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15 days itinerary England, Wales (+Scotland possible?) Trip. Please guide

Hi good people of RS's forum

I and my wife are planning a 15-days trip to England & Wales (wondering if we should or shouldn't include a bit of Scotland too)
We intend to start from London and move south, then south-west, then center, north, return from north-east back to London. The plan is to make a circular trip.

Please excuse many gaps in the itinerary since it's a rough one. Wanted suggestions and recommendations.

About us: We're a couple in our early 30s, can walk decent amount (not hikers), would love to see London as much as possible, love small towns, castles, lakes, mountains, old towns and their markets, we recently went to Germany & loved their half-timbered houses and cobblestone roads. We love good food too. Not much of the museum type, but can occasionally visit one if it's historically significant, ca drive but don't want to drive the whole time (since it defeats the purpose of recreation in our opinion), can't swim, love architecture especially loved pics of Oxford's buildings).

Without further ado, here's the list of shortlisted cities: (can take car only where necessary, else train)
Please note that many of the below can also be day trips.

  1. London (3 to 4 days)
  2. Bristol
  3. Bath
  4. Salisbury + Stonehenge + Avebury
  5. Jurassic Coast
  6. Cornwall
  7. Cardiff
  8. Cotswold District
  9. Oxford + Blenheim Palace
  10. Chipping Campden
  11. Snowdonia National Park
  12. Conwy
  13. Liverpool
  14. Manchester + Peak district
  15. Lake district (Keswick + Penrith)

Can these places be included or goto #19 directly:
16. Glasgow
17. Edinburgh
18. Alnwick Castle (possible? worth taking such a long route?)

  1. York
  2. Cambridge
  3. London

We are not sure if these many places are feasible in 15 days. We can skip #16, #17 and #18 completely and come back for Scotland and Ireland later. What do you suggest?
Please guide from your experience.

Posted by
3418 posts

You are going to have to re-think and prioritize. There is NO way to do all of that- not even just drive-bys. If you are planning on driving, realize that while the UK LOOKS like a small country, the driving times are longer than you think. Also if 15 days includes arrival and departure days, you really have much less time than you think. Even using the trains and buses, you will need to reduce your 'destinations' by half or more. Plan on 2 to 3 nights MINIMUM at each stop. You loose 1/2 to a whole day each time you move (especially if you drive). With 15 days on the ground (17 days total), I'd suggest something like this (I'm listing things you could do by train/bus because that is how we always traveled):

London- 3 -5 nights (possible day trips to Bath and/or Cardiff) then train to York
York- 2-3 nights then train to Edinburgh
Edinburgh- 2-4 nights then train to Glasgow
Glasgow- -2-3 nights then train to London
London- 1-4 nights (possible day trip to Salisbury/Stonehenge or Cotswolds)

Posted by
1128 posts

Slow down, please. That’s too much for a month much less half a month. You’ll spend all your time in transit and never see anything except the view from a train window. I’d suggest picking 3 cities maximum and don’t overdo the day trips either. I wouldn’t even consider Scotland.

My first trip was Liverpool, Manchester, and London and that worked out quite well and was about 15 days as well.

Posted by
2769 posts

I suggest you stick to England and possibly Cardiff, which is easily reached from London and could be 1 or 2 nights-The Museum of Welsh Life at St. Fagans is easily reached by bus from Cardiff, and it's one of my favorite places that I've been in the UK. Caerphilly Castle is easily reached from Cardiff(but I wouldn't go try to go there the same day as St. Fagan's). In my opinion, it is easier to travel by train than rental car. You could take a Mad Max tour from Bath to Avebury and Cotswolds( that tour goes to Lacock and Castle Combe but not Chipping Camden)-you need to decide how important Stonehenge is to you but you can easily reach it from Salisbury which is also in the same area as Bath. The Jurassic Coast and Cornwall are outliers and you might need to reconsider them. You definitely want to go to York. Cambridge is an easy day trip from London and has some lovely buildings. I haven't been to the Lake District, but it sounds like it suits your priorities and you will want a car there.

