Welcome to the United Kingdom! The land of imposing castles, dark humour, afternoon tea, rolling countryside, beautiful National Parks, buzzing cities, vivid green landscapes and … four different countries! 

Backpacking England and the United Kingdom as a whole is one of the most incredible adventures to be had across the whole of Europe and you’re in luck – I was born in England and have spent plenty of time camping, hiking, partying and exploring my motherland, so I can give you plenty of insider travel tips…

Whether you are travelling around Europe already or just planning to visit the UK, a backpacking trip through England, Wales, Scotland, and/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 travellers, mega diverse, suuuper GREEN, full of outdoor adventure opportunities and the perfect spot for a culture vulture! 

This backpacking UK travel guide will show you the way to create an awesome budget backpacking trip across the 4 home nations! Get the low-down on where to go, travel costs, itineraries, trekking destinations, UK travel hacks, and recommendations on where to stay along the way…

A red phone box on a quaint street in an English village
Does it get more British than this?!
Image: Nic Hilditch-Short

Why Go Backpacking in The UK?

From the remote corners of the Scottish wilderness and the sheep-lined Welsh backroads to the imposing Northern Irish coast and the iconic English pubs that will leave you with memories to last a lifetime: a trip backpacking through the UK is full of epic surprises for the worthy adventurer.

Before we kick off – a quick geography lesson:

  • England is in The UK.
  • The UK is made up of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.
  • Great Britain is made up of England, Scotland, and Wales.

They are all one country, and separate countries at the same time. It’s confusing, I know. Even we get confused.

Just, whatever you do, don’t call us all English. If you’re travelling Scotland, Ireland, or Wales, this is a good way to get your food spit in. These countries are steeped in incredible history and unique culture in their own rights.

A person standing in front of a peak after a hike in the UK
Britain has old and new, cities and countryside too!
Image: Nic Hilditch-Short

For every castle and well-trodden pagan path, there are incredible soaring skyscrapers and open-minded yet dark humour. Diversity filters through everything that the UK is, from the people to the different cultures, cuisines, landscapes, and things to do. If you’re coming here to see picture postcard England, sip tea in a cottage and wander through the rolling green countryside… we got that! 

But there’s more than that, we’ve got modern gritty cities, miles and miles of impressive and diverse coastline, events for all types of people every weekend and a history many outside of the British Isles might not be aware of. So, with so much to discover, it’s just about time to jump right in!

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, these UK backpacking itineraries help you make the most of your time in this diverse region. These backpacking routes can easily be combined or customised, especially with a combination of the UK’s best hostels.

Even though we’re a pretty small country, we’re also densely packed full of exciting and interesting places to visit. From hitting the coastline to hiking in the mountains, exploring cities or wandering through sleepy villages, you can cover a lot of ground in a short amount of time. But don’t underestimate the roads and how often you’ll want to stop.

1-Week Travel Itinerary for The UK: The Common Route

1. London, 2. The Cotswolds, 3. Cornwall, 4. Manchester

First up you’ll start with two days to visit London, exploring all the historical and cultural gems the capital has to offer. Be sure to tick off places like Buckingham Palace, The Tower of London and Tower Bridge, The London Eye, Westminster Abbey, St Paul’s Cathedral and Big Ben on a busy around the main tourist areas of the city. 

On your second day explore some of the other areas like Camden Town, Hyde Park, The Sky Garden and Trafalgar Square. If you have time you can also call in at one of the museums, pick from places like The British Museum, The Natural History Museum, or a personal favourite, The Victoria & Albert Museum. 

Next up it’s time for a change of pace as you grab the train from Paddington Station to the town of Chippenham in the Cotswolds. Renting a car for this and the next part of the journey would be ideal, but there are several local buses connecting each town and village. 

Spend two days wandering around the quaint villages of the area. I highly recommend Bourton-on-the-Water, Stow-on-the-Wold, Castle Combe, Bibury, Chipping Campden, and Cirencester. 

Continue south to get some coastal and beach action in Cornwall. Be sure to include both lively surfer towns like Newquay alongside sleepy fishing villages like St. Ives to get the full experience. 

Next up, catch a long train to stay in Manchester for a few days, AKA The heart of the North. Explore the history of the Industrial Revolution at the Museum of Science and Industry, be enchanted by John Rylands Museum, and be a cool kid in the Northern Quarter.

This is a great place to end your trip with its good transport connections, or if you want to extend, there’s plenty more to explore in the North and up into Scotland…

2-Week Travel Itinerary for The UK: The Real GB

1. London, 2. The Cotswolds, 3. Cornwall, 4. Bristol, 5. Pembrokeshire, 6. Manchester, 7. York, 8. Edinburgh

This 2-week itinerary takes the 7-day tour and expands on it to include another few important destinations. 

Again, it makes sense to start in London. It’s the city with the best transport connections and the perfect introduction to the culture and history of our multicultural and multifaceted country. You’ll be right into the swing of things ticking off some of the most famous landmarks over two days. 

Now you’ll have a little more time for a road trip in The Cotswolds where you can escape the busy city and see the quiet and quaint side of the UK. Here you’ll be greeted with the England most people imagine when they dream of visiting. Two days gives you enough time to negotiate the narrow lanes and limited public transport.

You’ll see yet another change in scenery as we stay on the same track as the shorter itinerary above by heading further south to the stunning beaches and sleepy harbours of Cornwall. Having your own transport here is the best way to visit the many coves, beaches, coastal walks and seaside villages. 

Moving back northwards, it’s time to spend a couple of days visiting Bristol & Bath, two cities that are super close and yet offer such different vibes. Effortlessly cool Bristol mixes modern cafe culture with the fascinating and sometimes challenging history surrounding the harbour. Bath on the other hand is a Roman spa town where you can indulge in some relaxation! 

Crossing over into Wales the impressive and rugged coastline of Pembrokeshire is a must-visit. Here you can also visit the UK’s smallest city in St Davids and hear the rhythmic tones of the Welsh language over a wonderful couple of days.

Head to Cardiff and jump on a train to Manchester. Here you can experience the diversity and unique charms of the Northern Powerhouse with its gritty and post-industrial, yet fun and modern vibes. With travel time this will take around a day and a half to 2 days. 

Visiting York is iconic and and easy trip from Manchester. Step back in time as you spend a day exploring places like the Tudor Street of The Shambles and its almost entirely intact ancient city walls! 

Finish up your tour by crossing the border into Scotland to spend the remaining day and a half of your trip in Edinburgh. You’ll get a taste of the Scottish spirit in the beautiful capital city where you can visit places like The Royal Mile and Edinburgh Castle.

1-Month Travel Itinerary for The UK: Yes, I’ve Been to The UK

1. London, 2. South Coast, 3. Cornwall, 4. The Cotswolds, Bristol & Bath, 5. Pembrokeshire, 6. North Wales, 7. North West 8. York, 9. Lake District, 10. Edinburgh, 11. Glencoe, 12. Ireland

Once again we’re going to begin our journey in London as it’s the most accessible city for overseas visitors. This time give yourself an extra day and instead spend 3 days taking in the main sights as well as getting off the beaten track and discovering some lesser visited places. 

From the capital head down to the South Coast to the fun and funky city of Brighton, known for its environmentally conscious politics and being the LGBTQIA+ capital of the UK. Here you’re guaranteed to have a good time with great vibes. Spend a couple of days exploring the city and the nearby Jurassic Coast

From the Southeast of England head over to the Southwest and take 5 days to explore the various towns, cities, villages and beaches of The Cotswolds, Bristol, Bath, and Cornwall. This area will give you a great range of experiences both culturally and in terms of the changing geography. 

Next up it’s time to cross over into a different country, wonderful Wales. Spend the next 5 days taking in its stunning landscapes like the cliffs of Pembrokeshire, the beaches of Anglesea and the soaring mountains of Snowdonia. You might even pick up a bit of the local language. 

