Backpacking UK Travel Guide 2018

JUMP TO : UK Travel Itineraries | Places to Visit | Where to Stay | Travel Tips | Cost of Travel

Welcome to the United Kingdom! You are now entering the land of iconic castles, black humour, afternoon tea, rolling countryside, beautiful National Parks, world-class cities, and vivid green landscapes…. Backpacking England and the United Kingdom is one of the most fun adventures to be had in all of Europe and you’re in luck – I was born in England and have spent plenty of time camping, hiking, partying and exploring here so I can give you plenty of insider travel tips…

hiking pen y fan routes backpacking UK

From the remote corners of the Scottish wilderness and the sheep-lined Welsh backroads to Northern Irish history and the iconic English pubs that can only be reached on foot: a trip backpacking through the UK is full of epic surprises for the worthy adventurer.

Whether you are in Europe already or just planning to visit the UK, a backpacking trip through England, Wales, Scotland, or Northern Ireland is a truly fantastic way to spend a few weeks or a few months (or more!). The United Kingdom is very accessible to travelers, diverse, GREEN, and full of outdoor adventure potential.

This backpacking UK travel guide will show you the way to having an awesome budget backpacking trip! Get the low-down of where to go, budget and travel costs, itineraries, trekking destinations, UK travel hacks, and recommendations on where to stay along the way…

 

Where to go Backpacking in the United Kingdom

The regions that make up the United Kingdom are broken down into four countries: Wales, England, Scotland, and Northern Ireland. Though each country has its own very distinct national heritage, culture, and even language (in the case of Wales and parts of Scotland), the UK is as its name suggests is a United Kingdom and whilst there is a friendly rivalry between different parts of this kingdom, we’re all in it together – for now anyway!

You will find that each region has its own unique draw and charm. Discover some of the best trekking in all of Europe in Scotland. Explore England’s great system of National Parks and beautiful small villages. Get off the beaten path in Wales whilst exploring the remote and rugged Pembrokeshire Coast. Cozy up to a pint in Northern Ireland by the warmth of a crackling fire.

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The UK is relatively small so you can take in quite a lot in a short period of time, especially if you have your own wheels. England receives a vast amount of tourism traffic every year. A vast majority of those people only visit London, Stonehenge, and a few other well-known places. There is much more to the UK than that! By the time you finish this UK travel guide, you will have a solid idea of what those places are all about…

Now let us take a look at some of your itinerary options for your adventure backpacking England and the UK.

Best Travel Itineraries for Backpacking England and the UK

Looking for a UK backpacking route? Whether you have a few weeks or a few months, I have assembled several UK backpacking itineraries to help you make the most of your time in this diverse region. These backpacking routes can easily be combined or customized!

#1 UK Itinerary 2 Weeks : Backpacking England and Wales

backpacking UK travel itinerary

2 Weeks: Backpacking England and Wales

If your timeframe is two weeks you can discover the highlights of England and Wales with ease. I highly recommend renting a car or campervan. Public transport in England is expensive and often delayed. Hitchhiking is possible but the best option is to rent your own wheels.

You can save a ton of money overall with the ability to camp out and you can travel around at your own comfortable pace. If you are arriving in London, you can wait a couple of days before renting the car or van as you do not need it within the city and it’s cheapest to get around on the tube.

Right, so London. Spend the day exploring the fantastic British Museum and National Gallery if you have time. Catch a quick glimpse of the Rosetta Stone before retreating away from the army of Chinese flash bulbs surrounding you. Entrance to the British Museum is free! Many museums in London operate on a donation basis so there’s plenty of epic free things to do in London. Don’t miss the Natural History Museum.

Pop over to Brighton on the train and soak in the vibes of England’s hipster capital. I was born in a small town, Burgess Hill, just outside of Brighton and lived within a stones throw of this eclectic party capital for most of my childhood and teenage years. Brighton is a truly awesome place to party on down and everybody should spend a day or two here.

You can take a full day just to check-out Brighton’s vintage and thrift shops, eat tasty Indian food, finishing with a sunset walk on Brighton Beach. Don’t forget to visit the neighbouring city of Lewes where you can enjoy exploring a rural British village complete with a small castle.

The real highlight of Southern England is the South Downs, a famous national park comprised of big chalky hills, lonesome windmills and gorgeous views. You can reach the South Downs National Park for a day hike fairly easily from Brighton, your best bet is to catch a train to Hassocks and join a hiking path from near the station. If you have wheels, drive straight up to the Jack and Jill windmills and walk along the top of the downs from there.

From Brighton, hit the road… Head west along the South Coast road towards Exeter and Dartmoor National Park. A Stop over in the seaside town of Lyme Regis is a must where you can find prehistoric fossils littering the beaches! Driving past Lyme Regis on your way to Exeter, you will pass Stone Henge on your right. Stonehenge might not be all its cracked up to be, though I still recommend seeing it. I would NOT, however, pay the £19.30 entrance fee. You can see it perfectly fine from behind the short fence. You can attempt to sneak it but they have the place locked down like Fort fucking Knox. They have security patrols all night as well, just so you know.

Arriving in Exeter, be sure to enjoy a glass of cider at the iconic firehouse. If you wanna party on down, try and catch a Magic Hatstand event at the Cavern.

Devon and Cornwall is one of the sunniest in all of England, so soak it in! There are some excellent day hikes, rock climbing spots, and stunning Coastline to be had around Cornwall and Dartmoor. Be sure to check out Penzance Castle as well…

1 Week in Wales

From the Cornwall area you can drive to Wales in just a couple of hours. If you have time, stopover in Bristol to check out the magnificent cathedral there and enjoy the nightlife . Drive to Brecon Beacons National Park in Wales. Find an awesome campsite (there are many to choose from) and rest up by the camp fire. The next day you have an abundance of awesome hikes at your disposal. Brecon Beacons is damn beautiful and so green it doesn’t look real. More about trekking here later in the post.

By now you should have about five days left and you need to hustle a bit. Head south to the stunningly beautiful and wild Pembrokeshire Coast National Park before heading north again to Snowdonia National Park. Stop off in the village of Llanberis! If you like to rock climb, the slate quarries just out of town are world-class! Even if you don’t climb the eerie quarries are absolutely worth a visit. You can spend your last days in the UK trekking by day, sipping beer in the evening, and camping out at night…

#2 UK Itinerary 3 Weeks: The Ultimate UK National Park Tour

backpacking UK travel itinerary

3 Weeks: Exploring the UK’s National Parks

If you have another week to tack on to the itinerary mentioned above, good news! You can visit some truly fantastic National Parks in Northern England. After leaving Snowdonia National Park, pass through Liverpool en route to the Lake District National Park in the far north of England. I would save the trip to Scotland for a journey when you have slightly more time or intend on specifically backpacking Scotland. Ideally, you’ll want three or four days to spend in the Lake District.

On your way South, be sure to visit the Peaks District National Park!  Climbing Kinder Scout really gives you a good lay of the land. It’s the highest point in the Peak District and comes with unforgettable views, unique moorland and even a waterfall.

#3 UK Itinerary 4 Weeks: Northern England and Scotland

scotland backpacking itinerary

2-4 Weeks in the Scottish Highlands

Fancy exploring some of the best hiking trails in Northern England and Scotland? Want to get to know the rich culture of the Scottish Highlands? This itinerary is for you. One can still begin this route from England, making pitstops in a few English National Parks before heading to Scotland.

Scotland is another prime campervanning destination. If you have your own ride, you can see heaps of the country in a few weeks while packing in a few awesome hikes.

