UK: 21 of the best cultural stop-offs to liven up your road trip

Travel blogger Emily Luxton is always on the road and lives for discovering hidden gems. Whether you’re going seriously far afield or just escaping the city for the day, here’s her pick of the best UK cultural spots to make a Hertz detour for…

M25 - Surrounding London

1. Verulamium Museum

Picturesque St Albans is just off the M25 and is packed with history, from the medieval architecture to Roman remains. Stop off at the Verulamium Museum, which pays homage to the city’s history as the third largest cities of Roman Britain. There are hands-on discovery areas, Roman mosaics and a collection of gold coins.

Set the SatNav to: Verulamium Museum, 39 St Michael's St, St Albans AL3 4SW
Route: 4.6 miles off the M25 (via junction 21A/Watford Rd)

2. Box Hill

The Surrey Hills on the North Downs are a designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, and it’s easy to see why. Picturesque Box Hill is one of the best known, offering fantastic views of the surrounding countryside. Literary buffs will love that the rolling hills were featured in Jane Austen’s Emma, and with plenty of lovely walks to discover; it’s the perfect mid-car journey stop.

Set the SatNav to: Tadworth, Surrey KT20 7LB
Route: 5.7 miles off the M25 (via Leatherhead By-Pass Rd/A24)

3. Westerham Brewery

Kent’s Westerham Brewery is a great hidden gem and will give you a glimpse into the UK’s thriving brewery scene. The eco-friendly historic micro-brewery serves up patriotic beers from the rich ‘British Bulldog’ to pale ale ‘Spirit of Kent’ and has a great atmosphere even for designated drivers.

Set the SatNav to: Beggars Ln, Westerham, Kent TN16 1QP
Route: 5.4 miles off the M25 (via A25)

M1 - London to Sheffield and Leeds

4. Harry Potter Studios

Fans of Harry Potter will love a detour to the Warner Bros. Harry Potter Studios TournearWatford. Here, you can enjoy a tour of the actual film sets, get a glimpse of props from the iconic movies, discover how the special effects were achieved and taste your first sip of butter beer. It’s worth booking tickets in advance as this is one seriously popular attraction.

Set the SatNav to: Studio Tour Drive, Leavesden WD25 7LR
Route: 4.8 miles off M1 the (via A405)

5. Bletchley Park

The grand old mansion at Bletchley Park was used during WWII as the top-secret home of code breakers and featured in recent blockbuster, ‘The Imitation Game’. You can explore the various machines used at the ‘Intelligence Factory’ and learn about the vital role Bletchley Park played in the Allied Force’s war effort.

Set the SatNav to: Sherwood Dr, Bletchley, Milton Keynes, MK3 6DS
Route: 6.5 miles off the M1 (via junction 13/A421)

6. Donington Park Circuit

Taking a break from the wheel for an exciting detour to Donington Park Circuit – this motorsports circuit in Leicestershire is host to loads of events, races and festivals. Head to the circuit in September to see the classic sports car club in action or Septemberfest, a pop music festival held at the park.

Set the SatNav to: Castle Donington, Derby DE74 2RP
Route: 4.9 miles off the M1 (via junction 24/A453)

M60 - Surrounding Manchester

7. Innside Manchester

Innside Manchester has teamed up with Escape Spa MCR to create an opulent spa experience with treatments tailored to the individual. At this design-led hotel, with a nod to Manchester’s industrial past, Innside is one of the coolest spas in the city. Don’t miss the house speciality, the bespoke Mindful Massage.

Set the SatNav to: 1 First St, Manchester M15 4RP
Route: 6.4 miles off the M60 (via junction 12/M602)

8. Manchester Three Rivers Gin School

Not far from the M60, the Manchester Three Rivers Gin distillery offers Gin Experience tours. You can book into the gin school encounter, which is fun even if you’re the designated driver! You’ll be immersed into the history of gin (and its infamous reputation as ‘mother’s ruin’) and get the chance to make your very own bottle to drink later.

Set the SatNav to: 21 Red Bank Parade, Manchester M4 4HF
Route: 4 miles off the M60 (via junction 19/Middleton Rd)

9. Smithills Hall

A bit of a detour from the M60, but worth the trip – Smithills Hall is a beautiful Grade I-listed manor house on the edge of the West Pennine Moors. The dramatic building is one of the oldest and best-preserved manor houses in North West England, and it’s open to visitors free of charge.

Set the SatNav to: Smithills Dean Rd, Bolton BL1 7NP
Route: 7.6 miles off the M60 (via the M61/A666)

M6 - Birmingham up to Carlisle

10. Yorkshire Dales National Park

With the M6 cutting right between the Lake District and the Yorkshire Dales, it’s easy to detour and take in some of England’s most spectacular landscapes. For a relatively easy walking trail in the Yorkshire Dales, try the circular trail from Kingsdale to Yordas Cave.Sweepingmoorland, tall hills and a cave named after a Nordic god – it’s an ideal way to explore the dales.

