9 Best Stops on the London to Manchester Drive

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by Maggie Turansky

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Though Manchester can be reached in just about 2 hours by train, going on a London to Manchester drive is an excellent way to see a lot of what lies in England between these two historic cities.

While the typical route along the M40 would show you very little more than tarmac and traffic, there is a surprising amount that lies between these cities.

Any drive between cities can be just as entertaining as you choose to make it and, though it may not be the most efficient way to get to Manchester or Liverpool from the capital, taking a few detours from the motorway to see more of England is never a bad idea.

So if you want to spice up an otherwise humdrum drive, take heed of these great suggestions and make these stops in order to make the most out of your road trip!

Planning a London to Manchester Road Trip

When it comes to planning a drive from London to Manchester, there are a few things that need to be considered. While the route between these two cities is all on one motorway (the M40) and it is a well-paved and highly trafficked road, there are still a few considerations that are necessary to ponder.

First off, if you need to rent a car, then we suggest booking through Rentalcars.com. This handy platform aggregates prices for car hire across many companies, ensuring that you never pay too much for a rental car.

We also would suggest you consider taking out an excess insurance policy with iCarHireInsurance to ensure you don’t have to pay a thing should any damage happen to your vehicle while on your road trip.

Going with a third party like this one, as well, helps you save a lot of money as compared to the excess insurance policies offered directly by car hire companies.

When it comes to actually going on your drive, there isn’t much else you need to know. Because it is such a populated area and a well-trafficked route, there are ample petrol stations and places to stop to use the facilities along the way and there isn’t much planning that you need to do.

Of course, if you’re visiting from overseas, it is also worth remembering that they drive on the left-hand side of the road in England!

Panoramic view of Manchester
Panoramic view of Manchester

How Far is London to Manchester?

The direct distance between London and Manchester is approximately about 200 miles or 340 kilometres and can be reached by car along the M40 in just about 3 to 4 hours.

However, if you’re interested in making this a road trip rather than a commute, then I would suggest planning to spend at least two days doing this drive.

Leave London in the morning, a few of the stops on the list, stop for the night (Birmingham is a good halfway point!) and make the rest of the stops that interest you before arriving in Manchester (or Liverpool) in the evening of the second day.

Best Stops on the London to Manchester Drive


Start with an incredibly historic and beautiful city as your first stop on your road trip from London to Manchester – Oxford. Obviously famous for being home to the renowned Oxford University, this city has a lot more to offer than just its esteemed educational facilities.

This city, known for its beautiful architecture, historic colleges, inviting high street and beautiful green spaces, Oxford is commonly visited as a day trip from London and is a great place to explore for a bit of time.

Harry Potter fans will rejoice in visiting the colleges of Oxford University used in the films for scenes of Hogwarts (Harry Potter tours are available here), and history buffs will love the numerous walking tours and museums available to learn more about the university’s notable alumni and the history of this city.

The university town of Oxford
The university town of Oxford


If you’re interested in taking in some classic English charms and beautiful country villages, then you can’t miss the Cotswolds when on your road trip. This area of outstanding natural beauty is another place that is famous as a day trip from London and it is also a favourite for a romantic weekend getaway.

The Cotswolds are famous for their picture-perfect villages and pastoral, bucolic natural scenery. If you’re interested in seeing some charming country life on your journey between two major cities, then the Cotswolds make an excellent stop for you.

So if you want to see some of the prettiest villages in England and enjoy a slower pace of life, make sure to spend some time exploring some picturesque Cotswolds towns like Painswick, Bibury or Bourton-on-Water.


Another one of the best to make when you travel from London to Manchester is Shakespeare’s hometown of Stratford-Upon-Avon.

Located, as the name would suggest, along the River Avon about 100 miles north of London, this beautiful town is the perfect stop for those interested in British history and, of course, fans of the Bard.

Of course, there are lots of Shakespeare-themed activities to do in Stratford-Upon-Avon including visiting the Bard’s birthplace, Anne Hathaway’s Cottage and the Royal Shakespeare Theatre.

There are also some lovely historic churches to visit, quaint English pubs to rest in and lots of other great things to explore in this historic and quintessentially English town.

So even if your Shakespeare knowledge only spans to a high school reading of Romeo & Juliet, there is no reason not to include charming Stratford-Upon-Avon as a stop on way from the London to Manchester.

William Shakespeares Birthplace in Stratford-upon-Avon
William Shakespeare’s Birthplace in Stratford-upon-Avon


If you’re interested in experiencing more idyllic English towns on your drive then you can’t go wrong with including a stop in Worcester.

Located in the West Midlands by the River Severn, this historic city makes for a lovely place to get out, explore, stretch your legs and maybe grab a bit to eat.

There are a number of things to do in Worcester that are worth doing, including visiting the beautiful medieval Worcester Cathedral (which is home to the remains of King John) or learning about the British Civil War at the Commandery Museum.

If you’re interested in taking a bit of a walk in nature, then make sure to visit the Worcester Woods Country Park and enjoy the bucolic scenery along one of its many walking trails.

Worcester also has a charming city centre that’s worth wandering through and numerous authentic pubs to stop in for a pint and a bite to eat.


Birmingham, England’s second-largest city, doesn’t get nearly the amount of tourism as London or even smaller cities like Manchester, Liverpool, York or Leeds. Though it packs a bit of a gritty reputation, it still makes for an excellent stop on this road trip.

If you’re travelling with children, then no stop in Birmingham would be complete without visiting Cadbury World just south of the city to learn how this national chocolate is made and to try a few samples. In the city, kids will also delight in the hands-on Thinktank Science Museum.

