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Prioritizing on a 2 week trip to England/Wales/Edingburgh

My husband and I are taking his parents to England for 2.5 weeks in early May as a gift to my mother-in-law, who has never traveled internationally before. We know we will not be able to see everything and have already cut a lot out, but we're still having some trouble prioritizing. My mother-in-law says she'd fine with skipping Bath and York, but the guidebooks speak so highly of both sites, I'm having a hard time letting go. Currently I have us doing 2 nights in Bath, 1 night in Chipping Campden, 2 nights in Conwy, 2 nights in Keswick, 2 nights in Edinburgh, 2 nights in York, and 3 nights/2 full days in London, which feels inadequate for even a short trip to London. What do people who have been to all these places think?

Posted by
8293 posts

You have too many places on your itinerary, too, too many. If this trip is a gift to your mother-in-law and she says she is happy skipping Bath & York, then skip Bath and York. You probably have 15 days actually on the ground, taking into consideration your USA to UK flights. Much better to have just 5 places than 7 for your 15 days. Two days, no matter how "full", in London for someone who had never been before is cruel. Bath is pretty but London is magnificent.

Posted by
333 posts

You've got some great places on your trip, but you will be exhausted at the end of it! Are you after a relaxing vacation with time to explore? Or are you trying to cram in everything you can (asking seriously) as some people like to do that (I'm often one of those). If you're wanting "stress-free" think about narrowing things down a bit. With your travel time between cities and checking into/outof hotels, you have very little time left to see the places on your list. 4-5 days in London alone are easy to fill- there is so much to see! You could then perhaps consider a day trip to Bath. Viator offers a day trip that also includes Stonehenge and the charming town of Lacock (where Harry Potter and Pride and Prejudice were filmed). When I went to London with my daughter we spent 3 days in London and took the Bath day trip. I can't speak for the other towns- I'm sure they're all worthy of a visit, but we were wore out just trying to cram all we could into 3 days (wished we had more). I'm going to Scotland this spring. You might consider eliminating one of the counties so you can have time to enjoy the two countries you keep.

Whatever you plan, have a great time!

Posted by
11916 posts

I'm not sure where you are flying from, but you could consider something like flying in to Edinburgh and staying there a few days, down to York for a couple of nights and in to London with a day trip out to Bath. You have some distances in your itinerary, so even though they are neat, I would cut out Wales (kills me to say that), the Lakes and the overnight in the Cotswolds. Or doing the reverse and flying into London and out of Edinburgh.

Posted by
1994 posts

What a wonderful gift! You don't mention the age of your in-laws, but what you're describing sounds exhausting.

I would suggest lengthening your stay in London and turning a number of these stops into day trips. The Cotswolds, Bath, York, Windsor, etc., can all be done as day trips from London. That way you're not wasting time and energy with lots of changes of hotels.

Viator is simply a second-party vendor of tours conducted by other companies. London Walks does a number of reasonably priced day trips out of London; you may want to look at their website. They get positive reviews. I prefer to use Context London because the groups are limited to six people and they use well-qualified academics to lead the groups; I've learned so much on their tours and always had a really good experience. The RS guidebooks also have recommendations for good tour companies and guides.

When I traveled with my mother, I would often develop the itinerary and then review it with her. She wasn't very good at telling me what she wanted to do, but she was good at telling me what was too much. I don't know whether similar approach with your in-laws might help you narrow things down.

Posted by
6775 posts

I don't know the age or fitness of your parents so maybe they would be okay with an itinerary like this. I'm 69 and active and travel often but I wouldn't even attempt something like this! Way too much moving around every couple of nights, I would be worn out after a week. I totally agree with the previous posters that you need to eliminate some places. Stay in London longer and do Bath as a day trip (or eliminate it since your MIL doesn't need it), skip Wales and either Cotswold or Lake District.

You don't mention if you're planning on renting a car for part of the trip or doing all by public transportation. You could fly into London and stay 5-6 nights, then either Cotswolds or Lake District, then York and end in Edinburgh and fly out of there. You'd probably want a car for some of this trip, get it when you leave London for Cotswolds or Lake District and drop it in York and train to Edinburgh.

