Hi there! I’m Kat. In 2018 I decided to quit my job & travel the world with my husband & teenage daughter… What could possibly go wrong?!?! We mostly travel by RV, which consists of getting lost, stuck or eating too many snacks. We like snacks. We occasionally fly somewhere, just to mix things up a bit.
We road-tested a brand-new Bailey Alliance 59-2 motorhome for the weekend. Yep, two adults and a dog used to a lot of space found themselves in a small motorhome which is… well, under 6m.
When we said we were thinking about downsizing our 4.2 tonne, 7.9m motorhome, we hadn't really thought how small we wanted to go.
However, Bailey of Bristol got in contact and asked if we wanted to try out their new Alliance 59-2 motorhome for the weekend. Seemed like a good opportunity to try out a small motorhome for ourselves and see if we liked it!
Bailey Alliance 59-2 small motorhome review
Bailey Alliance 59-2 Motorhome Review
The Alliance 59-2 the smallest motorhome in the Alliance range and was brand new at the February 2019 NEC Camping, caravan and motorhome show. We were the first people to use the motorhome for the weekend and review it- no pressure then!
I'll be honest, I was a bit apprehensive about the size. After all, we LOVE our Swift motorhome. We love the space, the storage and the freedom it gives us to be able to head off into the wilds for a few days without worrying about tank space, payload etc. We also love that there are two living areas- meaning we each get our own space and Mr WB can work from the road without me wanting to divorce throttle him.
How on earth were we going to cope in a small motorhome less than 6m? For four days?
To make things even more exciting (!) we went in convoy with our friends AND took our dog- we wanted to see how the Bailey Alliance 59-2 would stand up in terms of entertaining space and having a pet onboard. Yep- when we test a van we REALLY test a van!!
Ok, so those are the facts. Here's what we thought of each part.
Exterior looks and ease of use
You can't deny it, she's a pretty van. I love the graphite detailing and colour scheme. I also love how TINY she looks- we felt like we could park ANYWHERE.
Outside, the gas locker, toilet cassette and water filler are all easy to access. You can also top up the water tank from inside, under the bench seat, which was a useful feature if filling with a jug (when you're in a campsite/ aire and don't want to move to fill the tank.)
There is a separate filler for the toilet water- don't forget to fill this up! Electric hook up is easy to use.
One thing we liked was the electric retractable step- which made getting in and out of the motorhome easy. We had some trouble getting this out when the van wasn't on electric hook-up, but it DID retract automatically when the engine starts, which is great- such an easy thing to forget otherwise! (NOTE- apparently it should work when not on hook-up. Bailey is checking/ fixing this fault on our motorhome.)
We were also really pleased that the motorhome comes with a solar panel as standard- makes wild camping much easier!
Bailey Alliance 59-2 Motorhome wild camping in Wales. Yep- we took a brand new van wild camping.
End Kitchen layout- good or bad?
There's a 3-burner hob and combined oven/ grill- all of which are a good size. Sink has a cutting board/ draining board which can be added to increase worktop space. I really liked the surface space on top of the fridge- turned a small kitchen into a very useable space.
The fridge is 3-way, so it works on gas, mains and battery. It's not automatic and we kept forgetting to switch it over- I much prefer the auto-switch over versions. The microwave is a decent size and we did actually use it so Mr WB could enjoy beans on toast- no expense spared on our camping trips!
There is a HUGE amount of storage in the kitchen. Seriously, it's magical. Pots, plates, mugs, food- all of it disappeared and there was loads of room left. We didn't even organise it very well as we only had basic gear with us.
I've never had an end kitchen before and it was always something I was unsure about. However, with a dog it's BRILLIANT. We were very cautious having a pet in a motorhome which isn't ours, but when trying to dry/ feed them etc, it confines all the mess to one area, instead of it being in the middle of the motorhome. I'm definitely more open to the idea of an end-kitchen now than I was before.
Interior of the Bailey Alliance 59-2 Motorhome
Lounge- is there enough room?
The lounge is amazing! So much more space than I ever would have believed. We had 4 adults and a dog in there without any problems whatsoever. The front seats swivel around and make every seem very open and airy.
There are two skylights and a sunroof, which help let in the light. The sunroof and first skylight are easy to open, but the one at the back near the kitchen can only be opened by someone nearing 6ft- it's very high!
Having said that, the headroom is one of the things we like most about the motorhome- it makes it all feel very airy.