After a visit to Edinburgh, it is time to head to the Highlands. If you have the time and ambition The West Highland Way is an epic way to get to know Scotland. The hike stretches for 151km from Milngavie on the edge of Glasgow to Fort William. The path is well marked, well serviced, and accommodation/camping options abound along the way.

Whether you do the whole thing or a section of it you will not be disappointed. After tackling the West Highland Way, head to the Isle of Skye. A sunrise hike to the Old Man of Storr will be a certain UK backpacking highlight. Time permitting hit up the Cairngorms. The Ryvoan and Lochan Uaine circuit is a gorgeous 10-kilometer walk through ancient pine forests and mystical lochs. Honestly, there are so many beautiful hiking options in the Cairngorms!

#4 UK Itinerary 2-3 Months: Ultimate UK Highlights Tour

UK travel route

2-3 Months: Backpacking UK Highlights

If you have ample time on your hands then you can really pace yourself. Having two or three months to work with enables you to do and see a wide swath of the entire UK including Northern Ireland and beyond.

Now certainly you might not want to rent a car or van for that long. If you only have wheels for a couple of weeks, you can easily continue your journey by hitchhiking or by bus. Scotland alone has plenty of trekking, far-flung mountains, remote Islands, and stinky haggis to keep you busy for a month or two.

In addition to visiting the numerous National Parks in UK, get to know some of its cities, people, and small villages. Explore Liverpool and Manchester in England. Check out Swansea or Cardiff in Wales. Get to know Edinburgh, Inverness, and Glasgow. Hit up Belfast in Northern Ireland.

You can also dedicate more time to exploring the Scottish Isles including the Outer Hebrides and the extremely remote Shetland Islands.

Looking for a place to crash in Cardiff? Check out my guide to the 10 best hostels in Cardiff! 

Places to Visit in England and The UK

Backpacking London

London is one big sightseeing magnet. People the world over come to England just to experience London. I don’t blame them, London is pretty damned attractive in many ways. Two major drawbacks: tourist hordes and the cost of backpacking in London. London is one of the most expensive cities in the world to live. Fortunately, there is a plethora of backpacker accommodation in London. Also there are million free fun things to do within the city.

Take in some of the beautiful historical monuments like Big Ben, Westminster Abbey, and the grand fucking Buckingham Palace. It is grand but expect huge mobs of tourists at all of the above-mentioned spots.

When you have ticked the major spots off your list go for a walk through Hyde Park or along the River Thames.

London is famous for its delicious and relatively cheap international cuisine. Be sure to grab an Indian curry or some Pakistani food at some point!

In order to fully appreciate the city you must get off the tourist trail and see more of London off the beaten path. Check out the lesser known pie and mash shops. Visit the biggest Hindu temple outside of India at BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir. Kayak the river Thames!

Book Your London Hostel Here!

things to do in London

The impressive Winchester Abbey.

Backpacking Brighton

London is fun but it can be super tiring and overwhelming. Brighton might just be the coolest city you visit whilst backpacking England and that isn’t just my bias. Spend a day or two walking around Brighton’s city center. There are a multitude of fun vintage and thrift shops where you can score some new threads for your travels. In addition to those there are some excellent cafes, tattoo parlors, parks, record stores, music shops, and cool concert venues.

Brighton is famous for its street art. Check out one of the most famous Banksy paintings in England (The two British cops kissing). Be sure to walk around the gardens at the Royal Pavillion. The building has a unique Indian-style architecture thing happening. I recommend bringing a picnic and finding a spot on the grass to eat.

Brighton is full of characters of every shade. There is some great people watching to be had. Find a spot near the Steine Garden to have a coffee, listen to a busker or two and just watch the colorful humans pass by.

The old lanes are a fantastic place to shop for unique and weird things and there’s plenty of cool bars to enjoy a drink – some of my favourites; The Hope and Ruin, Fishbowl, Old Star.

Check out our guide to best hostels in Brighton and breakdown on where to stay in Brighton, here!

Book Your Brighton Hostel Here!

banksy brighton

Hit the Banksy trail in Brighton…

Backpacking Lewes

Lewes is a less-frequented city adjacent to Brighton. I recommend taking at least a half a day to check out Lewes – it’s a great spot to explore a traditional British village and to go for a walk along the South Downs as well.

Book Your Lewes Hostel Here!

things to do in Lewes England

Explore the less-traveled town of Lewes. Photo: Wikicommons.

Backpacking the South Downs National Park

There are some excellent day hikes to be had in the South Downs. A fantastic 11.5 mile / 17.7km circular route that is a great day walk or a stunning bike ride. This route takes in part of the South Downs Way between Amberley and Bignor Hill as well as part of the National Trust’s Slindon Estate and part of the Monarch’s Way. Allow 5 – 6 hours to walk or 2- 3 hours to ride.

Another fantastic 10 mile circular walk can be made between Amberley and Rackham Banks and the Downs to the south. This walk has stunning views over the Amberley brooks and the River Arun.

hikes in south down national park

Some fine hiking trails in South Down National Park.

Backpacking the Seven Sisters

A trip to the Seven Sisters is not to be missed. This coastal walk brings you to the edge of the sea and the Seven Sisters formation, which is a series of white chalk cliffs contrasting wonderfully to the green hills and sea below. Part of the track passes through farmland so if you open any gates, be sure to close them!

This hike is part of The South Downs Way National Trail which stretches for 100 miles from Eastbourne to Winchester and passes through the Seven Sisters Country Park.  It offers spectacular views of Cuckmere Haven, Belle Tout and Beachy Head lighthouses.

hiking the seven sisters england

The Seven Sisters as seen on a beautiful sunny day.

Backpacking Rye

Rye is one of my favorite villages in England that very few people have heard of. In the center, cobbled lanes like Mermaid Street are lined with medieval, half-timbered houses. The redbrick Lamb House was once owned by writer Henry James.

There is nothing particularly must-see in Rye. The place has enough charm that simply just to visit and see it makes it worthwhile. I love walking around the cobblestone streets, sipping tea at one of the many cafes, and eating an English pastry or two. Rye is simple, straightforward, and totally worth spending a rainy afternoon in.

Rye east sussex

Enjoying the quaint streets of Rye.

Backpacking Lyme Regis

Lyme Regis is a town in West Dorset, England, 25 miles west of Dorchester and 25 miles east of Exeter. It lies at Lyme Bay on the English Channel coast at the Dorset–Devon border. It is nicknamed “The Pearl of Dorset”. This funky little town makes for a perfect overnight stop over if you are making the road trip from Brighton to Exeter.

Lyme Regis is famous for it’s incredibly rich preserves of fossils and fossil hunters still come to the area in droves. I highly recommend going on a fossil hunting walk with a local expert.

hiking on the jurassic coast

Nice views on the Jurassic Coast near Lyme Regis.

Backpacking Exeter

Exeter is an ancient city on the River Exe in southwest England. Dating back to the Roman era, the Exeter City Walls surround its center and Gothic Exeter Cathedral. Exeter Castle, a Norman landmark, overlooks leafy Northernhay and Rougemont Gardens. I spent about three years in and out of Exeter and I love it… it’s a truly special place. Check out the Old Firehouse for craft ciders and huge square pizzas. Magic Hatstand events at the Cavern are a great place to party with Mandy…

A trip to the nearby Jurassic Coast is mind-boggling beautiful. The best way to appreciate the spectacular scenery of the Jurassic Coast is on foot. The 95 miles from Old Harry Rocks to Exmouth make up part of the South West Coast Path National Trail, and there are hundreds of miles of connecting footpaths and bridleways, giving a huge variety of possible circular walks, wherever you are on the coast.