The next 5 days are all about the North, the real heart of the UK! Get to know the gritty and hip cities of Manchester, Liverpool, and York. As well as having the friendliest locals (God loves a scouser), obviously the football stadiums are infamous.

If you’re into hiking then also be sure to head to the incredible Lake District for a couple of days in the mountains. Continue northwards and into yet another country with a distinctive culture and independent spirit, Scotland.

Spend a couple of days in the capital of Edinburgh taking in its beautiful old streets and imposing castle. After that rent out a car and head into the Highlands where you can use the town of Glencoe as a base for hiking and exploring the many nearby lochs and mountains. 

Fly from Edinburgh over to Belfast, the capital of yet another country that makes up the UK. Here you should take a Black Cab tour and learn about the turbulent history of this small but mighty country. Whilst here finish your UK backpacking trip by heading to the incredible Causeway Coast where you can brave the Carrick-a-rede rope bridge, Game of Thrones filming locations and The Giant’s Causeway.

A person sat on a cliff in front of a sea stack on the Welsh course.
Just Hanging Out On A Welsh Cliff in Pembrokeshire!
Image: Nic Hilditch-Short

Best Places To Visit in the United Kingdom

So now you know – all four countries in the country of The United Kingdom – England, Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland each have their 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 (somewhat) friendly rivalry, we’re all in it together. For now, anyway…

A person stood in front of a statue of The Beatles in Liverpool
There are plenty more places to see outside of London, including the home of the Fab 4, Liverpool.
Image: Nic Hilditch-Short

You will find that each region has its own unique draw and charm. 

Discover some of the best hiking in all of Europe and some of the most isolated areas of the country in Scotland. Explore England’s awe-inspiring National Parks and busy cosmopolitan cities. Get off the beaten path in Wales whilst roaming the rugged coastline and beautiful small villages. Cosy up to a pint in Northern Ireland and discover the turbulent history but unwavering spirit of this often overlooked country. 

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 look at some of your itinerary options for your adventure backpacking in England and the UK.

Backpacking London

London is one big sightseeing magnet, let’s be honest! I might be a proud Northerner but I do love a trip down to the capital. People from the world over come to England just to experience London. I don’t blame them, London has some pretty impressive sights, an incredible public transport network and is so big and diverse that there’s just something for everyone to enjoy. 

However, there are 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 in. Fortunately, there is a plethora of backpacker hostels in London. Also, there are millions free fun things to do within the city. 

Take in some of the beautiful historical monuments like Big Ben, Tower Bridge, The London Eye, Westminster Abbey, and the grandass fucking Buckingham Palace and say “Hi” to Charlie whilst you’re there! Sure, they’ll be a ton of tourists there no matter what time of year you visit, but there’s good reason for that and you’ve got to hit up the top spots and there’s no shame in that! 

An underground sign with Big Ben in the background in London
You can leave London without seeing Big Ben!
Image: Nic Hilditch-Short

However, once you’ve ticked off all the major spots, there are plenty of other places to see including going for a walk through Hyde Park or along the River Thames. Or how about climbing the 311 steps to the top of “The Monument” for a budget panoramic view over the city? There are some pretty incredible places to visit in London that you’ll find relatively crowd-free! 

London is also famous for its delicious and relatively cheap international cuisine. Be sure to grab an Indian curry, try some Pakistani food and indulge in authentic Jamaican Jerk during your visit. In fact, if you’re looking for some wallet-friendly digs, then some of London’s best neighbourhoods to stay in include many ethnic enclaves. 

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 or you can even kayak the river Thames!

Backpacking Manchester

Alright, now we’re talking! Ok, I’ll be honest, I’m from Manchester, so I might just be a teeny bit biased here, but fuck it, I’m going to say it, it’s the best city in the UK! Where do I even start, well, welcome to the “Northern Powerhouse”, the home to Oasis, the place where freaking communism was invented and the beating heart of working-class post-industrial Britain. 

Ok, London has the classic “sights” but they’re all just stuck-up suits man, Manchester has heart, it’s got Northern soul, we’re gritty, cool, feisty but friendly and we’re not afraid to show our civic pride! Best of all, whereas London is swarming with so many tourists it’s hard to figure out who is a local and what is actually authentic, Manchester is just here doing our own thing to our own rhythm. Here you’ll find plenty of space to enjoy every aspect of our wild and unique city! 

If you’re looking for history then a stop off at the Hogwart’s-esqe John Rylands Library is a must, this cathedral to literature will leave you spellbound. Next up is Chetham’s Library, where Engels and Marx got their heads together to draft their thoughts on a new idea based on the condition of the factory workers of the city: Communism! 

Tramlines at sunset in Manchester
We’ve also got photogenic tram lines in Manchester!
Image: Nic Hilditch-Short

A trip to the Museum of Science and Industry and the imposing Castlefield Viaduct allows visitors to discover the city’s role in the industrial revolution as well as its Roman origins. A trip to the Manchester Museum and the People’s History Museum are also recommended. 

Manchester today though firmly has its head in the future with diversity, inclusivity and open-mindedness being the new beat that our drum bangs to. Meet cool travellers in Manchester’s hostels, explore areas like Chinatown or Curry Mile before having an unforgettable night out along Canal Street in the Gay Village. Hang out with the cool kids down in the trendy Northern Quarter or the recently redeveloped warehouses of Ancoats. 

We’ve even got two Premier League football teams and the biggest indoor music venue in the country (with another on the way), so there’s always a buzz in Manchester (See what I did there? The bee is the symbol of Manchester!) 

In terms of food, we’ve got it all! Recommended places include Dishoom, Northern Soul Grilled Cheese, Pieminister, Nell’s Pizza, What The Pitta (for cheap veggie eats), Tampopo, Bundobust, Tokyo Ramen, The Refuge, El Rincon de Rafa and gosh… so many more places!

Backpacking Brighton

London is fun but it can be super tiring and, if I’m honest, a bit overwhelming. Brighton might just be the coolest city you visit whilst backpacking England and that isn’t just my bias.

Spend a weekend walking around Brighton’s breezy and easy ‘city’ centre. Being set right on the coast, you can easily take a load off by the sea in one of the sunniest places in the UK!

Brighton is famous for being probably the most open-minded, accepting and modern-thinking city in the UK, all whilst retaining that classic Victorian seaside charm. It’s the LGBTQIA+ capital of the UK, which means it’s always bursting with colour, acceptance and open arms. It is also home to the only Green Party parliamentary seat in the country too. 

Here you’ll find a multitude of fun vintage shops where you can score some new threads for your travels. In addition to those, there are some excellent cafes, tattoo studios, parks, record stores, music shops, and cool concert venues. 

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

Oh, I do like to be beside the seaside!

Be sure to walk around the gardens at the Royal Pavilion, this Grade I listed dates back to 1787 and was the one-time royal residence. It is built in a unique style prevalent in India during the 19th century when it was expanded to its current layout. I recommend bringing a picnic and finding a spot on the grass to eat, but you can take tours inside if you like. 

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 colourful humans pass by.

Of course, you’ve got to spend time by the sea whilst in Brighton. Whether that be swimming and sunbathing on the pebble beach or exploring the Iconic Brighton Palace Pier which dates back to 1899 and is home to a fun amusement park. Also, be sure to keep an eye out for the eerie ruined West Pier. Thankfully there are some great hostels in Brighton if you’re looking for somewhere affordable to stay.

Backpacking Bristol & Bath

Bristol is a city straddling the River Avon in the southwest of England with a long, rich and eventful maritime history. Here ships set sail for the new world, engineering marvels were invented and the heights of Victorian ingenuity reached. It was also home to the famous pirate “Blackbeard”! 

