A Road Trip through Southern England
If you picture a warm summer trip, Southern England likely isn’t the first place that will come to your mind. Stereotypes about dark, gray, and rainy England are still alive and well, but we’ll show you why they’re completely unfair.
During summer, especially thanks to its long coastline, Southern England offers everything the heart desires. There are many small towns that you can either stay in for a longer period or stop in on a road trip. Long beaches and wonderful blue seawater will make you want to dive right in.
In addition to that, there are plenty of sights, hiking trails, and various food options. A day trip to London is also quite easy. Are you curious yet? Let Southern England enchant you.
Southern England’s geography and history
England is divided into three regions: the North, the Midlands, and the South. The Northern part is known as the area where industrialization began, one of the most significant events in the country’s recent history. Liverpool, Leeds, and Manchester are the major cities in this region.
The Midlands stretch out in between Northern and Southern England and were long known for coal production. The agglomeration area lay north and east of Birmingham and was called Black Country. Apart from Birmingham, Leicester and Nottingham are also worth a visit.
Mostly untouched by industrialization, Southern England can be defined as the country’s gem. Beautiful sandy beaches and many towns make the region particularly charming in the summer. In terms of the economy, Southern England is considered to be wealthier than the rest of the country, though politicians are working hard to level out differences.
How to get there
You can easily reach Southern England by plane or by ferry boat or by train through the Euro tunnel if you’re traveling from Continental Europe. The latter options will allow you to bring your car so that nothing stands in the way of a road trip through Southern England.
Southern England offers a variety of big cities and smaller towns that you can visit. Amongst these, you’ll find the many coastal towns and fishing villages.
There are many coastal towns in Southern England, since it is surrounded by the sea. You probably already know some of the most famous ones, but we still have some hidden gems that will probably fascinate you even more.
Brighton – Southern England’s cultural highlight
Brighton lists amongst the most famous coastal towns, and for good reason. Apart from offering plenty of opportunities to enjoy the beach and sea and to go swimming, the town also has a wide range of cultural highlights. Various museums will invite you to enjoy and explore, and the famous Royal Pavilion will definitely leave you speechless.
Just to be clear, Brighton, by no means, is an outdated place no longer in step with the times. On the contrary, with its many bars and cafés, the city is considered to be very up-to-date ; it is a popular destination for Londoners as well.
The landscape around the city is particularly beautiful. Trips to South Downs National Park and the nearby towns of Lewes and Rottingdean are a must on your to-do list!
Weymouth – a hidden gem
Weymouth has an excellent location, right by the sea and easily accessible from Europe via the English Channel. It is also not too far from London, so a day trip to the metropolis is a must if you’re in Weymouth.
In addition to that, the town offers a huge sand beach where you can enjoy the sun and go for a swim in the summer. On the beach promenade, you’ll find many stands with delicious snacks and the famous Jubilee Clock of Queen Victoria. When the sky is clear, it is also worth it to get a ticket for the Jurassic Skyline Tower, a modern observation tower that gives you a panoramic view over the city.
If you’re into small colorful houses, nested narrow streets, and harbors, you will get your money’s worth in Weymouth. Cross the city bridge coming from the beach, and you’ll reach the romantic part of the town. This is where fish festivals take place during the summer, and within a few minutes’ walk, you’ll get to some wide meadows overlooking the sea. We recommend that you enjoy the view of the colorful houses by the harbor during sunset while savoring a portion of fish & chips.
As for cultural entertainment, the region of Weymouth has a lot to offer: the Isle of Portland is a popular destination where you can admire the beautiful ruins of an ancient castle and visit Durdle Door, a monumental stone arch right by the sea. Be sure to bring your swimsuit along to enjoy a swim!
Polperro – a village out of a story book
Narrow streets, cute houses, and all that near the coast. You’re approaching the southernmost tip of England and reaching Polperro. Polperro is a small village that seems to be out of a picture book. You’ll fall in love with the path on the southwest coast, the harbor, and Headlands Walk, too.
Nature here is simply unique and charming. The landscape around the village is pretty hilly, so be sure to take advantage of that for a hike. The view from the top over the bay is amazing. Even the small fishing village with its pretty houses will also make you want to linger. Three Pilchards Inn is a popular stop with tasty food; it is considered the oldest pub in town.
