7-Day Road Trip Itinerary in South West England
There are so many amazing road trip locations in England that it’s easy to overlook one of the best: Bristol and the West Country. Visit Bristol with its quirky neighbourshoods, fall in love with beautiful Bath, and get out into the wilds of Cheddar Gorge and Exmoor. Just a few hours from London, it’s one of the easiest locations to get to from our London roadsurfer station, and the short driving distances mean it’s easy to add in other stops like Oxford, Glastonbury Tor, and Stonehenge.
Author: Serena Rudge
Day 1 – London to Oxford
Since this road trip doesn’t require long driving days, it’s the perfect opportunity to visit Oxford. Pick up your roadsurfer camper and drive to Oxford (1 hour; 46 miles). Park at Thornhill Park & Ride and get a bus into the city.
See and Do
- Climb University Church tower (£5) to orient yourself and take amazing photos of Radcliffe Camera and the famous spires of the skyline, before following a self-guided walking tour (find one online) to make sure you don’t miss out on any of the best places to visit in Oxford.
- Some of the colleges are open to the public (opening times and prices vary but none are too expensive): Magdalen, Balliol, Christchurch, and New College are favourites with visitors. Plant lovers and those looking for some peace and quiet will love the Botanic Gardens.
- If the weather is good, why not go punting on the river? This popular activity can get booked up in high season so if it’s a must-do for you, book ahead.
- Looking for an alternative Oxford? Visit Jericho and the Cowley Road, both lovely areas with excellent food and drink and great boutiques. There’s not much to do in these places, but they’re good for a wonder away from the universities.
Eat and Drink
- The Missing Bean is an Oxford café institution, as is Taylors on the High Street and Vaults & Garden. Society Café and Jericho Coffee Traders are also worth a visit.
- One of the best places to eat is the Covered Market: get a no-frills fry up at Brown’s, try Greek food at Georgia’s or Souvlaki Brothers, or delicious Thai food at Sasi’s Thai. Elsewhere, George Street Social, White Rabbit, and Chiang Mai Kitchen are excellent choices.
- Greenacres campsite in the peaceful countryside east of Oxford
- Oxford camping and caravanning club just to the south of the city
Day 2 – Visit Bristol
On day two of your road trip, drive southwest to Bristol (1 hr 30; 73 miles) and explore one of England’s most individual cities. Bristol is a joy to visit as each area of the city feels truly different: the buzzword here is ‘independent’, with the city prioritising indie traders through its food, culture, and retail scene.
See and Do
- In the city centre, walk around St Nicholas Market for food and indie market stalls, the Christmas Steps Arts Quarter for galleries, pottery studios, and historic pubs, and relax in Queen’s Square with a coffee from nearby Society Café or a stuffed pitta from the Falafel King truck on the harbourside. Climb Cabot Tower in Brandon Hill park for phenomenal views across the countryside.
- Walk around the Harbourside loop where you’ll find Wapping Wharf (recently revamped into a bustling mini-hub of shops and restaurants), Brunel’s SS Great Britain, Banksy’s Girl with the Pearl Earring, and a view of the colourful houses of Cliftonwood.
- Explore one of many neighbourhoods in Bristol: Gloucester Road and Stokes Croft have one of the highest counts of independent shops in Europe, from clothes and coffee to toys and art, while Clifton boasts chic boutiques, the suspension bridge, pretty Clifton Village, and views across the Avon Gorge from the White Lion pub.
- M Shed is a museum dedicated to life in Bristol throughout history and is well worth a visit, especially because it’s free! Another great museum is The Georgian House Museum where you’ll see life was like for a Bristol sugar plantation owner and his servants (the museum also does a lot of decolonisation work).
Eat and Drink
Bristol is a foodie’s paradise, meaning it would be easier to provide a list of places not to go to, since it would be much shorter.
- Full Court Press and Small Street Espresso do stand-out coffee in the city centre, while Chilli Daddy, Eatchu, Pieminister and Eat A Pitta at St Nicolas market all have delicious food.
