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3 or 4 weeks in UK skipping London and SE England


My Fiance and I have begun planning our Honeymoon. We have been reading our books for Ireland, Scotland, and England but obviously there is more we want to see and do than we have time for. The plan is late September and into October of 2022 and can get away for a maximum of 4 weeks.

We are planning to save London and any good day trips from there for a future trip. We are tossing around a few options for the direction of the trip and are looking for input before starting to lock down the itinerary.

Option 1: Fly into Dublin and spend about 1 week making our way to Belfast before flying to Edinburgh. After a few nights in Edinburgh, we would head north before making our way down the west coast to Southhampton. Then a 1-week transatlantic cruise back to the states to decompress. So roughly 1 week in Ireland, 1 week in Scotland, 1 week down the Western Coast, and 1 week cruise.

Option 2: Skip the cruise and extend the itinerary. Keep Ireland, Scotland, and the west coast of England.

Option 3: Skip the west coast of England and save for a future trip. Keep Scotland, Ireland, and Transatlantic Cruise

Option 4: Skip cruise and the west coast of England and save for a future trip. Stick to only Ireland and Scotland for the full 4 weeks.

Posted by
12378 posts

First question—-when is this trip? What month?

Posted by
19200 posts

Yes, time of year makes a big difference. And will you have a car for part of the trip?

I haven't been to Ireland--or even researched it for a trip, so I cannot make useful comments on what you can do with a week there. But I've been to Scotland, and I think a week there is something you would regret. Most folks going to Scotland want to see some of the islands and/or the Highlands. Transportation in western Scotland isn't rapid, and the weather is iffy (lots of rain) even in the best months of the year. If you have outdoor activities planned, you're highly advised to plan more days than you think you'll need. It's also a great idea to have a car so you're not locked in to bus schedules and can head in the direction of better weather for the day if things get grim. Glasgow also has a lot to recommend it (including far fewer tourists than Edinburgh).

So my suggestion is to drop Ireland or Scotland from this trip so you can have a better look at the places you end up going.

I've never cruised, but there's a lot you could do with those seven days if you weren't sitting on a boat. I'd recommend digging into guidebooks on Ireland, Scotland, Wales and England before committing to the cruise. If you want a break, I'd suggest 2 slow days in the middle of the trip somewhere.

Posted by
12 posts

Thank you for your feedback. Our planning started with Ireland and Scotland, so those would be the core of the trip but 4 weeks in only Ireland and Scotland seems a little lite. We are suffering a little bit of mission creep as there is so much else to do in the UK, even without including London and SE England.

We would hire a car where it made sense. We were thinking we would want one for Ireland, and from Edinburgh through the rest of our trip.

Posted by
4944 posts

We love transatlantic cruises since they are usually cheaper than other cruise.

In 2017 we did a wonderful 4 week drive tour of England and South Wales then ended up in Southampton and picked up our cruise back home.

We avoided large cities (largest cities we did were Cardiff, Oxford, York and Durham).

The countryside is amazing in the British Isles. We have been there several times and loved Scotland and Ireland as well.

I suggest you stick to England and consider Wales since you depart from Southampton (or may do a cruise).

We stayed in Bath, Cardiff (Wales), Tenby (Wales) and once more night in a small village in SW Wales where my paternal ancestors left to come to America in 1716. Also, we spend six days in the Cotswolds, staying at Chipping Campden at the Volunteer Inn and visited Oxford, Blenheim Palace, Stratford Upon Avon as well as the Cotswold towns and cities. Then we moved north visiting Warwick, York (it is wonderful), the Yorkshire Moors, Durham, Hadrian's Wall, the Lake District, Winchester and then Southampton.