If I were you, I would stay in London, Cardiff, Bath, Lake District and York. Drop rental car in York and take quick train back to London. I would skip Stonehenge, do the Mad Max tour from Bath, and do a day trip from Bath by train to Salisbury only if you like cathedrals. Others will tell you that's too many destinations for 15 days, but because most of those places are easy and short train trips from London, it's not as bad as it looks.

Posted by
27 posts

Thank you Toni, Dale and cala for your insights. Let me return to my drawing board and rework the itinerary based on your inputs. Hopefully, in the meantime, some other people will also share their insights.

Posted by
9719 posts

Good advice above and glad to hear you are reworking your plan. A couple of thoughts that I have.

  • Don’t go only to cities. Cardiff is not Wales, London is not the UK. We went to London several times before we really got out into the glorious countryside and got our feet on the ground, i.e., not just passing through o the way to another city. It is also less expensive in the smaller towns and no, you do not have to have a car.
  • London needs at least 5 nights/4 full days. Fewer than 4 full days will leave you frustrated.

Think about this plan, assuming 14 nights and probably no car:

  • London 5 or 6 nights with one day trip to Oxford or somewhere in the Cotswolds. See if London Walks is doing one or the other as an escorted day trip.
  • Train to either a destination in Cornwall OR the Jurassic Coast for 4 nights. The latter is well served by a special bus to help trekkers get around and do some hiking without a car.
  • Train to Salisbury for 4 nights. Spend one day in Salisbury itself, one day going to Bath for a day trip, and one day taking a tour to Stonehenge and Avebury. If you are brave and want a car experience, this is the place a car can help but self tours by bus are feasible and guided tours abound.

If your flight is not too early, you can get to Heathrow from Salisbury without the need to spend a night near the airport.

Assume you will be back and then build an itinerary to include Wales, Liverpool, Manchester and maybe the Lakes.

Posted by
27 posts

Hi everyone

After a lot of thought, we've managed to get a stripped down version of the initial itinerary. Have skipped a lot of places. Can you check if our plan below is good, or too tight or has space for more?

p.s. City names are bold where we intend to stay. Others are day trips through tour operators. Kindly critique/suggest/guide.

Day 1 Fly Into London

Day 2 London

Day 3 Day Trip Cambridge

Day 4 Day Trip Windsor + London (PM)

Day 5 Day Trip Oxford & Stratford

Day 6 Bournemouth

Day 7 Day Trip (Discover Dorset Tours) of Jurassic Coast

Day 8 Bath

Day 9 Day Trip Mad Max Tour of Stonehenge + Cotswold

Day 10 Day Trip Bristol + Bath (PM)

Day 11 Cardiff

Day 12 Day Trip to Snowdonia (Ride Snowdon Mountain Railway?)

Day 13 York (Cardiff to York, take a 1 hour flight maybe? Please suggest)

Day 14 Day Trip to Lake District (Kendall and then head to Lake Windemere?)

Day 15 London

Day 16 Fly Out Of London

Posted by
3333 posts

One challenge that you will find is that I think your preferred travel style may be a bit different from the majority of posters here so it will be hard for them to envision this sort of trip. I like to pack quite a bit into a day when I travel, but even I find this itinerary daunting. What really matters is if it seems right to you and how you like to travel.

It looks like you have chosen to really limit your time in London and that you enjoy participating in day tours. It made me wonder if perhaps you might consider trying a tour for the entire trip. Have you looked at any of the Rick Steves Tours for Great Britain? Transportation is covered and the guides extremely informative. There is a congenial group of travel companions that will probably be a smaller group than on many of your day tours.

Posted by
27 posts

Hi Carol

Thank you for sharing your thoughts. I too am not convinced about it yet, hence asked for suggestions. E.g. Cardiff to York by flight and then only half day to explore York will leave me tired and wanting for more time & rest. Similarly, for few other stops.

Should I completely remove York and Cardiff and spread out the plan a bit or include Salisbury, as Laurel suggested in her wonderfully crisp itinerary above? What are your thoughts?

Posted by
4686 posts

Windsor is probably going to take 3/4 of a day, so with all your day trips, you are only going to have 1.25 days in London and you are paying expensive London hotel prices.

