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Help with first-time visit to England and Scotland

We are planning a two-week trip to England and Scotland this June with our kids (16 and 14). We plan to spend at least 3 nights in London on arrival and would like to wander by car up and around, finding our way to Edinbrough. We flirted with the idea of spending the last 4 days in Ireland and flying back from there, but have received nothing but negative feedback about than plan. Would love to hear the collective opinions on:
1) Is the Ireland leg insane? And should we drop it and focus on the drivable countries?
2) Are there 10 things we simply cannot miss on this trip?
3) How long does it take to drive from London to Scotland (if we took the direct route with no stops)?
4) Is Wales worth it? (My Welsh ancestors would probably say yes!).
5) What are the 3-4 "must see" sites in Scotland?
Appreciate your help!

Posted by
1889 posts

Forget about Ireland. You will have more than enough to see in Britain.

It is impossible to drive non stop from London to Edinburgh. If you wish to go from London to Edinburgh, my advice would be to take the train. All British trains appear here:> www.nationalrail.co.uk The train company between London (Kings Cross) & Edinburgh ishttp://www.eastcoast.co.uk When travelling longer distances on British trains, it is far cheaper to book in advance. (Consider buying a Family Railcard if doing a lot of train travel).The cheaper fares appear about 11 weeks advance of date of travel. On the London to Edinburgh run, you would be well advised to have an overnight in York.http://www.visityork.org

If driving up the east side of Britain, Bamburgh Castle and Alnwich Castle (Hogwarts) are worth a look when in Northumberland.

The best of the Scottish scenery lies in the Highlands = north of Edinburgh / Glasgow. Here, a car would be really useful.

If travelling via the west side of Britain, consider visiting the English Lake District = NW England west of Penrith.

A detour into Wales is all well worth it - especially the Snowdonia National Park in the north-west.

I would suggest you look at Google Earth to try and familiarise yourself with Britain.
www.visitengland.com
www.visitwales.co.uk
www.visitscotland.com

Posted by
646 posts

To answer one specific question... I have driven from London to Edinburgh, and with two of us sharing the driving, 2 hours each at a time, stopping at a service station for petrol and coffee each time, it took 8 hours and we didn't have any traffic. We took a plane back!

3 nights for London seems a little low, you could do 2 weeks here alone and not get bored. Some great 'London VLOGS' (Video Logs) on YouTube showing day by day what people got up to, generally over about a week... all were sad to leave :o(

Posted by
1154 posts

With two weeks, actually about 10 nights after travel days, you and the family could hop on the Eurostar for a day trip to Paris or even spend 3-4 nights there rather than considering Ireland. www.Eurostar.com. Cheap Eurostar tickets go on sale 6 months ahead of travel date so you are late already and you might even have problems booking hotels since June is the height of the tourist season. There are at least 10 things in London you should not miss from the Crown Jewels to the British Museum to the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace. Check out www.seat61.com for all of your train and ferry questions all across the UK and Europe.

Posted by
1345 posts

Certainy driving from London to Edinburgh or Glasgow in a day is doable, taking into account breaks. However if driving you may reach the mid point, roughly York, and wish you had not decided to do so. If driving I would probably build in York or similar for a couple of nights.

Certainly a meandering route with several overnight stops would do it, finishing in Edinburgh. However that depends what you want to see in Scotland beyond the capital. The Highlands will be another two - three hours drive from Edinburgh, although the southern uplands areas have much to recommend them as does the central belt itself.

Posted by
3428 posts

With the time you have, I'd suggest saving time by using trains. Here's a possible schedule
London- 3 nights (this will give you only a very small taste of what's there to see and do)
Train to York- 1 night York
Train to Edinburgh- 2 nights Edinburgh
Train to Aviemore- 2 nights Aviemore
Train to Inverness- 2-4 nights Inverness
possibly Train to Glasgow- 1-2 nights Glasgow - fly home from there or from Edinburgh
Wales is well worth your time. If you'd rather explore it, then skip Scotland and do London and Wales.

Posted by
2258 posts

Some thoughts on your question. We took our two boys on a similar trip when they were 18 and 14. We went to Bath (with day trips to Stonehenge, Avebury, Glastonbury and Wells), Warwick Castle, Chester, Liverpool, York, Edinburgh and London. They liked Edinburgh the best, mainly because the castle is so neat. They also enjoyed climbing Arthur's Seat. Liverpool was a big hit because they both love the Beatles. We did a Beatles walk in London too, which they really enjoyed. Other favorites were Warwick Castle and Stonehenge. The only thing they didn't like was Les Miserables in London (not big musical fans). They were getting kind of tired by the time we got to London and did not appreciate the British Museum as much as I would have liked, but they did enjoy the Beatles walk and London Eye. Your kids may be different, who knows. My kids like doing active things more than hanging out in museums.