Here is my detailed review with hotels, tours and more:

Posted by
190 posts

I'm sensing that you and your fiancé would rather be in the countryside than cities. While I liked Dublin, I would not commit to more than two full days there. The southwest part of Ireland is lovely and quaint if you were to want a lovely drive from Dublin. Many drive the gorgeous Ring of Kerry and it's crazy busy in the summer--but in the fall, it might be a better time. If you do drive some of the RoK, I'd suggest that you also WALK some of it in the inner ring. It is gorgeous and you'll likely see very few others. I know some backpack the inner ring and have reservations at BnBs along it.
We had spent three weeks in St. Andrews when we were first married for a post-doc physics summer school. It was a sweet, small city on the North Sea. From there we did day trips to Edinburgh. Edinburgh is lovely and worth a full day, but for us, the main draws were the Scottish Highlands and the Isle of Skye. Rural. Remote. Beautiful.
In two of your four options, you omitted the cruise. Are you just 50/50 about it? While I've never been on a cruise, it's because I've not felt the appeal that many do. I may be short-sighted, but to me they are mainly floating cities that stop at overdone tourist spots, not out-of-the-way spots where the natives live. Have you been on a cruise before and just loved it? I'd not do the cruise and tack on those days to seeing more of the sites.
If the west part of England means Bath, Stonehenge and Cornwall, I'd return in a heartbeat. Have you seen the latest Poldark? If not, watch just for the scenery in Cornwall--the scenery is integral to that production. I have no idea what the logistics of my fond musings would be, but I envy your four weeks and wish you the best honeymoon. Please let us know your decision.

Posted by
47 posts

Hi grover3606-
I've spent about 6 weeks in Ireland (Northern and the Republic), a month in Scotland, and many trips to England. Cars will give you flexibility and allow you to maximize the time you have there. I like trains, so that's my preferred mode of travel, at least in some areas. As is often said on this forum, consider reserving an automatic instead of a stick shift. You'll have enough to contend with, initially, driving on the other side of the road. If you're staying put in a city like Edinburgh or Dublin for a few days, I'd not rent the car until you're leaving town.

As for your options, I'd go for a modified Option 2, but whether it makes sense for you depends on many things, including how you like to travel (your pace of travel: savoring an area or high-energy exploring) and how much of what things you like to do: Outside in nature/hiking? Cities and nightlife? Museums and castles? Pub crawls? Live music/concerts? Taking a ferry to an island or two? etc. I'm not a cruiser, so that's my bias. I like to explore a region rather than cover lots of territory, so that's another bias. As you indicated, watch the scope creep on your itinerary, as tempting as it might be to fit in two more cities since you're already in the country.

I have to say that I loved the west coast of Ireland, and then all the way down to Dingle and the Blasket Islands. I was there from mid-May to mid-June and it rained at least some of the day for all but 2 of them (it's the Emerald Isle, after all). Mostly a "soft rain," as they call it, not a hard driving rain. Never bothered us--we just ducked into a museum or pub to listen to music and all was right with the world. Plenty of outside exploring to be done, friendly people. I also like the Scottish Highlands, especially the islands, but I don't know if you'll want to take the time to visit any of them. More info about your preferences would be helpful.

Posted by
242 posts

Your itinerary as it stands involves a lot of time sitting in a car driving... Distances may not look big on a map, but it will take you a lot longer to cover the ground than you might expect. More is definitely less and I can assure you that four weeks spread between Ireland and Scotland would not seem 'a little lite'! There are so many wonderful places to visit iin both countries and even in two weeks you will only just be scratching the surface.

Why the west coast of England - or are you planning to take in Wales as well? The east coast, particularly Northumberland, Durham and North Yorkshire definitely has the edge- even compared with the coast round the Lake District.

Posted by
10049 posts

First, I would suggest forgetting about the cruise. Personally, the thought of sitting on a boat for week looking at nothing but the ocean when I could be looking at scenery is a turnoff. YMMV

Over the past five years, I have spent about a total of nine months in the UK and Ireland. And I will keep going back to see more.

