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Trying to make the most of eight days

My husband and I only have EIGHT days to enjoy London and Scotland in September. I'm trying to plan a reasonable itinerary, knowing we can only hit the true highlights of the area. What do you guys think of this plan?

Thursday night - Fly from NYC to London
Friday - Monday - London
Monday night - Sleeper train to Inverness
Tuesday - Tour of Scottish Highlands. Sleep in Edinburgh
Wednesday & Thursday - Edinburgh
Friday - Glasgow
Saturday - Fly home from Glasgow

I'm open to any and all suggestions. This is our first trip to the British Isles. London is a must because our son and daughter-in-law are living there for the next few years. Are we being too ambitious by trying to get to Scotland as well?

Posted by
3418 posts

I LOVE the UK. London is a wonderful city, with LOTS to see and do. 8 days there would mean only a small taste, and you could do 2 or maybe 3 day trips on your own by train. But if you want to visit Scotland, it is doable. Scotland is amazing. A few days there is only a very small taste. Personally, I'd not rush to see as much of Scotland as you are trying to. You will be too rushed, and might not enjoy it as much. You could do Edinburgh as a day trip via train or plane from London if you like. Or you could narrow down the places you want to see. The factor you've forgotten in your plan is travel time. While Scotland looks like a small place on a map, it takes real time to get from one place to another- especially if you drive. We haven't driven there- don't drive shift and don't want to try to cope with left side driving , much less with the small roads, small cars, very expensive gas (petrol) and very expensive and scarce parking. We use trains and love them. Why not split your time between London and either Edinburgh, Glasgow, or Inverness. All are great cities with plenty of things to see and do and some good day trips via tour companies using small vans. My personal favorite is Inverness, but Edinburgh might make more sense for a first visit. You won't feel so rushed, you'll really see/experience the places, and you can take Rick's advice- realize you probably will go back.

Posted by
1878 posts

I would seriously consider adding York and deleting the highlands on such a short trip. You could also visit Glasgow on a day trip from Edinburgh — the train connections are very convenient based upon my research. I highly recommend the Scottish National Museum, and a day trip to Stirling Castle from Edinburgh.

Posted by
340 posts

My husband and I have made numerous trips to England and Scotland; and based on my experience I think you would be pushing it trying to work in Inverness, Edinburgh, and Glasgow. You won't have enough time to really enjoy or experience the areas. If I only had those 8 days, I would probably do:

Friday - Monday - London (It's not really enough time, but I'm sure you'll be back since your son and daughter-in-law will be there awhile)
Tuesday - early train to York, spend night
Wednesday & Thursday - Edinburgh
Friday - Glasgow
Saturday - fly home

But if you haven't yet purchased your tickets, I would fly home from Edinburgh. If you can do that, I would change plans to:

Friday - Monday - London
Tuesday & Wednesday - York
Thursday & Friday - Edinburgh
Saturday - fly home

If you can fly home from Edinburgh; you could instead spend only Tuesday in York, take the train to Edinburgh Wednesday morning, and either Thursday or Friday take a one-day trip into the Highlands through one of the tour companies like Highland Experience.

However you decide to divide your 8 days, I'm sure you'll have a great time.

Mary

Posted by
5562 posts

You can go straight from London to Scotland. You don't have to go to York! :) That said, I think I would spend my time in Scotland a bit differently. First, you don't have to spend the night in Glasgow in order to fly home from there unless you have a crack of dawn flight. I've often stayed in Edinburgh and flown out to the US the next day. You take a taxi to Waverley Station, 45-60 minutes later you are in Glasgow. You can then either take a taxi or the bus to the airport and that is at most a half hour. So hey, not that much more time than traveling from midtown to JFK at rush hour. :)

I can really understand the wish to see the highlands. However, remember, if your son and daughter-in-law will be in the UK for several years, you will be back! Maybe that is when you can stop off in York.

It would help to know what interests you. Here are a couple of suggestions.

