Growing up in the UK, I’ve been lucky enough to explore some amazing parts of the country. England has so much to offer, and this 10 day England itinerary covers the very best of London and the South. I’ve included the best places to stay in each of the locations, as well as how to get between destinations and what to do when you get there.
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10 day England itinerary
Getting around England
England has a fantastic public transportation system, but for most of this 10 day England itinerary I’m going to suggest you hire a rental car.
There’s definitely no need for a car in London, and your next destination on the itinerary, Oxford, is easily reached from London by train. After that, however, the train times start to get quite long and a bit complicated with changes at various stations. All of that will eat in to your exploring time, and a car will make travel quicker.
On top of that, some of the places on the itinerary are really best explored if you have the freedom of a car to get around. I would suggest renting a car in Oxford and either returning it in Canterbury (you can take a train from there back to London) or returning it once you’re back in London.
Days 1-2: London
Since most people coming to the UK will be flying into London, this makes for a great place to start your 10 day England itinerary.
Where to stay in London:
Accommodation in London can be expensive, as with any city, but there are more reasonable options if you do your research and book as far in advance as possible.
My best advice is to stay as close to a tube station as possible just to make getting around easy; taking the London Underground is one of the easiest ways to get around the city and being as close as possible will minimize the amount of time you spend trying to get from A to B.
If you’re looking for a budget option, then check out the Z Hotels; they’re a no frills option but the rooms are still clean and modern, and they act as a good base if all you need is a place to sleep and nothing fancy. There are hotels all over the city so have a look and see which location will work the best for you.
If you want to splurge a bit more, we love the Waldorf London. The hotel is in a great location; a short walk from tube stations and bus stops, but also within walking distance to some of the city’s most popular attractions.
What to do in London:
With just a couple of days in London, you’ll want to choose your highlights carefully. I would suggest either choosing the main attractions that interest you or taking an overview approach and just seeing a little bit of everything.
Either way, I would definitely suggest having at least a general plan of what you’d like to see. Not only will this help you with choosing a place to stay, but it’ll give you an idea of where you want to travel to each day to make sure you’re in the right place for the attractions you’re interested in.
I have a whole blog post on how to see London in 3 days that would be a great jumping off point for planning what to do, so be sure to check that out!
If you want to get out of the city for a few hours or even add a day to your trip then take a look at the best hiking near London as well.
Days 3-4: Oxford
It takes less than an hour to get from London to Oxford by train, which makes it a great second stop on your 10 day England itinerary. Oxford is well known for its late Anglo Saxon architecture, famous “Dreaming Spires” and of course the world class university. With a completely pedestrianized city center, it is perfect for walking around the exploring.
Where to stay in Oxford:
Oxford is a very walkable city, and the best place to stay is in the city center to make getting around easy.
If you’re looking for convenience, then The Randolph Hotel is just about perfect. An elegant hotel often viewed as an Oxford landmark in itself, the hotel is within walking distance of fantastic restaurants, shops, and Oxford’s major tourist attractions.
It is a pricier option but the convenience is definitely worth the splurge – and the service is fantastic! They also have a very cool bar called the Morse Bar which is featured in the Inspector Morse books.
Another really unique option that works perfectly for those on a budget is the rooms at The University of Oxford. When students aren’t in residence, you can actually stay in the rooms and the cost is very reasonable. This won’t work for every family but is definitely an option worth exploring.
It’s also kind of cool to be able to say you’ve stayed at one of the most prestigious universities in the world – even if you didn’t actually study anything!
What to do in Oxford:
On your first day in Oxford, I would suggest beginning with a walk around the city. The architecture is beautiful and it’s worth spending some time just admiring it all. Oxford does have hop on hop off bus tours where you can learn more about the history of the city as well.
I would also recommend taking a tour of one of The University of Oxford colleges. You can find the tours offered on the university website; not all colleges are open to the public and some will be closed for special events on certain days so do double check times.
Some colleges offer formal tours and others just allow you in to look around (sometimes with an entrance fee) but it’s fascinating to hear their history.
If you have any Harry Potter fans in your traveling party, then it’s worth visiting Oxford Castle and Bodleian Library, both of which were used in filming various Harry Potter movies (tours at these locations should be booked in advance). You can find more Harry Potter filming locations here.
I would also suggest seeing Oxford from the river. River boat tours run daily and are another great way to learn more about the city.
If you’re feeling brave and the weather is in your favor, then give punting a try; this is where you stand on the back of a wooden boat and move it forward by pushing off from the river bed using a pole. You can hire a guide or try doing it yourself – remember that if the pole gets stuck, drop it and let go before you end up in the water with it!
With two days in the city, there should be plenty of time to explore as much as the city as you want, as well as spend some time just wandering around. This is really one of those cities where you can take your time and explore at a leisurely place and still get a real feel for it.
