Itinerary for 3 weeks, London, Edinburgh, Dublin and points between

Hi, all, this is our first big dream trip. We are celebrating our 25th anniversary. Just wanted to get some feedback on this itinerary:
Arrive 20 June at Gatswick
Renting a car, drive to Cotswolds (via a stop in Oxford), 3 nights in Stow-on-Wold
York, 2 nights
Keswick 1 night (Hadrian's Wall)
Edinburgh 4 nights (day trip to Oban or Aberdeen?)
Fly RyanAir to Dublin
Dublin 3 nights (day trip to Wicklow mts.)
Ferry to Holyhead, rent car again
Conwy, north Wales 2 nights (Snowdonia)
Amesbury 1 night (Glastonbury, Stonehenge)
London 4 nights
Fly home July 10th (staying near Gatwick the last night in London)

We might be making a mistake adding in a few days in Ireland, but I really wanted a taste. We've only ever been to London for a weekend once, 20 years ago, so this is our chance to really see a bit. We're so excited! We live near Edmonds, WA, so I stopped into the Rick Steves Travel Center and picked up a new guidebook and some travel accessories.

Thanks!
Gail

Posted by James
289 posts

I think that 4 nights in Edinburgh is too long. Do not go to Aberdeen. What you really need to do is take a tour of the most scenic parts of highland Scotland. From Ed - take the M90 to Perth - then, A85 westward through the highlands to CRIANLARICH. Then A82 - go NW to FORT WILLIAM (1 or 2 nights - only 2 nights if you wish to go further NW as a day trip. I would suggest A830 to Mallaig or A82 to INVERGARRY & then A87 to Kyle of Lochalsh & over the bridge to the Isle of Skye. Anyway, day trip further NW or not, return to Edinburgh from FW via A82 to Spean Bridge & then A86 / A889 & A9 to PITLOCHRY & back to Edinburgh.

Regarding Holyhead +: Conwy is worth a visit & is ideal for those using trains. However, if staying in Conwy, make sure that your hotel has free parking as the town itself consists of lots of narrow streets. The whole of NW Wales is very scenic, so don't confine yourself to just selecting Conwy as your destination. More info on Wales =http://www.visitwales.com/explore
Also http://www.portmeirion-village.com
http://www.festrail.co.uk
You have nothing marked for Conwy to Amesbury. (Amesbury being a village near Stonehenge). Glastonbury is quite a way from Stonehenge & difficult to reach due to poor road connections. (It is just not worth the bother).

So, how to get from NW Wales to Wiltshire? Follow route A470 - which runs north- south through the middle of Wales & is scenic for most of the journey. At Lyswen, leave A470 & follow signs for A479 to Talgarth and CRICKHOWELL. (I would suggest that you would need an overnight stop in this area as you will already have driven for about 3 to 4 hours). This would be a good place to stay if you are looking for something upmarket:
http://www.gliffaeshotel.com

Next day? A40 Abergavenny > to RAGLAN (see Castle which will be on left). Then A449 expressway south towards Newport. (You could, if you wish, take A40 expressway NE to Monmouth and then south on A446 down the beautiful Wye Valley to see TINTERN ABBEY). Anyway, whichever route you take, you will end up crossing one or other of the Severn Bridges & join M4 going E. The quickest way to Stonehenge is to leave M4 at junction 17 (near Chippenham) and follow signs for DEVIZES & then A350 to Stonehenge. Alternatively, leave M4 at J18 and take A46 to visit BATH. (Bath is very congested).

You probably don't know where most of these places are. Try & follow route(s) on Google Earth. You really are trying to cover a lot of ground which will involve a lot of driving and skipping some places of interest.

Posted by Ed
Pensacola
9110 posts

Fab is a frigging genius and worked his tail off in his reply. My alternatives will be in italics tagged onto the end of his plagiarized reply for simplicity of comparison.

Additionally, I'd make one overall sequence change to save some time:
Delete Cotswolds initially and head straight to York. The driving differential for the first day is only an hour and a half longer. Reinstate the Cotswolds coming out of Wales enroute to London since Fab's excellent route will get you real close to the area anyway.

