Idyllic views of glistening lakes surrounded by rugged peaks in Lake District, England

LONDON to EDINBURGH Road Trip: 36+ BEST Stop Ideas

Planning a London to Edinburgh road trip? This post is packed with 36+ of the BEST stop ideas along two different scenic routes. This equals LOTS of options! Plus, helpful tips to have as much fun as you can along the way. 

A London to Edinburgh road trip has SO many fantastic stop ideas and scenic drives to chose from. Royal castles and gardens to quaint Cotswold villages and cottages. Bustling cities with canals and cathedrals to lakes, woods and coastal drives. ALL with centuries of history and legends. 

Without any stops, a London to Edinburgh road trip takes about 8 hours. We only gave ourselves two days for the drive because our priority was more time in Scotland in Ireland; this meant short stops at only a few places. If possible, I recommend giving yourself at least three days for a comfortable and satisfying road trip from London to Edinburgh.

This post organizes your road trip into 4 areas (heading north from London): near London, central England western scenic route and eastern scenic route, and near Edinburgh. In central England, you might enjoy criss-crossing between the two routes, as many of England’s national parks are right up the middle.

London to Edinburgh road trip: 36+ BEST stop ideas

Limited time? Save me for later.

CONTENTS

But first, tips and castles …

TIPS for your London to Edinburgh road trip

  • Pick up your car rental in Uxbridge. Uxbridge is at the end of the train line, so it’s easy to reach by public transit and is a quiet spot to get used to your car rental. Especially helpful if it’s your first time driving on the left side of the road, which it was for us!
  • Use a GPS. Roads are poorly marked in both urban areas and the countryside, and cell coverage is hit and miss. Driving in the UK without a GPS would’ve been very tough here … especially with driving on the left side, too. My husband and I agree that our GPS saved our marriage. We love Garmin.
  • Stick to the side roads, coasts and parks. The main highways get you through England quickly, but the landscape is very “blah;” I can almost guarantee you won’t enjoy it. Scenic routes are along the local roads, coasts and national parks. Another reason why a GPS comes in handy.

CASTLES, CASTLES, CASTLES … and palaces, manors and grand country houses

England and castles go hand-in-hand. If you want to center your entire London to Edinburgh road trip around castles and elegant mansions, you’ll have plenty to keep you busy. 

The great thing about including castles on your London to Edinburgh road trip is that they’re often paired with gardens and cafes. So, they make fantastic pit stops to stretch your legs and grab a coffee! The downside? ALL of them have amazing reviews. So good luck in choosing your favorites! 

Included in these stop ideas are well-preserved inhabited castles as well as incredibly romantic ruins. Some are concentrated so it’s easy to see a bunch at once, while others are scattered along the countryside. 

And actually, our first and last stop ideas are castles … Hmm, that was not intentional.

London to Edinburgh Road Trip: Stop Ideas NEAR LONDON

There is SO much to see around London. If you don’t have much time on your London to Edinburgh road trip, you’re going to have to make some tough choices. My personal favorite of these stop ideas is Oxford; but I was also happy with only a couple of hours to wander before moving on. 

If you have the time, you may want to dedicate one full day to Stonehenge, Lacock and Bath. From Windsor Castle, it’s a one-hour drive southwest to Stonehenge and another one-hour drive to the amazingly well-preserved roman baths in Bath. Along the way, make a short stop to wander through Lacock, which became Meryton in BBC’s Pride & Prejudice.

With our limited time, I was more interested in Oxford. So, we headed north.

