Do you want to explore the UK, but prefer not to drive? Here is one of our choices of the best 10 day UK itinerary, letting someone else do the driving. With the UK being a collection of relatively small islands, it’s well served by public transport options. So whether your preferences are big cities, historic sites or seeing these green and pleasant lands, you can rely on seeing them without having to drive.
- 1 10 Day UK Itinerary
- 2 London, Stonehenge, Cardiff and Beyond
- 3 Bristol and Regency Bath
- 4 Cardiff and The Celtic Connection
- 5 Birmingham: Heart of England
- 6 Returning To London
- 7 Public Transport In The UK
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10 Day UK Itinerary
I’m not pretending that you can see all the UK has to offer within 10 days. But we previously tried to show you the best in our 10 day UK trip itinerary collection, where we gave you five choices (plus a sneaky bonus) to make the most of your time). One of our readers (hi Linnea) asked about options for non driving trips. I can see the attraction of not having to tussle with the new challenge of driving on the left. And even if you are well used to that (hello Australia, Japan and others), there’s merit in being able to keep your eyes on the scenery, not the road.
In our original selection, two of the itineraries given would lend themselves to taking public transport. The Celtic Connection covering the capital cities of the United Kingdom – London, Edinburgh, Cardiff and Belfast – works well without a hire car. As do the day tripping options from London. But I thought you might like more choices. So here is an additional option for your 10 day UK itinerary by public transport. It covers a journey from London to Cardiff, returning to London via Birmingham.
London, Stonehenge, Cardiff and Beyond
Eager to immerse yourself in history and see some of the best sites on your trip? This itinerary takes you to some of the most famous places the UK has to offer, with a few bonus extras. For this trip, you’ll fly in and out of London, with some time there at the beginning and end of your trip to enjoy your highlights of this incredible city.
- Day 1-2 London
- Day 3-4 Salisbury
- Day 5-6 Bristol
- Day 7-8 Cardiff
- Day 9 Birmingham
- Day 10 London
We’ve set out a recommended 4 day London itinerary before, and I suggest you pick your highlights from those choices. If you’ve visited London before and seen many of the key places, I’d highly recommend taking yourself to either Marylebone or Greenwich and exploring thoroughly.
When are you planning to visit?: When’s The Best Time To Visit The UK?
Salisbury And Stonehenge
On the morning of Day 3, take the train from London Waterloo to Salisbury, which is a journey of 1.5 hours. Stay here for two nights. This means that you’ll have plenty of time to drop off your bags and explore.
Salisbury Cathedral and Old Sarum
The magical Salisbury cathedral, which I once saw rising from the mist like a spectacular dream, is well worth your time. Supposedly the site was chosen by the firing of an arrow from the hilltop at Old Sarum, although at 1.9 miles distant, that was some feat of archery, Here you’ll find one of the 4 copies of the Magna Carta, dating back to 1215. The world’s oldest working mechanical clock is here too. If you are feeling fit, take the 332 steps to the foot of the tallest spire in England for magnificent views of both the inside and outside of the cathedral. Please note that if you are taking the Stonehenge Tour with Salisbury Reds tomorrow, the cost of entry to the cathedral can be included as an option that day.
With five diverted rivers in the city, expect plenty of waterside walking through the public gardens. Check out Queen Elizabeth Gardens and the Town Path. You’ll find a local market on Tuesdays and Saturdays, and a big selection of galleries open all week, showing the arty nature of the city. Stop off at Salisbury Museum, in the Grade I listed King’s House. You’ll find many suggestions for dining and things to do at the Visit Wiltshire website.
Stonehenge UNESCO World Heritage Site
Not far from Salisbury, you will find the majestic prehistoric stone circle that is Stonehenge. Believed to be constructed some time between 3000-2000 BC, the site consists of a ring of standing stones in the midst of Neolithic and Bronze Age monuments. This UNESCO site can be visited without hiring a car. From Salisbury, a tour is run by Salisbury Reds. This hop-on hop-off service picks up from the rail station or a bus stand in the city centre. It calls at Stonehenge and Old Sarum, both of which are managed by English Heritage.
You have a second night to enjoy Salisbury.
Bristol and Regency Bath
Take the train from Salisbury to Bristol Temple Meads Station today. You’ll be staying here for two nights. With the journey from Salisbury taking just over an hour on the fastest train, you’ll have plenty of time to enjoy vibrant, bustling Bristol. Temple Meads Station itself was designed by the famous engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel. It formed the terminus of the Great Western Railway from London Paddington, and soon linked to other parts of the emerging rail network. Voted one of Britain’s top ten rail stations, the vast halls of Temple Meads help to remind us of the adventure and romance of travel by rail.
Exploring The City Of Bristol
On this fifth day of the trip, you have time to explore the city of Bristol. You’ll not be short of things to see and do here; in fact I have family connections to the city and have barely scratched the surface on my many visits. I’d wholeheartedly recommend time on board Brunel’s SS Great Britain, the world’s first ocean liner and part of the dockside landscape. It’s one of Britain’s top ten museums.
There’s more Brunel. The man had serious talent. The Clifton Suspension Bridge pictured above is a breathtaking wander across the Avon Gorge, and as spectacular viewed from below as on the bridge. There are volunteer guides (not every day) and a visitor centre on the Somerset side of the bridge. Take in Clifton itself, the elegant neighbourhood filled with unique shops, coffee houses and brightly coloured architecture.
Then there’s Watershed Media Centre, the wonderfully named We The Curious which does all things science, and Aerospace Bristol at Filton for Concorde and more. Bristol is also one of the UK’s great music cities, so try and catch a gig if you can.