I think that 4 nights in Edinburgh is too long. Do not go to Aberdeen. What you really need to do is take a tour of the most scenic parts of highland Scotland. From Ed - take the M90 to Perth - then, A85 westward through the highlands to CRIANLARICH. Then A82 - go NW to FORT WILLIAM (1 or 2 nights - only 2 nights if you wish to go further NW as a day trip. I would suggest A830 to Mallaig or A82 to INVERGARRY & then A87 to Kyle of Lochalsh & over the bridge to the Isle of Skye. Anyway, day trip further NW or not, return to Edinburgh from FW via A82 to Spean Bridge & then A86 / A889 & A9 to PITLOCHRY & back to Edinburgh.
Agree with too much time in Edinburgh. Aberdeen and Oban would not be high priorities. I'd spend two nights in Edinburgh and move on. I'd modify his routing to spend the last Scotland night in Pitlochry (McKays is a good pub with music some nights - - otherwise The Auld Smiddy has excellent mussels) and head for Turnhouse for the flight rather than driving all the way back into the city and have to crawl my way back to the airport the next day. Pitlochry to the airport is less than an hour and a half.

Regarding Holyhead +: Conwy is worth a visit & is ideal for those using trains. However, if staying in Conwy, make sure that your hotel has free parking as the town itself consists of lots of narrow streets. The whole of NW Wales is very scenic, so don't confine yourself to just selecting Conwy as your destination.
Conway wouldn't be my choice for a place to spend the night. Maybe pull out of Holyhead, go see Conwy, then double back to Caernarfon for the night. The entire drive is only a bit over an hour. Before leaving Holyhead, you might want to swing out to South Stack for a couple of hours if you have the time.

You have nothing marked for Conwy to Amesbury. (Amesbury being a village near Stonehenge). Glastonbury is quite a way from Stonehenge & difficult to reach due to poor road connections. (It is just not worth the bother).
Agree

So, how to get from NW Wales to Wiltshire? Follow route A470 - which runs north- south through the middle of Wales & is scenic for most of the journey. At Lyswen, leave A470 & follow signs for A479 to Talgarth and CRICKHOWELL. (I would suggest that you would need an overnight stop in this area as you will already have driven for about 4 hours). This would be a good place to stay if you are looking for something upmarket:
Agree, but I'dmake a jog over to Harlech to see the best castle in the Principality and one of the best in the world. Total extra driving time is well less than an hour

Next day? A40 Abergavenny > to RAGLAN (see Castle which will be on left). Then A449 expressway south towards Newport. (You could, if you wish, take A40 expressway NE to Monmouth and then south on A446 down the beautiful Wye Valley to see TINTERN ABBEY). Anyway, whichever route you take, you will end up crossing one or other of the Severn Bridges & join M4 going E. The quickest way to Stonehenge is to leave M4 at junction 17 (near Chippenham) and follow signs for DEVIZES & then A350 to Stonehenge. Alternatively, leave M4 at J18 and take A46 to visit BATH. (Bath is very congested).
Agree. But, this is where I'd stick in Bath and the Cotswolds after crossing the Severn. You can stick in pauses at Stonehenge and Avebury on the day you drive into London. Skip Glastonbury by all means.

Posted by James
289 posts

Why thank you Ed. Always knew I was a genius!

The South Stack that Ed refers to at Holyhead is in fact a lighthouse perched on a rock reached down a load of steps down the cliff face & then a footbridge. I am not sure whether the footbridge is still accessible to the public.

Should avalon451 follow Ed's suggestion of going to the Cotswolds on the way back to London, I would follow my route as far as RAGLAN & then take the A40 expressway to MONMOUTH . (Yat Rock viewpoint is a detour to the south - well worth a visit but a bit complicated road wise). So, you could continue into England on the A40 expressway which turns into the M50 at ROSS. Leave at M50 J1 for TEWKESBURY (worth a look) then A46 eastbound to B4077 to Toddington. You are now right by some of the most scenic villages in the Cotswolds such as Broadway & Chipping Campden.

If you follow Ed's suggestion of going from Gatwick toYork & then Edinburgh, you might wish to consider doing this part of your trip by train. See https://community.ricksteves.com/travel-forum/england/train-tips-london-to-edinburgh

Wonder if avalon451 will return after giving all this info?

Posted by Ed
Pensacola
9110 posts

Beats me. Fortunately you did all the heavy lifting and all I had to do was pile on.

The last time I was out on the seastack was late last fall. Not a stinking puffin in sight.

Posted by avalon451
Seattle, WA
11 posts

Hey, now, of course I'll come back. Thanks for your great information! That's a lot to consider, but I probably should have said, I have already booked accommodations all through this itinerary. You've got me thinking about changing Edinburgh, though.