Where to sleep: Stratford-upon-Avon or Birmingham

Depending on how much time you spend at these stops, you might spend your first night in the dreamy Cotswolds area or along Birmingham’s pretty canals. Here are some fabulous options:

  • Stratford-upon-Avon: Stay in a dreamy cottage surrounded by Shakespearean romance. This day is so packed, that if you want to see anything in Stratford-upon-Avon, you’re best spending the night here. My favorite option is the charming and reasonably-priced Baraset Barn Hotel (Pimlico Ln; £130), with fantastic reviews, award-winning restaurant, and includes breakfast, wifi and parking. Not a fan? Check out other great accommodations in Stratford-upon-Avon.
  • Birmingham: Pick a place to stay with easy access to what makes Birmingham a great stop – its canals. My favorite is the unique Hotel Indigo (200 Wharfside St; £125+) with terrific views, breakfast and wifi included, and parking nearby (extra cost); its 25th-floor restaurant offers amazing views over Birmingham and the canals. Not sure? Here’s a listing of other Birmingham accommodations in the canals area.

Windsor Castle: A Royal Pilgrimage 

Crowds of visitors on path before the mighty Windsor Palace in England

The mighty Windsor Castle. Photo credit: Kings Church International from Unsplash.

We begin our stop ideas for your London to Edinburgh road trip with nothing else but a castle. Possibly THE castle.

If you have even a moderate fascination with the royal family, Windsor Castle is likely a must-see stop idea. It was founded in the 1000s by William the Conqueror and has been home to 39 monarchs. Queen Elizabeth still spends many weekends here.

Only 30 minutes from Uxbridge, Windsor Castle is a convenient stop idea on your London to Edinburgh road trip. Buy your tickets online in advance to bypass the extra-long lineups. That said, mornings are busiest due to coach tours, which leave shortly after the changing of the guard at 11am. From reading the forums, it looks like the best morning arrival time is 10:30am.

Highclere Castle: Downtown Abbey 

Most of us know Highclere Castle as Downtown Abbey. Highclere Castle estate has evolved from the first-known medieval palace that was built here in 749; the palace that stands today dates to 1842. It served as a hospital during WWI and home to evacuees during WWII.

In researching Highclere Castle, I was surprised to learn its connection to Canada’s Confederation in 1867. Highclere Castle is where my forefathers sat around the table debating and inscribing the rules to govern my beloved country.

From Windsor Castle, the drive to Highclere Castle is about 1 hour. 

Oxford: Narrow Cobblestone Alleys

Just walking through Oxford makes you feel smarter and more cultured! Seeing Oxford for myself was a must, between its brilliant historic architecture and my dream of studying literature in England. 

Oxford is an easy stop on your London to Edinburgh road trip. It’s about 30 minutes before you reach the Cotswolds from London. We parked just outside of Oxford and took the bus in; super easy. 

Give yourself the freedom to explore and get lost in its maze of random cobblestone streets and narrow alleyways. They’re lined with fun surprises of cathedrals, cafes and pubs around every corner.

While visiting Oxford, check out:

The Cotswolds: Thatched Roofs and Majestic Castles

Picturesque thatched houses along the river in the Cotswolds, England

Picturesque Cotswold. Photo credit: magda v from Unsplash.

The Cotswolds is a picturesque drive through quaint villages with thatched roofs, majestic castles and rolling meadows. 

Here are some great stop ideas while driving through the Cotswolds:

Stratford-upon-Avon: Pretty Cottages and Gardens

Just north of the Cotswolds is Stratford-upon-Avon. Stratford-upon-Avon obviously famous for being the birthplace of brilliant storyteller and poet William Shakespeare; but Stratford-upon-Avon also has the same magical feel of the Cotswolds. 

Here are some great stop ideas to take in Shakespeare’s Stratford-upon-Avon:

  • Shakespeare’s Birthplace (Henley St): A tribute museum to Shakespeare’s childhood.
  • Anne Hathaway’s Cottage (Cottage Ln, Shottery): This pretty 500-year old cottage features original furniture and a romantic garden … perfect for Shakespeare wooing his to-be bride. 
  • Mary Arden’s Farm (Station Rd, Wilmcote): The childhood home of Shakespeare’s mother, now a fun family stop with a farmyard, gardens, falconry demonstrations, playground and historic buildings.