Posted by
10 posts

Thanks to everyone for their input. My husband and I have actually managed similarly packed itineraries successfully (and if you look at any of Rick's "best 2-week" or "best 3-week" tours of any country, we're not too far off his mark), but it does take extreme organization and a lot of energy! You should see my spreadsheets. My in-laws are in their mid-60s and told me they'd be happy to try to keep up with our usual level of sight-seeing intensity since they can "sleep at home." Heh. Despite this, I agree with everyone here that the current itinerary is probably too much, especially for first-time international travelers. I'll cut out Bath and the Cotswolds first and see what else we can lose from there to gain more days in London. My MIL's priorities are Wales, North England, and she'd really also like to see Edinburgh in addition to London (which kind of threw me). However, my FIL had only 2 major requests, and one of them is in York, so I'd like to try to keep that if I can.
For those who asked, we are planning to fly into LHR and take either a train or coach to the west (originally to Bath) and pick up a rental car from there, which we'll leave in York before returning to London by train.
Back to the spreadsheets... Any additional input is welcome!

Posted by
1994 posts

Just a thought: Could you build in some flexibility in case your in-laws can't quite keep up? I'm younger than they are, have traveled a lot, have a demanding career that often requires 60-hour weeks, and I'm healthy… and I wouldn't attempt the kind of schedule you outlined. I could probably do it, but I know I'd be so tired I wouldn't enjoy it.

Posted by
1 posts

Just out of curiosity, how did the trip go (and where did you go)?

Posted by
10 posts

Our trip was amazing. It went as follows:
Day 1: Arrived London, split up: my father-in-law and I went to Kew Gardens, my husband and mother-in-law went to Palace of Westminster/Parliament
Day 2: St. Paul's Cathedral, Millenium Bridge, Globe Theater tour, Tate Modern (we didn't stay long), National Gallery (we had also planned to do a London by Night bus tour, but we missed the bus - too bad!)
Day 3: Tower of London, CityCruises up the Thames from Tower Pier to Westminster Pier, Westminster Abbey, Churchill War Rooms, saw the evening performance of Merchant of Venice at The Globe
Day 4: Changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace, lunch at Speedy's Cafe (from the BBC series "Sherlock"), British Library, British Museum
Day 5: Took train to Salisbury and picked up rental car, Salisbury Cathedral, Stonehenge, stayed overnight at B&B in Amesbury
Day 6: Left Amesbury, drove through South Wales to North Wales stopping at Wells Cathedral, Tintern Abbey, and Caerphilly Castle, arrived at B&B in Conwy
Day 7: Went to the top of Mount Snowdon with the Snowdon Mountain Railway, Swallow Falls, Bodnant Garden
Day 8: Caernarfon Castle, Plaes Mawr House (in Conwy); we had originally planned to see Conwy Castle too, but we decided to skip it
Day 9: Dove Cottage/Wordworth Museum, toured Ullswater (lake) with Ullswater Steamers (we did not hike, as my in-laws were not up to it), Aira Force Waterfall
Day 10: Left Conwy, Castlerigg Stone Circle, drove to B&B in Keswick
Day 11: Lodore Falls, hiked all the way (6 mi) around Buttermere (lake); we had also planned another boat ride on Derwentwater but skipped it
Day 12: Left Keswick, drove to York stopping at Housesteads Roman Fort/Hadrian's Wall, Durham Cathedral, returned rental car in York and checked in to B&B there
Day 13: National Railway Museum, Yorkshire Museum, St. Mary's Abbey, Rick's walking tour of York
Day 14: Train to Edinburgh, St. Giles Cathedral, Royal Mile Walking Tour through Edinburgh Tour Guides, Palace of Holyroodhouse
Day 15: Edinburgh Castle and National War Museum of Scotland, Museum of Scotland, Mary King's Close tour
Day 16: TIRED! :) Flew home from Edinburgh!

If you want more details (where we stayed, where we ate), let me know! I have a spreadsheet. :) It was a fantastic trip, and we had a great time (but we were very glad to come home)!

Posted by
8 posts

My husband and I are planning a three-week trip next summer and would like to include London and Scotland, similar to yours, but spending a few days in Devon with cousins. I'd love to see your itinerary and recommendations where you stayed. I'd rather stay at B & B or farm stays.

Posted by
10 posts

Hi kathyj - Private message me your email address, and I'd be happy to email you a copy of our itinerary. All of our B&Bs, except for the one in York, we would highly recommend! We did stay in hotels, rather than B&Bs in London and Edinburgh for convenience sake (I found it harder to locate good B&Bs that are centrally located in the cities), but those were good too.

Posted by
46 posts

My husband and I are going in September for 10 nights - fly into Manchester, drive to Keswick and stay 2 nights, go to Oban for 2 nights, then Edinburgh for 4 nights. Drive to York for one night, then Manchester 1 night to be ready to fly out. Would appreciate knowing your favorites in Keswick, Edinburgh and York if you could private message me. Glad you had a great trip.