There will be a lot of writing coming soon about Anglotopia’s Grand Adventure driving from Land’s End to John O’Groats (we have over 50 articles on the to-do list!). But first, I thought it would be helpful to put together a list of 10 key tips for those interested in planning the drive themselves.
But first, a little background. LeJog is basically driving from Land’s End, the southern/westernmost point in Britain to John O’Groats, the northernmost point in Britain. Many people walk it, bike it, run it, etc but we drove it, which is the most popular way to do it. These tips are for driving it based on what we learned doing the actual drive a few months ago.
How Long to Take?
The biggest choice to make is how long to take to make the journey. In theory, you can do the drive in a day, and many people have. It’s only a thousand miles, which for most Americans is not a huge distance to traverse. I would not recommend doing it in a day. While you will complete the journey, you won’t get to see or do anything. We took 10 days for the journey. And as we got to the end, we really felt that even this amount of time just was not enough. You could take a month and still feel like you’ve missed too much. So, I think we would recommend 10-15 days, with planning to see things you’ve always really wanted to see. You will not be able to see everything. That’s what future trips are for!
Leave Room for Serendipity
We planned our trip down to the minute, but when you’re on the road, things often change. We canceled doing several things because of time or tiredness (I very much regret not stopping at Tintagel Castle). But we also left room in our itinerary for serendipity. I’m glad we did this. As we were driving through Yorkshire, we saw the signs for Fountains Abbey and decided, what the heck, let’s go see that as it wasn’t far. It turned out to be one of the most amazing places we’ve ever been. It wasn’t on our itinerary, but we left room for things like it.
Getting to Cornwall
The biggest problem with doing LeJog, other than the driving, is that you have to get to Cornwall to ‘start’ the drive. There are several ways to do this. You can take the train from London Paddington, but this takes 6 hours (or the overnight Cornish Riviera Sleeper). But then you have to pick up a car in Cornwall. You could simply rent a car and drive from London, but I wouldn’t recommend doing this after getting off a transatlantic flight as it takes at least 5 hours to Cornwall (with no stopping whatsoever). You could rent a car, drive a couple of hours then stop for the night and then resume the journey the next day. You could fly to Cornwall from Heathrow, but that would be expensive, there is an airport nearby Land’s End. You could also fly into Bristol and then drive from there, but even then that’s at least three hours to Cornwall. In the end, very good friends ended up picking us up at Heathrow and drove us to Cornwall (they wanted to show us around their favorite Cornish Haunts). This was the best of both worlds, it was direct, and someone else did the driving while we endured jetlag. They also provided ample car snacks, so we didn’t really need to stop. And I’m proud to say we didn’t fall asleep on our hosts. We made it to Cornwall by the evening on the day of our arrival and woke up the next day ready to start the adventure.
Caledonian Sleeper Warning
If you intend to end your journey by taking the Caledonian Sleeper from Scotland back to London, a word of warning: if you suffer from motion sickness, it might not be for you. The rocking back and forth at high speeds really plays with the limits of the stomach and bowel. It’s direct and magical going to sleep in Scotland and waking up in London. But it can be rough if you have a sensitive constitution (like me). We have more tips for the Caledonian sleeper that you can read here.
Land’s End is a Tourist Trap, John O’Groat is… less of one
If you look up a tourist trap in the dictionary, I’m sure you’ll find a picture of Land’s End next to it. There are no bones about it, the place is a tourist trap, designed to extract as much money from you as possible. This did not appeal to us, but we still wanted to go to Land’s End to start the journey. So, all you have to do is ignore all the tourist tat and walk straight through what is essentially a strip mall, to get to the famous sign. There it’s less than £20 to have your picture taken in front of the sign (they post the picture back to you). We did that and they were very accommodating with us, allowing us to use our own camera and shoot some video. John O’Groats is much less of a trap. There’s still plenty of tatty gift shops to waste your money at. But it’s not a circus-like Land’s End. We arrived before most of John O’Groats was even open, so pretty much had the place to ourselves. But I’m sure it’s heaving in the summer. We were able to enjoy a nice quiet cup of tea and enjoy our accomplishment unmolested by tourist throngs.
Everywhere in Scotland Will Be the Most Beautiful Place You’ve Ever Been
Nothing prepared me for how beautiful Scotland is. It’s majestic. Stunning. Everywhere we went in Scotland was the most beautiful place we’d ever been. Even in the pouring down rain. At one point, we saw three fully formed rainbows along the A90 north through the Cairngorms. It was incredible. Then we got to the coast and the endless seas. Just amazing. We can’t wait to go back.
Pay for a Nicer Car
We were very lucky that we got a free upgrade to a Land Rover Discovery – one that was fully loaded and possibly the nicest car I’ve ever driven. We did not pay for this. I originally booked an Automatic SUV, and that’s what they gave me instead. You’re going to spend a lot of time in your car. While most of us just can’t rent a luxury vehicle outright, I would recommend spending a little more for an SUV type vehicle. Driving 1,000 miles in a compact car is not my idea of fun. If you can stretch your budget for a nicer car, do it!
Pack Light…. no pack lighter than that
We traveled with just a carry-on bag and a backpack/purse each. Even this proved a bit too much luggage. Really, the problem was changing hotels every night. Packing and unpacking every day became such a chore. Our Land Rover was so big, I just used that as a dresser, and whenever we stopped, I’d just take out the clothes I needed for the next day and left all the luggage in the car.
There isn’t a Guidebook
There’s isn’t really a guidebook for driving Land’s End to John O’Groats. The only book we could find was for doing the bike ride, but that proved useless for how we planned to do the drive. There’s a great map – the Great British Adventure map, which has the route (and you can buy it from us). But as far as planning the journey and stops, etc. there isn’t a guidebook. Maybe we’ll write one.
I cannot emphasize this enough. Plan for every eventuality. You’re driving long distances in rural areas. Make sure you have enough fuel and snacks to get you to your next stop. We forgot to place our umbrellas which proved to be an expensive mistake, as we had to buy new ones at a rest area (the worst place to buy anything as it’s overpriced). Keep your phone fully charged, but be prepared to have no signal in the wilderness. It’s going to rain. Depending on the time of year you go, it’ll be cold, especially up in Scotland. Bring a coat. I didn’t bring a proper jacket because I didn’t think I’d need one. I froze in Scotland without one (thankfully we didn’t spend much time outside). And this is the most important thing: be prepared to enjoy yourself. Sit back, relax and enjoy this adventure. It goes by very quickly. And if you’re anything like me, every day after it ends, you’ll wish you were back on the journey with the special someone you took it with.
Have you driven Land’s End to John O’Groats? Leave your tips in the comments below!