Scenic Stops for a Road Trip
Travelling to visit family, friends or just to get away from it all this Christmas season?
Some our our historic sites near main roads and motorways make an excellent alternative to motorway service stations.
Escape the rush of traffic, stretch your legs, avoid the queues for the loos - stop off to explore England's story instead.
London, East of England and South East
Audley End House and Gardens
1 mile west of Saffron Walden on B1383, junction 8 or 10 of the M11 Wander the tranquil gardens created by 'Capability' Brown, enjoy stunning views across the unspoilt Essex countryside, and see the horses in the Victorian stable yard.
Entrance on the A258, travelling via the A2 From the secret tunnels to the Great Towers (and loads in between) Dover Castle sits at the top of an 80 acre site which is crying out to be explored.
Home of Charles Darwin, Down House
6 miles from junction 4 of the M25 Discover the family home of Charles Darwin - from his recreated bedroom to the study where he wrote his revolutionary theories (and the garden where he tested them) it's a fascinating site.
10 miles from Bedford, 6 miles from junction 12 of the M1 Explore the evolution of the English garden with a stroll through three centuries of landscape design or discover hidden treasures in the archaeological stores.
Lullingstone Roman Villa
0.5 miles SW of Eynsford, off junction 3 of the M25 Lullingstone is an incredible example of a Roman villa, with mosaics, a bath-suite and more. Perfect in all weathers! There isn't a cafe, but hot and cold drinks (and snacks) are available.
10 miles from Salisbury on A360 This iconic site is definitely worth a detour. After exploring Stonehenge's history in the visitor centre, if you're sick of sitting down you can skip the free shuttle bus and walk to or from the monument.
1.5 miles N of Lostwithiel, off A390. 6 miles from A38/A30 junction Explore the great circular keep of Restormel Castle as you head into Cornwall. It is fantastic for having a picnic - and the shop sells hot drinks and snacks.
0.5 miles south-west of Okehampton town centre. The remains of the largest castle in Devon is reputedly haunted, but definitely a lovely spot for picnics and wildlife walks in the woods or by the river. A small shop sells hot drinks and snacks.
West Midlands and Cheshire
12 miles from M53 (Chester) via A41 Beeston Castle is famous for its incredible views - on a clear day you can see all the way from the Pennines to the Welsh mountains. The Sandstone Café (outdoor seating) does a great bacon roll.
Off A46, 12 miles from M40 via Warwick Bypass Stretch your legs with a climb to the very top of Leicester's Tower, plus discover the history of the castle in the Gatehouse and Stables Exhibitions. You'll find the tearoom in the old stables.
11 miles from M5 Tewkesbury via A46 and B4077 Founded by the Earl of Cornwall in thanks for surviving a shipwreck, Hailes housed a renowned relic, ‘the Holy Blood of Hailes’. The new museum (opening this summer) tells its story.
6 miles from the end of the M50 via A40 Standing in open countryside above the River Wye, Goodrich Castle is one of the finest and best preserved of all English medieval castles. After you've taken in the view, refresh yourself in the tearoom.
10 miles NW of Worcester on A443, 12 miles from junction 6 of the M5 Discover the dramatic ruins of Witley Court, the newly restored Perseus and Andromeda fountain in the gardens and tales of lavish parties.
North East and Yorkshire
Belsay Hall, Castle and Gardens
14 miles NW of Newcastle on the A696 With its unique combination of Grecian architecture, medieval castle, and spectacular gardens there's plenty of space to stretch your legs at Belsay, and the Victorian tearoom to refuel yourself.
5 miles NW of Doncaster, off the A635 from junction 37 of the A1(M) Wander around the grounds and gardens of this beautiful Victorian country house, treat yourself in the tearoom, and let the kids burn off some energy in the play area.
6 miles east of Chesterfield, 3 miles from junction 29a of the M1 Once you've explored the castle, gardens and Riding School, relax in the cafe while the kids enjoy the outdoor play area's swings, slide and wooden 'battlements' and towers.
Thornton Abbey and Gatehouse
7 miles SE of the Humber Bridge, near to A15 Thornton Abbey’s enormous and ornate fortified gatehouse is the largest and amongst the finest examples in England. Combine a visit with Hull, city of culture 2017 and the Yorkshire Wolds.
4.5 miles SW of Doncaster, off the A630 from junction 36 of the A1(M) or junction 2 of the M18 Delve into the medieval world of Lord and Lady de Warenne. The enormous keep is great for a rainy day! The visitor centre sells snacks and drinks.