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Solihull is a pleasant, semi-upscale town in the West Midlands region which makes a good base for visiting busy Birmingham and for taking in the country. It has several notable landmarks and mansions to point cameras at as well as some pleasant urban walking, while also being well within reach of Birmingham International Airport and the high profile National Exhibition Centre (NEC).
Who to Book With
Solihull is just a few miles from Birmingham International Airport and many people who visit this town pre-book car hire from here and drive down. Several of the top rental brands are available, including Avis, Europcar, Hertz and Sixt, though the best value option—rather than check individually—is to use a comparator website. The quickest route to Solihull from the airport is to take the M42 southbound, from junction 6 to 5.
Best Time to Go
Obviously the best weather is in the summer when it’s warmer, drier and less humid, though this is of course the busiest time. The driving is easier while kids are in school, so perhaps look to May or June when driving conditions are easier. Also, keep abreast of the events schedule of the NEC as cars get booked up at this time and the roads, and hotels, around Solihull are always busier.
Need to Know Essentials
For car rental, the following documents will be needed:
- A United Kingdom driver’s licence or International Driving Permit
- An EU national identity card, passport or other valid identification (with photo)
- The credit card you used to reserve the vehicle
- A printout of the confirmed reservation
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While the town is small and roads tend to get clogged during morning and evening rush hours, Solihull is well served by motorways and major A roads, making getting in and out easy. Junction 5 of the M42 allows for fast access to the airport, NEC and Birmingham city. All main roads converge in the centre of town along with some tricky one-way streets, so, when visiting city attractions, it is best to leave the car at the hotel and walk in or take the bus.
Our Guide to the United Kingdom contains more detailed driving information.
You won’t need a car to visit the historic attractions in the centre of Solihull as it’s easy to get around here on foot. There are local bus services that take in the suburbs and onto Birmingham and the airport, but unless you’re staying well out of town, you won’t need to use them. The close proximity of the M42 motorway (Junction 5 is one mile from the town centre) makes the prospect of daytrips by car rental good.
Trains run from both London (Marylebone) and from Birmingham (Moor Street) stations throughout the day, terminating at Solihull train station just west of the town centre. You can walk to most city hotels from the train station but trains are for commuting only. It’s best to drive if arriving at Birmingham International Airport as there is no direct link with Solihull by rail, or from the NEC.
You can get to Solihull and farther afield by using Travel West Midlands (TWM) buses, which take in Birmingham, the airport and the NEC. Fares are cheap, although it is easier to get about by car when visiting these places. From afar, National Express coaches have the best coverage of the UK.
There are several taxi firms operating in town (such as Solihull Taxis and A2B), with taxi ranks spread across the town centre. You will see London-style black cabs as well as private saloons, and services are metered. All city centre hotels are walkable, but pre-booking a taxi at night if returning from a club is the best idea.
Solihull is in a good spot for car hire; it’s out of reach of the tentacles of the UK’s second city, bustling Birmingham, yet very close to a motorway and some quality English destinations. Shakespeare’s Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwick Castle and the Welsh hills are all fine drives, while the National Exhibition Centre is a just a 10-minute or five-mile jaunt along the M42.
Stratford-upon-Avon – The birthplace of the world’s most famous poet, William Shakespeare, is just a 30-minute drive from Solihull. Simply take the M42 and M40 south and it’s a short trip from the motorway. See his house on Henley Street, along with Ann Hathaway's Cottage and the various theatres, or soak up the street atmosphere on a Town Walk. There are also some great pubs and cafés in town.
Warwick – You could combine a trip to Stratford-upon-Avon with a look at one of England’s most historic and majestic castles, Warwick Castle. It’s not far to the north of Stratford and the M40 motorway and is accessed by pleasant roads and bisected by the River Avon. The castle is the main sight here, yet the town itself is pretty and easy going. Just east of Warwick is Royal Leamington Spa.
Birmingham – Head up Warwick Road (the A41) to get to Birmingham from Solihull. It’s a busy town—England’s number two—and is a bit of an industrial hub, though is thoroughly revitalised and open for business. Park at the Bullring shopping centre, where you can shop till you drop or hit the city centre’s sights.
Brecon Beacons – If you hanker for countryside, take a drive down to the Brecon Beacons National Park. It’s a two- to three-hour drive via Worcester, but well worth it for the very scenic driving and stunning upland terrain. Historic Hereford is also en-route.