Two Epic Castles: Dungeons and Elizabeth’s Tower

Between Stratford-upon-Avon and Birmingham (next, where I suggest staying for the night), there are two fascinating and very different castles to check out:

  • Warwick Castle (Castle Lane, Warwick): This impressive fortress and its dungeons is alive with medieval events like jousting, banquets and evenings with fire-breathing dragons. You can even stay here, with lodges, glamping and tower suite options. Very family friendly. But if you’re just looking for a big historic castle to scale the towers and walls and roam spectacular rooms, you can skip the commercialism and still love it.  
  • Kenilworth Castle (Castle Road, Kenilworth): Just 15 minutes from Warwick is the more romantic Kenilworth Castle ruins and Elizabethan gardens. Kenilworth Castle was initially built in the 1120s, later gifted in 1563 by Elizabeth I to her suitor Robert Dudley who transformed it into a magnificent palace, and then dismantled in 1650 after the English Civil War. The ruins still speak to the castle’s grandeur, and now you can climb the tower to what was Elizabeth’s private chambers and enjoy the view built for a Queen.

Birmingham’s Victorian Canals

The most interesting area to experience in Birmingham is its Victorian canals. These canals were built in the 1700-1800s to support Birmingham’s manufacturing dominance during the Industrial Revolution.

Wander (or take the canal bus) along the Old Line canal north of Commercial Street. The canalside walk on Gas St and Birmingham City Centre Path take you past old brick buildings packed with plenty of shops, cafes and pubs to linger in. 

Specific stop ideas you might enjoy near Birmingham Canal Old Line include:

  • Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery (3 Congreve Passage, Chamberlain Square): Features the world’s largest Pre-Raphaelite art collection, the famous Staffordshire Hoard of gold and Egyptian mummies. It’s an easy 10-minute walk from the canal.
  • National Sea Life Centre (The Water’s Edge, Brindley Pl): Highly-rated aquarium, with cuddly-cute sea otters and the UK’s only 360-degree ocean tunnel. A perfect stop for families right along the Old Line canal.
  • Symphony Hall (Broad St): Considered one of the best concert halls in the world, the elegant Symphony Hall hosts world-class performances of various genres. Check out their lineup for evening or lunchtime concerts, also right on the Old Line canal.

Now our drive DIVIDES to give you MORE stop ideas! Take the western scenic route through Lake District (next) or the eastern scenic route through York (skip ahead). 

I recommend reading through both sections of Central England. It’s definitely possible to zigzag your way through many of these stop ideas in central England to see everything on your list … all you need is time! Plus, you’d see some very pretty areas; many of England’s national parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) are right up the middle.

London to Edinburgh Road Trip: Stop Ideas in CENTRAL ENGLAND’s WESTERN SCENIC ROUTE 

Idyllic views of glistening lakes surrounded by rugged peaks in Lake District, England

Idyllic views in Lake District. Photo credit: Alex Neves from Unsplash.

Central England’s western scenic route takes you through England’s enchantingly rugged national parks of Peak District and Lake District. Stop ideas along the way include more stunning castles and the country house made famous as Pemberley in BBC’s Pride & Prejudice.

Major urban centers you may be interested in along the western scenic route are Manchester and Liverpool. 

Where to sleep: The picturesque Lake District

A terrific spot to spend the second night of your London to Edinburgh road trip is the Lake District. It’s such a pretty area with so much to do when you arrive or the morning before you leave. 

Here are two central, highly-rated accommodation options for staying in the Lake District:

  • Ambleside Lake House (Lake Rd, Waterhead Bay, Ambleside)): This lovely lakehouse gives you beautiful views from your window, a 10-minute walk to the nearby village, and includes breakfast, wifi and parking. Its location just south of Grasmere is a great location to explore the surrounding villages and hikes. 
  • Langdale Hotel & Spa (Langdale Estate, Ambleside): This gorgeous hotel and spa is nestled among beautiful gardens and features a pub with open fires. Take your visit to the Lake District up a few notches here! Includes breakfast, wifi and parking.

Not interested in these? Check out other great accommodations in the Lake District!