My suggestion is probably closest to Option 2. Visit Ireland, Scotland, and Northwest England (the Lake District). From there head to northern Wales for a few days, stop in Chester/Liverpool for a day and then head to Manchester for your flight home (either direct or via Dublin.) Save points further south for the trip you make that includes London.

Posted by
4783 posts

I'm in the non-cruise-averse minority on this forum, we've done and enjoyed two transatlantics as well as many others. It's your honeymoon, after all, and you may want to spend the last part of it relaxing on a ship. But note that September-October may bring some rough water in the north Atlantic. Look for a midship cabin on a relatively low deck (a balcony won't get much use).

As for your time on land, whether three or four weeks, I think Frank has the best idea. Ireland, Scotland, and northern England could easily fill either timeframe. Manchester has good service to various US cities so you could avoid London without the cruise. Even with the cruise, there's a four-hour direct train from Manchester to Southampton (faster I'm sure than driving and much easier) at least once a day. Many others will get you there but make you change stations in London.

EDIT -- Looking at, I'm not finding the nonstops from Manchester to US cities that seemed to show. But I know Icelandair offers flights via Reykjavik.

Posted by
4884 posts

I would go for option 2, but I would add in some of the east coast of England. From Edinburgh, drop down to Northumberland, one of my favourite countries in England. Visit Holy Island (check the times for the tidal causeway), see some of the many castles, walk on near deserted sandy beaches, spend a day at Hadrian’s Wall, another at Beamish Open Air Museum, time in Durham before heading to York for a few days. Oh - no time for the west coast!

If you have covered the Highlands in Scotland, I wouldn’t bother with the English Lake District. The east side of the country is usually drier than the west and in September/October, you may not get perfect weather every day!

Posted by
12 posts

Thank you everyone for your input. Given us a lot to think about.

The plan indeed is to spend the majority of our time out of cities. Might do 2 nights in Dublin, 1 in Belfast, and 3 in Edinburgh, but otherwise be out in the country side. Thinking to skip Glasgow, and do York, Bath, etc. from London at a later date.

My work took me out into deep water for several years and there is a certain power and majesty to being at sea with nothing else on the horizon, especially when there is some weather. key word some, not a lot. She has never gotten to experience that. One of my coolest memories was seeing god rays hitting perfectly smooth water while at sea. I did do a family cruise when I was younger and frankly it’s not an experience I care to repeat, being transported from tacky and touristy “destination” to another, but I guess thinking a transatlantic would be different, especially on the QM2.

Additionally, I frequently find myself needing white space after traveling, and thinking 7 days of nothing on a boat would serve quite well. Some of my favorite vacations honestly involve very little travel, just beautiful scenery and a good book.

We have seen Poldark and the scenery is stunning. Could we see similar scenery without making it all the way to Cornwall? Near Tenby maybe or somewhere in Ireland or Highlands?

Also, on the car hire, I am in my mid-30’s and driven manual my entire driving life. I was rather looking forward to giving it a go with my left hand. Is it really so hard to swap sides?

Posted by
19200 posts

I really wouldn't recommend makiing a day-trip to York from London, though I know some people do it. You'll spend about 4 hours sitting on trains (could be somewhat longer, depending on the departure you choose). That doesn't count the time to get from your hotel to the platform at Kings Cross or the time to get from the rail station in York to the historic center. Realistically, your time in transit is going to be over 5 hours unless you choose a hotel very near Kings Cross Station.

In addition, there's a great deal to see in York; it's not a little town where you can see everything in 3 or 4 hours. I'd recommend planning to spend several nights up in that area, maybe seeing the Yorkshire Dales or the Yorkshire Moors as well as York.

Posted by
12 posts

After continued reading in our guide books, we have decided to stick to options 3 or 4. Below is our current planned itinerary for option 3. I have a few concerns and would like some feedback if anyone is willing. Do I need to worry about sites being closed on Sundays? As scheduled, we will see Dublin, Aran Islands, and Jacobite Train on Sundays. Other feedback on the itinerary is also welcome.