Sleeping on the Bench seats
I was dreading this. Like, seriously, dreading it. I have no idea why, but the idea of making up a bench seat into a bed EVERY NIGHT wasn't something I wanted to do. Just no. That's why I've always been adamant on having a fixed bed.
HOWEVER… it took less than 3 minutes to make it up (except the first night where we got the cushions wrong and had to redo it.) 3 minutes… that's really not that bad. And it was COMFY. Like, seriously comfy. I get a bad back really easily and didn't even have a twinge.
We LOVED having a lower bed- I'm always terrified about the puppy rolling off our raised bed and onto the floor in his sleep. It was easier to get in and out of- no climbing on ladders/ standing on seats. This is probably the biggest eye-opener of the entire trial- we would definitely have a low, make-up bed now as long as it was comfortable.
Is it a small motor home with a toilet? Washrooms matter!
One of the first things Mr WB asked when presented with the idea was “Does it have a toilet?” I'm not even kidding. After 15 years, my husband still surprises me- turns out a bathroom is an ‘essential' on his list of motorhome requirements. Good to know.
I am pleased to report that the Bailey Alliance 59-2 does indeed have a full bathroom with a toilet – and a very spacious one too, with a separate HUGE shower. I could do the funky chicken in there without any problems. (If you have no idea what I'm talking about, check out my motorhome reviews on YouTube. All will become clear…!)
I LOVED having a separate shower, so the rest of the bathroom stayed dry. Loved it. It was so nice not to have to come out into the main lounge area to get dressed. Having said that, after some discussion with Mr WB, we agree that the bathroom would still be the one area we'd compromise on to get more living space.
The cab felt identical to our Fiat, which is weird given it's a Peugeot! As usual, we LOVE the sunroof above- the one in the Alliance 59-2 motorhome is actually better than our Swift as it's manual and has more fixing points, which means less rattling while driving. There's also no raised bed to rattle and squeak (one of the things we dislike most on our van.)
Peugeot Cab of the Bailey Alliance 59-2 Motorhome
Other things to note in the interior
I LOVE the Portland colour scheme, which is the burgundy/ purple in the photo above. It's clean, bright and looks amazing.
The lockers do NOT automatically lock when shut, which caught us out a few times while driving, as our current motorhome click shut without having to press the button. A minor thing, and one I got used to by the end of the weekend.
There's one decent-sized locker, which can be reached from outside. This is the one under the left bench seat as you look at the cab. However, this is the only place to store bedding, so it takes up most of the locker space.
There are two cup holders up front (VERY important) and plenty of space to charge devices.
We also attached an inverter to the battery to charge my laptop whilst driving. This worked great. The battery is under the middle floor and has a handy compartment above it for extra storage.
Two of the spotlights had USB fittings, which was handy to have in the back. They ran off the battery when the engine was switched off- perfect to charge phones or iPads overnight.
The wardrobe was a decent size and long enough to hang shirts/ coats, but not dresses. It's adequate for two people. There's a locker next to the fridge which is perfect for shoes/ other storage and all the clothes can go into the lockers above the lounge- plenty of room there.
What's it like to drive?
I didn't drive it, but Mr WB did and he was very pleased. Initally, he wasn't sure about the Peugeot gearbox, having never driven a Peugeot before. He said it felt ‘plastic' and like it might break.
HOWEVER- this was a brand new van. It had done 50 miles when we picked it up. Neither of us had ever driven such a new vehicle before and it definitely feels different to one which has ‘bedded in.' By the end of the weekend, the gearbox was absolutely fine and felt the same to drive as our Fiat Ducato.
It's a nippy little van- not that we would EVER go faster than the speed limit. *shocked face* Mr WB loved the smaller size and the ability to park it wherever we wanted. We tried to park it in a normal car park space and were fine with the length, but felt the width was a bit ‘tight', especially in a service station where the bays are small!
Equipment fitted as standard?
Truma Combi heating/ hot water system; Fiamma wind-out awning (which we didn't use) and a Truma 100w solar panel. The solar panel and combi worked great- loved the little panel which told us how our leisure battery (80Ah) was doing and how hard the solar panel was working.
Difference between the Alliance 59-2 and the Advance 59-2 small motorhomes?
The Alliance 59-2 is the more highly-spec'd version of the two, although the layout is identical. The Alliance has a slightly larger engine (160bhp instead of 130) and it comes with the solar panel and awning as standard.
The Advance 59-2 is around £3500 cheaper- so you need to decide which version is right for you. For us, the Alliance is definitely the better option as it's set-up for off-grid camping.
