Escaping London: 10 Of The Best Scenic Drives From England’s Capital

Let’s face it; London is a city that always feels on. On your nerves, on the brink of, on edge…

Indeed, whether you’re on the receiving end of your fellow passengers’ chagrin for fumbling your oyster card at the station entrance, or you’re queuing in the pissing rain for Clapton’s latest biodynamic wine hangout, London can feel like a bit of struggle from day-to-day.

But if the constant hum of the city has left you yearning for a bit of tranquility and the open road, then fear not; if you’re looking to escape the urban jungle for a day or two, we’ve got you covered. Here are 10 of the most scenic drives from England’s capital that promise a refreshing change of scenery and a breath of fresh country air.

London to the Cotswolds

The Cotswolds, with its honey-coloured stone cottages and rolling hills, is about as quintessentially English – and tranquil – as it comes. A two-hour drive from London, this Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty offers a picturesque journey through charming villages like Bourton-on-the-Water and Stow-on-the-Wold. 

Consider taking a short detour and stopping by the historic city of Bath on your way back to London. What a golden-hued weekend away that would be!

Take the M40 and A40 for a smooth journey to the Cotswolds, covering approximately 100 miles in about 2 hours.

London to Brighton

A classic British road trip, the drive from London to Brighton is a delightful mix of city, coast, and countryside. The route takes you through the South Downs National Park, offering panoramic views of the English Channel. 

Once in Brighton, enjoy the vibrant seaside town with its famous pier, eclectic shops, and pebbled beach. Oh, and check out the city’s revered restaurant scene while you’re here.

To remain in keeping with the famed green credentials of the city, it’s worth noting that some short-term car leasing companies, like Flexed, offer eco-friendly vehicle hire options, perfectly suited for a compact, fuss-free road trip.

The A23 leads you straight to Brighton, a journey of around 54 miles that typically takes just under 2 hours.

London to the New Forest

Escape to the wild with a drive to Hampshire’s New Forest, a two-hour journey from London. This ancient woodland, once a royal hunting ground, is now a haven for nature lovers. With free-roaming ponies, deer, and a whole host of walking and cycling trails both comfortable and challenging, it’s the perfect place to reconnect with nature and forget the hustle and bustle of the Big smoke for a while.

The quickest route to the New Forest is via the M3, a journey of about 90 miles that should take around 2 hours.

London to Cambridge

A drive from London to Cambridge offers a journey through England’s academic heartland. The route takes you through the charming countryside of Cambridgeshire, with its quaint villages and traditional pubs. Once in Cambridge, explore the historic university, punt on the River Cam, and enjoy a leisurely stroll around the city’s beautiful gardens.

The quickest route to the New Forest is via the M3, a journey of about 90 miles that should take around 2 hours.

Read: 10 of the very cosiest autumnal breaks the UK has to offer

London to the Jurassic Coast

For a longer drive, head to the Jurassic Coast, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This 95-mile stretch of coastline offers dramatic cliffs, hidden coves, and fossil-studded beaches. The route to the coast takes you through the heart of the English countryside, with stops at Stonehenge and the cathedral city of Salisbury.

Take the A303 and A31 for the most scenic route. It should get you there in around 3 and a half hours.

London to Oxford

A trip from London to Oxford is a journey into the heart of academia. The ‘City of Dreaming Spires’ is just an hour and a half drive from the capital. Oxford is renowned for its prestigious university and stunning architecture. Wander around the historic colleges, visit the Bodleian Library and its surrounding restaurants, and enjoy a pint or two in one of the city’s traditional pubs.

Take the M40 and A40, and expect to arrive in Oxford in around two hours.

London to Stratford-upon-Avon

Immerse yourself in the world of the Bard with a drive to Stratford-upon-Avon, the birthplace of William Shakespeare. This charming market town, nestled in the heart of the countryside, is a three-hour drive from London. Visit Shakespeare’s birthplace, Anne Hathaway’s cottage, check out Stratford-upon-Avon’s up and coming dining scene, and enjoy a performance at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre.

Take the M40 and head north west for around 100 miles. This one takes roughly 2 and a half hours.

London to the Lake District

For a longer getaway, consider a drive to the Lake District. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is about a five-hour drive from London but is well worth the journey. The region boasts stunning lakes, rugged mountains, and charming villages. It’s a paradise for walkers, with trails to suit all abilities.

Via the M6, London to the Lake District takes around 5 hours to drive, clocking up just under 300 miles in the process.

London to Rye

For a shorter drive, head to the medieval town of Rye in East Sussex. Just a couple of hours from London, Rye is known for its cobbled streets, historic buildings, and stunning views over Romney Marsh and the English Channel. Don’t miss a visit to Rye Harbour Nature Reserve, a haven for wildlife.

Head northeast along the M20 for 75 or so miles. Expect to arrive in Rye within 2 and a half hours.

London to the Norfolk Broads

The Norfolk Broads, a network of navigable rivers and lakes, offer a unique escape from the city. About a three-hour drive from London, the Broads are a haven for boating enthusiasts. Hire a day boat or a traditional Norfolk wherry and explore the waterways at your leisure.

Or, for a more expansive, all-encompassing adventure, check out our guide to the UK’s longest road trip. First one to John o’Groats is the winner!

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