Three Castles with Incredible Histories

Here are three very different castles to visit on your London to Edinburgh road trip, all along the western scenic route through central England:

  • Beeston Castle (Chapel Ln, Beeston): These ruins stand atop a crag and date all the way to the Bronze Age (3500-2000 BC). Climb around the hill or straight up to imagine these ruins back in their glory day and take in the expansive views. Explore the surrounding wooded trails, linger on the bridges and search for the cave near the entrance. 
  • Skipton Castle (The Bailey, Skipton): Built in the 1100s, Skipton Castle is one of the most complete and best preserved medieval castles in England. Explore the dungeon and watch tower, the banquet hall and kitchen.
  • Lancaster Castle (Castle Grove, Lancaster): Lancaster Castle was also built in the 1100s and has a fascinating and gruesome past of administering justice and executions. In 1612, it was the site of the famous witch trials that condemned 10 people to death. Tours take you through the courtroom and prison, which were used up until 2011.

About 10 minutes west of Beeston Castle is The Ice Cream Farm (Drumlan Hall, Newton Ln, Cheshire), which serves more than 50 flavors and has tons of stuff for kids to do. A fun stop idea to break up the castle drive! 

Lyme Park: Pride & Prejudice’s Pemberley

If you love BBC’s Pride & Prejudice, then you’ll love this place: Lyme Park, or aka Pemberley. It’s a perfect stop idea between Beeston Castle and Skipton Castle on your London to Edinburgh road trip.

Pride & Prejudice’s Pemberley estate was filmed at Lyme Park. This is where you’ll get that classic shot of the reflecting pond in front of the enormous country home. Channel your inner Elizabeth as you explore the gardens, deer park, and courtyard. 

Even though Pemberley’s interior was filmed elsewhere (Sudbury Hall in Sudbury, Derbyshire), Lyme House is worth visiting. It’s very elegant and has a fascinating history. Learn about the family that owned this estate for nearly five centuries amid English turmoil. 

The playground and cafe are perfect for families needing a classic English pit stop. 

The Exquisitely Rugged Peak District

Worn narrow path through gates and over grassy fields of Peak District, England

Charming Peak District. Photo credit: Tony Williams from Unsplash.

Tucked in behind Lyme Park is a rugged mountainous area blanketed in vibrant green grass and wooded areas. In Peak District, you can walk atop mountain ridges, in deep rocky gorges, and through old railway tunnels. 

The best hiking resource I found for Peak District is 10adventures.com. This page has inspiring pictures of places you’ll want to see for yourself, along with a map, trail length, difficulty and time estimates.

If you’re up for more grand palaces, nestled inside Peak District is the gorgeous Chatsworth House. Chatsworth House was home to Mary, Queen of Scots and is seen in movies like Pride & Prejudice (2005) and The Dutchess (2008). Kids will love the farmyard animals and adventure playground; everyone will love the brilliant water features in the garden, like the 300-year-old cascade and fountains, maze and five miles of walking trails. 

The Idyllic Lake District 

Just the name, Lake District, brings to mind its glorious blue lakes gleaming in the sunlight, surrounded by romantic green peaks and hidden waterfalls. A nature paradise. With lakes obviously comes pretty lakeside towns and watersports, too.

Two stunning areas in the Lake District that are easy to stop at on your London to Edinburgh road trip are Grasmere and Ullswater area. There are plenty of amazing hikes and lakeside villages between these two areas. Grasmere is also where poet William Woodsworth lived; his last home, Rydal Mount cottage and gardens (A591 Rydal, Ambleside), is quite the romantic area to visit.

As with Peak District, the best hiking resource I found for Lake District is 10adventures.com. This page will inspire you with its photos and give you all the details you need to get you on your amazing hike in the Lake District.

Now I list my favorite stop ideas for driving up central England’s eastern scenic route through York. Even if you plan to drive the western scenic route, I encourage you to scan the next section, too; you might see a few spots you want to zigzag across to see … totally doable, depending on your time.

Otherwise, skip ahead to stop ideas near Edinburgh.