Bailey Alliance 59-2 Motorhome review
Overall review of the Bailey Alliance 59-2 motorhome
We loved it- which is hilarious as both of us were really apprehensive about it. Like, REALLY loved it. If Mr WB didn't have to work from the road, we'd probably be buying one right now. Here's what we loved most.
Easy to drive and park
the space in the lounge
the bathroom with separate shower
the end kitchen and storage (surprisingly!)
Swivel front seats (don't get those with our dinette)
The light, airy feel (and headroom!)
Is this the motorhome for us?
Sadly, no. Here's why. (I should point out that none of these things are a fault of Bailey's design- more things that we personally need which is why the Alliance 59-2 isn't the van for us.)
As mentioned above, we need two working areas. Mr WB is on the phone a lot and I now spend a fair part of each day working on this blog (thanks for reading) and making videos etc. We've tried working side-by-side… it didn't end well.
The only other thing which didn't work for us are the seatbelts- we need a minimum of 4 in case Jade wants to come for an adventure.
We also want a little more storage. The bedding takes up most of the locker under the seat to the left (as you look at the cab), the locker under the right seat is water tank and heater, so there's nowhere for our generator or some of our other larger travel or motorbike gear. Having said that, the payload on this motorhome is AMAZING, so you could put a locked box on the back for extra storage space, which we would do if that was the only downside for us.
To conclude, if you are single or a couple, with or without pets, looking for a small motorhome under 6m, the Bailey Alliance 59-2 is definitely one to consider! Perhaps we'll get one in a few years time when we retire! However, we are definitely thinking of downsizing to a smaller motorhome now- watch this space!
(Many thanks to Bailey of Bristol for the loan. As you probably gathered, our views are entirely our own!)
Fancy racing downhill on a tiny sled on rails at over 30mph?? Welcome to the Todtnau toboggan run! This incredible ride is actually known as the Hasenhorn Rodelbahn or Todtnau Coaster- and it's one of the best things to do in Todtnau, Germany!
What is the Hasenhorn Rodelbahn?
I'll be honest- the Todtnau Rodelbahn coaster was not how I envisioned it. I thought there would be ice, a halfpipe and a lot of terror. Instead, there was a metal rail track, with a plastic sled and a handle which acted as a brake. Apparently.
Watch the video of the Todtnau Toboggan Coaster
It's probably easier to explain if you watch the video of our ride down the Hasenhorn Rodelbahn! My husband took our daughter (camerawoman extraordinaire) and I'm in the sled behind them. For the record, the laughter and small cries of terror are entirely real!
The Todtnau Rodelbahn is in Schwarzwald, the Black Forest, about 30km south of Freiburg.
The Coaster itself is an easy 10-minute walk from Todtnauberg- (the town of Todtnau). It's fairly easy to find, although we had some trouble from the Stellplatz motorhome parking we stayed at overnight– we took the wrong tunnel. Doh!
If you're in the Stellplatz, take the tunnel under the road near the swimming pool, then turn left and keep walking. You'll see the Todtnau Coaster on your left,
Todtnau Toboggan Run are kids allowed?
Yes! Kids from the age of 4 are allowed. Children over 8 with a height of at least 1.4m can go by themselves. Younger children must share your sled. I don't believe kids under the age of 4 are allowed.
Hasenhorn Rollercoaster- is it just for kids?
Oh heck no. Adults are welcome and encouraged- there are plenty of adults going up and down with no kids at all. This is truly an activity for everyone!
You catch a chair lift up the mountain…. the exact same chair lift which in winter takes you to the top of a ski run. It takes about 10 minutes and there are only 2 to a chair. Like many ski lift chairs, it's pretty easy to fall out of and swings a lot if you move- so hold on to young kids.
Todtnau Toboggan Coaster- the Hasenhorn Rodelbahn!
Opening times for the Hasenhorn Rodelbahn Todtnau
In 2019, the opening times are 10am-16:30. My advice is to get there early, especially in school holidays, to avoid long wait times.
The Rodelbahn may close in bad weather, like thunderstorms, high winds or frosts, so check in advance if concerned. I believe it still runs in the rain!
The training was… uh… minimal. It lasted about 15 seconds (in Germany) and consisted of how to go faster and how to brake. The problem is, you're being strapped into a plastic sled at the time, so it's hard to pay attention! Up to 2 people can go per sled, but the front one has to be small (child size)
Then, you're pushed to the edge of a drop which looks a lot steeper up close than it did at the bottom, and sent on your merry way.