For those interested in art, then make sure to visit the Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery and take in its fantastic collections. If you want some fresh air and the weather is fine, then you can’t go wrong with a visit to the Birmingham Botanical Gardens, either.

Birmingham City Hall
Birmingham City Hall


This city is arguably the biggest detour on the typical drive from London, however, it is well worth it especially if you want to explore a charming English city and see more of the country while driving.

Located northeast of Birmingham, Nottingham has a lot to offer visitors and makes for an excellent stop for those looking to see more of England and explore some historic city centres. Known to be the home of Robin Hood, this city has a lot more to offer than legend and it’s a very good stop to make when visiting anywhere in England.

Take the time to explore the charming city centre, stroll around the Old Market Square and make sure to visit the Nottingham Castle, Museum & Art Gallery. Another can’t-miss museum in Nottingham is the City of Caves, a network of ancient cave dwellings that now operate as a prehistoric museum.

If you’re interested in touring historic royal homes, then make sure to head out to the Wollaton Hall, an Elizabethan era estate that is open for tours and also has immense grounds that are kept as a sanctuary for local deer.

Statue Of Robin Hood at Nottingham Castle,
Statue Of Robin Hood at Nottingham Castle

Peak District National Park

If you’re tired of visiting historic cities and want to explore some of the incredible natural beauty that England boasts, then make sure to stop off at the Peak District National Park in central England.

Located just a bit north of Nottingham and Birmingham, this is one of England’s most beautiful national parks and doesn’t get nearly the same amount of attention as other parks get.

As the name may suggest, this is one of the most mountainous areas of England and it is known for its limestone peaks and gorgeous natural scenery. The park is nearly 1,500 square kilometres and boasts some incredible walking trails with carrying lengths and degree of difficulty depending on what your level is.

Riddled with incredible peaks and stunning valleys, this is one of the best places to go to experience the wild nature of the English countryside in the entirety of the country. Dotted with charming villages and idyllic country pubs, you’re sure to enjoy any sort of stop in the Peak District.

The Peak District is the perfect nature stop on a London to Manchester road trip
The beautiful Peak District


Heading east from the Peak District almost to the border with Wales lies the walled city of Chester, an excellent stop to make on the journey from London to Manchester. Though small, this city makes for a lovely visit and is worth exploring for an hour or two to make your journey a bit more interesting.

Chester has been settled since the Romans established it in the 1st Century CE and it even boasts its own incredible Roman Amphitheatre that you can visit. You can also take a walk along the city walls, first erected in the Roman period but added to up through the Medieval times.

Make sure not to miss the incredible Chester Cathedral, a historic medieval church with an incredible interior. If you’re interested in learning more about the history of the city, then head to the Grosnover Museum where you can find artefacts dating back to the Romans.


One of the most historic and well-known cities in Europe, Liverpool is known for being the home of a little band called The Beatles and for being a bustling port city.

You are sure to find that Liverpool has a number of things to occupy you for a few days, however, if you’re just stopping over on the way to Manchester, you’re sure to enjoy yourself regardless.

If you’re a football fan, then you can’t go wrong with going for a tour of Anfield Stadium (home of Liverpool FC) or even trying to score tickets to a Liverpool or Everton match! If you’re a Beatles fan, there are countless tours and places that you can visit where you can walk in the same shoes as John, Paul, George and Ringo.

The refurbished Royal Albert Dock boasts interesting restaurants, bars and shops that are sure to keep you occupied and the Georgian Quarter is one of the most beautiful places in the city and packed with historic places to visit.

beatles history is a must on any liverpool itinerary
Beatles history is everywhere in Liverpool!

Where to Stay on the Drive from London to Manchester

If you intend to make all of these stops on your road trip to the north of England, you’re likely going to want to find a place to stay for the night. While there are countless great places to stop for the night away, a good halfway point is in the city of Birmingham.

If you’re looking for accommodation in London, we have a great guide on the best areas and places to stay in the British capital!


The Class Place — They have a range of rooms available with great views over the city and its central location makes it a great base for exploring.

Edgbaston Park Hotel — If you’re after a bit of luxury on your road trip, then this plush hotel is an excellent choice for you. Centrally located in Birmingham, they have a range of luxe rooms available and a great restaurant and bar on site.

Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse more Birmingham hotels!


Motel One Manchester-Piccadilly — This hotel is a great option for mid-range travellers to Manchester. It is centrally located and they have great rooms available to suit all kinds of travellers. Plus, a hearty breakfast is included in the nightly rate.

Princess St. Hotel — A great option for those looking to live a life of luxury on their London to Manchester road trip. This hotel has countless amenities, plush rooms, and its central location means that it is incredibly easy to explore all of the city’s top attractions.

Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse more Manchester hotels!

Town hall of Manchester
Town hall of Manchester

There are so many stops to take when on a London to Manchester drive that it can be hard to know which to prioritise. So next time you’re travelling between these two English cities, take some time away from the motorway and take the time to see what lies in between!

Are you planning a trip to Manchester from London? Have you made any of these stops along the way? Let us know in the comments!

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Maggie is a co-founder and writer for The World Was Here First. Originally from the US, she has lived in five different countries and has travelled to dozens more, both solo and with her partner, Michael. She particularly loves exploring Spain and spending time in the Caucasus and the Baltics. Read more about Maggie


  1. Thank you very much for writing such an interesting article, lately I’m traveling a lot from London to Manchester for work and it’s awakened in my interest to get to know England through these trips.


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