The last time I wrote about our UK 2023 trip, I was in the midst of sorting out all the admin that goes along with organising an overseas vacation, while also panicking about the inclement weather and wondering whether we’d encounter an unseasonal bout of snow in the middle of spring in Wales. I can now safely say that everyone’s passports were sorted in time, that it didn’t snow while we were there and that I needn’t have worried about snow chains, but it was indeed as wet and windy as one would have expected.

Typical Welsh weather on the Severn Bridge

Nevertheless, we had a wonderful time visiting close family in Wales (and squeezed in a quick book research trip to Oxford), after which we took to the road and headed for Southwest England in search of beautiful cathedrals, crumbling castles, and King Arthur lore. We were not disappointed!

Rough guideline of the route we took (but many smaller roads in reality)

Our road trip started in Caerphilly in Wales, from where we crossed the Severn Bridge back into England and headed via Bristol to Wells to have a look at their grand cathedral. We arrived in Glastonbury around lunchtime, where spent the night in a historic hotel.

The next day, we drove down to Tintagel through hedgerow country lanes so narrow that, as my husband said, you go round bends wishing everyone involved Godspeed and best of luck and may the odds be ever in your favour. Fortunately, we arrived at the little coastal town safely, although our nerves were shot, where we immediately celebrated our survival with scones and cream – well worth risking life and limb for! – before exploring the little town claiming King Arthur their own on the names of almost every pub and shop your eyes land upon.

From there, we journeyed down to the bottom of Cornwall, with a quick stop to see where the Lady of the Lake gifted Excalibur to King Arthur, past Jamaica Inn, through Truro, got embarrassingly lost in the little side streets of St Ives, and finally settled into a wonderful little apartment in Penzance with a view over the bay and of the reason we visited this part of the country – St Michael’s Mount.

The reason for the trip did not disappoint!

The next day was all about exploring St Michael’s Mount, Land’s End, and the waterfront at Penzance – and if those sights aren’t on your travel radar yet, then I’d recommend adding them!

Then it was time to head back up east again. We spent a morning exploring the beautiful Lost Gardens of Heligan, after which we drove through Dartmoor National Park and ended the day with our pinkies extended and our noses snootily in the air at the five-star Bovey Castle.

I would have loved staying longer, but one night in a castle was all our ZARs could afford, so the next day we headed towards Exeter, where we promptly booked into a decidedly average hotel (especially after the previous night’s splurge) and slept the afternoon away, exhausted.

But the next day dawned sunny, so we headed for the coastal town of Lyme Regis, ostensibly in search of fossils. Spoiler: we didn’t find any on the beach, but we saw loads of them in the shops. We had some fantastic ice cream, walked the promenade, and even unexpectedly encountered Jane Austen by the seaside – what wonderful travel serendipity!

The last night in the UK was an early one, because we had to get up at 3 AM the next morning to return to Gatwick (more about the reason for that in later posts) and, dear travellers, let me tell you, you don’t want to rush through the back roads of England at that ungodly hour with an empty petrol tank and a grumpy 7-year-old on the backseat!

We arrived in time for our flight – mostly through sheer determination and dumb luck – and said our fond farewells to the UK as we prepared for a gruelling 24-hour trip back to South Africa.

Exhausted at Doha airport, but happy to be heading home again

If you’d like to know more about the places we visited, then watch this space as I delve deeper in upcoming posts…

Have you gone road tripping through the UK before? What are some of your tips for foreigners driving on the back roads of the British countryside?