If you did want to venture out of Oxford on the second day then I’d recommend a trip to Blenheim Palace, which is about 30 minutes away. The palace and the grounds are beautiful and they often have special events going on, so take a look at their website for more information.
If you’re visiting the city as a family, then take a look through my post on things to do in Oxford with kids for more family friendly ideas.
Day 5: Cotswolds
This is the part of the 10 day England itinerary where I would suggest hiring a rental car. You can get from Oxford to the Cotswolds by bus or train but it’s much easier to drive, and you’ll want the car for the rest of the trip anyway.
The Cotswolds is actually a large area spanning almost 800 square miles across five different counties. The area is made up of quaint villages and rolling hills, as well as castles and palaces.
There’s so much to see and do but with only one day to explore, I would focus your time on a particular place depending on what you’re most interested in seeing.
My favorite place in the Cotswolds is Broadway. This is a small town on the river filled with quaint restaurants, boutique shops, and plenty of places to walk and explore.
Where to stay in the Cotswolds:
The centerpiece of Broadway is the Lygon Arms, a four star hotel in the town center. The location is perfect for exploring the town on foot and provides a great base for your stay in the Cotswolds. It also features a wonderful spa!
If you’d rather be based towards the neighboring town of Chipping Camden and you’re looking for a more unique experience, the Three Ways House Hotel offers something pretty special, especially if you have a sweet tooth.
The hotel hosts the famous Pudding Club, which includes a glass of bubbly, a light meal and then the famous Parade of Seven Puddings, all of which you will be encouraged to try and rate afterwards.
This is such a fun and quintessentially British evening that is best enjoyed if you stay over at the hotel. Double check The Pudding Club website to see if it’s going on during your stay and don’t forget to book in advance!
What to do in the Cotswolds:
My first suggestion would be to visit the Broadway Tower. Set on a 50 acre estate of parkland, not only can you climb the tower for breathtaking views over the English countryside, but you’ll be almost certain to spot plenty of local deer enjoying the grounds as well.
The Broadway Tower Circle Walk is less than a mile and takes you all around the estate.
In the grounds of the Tower you’ll find the Morris and Brown Cafe, which is a great place to stop for lunch. The cafe serves breakfast and lunch but it’s also a great place to try a traditional English afternoon tea of scones with jam and clotted cream (in that order, in my opinion!)
A short drive from Broadway is the town of Chipping Camden, which is a great place to explore some of the history and heritage of the Cotswolds.
Visit the 13th century St Edburgha’s church, walk through the beautiful Kiftsgate Court Gardens, or visit the Court Barn Museum which celebrates designers and craftspeople from Chipping Camden and other parts of the Cotswolds.
If you have a train enthusiast in your traveling party then it’s worth making the trip to Gloucestershire Warwickshire Steam Railway. The round trip on a steam engine from Broadway to Cheltenham is 29 miles so this is an activity that will take a little more time, but the views over the Malvern Hills and even out to Wales are well worth it.
If you’re visiting in the summer, then I would definitely recommend visiting the Cotswold Lavender Farm on top of the Cotswolds Hills where you can enjoy views over the Cotswolds as you walk through fields of lavender. Their gift shop is a great place to pick up lavender products as you support a local business.
Days 6-7: Bath
Traveling about an hour and a half southwest will bring you from the Cotswolds to the city of Bath. A place of wellbeing and relaxation since the Roman times, Bath is now a city that merges Georgian architecture, museums and galleries with bustling contemporary culture, fantastic restaurants and plenty to see and do.
Where to stay in Bath:
If location and quality is important and you don’t mind splurging a little, then The Gainsborough Bath Spa is my top choice. Voted one of Conde Nast Traveler’s top 100 hotels in the world, this five star property is in the heart of the city and within walking distance to all of the main attractions.
As you can imagine with a luxury hotel, the prices are steep but the convenience and service are worth the splurge if you can afford it.
Since you’ll have a car, a more unique – and less pricey – option is The Wheelwrights Arms in the nearby village of Monkton Coombe. This charming Bed and Breakfast has single and twin rooms as well as family rooms that offer a bit more space than you’d find in a hotel room in a much more cozy setting. The onsite restaurant serves a home cooked breakfast and the food is fantastic.
What to do in Bath:
Two days in Bath should give you plenty of time to see as much of the city as possible. As with Oxford, there is a hop on hop off bus tour that shows the highlights of the city and lets you get your bearings around the city so you have a sense of where everything is.
Top of your list should be visiting the Roman Baths. Constructed in 70AD, the baths were once a place of bathing and socialization and are now one of the best preserved Roman sites in the world.
There is an interactive museum and you can still witness the baths that are filled to this day with spring water that reaches over 46°.