Book Your Exeter Hostel Here!

backpacking England

Beautiful cathedral at Exeter.

Backpacking Dartmoor National Park

If you are blessed with good weather, a day or two in Dartmoor National Park is well worth it. There are a multitude of trails and small villages spread between which offer up a good taste of this part of England. Southern England is densely populated and the Dartmoor area offers up a refuge from all the people and bustle. I highly recommend camping in Dartmoor.

Among the highlights here are the hike from the Castle Drogo to Fingle Gorge. This hike has a castle, a beautiful gorge filled with large oak trees, and finishes at a traditional English pub. What else could you ask for? If you like rock climbing there are some excellent crags suitable for all levels just above the sea at Langton Matravers.

Book Your Plymouth Hostel Here!

dartmoor national park

Ancient stone circles.

Backpacking Penzance

Located on the southern edge of Cornwall, the years have not been kind to Penzance though and as the holiday trade declined nothing took its place. Many current guidebooks list museums and attractions that are long closed down. This is good news for backpackers! You are more likely to have some of the epic coastal hiking tracks nearly to yourself.

If mysterious Celtic stone circles interest you there are many important sites close to Penzance. These include Lanyon Quoit, the holed stone of Men-an-Tol and the Merry Maidens stone circle.

If you are wanting to get to the Scillies Islands, you can catch a two hour ferry there from Pezance.

penzance england

Ancient chrome plated photo of the Pezance coast in 1905.

Backpacking Land’s End Cornwall

As an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), West Penwith – perhaps better known as the Land’s End Peninsula – enjoys the same protection and status as a National Park. The area regularly plays host to visitors from around the world, drawn to its exceptional scenery and array of natural attractions.

Surrounded by the Atlantic to north, south and west, the area’s dramatic central moorland and stunning high cliffs are guaranteed to leave a lasting impression on backpackers. The peninsula is a fantastic location for trek-nuts and folks looking to get off the beaten path. A hike here takes in the few charming villages including Sennen and Mousehole as well as offering spectacular views of Mount Bay.

rock climbing in england

Some epic rock climbing to be had on the Cornwall Coast.

Backpacking Bristol

Bristol is a city straddling the River Avon in the southwest of England with a prosperous maritime history. Its former city-center port is now a cultural hub, the Harbourside, where the M Shed museum explores local social and industrial heritage.

The old warehouses around the port have been renovated and now ooze all things hipster, fashionable, and delicious. Organic food shops, taco shacks, Indonesian fusion restaurants, farm-to-table cafes, you name it, you can find it there.

Bristol’s cathedral is very impressive and when the weather turns to shit, it is a great place to be mesmerized by the unending number or detailed arches that make up the ceiling. A walk around the river and through the center of town is a good way to get your bearings before exploring the Blaise Castle or the Bristol museum.

Book Your Bristol Hostel Here!

 

Meet likeminded travellers and check out my awesome guide to the 10 best hostels in Bristol! 

 

things to do in bristol

Arches. arches. arches.

Backpacking Liverpool

You have probably heard of Liverpool because it is where the Beatles are from. Upon first arriving in Liverpool I was taken aback by the dirty industrial vibe. However, upon further exploration, Liverpool is one of England’s best up and coming cities.

If you are a football fan, Liverpool is a good place to catch your first Football match in England. Check out the botanical gardens at Sefton Park; there are two cafés to relax in; and even a complex of caves and waterfalls!

Check out our neighborhood breakdown on Liverpool, and guide to the best hostels in Liverpool.

Book Your Liverpool Hostel Here!

things to do in Liverpool

Birds eye view of Liverpool.

Backpacking the Lake District National Park

Backpacking England will bring you in touch with some of the country’s most beautiful landscapes. The scenes that make up the Lake District National Park are further special still. The Lake District is home to some of the best non-coastal hiking in all of the UK. As you might have guessed the region is defined by its rugged fell mountains and its glacial ribbon lakes.

In addition to more hiking than you could possibly do in a month, there are some cool villages worth checking out as well. Market towns such as Kendal, Ambleside and Keswick are bases for exploring the area and home to traditional inns, a few hostels, and outdoor equipment shops if you are in need of any gear.

The Mosedale Horseshoe, Haystacks, and Scafell Pike are among my favorite treks to do in the Lake District.

Book Your Keswick Hostel Here!

hiking in the lake district national park

Soaking in the fire sky from the campervan in the Lake District National Park.

Backpacking the Peak District National Park

Peak District National Park is in central England. Steep limestone valleys like Dovedale, with its famed stepping stones, ancient castles, and Lathkill Dale characterize the park’s southern area, which is known as White Peak. North, the Dark Peak area has dramatic gritstone ridges and stark moorland plateaus like Kinder Scout, the park’s highest point.

If you are heading back to the cities in the South, the Lakes district makes for a good stop-over point for a day or two. There are plenty of great day hikes in addition to prime campervan parking spots! The closest major city to the Peak District is Sheffield if you are in need of city comforts.

Book Your Sheffield Hostel Here!

hikes in the peak district national park

Sunshine in the Peak District.

Backpacking Wales

No backpacking trip through the UK would be complete with a visit to Wales. Though Wales has been under English control for the last 1000 years or more, Wales has maintained its unique identity in a wonderful way. Welsh is commonly spoken throughout Wales, especially in the smaller villages. Wales is home to so truly breathtaking national parks, impressive castles, plenty of sheep, and a few interesting big cities.

You can explore a small portion of Wales in a week, and quite thoroughly in two or three. Again if you have rented a campervan, you can really cover some ground. I recommend dedicating most if not all of your time backpacking Wales to experiencing the Welsh National Parks, doing heaps of trekking, and taking the time to stop and see a few quaint villages along the way.

Book Your Wales Hostel Here!

castles in Wales

Explore the many castles of Wales…

Backpacking the National Parks of Wales

Brecon Beacons National Park

Wales is home to three very impressive national parks. Start off by visiting Brecon Beacons National Park. I don’t think I have hiked anywhere on earth than is THIS green. The rolling hills look almost as if they were spray painted the most vivid shades of green. Most people hike to the top of Pen y Fan, a central mountain in the heart of the park. This is a very popular hike though the trick is all in the approach.

Start from the Cwm Gwdi car park and wind your way up the ridge line. After 7 or 8 miles you will arrive at Pen y Fan. I saw very few people on this track, so if you are going to do the hike take this approach. The views are stunning and if the weather cooperates, this hike will be one of the best you do in all of the UK. In addition to climbing Pen y Fan, there are plenty of other hiking opportunities on hand if you fall in love with the Brecon Beacons area.

Book Your Hay-On-Wye Hostel Here!

hiking in brecon beacons national park

Hiking on a path built by the Romans in Brecon Beacons National Park…

Backpacking Pembrokeshire Coast National Park

I was amazed when I visited the Pembrokeshire Coast by how few people I encountered. Apart from a few Germans who picked me up whilst hitchhiking, I didn’t run into many foreigners and it was the middle of summer!

This national park is located in the far southern end of Wales. It might be due to this fact that it doesn’t receive heaps of traffic. The coastline is rugged, the seas rough, and the views absolutely incredible. The Pembrokeshire Coast Path twists and turns its way for 186 miles along the most breathtaking coastline in Britain. It covers almost every kind of maritime landscape from jagged cliff tops and sheltered coves to wide-open beaches and winding estuaries. If you only have a day or two you can tackle a 20-mile section and you will be satisfied. Good on you if you take on the whole damn thing!