London to Edinburgh Road Trip: Stop Ideas in CENTRAL ENGLAND’s EASTERN SCENIC ROUTE

Central England’s eastern scenic route takes you through stunning York; this was the route we took and I absolutely loved York. This is also a great route if you’d rather see Cambridge over Oxford on your London to Edinburgh road trip.

The stop ideas below take you through the rolling countryside. If you’d rather see the major cities, Sheffield and Leeds are also along the way.

Where to sleep: Historic York

Make York your place to stay for the night. This will give you the chance to experience this beautiful city in the evening and morning. 

You can either stay inside or outside the city’s ancient walls. Both generally require parking in one of the many car parks skirting the walls. 

Here are four great options for staying in York, all with terrific reviews:

  • The York Priory (126 Fulford Rd; £70+): A Victorian residence converted into a hotel in the 1930s, this comfortable and cute guest house features pretty secluded gardens and an onsite bar. Includes breakfast, wifi and parking. If you’d rather not deal with a car park, it’s a 25-minute walk to York Minster. A great value option in York.
  • Tower Guest House (2 Feversham Cr; £100+): Visitors love this gorgeous, award-winning and super-unique boutique-style guest house. Includes a full breakfast, wifi and parking. If you’d rather not deal with a car park, it’s only a 20-minute walk to York Minster.
  • The Grand, York (City Centre, Station Rise; £115+): You can treat yourself to a 5-star luxury hotel and spa without the ridiculous cost. The Grand is set in a historic railway building. Includes breakfast, wifi, reduced-rate parking at nearby NCP car park. Plus afternoon teas, live music and an outdoor terrace overlooking the city walls. York Minster is a 10-minute walk away.
  • Judges Court Hotel (City Centre, Coney St; £140+): Inside York’s city walls, this beautiful, fascinating 4-storey Georgian historic home is also tucked inside a hidden courtyard. Includes wifi, with car park options 5-10 minutes walk away and plenty of food options nearby, too.

Not sure about these? Check out other great accommodations in York!

Stamford: Picturesque Limestones

Signature limestone row houses in Stamford, England

Signature Stamford limestone. Photo credit: Sandie Clarke from Unsplash.

Stamford, Lincolnshire is a small city of 20,000 that’s frequently featured in films; when you visit, you’ll see why.

With signature limestone buildings from the 1600-1700s and five medieval churches, this is a wonderful city just to walk around in. Park at the Scotgate Car Park and wander through the historic streets. Use the churches to guide your walk.

Here are two fantastic stop ideas just outside of Stamford:

  • Burghley House (Peterborough, Stamford): This massive 1500s Tudor mansion has been featured in films like Pride & Prejudice and Elizabeth: The Golden Age. It’s open to tours from mid-March to October, and the surrounding gardens and deer park are open year-round. It’s 10 minutes south of the Scotgate Car Park.
  • Tolethorpe Hall (Salters Ln, Little Casterton, Stamford): This elegant country house and garden features outdoor Shakespeare plays in the summer. It’s 5 minutes north of the Scotgate Car Park.

Grantham: Newton and Rosings 

Granthum, Lincolnshire is a fantastic stop for fans of BBC’s Pride & Prejudice. It was also home to Isaac Newton and Margaret Thatcher.

Here are three fun stops in the Grantham area (from south to north): 

  • Teigh Old Rectory (Old Rectory, Main St, Teigh, Oakham): Mr. Collins’ rectory. It’s about 30 minutes south of Belton House. Now a bed & breakfast, you can stay in this “humble abode!”
  • Woolsthorpe Manor (Water Ln, Grantham): The humble farmstead where Isaac Newton was born and raised. Learn about his childhood and visit the legendary apple tree that was central to Newton’s theory of law and gravity. The little shop is perfect for your little scientist, and the cafe for a little treat. It’s about 20 minutes south of Belton House.
  • Belton House (High Road Belton, Grantham): Built in the 1680s, this grand, archetypal English country house was the ideal setting for Lady Catherine de Bourgh’s Rosings. Its large gardens are perfect for retracing Elizabeth’s walks!