Black Forest Coaster, Todtnau Germany- things to know
This ride is not automated. It's not a rollercoaster. You push the stick forward to go faster and pull it back to brake. If you don't brake, you will probably die. If you brake too much, the person behind will probably run into you.
It is your job to stay at least 25m away from the toboggan in front…. but most people are screaming/ laughing too much to pay any attention.
Todtnau Toboggan Run- the Hasenhorn Rodelbahn!
What we thought of the Todtnau Toboggan Run
The whole ride was a lot longer than I thought- it took about 7 minutes to get down and all I can say is WOW! We were all beaming from ear to ear and would all happily have gone up and done it again, even Jade who doesn't like heights and didn't really want to go in the first place (we bribed her with bratwurst.)
It was truly epic- so much fun. If you're ever near Todtnau, make a detour to to the Todtnau Coaster- you won't regret it.
Todtnau Rodelbahn restaurant
Talking of which, at the bottom of the Todtnau toboggan run is a lovely little cafe which served Bratwurst and Mr WB's personal favourite, Currywurst. Given that we hadn't had a German sausage yet (nope, not laughing at the sausage jokes) we decided to indulge.
It was so warm that we actually sat outside in OUR T-SHIRTS. At the beginning of April. Heaven. We were basking like lizards in the sunshine and enjoying our lunch, whilst deciding what we wanted to do for the afternoon.
Looking for the best UK GPS app for caravan and motorhome navigation? We've used CoPilot Caravan GPS as a sat-nav for 2 years, travelling through 17 countries around Europe. I think it's safe to say we've used it well! The app is car navigation for drivers- whether in a car, camper, motorhome or pulling a caravan. Here's our full review of the pros and cons of CoPilot GPS app- hope you find it useful.
What is the CoPilot GPS app?
CoPilot is an app, which works on either Apple or Android devices. You can find it in the App Store or Google Play and pay/ download it just as you would any other app.
ALK (the people who own CoPilot) are now called Trimble- just to avoid confusion should you see different names popping up. But I believe the app is going to stay as CoPilot.
How to set up CoPilot in a car, camper or motorhome
We have the app downloaded onto an iPad (old and second-hand from CEX) and this iPad is mounted onto our dashboard in the motorhome,using this mount. (Do NOT mount it onto your windscreen or impede the driver's view- this will get you fined in many countries throughout Europe.)
You can also use the app on any phone which allows apps, so you could use a normal phone mount if you wish.
Which version of CoPilot GPS app should I download?
CAUTION: There are several different types of Co-Pilot available to download and although they are from the same developer, they are NOT THE SAME. For Motorhomes, campervans, Caravans and RV's in Europe, you want Co-Pilot Caravan Europe. NOT the truck one- that has tachometers and all sorts of other, totally confusing things! This applies even if your vehicle is over 3.5t, like ours- we use the Caravan version and it works great.
CoPilot car is for… cars, but if you are towing, it won't allow you to input dimensions, so you're better off with the caravan version. However, the car version is (at time of writing) the only version which can support worldwide maps (at extra cost.) The other apps are only for UK and Europe.
There is also Co-Pilot RV USA (no prizes for where that should be used!!) – I believe that comes with US and possibly Canada maps- please check before purchase.
Can I use CoPilot UK on two devices?
Yes, as long as you only use one device at once. If you want to use more than one device at a time, you'll need to buy a new licence for each device. You can only register one device on a user ID at any one time. If you're going to buy multiple licences, use different user IDs to avoid issues.
How to use Co-Pilot Caravan GPS app- CoPilot login
Once downloaded, add in the dimensions of your vehicle- we add on a little extra for the motorhome just to be safe! You can even add in extra profiles- for example, we have one set up for Wanda (our Motorhome) with a trailer attached and without a trailer attached. We also have one set up to avoid tolls or toll roads- we used this in Switzerland last summer, but now we are over 3.5t it doesn't make much difference any more!
The app finds the best route for you based on your preferences (fastest, shortest, avoiding tolls etc) and takes the dimensions of your vehicle into account- particularly height, which is very useful.
Here's a quick video of us setting up Co-Pilot caravan and a montage of all the amazing places we've seen using Co-Pilot as our sat-nav! You can see Co-Pilot in UK and Europe as we cross borders, navigate mountains and drive at night in torrential rain-storms. Seriously, we have abused this system and it's still going! (There's also a puppy update in the video… I am too good to you! ;))
(Competition is now closed- be sure to subscribe so you're ready for the next one!!)