Personally, I would drop Stratford upon Avon (I presume you meant this and not Stratford in London?). Focus on Oxford.

Is Stonehenge of interest? If not, drop it and focus on the Cotswolds. Why Bristol? It’s not very exciting - spend the time in Bath.

Snowdonia isn’t a realistic day trip from Cardiff - it’s 4+ hours in each direction.

York doesn’t have an airport, so not sure where you intended to fly to. The city needs 2 full days, so drop the trip to the Lake District.

How are you planning to get around? I think you need to consider dropping say Cardiff, as it’s harder to reach other places from there and spend longer at some of your other options. You plan many exhausting day trips and have little time to see wherever you are based. London- Bath-York- London would still be a very busy schedule.

Posted by
623 posts

Jennifer has some good points.

I get that you like moving around, but that's still a lot of time in transit.

From Cardiff to York is a train trip taking 4 to 5 hours. Your itinerary would give you at most a few hours to see anything of York. You'd be essentially basing yourselves in York for a day trip to the Lake District. If you want to see the Lake District, skip York and just go there from Cardiff. Or, skip the Lake District and spend a day and a half exploring York (which is the bare minimum to do it and yourselves justice, IMO).

Jennifer makes a good point that London's a rather expensive spot to use mainly as a staging area for day trips. OTOH you might find a good deal on a hotel, and you can explore London in the evenings.

If your only reason for returning to London on the last day is to fly home, why not book open jaw tickets to fly home from somewhere else? I believe your original idea was to make a circular trip, starting and ending in London. Perhaps you could reconsider that idea. I think there are several international flights from Manchester. You could arrive in London, see what you want there, then work your way to Cardiff via the south coast areas you mention and the Lake District (or York), and fly home from Manchester.

Good luck and happy travels!

Posted by
2769 posts

I would drop days 11, 12, and 13 and add those days to the Lake District and London. I've never been, but I think I would want more than one day to enjoy the beauty of the Lake District. And I've been to London 7 times and still haven't seen everything. It seems that you like history, so you must see the British Museum, Tower of London, Westminster Abbey and maybe the Churchill War Rooms. You should look at the London Walks website to see if any of their tours interest you.

Posted by
4834 posts

Way too aggressive.

You are planning one day in places that need more time. Are you accounting for your travel time.

We did 28 days in S. Wales and England and believe me getting from one place to another will eat up time.

For example #2 you have Bristol (how will you get there from London? How long will it take for you to get there. Will you spend and time in Bristol, because you plan to be in Bath the next day. How long to get to bath. Are you driving? Unless you are on a dual carriageway like our USA interstates, you will be going through small villages with 30 MPH speed limits and cameras that will create an expensive ticket if you exceed that. I got a ticket for going 35MPH in a village, 5 MPH over for 40 pounds. I was trying to stick to the speed limit, driving on the left.

You can do #4 in one day, we did it, but you are coming from Bath and then going to the Jurassic Coast. Plan on more time.

7,8,9 and 10 you plan to do the Cotswolds which takes a full day, I mean FULL. Then Oxford also Blenheim Palace and Chipping Campden. We stayed in Chipping Campden for six nights and did Oxford, Blenheim, Stratford Upon Avon, the Cotswolds (we spend 2 days touring that).

One day in the Lake District is ridiculous. It is in a remote area and driving there is not fast.

Stop and smell the roses and enjoy your trip.

Here is what we did in 28 days:
28 days in Britain and Celebrity Eclipse home
https://www.cruisecritic.com/memberreviews/memberreview.cfm?EntryID=599139

Posted by
145 posts

Travel under the assumption that you could and will return. There is a lot to do in the UK. I’ve spent a total of 6 months in the UK and I’ve seen maybe half that list. But then again I was visiting friends in London and spent a great deal of time there. Speaking of london, you said you would love to see London as much as possible....if this is your first Uk trip, I really think you could be disappointed not spending at least 4 full days there. I just came back from 2 weeks there and I spent one week travelling just Somerset and Wiltshire, and then the last week in London, and I didn’t see everything I had planned. I pick a region when I go now, and give that region my attention and money, because otherwise I’d spend all my time travelling between places.

