Our 3 week UK itinerary ideas – The best places to visit

If you’re reading this post, you’re probably planning a 3-week UK itinerary and want to know the best places to visit and the most convenient route to take. After living in the UK for most of our lives and travelling to almost every town, big and small, we’ve assembled the perfect UK 3-week itinerary for first time visitors! 3 weeks allows you to get a sample of the best towns, cities, beaches and countryside that the country has to offer.

Read on for a day-by-day itinerary options and tips for each destination. We’ve tried to include some of the most beautiful places in the UK on our list and have given you a sample of both city life and nature. Feel free to customise your route for the places you want to see!

Travel options – Train, bus or car hire?

The good news is that you can complete our itinerary using public transport such as trains or buses, or hire a car and travel at your leisure for the full 3 weeks. Train lines are very well connected in the UK and you can jump between destinations with ease. Trains are however, quite expensive compared to other European countries.

We personally recommend hiring a car if you can. Driving will give you more freedom, allowing you to explore remote countryside regions and beaches that would be difficult to get to by public transport. Once you’re outside of London, driving is fairly easy and you won’t get much traffic outside of rush hour.

Here are the pros and cons of both transport methods. Simply choose which option suits you best. 😊

TransportPro’sCon’s
Car Hire– The most convenient and hassle-free transport
– Cheaper in comparison with the train
– Can be unnerving for non-left-hand side of the road drivers
– You’ll need to find parking
– You’ll need a driving licence
Trains– The most convenient and hassle-free transport
– Cheaper in comparison with the train
– Can be unnerving for non-left-hand side of the road drivers
– You’ll need to find parking
– You’ll need a driving licence
Buses– Fast and efficient – most destinations have a train station
– Easy to book
– The most expensive option
– Limited to cities and towns – countryside and beach exploration is more difficult

Our 3-week UK itinerary – 21 nights in total:

London – 4 nights

Bournemouth and the Jurassic Coast – 2 nights

Bath – 1 night

Bristol – 2 nights

The Cotswolds – 2 nights

Oxford – 1 night

Warwick – 1 night

Liverpool – 2 nights

The Lake District – 2 nights

Newcastle – 2 nights

Edinburgh – 2 nights

Alternate 3 week UK itineraries

London – 4 nights

3 week UK itinerary - Shows the Shard on the River Thames in London

What better place to start your 3-week UK itinerary than the vibrant capital of London? London is one of the most intriguing cities in the world, rich in both culture and history and with countless things to do. You could spend weeks in the city and not see everything! As you’ll want to see other parts of the UK in your 3 week visit, we recommend limiting your stay in London to 4 full days, and maybe an extra day on the end of your itinerary if your departure is from London.

As the city is so vast, you’ll need to carefully plan out your route so that you see as much as possible. We recommend seeing a handful of the top attractions and in central London and then venturing a little further out to historic Greenwich, trendy East London or the leafy green west. This way you’ll get a sample of what London is about away from the tourist centre.

How to spend your time in London:

First day: Central London sightseeing – Trafalgar Square, Buckingham Palace, Oxford Street and a Theatre show.

Second day: The Houses of Parliament, Big Ben, South Bank and a river cruise to Greenwich.

Third day: Day trip to Windsor – The home of the queen with a stunning castle, pretty waterway where you can rent a boat and picturesque old-town streets.

Fourth day: The Natural History Museum, Harrods, Hyde Park and an afternoon in Richmond and Kew Gardens.

The best places to stay:

Luxury: The Montague on The Gardens Affordably pricedThe Hoxton Southwark

Stonehenge visit

Stonehenge monument

If you’re driving down to Bournemouth from London, we recommend taking a small detour to see the world-famous Stonehenge. This ancient collection of monolithic stones has tales that have been passed on through the ages and the unusual location and position of the stones is a cool sight to see.

See the Stonehenge map location here, which is only a 1-hour drive from Bournemouth. You’ll only need an hour or so to see the attraction so we recommend checking it out on the way down to Bournemouth.

Bournemouth and the Jurassic Coast – 2 nights

A panoramic view of the Jurassic Coast

The UK may not be known for its beautiful white-sand beaches, mainly because of the year-round poor weather. Unbeknownst to many, its Jurassic Coast near Bournemouth has some of the most impressive coastlines in Europe. Dramatic cliff drops, unique land formations and spectacular views across the channel to France are all worth seeing during your 3-week UK itinerary.

