Bath, Bristol, the Cotswolds and beyond offer some of the best places to visit in South West England and are the ideal destinations for an epic road trip. From magnificent cities to charming villages and breathtaking countryside, the regions of Bath, Bristol, the Cotswolds and beyond enchant with awe-inspiring landscapes and spectacular scenery.
This epic road trip explores the splendid city of Oxford, the enchanting hills of the Cotswolds, the striking architecture of Bath, the eclectic soul of Bristol, the rocky peaks of the Mendip Hills and the medieval towns of Wells and Glastonbury. Throughout this tour, you’ll find an enchanting escape to the splendour and charm of the South West region.
For this road trip, I would recommend spending 7 or more days exploring Bath, Bristol, the Cotswolds and beyond. However, if you’re pressed for time, you can select a few stops and tailor this itinerary to suit your needs. You can start this road trip from London or anywhere else in the UK.
Day 1: Oxford
Located 1 ½ hours from London, Oxford is one of the top places to visit in the UK and the first stop of this road trip itinerary. Known worldwide for its prestigious university, the city of Oxford boasts striking medieval architecture. Comprising 38 colleges, Oxford University was built in the 12th century and takes centre stage in the city centre. If you have the time, stay two days in Oxford.
You can easily get lost exploring Oxford University. The key landmarks to visit are the Bodleian Libraries, the Radcliff Camera, the Bridge of Sighs, the Church of St Mary the Virgin, Tom Tower, Christ Church College, Magdalen College, All Souls College, Trinity College, any other college that takes your fancy and the university parks.
The city of Oxford also enjoys a bustling high street, a Norman castle, a Victorian memorial, an 18th century covered market and a 17th century botanical garden. The River Thames runs through the city and adds charm to the enchanting centre. You can enjoy the river by walking along the path or by punting.
Day 2 & 3: The Cotswolds
Stretching from Oxford in the east to Stratford-on-Avon in the north, Cheltenham in the west and Bath in south, the Cotswolds are renowned for their picturesque villages, bountiful rolling hills and enchanting valleys. The top attractions to explore on this tour are the chocolate-box villages with their quaint honey-coloured cottages and the beautiful Cotswold countryside.
I would recommend spending the first day of this road trip stop in the North Cotswolds visiting picturesque villages. Then, spend the second day in the south, exploring more villages and enjoying the charming countryside. If you have the time, stay an extra day in the Cotswolds, especially if you enjoy walking.
The Cotswolds feature a plethora of quaint villages; you simply won’t have time to visit them all. The key Cotswold villages to visit in the north are Chipping Campden, Broadway, Snowshill, Stanton, Stow-on-the-Wold, Lower Slaughter, Burford and Bibury. On your drive south, stop in Painswick near Stroud as well as Badminton and Castle Combe. Find out more with the Cotswold travel guides.
An Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), the Cotswolds are a delight to explore on foot. From rolling hills criss-crossed by ancient stone walls to captivating valleys with lush woodland, the Cotswolds boast countless footpaths. From the Bisley-with-Lypiatt walk to the Coaley Peak & Selsley Common walk and the Badminton walk, escape to this beautiful region with the Cotswold walk guides.
Day 4: Bath
Bath is another top place to visit in the UK and the third stop of this road trip itinerary. Known worldwide for its hot thermal springs, the city of Bath has attracted countless settlers across the centuries. Crowned a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the spa city offers Roman and medieval landmarks, magnificent Georgian architecture, striking golden limestone, and at its doorstep, the beautiful Cotswold countryside. If you have the time, stay two days in Bath.
The heart of Bath is filled with wonders just waiting to be explored, from the Roman Baths to Bath Abbey, Milsom Street, the Royal Crescent, the Circus, Pulteney Bridge and Great Pulteney Street. Wandering through the streets of Bath, you’ll feel like you’ve stepped back in time and into one of Jane Austen’s novels.
If you wish to explore the spa city further, you can also discover Bath’s hidden gems. From the Royal Victoria Park to the Kennet & Avon canal, Walcot Village, Prior Park, Alexandra Park and the Bath Skyline trail, you’ll rapidly fall in love with this beautiful golden city. Find out more with the Bath self-guided walking tour and the Bath city guides.
Day 5: Bristol
Vibrant, diverse and multi-faceted, Bristol is the capital of South West England and one of the top travel destinations in the UK. Renowned for the spectacular Clifton Suspension Bridge and Banksy‘s legendary graffiti art, Bristol is both a historic and a cultural city. From striking Georgian architecture to eye-catching colourful houses, remarkable street art and delightful independent shops, Bristol offers an escape for everyone. If you have the time, stay an extra day in Bristol.
The city of Bristol has many eclectic neighbourhoods just waiting to be explored. The stunning Old City enjoys cobbled streets and striking architecture, and is best explored by getting lost. Stokes Croft is one of Bristol’s most vibrant neighbourhoods and is filled with colourful murals. Starting at College Green, Park Street features a variety of fashion shops, vintage boutiques, delicious cafés and trendy bars.
Boasting the Clifton Suspension Bridge and filled with splendid 18th century terraced houses, Clifton Village is a peaceful neighbourhood and a marvel to discover. Last but not least, Bristol’s charming harbour features a tranquil waterfront, a delightful riverside path and lovely views of Hotwells’ colourful houses. Explore this vibrant city with the Best of Bristol city guide.
Day 6: The Mendip Hills
Designated an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), the Mendip Hills boast rocky peaks, breathtaking scenery and stunning walks. Enjoying remarkable views of the Somerset Levels, the Bristol Channel, North Devon and South Wales, the Mendips are best explored on foot. From Crook Peak to Ebbor Gorge and Black Down, discover breathtaking walks in the Mendip Hills and Somerset.
One of South West England’s top attractions and a must-see on this tour, Cheddar Gorge is the largest gorge in England and is truly a feast for the eyes. Located in the Mendip Hills, the spectacular gorge offers arresting limestone cliffs, a breathtaking walk along the cliff edge and fantastic views of the Somerset countryside. Find out more with the Cheddar Gorge guide.
Day 7: Wells & Glastonbury
Located south of the Mendip Hills, the medieval city of Wells offers a serene escape to striking architecture and charming British quintessence. The city’s top attractions include the majestic Wells cathedral, the enchanting Vicars’ Close (the most charming street in England), the delightful gardens of the Bishop’s Palace and quaint market town streets. Discover the medieval city with the Wells guide.
One of Somerset’s key landmarks and a top place to visit on this road trip, Glastonbury Tor can be spotted from the Mendip Hills. Set atop a conical hill in the heart of Somerset, the 14th century tower enjoys splendid views of the medieval town of Glastonbury and the Somerset Levels. The town of Glastonbury also offers stunning medieval architecture and country charm, from Glastonbury Abbey to the Chalice Well.