Although it’s good to have some context on the darker side of the history if you’re staying in Bristol, specifically related to its role in the transatlantic slave trade. A fantastic, insightful, and important exhibition can be found at the M Shed which shines a light on the often overlooked victims of the rise of the British Empire. 

Modern Bristol however is all about inclusivity, hipster vibes, independent shops, cafes and restaurants as well as groundbreaking artistry (think Banksy!). The port and harbourside, though still working to this day, have also been transformed into a cultural hub with many museums exploring the local social and industrial heritage

Clifton suspension Bridge in Bristol
The Clifton Suspension Bridge Is a must-see!
Image: Nic Hilditch-Short

The old warehouses around the port have been renovated and now ooze all things bohemian, 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 also pretty impressive and when the weather turns to shit, it is a great place to be mesmerized by the unending number of detailed arches that make up the ceiling.

Bristol is a great place to spend a weekend and is also a short train ride away from the city of Bath, another wonderful place to visit on your backpacking trip to the UK. Of course, with a name like that, you won’t be surprised to find it’s famous for its natural hot spring water and Roman baths!

Backpacking Yorkshire

Ahh Yorkshire, “God’s Own County” as the locals like to say. Ok, so they might talk a bit strangely in these parts, but this massive area of the UK has some of the most incredible history, landscapes and cities to visit in the country. If you’re looking for an authentic experience, then Yorkshire is a great place to find it. 

In terms of cities, there are many to choose from, but you’ll want to head to York first. This ancient Roman city is a real sight to behold. Its imposing city walls that have been intact for almost 1000 years and give off real ‘Games of Thrones’ vibes!

A stroll down “The Shambles” a street lined with wonky timber-framed overhanging shops from the Tudor period, is not to be missed. Then there’s the imposing York Minster, one of the most important and impressive cathedrals in the entire country. 

A horse and card on a cobbled street in a village in Yorkshire with the moors in the background
The quaint streets of Haworth, home of the Bronte Sisters.
Image: Nic Hilditch-Short

It’s not just cities. In fact, Yorkshire is best known for its rolling countryside, imposing mountain peaks and quaint villages. From Hippy Hebden Bridge to Haworth, the home of the Bronte sisters, there are plenty of places to visit. 

I seriously recommend you bring some solid hiking boots for Ingleton Falls or the limestone cliffs of Malham Cove (calling all Harry Potter fans!). Put yourself to the test over the mountains of Whernside, Ingleborough and Pen-y-Ghent to make up the gruelling Yorkshire Three Peaks challenge. 

Being such a massive county you might be surprised to know it also includes some of the most impressive coastline too. Situated in the East of the UK, the Yorkshire Coast offers a variety of different attractions. If you’re looking for drama then the rugged white cliffs of Flamborough rise high above the crashing waves below. 

Then there’s Whitby with its ruined cathedral and tales of Dracula. Quaint seaside villages like Staiths and Robin Hoods Bay are also not to be missed. If you’re looking for some sand between your toes then head on over to Filey or Scarborough.

Backpacking The Peak District National Park

If you’re looking for some popular with locals, but relatively off the beaten track with tourists kinda hiking, then The Peak District is where it’s at! Located mostly in Derbyshire but scrapping areas of Cheshire, Yorkshire and Greater Manchester at the southern end of the Pennines, it’s sorta in the Midlands technically speaking but the North has pretty much laid claim to it! 

Often known as the playground of Manchester due to its close proximity to the city, it’s been known locally as an escape from the oppressive nearby cities particularly during the cruel and smog-filled Victorian era. Other nearby cities include Sheffield, Nottingham and Derby. In fact, staying in a cottage in Nottingham is a great way to visit the Peaks. 

A person sat on Chrome Hill in The Peak District, England
Chrome Hill in The Peak District.
Image: Nic Hilditch-Short

Split into two sections, the White and the Dark Peak, it offers a unique opportunity to see some of the various different geological features of the UK in one location. The northern “Dark Peak” is so called because of its characteristic Grit Stone ridges and peaks such as the area’s highest point, Kinder Scout. The southern “White Peak” is instead known for its limestone caves, cliffs and valleys such as Dovedale and the impressive Chrome Hill which featured in the final season of Peaky Blinders. 

As you can imagine, there are plenty of amazing hikes in the Peak District and one of our favourites is Mam Tor in the village of Castleton. This short but steep hike is a classic and you’ll be rewarded with uninterrupted vistas of the region from its summit. Be sure to visit the ancient castle that gives the town its name as well as stopping off at the stunning Chatsworth house and grabbing a tart in Bramwell!

Backpacking Liverpool

As a Manc, I might get shot for saying this, but I bloody love Liverpool! This port city on the North West coast of England has a real charm all of its own. Sure, it might be better known as the home of the Beatles and 2 pretty massive football clubs, but there’s so much more it has to offer. 

There might be a few narrow-minded folks who baulk at the idea of visiting Liverpool, but let me tell you, they’ve never been and they’re living off outdated stereotypes! Their loss! Book yourself into one of the many budget-friendly hostels in Liverpool and get ready to be swept off your feet! 

The city was made the EU Capital of Culture in 2008 and underwent a massive renaissance that shows no signs of slowing down. The heart of the “tourist” area of the city is the historic Royal Albert Dock, this groundbreaking series of warehouses has been transformed into restaurants, bars, cafes and museums. 

The Liver Building in Liverpool, UK
The Legendary Liver Building.
Image: Nic Hilditch-Short

Close by is The Beatles museum and their twice daily “Magical Mystery Tour”, for fans of the Fab 4, this is a fantastic way to learn more about the band and the city they grew up in. The Museum of Liverpool is also a great place to discover the unique history of the city. 

Whilst exploring Peir Head be sure to keep an eye out for the “Three Graces”, the Port of Liverpool Building, the Cunard Building and of course, the iconic Royal Liver Building with its two clock towers crowned by Liver Birds, the symbol of the city. 

Liverpool is buzzing every night of the week with events on and great boozers to hit the town if the feeling takes you! There are some great places to eat out too from the gritty and cool Baltic Market to the independent establishments of Bold Street, which also has some great shopping and is one of the best areas to stay in Liverpool too. 

If you fancy getting out of the city then the nearby beaches of Crosby and Formby with their massive sand dunes and colonies of native red squirrels offer a fun escape. There’s even the Sandstone Trail, a 3-day hike is neighbouring Cheshire that takes in some of the stunning local scenery. 

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 probably some of the most epic the UK has to offer outside of Scotland! The Lake District offers some of the UK’s most incredible hiking and is also home to the tallest mountain in England, Scafell Pike, as well as the most fun, Helvellyn

As you might have guessed, the region is defined by its rugged fell mountains and its glacial ribbon lakes. There is plenty of different hiking from technical scrambles and hard rock climbing to short hill walks and gentle strolls around places like Buttermere. Not only that but you can enjoy canyoning, kayaking, mountain biking and SUP boarding too. 

A person on Striding edge on Helvellyn in the Lake District in England.
Hiking Helvellyn in the Lake District. One of My Favourite Hikes in the UK.
Image: Nic Hilditch-Short

In addition to more hiking than you could possibly do in a month, there are some quaint and sleepy little villages worth checking out as well. Market towns such as Kendal, Ambleside and Keswick are great places to stay in the Lake District and make perfect bases for exploring the area and are home to traditional pubs, a few hostels, and outdoor equipment shops if you are in need of any gear.

The Mosedale Horseshoe, Haystacks, Helvellyn via Striding Edge, The Old Man of Coniston, and Scafell Pike are among my favourite hikes to do in the Lake District.

Backpacking The Cotswolds

If you’re looking for that stereotypical “picture-postcard, jolly old England” then this is where you’ll find it! The gentle rolling countryside of the Cotswolds with its thatched roof cottages, quaint villages, and cute place names that Yanks will most certainly not be able to pronounce is the England of your dreams! Forget gritty city streets that challenge your perception of Blightly, this area plays right into those preconceptions and it does it well! 