Now for your questions:

1) Ireland for four days may not be insane, but I would say it's foolish. There's way more than you can possibly see in England and Scotland, so why would you go to all the trouble to get to Ireland for a trip that would be too short to do it justice.

2) It depends on what you and your family like. My kids thought Stonehenge was a can't miss. Other people have no interest.

3) Unless you want to make lots of stops, I would take the train to Edinburgh. We took the train to Bath and rented a car, which we turned in at York. Then we trained to Edinburgh and to London.

4) Wales is totally worth it. We went there on a different trip after the kids moved out of the house. They would have loved climbing Snowdon in Snowdonia National Park. I wish we had done it with them. The country is very beautiful and charming and friendly.

5) See #2.

I hope you have a wonderful trip whatever you decide!

Posted by
291 posts

I think you might be taking on too much with adding Ireland. I have stopped in Ireland on the way back from the UK each of the last 2 summers, each time for 10 days and it was barely enough. I think 4 days is better spent in the UK, its just not enough for Ireland.

Wales is worth it. Each time I have been I stayed for longer than the time before, and will add still more time on my next trip. I particularly liked the area around Snowdonia. I'd personally avoid Betws-y-Coed, way too touristy, crowded, and chaotic for me. But you don't have to go too far to get away from that. I particularly like Beddgelert as a base for trips around Snowdonia.

Edinburgh to London might take you 8 to 10 hours depending on your route, traffic, driving style, etc.

Posted by
5669 posts

I am going to second the suggestion that you take the train to Scotland. You can catch a late afternoon train you can arrive in Edinburgh by 8 and have a late dinner. You might want to first spend a day in Edinburgh and then pick up a car.

I think that a car does help you see Scotland. But, you don't have to go all the way north to see beautiful scenery. You could visit Perthshire and see beautiful lochs and hills and highland Coos and so on. Technically, anything north of the central belt is highlands. :) I would recommend Aberfeldy, Dunkeld, Pitlochry, and then go west to Argyll and then back to Glasgow. At that point you can decide on a train or drive to Wales. If you've not found ViaMichelin, check it out for route planning.

Pam

Posted by
6 posts

Thank you, fellow travelers! All of these suggestions are terrific. Ireland will have to wait and we think flying in to London and back to home from Edinburgh or Glasgow is the way to go. We are also going to try to add a day or two -- so 14 days on the ground with a day on each end for travel. I'm sure we will have questions on our itinerary as we narrow it down. I know for sure Snowdonia is on the list, having heard nothing but rave reviews about it. I think we will do part driving and part train. Those of you who gave us tips for teenagers and links to resources - thank you so much! More from us later!!

P.S. Very nice suggestion to visit Paris for a few days (my favorite city). Tempting...but we have been all over France several times and we need to see more of the world :)

Posted by
5669 posts

I would spend at least one full day in Edinburgh and then rent a car and enjoy some of the sites further north. If you are driving up from England, then save Edinburgh for the end of your trip as you don't need a car there and if you want to go to Glasgow, you can take the train...it's usually less than an hour.

If you are driving up from England, I would plan on visiting at least one of the Abbey's. Jedburgh is impressive. If you come up on the western side, stop off at Hermitage Castle in the Debatable Lands. It won't take long, but it's a very stark castle that illustrates well the defenses that were needed in the Borders. Also, Mary Queen of Scots visited the castle and nearly died on the return trip to Edinburgh!

You will want to get north to see the highlands. Most people want to see Glencoe, Loch Ness, and Culloden Battlefield as well as tour whisky distillery, and visit some castles. One of my favorite tools to plan Scotland trips is via Michelin. You enter a starting point, say Edinburgh, and ending point, perhaps Inverness, and then you add in between the sites that you want to visit and see the route that they recommend. Here's an example. I took you from Edinburgh to Inverness via Aberfeldy, Glen Lyon, Glencoe and Fort William. Aberfeldy is lovely little town in the hearth of Perthshire which is in the center of Scotland. I then take you west to Glen Lyon, which is one of the most beautiful Glens. Fortingall has the oldest yew tree in Britain! Glen Coe and Rannoch Moor which precedes it are wonderful. The latter is stark and evocative and the former is famous for it's tale of betrayal. The drive up to Fort William takes you up Loch Linhe--see Ardnamurchan across the water--and past Ben Nevis. You'll probably get your best view as you head northeast past Spean Bridge toward Loch Ness. Stop at the Commando Memorial to look back and see it. You'll continue north through Fort Augustus where you can see the Caledonian Canal, and then up the North shore of Loch Ness to Inverness.

