When most people think of visiting England they think of the busy streets and shops of London.. filled with double decker buses, old red phone booths, and good ole Big Ben. But if you get outside that big city, there is so much nature to be seen and appreciated. Road tripping the south coast of England will give you the opportunity to do just that. It’s filled with impressive coastal cliffs, sandy and rocky beaches, narrow but lusciously green roads, and rugged rock formations you’ll remember for a lifetime. There are a myriad of places to pull over and enjoy the view, but here are just a few places you must stop and see along the way. I listed them in order from West to East, to make it easy to plan your road trip in order 🙂
Lands End/Sennen Cove
Location: Land’s End is the westernmost point of the country. So it’s obviously located in the southwest corner of England. It is a 6 hour drive from London or just a 1.5 hour drive from the Newquay airport.
Price/Parking: If you park at the nearest lot it is £5 from an attendant before 5pm or £3 from a machine after 5pm. There are also 2 pay and display parking lots located in Sennen Cove, which is just 2 miles away by car, or a short hike away along the cliff tops. Overnight parking is allowed in Sennen Cove.
General Information: Land’s End is the westernmost point of the country. It has beautiful views of the ocean and rocky trails you can hike along the clifftops. From Sennen Cove to Land’s End is a short hike (about 30 minutes). Along the way, there are plenty of coastal views to appreciate, as well as a huge old shipwreck down on the beach as you pass. by. The sunset views from anywhere in that area are breathtaking! However, honestly, the Lands End spot itself is quite a tourist trap.. and they now make you pay £10 just to take a photo with the sign by a grumpy attendant.. which I think is ridiculous.
Location: Located on the Jurassic coast just outside of Dorchester. It is almost 4 hours east of Lands End, but you can stop in Falmouth, Plymouth, or Exeter along the way if you aren’t up to driving far in one day.
Price/Parking: The only parking lot near Durdle Door is a pay and display lot on the Lulworth Estate. There is a maximum of £9/day to park in it, but it closes at 10pm and overnight parking is not permitted in that area. You may park/camp overnight in the back of the lot for additional fees. (We slept in our van a layby just outside of the parking lot for free instead). Walking access to the beach itself is of course free.
General Information: Durdle Door refers to a specific rock arch that juts out into the ocean, formed by part of the limestone falling into the sea. Surrounding the arch is a rocky beach for you to walk along, swim, or lay down and relax on for the day. Be aware that the shore is made up of tiny rocks, not made out of sand as it may appear, so it can hurt your feet. A good pair of walking shoes or water shoes is recommended. The water is crystal clear and beautiful though. You can also walk along the top of the coastal cliff to enjoy the view from above. The beach is open all year round, but the parking lots close at 10pm, as do the gates on the path to walk down to the beach. The walk from the parking lot to the arch/beach takes about 10 minutes and relatively easy, just a bit steep and rocky.
Old Harry Rocks
Location: Located pretty much in the dead center of the south coast, near Swanage. It is just a 40 minute drive east of Durdle Door.
Price/Parking: An hourly pay and display lot referred to as South Beach car park in Studland. Free to hike and explore.
General Information: There is a short flat hike required to reach Old Harry Rocks. From the car park walk down the road past Bankes Arms Pub and then turn left onto a path signed for Old Harry. This starts along a wooded area and then opens up into a field.. pretty much in a straight line the whole way. The Rocks/Cliffs themselves are made of white rock with the blue sea below. Be sure to bring a camera and water, as it can be hot on that walk during the summer season.
Seven Sisters Cliffs
Location: Located near Eastbourne. It is about 3.5 hours east of Old Harry Rocks. The Isle of Wight and Brighton are 2 places you could stop in between these.
Price/Parking: There is no shortage of parking in this area.. but they are all pay and display lots (England’s coasts aren’t great for free parking). Along the main road loop (Beachy Head Road and Birling Gap Road) that has plenty of laybys and 2 larger parking lots.. each for a couple of pounds. NONE of which allowed overnight parking, so for us vanlifers, we had to sleep just outside the area. Other than parking, area is free to explore.
General Information: One of the seven cliffs is referred to as Beachy Head, which is the highest coastal cliff in England. You can walk all along the top of them here for a few miles, while looking out into the English Channel. There is a lighthouse down in the water that gives you good perspective of how high you are. There is also another lighthouse up on top of the cliffs near the visitors centre that you can tour. The visitors centre parking lot has stairs down to the shore where you can walk along the water. This beach is a mix of sand and rocks, but allows you to see the cliffs from a different angle. A fact about these cliffs is that they are always changing shape and falling into the sea below. So be careful walking along the edge or walking underneath of them.
White Cliffs of Dover
Location: Located on the southeast corner of England, next to the port of Dover. It is located 2 hours east of the seven sister cliffs. You can then drive 2 hours northwest back to London or put your vehicle on the ferry in the port and hop on over to France.
Price/Parking: £4 per vehicle for the day, £7 for motorhomes.
General Information: Car park opens at 9, visitor centre opens at 10, but you can walk and explore the coastal trails here anytime you wish. The high chalk cliffs provide amazing views of the English Channel and the ships entering and leaving the port below. If you walk along the coastal path toward the lighthouse you will have great views of the cliffs themselves. There’s a coffee shop and bathrooms on site.
There are SO many more beautiful places in England that I’m going to write a separate blog, so I don’t bombard one post with too many places that they end up getting scrolled passed. I will be posting a different blog with beautiful places/beaches in Cornwall specifically (just southwest England).. such as Falmouth, Porthtowan, Chapel Porth, Wheal Coates, St Agnes Head, Treavuance Cove, Trevellas, and Perranporth. In you”ll be in that area check out those places! They’re all very close to one another and much quieter/less touristy than the places mentioned above.
Be sure to follow me on Instagram @KellyNicoleTravel for more! Happy Exploring!!