Book Your Fishguard Hostel Here!

best hikes in wales

Hiking on the remote Pembrokeshire Coast…

Backpacking Snowdonia National Park

Snowdonia National Park is truly the gem of Wales. Home to the second tallest mountain in the UK, Snowdonia is a must visit during your time backpacking Wales. The park encompasses a large swath of Northern Wales. There are awesome treks to be had all throughout the park. Tal Y Llyn in the south is quiet, filled with beautiful lakes and full of small, challenging mountains to climb.

To climb Snowdon itself you should base your self in the lakeside town of Llanberis. Llanberris is my favorite town in all of Wales. A former mining settlement, now Llanberis is a community of rock climbers, hikers, and outdoor maniacs. There are at least four badass gear shops in town. If you plan to climb Snowdon you have a few options. You can take the lazy and scenic option, which is a train ride nearly to the top. The old-fashioned alternative is to climb it on foot. Pray for a clear day! It is not uncommon to have the top of Snowdonia be shrouded in cloud and mist.

As I mentioned before, you can spend months exploring the slate quarries around Llanberis if you love to rock climb. Climbing here is unique because nowhere else on the planet can one climb slate rock in so many different capacities.

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rock climbing in llanberris

Other worldly scenes in the slate quarries around Llanberis.

Backpacking Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland makes up a small part of the country as a whole, but there are still plenty of interesting things to get into there. If you have a few extra weeks to spare on your UK backpacking trip be sure to hit up Northern Ireland!

Backpacking Belfast

In the limited amount of time I spent in Belfast, I found I really enjoyed it. Belfast is home to attractive streets, a happening night life, and a fiercely proud population. People here are really proud to be Irish. Their identity is rooted in Irish culture and they often don’t speak too kindly about being part of the UK or about their British neighbors, especially with Brexit in the works.

Have a pint at Belfast’s oldest pub, Kelly Cellars. Visit the peace walls. Another bizarre yet interesting part of this city is the fact that there are massive walls separating communities from the days when Protestants and Catholics were at each others throats. It is hard to believe that in a modern European city in the 21st century that such walls exist. Rumor has it that these walls will be taken down in the next decade or so.

To seal the deal on Belfast, check out a rugby game at the famous Ulster stadium.

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peace walls belfast

The walls seperating the differnt neighborhoods in Belfast

If you made it to Belfast than you should totally carry on exploring the other treasures Ireland has to offer backpackers.

Check out my hostel guide to the best cheap hostels in Dublin if you planning on spending any time in the Irish capital.

Backpacking Scotland

I fucking love Scotland. In fact, I love it so much I wrote an entire Scotland travel guide. Please refer to the Scotland Guide for all the information you will ever need about having an awesome backpacking adventure in Scotland.

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old man of storr isle of skye

Old Man of Storr looking fan-fucking-tastic

Off the beaten path travel in England and the UK

The UK is all and all quite small and home to 65 million people. That said, it dosesn’t take too much extra effort to ditch the crowds and experience the UK off the beaten path. I advise you to spend as much time as humanly possible exploring the remote sections of coast in addition to the national parks.

In Scotland especially, the opportunities to get off the beaten path are endless. If you have the time I recommend exploring the highlands for a few weeks at least, scoping out the Scottish islands, and if you can swing it visit the Shetlands. You won’t be disappointed that you did.

Backpacker Accommodation in England and the UK

In most places in the UK you can find some sort of budget accommodation. Prices vary but generally expect to pay between £10-16 for a dorm bed. I recognize that sometimes you just need a warm, dry place to shower up and sleep.

That said, if you bring along a good tent and sleeping bag, in addition to renting a car or van, your experience backpacking England and the UK will be far more rewarding than sleeping in a hostel every night.

Renting a van allows you to sleep anywhere you want to in any sort of weather conditions. And believe me, there are some EPIC spots to park up for the night spread throughout the UK.

One of my favorite ways to meet locals and save some cash is to use Couchsurfing. Couchsurfing truly is one of the best tools available to help save you money traveling. Plus you are always bound to meet interesting people!

Airbnb is SUPER popular in the UK, and you can find some awesome apartments for cheap prices if you need some chill time. Follow this link for $35 free credit.

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Where to Stay in the UK

LocationHostelWhy we like it?!
LondonRest up LondonExcellent value! Super close to everything important in London.
BrightonSmart Sea View BrightonGreat view of the sea and beach. Close to the city center. Free breakfast!
LewesYHA South DownsVery low prices! Beautiful setting in South Downs National Park.
ExeterGlobe Backpackers ExeterQuiet, peaceful, clean, and a solid place to base yourself to explore the area.
PlymouthPlymouth BackpackersFast, fiber-optic internet. Helpful staff, free breakfast!
BristolRock N Bowl HostelIf you're in the mood to party, this hostel has an onsite club that gets pumping on the weekends.
LiverpoolHatters Hostel LiverpoolPub crawls, activity nights, and one of the cheapest options in town.
KeswickYHA KeswickPerfect base in which to explore the Lake District highlights and treks.
SheffieldRussell Scott HostelsTruly excellent hillside location and free breakfast.
Hay-On-WyeThe Baskerville ArmsGreat off the beaten path hostel. Close to the quaint village of Hay-on-Wye.
FishguardHamilton Backpacker LodgeSmall, quiet hostel on Pembrokeshire Coastal Path in Fishguard. A friendly hiker hostel! Free breakfast!
LlanberisYHA LlanberisIf you plan to climb Snowdonia, this YHA is your cheapest and most comfortable option in town.
ManchesterHatters on Newton StreetFree bar crawl on Thursday's! Super low-prices.
LeedsArt HostelAs the name suggests, this hostel is a work of art! In addition to fast wifi, free breakfast is included.
CardiffNomadGreat location. Free breakfast. Coffee and tea available all day.
BelfastGlobal VillageBelfast's newest hostel right in the heart of the center. These guys really have gone all out with providing great facilities.

Wild Camping in the UK

Scotland is one of the few places in Europe where they have wild camping laws! This means you can legally camp most places free of charge and without hassle from police. The actual law states that you may “camp on most unenclosed land”, EG national parks, reserves, coastal areas, or any other wild places.

Camping is always my favorite way to get away from the crowds and connect with nature. As always when camping out, familiarize yourself with “leave no trace principles” and put them into practice. If you love being outdoors and exploring wild places, then more than likely you will be camping out at least a few nights a week whilst backpacking in the UK.

backpacking Scotland camping

Camping out is the best way to get off of the beaten path!

Top Things to do in the UK

1. Explore London

As one of Europe’s most exciting cities, London offers up a wide range of fun things for backpackers. Best of all is many of the top things to do in London are free.

things to do in London

The iconic Big Ben in London.

2. Go Trekking in Cornwall

Cornwall in Southwest England is among one of the most beautiful places in all of England. Take a few days to get to know it!

hikes in cornwall england

Enjoy the trul special Cornwall Coast.

3. Hike to a Pub

Few things in life are more rewarding than crushing a challenging hike only to be immediately rewarded with a tasty beer. There are many pubs in England and the UK that can only be reached on foot. If you are lacking the motivation to do a hike on a cold rainy day, hopefull the prospect of a quality beer and a cozy pub will light a fire under you!

4. Visit Castles

Love castles? The UK has them in abundance. Step back in time and explore some of the UK’s medieval heritage in the form of epic castles.

castles of wales

Caernarfon Castle, North Wales.

5. Try Pub Grub

You have had fish and chips and other pub food before, but never as good as you will find it in a traditional English pub.

6. West Highland Way, Scotland

As I mentioned before, this is one of the best long-distance hiking routes in Europe. If you got the time, this trek has the adventure.

Cairngoms national park backpacking

Sometimes you turn a corner in Scotland and BAM!