You'll notice that I used Undiscovered Scotland a lot. It's a great resource in addition to Visit Scotland.

Pam

Posted by
809 posts

Sounds like you will have a great trip! I have visited London several times with my daughter, starting when she was 10 and the last one at 16 [then we started touring the continent]. She is very interested in history, and we had a great time at the Ceremony of the Keys - in fact, loved it so much that we went back to the Tower the next day for a different tour. [Edit: I just noticed that it's fully booked into November. So maybe do the Ceremony on your next visit, but be sure to visit the Tower!] We also enjoyed Ben Franklin's house on Craven Street - fascinating to see the intersection with US history. And check out the various London Walks; we have done a number of those, and all were interesting.

If you can share specific interests of your family, we may be able to suggest other sights. Happy planning, and have a wonderful time!

Posted by
6 posts

Thank you everyone who replied today! For some reason, our old post from a couple of months ago reposted. Our trip plans are coming along great. 4 nights in London, 2 in Bath, 2 in the Cotswalds, 2 in Northern Wales (Bath - Wales portion of the trip is by car). We catch a train to Scotland from Chester and spend 4 nights in Edinburgh. We are now trying to figure out what to do in each location (mix of castles, other historic sites, music, art, food, and maybe some hiking). I think we are good on London (have received a lot of advice). In Edinburgh, we are planning to do a day trip to Sterling, we booked a daylong private tour to the Borders region, and plan to spend one long day in Edinburgh (which sounds fantastic). Now I am worried we should make sure we see the highlands! If anyone has a must see in the Cotswalds (is Warwick Castle good or too commercial?) or in Bath, we would love to hear it. Since it's the summer and everyone in our family is into music (of all kinds) I have been trying to find music venues and small concerts. Any tips on that would be great. Thanks again everyone!

Posted by
9707 posts

I think the webmaster must have been cleaning up some threads yesterday because everything got topsy-turvy.

For Bath, definitely see the Roman Baths and go the first thing on the full day you are there. The afternoon you arrive, walk to Bath Abbey which is right on the same square where the entrance to the Roman Baths are and check their bulletin board to see if there is a concert one of the evenings you are there. I stumbled on to an organ concert one of the nights I visited a couple of years ago and it was a wonderful organist in a lovely venue. You can probably check online as well before you go, but I would still check when you are there. A walking tour is nice too, especially if anyone has an interest in Jane Austen. I found the Jane Austen Centre overpriced for what is on display there. Again, if you have girls they might be interested in the Fashion Museum. You can buy a combo ticket at the Roman Baths to get you in to both sites. If you don't take a walking tour make sure you walk up to the Royal Crescent, a lovely row of Georgian era townhouses.

Go to the Tourist Info center in the area near the Baths and Abbey rather than stopping at the smaller one at the Train Station.

Posted by
6 posts

Thank you for this, Pam. We appreciate your suggestion for Bath. We will be there one evening, a full day/evening, the departing the next morning, so we will follow this itinerary for the "full" day. Before Bath, we are arriving by train from London in Salisbury and it was suggested to pick up our car and head to Avebury (over Stonehenge). Our plan was to spend a couple of hours in Salisbury and Avebury and/or Stonehenge (since we arrive around 3pm) before heading to Bath to check in that evening. Is there anything that is a "must not miss" in Salisbury before we hit the road?

Posted by
4684 posts

I wasn't on the site at the time, but it looked like there was a spam comment attack on old threads. Unfortunately even if the spam comments are deleted it still bumps the threads to the top.

Posted by
9707 posts

Well, laughing, no advice for Salisbury from me yet....I will be there two nights in September and plan to take the local tour bus which makes a loop up to Stonehenge back to Salisbury by Old Sarum. My plan there is to arrive from London in time for an 11AM walking tour, do the Cathedral (including one of the 4 copies of the Magna Carta) that afternoon, do the Stonehenge/Old Sarum loop the next day and try to work in The Salisbury Museum's exhibition of JMW Turner's paintings of Wessex either that afternoon or the next morning before I head to Bath.

I have done the Mad Max day tour from Bath which included Stonehenge, Avebury, Lacock and Castle Combe but you would not want to spend your one day in Bath doing that because there is so much to see IN Bath.