Sherwood Forest: Mystical and Marvelous!

The legendary Sherwood Forest is such a pretty wooded area, with paths meandering past massive knobbly, hollow oak trunks and wispy ground-cover you can hide in. Perfect for your own game of hide-and-seek! 

We were here near the end of opening hours and had it mostly to ourselves. You can just feel Robin Hood’s scouts watching you as you move through the trails! 

It’s a short 30-minute walk through the woods. Perfect for stretching your legs and grabbing a coffee at the welcome center.

Five Castles with Incredible Views

Central England’s eastern scenic route can also satisfy your thirst for castles! Between Sherwood Forest and York are five fascinating castles for you (from south to north):

  • Newark Castle (31 Castle Gate, Newark): A free, partially-destroyed castle along the river, with exhibits tying the castle to King John, the Knights Templar and Civil War battles. Newark Castle is a great stop idea between Grantham and Sherwood Forest.
  • Bolsover Castle (Castle St, Bolsover): Get a little bit of everything, with walls you can walk overlooking a large grassy courtyard, elegant small castle interior, and romantic terrace ruins. Bolsover Castle is 30 minutes west of Sherwood Forest.
  • Lincoln Castle (Castle Hill, Lincoln): A fascinating and picturesque castle inside Lincoln. Walk all the way around the wall for brilliant views of the city and majestic Lincoln Cathedral; see its dungeons featured on Downton Abbey and Call the Midwife, with prisoner scratches still in its walls; and, view the original 1215 Magna Carta for yourself. Lincoln Castle is 45 minutes east of Sherwood Forest.
  • Conisbrough Castle (Castle Hill, Conisbrough, Doncaster): Crumbling walls but a remarkably intact cylindrical keep you can climb basement-to-top for great views. These hilltop ruins inspired Sir Walter Scott’s Ivanhoe. Conisbrough Castle is 45 minutes north of Sherwood Forest.
  • Pontefract Castle (The Lodge Castle Chain, Pontefract): Haunting ruins of what was once among the strongest castles in northern England, with an underground dungeons tour. This is where King Richard II starved to death. It’s free to enter and has a cafe and play area for kids. Pontefract Castle is 30 minutes north of Conisbrough Castle and 30 minutes south of York.

York: Historic and Brilliant

York is a fantastically STUNNING city. Built by Romans and Vikings. Towering Gothic architecture. Boutique shops along narrow cobblestone streets. I was truly enchanted.

It’s easy to park at one of the car parks skirting the city walls and explore from there. Here are must-sees when in York:

  • York Minster is obviously the main attraction in York; we spent a lot of time just gazing up at it from different angles. Inside is also remarkable, with elaborate marble tombs and stained glass from the 1300s. 
  • York City Wall Museum is right behind the gardens backing York Minster. The walls are free to walk.
  • The Shambles is the idyllic narrow European street with tons of history, now lined with quaint shops and cafes. 
  • York Castle Museum is very well done, bringing history alive with a recreated Victorian cobblestone street, period rooms and costumed guides. 

On your drive north of York, you can split again into two different scenic routes:

  1. INTERIOR: Follow the edge of interior national parks, like Nidderdale and Yorkshire Dales. Pass by 10 more castles and an abbey.
  2. EAST: Drive through Howardian Hills and North York Moors and along the coast. North York is particularly lovely, with lush valleys covered in woods, ruins, farms and villages. 

I recommend against taking the main highway north of York. Although it’s quick, it was a boring drive. (And I’m quite easy to please.)

Alnwick Castle and Market Town

Near Northumberland Coast is the small village of Alnwick and its magnificent castle made famous by Harry Potter. If you’re a Harry Potter fan, you’ll definitely want to check it out; if not, it’ll still impress you.

Alnwick Castle is the main attraction in Alnwick. It has so much fun for kids, including dressing up in medieval costumes, broom flying lessons and archery. And the elaborate gardens, phenomenal library, and splendid state rooms will definitely leave you impressed. See how many film locations you recognize!