- For drinks, try Left Handed Giant Brewpub, just opposite Castle Park, or any of the pubs along King Street and Welsh Back. For something different, head to the Grain Barge in Hotwells where the bar, you guessed it, an old boat.
- A little further afield, Café Kino, The Bristolian, and The Crafty Egg are just some of the foodie gems in Stokes Croft; Wapping Wharf is full of independent food outlets; the western half of North Street in Southville is a great road to wander along and stop in at any restaurant that piques your interest.
- Baltic Wharf Campsite is a small site right on the south bank of the Harbourside loop. You’ll need to book well in advance, but if you can snag a spot here you’re right in the heart of the city.
- The Stables provides basic facilities which is reflected in the cheap price, but gets great reviews all round for its cleanliness and friendly owners.
- Bristol Camping is just north of the city on 200 acres of arable farm, and has a bus link to the city centre.
Day 3 – Adventure Activities in Bristol
Bristol is home to plenty of fun activities, so why not spend your second day in the city trying these out? They’re the perfect way to work up an appetite for the food you didn’t get to eat yesterday!
See and Do
- The most unmissable activity we could recommend is a visit to The Wave, Bristol’s inland slice of ocean offering perfect waves for all surf levels. Book coaching or an open session and ride perfect, crystal clear waves like nothing you’ve experienced before. You can even book a spectator day pass that allows you to watch the surfers, eat at the café, and enjoy the grounds of this cutting-edge site.
- Go mountain biking at Aston Court Estate: hire bikes for solo exploration or join a skills course while you wear out your legs and lungs on the gorgeous trails of Ashton Court.
- On a sunny day, go paddleboarding with SUP Bristol and see the city from the water.
- Try axe throwing at Whistle Punks, where the awesome music will set the mood, and the pizza and drinks will keep you fuelled.
Eat and Drink
- Both The wave and Whistle Punks provide you with delicious food, but since there’s no possibility of having run out of places to eat on day 2, pick one of the many places you didn’t get a chance to try out.
Day 4 – Beautiful Bath
For some, Bath is the most beautiful city in England with its Georgian architecture, the glittering River Avon, and sweeping views from the surrounding hills. It’s an easy 40-minute drive, or take the train or bus from Bristol if you’re staying at the same campsite.
See and Do
- The most famous attraction when you visit Bath is the Roman Baths, where you can explore the Roman baths and the ruined temple. While you can’t bathe here, book a 2-hour pass at Thermae Bath Spa for a more modern experience of the healing mineral waters that the Romans were so fond of.
- Nowadays many people are introduced to Bath through the novels of Jane Austen. Visit the Jane Austen Centre and No. 1 Royal Crescent for insights into the famous author and life in Georgian Bath, or take in the grandeur of the Georgian buildings at the Royal Crescent and the Circus.
- Just walking around the city of Bath is enough to take in its glory. Find a walking tour online, and don’t miss Bath Abbey or Pulteney Bridge.
- Head to Alexandra Park for views over the city, or to Prior Park Landscape Garden for beautiful eighteenth-century garden design.
Eat and Drink
Like Bristol, Bath is a treasure trove of cafes and restaurants, as well as some traditional pubs. Don’t be afraid to try anywhere that catches your eye, but to narrow it down here are a few suggestions:
- Society Café, Kekolo Coffee, Cascara, and The Columbian Company are all really good independent cafes, with hot drinks and pastries to eat onsite.
- Yak Yeti Yak is an awesome basement level Nepalese restaurant with huge portions. Visit Mission Burrito for Mexican food and Sotto Sotto for Italian food, and for incredible veggie food try Oak or The Green Rocket which are on either end of the price spectrum. For brunch the best pick is Café Au Lait, near the station.
Great pubs include The Huntsman, The Crystal Palace, and Garrick’s Head, while The Drawing Rooms is a cosy bar with local suppliers. Graze has a microbrewery onsite and plenty of food options.
While staying at your Bristol campsite is completely feasible given the short distance between the two cities, if you’re looking for a change of scenery here are our picks for campsites near Bath:
- Bury View Farm offers clean facilities and a lovely flat camping field on a farm between Bristol and Bath.
