I've travelled more than I ever have the past year, and one thing that kept happening every time I returned back to the UK was that I'd start to appreciate little things about it more and more. There is so much beauty on our doorstep in the UK it's unreal.
So, I decided for one week I was going to get a camper van and do a lil road trip, and a bunch of people asked me about it so I figured I'd break down the road trip just in case anyone else wanted to follow a similar path and save the stress of organisation.
The guys at BunkCampers were kind enough to lend me one of their Nomad vans which was the perfect road trip vehicle for this adventure. For 1-2 people I think this is a great option but bigger campers are available. I did a tour of this camper on one of my Instagram story highlights if you want a look inside, just flick through the story.
So now I have a van, I needed a route packed with awesome things to see. As I was starting out in Birmingham I decided I'd go to the south of Wales, up through Wales, through to Manchester to pick up my buddy, to the Lake District and then back down home, stopping in Manchester again for one night. I tried to work it so I was doing between 90 minutes and 3 hours driving a day.
1st Stop - Puzzlewood, Gloucester
So I actually got here too late and it had closed (winter closing times around 3.30pm apparently) but I'm throwing it in here as it looks really cool. Like some mossy green forest straight out of Lord of the Rings, which apparently did actually inspire Tolkien.
2nd Stop - The Racehorse Inn, Abergavenny
So basically, rather than stay in campsites, I heard that a number of pubs let you park in their car parks overnight in return for going in and eating at their pub.
You can find a Pub Stopover Map here where campers have recommended a number of spots all across the UK.
So I rocked up at this highly rated place called The Racehorse Inn, and oh my word the lady who runs this place is the cutest. I walked into this pretty much silent pub with only two families in it and was greeted by Amanda who instantly recognised I wasn't a local. She was really helpful in giving some local tips and even brought me a little plate with local cheeses on, followed by a gift bag of hot chocolate sachets and shortbread they make for campers. If you do end up passing through, please please go here and be as lovely as you can to Amanda as she's one of life's great humans.
3rd Stop - Brecon Beacons National Park
You definitely need more than one day to explore Brecon Beacons, but as I only had a day I found the Four Falls Walk which seemed like a pretty perfect activity to take up my day. You can probably guess from the name of it, but it's a walk where you get to see four waterfalls and they're pretty impressive to be honest. One of them you can even walk behind so bring a rain jacket. I parked up at Cwm Porth car park where you can pay via card, and there's also a toilet here (which is a bonus if you're living out of a van!).
4th Stop - Lake Vyrnwy Hotel and Spa (Staff Car Park)
Lake Vyrnwy Hotel and Spa describes itself as 'a multi-award-winning country house hotel in North Wales, with stunning views over unspoiled countryside and luxury four-star accommodation that makes it one of the finest hotels in Wales.' Sounded like a pretty solid place to park up. I ended up in the section of the hotel where the staff live and I asked a guy smoking if it was OK if I could park and sleep in the van there. He gave me a "yeah whatever" which was enough for me to call this place home for the night. When I woke up, I saw the stunning view in the photo above and had an explore round the local area. There was also a restaurant with a toilet in where I could have a quick wash and brush my teeth. To be honest the hotel looked pretty nice and I'll probably return one day and swap the van for an actual room. Maybe.
5th Stop - Pistyll Rhaeadr
When I first saw a photo of this waterfall, I was like ‘Nah no way is that in Britain’. So I came down to see it for myself. Turns out it is actually a real thing.
Leaving Lake Vyrnwy, I headed here and parked up slightly down from the waterfall. Note: If you want to use the nearest car park, they only take cash, so I had to scramble what change I found at the bottom of my bag to convince the guy to let me use their car park. I ended up giving him £2 and €3.
You can take a short, relatively easy 15 minute walk to the top of the waterfall where I got this drone shot. If you're going to have photos on the rocks by the base of the waterfall though be careful as they're kinda slippy.
6th Stop - Manchester
So damn it's hard to find good over night parking in a city. If I didn't have to pick up my friend in the morning I probably would have found somewhere nice to stay either near the Peak District or maybe Tatton Park. I ended up crashing on my friend's sofa bed and leaving the camper in a car park. Campanile does overnight parking for £5.50 and there's some car parks near the MEN Arena too but honestly, I would recommend staying somewhere out from a city just as if you do intend to sleep in the camper van it can get loud, and you don't have a lot of space either.
7th Stop - Hinterlandes, Lake District
The next day we headed to the Lake District to what is quite possibly one of the coolest places to stay in England. Not only has this school bus, that has been transported from America, been converted into an amazing tiny home. It also has a bloomin’ VW Campervan on it’s roof as a bedroom!
It’s in the middle of nowhere so it’s the perfect place to escape, disconnect and be amongst nature. You have your own wood-fired hot tub to relax in whilst listening to cows gossip to each other. There’s a hot shower, compost loo, a cooker and a hotspot should you want to re-connect with the outside world a bit. You can find more info about Hinterlandes (the name of the accommodation) here.
And that essentially wrapped up my UK Road Trip. What did I learn?
The biggest thing I learnt was that it's fun problem solving as you go along and that's all part of road tripping, as the spontaneity can sometimes generate the best moments. If Puzzlewood had been open, I never would have stayed at that Inn with the kind welsh lady which was one of the highlights of the trip. I think it's cool to have a loose plan but also be prepared to get knocked off track and don't let it get you down.
Hope that's been helpful to anyone who's considering a UK trip. Drop me any questions over on Instagram and follow my adventures @sambentley