Other great stop ideas in Alnwick include the beautiful Alnwick Gardens and one of the largest used bookstores in England, Barter Books.

Five Castles along Northumberland Coast

Mighty Bamburgh Castle rises from the sandy beach, England

The mighty Bamburgh Castle. Photo credit: jon57 from Pixabay.

Some of the most fascinating castle ruins happen to be along the coast – my favorite place to be! Here are FIVE castles worth visiting while driving through Northumberland Coast, moving from the south to north:  

  • Warkworth Castle (Castle Terrace, Warkworth, Morpeth): Your first stop is this circa-1200 castle ruins atop a hill and its chapel that was carved right out of the cliff rock.
  • Dunstanburgh Castle (Dunstanburgh Rd, Alnwick): Next is another coastal castle ruin from the 1300s, which was once North England’s largest and grandest fortifications. It’s set along the coastal cliffs for stunning views.
  • Bamburgh Castle: Atop a volcanic outcrop overlooking a wide stretch of sandy beach, this is a castle with beautiful halls and state rooms, collections of tapestries and battle-worn armory, and impressive towers, walls and keep to explore.
  • Lindisfarne Castle (Holy Island, Berwick-upon-Tweed): During low tide, you can drive right out to the island with this pretty little castle and walled garden. It was built in the 1500s and has about 10 rooms to explore.
  • Berwick-upon-Tweed Castle: The final castle on the north end of Northumberland Coast is really an historical village surrounded by castle walls. Take a walk along the walls; access the ramparts at the barracks. Sadly, the railway station now stands where the Great Hall once was.

London to Edinburgh Road Trip: Stop Ideas NEAR EDINBURGH

Sheep grazing on green rolling hills of Scotland

Rolling green hills of Scotland. And SHEEP!

As you enter the Scottish Borders, you’ll likely notice a remarkable change in landscape. The rolling hills of England now bunch up into narrow valleys; the vast expanse of fields and shrubs are broken up by Scotland’s thick woods and gurgling brooks … and lined with sheep. Oh, the SHEEP! Scotland was love at first sight.

On your final stretch from London to Edinburgh, explore the interior’s lush valleys and villages before heading to the northeast coast. 

Where to sleep: Glorious Edinburgh!

This final stretch of stop ideas will complete your London to Edinburgh road trip. So, Edinburgh is a fabulous place to stay! 

We stayed near Edinburgh Castle and LOVED this location. It’s very easy to see Edinburgh on foot and by transit. Parking in this area, however, is generally limited to car parks and some streets. If you’re not continuing past Edinburgh, ideally drop off your car before heading to your hotel. 

Here are three very different but all fantastic, highly-rated options for staying near Edinburgh Castle:

  • Queens Guest House (45 Queen St; £75+): An elegant Georgian guesthouse in a great location with fabulous ratings. Includes a full Scottish breakfast and wifi. Parking is …
  • Wilde Aparthotels by Staycity Edinburgh Grassmarket (26 King’s Stables Rd; £120+): A comfortable all-apartment hotel perfect for those who want a kitchen, larger space and fantastic views. It has fantastic views, includes breakfast and wifi, fitness center and hotel terrace. Reduced-rate parking is at a nearby NCP car park, a 2-minute walk away.
  • Tigerlily (125 George St; £250+): A stunning, award-winning and comfortable boutique hotel in a fabulous location. Includes a full breakfast and wifi. Reduced-rate parking is at a nearby NCP car park.

Not interested in these? Check out other great accommodations in Edinburgh!

Floors Castle and Gardens

As you pass into the Scottish Borders, head inland towards some remarkable abbeys. Along the way is … yes, another castle. BUT, this one is rather distinct from others you’ve seen on your drive between London and Edinburgh. 