Can I use CoPilot on a phone?
Absolutely, although obviously the screen will be smaller than on an iPad. Just remember you can only use one device at a time per licence.
The app will work in landscape or portrait, so any phone holder will do.
On the right-hand side of the screen is a line, which shows you traffic incidents if you've connected that feature. The app allows you to re-route if you prefer to avoid any buildups, which is useful, although we often find staying on the main roads can be quicker-especially in a caravan or motorhome.
You can also add in waypoints or an entire route, using postcodes or GPS co-ordinates. We use GPS a lot in the motorhome when we're navigating to wild camping spots across Europe.
The CoPilot ActiveTraffic also gives you a pretty accurate ETA to your destination- you can set up the app for the speeds your vehicle can (or should!) travel at, so you know a good estimation from the start of your journey.
Yep. You do NOT need internet to use the app. The maps are stored on your device- which is why it's quite a large app.
ALK (the company behind CoPilot) offer offline maps. Loads of points are stored in the app, so you can use it for directions offline. You can also use it to find places around you (fuel, etc) and to find alternative routes if needed.
CoPilot GPS app- our experience with it in Europe
In our adventures around Europe, we've only run in trouble twice- and neither time was really the app's fault. The first time was in Wales, on our VERY FIRST Motorhome adventure. We found ourselves at the bottom of a twisty, turny, country lane which we couldn't get out of as the road the other end was far too narrow for a motorhome.
The moral of the story is to be cautious with small, narrow roads which won't be marked correctly on ANY sat-nav.
The second problem we had with CoPilot Europe was in Germany, where a previously safe, passable road had been chopped in half by a railway bridge… leaving only 1.8m clearance! Funnily enough, we had to reverse our way out of that one too! But as they were still building it, the maps hadn't been updated yet.
Co Pilot sat-nav app Review- Are there any downsides to CoPilot UK?
Honestly, not really. Initially, we used the CoPilot GPS app on our personal iPads but decided to buy a dedicated (older) iPad to use. We keep it charging as we drive using a USB charger. If you wanted to do something similar, there would obviously be an additional charge for the iPad- I think we paid about £100. Don't forget, you need an iPad with a SIM card (or use a phone)- you need the GPS capability which comes with a GSM (Sim card).
Let me put it this way- Mr WB is the biggest gadget man alive. Seriously- he CANNOT put up with things which don't work right. There is no way we would still be using this app if he wasn't happy with it. Don't believe me? Try it for yourself!! Alternatively, here are some other AMAZING motorhome sat-nav systemson the market today!
Ever heard of Brit Stops– the book of free motorhome parking spots around Britain? I'll be honest, we'd heard of it, but never really looked into it until very recently. Turns out, that was a big mistake!
Our introduction to Brit Stops
The other day, we were wild camping in the motorhome in Wales and looking for more free camper parking spots near us. At least, we were trying to.
The problem was, we had no internet. Not a stitch. Not even the phone had a signal. We were in the middle of nowhere and thus, had no way of finding a new place to go!
After a few minutes of doing the ‘hunt for a signal' dance, our friends reached beneath their seat and pulled out… a book.
Like, an actual book. On paper and everything. It was the 2019 edition of Brit Stops.
What is BRITSTOPS?
Brit Stops offer FREE motorhome and camper parking stops around the UK and Ireland.
Yes, you read that right- FREE MOTORHOME AND CAMPER PARKING SPOTS– all over the UK!
Brit Stops was created in 2011 as a way to try and emulate the France Passion scheme, which is a scheme throughout France where vineyards (and other locations) offer parking to motorhomes in the hopes of selling some of their produce. Brit Stops is actually part of a scheme called FEFI (Fédération Européenne de la Formule Invitations) which includes France Passion and other similar schemes across Europe.
It's a way of promoting the local produce and beautiful areas of the country, both to UK residents and visitors from abroad. The UK is notorious in not being very welcoming to motorhomers used to French aires or wild camping- Brit Stops might just be changing that!
How does it work?
The 2019 edition has over 700 places listed where you can stop for the night. There are country pubs, vineyards, farms, shops, local breweries and even a llama park!?!
All these places offer free overnight parking for motorhomes or campers- with no obligation to buy. However, if you're going to go for a meal or a drink anyway, it makes perfect sense that you would buy from the pub, or get your milk/ eggs the next day from the shop, or sample the local ales… all things we enjoy doing as part of our motorhome travels.