Visiting The Cotswolds is to tour of a number of different villages surrounded by farmland (some of which you may have seen Jeremy Clarkson pratting around in on Amazon!) Ideally, you’ll have a car as this is the sort of place where you have to wait 3 weeks for the bus!

A quaint street in an English village
Quaint AF, mate, innit.

Your first stopping point will need to be Bourton-on-the-Water, the “Venice” of The Cotswolds. Unsurprisingly it’s set on a river and has an overwhelming surplus of low stone bridges.

If you time it right, you might just get to see the famous river football match, a ludicrous but oh so eccentrically British event. There’s also a fun and incredibly detailed model village there that’s fun for those of us who like to pretend to be Godzilla on the weekends.

Just me? welll ok then!

Other must-visit areas include the market town of Stow-on-the-Wold with views from St. Edward’s Church and its insane tree-framed doorway (search it!). Bibury with its row of 17th century weavers cottages is another popular spot as is Chipping Campden and it’s fine examples of well preserved Medival architecture. Then there’s the “capital of the Cotswolds”; Cirencester with its impressive Roman Amphitheatre and ancient Abbey.

Backpacking Cornwall & Devon

If it’s dreamy coastline and paradise-like beaches you’re looking for, then you might have thought the UK was the wrong place, well, welcome to the Southeast! Here we’ve got everything from a booming surf culture to Insta-worthy, pastel-painted harbours for your snapping pleasure. Cornwall and Devon are the domestic travel capital of the UK, but despite that, there are still plenty of areas on this sparsely populated peninsular that you can have all to yourself.

There’s an endless array of tiny inlets, deserted local beaches and tiny villages to explore when you wander around this region. If you have a car, road trips around Cornwall become insanely beautiful adventures. You’ll see things that most tourists couldn’t dream of.

A beautiful harbour in Cornwall
Don’t forget to pack your budgie smugglers!

St. Ives is a classic destination with clear waters, bobbing boats in the harbour and a beach to rival the Seychelles! Next up is Newquay, home to the best surfing beaches in the UK.

It’s got a more fun and youthful vibe than some of the more sleepy villages. Another of my favourite spots is the Lizard Peninsula with its rugged coastline and incredible turquoise bays.

Sitting just above Cornwall, the county of Devon offers some of the most incredible coastal regions in the entire country. This rural area however is often a little quieter than further south and has a wider range of landscapes to explore too.

The stunning Dartmoor National Park offers everything from Neolithic tombs to surreal rock formations and cliffs carved by wind and rain over millennia. Then there’s Torbay and Torquay if its beaches you’re after and Dawlish or Lyme Regis if quaint seaside towns are more your vibe.

Backpacking Wales

No backpacking trip through the UK would be complete without a visit to Wales. Though Wales has been under English control for the last 1000 years or more, Wales has maintained its unique identity and independent spirit wonderfully. 

Welsh is commonly spoken throughout the country, especially in the smaller villages in the North and so find signs in English and Welsh. Wales is home to some truly breathtaking places in the UK, impressive castles, plenty of sheep, fantastical coastal regions, and a few interesting big cities too!

A rocky island off the beach at Tenby in Wales.
The stunning town of Tenby in Pembrokeshire.
Image: Nic Hilditch-Short

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 glorious UK National Parks, doing heaps of hiking, and taking the time to stop and see a few quaint villages along the way as well as braving a dip or two in the ocean. 

Some of my favourite areas that you really should visit include the immense and rugged Pembrokeshire Coast, and the wonderful island of Anglesea with its beautiful beaches if you’re looking for a coastal experience. Then you’ve got the incredible peaks of Snowdonia National Park which includes two of my favourite scrambles, Crib Goch and Tryfan.

Backpacking Scotland

Ahh bonnie, wee Scotland. A visit over the border is the perfect way to really get off the beaten track and embrace the wild landscape of the UK. Whilst it might be better known for the highlands (we’ll get to that in a minute), Scotland has several impressive, beautiful and passion-filled cities to explore too.

Edinburgh is the perfect place to start your Scottish adventure as it’s well-connected and offers the perfect way to ease into this stunning country. Be sure to stroll along the Royal Mile, wander the imposing Edinburgh Castle and hike up an extinct volcano just above Parliament!

The nearby city of Glasgow with its grittier attitude and world-famous football derby is the perfect antidote – as travelling to Edinburgh does feel a bit too posh to be proper Scotland!

woman wearing a big winter coat and thick gloves outside Edinburgh Castle on a sunny day
Four-seasons-a-day Scotland.
Photo: @Lauramcblonde

Head next to The Highlands. Stops in Fort William to tackle the UK’s tallest mountain, Ben Nevis, Glencoe for incredible waterfalls, lochs, glens, and towering peaks and the Isle of Skye for the landscape you thought only existed in Star Wars are a must.

Don’t forget the coast either: Scotland might not be a tropical paradise, but it does boast some of the most stunning white sand beaches in the entire country, even Europe! Just pack a wetsuit and you’ll be reet.

If you’ve got the time, the North Coast 500 traces the coastline through some world-class beaches, dramatic rugged cliffs, impossible-looking rock formations and centuries-old lochside castles. It’s truly a stunning trip.

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 trip, backpacking Ireland won’t disappoint you!

In fact, if you want to see one of the most interesting, emotive, and fascinating areas of the UK – or if you just want to go to the pub and get pissed – then Northern Ireland is perfect for you. 

I should mention, that if you don’t already know what “The Troubles” are, then I highly recommend doing some reading up just to get some context – and also, not to put your foot in it!

There are a lot more positives to this little country, but it is worth noting that it is historically divided between the Protestant Loyalists who identify as being part of the UK and the Catholic Unionists who consider themselves to be Irish. 

A person crossing the Carrick-a-rede rope bridge in Northern Ireland
Dare you cross the Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge?!
Image: Nic Hilditch-Short

One of the most interesting things to do whilst staying in Belfast is taking a Black Cab tour of the murals in the different areas of the city to get a full insight into the culture and history of the country. Stormont Parliament is also another place you can take a tour of and it goes into some more of the political history and reconciliations. 

Outside of Belfast, Northern Ireland offers some of the most dramatic coastlines in the whole of the UK. The Giant’s Causeway and the surrounding Causeway Coast are UNESCO-listed, no matter the weather you’ll be left awe-inspired by this rugged and wild region. Another fun spot to visit along the way is the Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge that hangs 100ft above the crashing waves below. There are also various “Game of Thrones” filming locations in this region including Dark Hedges to visit.

Getting off the Beaten Path in England and the UK

The UK is all and all quite small and yet it’s still home to 65 million people! That said, it doesn’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 the coast in addition to the national parks.

In Scotland, the opportunities to get off the beaten path are endless. If you have the time I recommend exploring the highlands and scoping out the Scottish islands.

If you can swing it, visit the Shetlands. You won’t be disappointed that you did.

That being said there are heaps of areas in Wales, England, and especially Northern Ireland to explore too. Many of the smaller cities, towns, and villages are pretty much void of tourists and if you avoid the most popular mountains and hiking trails then you’ll likely not see another soul on your trek… well, you’ll likely come across some sheep!

A person sat by the beach in the UK with boats in the background
On an island, off an island, off an island! Is that OFBT enough!?
Image: Nic Hilditch-Short
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10 Top Things To Do in The UK

There are heaps of things to do across the 4 countries of the UK, from taking in the sights to hitting the trails, wandering along the coast, or discovering the mysterious history of this ancient land. So, let’s take a closer look…

1. Find hidden gems in London

Look, you already know about LDN. Many of the top things to do in London are even free, like wandering along the Thames and taking in many of the historic and iconic buildings such as The Houses of Parliament, The London Eye, and Tower Bridge.