If you wish you had the opportunity to take a dip in those baths, then the next best thing is a trip to the Thermae Bath Spa. Featuring various treatment rooms and pools, the best thing about the spa is a rooftop pool offering spectacular views over the city. The water is hot enough to enjoy in any weather; I visited in the pouring rain and it was still nice and warm!
For more incredible views over the city, it’s worth climbing the 212 steps to the top of the Bath Abbey Tower. A tour of the tower includes the bell ringing room, the room that houses the Abbey clock, the top of the vaulted ceiling of the Abbey itself, as well as the platform at the top of the tower.
You’ll learn about the history of the Abbey as well as the city itself so this is perfect for anyone interested in the history of Bath.
If you wanted to explore the surrounding area on your second day in Bath, you could take a day trip out of the city.
Bowood House and Gardens are a 45 minute drive from Bath and make for a great day out. Home to the Marquis and Marchioness of Lansdowne, the stately home sits on 100 acres of beautifully landscaped gardens and offers tours of the house that includes displays of the various rooms as well as artifacts that are over 300 years old.
The gardens feature award winning walled gardens, an Arboretum featuring over 700 species of trees, an Italian inspired terrace garden, and the spectacular Woodland Garden, which is only open during flowering season but has over 30 acres of bluebells to walk through. If you’re traveling with children, there is a fantastic outdoor adventure playground as well.
Day 8: Portsmouth
Just under two hours from Bath is the waterfront city of Portsmouth. This is the longest drive you’ll have on this 10 day England itinerary, but it takes you back east towards London where the itinerary ends and also allows you to see some of the beautiful England coast.
Where to stay in Portsmouth:
Portsmouth has some fantastic boutique hotels that offer luxury accommodations in a more intimate setting.
Florence House is a restored Edwardian house that has retained many original features and offers unique individually designed rooms. The hotel is a short walk from the Southsea waterfront, and a short drive from the Historic Dockyard and the historic war ships.
The hotel also serves a cooked breakfast every day as well as dinner in their Gastro pub just a few doors down.
If you want to be a little closer to the dockyard, you could stay at the Royal Maritime Club, one of Portsmouth’s oldest and most historic hotels.
The hotel is a short walk to all of the major historic attractions as well as the waterside shopping and dining district, Gunwharf Quays. The location is perfect for seeing as much of the city as possible in a short time.
What to do in Portsmouth:
One of the biggest tourist attractions in Portsmouth is the Historic Dockyard. This is where you’ll find war ships such as The Mary Rose and Lord Nelson’s famous Flagship HMS Victory, as well as the National Museum of the Royal Navy and Boathouse 4, a fantastic hands on exhibit.
You can also take a water bus over to the Royal Navy Submarine Museum and the Explosion Museum of Naval Firepower.
The dockyard could easily be an all day activity as you climb aboard the different ships to learn more about them.
If you only have time to see one ship, I’d recommend The Mary Rose which was Henry VIII’s Flagship before it sank in 1545. Over 400 years later, it was rescued from the bottom of the ocean and is now held in a standalone museum.
Speaking of The Mary Rose, you can also visit Southsea Castle which is where Henry VIII watched the sinking of the famous ship. The castle was constructed by Henry VIII in 1544 and served to protect England from France in the 16th century.
As well as historic displays, you can take a walking tour of the castle’s tunnels. Entrance to the castle is free but it is only open seasonally, so do check before you visit.
If you’re not too scared of heights, then a trip up the Spinnaker Tower is a must. The viewing deck of the tower stands at over 300 feet tall and offers incredible views over the city and the south coast.
If you’re feeling brave, take a trip on the Sky Walk, a glass floor where to can look straight down at the harbor below.
Days 9: Isle of Wight
You won’t have to go far from Portsmouth here – in fact your trip to the Isle of Wight leaves straight from Portsmouth itself!
You can either go for a day trip (which means less packing and unpacking since you can stay in the same hotel for an extra night) or stay overnight on the island.
You can fly to the Isle of Wight, but I think it makes much more sense to take the car ferry so you’ll have transportation for when you get there. Wightlink are the largest ferry operator and a trip with them takes about 45 minutes.
If you wanted to take the passenger ferry instead, the trip takes about 25 minutes. Both routes operate regularly and booking in advance is very much recommended.
Where to stay on the Isle of Wight:
As I said, I would probably just stay in Portsmouth and take the ferry back and forth to the Isle of Wight since it runs so regularly and trips are so quick. If you do want to stay overnight though, there are plenty of options for places to stay.
Dating back to 1832, The Royal Hotel is the Island’s largest premier hotel. The hotel overlooks the stunning coastline so the views are unparalleled, and the service is outstanding.
