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Early planning stages of first trip to UK - general questions

My wife and I are in the very early stages of planning our first trip to the UK. For a number of reasons we are looking at flying in to London and out from Dublin, and we are currently planning on having 11 free days to spend between. Now we are at the stage of deciding where to spend those days in between. We are currently thinking of London, Edinburgh, and Dublin with a night in Holyhead and taking the ferry across to Ireland the morning after. Is this too much for the amount of time we're planning? Three or four days in each city plus train travel between? Any thoughts or advice would be appreciated and will be taken into consideration. Thanks for your opinions!

Posted by
1063 posts

Just be aware that Ireland is not in the UK, different country and currency.

You’d find it a lot quicker to fly between Edinburgh and Dublin. I don’t think either the scenery or Holyhead itself really would repay the extra time.

Are you just spending time in the cities, or will you be taking day trips? I think your time allocation is a little off. I think you can get a really good sense of both Edinburgh and Dublin in two days each whereas London is VAST and I’d want four or five days for a first visit. Maybe three or four days for London itself plus a day trip to somewhere like Oxford or maybe Windsor Castle or Hampton Court Palace.

As another poster has mentioned, Dublin is not in the UK. It’s a separate country - the Republic of Ireland - and uses a different currency (Euros rather than pounds). So just be aware of that.

Posted by
3186 posts

I think seeing 3 countries in 11 days(and hopefully that time frame doesn't include the days you leave the U.S. and the UK) will result in your memories being a blur. Less countries=more enjoyment of the countries you do visit. Choose London and 1 other and fly into one and out of the other. Many great day trips from London.

Posted by
1154 posts

Don't overlook Paris as an easy 2.5 hour Eurostar ride from central London. Lots more to see and do in Paris, IMHO. Fly into London and home from Paris is how we like to do it. Check out for train and ferry travel in Europe and worldwide.

Posted by
2940 posts

With just 11 days, I would stay in England (i.e., I would not include Scotland, nor Wales, nor Ireland on the itinerary). If you fly in and out of London you may have a change in Dublin if you're on Aer Lingus, but for an 11-day trip that should be the extent of time on the ground in Ireland, IMO.

In particular, taking the ferry would be at least one full day wasted.

If you like cities, you can find plenty of things to do in and around London so you would stay in one hotel the entire time. If you want to experience the countryside, you could combine several nights in London with other nights in, say, the Cotswolds or Cornwall or the Peak District. For the countryside portion of your trip, a rental car would be useful.

If you really are determined to see London and Edinburgh, then perhaps 4 nights London, 2 nights York or somewhere else along the way, and the remaining nights Edinburgh. In that case you'll want to fly open jaw; arrive London, depart Edinburgh.

I have to say I strongly disagree with the suggestion to take a detour to Paris. Changing countries, time zones, language, currency is totally not worth it on a short trip.

Posted by
996 posts

If these points are the main interest to you, then I'd think about how to best arrange them to maximize the time. Unless flights in/out of London are that much cheaper, I'd fly into Edinburgh. I'd then go down to London. Then across to Wales and over to Dublin. That way you're not wasting time backtracking from London to Edinburgh and the back down to London.

Posted by
3 posts

Thanks for the great replies! For some background here, we both traveled when we were younger, her to Africa and me to Asia, and it's been a life long dream of both of us to visit Europe that we now want to experience together. We're not expecting to be able to make it to more than this one time and we've decided that England is the main country we would like to see. We are way, way out from the actual trip but I thought I would do some research while we're making our plan. We want to see London of course and then we are looking to fill in as much as we can into the short time we will have., hence the ambitious scheduling thoughts.
To answer some questions and address some comments; flying in to London and home from Dublin was due to the cheapest flights we found on a relatively short search and we're both of Irish ancestry so including Dublin seemed like a good plan. We aren't married to anything except at least 4 nights (not including the day we arrive from the US) in London. We're open to just about anything at this point. We know that Ireland is a different country and to be prepared for that. As for cities, we're not particularly interested in cities other than they seemed like good starting points. Thanks for the idea about flying to Dublin from Edinburgh that's probably much more convenient if we go that route.
Again, thanks for taking time out of your day to give me your advice. We welcome any other ideas that are out there and I hope I can someday pay it forward!

