, as well as tranquil attractions, such as Loch Ness.
Wales offers many wonderful attractions such as the lovely Pembrokeshire coastline and the Brecon Beacons national park, while in the capital, Cardiff, there’s a 900-year-old castle, the National Museum of Wales, the Millennium Stadium, Llandaf Cathedral and the Welsh Folk Museum. Cardiff is accessible via the M4.
Finally, you could make the trip to Northern Ireland, where you can visit the green valleys or go for a city break to the capital Belfast, which is home to the W5 Interactive Science Centre and the Ulster Museum built-up areas, and always keep valuables out of sight. Carjacking is an unfortunate but very real part of our society in the 21st century, so be aware of your surroundings when getting in or out of the car.
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