7. Hunt Banksy Street Art

From Brighton to Manchester, Banksy’s artic footprint can be found throughout the UK. The real treat is the task of finding them.

Looking for a cool place to stay in Manchester? Check out my guide to the 10 best hostels in Manchester!

Banksy of England

Banksy Rat in Liverpool. Photo: Flickr.

8. Climb Mount Snowdon in Wales

It may not be the tallest mountain in the UK (2nd tallest) but the views (clouds permitting) are fan-fucking-tastic.

climb mount snowdon

Prey for clear weather in Snowdonia!

9. Get to Know Small Villages

The cities usually get all the attention in the UK, but the real charm lies in its smaller villages. England, Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland each boast fine small villages to explore. Settle in, have a cup of tea, and chat to some locals about what life is like there.

small villages in England

Bibury Village, England. Photo: Wikicommons

10. Visit the Scottish Isles

If you are wanting to get into the territory of off the beaten path travel, look no further than the gorgeous and far-flung Scottish Islands.

Outer Hebrides backpacking

The Outer Hebrides are one of the most photogenic areas of Scotland!

United Kingdom Travel Tips

Below we have covered tons of essential information for backpacking the UK, including books to read, what to wear, backpacking travel costs, and how to travel around the UK.

The Best Travel Backpack?!

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Check out this post to read our full review!

 

Books to read while traveling the UK

The Backpacker Bible – Learn how to ditch your desk and travel the world on just $10 a day whilst building a life of long-term travel with an online income.  Shameless bit of self-promo here but this book is basically my dissertation on backpacking, nine years of tips and tricks and your purchase helps keep the site going. If you’ve found the content on this site useful, the book is the next level up and you will learn a ton – if you don’t, I’ll give you your money back. Check it out here.

White Teeth – At the center of this invigorating novel are two unlikely friends, Archie Jones and Samad Iqbal. Hapless veterans of World War II, Archie and Samad and their families become agents of England’s irrevocable transformation.

1984 – British writer George Orwell’s classic vision of a world ruled by “Big Brother”. Startling applicable and relevant today.

Sorry!: The English and Their Manners – A lighthearted investigation into what it really means to have proper English manners traces how polite behaviors have developed and changed throughout time, exploring traditions ranging from hospitality and chivalry to sexual conduct and online etiquette.

Fever Pitch – The English love Football. Fever Pitch is Nick Hornby’s tribute to a lifelong obsession.

Trainspotting – A modern-day Scottish classic. Rents, Sick Boy, Mother Superior, Swanney, Spuds, and Seeker are as unforgettable a clutch of junkies, rude boys, and psychos as readers will ever encounter. Trainspotting was made into the 1996 cult film starring Ewan MacGregor.

The Highland Clearances – A very interesting and tragic read about the plight of the Highland people during the period known as “the Highland Clearances” Quite shocking, but very informative.  Highly recommended.

Lonely Planet UK – Having a Lonely Planet in your backpack is sometimes a good idea.

United Kingdom Travel Phrases

Everywhere you go in the UK English will be spoken. However, in parts of Wales and Scotland, hearing Welsh or Gaelic is common. Below I have listed helpful Gaelic travel phrases for Scotland. You can be sure that you will butcher the pronunciation, and the locals will probably just laugh and respond in English, but they will appreciate the effort!

Good Morning – Madainn mhath

I don’t understand – Chan eil mi a’ tuigsinn

How Much – Cia mheud?

Stop here – Stad an seo

Where Is The Toilet? – Càite bheil an taigh beag?

What Is This? – Dè tha seo?

Sorry – Duilich

Help! – Cuideachadh!

Cheers! – Slàinte!

More Whiskey Please–Barrachd uisge-beatha

Staying Safe in England and the UK

Certainly, there are rough neighborhoods in every major city in the UK. That said, backpackers are rarely the target of violence or attacks. Use general common sense and don’t go wandering into unknown areas, especially at night.

Your biggest threat as far as personal safety will be the weather. In Scotland, the weather can be extreme even in the summer. Snow can fall any time of year in the mountains. Always check the weather before setting off on a trek. Pack the appropriate gear, food, and a water treatment device. If possible hike with one other person at least.

Pick yourself up a backpacker security belt to keep your cash safe on the road, and check out Backpacker Safety 101 for tips and tricks to stay safe whilst backpacking the UK. This post for plenty of ideas on ingenious ways to hide your money when traveling.

I strongly recommend traveling with a headlamp whilst in the UK (or anywhere really – every backpacker should have a good headtorch!) – check out my post for a breakdown of the best value headlamps to take backpacking.

Sex, Drugs, and, Rock ‘n’ Roll in the UK

The British are famous the world over for their tendency to knock a few back. If you have done a fair bit of backpacking than you have seen that group of British backpackers with matching haircuts chugging beers shirtless and chanting some catchy jingle they learned on a football pitch. You may or may not encounter that type of person, though luckily Brits tend to be a bit more reserved once on their home soil. Point is, if you are looking for a rowdy party, it shouldn’t be too hard to find.

If you keep your eyes and nose open, it shouldn’t be too hard to find a cheeky smoke, though expect to shell out some cash for anything over a gram. For more advanced happy-making pills, hit up the clubs and music festivals and you are bound to run across whatever it is you are after.

pubs in england

The quintessential English pub. Photo: Flickr

Get Insured Before Backpacking the UK

Even if you are only going on a short trip, you should always travel with insurance. Have fun on your backpacking adventure but please do get insurance – take it from someone who has racked up tens of thousands of bucks on an insurance claim before, you need it.

As a wise man once said, if you can’t afford travel insurance, you shouldn’t be traveling – so be sure to get your backpacker insurance sorted before you head off on a backpacking adventure! Traveling without insurance would be fucking stupid. I highly recommend World Nomads.

 

Find out why I recommend World Nomads, check out my World Nomads Insurance review.

 

What to Pack for England and the UK

On every adventure, there are five things I never go traveling without:

AR Security Belt

1. Security Belt with Hidden Pocket: I never hit the road without my security belt. This is a regular looking belt with a concealed pocket on the inside – you can hide up to twenty notes inside and wear it through airport scanners without it setting them off. This is hands down the best way to hide your cash.

 

2.Travel Water Bottle: Always travel with a water bottle – it’ll save you money and reduce your plastic footprint on our planet. AR bottle are tough, lightweight and maintain the temperature of your beverage – so you can enjoy a cold red bull, or a hot coffee, no matter where you are. For every AR bottle sold, we donate 10% to PlasticOceans.org – an initiative to reduce plastic in our oceans!

 

AR microfibre towel

3. Microfibre Towel: It’s always worth packing a proper towel. Hostel towels are scummy and take forever to dry. Microfibre towels dry quickly, are compact, lightweight and can be used as a blanket or yoga mat if need be.

 

Headlamp

4. Headtorch: I would never travel without a headtorch. Even if you only end up using it once, a decent head torch could save your life. If you want to explore caves, unlit temples or simply find your way to the bathroom during a blackout, a headtorch is a must. Currently, I’m using the Petzl LED headlamp with red light (which insects can’t see).

 

Hammock for backpackers

5. Hammock: Taking a tent backpacking is not always practical but hammocks are lightweight, cheap, strong, sexy (chicks dig hammocks) and allow you to pitch up for the night pretty much anywhere. Right now, I’m rocking an Active Roots parachute hammock – it’s light, colorful and tough.

 

For plenty more inspiration on what to pack, check out my full backpacking packing list.

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Best Time to Travel to the UK

When the rest of Europe is cooking in its own juices, the cooler temperature of England and the UK feel like heaven. From May to October, you can experience great weather at times all across the UK. The English Summer is also famous for having long periods of cold, wind, and wet.