Besides my Sunday concerns, there are two days that I worry will be too long.

Day 3, we plan to travel from Dublin to Kenmore, through Kilkenny and Rock of Cashel. Is this doable or is it too much for a day?

Day 16, Drive from Edinburgh to Toriden through Sterling and Inverness, again is this too much in a day?


Day, Date, Starting Day in < Day's Activities < Sleeping in.

Day 0, Fri 23-Sep-2022: USA < Work Day < USA.

Day 1, Sat 24-Sep-2022: USA < Fly from USA to Dublin < Dublin.

Day 2, Sun 25-Sep-2022: Dublin < Day in Dublin < Dublin.

Day 3, Mon 26-Sep-2022: Dublin < Drive to Kenmare, through Kilkenny, rock of Cashel < Kenmare.

Day 4, Tue 27-Sep-2022: Kenmare < Skellig Michael, part of ROK < Kenmare.

Day 5, Wed 28-Sep-2022: Kenmare < Drive to Dingle < Dingle.

Day 6, Thu 29-Sep-2022: Dingle < Dingle Pennsula < Dingle.

Day 7, Fri 30-Sep-2022: Dingle < Rest Day < Dingle.

Day 8, Sat 1-Oct-2022: Dingle < Drive to Ashford stopping at cliffs of Moor < Ashford.

Day 9, Sun 2-Oct-2022: Ashford < Aran Islands < Ashford.

Day 10, Mon 3-Oct-2022: Ashford < Drive to Portrush < Portrush.

Day 11, Tue 4-Oct-2022: Portrush < Antrim Coast < Portrush.

Day 12, Wed 5-Oct-2022: Portrush < Drive to Belfast, afternoon in Belfast < Belfast.

Day 13, Thu 6-Oct-2022: Belfast < Flight to Edinburgh < Edinburgh.

Day 14, Fri 7-Oct-2022: Edinburgh < Day in Edinburgh < Edinburgh.

Day 15, Sat 8-Oct-2022: Edinburgh < Rest Day < Edinburgh.

Day 16, Sun 9-Oct-2022: Edinburgh < Drive to Toriden, through Sterling and Inverness < Torridon

Day 17, Mon 10-Oct-2022: Toriden < Drive to Portree, through Applecross < Portree.

Day 18, Tue 11-Oct-2022: Portree < Day on Syke < Portree.

Day 19, Wed 12-Oct-2022: Portree < Rest Day < Portree.

Day 20, Thu 13-Oct-2022: Portree < Drive to Mull < Mull.

Day 21, Fri 14-Oct-2022: Mull < Inner Herbrides < Mull.

Day 22, Sat 15-Oct-2022: Mull < Rest Day < Mull.

Day 23, Sun 16-Oct-2022: Mull < Drive to Glencoe, Jocabite Train < Glencoe.

Day 24, Mon 17-Oct-2022: Glencoe < Flight to Southhampton from Glasgow < Southhampton.

Day 25, Tue 18-Oct-2022: Southhampton < Embark < QM2.

Day 26, Wed 19-Oct-2022: QM2 < Sea Day, rest Day < QM2.

Day 27, Thu 20-Oct-2022: QM2 < Sea Day, rest Day < QM2.

Day 28, Fri 21-Oct-2022: QM2 < Sea Day, rest Day < QM2.

Day 29, Sat 22-Oct-2022: QM2 < Sea Day, rest Day < QM2.

Day 30, Sun 23-Oct-2022: QM2 < Sea Day, rest Day < QM2.

Day 31, Mon 24-Oct-2022: QM2 < Sea Day, rest Day < QM2.

Day 32, Tue 25-Oct-2022: QM2 < Fly from NY Home < USA.

Day 33, Wed 26-Oct-2022: USA < Work Day < USA.