Free camper parking in the UK and Ireland
Obviously, if you're stopping for free you can't expect any services. There is no water, waste disposal or electric and there are unlikely to be showers or toilets for your use.
Basically, you're staying on someone's land for free. There are a few rules (most of which are exactly the same as wild camping):
No awnings, outdoor furniture or pup tents
Only stay for 24 hours and don't leave your van unattended (unless given special permission by the host)
No generators or noise at night- it's someone's house.
No fires or BBQs, except with approval from the host.
Arrive during working hours- again, it's someone's home.
Be mindful of your children, especially if you're staying somewhere like a farm. There's a lot of trouble for unsupervised kids to get into.
I LOVE this idea. I have been moaning about the lack of aires in the UK for ages- and it seems that there are slowly becoming more options; especially in England where wild camping is becoming notoriously difficult.
Heck, there are even Brit Stops near ferries or the tunnel for you to use before you head off to Europe.
Are dogs allowed at Brit Stops?
Each location has a full breakdown on what is allowed. Dogs are allowed to stay at many Brit Stop places, but not necessarily allowed inside the pub/ shop/ llama park. If in doubt, phone ahead and ask.
Map of Brit Stops
Is Britstops for caravans?
Sadly, at the moment, Brit Stops is just for motorhomes or anything marked as a motor caravan on the logbook. So no caravans, no unconverted vans, no cars and no tents. Which is exactly how it is at most of the aires in France.
Is there Motorhome parking near me?
Just look at that map- there is almost guaranteed to be a Brit Stop near you! What's even nicer, some of the locations will allow you to leave your camper there for the day while you go explore the local town or area, so you can sometimes get free parking too!
Is there a Brit Stops app?
Not at the moment- and maybe never. I'll be honest, it was kinda nice looking through the book- so much nicer than campsites. There's a little information about each place, what facilities they have and what you can expect. It feels very personal and friendly. I think an app might lose some of that- although I suppose all the relevant information could be shared there too.
One thing to note is that ‘hosts' are allowed to close their site whenever they like (for personal or business reasons), so it's always advisable to phone ahead before setting out. If there was an app, this might make it easier to see if a place was closed or full before you decided to visit.
Although, if there was an app, we wouldn't be sitting around a table in the middle of Wales, looking at pictures and debating which lovely country pub to visit for Sunday lunch. And wouldn't that be a shame.
Trying to plan a UK road trip? Not entirely sure where to start? The UK is amazing and full of incredible road trip possibilities- but narrowing those down to fit an itinerary can be a bit daunting.
We've travelled extensively in the UK for the past 2 years, from Lands End in Cornwall all the way up to John o'Groats (if you're not from the UK, that's a really popular road trip itinerary if you have the time!) We are constantly amazed at just how pretty these countries are and how diverse the scenery, architecture, history, accents and customs are. Wherever you go, you're bound to have a good time. (Just bring a coat. And an umbrella. At all times.)
So- let's get started. Grab a tea and a slice of cake (so English!) and let's plan the PERFECT UK road trip!
Beach in England- perfect stopping points on a UK Road trip
Planning a UK road trip- How much time do you have?
I know the UK is small, but you are unlikely to see much of it in a week. It is possible to drive from the bottom to the top in about 24 hours… but all you'll see is motorway!
My advice? If you have a week, you could do the following areas:
Split England into 4 quarters. You could do each quarter in roughly a week.
If you have extra time, then add more places in! Or take your time and really enjoy the places you find.
Trying to plan a UK road trip? Be aware of distance between points.
VERY VERY VERY IMPORTANT ROAD PLANNING TIP
Do NOT overface yourself. You are NOT going to want to drive 18 hours every day. Heck, what's the point? And you are probably not going to want to drive EVERY. SINGLE. DAY either, especially if you're the only driver or you're travelling with young kids.
Planning a vehicle for your UK road trip
There are plenty of vehicle options for a UK road trip and all of them are available for hire (age and licence dependant of course! Check if you're allowed to drive in the UK with a non-UK licence here.)
Our personal favourite method of roadtripping is by Motorhome (RV). We love being able to take our home on our backs and see where we end up- much more freedom than booking hotels or B & B's in advance.
However, if a motorhome or campervan really isn't your style, hire a car and set out on the open road! Don't forget- it's cheaper to start/ finish at the same place than pay a one-way fee.