But when you dig a little deeper in London, that’s when you’ll see something that your typical tourist doesn’t. Keep your eyes peeled, ask people for their favourite haunts, and keep a very open mind.

Tower bridge in London
A classic London landmark, Tower Bridge… Not to be confused with London Bridge.
Image: Nic Hilditch-Short

2. Coast to coast

Being an island – surrounded by the sea – it sometimes comes as a surprise to many visiting the British Isles that we do have some pretty epic coastline. If you’re looking for world-class beaches, then be sure to hit up Cornwall, Scotland, or Northern Wales. If you’re looking for craggy, dramatic scenes then head to Pembrokeshire or The Causeway Coast.

3. Pub crawl until you’re crawling

Few things in life are more rewarding than crushing a challenging hike only to be immediately rewarded with a tasty beer. The best pubs in the UK are the ones you find right at the end of an epic hike, your weary body with be rewarded with hearty pub grub, a roaring fire, proper ale and some good craic!

Top tips for pubs are to avoid chains like Wetherspoons, never wear football shirts unless you’re from somewhere cool like Argentina, and head for cosy local establishments in the countryside!

4. King of the castle, king of the castle

Yes, the British monarchy’s excessive power goes way back.

Step back in time and explore some of the UK’s medieval heritage in the form of epic castles. You can even stay in some of them…

If you’re looking for the best then you’ve got to get out of England and head over the border to see the castles in Ireland, Wales, and Scotland. What better way to stem English rule than building a massive fortress… (note: sarcasm).

A person stood on ruins in the rain with an umbrella
A good brollie never goes amiss in the UK.
Photo: @Lauramcblonde

My favourites include Conwy and Pembroke Castles in Wales, and Edinburgh and Eilean Donan Castles in Scotland. In England, I highly recommend Warwick and Lindisfarne Castle. And although it’s kinda expensive, The Tower of London’s history is mind-blowing.

5. Try typical British food: fish & chips and … chicken tikka masala…

Ok so everyone knows about Fish & Chips, but not everyone knows where to actually get the proper gear from. And I can tell you now, if you’ve only had it in some tourist pub in London, then sorry mate, but that’s not it.

In order to have a proper chippy you’ve got to leave The South. (Sorry guys!)

Then into some pretty ramshackle-looking local town. Ask for a hearty amount of salt, vinegar, mushy peas and/or gravy (curry sauce also accepted) and you’ve got it. Welcome to Britain.

Some chips and Irn Bru
Proper chips and some Irn Bru! Yes Mate!
Image: Nic Hilditch-Short

Oh, one more thing! You might think that the humble chippy is the national dish of the UK, well you’d be wrong! In fact, the most popular dish amongst Brits is the Chicken Tikka Masala, we do love a good curry over here! This dish was invented by Indian immigrants to suit the British palette and it’s safe to say it’s been a hit and for me is a true celebration of multiculturalism.

6. Get to know cities outside of London

London is great and all, but it’s not actually the be-all and end-all of the UK! In fact, if you want to see a more genuine, friendly, authentic and picturesque version of the UK, then you best high tail it out of the big smoke.

There are some other pretty buzzing metropolises around the UK. As well as the obvious, Manchester, Edinburgh, Belfast, Cardiff, Liverpool… check out Leeds, Newcastle, and Bath.

All of these offer a great mix of history as well as being modern cities with great vibes of their own. Then there are some smaller cities such as Salisbury, Stirling and of course, St. Davids, the smallest city in the UK with a population of less than 2000 people!

Lincoln boasts one of the finest Airbnbs I’ve ever had the pleasure of staying in. With breathtaking views, a snug bedroom, and all the amenities you could desire, it’s a true gem not to be missed!

Quaint Tudor streets of England
York is a different scale than LDN.
Image: Nic Hilditch-Short

7. Soak in the atmosphere at a footy game!

What’s the main religion of the UK? That’s right, it’s football… (If you call it soccer then we will have no choice but to forcefully deport you.)

There’s not much else that is as sacred as the beautiful game here and picking a team is a surefire way to either stoke up some controversy or make some friends for life! Just be careful where you wear your new shirt.

The Emirates Stadium in London during an Arsenal game
I might be a Northerner but I’m a Gooner through and through… don’t ask!
Image: Nic Hilditch-Short

Whilst watching a Premier League game will either cost you a kidney or you’ll end up watching Spurs (COYG!), catching a local game is a much more authentic experience and it’s both easier on the wallet and easier to come by. If you’re here during the football season (Aug-May) then research some local football league teams and grab yourself an experience you won’t forget.

Oh, you should also know that despite being the “United” Kingdom we are very much independent countries when it comes to football. England, Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland compete under different football associations…

8. Climb The Three Peaks or The Yorkshire Moors … or both

Whilst the UK might not boast mountains as high as the Alps, these peaks are not to be sniffed at let me tell you! If you’re up for the ultimate hiking challenge then you can take on the three peaks, Snowdon, Ben Nevis & Scafell Pike… the highest mountains in England, Scotland and Wales in 24 hours.

I’ve done it, and it’s not exactly a hike for beginners. But the views are epic and the scenery along the way will go some way to helping you ignore the searing pain in the rest of your body. Enjoy!

If you’re less of a sadist then you can take the sensible option and just pick one! For me, I just the scramble up Mount Snowdon via Crib Goch, but it’s for experienced hikers only, otherwise, the Pyg or Miners tracks are very accessible.

If you’re looking for something a bit more gentile and yet just as impressive, then taking a ramble through the Yorkshire Dales and along the Pennine Way (which passes on the tops right by my house!) is a great way to experience the great outdoors in Britain.

A person stood on a rocky outcrop overlooking the moors.
There Are Plenty Of Epic Landscapes To Explore!
Image: Nic Hilditch-Short

9. Get to know small villages

The cities usually get all the attention in the UK. I mean, it’s not surprising, since there are a shit ton of things to do in all of them. But the real charm of the UK lies in the smaller villages and towns. This is usually where you’ll find real local life, super friendly folk and access to some of the beautiful rural areas of the country.

England, Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland each boast fine small villages to explore. Settle in, have a cup of tea, and chat with some locals about what life is like there.

Whether you’re looking for seaside villages such as Staiths, Robin Hoods Bay or pretty much anywhere in Cornwall or Devon, or countryside spots like Settle, Castleton or Haworth, you’ll always find these spots super charming.

The view overlooking a coastal fishing village in England
Staiths on the North Yorkshire Coast is like something from a period drama!
Image: Nic Hilditch-Short

10. Visit the Scottish Isles

If you want to get into the territory of off-the-beaten-path travel, look no further than the gorgeous and far-flung Scottish Islands. This is truly where the magic happens when backpacking the UK.

Scotland is the land of myths, legends, and unintelligible ginger wildlings. It truly is a stunning part of the country that is unspoilt and uncrowded and will surprise the hell out of you.

The sunsetting over some ruins in the British countryside
It’s worth following your nose a bit.
Photo: @Lauramcblonde

By now you probably know about the thundering mountains of the highlands, but did you know about the white sandy beaches that look more like they belong in the Maldives than the gloomy far north of the UK? Yeah, they’re up there alright!

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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 £25-50 for a dorm bed. I recognise that sometimes you just need a warm, dry place to shower and sleep, however, it has to be said that accommodation isn’t cheap here, even hostels.

It’s also worth checking out B&Bs and guest houses, especially if you’re travelling as a pair as sometimes a room can work out not much more expensive than a couple of beds in a dorm and often they come with breakfast and lovely local owners.

That said, if you bring along a good backpacking 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. Plus, you’ll have some ££ too!

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… there are also some wild weather conditions too, which can be fun in a van!