Cotswolds, I'm sort of set on. That's our de-stress, jet lag, "Whew we're finally here" breather (we're coming from the Seattle area). I'm an English lit geek, more medieval/renaissance than 19th century. Also, we have to go through Oxford and check on Tolkien's haunts-- Bird and Baby, the colleges, his grave. We have a B&B booked that's outside of Stow-on-the Wold, so not in the tourist crush in town, and we plan to spend those 3 days relaxing and maybe visiting Stratford. (we'll see a play at the Globe in London, so skipping the more expensive show in Stratford).

I wasn't going to spend 2 days in North Wales, at Conwy. But we booked a B&B that's actually south of there, nearer to Betws-y-Coed-- Pentre Felin, a converted grain mill. It looked so perfect that we decided to do two nights there. The first day we'll do Mt. Snowdon, etc., but leave very early the second morning to head south through Wales. I realize that's a long drive... my rationale is that I'd rather get to a place with an occasional long drive, then use it as a base for a couple days, than stay in a different place every night. I have a mix of those throughout the trip-- longer stays in the big cities, and a few one-nighters.

Sorry, gotta do Glastonbury Tor. Arthurian legend geek, also. The reason we're going to Amesbury is because we have Stonehenge stone circle access booked early Sunday morning, July 6th. It was one of the few times available after the access reopens in July, and that's the one thing on my husband's MUST SEE list.

So: Edinburgh. I feel like I'm neglecting the highlands, but I can't see how to fit it all in. Our plan is to rent a car for our trip through England/Scotland. We were going to keep it for the first day or two of Edinburgh, for day trips, then turn it in before we fly to Dublin. I've a nice B&B off Dalkeith road booked for 4 nights. However, I'm wondering if we could leave from our exploration of Hadrian's Wall and head up more directly toward... what? Loch Lomond? Fort William? Stay there a night or two? Again, a long drive, but I will say that coming from Washington State, that's not that long a drive for us. I would love to go to Oban and take a day trip to Mull and Iona. But I just don't feel like I could do it justice. I don't know. My reasoning for 4 nights in Edinburgh was; well, we'll do a day trip nearby, maybe a whisky tour or trip to St. Andrews. My husband feels that we should maybe pick our spots and just hope to come back and do just Scotland, or just Ireland, on a subsequent trip.

So now I'm on the fence. Cancel a couple of nights in Edinburgh and head north instead, come back to Edinburgh for two days before flying out? Hmmm...

Anyway, I really appreciate your input! Thanks!

Posted by brenda7399s
1 posts

Since you have booked Edinburgh, I wouldn't sweat it at all. There is so much you can see in day trips from there. I think Oban or Mull might be a bit of a stretch, if you want to do them justice, but heading up to at least Fort William or Invergarry is very doable. I agree with Pitlochery being a great place to stop off. I have stayed there several times and it is a great little town. If you head up to say, Fort William, plan to hit Pitlochery for dinner on your way back. It is about 90 minutes back to the city, and an easy highway drive. Closer to Edinburgh, the Perthshire area is really pretty, with some great old ruins and historical sites. It is an easy drive from Edinburgh. If you are dying for an island experience, head across to Glasgow and take a ferry to the Isle of Arran. It has beautiful scenery and the boat ride is lovely. Driving distances in Scotland are deceiving. Use the big motorways as much as you can to cover big distances. Once you get past the limits of the motorways, travel slows down quite a bit. Or be happy with shorter distances and get off the highway and follow the historic/scenic routes.
Sounds like a wonderful trip--have fun and congratulations!
Brenda

Posted by LaRae
spokane
494 posts

You need more time for London. Daytrip to Stow and 2 nights in Edinburgh.

Posted by Anita
Long Beach, California, USA
1296 posts

Keswick is in the region of Hadrian's wall but not really near it. The nearest part of it is about about 90 minutes away.
I would suggest dropping a night in Edinburgh, adding a night in Keswick and seeing Hadrian's wall on the way to Edinburgh. Keswick, and the surrounding area, is stunningly beautiful and deserves more than just a quick, one-night, stopover. If you don't have a place to stay yet I recommend Herdwick House, a great little B&B right in town. The owners are lovely and can really steer you in the right direction to get a taste of the area in a one-day visit.

Posted by Laura
Rick Steves' Europe
7416 posts

Looks like you're on the right track with this advice. Happy driving!