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10 days in England/Scotland or Normandy/Brittany/Loire - Late October 2018

My wife and I are planning to visit Europe for 10 days in late October (exclusive of travel days). We have been to Europe several times and are looking to see areas we have not visited before. We tend to prefer quickly moving through areas to see highlights and get a general "sense" of a locale. We have been to London and Paris multiple times so this trip is not about visiting those cities - though we will fly in/out depending on itinerary. Our likes include walking through villages and cities, walking tours, food/wine/other beverages, beautiful scenery/landscape, fine with driving and trains (including driving on left side), and enjoy limited shopping :)). We occasionally tour a museum or castle but will typically do so on a self-guided basis and only spend a couple hours at most. No need to see any rock formations in either country :).

Our 2 ideas are visiting parts of the UK and France. Trip A would involve arriving in Edinburgh and departing London (or reverse). We would spend a couple days in Edinburgh, a couple days in Highlands (maybe a distillery tour), a couple days in Cotswolds and time in Kent to visit some sparkling wine producers. We have never been to Scotland or outside of London (except for Windsor). Obviously, tons to see in those areas and we would just be skimming the surface focused on what appeals to us.

Trip B arrive in Paris and immediately head to Normandy. Thinking of checking out some of the touristy spots (Honfleur, MSM is a must) and would like to see other towns and perhaps a stop for cider and cheese production. Onto Brittany, to visit St. Malo and Dinan - other ideas welcome but likely will not venture too far West (despite what we will miss) due to time constraints. Finish with a day or two in Loire Valley - probably tour only 1-2 chateaux max. I recognize we can't see it all and that is OK. And I will repeat we enjoy driving through the countryside and towns.

I would like to hear from people who have traveled to either or both of these areas (even better if you visited during late October). I hope to avoid the train/car discussions. Also, I am aware that it would be easier to respond if I focused on one trip. We are torn between the two and thought maybe getting perspectives from others who have experience in these locations may help us make our final decision. Thanks!

Posted by
24949 posts

It seems to me that either of those could work, but the temperature will probably be a bit milder in France than in Scotland.

If you end up choosing France, consider stops in Fougeres and/or Vitre. Both picturesque and great wandering-around spots. Not many tourists on the days I visited in summer 2017.

Posted by
10119 posts

I would choose France due to the temperatures that time of year in Scotland.

Posted by
6113 posts

Outside the peak season of July/August in France, many places have more limited hours/days of opening. I was in western France in late June and was surprised to find that some places only opened at the weekend or others were only open 4 or 5 days a week, which wouldn’t happen in the UK at that time of year. Also, some days in June, the weather was warmer in Scotland than the Bordeaux area!

I would scrap the Cotswolds at that time of year, as much of the colour will have disappeared from the gardens and it’s a bit out of the way. Instead, add a day to Scotland and visit Holy Island in Northumberland to sample their mead.

I was sorely disappointed with my visit to MSM as now it is approached by a road rather than the old tidal causeway, it has lost its magic.

Both options will offer a variety of landscapes and the weather may not be as different as one may expect, particularly if comparing Kent to Normandy. I was surprised how expensive food in France was compared to UK prices.

Posted by
23 posts

Thanks all. Does anyone else have thoughts regarding Jennifer's point on hours of operation in France in October? Thanks.

Posted by
6245 posts

Either trip could work, as noted above. Yes, more chance for colder weather in Scotland, but a lot more chance for wet weather, too. Still, both are worthwhile - and both would offer more good stops than you have time for.

If you do Plan A: I too would suggest skipping the Cotswolds. I'd suggest instead you include York. Plenty more things to see/do, you need to get the guidebook and watch the videos. For this trip, you'll definitely want a car for the Scottish Highlands, otherwise you can probably do most or all connections by rail.

If you do Plan B: If you want a good experience at MSM, do not do it as a day trip - spend the night on the Mont itself if you can - spaces are limited so if you choose this trip, you need to jump and try and book a room there immediately. Late October would be shoulder season but I think there are awful crowds there mid-day 365 days a year. Staying on the Mont overnight beats the crowds. I assume if you're going to Normandy you would visit the D-Day sights and museums - absolutely a must IMHO. You will want a car for Normandy, MSM, and in the Loire Valley. Don't drive in Paris - train back there at the end.

I've been in rural France during October and November and never noticed anything that I wanted to use that seemed closed at unusual hours. For sure, there are some things that have more limited hours in the off season, but that never impacted what I did.

Posted by
720 posts

Jennifer i am confussed, i thought the old causeway was always above water so allowing access every day, all day? But stopped the tide following round. Certainly thought that is what i saw on my visits over the last 30 years. Where as the new boardwalk allows exactly the same access buut also allows the tide to move. Though some of the lower old carparks certainly did flood at high tide as we once learnt to our cost......
My tip would be always stay over night on the island, certainly wasnt ecpensive a few years ago, avoid day trips! Best memory ever was going there for Midnight Mass, behond majical 😊
Edit; just done a bit of googling and the old causeway which was covered at high tide was replaced about 1890! The concrete one they replaced it with, was to be above the tides allowing continual access. Though obviously there are some extreme high tides a few times a year, so maybe it got covered then. And maybe that is when you saw it, in which case i am very jealous, because it must of looked stunning as an island.

Posted by
3991 posts

Agree with David about York. You could also consider Durham, a college town with a nice walking path along the river.