Lastly, how about a road trip by bike. Yep, that could be a pushbike (don't underestimate the hills in the UK!) but why not treat yourself and road trip on a motorbike! There are some awesome biking roads all over the UK and plenty of biker-friendly accommodation options. You can even hire helmets and leathers.
Bikers in Wales- the roads there are AWESOME for biking. And road tripping
Route planning for a UK road trip
So, once you've decided on your timescale and how you're going to get around, you can start planning a route. If you're making it up as you go along and booking campsites/ accommodation on the fly, then this doesn't matter so much, but if you're planning a route in order to book accommodation, then remember that many roads in the UK are slower and smaller than you might be used to, and distances can take longer to travel- particularly in places like Scotland, Wales and Cornwall.
Again, don't try and cram too much in, or you'll be arriving late each day utterly exhausted.
Don't worry about hiring a GPS with your vehicle- get Google Maps on a phone (or even better an iPad) and use that instead. Make sure it's in an appropriate holder if you're looking at it whilst driving!
Bring a car USB charger for phone/ ipad etc. You'll need it!
Note– there is NOT an official border between England, Scotland and Wales- you can drive between them in any vehicle you hire. However, for any country which requires a ferry (Northern Ireland, Isle of Man, Channel Islands) you might need a letter from the hire company saying it's ok to take the vehicle out of the country.
Another Note– this does NOT apply to the Isle of Wight on the south coast of England- that's still part of England. It's complicated, I know.
Stonehenge. And yes- this is a real sunrise. It was magical. There's a video and everything!
UK Road Trip tips
Apparently, us Brits have a reputation for speeding. Having driven in both France and Italy, I think that's a little unfair- but it's also probably true. So, here's the deal:
The speed limit on the motorway (3/4 lanes each side) is 70mph. You WILL see people going faster, but remember there are unmarked police cars all over the place.
IF you see another speed limit on the motorway (for roadworks or traffic) obey that speed limit. There will be cameras everywhere- they are often on the bridges.
National speed limit (white circle with black diagonal line through it) is 70 on dual carriageways (unless otherwise marked) and 60 on single lane roads.
In towns the speed will often by 30mph, and sometimes 20mph near schools. Do not speed in towns- cameras (and kids!) everywhere.
Driving Tips for the UK
There is NO turn on red. Red means stop and wait. Always. Wait for green. If you're turning, there might be a green arrow while the rest is on red.
There's no requirement to drive with your headlights on during the day.
In the UK, we drive on the left. The slow lane is the lane nearest the curb, the overtaking lane is the one near the centre. DO NOT hog the middle lane.
At a roundabout, the left lane is for either turning left or going straight on. Unless it's marked differently.
If you're in a tall vehicle (motorhome!) know your height and width and PAY ATTENTION to signs for narrow roads or low bridges. There are MANY of them all over the place. We LOVE this app to help us find a route which works for our vehicle.
In rural areas, you'll find many narrow roads. Sometimes, you just have to go for it (slowly!) In a big vehicle, sound your horn before approaching a tight bend- don't do this at night! These roads will often have passing places- these are NOT laybys, so don't stop here for the night!
Double yellow lines mean NO parking (there are some exceptions for disabilites). Single yellow line means parking is restricted at certain times. Don't block entrances, driveways or bus stops.
Talking of buses, do NOT drive in a bus lane. Most buses now have cameras on the back and they will fine you.
Yep, this is a real road. Yep, it's narrow. Be brave!
Driving in London
Personally, I hate driving in central London. Too many cars and the road system is crazy complicated. Add to that the taxis who just push through everyone, the lorries which are too big for the roads… yeah, I park up and catch the train in. If you do drive into London, be aware of the congestion zone. You can pay it on the day- you don't need to buy in advance, but DO NOT forget. Here's the link for info and to pay.
Useful (and weird) things to know before travelling to the UK
We drive in ‘miles' (imperial), but we buy fuel in litres (metric). No idea why.
Currency is in GBP- not Euros.
Amex is only accepted in the bigger shops- many places won't take it.
Carry small coins (anything from 10p to £1) Many car parks require change to pay. A rough guide is you'll pay £1/ hour for parking. Expect MUCH more in cities.
The best (ha!) weather is usually May-October. In 2018 it was blissful from April all through the summer. In 2019, it's May and I'm still wearing my winter coat. It's COLD!
It rains. A lot. Whenever you're coming, bring a coat.
Planning a UK road trip? Consider Scotland- you won't be disappointed!