If you are trying to get the most out of the UK”s outdoor happenings, I suggest coming in July or August. Again, it is a crapshoot. One day could be absolutely mint, only to have the next day be pissing down with no end in sight. It is important to be a bit flexible in your trekking plans due to the volatility of the weather. One should just expect that it will be cold and rainy at some point on your trip. Hopefully, you will be lucky and get the chance to experience some of that elusive British sunshine! That said, always have a solid rain-jacket on hand. Waterproof shoes are also essential for trekking in the UK.

backpacking england

You can experience some beautiful days for outdoor activities during the English Summer.

Apps to Download before Backpacking the UK

Maps.Me – Prone to getting lost or taking that ‘shortcut’ that adds another few hours onto a simple walk? This app is definitely for you. My favorite offline maps app, download your map and route before you venture out to keep you on track while backpacking the UK.

XE Currency – I used this a lot when backpacking abroad. It is a great help while calculating expenses.

HIDE.ME –  I always have a VPN ready to go on both my phone and laptop, I personally use Hide Me which is one of the fastest and most reliable options out there. This particular VPN allows for up to five connections which is handy for keeping all your devices connected without having to purchase multiple VPN packages.

UK Travel Guide to Getting Around

Arriving into the UK

The UK is home to major international airports in London, Glasgow, and Edinburgh. You can usually score budget flights to London from other major European capitals.

An alternative to flying is to take the ferry across the English Channel from France.

Entry Requirements for England and the UK

Tourist visas for citizens of many countries can be easily obtained on arrival at all of the ferry ports and airports.  As of early 2018, members of all EU countries and EFTA member states still have freedom of movement privileges and don’t require any visas.

There are 58 countries outside of the European Union that have a visa reciprocity agreement with the UK.  This means that citizens of those countries, depending on which one you are from, can receive 3-6 months of visa-free travel (tourist travel) in the UK.

If you are from a country not on the reciprocity list, you will need to apply for a visa through the British embassy in your home country.

How to Travel in England and the UK

Renting a car is a good option if you intend to see a wide swath of the country.

You can sort your car rental here in just a few minutes. Booking in advance is the best way to ensure you score the lowest price and your choice of vehicle. Often, you can find the best car rental prices when you pick up the rental from the airport.

The alternative to car rentals is the public bus system. Taking buses around the UK can be cheap especially if booked in advance.

Train travel is an option too though the trains only go to major cities and tend to be pricey. If you are low on cash a combination of hitchhiking and public buses is the way to go.

It is important to note that bus connections in rule areas/the start of treks are far fewer than in cities.

 

Campervan Hire in the UK

As I’ve said before if you have the means to rent a campervan do it! It isn’t the cheapest endeavor, but if you are traveling as a couple or with several mates you can split the expense. The price of the campervan rental depends on the time of year. Anyway you look it, it’s so much fun though….

These are the Campervan rental averages I found:

November – February £70/day

March – April, September – October £110/day

May – August £120/day

If you can swing it, you will enjoy the hell out of your time exploring the UK by campervan.

campervanning in the uk

Rent a campervan and experience some magical hidden camping spots

Hitchhiking in the UK

While it is easy to find local buses for short distances, your best bet for saving some money will be hitchhiking.

The UK is world-class road trip destination and its roads are never empty of potential rides. So many awesome campervans in the UK! Even on some lonely stretches of highway, a ride can be scored if you are patient.

Really, I think the rainy weather plays on peoples sympathies in the UK. Folks are always keen to stop and give you a lift if you’re hitchhiking in the rain!

Onwards Travel from the UK

If you are on an extended European backpacking tour good for you! Cheap flights from London, Glasgow or Edinburgh can take to your next backpacking destination without breaking the bank. Most major European capitals are only an hour or two flight away!

The ferry through the English channel to France can be a good way to get to Europe though it can be pricey, especially last minute or if you have a vehicle.

There are two ferry routes operating between Northern Ireland and Scotland offering a combined total of 84 sailings per week. P&O Irish Sea operates 1 route, Larne to Cairnryan which runs 7 times daily. Stena Line operates 1 route, Belfast to Cairnryan which runs 5 times daily.

england france ferry

Ferry boats cross the English Channel daily. photo: Wikicommons

England and the UK Backpacking Costs

Backpacking in Europe is always going to be more expensive than backpacking in Nepal for example.

Staying in hostels every night, partying it up, eating out for every meal, and booking last minute trains will certainly eat a big hole in your budget. Backpacking England and the UK is no different. Shit can get expensive fast! A comfortable daily budget is between $50-75 USD.

I recommend Couchsurfing as much as you possibly can. The more you Couchsurf and hitchhike, the more money you can spend on wine and cheese. Pure and simple. Also, having a good tent and sleeping bag will help save you a ton of money on accommodation.

Here is what you can expect to spend on a daily basis (excluding car or van hire):

Dorm Bed in a Hostel: $15-20+

Small basic room for two at a hostel: $90-120

Airbnb room: $25-40

Short public bus ride (1 hour or less): $3-8

Long distance bus: $15-50+

Meal at a pub: $10-17

Dinner in an Indian restaurant:$10-20

Beer in the shop: $2-3

National Park entrance fees: Free!

Money in England and the UK

The currency in the Uited Kingdom is the British pound sterling.

Currency symbol= £ GBP

ATMs are widely available in just about every place in the country. If you are going to remote locations on some of the Scottish islands, bring enough cash to see you through.

If you bring heaps of foreign cash to exchange, expect to get a poor exchange rate.

Find out whether or not your bank in your home country has fee-free international withdrawal. If so, activate it for your trip or for whenever you travel abroad. Once I discovered my bank card had that option, I saved a huge amount in ATM fees! When traveling to the UK on a budget, every dollar (pound) counts right?

GET IT HERE

You should always have some emergency cash hidden on you and I’ve written an entire post on the best places to hide your money. If you want to carry a fair bit of cash safely on your body, your best bet is to get hold of a backpacker belt with a hidden security pocket.
british pound

God save the Queen!

Backpacking UK Budget Travel Hacks

Camp: With plenty of stunning mountains, lakes, and remote coastline in the UK, camping saves you money and can help you get off of the beaten path. Check out this post for a breakdown of the best tents to take backpacking.

Cook your own food: Travel with a portable backpacking stove and cook your own food to save some serious cash whilst backpacking across the UK. If you plan to do some overnight hiking trips or camping having a backpacking stove will be ESSENTIAL to your success.

Couchsurf: Brits, Welsh, Scots, the Irish… they’re all awesome. Get to know some! Check out Couchsurfing to make some real friendships and see a country from the perspective of locals. When using Couchsurfing, be sure to send personalized messages to your potential host. A generic copy and paste message are much more likely to get turned down. Make yourself stand out.

Pack a travel water bottle: save money (and the planet) every day! Stop buying bottled water! Seriously guys, I know I may be repeating myself, but having a water bottle is so handy and an absolute must if you plan on doing any trekking whilst backpacking in the UK. Get yourself one and stay hydrated!

west highland way ben nevis

There are plenty of places to camp in the UK!

Travel the UK for Free

Backpacking England and the UK doesn’t have to mean go go go all the time. Cheap travel is slow travel and free travel, well that means putting in work (of sorts).

If you are looking to stay in the UK for more than a couple weeks, there are plenty of opportunities out there to keep you happy and comfortable without spending any money at all.

WWOOF UK is an organization that connects organic farmers with people looking to volunteer for a few hours every day in exchange for meals and a place to stay. I can’t recommend the WWOOF organization enough! I have WWOOFed in multiple countries around the world, and always had a great time doing it.