On arrival in Bournemouth you’ll be greeted by a colourful seaside town of beach huts, a long promenade and plenty of shops, bars, restaurants and attractions. It’s a traditional British beach town at its best! Venture south of Bournemouth on the ferry and you then have the relaxing beaches of Studland, onwards to the Jurassic Coast to the west. Rent a car and explore the beauty of the entire region at your leisure or book a hop-on-hop-off guided tour bus.

We recommend visiting Bournemouth and the Jurassic Coast during the warmer months of the year – April to September. You may wish to substitute another destination into your itinerary if travelling in the colder months.

THE BEST PLACES TO STAY:

Luxury:  Hilton Bournemouth Affordably pricedHoliday Inn Bournemouth

Bath – 1 night

UK 3 week itinerary - Bath house and old church in Bath, England

After spending some time on the south coast, you can board a train direct from Bournemouth to Bath or take the short drive north to get to the city. Anyone that has visited Bath will tell you of its distinct beauty and history dating back to Roman settlement. It’s simply a must-see on any UK itinerary! You can explore Bath in two full days and manage to see the top attractions, which also allows for some relaxation time in the thermal baths.

Spend your time here wandering the city streets gazing at the Roman and Georgian-era architecture, stop by a quaint tea room for a snack break, walk by the river, or visit a museum. Bath is a charming and relaxing city to enjoy for a couple of days after an action-packed adventure on the south coast. The Roman Baths is the top attraction so be sure to book tickets in advance to secure a space.

THE BEST PLACES TO STAY:

Luxury:  The Gainsborough Bath Spa Affordably pricedPremier Inn Bath City Centre Hotel

Bristol – 2 nights

The Clifton Suspension Bridge in Bristol - 3 week UK itinerary

We could have included countless other great UK cities on our list – Manchester, Leeds, Cambridge, Birmingham, however, our personal favourite is Bristol and we don’t think a visit to England would be complete without it! It strikes us as one of the hippest and trendiest places to stay and live. Its beautiful marina is the ideal place to relax with a coffee, gazing out at the colourful boats. Just along the street you then have the magnificent Brunel SS Great Britain ship, retained in all its glory.

Touring the sights of Bristol city centre on foot is always a fun day out and everything is nearby so you won’t feel tired at the end of the day. As soon as the sun goes down the bars and restaurants then come alive. Underground music scenes, big DJ gigs and classy cocktail bars are just some of the ways you can spend your evenings here. If that’s not enough, the vast Clifton Suspension Bridge is well worth a visit! It provides breathtaking views of the valley below.

P.S. Bristol is the home of infamous artist ‘Banksy’ and you’ll find his artwork throughout the city streets.

THE BEST PLACES TO STAY:

Luxury: Hotel du Vin Bristol Affordably priced: Premier Inn Bristol City Centre 

The Cotswolds – 2 nights

3 weeks in the UK - Countryside house in The Cotswolds

If you’re ready for some nature after spending lots of time in cities during your itinerary so far, it’s time for a couple of nights in the Cotswolds. When people think of England, they usually imagine idyllic countryside villages with old houses and green fields all around. And that’s exactly what the Cotswolds is! Catch the train to Cheltenham or drive yourself (recommended) to this adorable collection of villages and spend 3 days going for long walks in nature.

Other cool things to do in the Cotswolds include a brewery tour, visiting grand manor houses and castles, or a trip to the Cotswolds Wildlife Park or bird sanctuary. The places to stay here are equally as enchanting as the scenery. Enjoy 2 nights in a quiet cottage from Airbnb or go for the luxury option of a grand manor house. As the Cotswolds are a collection of many villages, a car is recommended, however, if using the train and buses to get there, head for Stow-on-the-Wold or Bourton-on-the-water villages. They’re centrally located for all attractions and the main tourist area.

THE BEST PLACES TO STAY:

Luxury:  Buckland Manor Affordably pricedWhite Hart Hotel

Oxford – 1 night

Oxford University Campus grounds

The prestigious university cities of Oxford and Cambridge are regarded as must-see destinations for any 3-week UK itinerary! As they’re fairly similar to each other, we recommend visiting Oxford over Cambridge as it perfectly fits into our itinerary location-wise, being only a short drive or train ride from the Cotswolds. You’ll only need 1 night and a full day of sightseeing to get a good feel for the beauty of the Oxford and the main activity here is simply wandering around on foot, gazing at the old buildings and streets.