Posted by
27 posts

Thank you, everyone, for your wonderful insights. I'm thinking of taking it slow and step by step. Hence made the 1st part of the trip.

Day 1 Fly Into London + London(Explore in PM)

Day 2 Explore London

Day 3 Explore London

Day 4 Explore London

Day 5 Day Trip Oxford

Day 6 London to Bournemouth (2.5 hrs train) + Bournemouth(Explore in PM)

Day 7 Day Trip (Discover Dorset Tours) of Jurassic Coast (they've good reviews)

Day 8 Relax at Bournemouth (rest day)

Day 9 Bournemouth to Bath (2.5 hrs train) + Bath(Explore in PM)

Day 10 Explore Bath

Day 11 Day Trip Mad Max Tour of Stonehenge + Cotswold (they've good reviews)

Day 12

Day 13

Day 14

Day 15

Day 16 Fly Out from X

I've kept day 12 to 15 empty so that you can suggest where I can go after Bath. Any suggestions?

Posted by
1838 posts

When you go from Bournemouth to Bath - should it be by train, then you have 2 routes. 1 involved going via Southampton (change train) whilst the other involved going via Dorchester where again you change train and also have to walk the short distance from Dorchester South station to Dorchester West. If going by train via Southampton, you may like to break the journey at Salisbury and then use the Stonehenge shuttle bus out to the stones & back to Salisbury & then see the Cathedral before proceeding to Bath.

As has been said, it is impossible to go to Snowdonia and back as a day trip from Cardiff. That said, in the immediate Cardiff area you have 4 castles within 7 miles of downtown: = Cardiff Castle, Caerphilly Castle, Castell Coch & St.Fagans Castle (really 1 1500’s Manor House) & Museum along with gardens. The last one can fill most of 1 day as the site is vast. It is about a 25 minutes bus (Easyway 32A) ride from the city centre and well worth seeing. So, as Cardiff is just over a 1 hour train ride from Bath, I would consider that for maybe 2 or 3 nights. A couple of companies do good day trips from Cardiff:>
https://www.wherewhenwales.com
https://www.seewales.com

Posted by
27 posts

Hi James

Thank you for your insights. I've come up with another modified itinerary:

Day 1 Fly Into London + London(Explore in PM) (Sleep in London)

Day 2 Explore London (Sleep in London)

Day 3 Explore London (Sleep in London)

Day 4 Explore London (Sleep in London)

Day 5 London to Bournemouth (2.5 hrs train) + Bournemouth(Explore in PM) (Sleep in Bournemouth)

Day 6 Day Trip (Discover Dorset Tours) of Jurassic Coast (they've good reviews) (Sleep in Bournemouth)

Day 7 Relax at Bournemouth (rest day) (Sleep in Bournemouth)

Day 8 Bournemouth to Bath (2.5 hrs train) + Bath(Explore in PM) (Sleep in Bath)

Day 9 Explore Bath (Sleep in Bath)

Day 10 Day Trip Mad Max Tour of Stonehenge + Cotswold (they've good reviews) (Sleep in Bath)

Day 11 Bath to Cardiff + Cardiff(Explore in PM) (Sleep in Cardiff)

Day 12 Explore Cardiff + most castles (Sleep in Cardiff)

Day 13 Explore Cardiff + St.Fagans Castle (Sleep in Cardiff)

Day 14 Cardiff to Oxford + Oxford (Explore in PM) (Sleep in Oxford)

Day 15 Day Trip to Blenheim Palace or/and(possibly both?) Stratford-Upon-Avon + Oxford (Explore in PM) (Sleep in Oxford)

Day 16 Oxford to directly Heathrow Airport, London (Bye, bye)

Please critique, everyone and suggest changes, if any.
The plan is to cover the nearby places near London so that in our next trip in future, we can target Scotland and northern Wales and northern England (Lake district, York, peak district etc)

Posted by
27 posts

Or as Toni suggested above,

Day 1 In London

Day 2

Day 3

Day 4

Day 5

Day 6 York

Day 7

Day 8

Day 9 Edinburgh

Day 10

Day 11

Day 12 Glasgow

Day 13

Day 14

Day 15 London

Day 16 Out London

My wife's more keen to enjoy London and Scotland. :P Does this itinerary look better then?