Floors Castle was built in 1721 and is Scotland’s largest inhabited castle. Its grand entrance courtyard and zillions of roof turrets greet you; the magnificent rooms filled with fine art, porcelain and tapestries intrigue you; and, the Victorian walled gardens, glasshouses and wooded riverside walks restore you. Plus, a cafe, playground, gift shop and events throughout the year, including Sherlock Holmes live theater. Family and pet friendly.

Four Abbeys of the Scottish Borders

Majestic ruins of Melrose Abbey, Scotland

The majestic ruins of Melrose Abbey.

The Scottish Borders has four remarkable abbey ruins. A nice drive from Floors Castle takes you past Kelso Abbey, Jedburgh Abbey, Dryburgh Abbey and Melrose Abbey. Arguably, this sequence also gets you to progressively more impressive ruins.

The elegant ruins of Melrose Abbey stand in the fertile valley of the River Tweed and next to the pretty little village of Melrose. It was built in 1136 and rebuilt in the 1380s after battles during the Middle Ages. Melrose Abbey is considered one of the most impressive examples of medieval church architecture in the UK and is where Robert Bruce asked that his heart be buried (literally).

Climb the narrow steps to the top of one of the abbey’s towers for pretty views, including the sobering graveyard. 

While in the area, another great stop idea just 5 minutes away is Sir Waltor Scott’s Abbotsford House. It was built in the 1800s, and its entrance hall and study are particularly grand.

Rosslyn Chapel and Glen 

Made famous by The Da Vinci Code, the quaint well-preserved Rosslyn Chapel has fascinating, intricate carvings throughout. Rosslyn Chapel was founded in 1446 and still hosts services today. I recommend taking the tour to help explain some of the mysteries surrounding Rosslyn Chapel. 

Note that photos and videos are not allowed inside the chapel.

After visiting Rosslyn Chapel, I highly recommend exploring the haunting ruins along River North Esk valley. The trails along the glen are very pretty, as are Rosslyn Castle and the ruins of Roslin Gunpowder Factory. Look for hidden tunnels and caves! The car park is downhill from Rosslyn Chapel with easy access to the trails. 

North Berwick: Majestic Castle Ruins and GOLF!

Ocean view from Tantallon Castle, Scotland

View from Tantallon Castle. Photo credit: cherry_tree from Pixabay.

North Berwick is a popular area for tourists because of Tantallon Castle, seaside cliffs and beaches. But if you need something other than castles, castles, castles before getting to another picturesque stop, you can golf!

Many highly-rated golf clubs line the shores on your 1-hour drive from Edinburgh to North Berwick. This includes a classic links course at Archerfield Links.

Tantallon Castle’s massive red sandstone walls stand on the cliff’s edge with an unbeatable view of the North Sea. Built in the mid-1300s by William Douglas, you can just imagine the many battles fought on this historic spot in the time of the Red Douglas dynasty and Oliver Cromwell. 

Climb the tall stone towers where nobles lived. Walk its thick walls. Explore the inner buildings. Tantallon Castle is well worth the side trek, and a rather fitting stop idea to end your London to Edinburgh road trip.

Summary and Resources

Whew, this was quite the mega post! I sure hope you found this helpful and found yourself picking and choosing your preferred stop ideas as you read. 

If you found this list a bit exhausting, I’m sorry. I encourage you to PIN or SAVE this post for later, so you can look through it again when you’ve recharged.

Have you already defined the experience you want on your trip? This is the key to focusing – and enjoying – the trip planning process. Your COMPASS. Check out Step 1 of 3: Define Your Perfect Experience.

Here are resources to help you plan your London to Edinburgh road trip:

  • VisitBritain.com: Britain’s tourism site, with tons of helpful information.
  • Lonely Planet guidebooks: My go-to source for great content written by area experts, with lots of off-the-beaten track ideas.
  • Intrepid Travel’s small group tours: I LOVE this travel company, and you have lots of fantastic options for exploring the United Kingdom.
  • Booking.com: A clean, friendly site for finding great accommodations.
  • Trip Advisor reviews: Super helpful site for checking visitor reviews for activities and smaller accommodations not on Booking.com, but also for saving and mapping out your favorite ideas.

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