Posted by
1353 posts

Have you considered London, N. Wales then Dublin? If you want to take the ferry you could spend a few nights in Conwy before heading to Dublin.

Posted by
1010 posts

My husband and I have been to London five times. We are going again for the whole month of May. There is so much to see in England, without leaving. We also spent two weeks in Ireland a few years ago. We loved southern Ireland. We were glad our TAUCK Tour only spent two nights in Dublin. We didn't enjoy Dublin compared to the other 12 nights we spent elsewhere. Personally I wouldn't bother going to Dublin, unless you can go somewhere else in Ireland. Ireland is gorgeous, but Dublin isn't anything exciting or even pretty. Using London as a base is a wonderful idea. We take day trips to Blenheim Palace, Kew Gardens, Oxford, Cambridge, Bath, York, Canterbury, etc., etc. We never get tired of London. We even stayed in the Cotswolds for 8 nights, but came back to London. Just walking the streets of London and looking at the architecture is beautiful. You can go on the Thames River boat rides, over to Greenwich, WIndsor Castle, a tour of Parliament, Hyde Park, Regents Park, Kensington Gardens, The Tower of London, Hampton Court, Highclere Castle (if you enjoyed "Downton Abbey"), Buckingham Palace (tour in August, as we did). I would save Ireland for another trip, when more time is allowed. It takes two days just to adjust to the jet lag. I agree with the previous comment about going over to Paris. You won't see anything with just a one or two day trip. Our Eurostar got delayed by TWO ADDITIONAL hours, due to track repairs. We were glad we were spending a week in Paris, instead of just one day. London is just the best city to visit; no need to go anywhere else.

Posted by
5476 posts

11 days and you are going to London, Scotland and Ireland. I suggest less travel and savoring your time in fewer places. Pick one country and enjoy. Go back for another trip and see the others.

Posted by
35 posts

Many travelers, maybe even most travelers, recommend the "see fewer places, more in depth" approach. I hope one day to be able to do that. It sounds wonderful. For now, limited vacation time influences our choices, along with the concern that we never know when our ability to travel will be impacted by health issues or money concerns. We do try to pack as much as possible into each trip, since we never are sure if we will get to make another one.

We have taken escorted tours and cruises to various European countries, which is a convenient but very fast paced way to travel. It is not for everyone, but we have loved every trip. We once spent six hours on the island of Santorini. Do I wish we had been there longer? Sure, but I wouldn't trade those six hours for anything.

My point, in relation to your question, is that if you wish to see as much as you can with this trip, and you want to see Dublin, Edinburgh, and London, don't let others discourage you from doing what you want to do. Sure, you won't get to see everything in each location, but in eleven days you can have a wonderful trip!

Posted by
11246 posts

People will always tell you where you should go and what you should do based on their preferences. You've seen that in many of the previous answers. There is nothing wrong with that but it may not be what interests you.

You've haven't really told us what interests you--history, scenery, old houses, art, museums, etc. Without knowing this we could give you hundreds of itineraries.

But based on the three cities you've mentioned, it can be done. It will be a quick trip but you will see some highlights.

Fly to London. Spend 4=6 days there and possibly schedule a couple of day trips outside the city.

Train to Edinburgh. (Leave early and you could get there in early afternoon.) Spend 3 nights there and think about taking a day trip out. (Rabbie's is an excellent company.)

Fly to Dublin. There is enough to fill up two days in the city but the real greatness of the country is, well, the rest of the country.

You will get a taste of all three places and probably want to go back for more.