If you’re traveling with a bigger group, we recommend you stay in one of the stunning cottages. Here, you’ll experience England’s charm and wonderful landscape. Fowey, Looe, and Mousehole are villages with a similar vibe.
St. Ives – action, please!
Do you love surfing? Then off you go to St. Ives. Porthmeor Beach right in St. Ives’ bay is the most popular spot for all surf lovers. The good thing is that you’ll find several surf schools right there, so you’ll be able to stop by and start learning how to surf even if you have no previous experience. What if you discover a new passion?
Apart from water sports, it is mainly art that makes St. Ives famous. The town is home to many galleries, clubs, and art schools; it is very popular in the international art scene. The reason? The light. Apparently, it is particularly beautiful and sensuous in St. Ives, just perfect to inspire creative minds from all over the world. Since this has been the town’s reputation for over 200 years, there must be something to it.
Rye – the old English gem
Rye is a small town in the county of East Sussex. Its medieval flair with well-preserved stone houses invites you to relax and explore. Besides the beautiful architecture, bustling cobblestone streets, and the spectacular view, you will also find other highlights like the surrounding landscape and especially Mermaid Street. It is known throughout England and looks just magical. Maybe you’ll manage to get hold of a room at The Mermaid Inn, a small inn of only 31 rooms.
If you want to learn more about the town’s impressive history, go visit the Rye Castle Museum. Be sure to stop by the Ypres Tower, too! It was built by King Henry III. Rye is close to the coast as well, and therefore, apart from culture, history, and beautiful nature, it also has a big beach and some water sports opportunities to offer.
Major Cities in Southern England
Apart from the coastal towns in Southern England, some typical old English villages and a few major cities are also worth a trip.
London – the capital
England’s world-famous capital is also in the south. So, if you’re planning your vacation in Southern England, definitely take a trip to the metropolis as well. The city is always worth a visit. You can expect countless sights and attractions, culture, variegated cuisine, and exciting nightlife. Famous places like Tower Bridge, London Eye, or Buckingham Palace are, of course, the ultimate tourist hotspots.
Nevertheless, they are worth a visit, at least on your first trip to the city. If you want to see the Royal Family, plan your visit in June. Every year Trooping the Colour takes place, a military parade to honor the Queen’s birthday. But don’t forget to bring sunscreen! If you’re standing in front of Buckingham Palace for several hours in the middle of summer, even gray London can give you a severe sunburn.
Culturally speaking, particularly West End and the Globe Theatre are interesting. The former is the city’s theater district, the little Broadway, so to speak. The Globe Theatre is the architectural masterpiece that’s associated with Shakespeare and where you can still watch his plays to this day. As for food, in London, you will find anything your heart desires. The city has been influenced by big immigration streams in the beginning of the 20th century, providing you with a delicious and extensive selection of dishes from all over the world.
Oxford – the city of dreaming spires
Oxford is more than just a university, even though we recommend seeing it. The city is close to the border to the Midlands, but still counts as part of Southern England. Because of the university, Oxford is a young and lively city – quite the opposite of its architecture.
Actually, the university is divided into 38 colleges, spread throughout the entire old town; that gave the city the nickname “city of dreaming spires”. We absolutely recommend a tour through the university and the library; it will take your breath away. Book lovers won’t want to leave anymore, so if you’re one of them, be prepared and bring some tissues in case you get overwhelmed by the pain of parting.
Here’s another insider’s tip: The sunny side of Oxford, better known as Cowley Road, is a cute narrow street that is a must-see. Café Coco and the Kazbar offer a delicious selection of food and drinks, ranging from English breakfast to tapas to refreshing cocktails. You will find everything your heart desires here.
Southern England is everything but gray and dull. From beaches, water sports, and small coastal towns to breathtaking landscapes, historical sites, and culture, Southern England offers everything that makes a good vacation. Getting there is easy, and you can stay at hotels, guesthouses, or vacation rentals.
Southern England is worth visiting, especially during summer, since at that time, you can also really enjoy the sea and the beaches. Add a couple trips to the major cities, London and Oxford, to your itinerary as well, you’ll find exciting sights and a variegated, good cuisine.