The Oxford University campus with its botanical gardens and grand library is one of the top things to do in your day-visit. There are also architectural sights such as Radcliffe Camera, Bridge of Sighs and countless old churches and university buildings. They can all be seen on foot and won’t cost you a penny! Our favourite thing to do in Oxford and a great way to end your day is a picnic in the park and Punting on the river. Rent a boat, stand up and paddle down the stream.

THE BEST PLACES TO STAY:

Luxury: Old Bank Hotel Affordably priced: Jury’s Inn Oxford

Warwick – 1 night

Tourists visiting Warwick Castle

Before heading north, take a short detour to the medieval town Warwick. Grand castles can be found throughout the UK; however, Warwick Castle is one of the best and is well worth visiting. Warwick itself is a remnant of England’s historic past, with tall stone archways, narrow cobbled streets and iconic 16th century architecture.

The castle itself is the main attraction to visit and you can spend a whole day here climbing the turrets, taking part in Medieval games and strolling around the gardens. The majority of the castle is open to tourists and themed shows throughout the day will keep anyone from families to couples and singles entertained. Spend your full day exploring the castle, enjoy a nice meal in a pub tavern on an evening and set off to your next destination the next morning. A full day is enough time to see Warwick.

THE BEST PLACES TO STAY:

Mid-range: Hilton Warwick Affordably priced: The Rose and Crown B&B

Liverpool – 2 nights

3 weeks in the UK itinerary - The Beatles Statue in the centre of Liverpool

Next stop is the vibrant city of Liverpool. It’s the home of the legendary Beatles band, a long-standing British port and birthplace of many more musicians and personalities. It also has some of the best nightlife in the UK. Its trendy bars, shops and restaurants scene is excellent. 2 full days is the perfect amount of time to see Liverpool and we recommend staying somewhere central.

Book a walking tour for your first day to get a good understanding of the key sites in the city and the historic background of its squares and monuments. You’ll then have the rest of the day to explore museums, shops and attractions at your leisure. A brunch at Royal Albert Docks is a must! If you’re still feeling energised by 6pm, head out to a live music pub and onward to the lively bars and restaurants.

Pro-tip: If you’re visiting on a weekend, see if you can catch a Liverpool FC football match at Anfield Stadium. The atmosphere is electric!

THE BEST PLACES TO STAY:

Luxury: The Resident Liverpool  Affordably priced: Ibis Styles Liverpool Centre Dale Street

The Lake District – 2 nights

Panoramic view of the rolling hills of the lake district

It’s time to head out of the city and into the countryside once more. In our opinion, The Lake District is the UK’s most impressive national park. Vast green valleys surround countless lakes, forming stunning natural landscapes that are great for hiking. Stay in one of the lakeside towns in a nice Bed and Breakfast hotel, using it as a base to go on daily expedition. Walking and hiking routes are available for all levels of experience and fitness.

Aside from the long walks, the Lake District can be as adventure-fuelled as you like. Go kayaking or white-water rafting down a river stream, rent a bike and tour the winding roads or partake in rock climbing. For those that want a more leisurely visit, taking in the scenery at a slower pace, lakeside lunches, spa’s, boutique gift shops and slow walks in nature are a good alternative. There’s something for everyone here if you like nature!

THE BEST PLACES TO STAY:

Luxury: Gilpin Hotel & Lake House (Windermere) Affordably priced: Travelodge Kendal

Newcastle – 2 nights

Bridges of the River Tyne in Newcastle - 3 week UK itinerary

Before you head up to Scotland for the final stretch of your 3-week UK itinerary, we highly recommend stopping in Newcastle on the way. Not only is it a good break-up point for the long drive/train ride, it’s a city worth visiting for anyone! Friendly locals, a beautiful Quayside of bridges and historic buildings and a great night out will make Newcastle a firm favourite of your trip.

In addition to there being plenty to see and do, the city is very affordable to visit, with everything from accommodation to eating out and drinking costing significantly less than other areas of the UK. Two days here are best spent touring the city streets, seeing the ruins of the Newcastle ‘castle’, crouching down for a tour of the Victoria Tunnel and taking in the atmosphere of the town centre. Our personal favourite activity is to rent a bike and cycle the length of the Newcastle-Gateshead Quayside, crossing the Millennium Bridge and capturing great pictures of the River Tyne.

Check out our guide here for more great things to do in Newcastle.

THE BEST PLACES TO STAY:

Luxury:  Hotel Du Vin  Affordably pricedStaybridge Suites Newcastle

Edinburgh – 2 nights

Old buildings of Edinburgh city centre alongside bushy trees

At the very end of your 3-week UK itinerary, you’ll cross the border into bonnie Scotland. Scotland’s iconic towns, cities, lakes and countryside really deserve their own itinerary and a holiday dedicated solely to them, however for the sake of our heavily packed trip, we chose to only include its most exciting city. The Scottish capital of Edinburgh comes only second to London for rich history and the variety of fun things to do.

