Scotland and London in 9 days

Hello all,

Just a preface, I am an American student who will studying in St. Andrews, Scotland for four months. Before I kick off my studies, my mother and I will be spending nine days in the UK. We love HISTORY, photography, comforting tea shops, and all things beautiful. Due to my large suitcase we will land in Edinburgh in the early morning of the first day and at some point drive my large luggage up to St. Andrews to store. After that, we can go anywhere as long as we end up in London on the ninth day to see a West End musical that night. (We have both spent time in London previously so main attractions are not on our list.)

Possible Itinerary:

Day 1 and 2: see Edinburgh all day, spend the night, finish it up in the morning, and head up to St. Andrews that night.
Day 3: leave St. Andrews early in morning, spend the next few days in Scotland
Day 4: Inverness
Day 5,6, half of 7: Skye
Day 7,8: on our way towards London (stops for Hadrian's Wall)
Day 9: Oxford and Cambridge, end with London West End at night

I'll be honest, I need recommendations here! I'd love to see Inverness, Skye, and even Orkney. However, I realize I'm getting too spread out, especially if Northern England is of interest (Hadrian's Wall) and a daytrip from London to Oxford and Cambridge.

Hadrian's wall would be a HUGE plus for my mom. I'm worried that it will take a lot of time to drive there, versus just taking a night train from Inverness to London.

Posted by emma
London
761 posts

There is a lot more to the north of England then Hadrian's Wall! :-) A lot of people visit York which is a lovely historic city with lots to see. There is also the Durham, the Yorkshire dales,Lake District, the Pennines, Liverpool. .........To name just a few. It is probably worth doing a little research to see whet takes your fancy.

And apologies for sounding negative but trying to do Oxford and Cambridge in one day is way too much and even more so if you need to get to a show in the evening. You have time to visit one city not both.
Also how are you planning to travel? If you choose to drive I would get rid of a hire car before you get into central London, maybe at Heathow. Driving in London is horrible and expensive.
The train from Scotland to London along the east coast line is comfortable and fast and would allow you stop off in York on the way.

Emma,

Thanks for the advice on Oxford! I think we may try to spend more time in England than Scotland now. I didn't really think to look in Northern England before because I felt we simply didn't have time. But now it sounds like my mom is more interested in places of literary and historical significance than places of natural beauty!

Sarah

P.S. Anybody have recommendations on a future trip to Orkney? And if it could be combined with a trip to Oslo? I'm interested in the Viking history.

Posted by emma
London
761 posts

If you are interested in Viking history you have to visit York, it's famous for its Viking past.

Posted by Kevin
Rick Steves' Europe
124 posts

I agree with earlier travelers that you may just have an easier time but just as memorable experience focusing more time in Northern England and it makes sense with you needing to end up in London. You can visit more of the great Scotland sites you mentioned during your school year. I would visit Hadrian's Wall, Durham and York on your way. I would also just pick one of the university cities and Rick (and I) prefer Cambridge. Most these sites can be connected with rail but Hadrian's wall can be a little trickier but possible.

Thanks for all your help, guys! This as really helped me focus. SO after spending more time focusing on our interests, I've got more questions. This is rather long so feel free to scan and answer what you can!

I need a little advice on the road trip to Skye from St. Andrews. Looks like we'll be going from St.A--Dundee--Dalwhinnie--Spean Bridge--Kyle--Portree. As we like to meander and we may not leave St.A until 14:00, I would love a recommendation of a B&B in between St. A and Portree. Possibly Dalwhinnie since it's near the Cairngorns? (or should we just drive straight through to Skye and spend 3 nights there?)

On Skye, should we stay in Portree for 2 nights or change locations on Skye the second day? I know it's no tiny island; however, a 2 night stay would be a welcome break.

When we wake up from our second night on Skye (or third if we don't rest in Dalwhinnie), we're planning to head down to the Lake District via Hadrian's Wall. I am hoping to have time for a little more Skye that morning (or a stop in Glencoe) but still hitting Hadrian's Wall that night. Is that too ambitious? After sleeping in Melrose possibly, we will wake up and head to Lake Windemere and Beatrix Potter's house.

To sum up:
August 25 (Mon): land in Edinburgh early in morning, stay the night
August 26: Edinburgh to brief stop in St.A, then on the Skye
August 27: Either finish driving to Skye or already there, enjoy the island
August 28: Skye
August 29 (Fri): leave Skye, drive through Glencoe to Hadrian's Wall
August 30 (Sat): Lake District
August 31 (Sun): York, Durham, or onto Cambridge/Oxford (recommendation?)
September 1: Cambridge
September 2: London area to catch West End musical that night

As you can see, the England portion of the trip is still rather fuzzy. We really want to savor our time and not merely top-ten-hop; I know, horrible goal for 9 days haha!

P.S. We know Skye is way out of the way, but I will not be able to do Skye properly without my mom. Renting a car is a must...and unfortunately, I'm 20!

Posted by Cyn
Wheat Ridge, CO, USA
1139 posts

Hi Sarah-years ago, we stopped in York for a couple of days, in between the train ride from London to Edinburgh. It was April, and the weather was windy, wet, and cold, so we didn't visit Hadrian's Wall, and still haven't been to any of it. We started planning a trip for this August to see a lot of Hadrian's Wall and that area, but the trip morphed into Edinburgh/Shetland/Orkney/Skye/Scottish Highlands, so more of Scotland and England will have to wait for another trip.

We're leaving in 2 weeks, so I can't give you personal experience (yet), but for our 3 nights on Skye, we're sticking with one B&B (on the west side, not in Portree). Since most of your luggage will be in St. A, you'll likely be traveling light, so packing and unpacking might not be a big deal. Are you particularly interested in seeing some of the Sleat ("slate") region of Skye, to the south? If so, maybe staying down there one night might work for you, especially if you might consider using the car ferry to Mallaig to get you off of Skye and started again on your way to England.

In York, the place for afternoon tea is Bettys.

Is your Mom's rental car already booked? We're using 2 different small, local Scottish companies for separate legs of the trip, and turning our cars in at another of the company's locations. If you drive down to London, make sure your rental company won't make it too hard or expensive for you.

If you visit Cambridge, see if you can take a punting (boating) trip on the River Cam.

Best of luck with your studies abroad & hope you can see more of the U.K. with some time off!

Posted by Beth
Berkeley, CA, USA
28 posts

Since you are going to be a student it isn't too early to spell the name of your University and its city the way the way the Scots do. It is " St Andrews": no period after the "St". My son has been a post grad there for several years and loves Scotland.