Best Road Trip planning apps
After road tripping for a couple of years, we've tried (and rejected!) many many rubbish apps. But these road trip planner appsare genuinely worth using and keeping on your phone.
Activities for kids
I'm just going to point you in the direction of these amazing road trip activities for kids(and adults!) and quietly close the door. Feel free to rock back and forwards whilst gently hugging yourself. It will be ok.
We've been travelling in a motorhome for nearly two years, on and off. We started as complete and utter beginners… and we're STILL learning things two years later. But one of the scariest– and most important!- lessons we've learnt so far happened before I really started to blog about our adventures.
Travelling in a Motorhome- our scariest moment (so far!!?!?!?!)
We took our first motorhome into Europe, through Italy and up into the Swiss Alps. We'd just stopped at the terrifying Gelmerbahn funicular and visited the beautiful Gelmersee lake. Jade had received her GCSE results and it was a glorious sunny day. We hadn't died on the old, rickety funicular- what could possibly go wrong??
Well, quite a lot as it happens.
The Gelmerbahn funicular is halfway up a mountain in the Swiss Alps. As soon as you set off, you're immediately driving on tiny, hairpin, mountain roads. And almost as soon as we set off, we realised there was something seriously wrong with our brakes.
We'd been wild camping in the Alps the night before- which was MAGICAL. But we'd been going up and down STEEP mountain roads for the past 48 hours. We'd stopped fairly frequently to allow the brakes time to cool, and we'd been stopped for about 4 hours this time whilst we did the funicular.
Little did we know, the brake fluid had completely disappeared.
Gottard Pass, Switzerland
Travelling in a motorhome- our mistake
When we bought the van 3 months earlier, we'd been assured it had just had a full service and MOT. We did our own checks, but we never thought to check the brake fluid. Turns out, it hadn't been changed for many, many years and was mostly water- which meant it had evaporated over the past 48 hours as the brakes got hot.
All this led to us hurtling down a steep mountain, with a trailer pushing us even faster… and no way of slowing down except for our hand brake.
I am forever grateful that Mr WB was driving, not me. Honestly, I'm not sure I would have known what to do. There was nowhere to pull over, nowhere to stop and turning around wasn't an option. All we could do was continue down the mountain, trying desperately to slow down as we approached each hairpin turn and praying we didn't catch up to a slow vehicle in front.
I couldn't even speak, I was that scared. I just let my husband do his thing- which he did brilliantly. He used engine braking as much as possible- and the handbrake to supplement that. Yes, it probably ruined the handbrake. No, I didn't care.
Travelling in a Motorhome in the Swiss Alps- before the brakes failed!
Travelling in a motorhome- the good part
At the bottom of the mountain was a small village. Just off the main road was a garage, and we pulled into the forecourt in a cloud of smoke.
The mechanics didn't speak a word of English (why should they?!) but they did speak the universal ‘Oh'.
These guys were brilliant. They had several cars and jobs already in, but they stopped what they were doing to help us. The owner called his son, who came to help too, and they quickly replaced the brake fluid, changed the pads and checked wheels, tyres, handbrake (luckily not damaged) and fixed anything which needed fixing. They also checked the oil and did a couple of other essential checks for us, as we no longer trusted the ‘service' the motorhome had apparently had. Within a couple of hours, it was all done and sorted.
Travelling in a motorhome- our advice
Luckily, this story had a happy ending. We were ok. The van was ok. We bought a big crate of beer for the mechanics and headed off on the road again.
In England, we are not used to driving up and down mountains. We certainly didn't fully appreciate the toll it could have on a vehicle. But it could easily have been a different story. Please please PLEASE before you go travelling in a motorhome get it fully checked by an independent mechanic- NOT the people you bought it from. Especially if you're planning to take your van overseas into some fairly harsh terrain. There's a complete list of checks you should do HERE.
Our new motorhome got LOTS of checks before we took it into the mountains.
This story isn't meant to frighten anyone from travelling, whether in a motorhome, a camper or a car. Heck, it didn't put us off! But it DEFINITELY made us more wary about trusting salesmen and garages when we buy a vehicle- our new van got a full check before we took it to Cornwall and ANOTHER one before we headed off to Europe. (Yes, we're uber-cautious.)
I hope sharing our story (and mistake!) will help you avoid being in such a terrifying situation yourself. If you know anyone else who might benefit from a bit of friendly advice, feel free to share this with them on Facebook or Pinterest.