Aim to spend 3 full days touring this majestic piece of UK heritage, starting with Edinburgh Castle, which is perched on a hill in the centre of the city. You then have Holyrood Park and Arthur’s Seat, where you’ll find the best views of Edinburgh; especially at sunset. There’s also a wide array of museums, monuments and old architecture to check out as you uncover the city on foot. If you move swiftly and have time at the end of your visit, be sure to check out Edinburgh Zoo.

THE BEST PLACES TO STAY:

Luxury:  The Chester Residence Affordably pricedHub by Premier Inn Edinburgh City Centre

Other places worth visiting if you want to change the itinerary:

With so many amazing places to visit in the UK, we had to be ruthless and narrow down our destinations to include a good variety of options that could be navigated to with ease in one circular motion around the country.

If you’d like to customise your 3-week UK itinerary to your own tastes, the following places are well worth seeing. For example, you may wish to solely travel England, swapping Edinburgh for York. Alternatively, skip the north of England and Scotland altogether in favour of Wales and the South-West of England. This route is ideal for the sunny summer months!

Other excellent UK destinations to substitute into your itinerary:

  • York
  • Devon and Cornwall
  • South Wales, including Cardiff and Pembrokeshire
  • Norfolk
  • Cambridge

Check out a few of alternative UK 3-week itineraries below, each offering something unique.

A slower paced version of our main UK 3 week itinerary:

London – 5 nights

Bath – 2 nights

The Cotswolds – 3 nights

Oxford – 2 nights

Liverpool – 2 nights

The Lake District – 3 nights

Newcastle – 2 nights

Edinburgh – 2 nights

The South of England and Wales:

London – 4 nights

Bournemouth and the Jurassic Coast – 2 nights

Devon & Cornwall – 4 nights

Bath – 1 night

Bristol – 2 nights

Cardiff – 2 nights

Pembrokeshire – 2 nights

The Cotswolds – 3 nights

Oxford – 1 night

England from South to North:

London – 4 nights

Bournemouth and the Jurassic Coast – 2 nights

Bath – 1 night

Bristol – 2 nights

The Cotswolds – 2 nights

Oxford – 1 night

Warwick – 1 night

Liverpool – 2 nights

The Lake District – 2 nights

Newcastle – 2 nights

York – 2 nights

The highlights of England and Scotland:

London – 4 nights

Bath – 1 night

Bristol – 2 nights

The Cotswolds – 3 nights

Oxford – 1 night

York – 2 nights

Newcastle – 2 night

Edinburgh – 2 nights

The Scottish Highlands – 2 nights

Glasgow – 2 nights

Our top tips for planning a 3-week itinerary in the UK:

Shows the view from the London Eye attraction
  • Book trains, buses and car hire in advance. For trains and buses, 3 months before travelling is the ideal time to book as this is when tickets are at their cheapest.
  • Book attractions in advance. Museum entry, parks and other days out are often cheaper if booked online at least a day before. You’ll sometimes skip the queue too!
  • Plan a rough budget for each destination and have a daily spending guideline. The UK can be an expensive place to visit so tracking spending is key if you’re on a budget.
  • Fully research each destination before finalising your itinerary. You may prefer nature over city sightseeing and would therefore want to add more natural scenery and countryside to your plan. Or vice versa, historic city sights might be a key factor on your places to visit.
  • Having freedom in your 3-week UK itinerary is fun, however you’ll often pay more for accommodation if booking it last minute. Try to book some hotels in advance so you secure better prices.
  • Group tours can be a great way to meet other travellers if visiting the UK by yourself. Walking tours are excellent and only take a few hours!
  • Plan your itinerary around the weather. If you’re visiting in the winter, beach destinations such as the South Coast of England may not be worth visiting. Equally, if it’s hot and sunny, you’ll want to include as many outdoor nature destinations as possible!

We hope you found our UK 3 week itinerary ideas helpful and it’ll inspire you to plan your own action-packed adventure in Britain. Pick an itinerary pace that you find comfortable, fit in your must-see destinations and make the most of every day. You may even wish to add in a few flexible days so you can extend your stay in a particular destination if you fall in love with it. Don’t worry about seeing everything either – you can always return again!

For more tips on places to visit in the UK and tips for travelling around, check out our guides here.


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