The UK has so much history and heritage to offer visitors, but how best do you pack in all the sights and sounds? A driving tour taking in some perfect getaway hotels from the Millennium group, starting at London Gatwick and ending in the far north of Scotland.
Less than two hours’ drive from Gatwick, Reading is a handy base for exploring the area, as is Windsor – home to the Queen’s historic castle. There’s also some lovely countryside to explore while meandering along the River Thames. You can see meadows and picture-postcard villages, such as Sonning and Pangbourne. Stopover at the Millennium Madejski Hotel Reading, and visit Reading Football Club's modern new ground before heading towards Cardiff.
Copthorne Hotel Cardiff-Caerdydd
Before Cardiff, make a detour to the thriving port city of Bristol or to the historic spa town of Bath where you can enjoy a good lunch. The handsome Welsh capital of Cardiff has plenty to offer, including a vibrant city centre, a castle and hip new waterfront area, impressive art, and geology exhibitions at the National Museum Wales. Cardiff also makes a great base for explorations into the mining towns and hill areas, such as the striking Brecon Beacons.
The pretty market towns and rolling hills of the England-Wales border make for a picturesque drive to Birmingham. You’ll be spoiled for choice with refreshment stops in Monmouth, Ross-on-Wye or the ancient cathedral town of Worcester.
The UK’s second largest city, in terms of population, is Birmingham and it’s a surprising destination. While the traffic-heavy and industrial fringe don’t promise much, they reflect the city’s commercial importance and this heritage remains a key part of its charm. Canal-side bars and restaurants, a fantastic shopping centre with modern department stores, such as Selfridges, together with great cuisine – including world-class Indian food – are all unmissable. Chocolate lovers should visit Cadbury World, while football fans can head to the Aston Villa and Birmingham City football clubs’ grounds.
Drive an hour and 40 minutes north and you will be in Sheffield, which is home to a heritage of fine steel and the much loved football team (and indeed the world’s first football team) Sheffield FC. Sheffield also features pretty hill villages, walking trails and market towns of the Peak District National Park.
Manchester has been an important centre of industry since the 16th century and today remains an important and busy city offering plenty for visitors. Cultural venues include the Museum of Science and Industry, Salford Quays (an old industrial heartland turned media and museum quarter), a busy shopping centre and high-altitude dining at Cloud 23, located in the modern Beetham Tower.
Onward, past the pretty dales of the Lake District, you’ll find possibly the best motorway service station in the country at Tebay in Westmorland. With fresh local produce, green lawns and a duck pond, it’s an ideal pit stop before the final leg of your journey to Glasgow – another former industrial powerhouse known for its shipbuilding heritage.
Today, the city has developed a bohemian charm. Don’t miss Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum in the city’s West End. Inside the beautiful 19th century Edwardian building, you’ll find art and artefacts from all over the world. For refreshments, try the Willow Tea Rooms (217 Sauchiehall Street). Designed by the internationally renowned artist Charles Rennie Mackintosh, in 1904, it offers a refined Art Deco afternoon tea experience.
Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum
On the way to Aberdeen – your final destination – be sure to stop for tea and a stroll around the historic Stirling Castle. The Granite City, Aberdeen was built on oil wealth and is a good base for excursions into the lovely Cairngorms National Park and world-famous distilleries along the River Spey.