The first one would be to take a late afternoon train to Edinburgh on Monday. Book into a hotel in Edinburgh for Monday through Friday which gives you four full days in Scotland. Take one the day tours of the highlands if you have your heart set on seeing Loch Ness and a look at the Highlands. Spend at least one day wandering around Edinburgh. Spend the other two days in one of these ways: Take a day trip to Glasgow tour the Cathedral and the new Transport Museum; Spend another day in Edinburgh; Take the train and visit Stirling and see it's very historic and interesting castle; take a day tour to the Borders and see the Roslyn Chapel and the Abbey's.

My second suggestion would be to stick with your first plan of the sleeper to Inverness, but plan on spending Tuesday night in Inverness. You can do a day tour out of Inverness to Skye or just go to Loch Ness etc. On Wednesday, got out to Culloden--you can take the public bus. Then you take the train south to Edinburgh. If you want to be adventuress or really like castles, you can stop off at Blair Castle. When I did this a few years ago, the hotel right near the railway stop let me leave my bag in their closet, but no guarantees. But the train ride from Inverness to Edinburgh is beautiful and you are missing it with the sleeper. You can also do a nice day trip on your own by train to either Kyle of Lochalsh where you can get a taxi to take you to Eilean Donan Castle, or you can stop earlier and explore Plockton. The train ride from Inverness to Plockton and on to Kyle of Lochalsh is one of the more beautiful train rides in the world--yes the world, not just the UK! When my sister and I did it decades ago, I was like a pinball rebounding from one side of the train to the other taking pictures. :) You have two days in Edinburgh.

You could also, take that night train to Inverness and pick up a car. Still spend the night in Inverness, and drive down to Edinburgh on Wednesday. You can drop off the car at the airport.

If you are really nervous about your flight you can spend Friday night in Glasgow. I would stay downtown, maybe near George Square.

Pam

Posted by
340 posts

Pam is certainly correct, you don't have to stop in York on the way to Scotland; but it's so interesting, only a 2 hour train ride, and a nice change of pace from hectic London.

If you do follow her suggestion and take the train directly to Edinburgh for the rest of your time in Scotland, we did a couple of day trips out of Edinburgh you might like. One was to Stirling Castle, Loch Lomond, and Glengoyne Distillery, the other was to Rosslyn Chapel, Melrose Abbey, and Alnwick Castle. And to get just a tiny taste of the Highlands, there are plenty of day trips to see Loch Ness, Glen Coe, etc. We plan on getting back to Scotland later this year ourselves - no matter how many times we've gone, we still find something new.

Posted by
1586 posts

Why do you want to go to Scotland? Are you drawn to the cities or to the Highlands? IMHO, I wouldn't invest a lot of time in the cities when the beautiful Highland scenery is the alternative. You could take fly on Sunday or Monday from London to Inverness, rent a car and head to a hotel on the northwest shore of Loch Ness. Spend Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday exploring. Maybe you could spend the time on Skye or you could head up towards Torridon. Return you car to Edinburgh airport, spend Friday exploring the castle and the Royal Mile, take a late train to Glasgow. Fly home Saturday.

Posted by
5011 posts

First, do yourself a favor by being honest with yourself.

You say you fly from NY to London on Thursday night. You list Friday as one of your "eight" days in London. Are you flying to London on the Space Shuttle or some other form of nearly-instantaneous travel? If you leave the US on Thursday evening, you are not going to arrive in London until sometime on Friday, and probably not early on Friday. Have you ever flown to the other side of the planet before? How did you feel upon arrival - fresh and ready to hit the ground running, or a grumpy, jet-lagged zombie? Some folks can sleep easily on a plane, but for most of us, our arrival day is pretty much a wash, as we struggle to recover from the stress of pre-travel chores and being clamped in a tiny space for 6-12 hours. You will do better upon arrival if you are flying First or Business class, if you are young and physically resilient, if you are one of those who sleeps easily under difficult conditions, but I think it's generally a good idea to NOT count your arrival day, nor your departure day, no matter what time your flights are. Upon arrival (and for some folks, they're still pretty groggy and out of sorts even on the next day after they arrive), most people are exhausted, uncomfortable, disoriented, and just glad to be off the damn plane. Unless you are pretty experienced (or pretty unusual), write off the rest of that day, as you will be getting oriented and settled. Same for your departure day. You will be scrambling to get packed and ready to survive the airport ordeal, with no time for a quick museum before lunch. Remember, when you arrive, you will not only be tired, you will be challenged to find your way around an unfamiliar foreign city, where everything works just a little different. Routine things you can do automatically and quickly at home will require more time and some effort to figure out. If you have lots of travel experience, maybe you won't be a wreck upon arrival, but if you are new this, don't expect everything to go smoothly and efficiently. You will get lost. You will be puzzled by small tasks. You will get used to those things and become more comfortable in a day or two, but at first, it may surprise you how the "foreign-ness" of another country slows you down.