Posted by
5262 posts

I think Frank II has the best take on this. I was going to urge you to skip Edinburgh and focus your limited time on London and Dublin, until you came back and told us you don't expect to be able to return. In that case (and it's too bad) I'd suggest sticking to the three cities you mentioned, with maybe a day trip or two from them (Rabbies is a good choice from Edinburgh).

I love Paris, but adding a day trip there is just asking for more stress and trouble, I think. Even if this is your only chance to see any of Europe, you know you can't "do it all," so try to focus on quality over quantity of places.

Posted by
361 posts

A very good website Ive used is this one
You can take a day trip to Paris on the Eurostar- I purchased the tickets through the website above and they came with a all day Paris Metro Card, seats in the Eurostar, and a boat ride on the Seine. Great value and well worth it! I
They also sell tickets for tours that come with a guide, but I planned my own day and we had a great time! Highly recommend! You can also use London as your home base and do day trips to Windsor or Bath, also beautiful places with lots to see and do!
Happy Travels✨💫

Posted by
714 posts

But the OP did not mention Paris in his inquiry - this was a suggestion from a responder!

Re ferry versus flying to Dublin. Check the ferry fares vs, flight costs. Aer Lingus seems to have reasonable fares. Bear in mind you have to get from Edinburgh to Holyhead, presumably br train which would add to the cost, not to mention time. You could easily lose two days of your valuable time taking the ferry.

Posted by
3 posts

Thanks for the good ideas. As far as Paris, we would rather have more days in one of the three cities mentioned than do a trip to Paris. I think we will either use London as a home base and take advantage of the numerous day trips available, or split the trip between London and Dublin. We had thought the train and ferry trip would be a nice way to see some scenery but now we're rethinking that idea. We may cut out Scotland and spend around 2/3 time in London and ferry from Pembroke to Rosslare and see some of the Irish countryside before Dublin. You're comments and suggestions are helping us shape how to maximize our time and we thank you for it.

Posted by
3186 posts

Good choice to prioritize London. There are books on Amazon that describe lots of options for day trips, including information about the time to get there by rail from London.

Posted by
14 posts

People often overlook the time involved in switching from one city to another and the packing/unpacking involved each time. Add in the process of getting to/finding your next accommodation, and all told, this can take most of a day. That's why posters keep suggesting you limit the cities you want to see. Your memories may be of the travel between them rather than what you saw and did in the cities.

You're smart to start early and sift thru your choices now.

Posted by
5697 posts

Since this trip is some time in the future, can you try to make it longer (spreading the big-ticket cost of airfare over more touring days) ? Also, Norwegian flies from the West Coast at pretty low rates.

Posted by
12 posts

Hello late to the convo here but if you go to Edinburgh you really should go to Holyrood, The Britannia, The Elephant Walk cafe (get a seat near window to see castle) I loved it there. You can order tour Britannia tixs online and save the wait. We stayed up in Charlotte Square area and took a taxi to Holyrood. We took bus to the Britannia. Have fun!

Posted by
3428 posts

I'm going to offer an alternative (based only on personal experience and preference), If you decided to cut your trip to 2 destinations, I'd select London and either Edinburgh or (my personal favorite) Inverness. Reasons- public transportation is better in Scotland than in Ireland, and the trip from London to Scotland by train is one of my personal favorites!
in actuality, you could spend the entire tip in London and do 2-4 day trips and not be bored at all.

If you want more particulars, let me know. After more than 40 trips to Europe, with almost everyone including at least some time in the UK, I found England (especially London and York) and Scotland to be unendingly fascinating. I'd go back tomorrow if I could.

Posted by
6349 posts

Following numerous trips to the UK and Ireland my first suggestion if at all possible is to add a few days to your trip.

As I do you fly from the West Coast of the US so you have to accept that your day of arrival and departure are 1/2 days of exploration upon arrival. Although a math atheist I can calculate that’s 9 days.

The loss is due to jet lag, getting from Heathrow to London following Immigration, checking in, unpacking, stopping at an ATM to get local currency, buying Oyster cards and letting you eyes and ears adjust to the sensory invasion of London’s sights and sounds. Your ears will also need to adjust to the different dialects.