Set the SatNav to: Yorkshire Dales National Park
Route: 7 miles off the M6 (via junction 36/A65)

11. NEC Birmingham

With 20 exhibition halls, this vast centre always has something interesting going on on. Coming up over the next few months is the UK’s biggest gaming festival (25-28 August), the Autumn Fair (2-6 September) and the National Wedding Show (29 September-1 October). Check out the What’s On listing for more.

Set the SatNav to: National Exhibition Center, Halls, Marston Green, Birmingham B40 1NT
Route: 3.4 miles off the M6 (via junction 4/A446)

12. The Rheged Centre

If you’re headeduptoCarlisle, you deserve a break at this arty spot. The modern art gallery shows thebestofCumbrian Art and hosts a dinosaur encounter exhibition where you’ll come face to face with a T-Rex! If you’re looking to chill, the centre also has a 3D-cinema showing everything from the latest films to live-streamed opera, and a spa.

Set the SatNav to: The Rheged Centre, Redhills, Penrith CA11 0DQ
Route: 6.8 miles off the M6 (via A66)

A23 - London to Brighton

13. Chattri Monument

Chattri means ‘umbrella’ in Hindi, Punjabi and Urdu and the moment pays tribute to all the Hindu and Sikh Indian soldiers who died in the First World War. Set in the gorgeous landscape of the South Downs, park up in Old London Road,Patcham and take a stroll to the monument for amazing views and a bit of fresh air.

Set the SatNav to: Standean Lane, Patcham, London Rd, Brighton BN1 8ZB
Route: 5.3 miles off the A23

14. Ridgeview Winery

If you’re driving to a special event, pick up a bottle of English sparkling wine from this vineyard. They produce seriously good, award-winning wines, plus the miles and miles of vines are stunning all year round.

Set the SatNav to: Fragbarrow Lane, Ditchling Common BN6 8TP
Route: 6.3 miles off the A23 (via A2300)

15. Borde Hill Garden

Borde Hill Garden is an Edwardian garden set on the 2,300 acre Borde Hill Estate. The beautiful landscapes, rare shrubs and gorgeous woodland walks inthesurroundingparklands make for a really peaceful countryside detour.

Set the SatNav to: Borde Hill Ln, Haywards Heath RH16 1XP
Route: 5 miles off the A23 (via B2115)

M8 – Connecting Glasgow and Edinburgh

16. Seven Lochs Wetlands Park

Seven Lochs is a huge area just outside of Glasgow that’s perfect for breaking up a long journey with a walk or cycling trail. If you want a bit of a culture fix, head to the historic Proven Hall House. Or simply go wildlife spotting in the wetlands.

Set the SatNav to: Cumbernauld Rd, Gartcosh, Glasgow G69 8EY
Route: 4.5 miles off the M8 (via A752)

17. Riverside Museum

On the banks of the River Clyde in Glasgow, this is an amazing museum for learning about Glasgow’s rich past. Home to some of the world’s finest vintage cars and locomotives, you can even walk down an old Glasgow cobbled street with real shops dating from 1895 to 1980.

Set the SatNav to: 100 Pointhouse Place, Glasgow, G3 8RS
Route: 4.3 miles off the M8 (via A814)

18. Mar Hall Golf & Spa Resort

If you need to relax after a long journey, head to Mar Hall for a round of golf or a seriously luxurious spa experience. The imposing resort, housed in an enormous Edwardian mansion, is very much the lap of luxury. And the spa is the height of indulgent tranquillity.

Set the SatNav to: Earl of Mar Estate, Bishopton, Bishopton PA7 5NW
Route: 2.5 miles off the M8 (via M898)

M90 - Edinburgh to Inverness

19. South Queensferry

Just outside of Edinburgh is South Queensferry, a pretty village on the southern shore of the Firth of Forth. Visit for pretty streets and oodles of history and don’t miss the views of the three iconic bridges, including the red Forth Bridge. Be sure to take a boat tour of the Firth of Forth if you have time.

Set the SatNav to: West Lothian, EH30
Route: 1.6 miles off the M90 (via A90)

20. Loch Leven Heritage Trail

FromthestatelyKinrossHouseandLochleven Castle, to the prehistoric Orwell Standing Stones, there’s so much to discover along this walking route. At 21km, you might not be able to do the whole thing during a short detour, but you can choose a shorter section and still see plenty.

Set the SatNav to: Loch Leven Heritage Trail, Kinross KY13
Route: 5 miles off the M90 (via B919)

21. Elcho Castle

Just outside of Perth, this castle is a hidden historic treasure. One of Scotland’s lesser-known spots, it was once the country retreat ofthewealthyWemyss family in the 1500s. It’s very well preserved and still has its original wrought iron grilles to protect the windows from enemies.

Set the SatNav to: Elcho Castle, Perth PH2 8QQ
Route: 4.1 miles off the M90 (via Rhynd Rd)

Inspired to try a detour with a Hertz hire car? Find out more and book here.