Both organizations require a small payment for membership that is good for a year (WWOOF UK membership is only valid in the UK).

WWOOF UK

Over the years, I have enjoyed many unique accommodation offerings whilst WWOOFing.

Internet in the UK

The UK is very well connected for the most part. Such is life after-all in a modern industrialized country.

I found that sometimes in remote regions of some of the Scottish Highlands I had no cell reception. Same can be said for some of the islands. Remote sections of the coast or national parks in Wales could be the same story  Most hostels offer free wifi or provide it at a small cost. Public libraries often have free wifi and they are quiet and warm places to chill out in.

If you have a smartphone with a SIM card from western Europe, then it will probably work normally in England and the UK. Check with your provider to see if there is any additional cost.

You can always buy a SIM card either at the airport or in any major city.

Must Try Experiences in the UK

Meet the People in the UK

The UK is full of wonderful human beings. In each region, the humor is slightly different, the jokes slighter dirtier than the last, and thee people all have one thing in common: each region of the UK makes fun of the others. Every time I have traveled around the UK I have been shown kindness whether or not I was in need. If you show people respect and kindness you can expect the same in return.

Food in the UK

The UK generally has a pretty poor culinary reputation. I think the old stereotypes about English food are now outdated to a degree. In addition to modern English cuisine, there is an astounding number of ethnic options available every where you turn in the UK. From Pakistani to Eritrean to Peruvian: good food is every where. Personally, I think English food fucking rocks.

Here are a few of my favorite dishes native to the UK:

Fish and Chips – This pub classic is known round the world, but it doesn’t get much better than when served in an English pub alongside a pint of dark ale.

Bangers and Mash – Now a staple in backpacker hostels from Bali to Argentina, Bangers and Mash is the original hangover cure. The dish is made up of mashed potatoes and sausages, sometimes served with onion gravy or fried onions.

Pork Pie – Delicious, cheap, savory pastries filled with minced pork.

Sunday Roast – The Sunday roast is a traditional British main meal that is typically served on Sunday, consisting of roasted meat, roast potato, and accompaniments such as Yorkshire pudding, stuffing, vegetables and gravy. Vegetables such as roast parsnips, Brussels sprouts, peas, carrots, runner beans, and broccoli are included and can be cooked in different styles. A classic from the days of yore.

Toad-in-the-hole – Sausages in Yorkshire pudding batter, usually served with onion gravy and vegetables. Historically, the dish has also been prepared using other meats, such as rump steak and lamb’s kidney.

Cullen Skink – Those cold days got you chilled to the bone? A Scottish classic, Cullen skink is a delicious soup made from smokedhaddockk, potatoes and onions. The perfect meal for traveling to Scotland on a budget!

Fatty Cutties – a cheap, scone-like cake with a brilliant fucking name.

Lanark Blue – A strong, blue-veined aged sheep milk cheese produced in Lanarkshire, Scotland. Very tasty after all that boring cheddar crap!

english fish and chips

Delicious English pub grub

Trekking in the UK

In addition to awesome cities, killer museums and culture, the UK is home to some fantastic trekking opportunities. Whether you dig day hikes or you are trying to pack in a few multi-day treks, there are options for every backpacker!

Trekking in England

South Downs National Park: Amberley & Bignor Hill Loop: A fantastic 11.5 mile / 17.7km circular route that is a great days walk or a stunning ride. This route takes in part of the South Downs Way between Amberley and Bignor Hill as well as part of the National Trust’s Slindon Estate and part of the Monarch’s Way.

Dartmoor National Park: South West Coast Path: This track is massive. It stretches for 630 miles! Pick it up anywhere along the way, or dive in and tackle a big stretch of it on a multi-day adventure.

CornwallSt Ives to Penzance Lands End Trail: A beautiful 11 miles hike to the very tip of South West England.

Seven Sisters: One of my favorite day-hikes in Southern England! The hike only takes a few hours and has you passing through rolling farm land before arriving at the sisters formation. The white chalk cliffs and greenish water are stunningly beautiful.

Lake District National ParkGreendale and Middle Fell, Western Fells: There are so many options here in the Lake District! The short 4 mile hike to the Middle Fell is a good place to get started.

trekking in England

Loving life on the English Coast.

Trekking in Wales

Brecon Beacons National Park: Pen y Fan: Experience the vivid green colors of the rolling hills in Brecon Beacons. If you go on a weekday there is bound to be less human traffic. There are many other peaks to climb in the park too if you’re keen for more action here.

Snowdonia National Park: Snowdon: Climb the second tallest peak in the UK. Again, hope for clear skies!

Pembrokeshire Coast National Park: Coastal Path: A trek down the Pembrokeshire Coastal Path will not disappoint. This hike can be made as a long day-hike or a more extended multi-day affair.

trekking in wales

Exploring the southern part of Snowdonia National Park

Trekking in Scotland

West Highland Way: The Ultimate long-distance hiking trail in the UK. This hike takes roughly 11 days to complete. Remember you can camp as well as stay in comfortable lodges along the way.

Isle of Skye: Old Man of Storr: The hike itself takes less than an hour. Do the hike in the dark before sunrise and get your mind-blown at first light. Alternatively you can camp out there the night before.

The CairngormsRyvoan and Lochan Uaine circuit: A gorgeous 10-kilometer walk through ancient pine forests and mystical lochs. Honestly there are so many beautiful hiking options in the Cairngorms!

Fort WilliamBen Nevis: Keen to tackle the UK’s tallest mountain? From Fort William, Climbing Ben Nevis takes roughly seven hours round trip. It is best to start early in the morning, thus avoiding the hordes of people. If you are trekking outside of the main summer season, you might be nearly alone.

Prepare for cold weather no matter what time of year it is! Ben Nevis might not seem that high but it can get snow anytime.  It is also very exposed to wind, sleet, and rain so plan accordingly. Pray for clear skies!

trekking in scotland

Get off the beaten path with some fine trekking in Scotland.

Festivals in the UK

Here is a list of a few festivals I recommend checking out whilst you are traveling around the UK:

Boomtown, 9-12 August 2018, Winchester: A very diverse festival covering all genres. Boomtown attracts some pretty big name acts every year.

Boardmasters, 8-12 August 2018, Newquay: Hidden amongst the swell and sunshine of the south-west coast of England, Boardmasters mixes the best boarders in the world – whether they’re surfers or skaters – with BMX kings, and soundtracks the action with dance dons, folk stars, and pop favorites.  This festival shares the same dates as Boomtown so you’re going to have to choose the best one!

Latitude Festival, 12-15 July 2018, Southwold: Taking over the idyllic English countryside, this festival is a great party as well as a family affair.

Download Festival, 8-10 June 2018, Derby: The UK’s premiere heavy metal and rock n’ roll festival.

The Great Escape, 17-19 May 2018, Brighton: Brighton’s music bonanza is a seaside holiday with a difference, as the beachside waves mix with the sound of breaking bands, boasting some 400 of the ‘Next Big Things’ in 35 venues, with just one wristband getting you into every one.

Isle of Wight Festival, 21-24 June 2018, Isle of Wight: The reincarnation of one of the UK’s first ever festivals continues to pull in the world’s biggest guitar slingers and the hottest craftsmen and women from pop and electronic genres.

isle of wight music festival

Scene from the Isle of Wight Music Festival.

Scottish Festivals

Cowal Highland Gathering, August, Dunoon: Every summer people from all over the UK descend on the Highlands for a multi-day festival celebrating Highland culture. The Highland games event is held in the Scottish town of Dunoon, on the Cowal peninsula in Argyll and Bute, over the final weekend in August. Activities include live traditional music and Scottish style Olympic sports.

