We spent roughly two weeks in 2018 driving our self-built Berlingo campervan through the United Kingdom (UK) on our way to the Republic of Ireland (Ireland). Admittedly, it really wasn’t enough time to experience the country. But that time did provide a good taste of what to expect when travelling through the UK, what areas we’d like to come back to, and which areas to avoid.

How long to go?

In terms of time-frames, it really depends on your interests and budget. We would recommend allowing for at least six weeks during the summer, longer if possible, in the UK if you really wanted to explore the coast and zig-zag through the countryside at a relaxed pace.

The tourist re-entry visa for many foreign nationals allows for six months of travel in the UK. Plus the UK is outside of the Schengen Zone, so there’s limited restrictions on that front either.

Places to avoid

Before we get to which places we really loved and want to recommend to others, let’s quickly talk about the not-so-nice areas. It’s of course subjective, but we found much of the major towns and cities in England, aside from some nice areas in the countryside in the north, and the southern coast, to be unpleasant to travel with a campervan. The areas were overly touristy and expensive, or suburban and dull, or too industrial/commercial to enjoy. Parks and wild places are limited in many areas.

The same applies to the larger cities and industrial precincts in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.  However, you may love busy inner-cities, urban stealth camping/parking, and the history of these developed old cities; so results may vary depending on your preferences!

With that out of the way, these were our favourite spots in the UK:

Snowdonia, Wales

We had heard a lot about the Snowdonia National Park and surrounding region located in north-western Wales, but we didn’t really know what to expect. Thankfully Snowdonia is one of those places that meets and exceeds the hype – even if the weather can be challenging and unpredictable.

Snowdonia, and the greater NW Wales region in general, is paradise for people who love rugged wilderness and outdoor activities. We spent a few days in the area and just couldn’t stop exploring.

There’s hundreds of beautiful walking and hiking trails for all abilities, river rafting spots, mountain bike parks and trails, natural and artificial surfing spots, and loads of free, scenic places to park overnight or simply enjoy a picnic if the weather cooperates.

For a moderately strenuous day hike, best done in clear weather, we highly recommend the Cader Idris walk. The panoramic views of the sea, lake and mountains from the top are really spectacular!

Bring warm clothes, a waterproof jacket and plenty of snacks. Park at Dol Idris car park, top up your water at the local tea room, and enjoy the day from there.

Please remember to leave no trace and take only photos when hiking!

The area around Pont Pen-y-benglog in the north of Snowdonia is also exceedingly picturesque, and is packed with mountain hiking and walking trails. Definitely add this to your list if you plan to visit Wales!

And for an honourable mention, Coed y Brenin Forest Park is the place to go for mountain biking adventures. Unfortunately, we didn’t ride the trails at Coed y Brenin, but we did stop in on our way through to have a look around and it looked super fun. For those who are travelling without a MTB, there are hire bikes available from the on-site shop.

We did manage to get a ride in at Coed Llandegla Forest in the north-east of Wales, but were under-whelmed by the trails and so cannot recommend it.

Lake District, England

We only spent a couple of days travelling through the Lake District National Park in northern England, but it definitely left us with a favourable impression; the warm, sunny weather at the time probably helped too!

While the region is less rugged than northern Wales, it was still packed with green rolling hills, farm paddocks, quaint little villages, lakes and streams, and rocky outcrops at every turn.

True to its name, the Lakes District is packed with freshwater lakes and tributary rivers and streams. Some of the lakes are closed to the public or certain activities as they are used as reservoirs, but the majority are accessible at least for a swim or a kayak/canoe trip.

Another spot we found by chance, and would recommend when visiting the Lakes District is the Castlerigg Stone Circle. Whilst the stone circle isn’t particularly spectacular, the area where it is located has beautiful panoramic views of the surrounding hills.

There’s a real sense of energy and history when visiting this sacred space which is thought to be 4,000-5,000 years old! A bonus is that access and parking is free, though beware the very narrow, one-lane, two-way rural access lanes.

Hadrian’s Wall, England

While it is outside of the Lakes District, another close-by spot to visit for the sheer history is Hardrian’s Wall. The wall, which once ran from west to east coasts of England, was built by the Romans over 1,800 years ago.

Many sections of the wall remain intact, though not quite as tall and imposing as it would have been originally.

The countryside of the “Wall Country” is also very picturesque, with plenty of quiet spots to park up overnight.

The North Coast, Northern Ireland

The north coast of Northern Ireland, much like the rest of Ireland, is packed with beautiful surf beaches, iconic rock formations and old castles.

As soon as we exited the ferry from Cairnryan to Larne, we made a b-line to the Giant’s Causeway to get there early before the tourist crowds attacked. It turned out to be a great idea as parking is free until 9am, and we only saw three other people on the walk down. Just as we were leaving, coach buses packed with tourists started to arrive, and the peace of this place was shattered.

The Giant’s Causeway deserves the hype, it is a really interesting natural rock formation. Just make sure you arrive very early to watch the sunrise and enjoy the serenity!

Depending on how many castles you’ve seen on your trip, medieval Dunluce castle might also be worth visiting. It’s an impressive looking ruin with free access and is dramatically situated on the rugged coastline. It’s a photogenic place, and it worth hanging around for the sunset golden hour if the conditions are favourable.

For those who are into surfing, head to Portrush and Castlerock. If there’s swell, less likely in peak summer, and cooperative winds, there are some really fun beaches and reefbreaks to check out. Northern Ireland had been mostly flat all summer, but we were lucky enough to score some small, but clean and fun, waves at Whiterocks Beach, just east of Portrush, during one of the the first swells for the new surfing season. Beaches such as Whiterocks in Northern Ireland are fortunate enough to be sheltered from the westerly winds, but still receive swells. So we recommend always having a look around if there’s some swell!

As with the rest of rural UK, there’s no shortage of nice overnight parking places in Northern Ireland. Just we careful of the ever-present height barriers at beach car parks (usually around 2.2m), and that public toilets are uncommon, and generally not opened until 9am or later.


So that’s it from us. It’s a short list, because we travelled through in a short amount of time.

We’d love to re-visit the UK again and take our time, especially to visit the north-west coast of Scotland. But it’s not possible to do everything in one go, so we’ll just have to come back to finish what we started!

Have you spent any time travelling around the UK?

What was your favourite secret, or not-so-secret, spot that you think fellow explores should visit?