How many full days do you really have there? Less than eight, I think.

Posted by
14 posts

Wow, so many good ideas! Thank you all so much for your advice. I'm beginning to think we really are trying to cram too much into eight days. (And, thank you, David, for your voice of reason.)

Maybe we should just concentrate on London and surrounding sights for this trip, then come back in a year or so and devote a good two weeks to Scotland and Ireland. We are not spring chicks, and this is our first trip across the pond. I'm so excited to see ALL of the British Isles, but I also don't want to be frustrated and exhausted.

What do you think?

Posted by
5562 posts

That might be a good plan for you. There is plenty in London and the surrounding area to keep you busy. You could do some nice day trips--Windsor, Cambridge, Oxford, Canterbury, Hampton Court, Greenwich, and then there is all of London. You can easily fill two weeks in Scotland. :)

Posted by
340 posts

Just doing London with some day trips to surrounding sites sounds like the best choice for your trip given the short time frame. Along with the sights Pam mentioned, you might want to consider Bath also.

Posted by
4755 posts

You can stay in England for the whole time (please try and think of a more original itinerary than London - Stonehenge - Bath - Cotswolds - York!!!) or you can go to Scotland for a few days. York is great, but you do not have time for it this trip.

Toni - sorry, but you can not sensibly do Edinburgh as a day trip from London - it's 4.5 hours each way on a train plus getting to the station or 1.5 hours on a flight (plus an hour+ to the airport plus be there more than an hour before your flight plus a transfer at the other end).

If you are going to Scotland, you need to see the countryside as already been commented on. Can you sleep on planes or trains? If not, allow extra time after taking the sleeper to adjust.

Posted by
14 posts

Jennifer, I'm all ears. What is a more original itinerary in place of London-Stonehenge-Bath-Cotswald-York? I love natural areas more than urban.

Posted by
27 posts

As much as I would love to say just go for it, the voice of reason would advise that you are much better off if you paced yourself better. Even in the greater London area, there are parks that make you feel that you have escaped the city. Since you have relatives who will be based in London and it seems that it is a prime motivator to see them, I would have that be your focus. I'm sure we all have our favorite outdoor places to do/see within a short train distance/tour from central London. For me, a perfect into to the UK/London trip would be Windsor Castle and the town of Windsor, Hampton Court Palace, Greenwich, Stonehenge or Avebury stone circles, Warwick Castle, and York. York is the furthest away. All except York would allow you to use London as a base.

Enjoy your trip! It will make many of us envious no matter where you go!

Posted by
5562 posts

So, I had to go looking for outdoor places in England. :) I have heard several people on this forum mention New Forest, which took me to this map. If your relatives have a car, you probably have some greater options. But after looking at this website I think I need to add not only New Forrest, but all The Broads to my list of places to visit. :)

Also, quite a few years ago, I went to a business meeting at the Swan Diplomat near Goring. I went for several walks along the river and in the fields. I quite felt like I had stepped into Wind in the Willows. I kept expecting to see Mole.

Pam

Posted by
552 posts

Personally, with only 8 days I would agree with the suggestion to stay in London and do day trips. You will waste so much time getting all the way up to Inverness that in the end you won't see much at all. Even if you only went as far as Edinburgh you will still waste a day getting there, but if you really want to see a bit of Scotland then go to Edinburgh and spend your time there, and fly out from there. But, really, the best option is to stay in London for the entire time, you will be able to see some of the city, and get in a day trip or two. I spent three weeks just in Scotland, starting in Edinburgh for six days, then I rented a car for ten days and made my way up north through Inverness, Isle of Skye, and back down through Oban and in to Glasgow where I spent four days. Even with this much time I felt a little rushed so I would never attempt it if I were starting in London and only had 8 days!