I’ve yet to visit Scotland ( my loss) but have spent a great deal of time in the UK ( England and N Ireland) and Ireland. I’m throwing this thought into the mix.

Oregon to Shannon. Explore the west coast of Eire.
Drive to Dublin. Explore Dublin. Fly from Dublin to London. Return to Oregon from England.

SO MUCH to see and do in London. As I’ve said before on this forum, “ it’s always changing yet always the same.”

With your planning so far in advance might I also suggest visiting in early spring or late fall. I’m a November traveler and have been on both countries at that time of year. Fewer crowds although London isn’t ever free of tourists. Simply saying last November ( friend flew from the states on Thanksgiving ) and a few days after we visited Westminster Abbey. Enjoyed 2 hours of unlimited meandering without hordes of people. In comparison Visited the Abbey once in May and could barely move it was so crowded.

In Ireland in 2013 had the Gap of Dunloe virtually to myself on a late November day. The golden and green hues of the foliage, the menacing dark grey clouds in blue skies with sunshine ( never rained just threatened) made my hike and drive over the Gap my most favorite day in Eire. Will also say Killarney National Park was stunningly gorgeous with fall foliage. Same with the Slea Head drive. No cars or busses with an early morning start. Clear blue skies.
Maybe I’ve just been lucky weather wise. Have I encountered rain. Yes but nothing torrential and nothing that lasted for hours. And in London just pop into a pub or free museum till it passes.

As Oregonians just take your waterproof jacket, dress in layers and off you go.

Plus I like seeing the London Christmas lights and decorations which go up in mid November.

You’ve chosen to great countries to visit. Keep asking questions here. You’ll be provided useful insight to help formulate an itinerary.

Cheers and Slainte.

Posted by
72 posts

I'd definitely not add Paris to the mix on this particular trip ...there are enough things to take into consideration (looking into Transport For London's Oyster Card for getting around the city, how much credit to put on that card, etc., studying the London Zones map or downloading an app like Cityplanner or any of the ones mentioned in the guides on this very site to help get around) in England's capital alone.

For an early planning idea - a lot of the good museums and vantage points in London are free, but many do ask for a donation (and buying from the museum store helps them too). Whether it's looking at handwritten lyrics by The Beatles and checking out the Magna Carta in the British Library, seeing the Rosetta Stone in the British Museum, or enjoying the art in the National Gallery, London can be done very cheaply if you know where to go.

Posted by
1232 posts

I'm currently traveling in England. Here's an example of how much time gets sucked away changing locations, and this is just from London to Liverpool.

I had an 1107 am train from Euston, so had to be out of my London hotel at absolutely no later than 10 am, and this is because I knew from previous trips how close Leicester Square tube station was to my hotel, I also knew the northern line goes from there, and I also knew it was a short journey to Euston. I got to Euston around 1025, and had nothing to do except wait. However, advance train fares are inflexible, miss the train an SUV you're stuck paying an expensive walk up fare.

Boarded the train and had an uneventful but pretty boring trip, not much scenery on that route. Got to Liverpool at 140 PM, this particular journey took longer than usual due to some engineering work and the train was moving slowly at times, kinda reminded me of Amtrak.

Walked from Lime Street station to my hotel (I already knew the way) and by the time I got checked in and up to my room it was about 215 pm. Almost all the major museums close at 5 pm.

So, that's about half a day shot. If your trip is in the future, I'd really suggest either adding more days or taking a long look at the itenerary and consider cutting it down. Wasting a half day really cuts into the vacation and I'm sure you want your memories to be more than a crying baby on a train or reading a newspaper and looking out a train window to see suburban tract housing.

Posted by
1232 posts

You're quite right, I did look up some of the cities as I took the return trip from Liverpool to London, it's certainly not fair to the people of Crewe that all i used to know of their city is that it was destroyed by nuclear weapons in the movie Threads!