Posted by
2769 posts

I prefer your itinerary and your plan to visit north England and Scotland on a different trip. We went to Scotland and York for the first time last year, after 6 trips that included England. Scotland was enjoyable and York was especially enjoyable, but they were very much secondary in importance to me compared to London and that area of England-unless your ancestors are from Scotland. Alnwick Castle requires a car because there's nowhere to store your luggage if you are trying to get there by train on your way between York and Edinburgh. Although I loved York, if I were doing your secondary itinerary, I would substitute Bath for either York or Glascow-we did not do any sightseeing in Glascow, just took a Rabbies Highlands Tour that started there, and I don't feel like we missed anything important by not sighseeing in Glascow. If you go to Edinburgh, you should fly home from there instead of going back to London. You could just do Edinburgh for a taste of Scotland and do the Rabbies tour from there-I would spend 4 nights in Edinburgh if you do that.

Posted by
1838 posts

On day 7 (Bournemouth), you may like to visit >https://www.comptonacres.co.uk
www.traveline.info will tell you what buses to catch.

When in Cardiff, you could take a local train from either the Central station (Platform 6 usually) or Queen Street station to Caerphilly. It is about a 6 minute walk down the main street to the castle. The town is a bit of a dump but the castle is a true medieval fortress surrounded by a moat. You would save time, if intending to go to Castell Coch, by taking a taxi direct from Caerphilly rather than returning to Cardiff & then back out again - although it can be done by Stagecoach bus but it does do a detour and involve a change en-route. When done with Castell Coch - just walk down the hill to the village of Tongwynlais & find a bus stop southbound to Cardiff.
Be sure to hold out your arm when the relevant bus approaches or they may not stop.

You may also like to go down to the waterfront in Cardiff - which is 1 mile south of the city centre - see >https://www.cardiffbay.co.uk
(Bus 6 & note that they don’t give change).

If you choose your second new option = the east side to York & on to Edinburgh, then I would try and include something of highland Scotland. I have not been to Glasgow so cannot really comment.

When going on longer journeys by train, it usually pays to pre-book advance fares for specific trains. These lower fares usually get loaded about 11 weeks ahead. So, for example, if you were to walk into Cardiff station today and ask for an off-peak one way ticket to Oxford, it would cost you £35.40 each. If you were to pre-book the same journey now for late August, you would get the price down to about £16. Go too www.nationalrail.co.uk and try out some of your proposed journeys for different dates. Also note that when you click ‘details’ that it tells you any change points. Sometimes, when changing from one train company to another - or even when on the same train, a split ticket can work out cheaper. This site should show you when this is the case:>https://new.trainsplit.com

Posted by
2621 posts

You are trying to do way to much. You will be driving/traveling more from place to place then you will have to enjoy what you want to see.

Posted by
27 posts

Thank you, everyone, for your detailed insights.

We've further modified the plan to the following:

Day 1 Fly Into London + London(Explore in PM)

Day 2 Explore London

Day 3 Explore London

Day 4 Explore London

Day 5 London to Bournemouth (2.5 hrs train) + Bournemouth(Explore in PM)

Day 6 Day Trip (Discover Dorset Tours) of Jurassic Coast

Day 7 Relax at Bournemouth (rest day)

Day 8 Bournemouth to Bath (2.5 hrs train) + Bath(Explore in PM)

Day 9 Explore Bath

Day 10 Day Trip Mad Max Tour of Stonehenge + Cotswold

Day 11 Bath to Cardiff + Cardiff(Explore in PM)

Day 12 Explore Cardiff + most castles

Day 13 Explore Cardiff + St.Fagans Castle

Day 14 Cardiff to London (Explore London in PM)

Day 15 Day Trip to Oxford, Blenheim Palace

Day 16 Fly Out London

A few questions:

  1. Please critique the itinerary, if possible suggest places to add/remove.

  2. Should we get a railpass? We really love the freedom of getting on and off any train, helped us a lot during our Germany trip. Took uncountable train trips with a twin pass. Please suggest or is there any other region-specific pass to get?