One of my favourite 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 travelling. Plus you are always bound to meet interesting people!

The Best Places To Stay in the United Kingdom

Where to Stay in the UK

DestinationWhy Visit!Best HostelBest Private Stay
LondonThe landing point for all things UK: insane history, culture, and endless things to do. It’s a right of passage and an expensive must-see!Urbany Hostel LondonThe Mama Shelter Shoreditch
ManchesterHome to some of the best artists in the WORLD, buzzing Manchester is the beating heart of the North. Without this city, there would be no England!YHA ManchesterBoutique Narrowboar City Centre
YorkshireCountryside for days. Kind folk, easy lifestyle, and a happy-go-lucky attitude. Yorkshire is like coming home.Art HostelClementine’s Townhouse
The Peak DistrictLook over the mighty UK from the central Three Peaks. Don’t forget your hiking boots!YHA Harington HallHobbit House Cottage
LiverpoolEveryone is welcome in Liverpool. See how international culture is embraced in one grand city. Oh yeah, and The Bealtes, obviously.The Liverpool Pod Travel HostelTitanic Hotel
The Lake DistrictThere’s no wonder why this is The British’s favorite getaway. Embrace the best of Britiain’s rainy weather and spectacular views.Elterwater HostelLog Home Village
The CotswoldsA haven inbetween metropolises. If you fancy a quiet stopover between big city stops, this will suit you just nicely.The Barrel StoreColtswolds Cottage Winchcombe
CornwallSurf, sea, and sand, head to Land’s End. A stretch of beauty. And it’s even a touch warmer down here too!Dolphins BackpackersThe Land’s End Hotel
WalesThere are no words to describe Wales. Everyone who steps foot over the border falls in love. Just go and see why.Cwtsh HostelLittle Kestrel Cabin
ScotlandAy ya canny lass, ya need ta gee ta Scotland at some point in ye life. Even if it’s just to decifer what the locals are sayings.Kick Ass GrassmarketOcean Mist Leith
Northern IrelandPubs, fields, caaaaalllmmmm – and the best Guiness in the world. Nothing beats a road trip on the island or Ireland – so head north.Vagabond’s Hostelroom2 Belfast Hometel

Airbnb in The UK

Airbnb is now very well established in the UK and there are listings in pretty much all cities, towns & villages. Whether you are looking for a luxury Loch Lomond cabin, a Liverpool Homestay, or a cheap London guesthouse, there is an Airbnb listing for every occasion. You’ll find one of the Broke Backpacker favourites if you’re staying in Shrewsbury.

UK Airbnb prices do vary. But sometimes, it can honestly be just as cheap to take an Airbnb as to book a hostel if you are travelling as a couple. Also, the standard of hostels in the UK is a real mixed bag but the calibre of Airbnb’s is unrivalled. To get the true, local authentic experience of life in the UK go for Airbnb!

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 in most places free of charge and without hassle from the police. The actual law states that you may “camp on most unenclosed land”, for example, national parks, coastal areas, or any other wild places.

Camping is always my favourite way to get away from the crowds and connect with nature. As always when camping out, familiarise 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.

Two people camping in the UK
Get out in the bush and rough it a bit.
Photo: @Lauramcblonde

Whilst wild camping in other areas of the UK isn’t technically legal, there are plenty of places where in practice it’s never policed. But this requires a bit of common sense such as camping up on the mountains and not on a village green. Having said that, there are plenty of cheap campsites all over the National Parks.

England and the UK Backpacking Costs

Backpacking in Western Europe is always going to be more expensive than backpacking in Nepal or Vietnam 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 £60- £200 a day.

I recommend Couchsurfing as much as you possibly can. The more you Couchsurf and use public transport, the more money you can spend on wine and cheese (or beer and beans, let’s be honest.) Pure and simple. Also, having a good tent and sleeping bag in your backpack will help save you a ton of money on accommodation.

Food in the UK can be expensive, especially if you’re eating out. Getting accommodation which includes breakfast and a kitchen will go a long way to saving some dosh. Cheap supermarkets include Lidl, Aldi, and local ethnic shops. Though there isn’t much in the way of proper street food as such, chippys and local sandwich shops in smaller towns and villages are often well priced. There’s always Gregg’s too, you’ve got to give this institution a try!

A sign in llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch, Wales
Luckily, they don’t charge by the letter in Wales!
Image: Nic Hilditch-Short

A Daily Budget in the UK

UK Daily Budget Table
ExpenseBroke BackpackerFrugal TravelerCreature of Comfort
Totals per day$125$255$430

Money in England and the UK

The currency in the United Kingdom is the British pound sterling. As of December 2023, £1 GBP = $1.23 USD.

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. Having said that, post-COVID cash isn’t used all that often, especially in cities.

You can easily pay with contactless or on your phone in pretty much all places. It’s mostly small businesses like fish and chip or sandwich shops where you might need to have some cash on you or have some coins when paying for parking.

british pound
Lizzie’s face, soon to be a thing of the past.

Find out whether or not your bank in your home country has fee-free international withdrawals. 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 travelling to the UK on a budget, every dollar (pound) counts right?

For all matters of finance and accounting on the road, The Broke Backpacker strongly recommends Wise! Our favourite online platform for holding funds, transferring money, and even paying for goods, Wise is a 100% FREE platform with considerably lower fees than PayPal or traditional banks.

But the real question is… is it better than Western Union?

Yes, it most certainly is.

Travel Tips – The UK on a Budget

west highland way ben nevis
There are plenty of places to camp in the UK!
  • Camp: It’s the UK, so you’ll need a trusty, waterproof tent. But with plenty of stunning mountains, lakes, and remote coastlines in the UK, camping saves you money and can help you get off of the beaten path.
  • Cook your own food: Travel with a portable backpacking stove and 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. You can also select accommodation that includes a kitchen and shop in local supermarkets.
  • Couchsurf: Solo travellers in the UK, listen up! This is a lifetime experience you won’t forget. Check out Couchsurfing to make some real friendships and see a country from the perspective of locals. When using Couchsurfing, be sure to send personalised messages to your potential host. A generic copy-and-paste message is much more likely to get turned down. Make yourself stand out.
  • Use public transport: Though it’s not as cheap as in continental Europe, public transport in the UK is by far the cheapest way to get around. Try to book in advance if you can and have a look into picking up a rail card too.
  • Don’t spend too much time in London: OK, I mentioned this before for other reasons, but London is so damn expensive. So once you’ve seen what you want to see, don’t hang around! Move on to somewhere cheaper.
  • Take advantage of free things to do: Whilst food, accommodation and fuel are expensive here, you’ll find so many of the best things to do here are actually free. Hiking and just exploring cities on foot are perfect for a budget. There are also plenty of places like museums or libraries that are free to visit and also offer access to free Wifi.
  • Budget-friendly Tours: If you do happen to go on any guided tours, then save some money by paying it off in instalments. Global Work and Travel have broke backpackers in mind with their options. You can even choose the amount per instalment! There are loads of options for the UK.
Global Work and Travel Promo Code

Why Should You Travel to The UK with a Water Bottle?

Plastic washes up on even the most pristine beaches… so do your part and keep the Big Blue beautiful!

You aren’t going to save the world overnight, but you might as well be part of the solution and not the problem. When you travel to some of the world’s most remote places, you come to realise the full extent of the plastic problem. And I hope you become more inspired to continue being a responsible traveller.

STOP USING SINGLE-USE PLASTIC! If you’d like some more tips on how to save the world.

Plus, now you won’t be buying overpriced bottles of water from the supermarkets either! Travel with a filtered water bottle instead and never waste a cent nor a turtle’s life again.

Save $$$ • Save the Planet • Save Your Stomach!
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Best Time to Travel to the UK

When the rest of Europe is cooking in its own juices, the cooler temperatures of England and the UK feel like heaven.