Their restaurant is well known for outstanding cooking, having been featured in the Michellin Guide every single year since 1911, and breakfast and dinner can be included in your stay.
You’d be in excellent company if you chose this hotel – Queen Victoria used to stay there!
The Isle of Wight also features some really unique places to stay. If you’ve ever wanted to stay in a treehouse or go glamping in an eco lodge or stay in a railroad cottage, then this is the place to do it!
You can find more accommodations, unique or otherwise, on the Isle of Wight’s website.
What to do on the Isle of Wight:
The coastline of the Isle of Wight is spectacular; a walk along the coast or a trip to the beach is a must do when you visit. Remember that this is the UK and it probably won’t be hot and sunny (even in the middle of summer) but the beaches are beautiful nonetheless and they’re definitely worth a visit.
Sandown Bay was awarded Beach of the Year by Countryfile Magazine in 2019, and it’s easy to see why; with over 8 miles of sand and calm waters, the beach is perfect for for a stroll or to stop and play if you have kids in tow. While you’re there, stop at Pebbles Cafe for coffee and a slice of cake.
Another popular beach is Freshwater Beach, which is a pebble beach with plenty of rock pools to explore. If you wait until the tide is low, then you can walk across the exposed rocky edge to see the caves around the bottom of the chalk cliffs; just be really careful and watch for that tide coming in to make sure you can get back to the main beach safely.
One of the most iconic images of the Isle of Wight is of The Needles, which is a row of three chalk rocks that stick up out of the ocean. The best two ways to see them are from the air and by boat (if you have time, I would do both!)
The Needles chairlift takes you right over the top of the rocks for an amazing birds eye view, whereas the boat trips allow you to really take in the size of them from the water. You’l find other attractions in the area like fairground rides, carnival games, and mini golf, so you could easily spend a few hours there.
If you’re interested in history, then it’s worth paying a visit to Osbourne House, which was the site of Queen Victoria’s mourning after Prince Albert died. The house itself has rooms that have been recreated to look as though they would when she lived there, and the gardens include a woodland walk, terraces, a walled garden, and even a path along the beach.
Day 10: Canterbury
The final day of the 10 day England itinerary brings you to Canterbury. It’s about a 2 hour drive from Portsmouth to this city on the southeast coast, and from there it will take you an hour and a half to drive back to London if that’s where you’re finishing your trip.
Alternatively, this would be a good place to drop off your rental car since there is a train route directly from Canterbury to London that takes less than an hour.
Where to stay in Canterbury:
With only one day in Canterbury, you’ll want to be as central as possible so you can really make the most of your time and not worry too much about travel times.
The Cathedral Gate Hotel sits in the center of the city, within walking distance to the major attractions as well as plenty of places to eat and do any last minute shopping. Dating back to 1438, the hotel retains all of its original charm and has fantastic views over the Canterbury Cathedral.
If you wanted to do something truly unique and didn’t mind being a little bit further out, then how about staying in a castle?! Leeds Castle (confusingly not in Leeds, but in Kent) is a short 30 minute drive out of Canterbury and offers various accommodation options including Knight’s Glamping, Holiday Cottages, and an option to stay in the Maiden’s Tower.
If you’ve never stayed in a castle (and really, I’m guessing that’s most of us!) then this is a fantastic opportunity to do so!
What to do in Canterbury:
Most people come to Canterbury with one thing in mind: to visit the Canterbury Cathedral. Dating back to 597AD, the Cathedral was established by St Augustine, the first Archbishop of Canterbury when he arrived as a missionary from Rome. It is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site and welcomes more than 1 million visitors every year.
Visitors can book tickets online and download a free guide to the Cathedral before they arrive, and even attend a service of worship. The architecture of the interior of the Cathedral is magnificent, and you could spend hours just admiring it.
If you enjoy learning about the history of Canterbury Cathedral, then take a short walk over to St Martin’s Church, which is the oldest church on record in the English speaking world having been continuously used since the 6th century.
When St Augustine arrived in the UK from Rome, he was given a church to use before the Cathedral was built, and that church was St Martin’s.
One of the best ways to see Canterbury and learn about the heritage of the city is to take a tour on the river. Canterbury River Tours offer a variety of tours, including the Chilling Tales tour that talks about Canterbury’s more gruesome past.
If you tried punting in Oxford and are dying to give it another try (either because it was so much fun or because you fell in and you’re determined to redeem yourself) then you can try it again here! Canterbury Punting offer tours – one of which is also a ghost tour – of the city’s waterways with a knowledgeable guide to tell you more about the city and its history.
This wraps up your 10 day England itinerary after taking in the very best England has to offer, from sprawling cities to rolling hills, from small islands to historic architecture. While this was a great way to see the highlights of the country, I’m sure it will leave you wanting to return to see more!