- The Blackberries is a 15-minute drive east of Bath, a haven on the edge of the Cotswolds with a woodland feel to the site.
Day 5 – Explore Wells and Cheddar Gorge
Spend some time roaming the streets of medieval Wells, the second-smallest city in England, and then head to the cliffs and caves of Cheddar Gorge. It’s around 45-minutes from either Bath or Bristol.
See and Do
- The tiny medieval city of Wells is given city status by the cathedral that has stood since the thirteenth century. Entrance to the main part of the cathedral is free, although there is a suggested donation amount provided; to see more of this incredible building book a tour in advance. Also worth a visit are the Bishop’s Palace and Gardens, and the quaint Vicars’ Close, thought to be the only complete medieval street remaining in England.
- Cheddar Gorge is a 20-minute drive from Wells where you’ll find a museum of prehistory, a 3-mile clifftop walk, and fantastic exhibitions inside Gough’s cave, a prehistoric site over half a million years old.
Eat and Drink
- The City Arms is a pub situated in the old city prison, where many historic details remain intact. These days the food and drink are so good you’ll be begging them to lock you inside overnight. Alternatively, Twentyone serves yummy locally sourced food.
- Wookey Farm campsite offers basic facilities on their family farm near Wells.
- Petruth Paddocks is the best of Cheddar Gorge camping. It has incredible facilities as well as wood-fired pizza on Fridays and Saturdays in Spring and Summer.
Day 6 – Stretch Your Legs on Exmoor
While Somerset’s towns and cities are hardly urban hubbubs that require a break in nature, it can be nice to change up the city exploration with a hike on Exmoor. The eastern edge is a 90-minute (45 miles) drive from Wells.
- Roadwater & The Coleridge Way – 7 miles (12km), approx. 4 hours
- Dunster Hats wood circuit – 2 miles (3km), approx. 45 mins
- Dunster Circular – 4.3 miles (6km), approx. 2 hours
- Minehead Circular – 6 miles (10km), approx. 3.5 hours
Eat and Drink
- Dunster has some good pubs and restaurants to refuel after a walk. Try Reeves, Castle Coffee House, or The Stag’s Head Inn
- Exmoor camping offers unspoilt moorland for a night under the stars. Allercott Farm and Halse Farm have pitches on working farms in the countryside, while Minehead Camping and Caravanning gets you a spot near the beach.
Day 7 – Drive Back to London With a stop Along the Way Either Glastonbury, Frome, Bradford on Avon, or Stonehenge
Just because it’s the last day doesn’t mean you have to spend it driving, thanks to the easy drive from the Bristol area to London: we’ve put together a list of places to pick from on your way back. From the village of Dunster, the drive to London is 3hrs 10, or 3hrs 30 if you go via Stonehenge.
Final Day Stops
- If hippie and spiritual vibes appeal , Glastonbury cannot be missed. The small town is home to a plethora of health food shops and cafes, esoteric shops full of books and crystals, and a Goddess Temple. Climb Glastonbury Tor if your legs aren’t tired from yesterday for a view of the town from above.
- Visit Frome for a charming stop in one of England’s most beautiful market towns. There are markets galore, and speciality shops and galleries for last-minute foodie souvenirs.
Bradford on Avon is the perfect place to fill up your camera roll with its golden buildings, iconic bridge, and Saxon church and Tithe Barn.
- If you can book ahead, visit Stonehenge as it isn’t too much of a detour on your route back to London. The famous historic site needs little introduction; if it’s on your bucket list, you can walk relatively close to the stones without booking tickets (although you cannot go into the site).
The slice of England found around Bristol makes the perfect seven-day camping holiday filled with food, history, and exploration. After a week in this area you’ll be sure to return home rested and relaxed, full of food, artsy inspiration, and perhaps a hankering to watch a period drama after so much gorgeous architecture… Whatever you’re looking for from a road trip, we know you’ll find it when you visit Bristol and the stunning locations nearby.