From May to October, you can experience “great” weather at times all across the UK. By great weather I mean, more often than not, it’s pretty mild.

However, the weather here is famously unpredictable. We can have a blistering 40°C day on Tuesday and by Wednesday morning it feels like winter is coming.

If you are trying to get the most out of the UK’s outdoor activities, I suggest coming in July or August. Again, it is a roll of the dice!

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 and also pack accordingly!

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

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 boots are also essential for trekking in the UK.

Despite all this doom and gloom, the summer days in the UK are glorious. And on a warm day, they are hard to beat.

What to Pack for The UK

Make sure you get your travel packing list for The UK is spot on. Because whatever time of year you visit, you’ve always got to be prepared when you visit the UK! That means preparing for ALL weathers.

Here is my list of 6 essential items I would recommend bringing for your trip.

Don’t Let Snorers Keep You Awake!
Don’t Let Snorers Keep You Awake!

Ear Plugs

Snoring dorm-mates can ruin your nights rest and seriously damage the hostel experience. This is why I always travel with a pack of decent ear plugs.

Keep your laundry organized and stink free
Keep your laundry organized and stink free

Hanging Laundry Bag

Trust us, this is an absolute game changer. Super compact, a hanging mesh laundry bag stops your dirty clothes from stinking, you don’t know how much you need one of these… so just get it, thank us later.

Stay Dry With a Micro Towel
Stay Dry With a Micro Towel

Sea To Summit Micro 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.

Make Some New Buddies…
Make Some New Buddies…

Monopoly Deal

Forget about Poker! Monopoly Deal is the single best travel card game that we have ever played. Works with 2-5 players and guarantees happy days.

Reduce Plastic – Bring a Water Bottle!
Reduce Plastic – Bring a Water Bottle!

Grayl Geopress Water Bottle

Always travel with a water bottle! They save you money and reduce your plastic footprint on our planet. The Grayl Geopress acts as a purifier AND temperature regulator. Boom!

Staying Safe in The UK

Certainly, there are rough neighbourhoods in every major city in the UK. That said, backpackers are rarely the target of violence or attacks.

Follow your standard travel safety protocol and don’t go wandering into unknown areas, especially at night. Another bit of useful advice is to be careful where you wear football shirts because people take this shit seriously!

Your biggest threat as far as personal safety will be the weather. In Scotland and the Lake District, 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 hike, and pack the appropriate gear, food, and a water treatment device. If possible hike with one other person at least and let someone know where you’re headed and when you’re due back.

Another thing to be aware of while visiting the UK is the unusual tides in some areas of the country. These can be pretty extreme with the water going out for over 2 miles in places like Southport or Morecambe Bay.

The coastline of the UK
Be sure to be aware of the tides along the coast.
Image: Nic Hilditch-Short

The tides around the country are all different and many come in several times a day and an alarming rate! Be aware of being cut off on islands and sandbanks and always check before venturing out.

I strongly recommend travelling with a headtorch whilst backpacking in the UK (or anywhere really – every backpacker should have a good headtorch!). Especially if you’re hiking or camping, it’s an essential item.

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 then you have seen that group of British backpackers with matching haircuts chugging beers shirtless and chanting some catchy tune they learned on a football game.

You may or may not encounter that type of dickhead individual. 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. Sadly, cocaine use is also at problematic levels across the country.

Dating in the UK

The UK is a pretty liberated place in terms of dating. The country leads the world in terms of multicultural relationships and it’s a great place for LGBTQIA+ travellers.

The British do have a reputation for being pretty direct and forward when it comes to dating (though funnily enough, not in pretty much any other way!) which is semi-justified. Basically, if you are looking to park your bike in the UK, your chances are as good as anywhere!

Of course, you can use Tinder whilst travelling. But why not try your luck at the good old pub? Whilst it’s generally a safe scene, you should be aware of your surroundings as drink spiking is on the rise.

Getting Insured BEFORE Visiting The UK

Whilst we do have the trusty NHS in the UK, they don’t cover everything. Travel insurance for backpackers is essential. So whether you’re hiking up Ben Nevis or having a messy night on the town.

ALWAYS sort out your backpacker insurance before your trip. There’s plenty to choose from in that department, but a good place to start is Safety Wing.

They offer month-to-month payments, no lock-in contracts, and require absolutely no itineraries: that’s the exact kind of insurance long-term travellers and digital nomads need.

SafetyWing is cheap, easy, and admin-free: just sign up lickety-split so you can get back to it!

Click the button below to learn more about SafetyWing’s setup or read our insider review for the full tasty scoop.

How To Get into The UK

The UK is home to a few major international airports including London Heathrow, Manchester, Glasgow, and Edinburgh. You can usually score budget flights to London or Manchester from other major European capitals.

Heathrow and Manchester in particular have some awesome long-haul options as well as flying to great hubs for connecting flights such as Singapore, Dubai, and New York. You can also grab a Ryanair flight to a nearby hub like Frankfurt, Paris, or Amsterdam for sometimes less than £20!

england france ferry
Ferry boats cross the English Channel daily.

An alternative to flying is to take the ferry across the English Channel from France, this is a fun way to arrive in the UK and it means if you’ve got your own transport then your car or van can come along too. You can take the ferry from down south in Dover as well as up north in Hull, though southern connections are more popular. It’s also possible to get the ferry over to Ireland from Liverpool.

London is also connected to the mainland European continent via the Eurostar train which has direct trains to Paris, Brussels and Amsterdam. From here you can pretty much get yourself anywhere in western Europe on the train!

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. After Brexit (booooo) EU citizens no longer have the right to freedom of movement. However, they can visit for 6 months without a visa.

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.

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How To Get Around the UK

Renting a car is a good option if you intend to see a wide swath of the country, especially some of the more remote areas.

You can sort your car rental 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.

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A typical English village bathed in sun with bunting hanging between the shops
You’ll need a car to visit some of the small villages.
Image: Nic Hilditch-Short

Travelling in the UK by Public Transport

Public transport in the UK is amongst the worst in Western Europe. Train travel is generally expensive and unreliable, although it can be much cheaper if you book ahead. Having said that, if you grab a Railcard and book ahead of time then it’s a pretty effective way to move between major cities and towns and even to some more remote villages.

There are 2 major private bus/coach companies in the UK (National Express/Megabus) that cover most of the country. These can work out very affordable if you book ahead – although journey times can be tediously long.

It is important to note that bus connections in rural areas/the start of treks are far fewer than in cities. These need to be thoroughly researched ahead of time and asking your guesthouse or a local is the perfect way to get that info. In some remote places buses are very infrequent.

If you want to explore the National Parks to their fullest then having your own transport is highly recommended, unfortunately.

Campervan Hire in the UK

Especially in Scotland and Wales (where finding a parking spot if way easier) living the van life in the UK is extraordinary! It isn’t the cheapest endeavour, but if you are travelling as a couple or with several mates you can split the expense. The price of the campervan rental depends on the time of year.

These are the campervan rental averages:

  • 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. It will give you access to some of the best treks as well as well as providing you with some awesome budget accommodation.

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 a 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 people’s sympathies in the UK. Folks are always keen to stop and give you a lift if you’re hitchhiking in the rain!

That being said, in cities, hitchhiking isn’t all that common and might be met with an element of suspicion. It is generally more common in more rural hiking destinations.

Onwards Travel from the UK

If you are on an extended European backpacking tour good for you! Cheap flights from London, Manchester, Glasgow, or Edinburgh can take you to your next backpacking destination without breaking the bank. Most major European capitals are only an hour or two flight away and (if you’re flexible) can cost almost nothing!

The ferry across the English Channel from Dover 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.