Hogmanay, December 31st-January1st, Scotland: Hogmanay is the Scottish New Year celebration. The origins of Hogmanay are unclear, but it may be derived from Norse and Gaelic observances. Customs vary throughout Scotland, and usually include gift-giving and visiting the homes of friends and neighbors, with special attention given to the first-foot, the first guest of the new year.

In the streets of major cities, a copious amount of debauchery is sure to be found.

A Brief History of the UK

After World War Two rocked all of Europe, Great Britain emerged as a clear victor. Britain was a winner in the war, but it lost India in 1947 and gracefully gave up the majority of it’s foreign colonies by 1960. The British Empire suddenly ceased to exist… And the world was suddenly a little less efficient.

The UK debated its role in world affairs and joined the United Nations in 1945, NATO in 1949, where it became a close ally of the United States. Prosperity returned in the 1950s and London remained a world center of finance and culture, but the nation was no longer a major world power. In 1973, after a long debate and initial rejection, it joined the European Union.

As the country headed into the 1950s, rebuilding continued and a number of immigrants from the remaining British Empire, mostly the Caribbean and the Indian subcontinent, were invited to help the rebuilding effort. As the 1950s wore on, Britain lost its place as a superpower and could no longer maintain its large Empire. This led to decolonization and a withdrawal from almost all of its colonies by 1970.

London world war two

London after being bombed by German war planes during World War Two. Photo: Wikicommons

The Suez Crisis, Hippies, and Rock Music

Events such as the Suez Crisis showed that the UK’s status had fallen in the world. The 1950s and 1960s were, however, relatively prosperous times after the Second World War, and saw the beginning of a modernization of the UK, with the construction of its first motorways for example, and also during the 1960s a great cultural movement began which expanded across the world. Hippies! Some of the best music ever produced was made in England throughout the sixties! Think the Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, etc…

Unemployment was relatively low during this period and the standard of living continued to rise with more new private and council housing developments taking place and the number of slum properties diminishing.

the beatles

The Beatles in their prime. Photo: Wikicommons

Modern Day United Kingdom Politics

In September 2014 a referendum was held in order to decide whether or not Scotland would gain independence from the rest of the UK. The vote did not pass and to the objection of many Scottish people, it remains part of the UK.

On June 23rd 2016, the UK voted to leave the European Union in a move now coined “Brexit”. The UK remains a member of the EU for the time being but invoked Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty on 29 March 2017. This started negotiations on a withdrawal agreement that will last no more than two years (unless the Council and the UK agree to extend the negotiation period), before an exit from the European Union on 29 March 2019. The longer-term implications of the referendum vote remain uncertain, with politicians and commentators suggesting various outcomes. In my opinion, it’s a fucking disaster.

England lives in hope that King Arthur shall return from his long slumber, slaughter almost all of our politicians and lead us into prosperity once more…

 

Volunteering in UK

Long term travel is awesome. Giving back is awesome too. For backpackers looking to travel long-term on a budget in UK whilst making a real impact on local communities, look no further than World Packers. World Packers is an excellent platform connecting travelers with meaningful volunteer positions throughout the world.

In exchange for a few hours of work each day, your room and board are covered.

Backpackers can spend long periods of time volunteering in an awesome place without spending any money. Meaningful life and travel experiences are rooted in stepping out of your comfort zone and into the world of a purposeful project. World Packers opens the doors for work opportunities in hostels, homestays, NGOs and eco-projects around the world. Broke Backpacker readers get a special discount of $20 – just use this discount code BROKEBACKPACKERand membership is discounted from $49 a year to $29.

 

Make Money Online Whilst Backpacking the UK

Traveling in the UK long-term? Keen to make some cash when you are not exploring? 

Teaching English online is a great way to earn a consistent income—from anywhere in the world with a good internet connection. Depending on your qualifications (or your motivation to obtain qualifications like a TEFL certificate) you can teach English remotely from your laptop, save some cash for your next adventure, and make a positive impact on the world by improving another person’s language skills! It’s a win-win! Check out this detailed article for everything you need to know to start teaching English online.

Learn what it’s like to be a VIPKID teacher, a top company in the field of online English learning.

In addition to giving you the qualifications to teach English online, TEFL courses open up a huge range of opportunities and you can find teaching work all over the world. To find out more about TEFL courses and how you can teach English around the world, read my in-depth report on teaching English abroad.

Broke Backpacker readers get a 35% discount on TEFL courses with MyTEFL (simply enter the code BACKPKR), to find out more, please read my in-depth report on teaching English abroad.

Whether you are keen to teach English online or looking to take your teaching game a step further by finding a job teaching English in a foreign country, getting your TEFL certificate is absolutely a step in the right direction.

Being a responsible backpacker in the UK

Backpacking the UK will bring you ample opportunities to participate in debauchery, and it is very important to have fun, let loose, and get a bit wild at times. Most backpacking trips I have been on across the world have included at least a few mornings where I wake up knowing I went too far.

There are some things that will put you in the category of a straight up jackass if you do them. Being super loud and obnoxious in a tiny hostel at 3 AM is a classic rookie backpacker mistake. Everyone in the hostel will hate you when you wake them up. Show your fellow travelers respect whilst backpacking in the UK, and anywhere else for that matter!

Climbing on ancient castle walls, monuments, or other historical artifacts should be avoided. Learn to appreciate the cultural treasures of the UK and don’t be that dickhead who adds to their demise.

Reduce your plastic footprint: Perhaps the best thing you can do for our planet is to make sure you do NOT add to the plastic problem all over the world. Don’t buy one-use water bottles, the plastic ends up in landfill or in the ocean. Instead, pack a tough and cool travel water bottle. For every Active Roots water bottle sold, we donate 10% to PlasticOceans.org – an awesome initiative aimed at educating people on the risk of single use plastic and helping to clean up our oceans. Help save the planet, pick up a water bottle here. 

Check out our post on how to be a responsible backpacker.

Scotland Wild Camping and Farms

Proper wilderness etiquette should be maintained at all times! This means cleaning up all rubbish from your campsite(s) and leaving them in the same pristine shape you found them in. Take care of the wild spaces that take care of you.  The earth is being neglected in so many places, it is up to you to help keep Scotland green and clean.

Respect farmers’ fence perimeters. Always ask before setting up shop on land that is fenced off. Whenever you open a gate on a farm, always close it! The last thing you want is to let 100 sheep out onto the road.  Beware of bulls in the paddocks. They can be aggressive!

Scotland is a goddamned beautiful country with many unique qualities. Traveling the world makes you an ambassador for your country, which is awesome. We can make a positive impact on people when we travel and get rid of any ugly stereotypes that may be associated with your country…

waterfalls on isle of skye backpacking UK

Keep the land green and clean while backpacking England and the UK!

Final Thoughts on Backpacking England and the UK

Well there you have it amigos. I hope you have thoroughly enjoyed my UK travel guide! I hope you are able to get into plenty of fun adventures (and a little debauchery) during your time backpacking around this beautiful land. Best of luck on your journey!

Want to learn how to travel the world on $10 a day? Check out the Broke Backpacker’s Bible…

Yay for transparency! Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. This means that if you book your accommodation, buy a book or sort your insurance, I’ll earn a small commission at no extra cost to you. I only link to stuff I’ve actually used and never endorse crap. Your support helps me keep the site going.”


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The Ultimate Travel Guide to Backpacking England and the UK on a budget; get insider knowledge on backpacking routes, accommodation, costs and travel tips!

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