A Day In Regency Bath
After you’ve caught your breath from the whirlwind that is Bristol. it’s time to move at a more sedate and contemplative speed in Regency Bath. It will take you around 15 minutes to take the train from Bristol Temple Meads to Bath Spa.
If you’ve ever read Jane Austen’s novels, this is her turf, or rather her manicured lawn: a place of elegant terraces, tea dances, spas and gracious living. Bath was built to chill. Everyone from the Romans to the Regency court loved the spa waters and the elegance of the city. This is the only British city designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. From spas to independent shops and crafting, today is your feelgood day.
Take a stroll along the glorious Royal Crescent, designed by John Wood the Younger, and built between 1767-1775. It is noted as one of the best examples of Georgian architecture in England. There are 30 terraced houses arranged around a lawn overlooking Royal Victoria Park. The Crescent has a ha-ha or ditch, originally designed to keep grazing animals away from those manicured lawns.
The Roman Baths themselves were created in around 70AD. This is where your average centurion came to bathe and socialise. The site is one of the best preserved Roman remains in the world, still powered daily by more than a million litres of spring water reaching 46 degrees C.
There’s an interactive museum here, and you can explore the changing rooms and plunge pools from 2000 years ago. Visit the Pump Room for a taste of the spa water, possibly followed by afternoon tea. And if you are visiting in the summer months, you can see the magical spectacle of the baths illuminated by torchlight in the evening. You could even book yourself into the Thermae Bath Spa to experience the waters at first hand.
Cardiff and The Celtic Connection
On the morning of Day 7 take the train from Bristol Temple Meads to Cardiff Central, a journey of just under an hour. Cardiff, the Welsh capital, is a city of bays and waterfronts, castle heritage, plus ornate and historic shopping arcades. You will be staying in Cardiff for 2 nights on this 10 day UK itinerary.
On your first day in Cardiff, I recommend taking the Centenary Walk. There’s an excellent map and guide at the link. Seldom has so much been packed into 2.3 miles. And there’s plenty of time to stop off at the places that interest you along the way. Here you’ll spot everything from the city’s oldest inn to the streets of the medieval settlement and the old town gates. There’s homage to rugby (Cardiff Arms Park) and football (Millennium Stadium) stone animals, arcades and the magnificent Cardiff Castle. In short, it’s a brilliant introduction to everything Cardiff.
If you’ve not been distracted during your walk and have time left, then I suggest you head for Cardiff Bay. Here you could visit the seat of Welsh power in the National Assembly, head to the Millennium Centre for a show, or stroll around the bay to Penarth Marina and get a water taxi back. If you have smaller travellers with you, check out the shipwreck playground near the Marina.
Your second day in Cardiff gives you more time to stop off at the great places you discovered on Day 7. You might want more time in the elegant shopping arcades searching for hand made woollen crafts. Or take a tour of Cardiff Castle; the inside is to my mind even more magnificent than the outside. Don’t forget to look up at the incredible ceilings. If you’re planning your trip, you might want to check out the Castle’s accommodation too. It’s a splurge, but a jaw-droppingly beautiful one.
Explore Cardiff More or Head Further Afield?
Your second day in Cardiff could also see you day tripping deeper into Wales. Just over an hour on the train will take you to Swansea. Here there’s space for adventures from coasteering to surfing and paddle boarding. Fancy something a little less active? You’ll find the Dylan Thomas centre here, commemorating the Welsh playwright and poet, Or experience a traditional Welsh choir with the Dunvant Male Choir.
Birmingham: Heart of England
Day 9 sees you take the two hour rail journey from Cardiff Central to Birmingham New Street. Birmingham, England’s second city is an unexpected treasure of Victorian architecture. Drop your bags and head off to your choice of Birmingham attractions. A short stroll from New Street station, you’ll find the elegant Museum and Art Gallery. It’s stuffed with Pre-Raphaelite paintings, the Staffordshire hoard of Saxon gold and a fine Victorian tea room. Head across the square to the incredible Library of Birmingham. Here you’ll find a top floor paneled room devoted to William Shakespeare, a secret garden, and lifts that have plenty to say.
Ready to shop? You’ll find an eclectic selection from the art shops and manga of Corporation Street through to high end chains and beyond in Grand Central, the Bullring and the Mailbox. Want something more unusual? Walk past Moor Street Station to the Custard Factory. Orignally home to the culininary staple that is custard powder, it’s now a trove of vintage and retro finds.
Want to find somewhere truly unexpected? The author J.R.R. Tolkien took inspiration for The Shire from Sarehole Mill and the surrounding area, now known as the Shire Country Park. Visit on a summer day, and you’ll hear twigs crack under your feet amidst the rustle of leaves and birdsong. The 1 million inhabitants of Birmingham have just slipped away for a while.
Returning To London
Day 10 sees you leave Birmingham for London. It’s a 1.5 hour journey from Birmingham New Street to London Euston. So that means there’s plenty of time to do a little last minute sightseeing before you head home.
Public Transport In The UK
The United Kingdom is well served by public transport links across the country. You’ll find a rail network with both local and long-distance services, plus a choice of local or intercity buses. We even have a few trams or streetcars.
As a regular user of these services, I can tell you that I normally find them comfortable, on time and clean. You may have heard that these services are expensive. That can be the case, but if you are able to plan and where possible book in advance, then you’ll find the cost considerably cheaper. We’ve taken a look at cheap public transport in the UK here. Follow that link to find options to save you money, whether it’s by booking early, using railcards or even the legitimate practice of split ticketing (buying shorter distance tickets to cover your whole journey), we’ve done our best for your travel budget. Enjoy your 10 day UK itinerary by public transport. It’s a great way to see plenty of what this beautiful country has to offer.
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