As I previously mentioned, the Eurostar train connects London to a few major European cities but again, can be quite pricy compared to flying to top destinations with Ryanair or Easyjet.

Where to travel onwards from The UK? Try these countries out!

Working in the UK

The UK has a long history of migrant workers arriving at its shores in the hopes of a better life. A traditionally strong currency makes it an attractive destination for migrant workers from Asia, the Commonwealth, and Eastern Europe. However, as a backpacker, you might find it slim pickings unless you can get some hush-hush cash-in-hand work with a local doing something like labouring, bar work, or waiting-on.

Following Brexit, working in the UK is growing increasingly difficult and now pretty much anybody from outside the UK & Ireland will need a visa to work in the UK and they do not come cheaply or easily.

Furthermore, the country is on the cusp of entering a recession. The cost of living in the UK is going up and jobs are hardly in abundance. Strugs!

A large English house in the countryside
A trip to Downton Abbey anyone?!
Image: Nic Hilditch-Short

If you do have your heart set on working in the UK, going with Global Work and Travel may make it easier. They offer internships, working holidays, or Au Pairing options complete with VISA guidance and a great support system throughout your stay.

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Volunteering in the UK

Volunteering overseas is a great way to experience a culture whilst doing some good in the world. There are lots of different volunteer projects in the UK that you can join ranging from teaching to animal care, to agriculture to pretty much anything!

Now, the United Kingdom doesn’t need as much volunteer power as less-developed nations, but opportunities are still available. Most gigs you’ll find are in hospitality or farmwork and usually provide free lodging in return! You may need a T5 (short-term work) visa depending on the work you do, so make sure to double-check.

If you want to find volunteering opportunities in the UK, then I recommend volunteer programs run through reputable work exchange programs like Worldpackers and Workaway. They aren’t perfect (what is?) but they are a great way to get on the ladder and start building a volunteering community.

Culture in The UK

The UK is full of wonderful human beings. In each region, the humour is slightly different, the jokes slighter dryer than the last, and the people all have one thing in common: each region of the UK makes fun of the others! In fact, if a British person is taking the piss out of you, then it means they like you! So don’t take it to heart!

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. Whilst people in London do have a bit of a reputation as being a bit cold, the rest of the country is generally very warm and welcoming.

In terms of religion, whilst the UK is technically a Christian country, we are very much agnostic on the whole. Whilst there are many religions freely practised across the country, it’s not something we generally worry too much about!

The white limestone cliffs of England
Yeah, this is in Yorkshire, Flamborough to be precise!
Image: Nic Hilditch-Short

Useful Travel Phrases for The UK

Whilst you might not need to learn a new language when you visit the UK, we do have some unique phrases that might confuse a few visitors!

  • Fancy a cuppa/brew? – Do you want a hot drink? 
  • Alright? – Less of a question and more of a greeting.
  • Pissed – Really drunk or annoyed.
  • I’m knackered/Cream crackered – I’m tired
  • Half past – Us Brits tend to refer to the time in a way that can be sometimes confusing: instead of saying “six-thirty” we say, “half past six”.
  • Hank Marvin – An obscure British musician… his name now mean “Starving!”
  • Innit – Short for “isn’t it”, often used when seeking confirmation or as a filler!
  • Breakfast, dinner, tea! – In the north, we confuse the rest of the world!

What to Eat in The UK

The UK generally has a pretty poor culinary reputation. However, the old stereotypes about English food are now well outdated and you will dine very well in the UK, especially in places like London and Manchester.

In addition to modern English cuisine, there is an astounding number of ethnic options available everywhere you turn in the UK. From Pakistani to Eritrean to Peruvian, good food is everywhere. Personally, I think food in the UK fucking rocks.

As we’ve mentioned earlier, the UK is truly a mixing pot and it’s reflected in both our cuisine and the dining habits of modern Brits. You’d be hard-pressed to find locals who eat just one type of food day day out.

Monday it might be a curry, Tuesday… bring me the tacos, baby. Wednesday we’re having Italian and Thursday we’re busting the Thai out. Of course, Friday is chippy tea and on the weekend we’re headed into town for some Peking duck, NYC-style pizza, and an Aussie brekkie before reeling things back in with a Sunday roast.

Must-Try Dishes in The UK

Having said that, we’ve got some bangin’ “proper” British food you’ve just got to try. Here are a few of my favourite dishes native to the UK:

  • 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, savoury pastries filled with minced pork. Now ubiquitous in Real Ale pubs and available in vegan varieties!
  • Sunday Roast – The roast is a traditional British main meal that is typically served on Sunday, consisting of roasted meat, roast potatoes, and accompaniments such as Yorkshire pudding, stuffing, vegetables and gravy. Vegetables such as roast parsnips, Brussels sprouts, peas, carrots and broccoli are included and can be cooked in different styles. A classic from the days of yore and not to dissimilar to Christmas dinner!
  • Beans on Toast – A classic student meal it is the perfect comfort food. Elevate it with a bit of paprika and BBQ sauce in the beans, some fancy bread and a sprinkle of cheese and you’ve basically got yourself a Michelin star meal! Don’t knock it till you’ve tried it!

  • 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 smoked haddock, potatoes and onions. The perfect meal for traveling to Scotland on a budget!
  • Scouse – Native to Liverpool, this is a thick stew made from meat, potatoes, and root veg. Perfect for cold days.
  • Fish & chips – We’ve mentioned these bad boys before on this post, but it’s worth reiterating, don’t try them in a tacky touristy pub in London! Get yourself to a proper chippy in a rundown northern town and you’ve got the real deal. Extra points for gravy, mushy peas, curry sauce or a Hollands cheese & onion pie! Wash it down with some Dandelion and Burdock!
  • Chicken Tikka Masala/ Curry – Again, I’ve mentioned this earlier on, but we’re a nation of curry lovers and the Chicken Tikka Masala is in fact, our national dish! We just can’t get enough of it and it’s a true symbol of multicultural Britain!

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 its 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 centre 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: US Government (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: United Press International (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”. When I say we voted, the racist fuckwits who read the Daily Mail and vote for the bloody Tories did. Most sane, young people didn’t! In fact, the margin was ridiculously tight and in the end, 17.4 million people spoke for almost 66 million!

Since that dark day it’s become pretty clear it’s a complete fucking disaster and if you can’t already see, I’m still raging! At the moment our politicians, media and many of those who voted out are pretty much in denial of the obvious… but we live in hope that one day our freedom to move around our continent and the economic benefits that result will return.

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FAQs About Backpacking The UK

Still got a few burning questions before your backpacking trip around the UK. Hopefully, these common inquiries will hold the answer.

Final Advice Before Visiting England and the UK

Well, there you have it amigos. I hope you have thoroughly enjoyed my UK travel guide! Despite all my galavanting across the globe and the recent politics of my homeland, I am still a proud Brit (though, I’m a Manc first of course) and think this little quirky collection of countries has some truly breathtaking and fascinating places to see. In fact, I just love showing all my travel buddies from across the globe around when they visit!

So, what is my parting advice? Well, I’ll continue here I began … get the FUCK out of London! No offence, because I truly do love an occasional trip to the capital and my younger more naive self did want to live there before I came to my senses! But London isn’t the UK and in many ways, it can feel like it’s on another planet to the rest of us! It’s kinda an entity in its own right!

In order to properly experience the UK, you’ve got to explore the North, visit the coastal villages, hike a mountain or two, get drunk in some random post-industrial town and have some banter with the locals. Sure, jolly old England can look like the postcards, but modern Britain is a bit more complicated and rough around the edges than that… and I bloody love it just for that reason!

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 and yeah, get up to Manchester, ya knob ‘ed!

Looking down on the striding edge ridge and red tarn from the summit of Helvellyn, Lake District.
An iconic British hike, Striding Edge in The Lake District.
Image: Nic Hilditch-Short

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