3 week itinerary in England & Scotland

My wife and I are in our early 60s and are planning a 3 week trip to England and Scotland in late September and early October of this year. We have a beginning itinerary and would welcome suggestions to improve it. We would arrive Heathrow shortly before noon on 9/21 & take the bus to Bath. Spend 3 nights in Bath & pick up rental car on Monday 9/23 using it to explore area around Bath (Wells, Glastonbury, Avebury, Stonehenge). 9/24 Drive to Cottswolds and explore area (Blenheim palace, Oxford, Stratford-upon-Avon) 2 nights in the Cottswolds. 9/26 Drive to Lake District and spend 3 nights there exploring the area via car and some light hiking. 9/29 Drive to Oban and spend one night Is this too far to drive in one day? Would it be better to stay say halfway between? Where? 9/30 Drive to Skye and spend 2 nights (Portree?) 10/2 Drive to Edinburgh. 3 nights in Edinburgh 10/5 Drive to York stopping to see Hadrian's Wall. 3 nights in York Is this too long in York? We are expecting to arrive in York rather late the first day. We would drop the car on 10/6 (Sunday) or 10/7 (Monday) depending upon need. Is there enough to see near York to justify the car? We would plan to tour York via foot on 10/7. 10/8 Take train to London. Is it worth stopping at Cambridge on the way? If we do then we would arrive late in the day on 10/8, leaving 3 more days and nights in London. Or would we be better off skipping Cambridge or taking a day trip from London another day? I am a big tennis fan. Is Wimbeldon worth seeing when we are in London? We would fly out of Heathrow on Saturday 10/12. Comments and suggestions are welcome!

Posted by Ed
9110 posts

I don't know what the American fixation on Skye is, but it's not Mecca. Mull, Arran, or the Kintyre are just as good and a heck of a lot closer. If you gotta do it, have at it, but it's gobbling up a lot of days to go out to the far end of the stick. There's no need to stop between Keswick(?) and Oban, that's less than five hours in the saddle. Oban to Portree is going to be a long slog to cover about a hundred and fifty miles. The run down to Edinburg is at least six hours, even not counting a stop in Fort William or something. I'd give some of that time to something else. Along the same lines, you've got a bit of an overkill in York, probably at the expense of London. I'd rethink that one a bit as well. There's nothing wrong with Cambridge, but it's another time-robber with everything else you have going on. But, it's better than Oxford. Except for Blenheim, you haven't mentioned a place I haven't been either more than once or several times. I can drive those roads in my sleep. I wouldn't bite your idea off in eighteen days on a bet. You're pushing yourself too hard.

Posted by Nancy
London, UK
170 posts

I would allot more time in London - but that is just me. I think the Cotswolds and Lake District are fairly similar. That said, I love all the places you have chosen to visit! I am a tennis fan as well and the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club is a 10 minute walk away. If you love tennis then I think you will enjoy the tour! There is no other place quite like it!

Posted by Tod
San Diego, CA, USA
237 posts

Sounds like a great trip! I've been to some of these places and here's my US$.02: -I'd put off picking up the car in Bath until you're really ready. There's plenty to see in Bath but no need for a car until you're really ready to go outside the city. -If you were to drive from the Cotswolds to some place like Durham you could then drive and explore the length of Hadrian's Wall on the way to the Lake District. Or perhaps swing east and explore sections of it as you head to the Lake District. (This may help with the car later - see below.) -You certainly don't need a car in York unless you want to drive the moors (which I really liked but if you've been in the Highlands of Scotland for a week it may be anti-climatic) and you don't need a car in Edinburgh unless you want to see something way outside the city. So if you see Hadrian's Wall early you could dump car as soon as you get to Edinburgh and train from Edinburgh to York. (This could cut as many as 6 days off your rental.) If you do take the car to York get rid of it as soon as possible. Bath is nice and has plenty to see - the tour, the Roman Baths, the church (tour to the roof is interesting as well) and the fashion museum but skip the assembly rooms unless you're a huge Jane Austin fan or they're free (see below). Edinburgh is great city with lots to see and so is York although it's smaller with fewer "sights". Edinburgh struck me as very blue collar and York is has a young university town feel. Glasgow is the obvious stop off point to Oban and you could see Scotland's (grittier) second city if you want. Look into the UK Heritage and National Trust visitors passes. They make a lot of sights free to walk into - including a lot of Hadrian's Wall sites and the Assembly Rooms in Bath etc. Have a great trip!

Posted by Kathy
151 posts

I'd agree with Tod to go see Hadrian's Wall after/while going through the Lake District, and then drop off the car in Edinburgh (save yourself lots of money!). However, there are some nice things to see outside of York, so maybe think about renting a car just for the day and head out of the city on your third day there; York itself can be covered pretty thoroughly in two days. If you do go outside of York, try driving through the North York Moors National Park or maybe the Yorkshire Dales Park. Stop by Durham to check out the cathedral (which I'm planning on doing on my next trip), and definitely go to Rievaulx Abbey (just inside the North York Moors park), which was my favorite stop on my three-week trip last year.

Posted by Keith
United Kingdom
1062 posts

" the Cotswolds and Lake District are fairly similar" You must be joking, surely? Your itinerary looks mostly fine. 3 days in York is easily filled even if you do not leave the city, but in the county around York you have England's most beautiful countryside, nicest towns and best people, so there will be no chance of getting bored. I would just note that on your 24-26 Sept you have " Drive to Cottswolds and explore area (Blenheim palace, Oxford, Stratford-upon-Avon) 2 nights in the Cottswolds". That is quite a lot for 2/3 days and you should probably expect to only do a little bit of it. You could spend all the time in the Cotswolds, or most there and perhaps visit Statford or Blenheim. But you will be in a real rush to do everything on your list I also note there is a lot of driving in your plan. Not so much in miles covered, but in the time is takes. You might want to use AA or RAC to get a route and realistic estimate of the time. I'm not suggesting you don't do it - it looks fine - but please don't think that just because the Cotswolds and the Lakes look close on the map, it will be just a couple of hours driving - it wont be! If you have been to Oxford then skip Cambridge. But if you skipped Oxford earlier, then try to stop in Cambridge. I wouldn't bother with both, they are fairly hard to tell apart (but - Cambridge is prettier and is the cleverer university; Oxford is grander and the older university).

Posted by david
837 posts

As Ed states, this is a lot to cover in 3 weeks. We split it into two trips, although we did add a few things like Kent and Cornwall. The first thing that comes to my mind is that you are traveling rather late in the season. I think I would totally rearrange the itinerary. I would fly into Edinburgh. I agree with Ed that the Isle of Skye is overrated. We did spend two nights there, driving around the isle one day. But, given the territory you are covering, I would go there. I would substitute day trips from Edinburgh to Stirling and perhaps St. Andrews. I would consider staying in Pitlochry and using that as a base to drive west toward Glencoe and northeast to see a bit of the highlands. I was also interested in seeing Hadrian's wall on the drive from Edinburgh to the Lake District. Almost nothing identifiable/visible from the road, even the country roads paralleling it. Of the lengthy drives you describe, it looks to me like the worst would be Cotswolds to the Lake District. I think I would skip Blenheim and instead take a day trip from London to either Hampton Court or Windsor Castle. I would also take a day from Bath and York to add to London

Posted by Anita
Long Beach, California, USA
1809 posts

Oh my goodness! I can't believe that someone thinks that the Cotswolds and the Lake District are similar?? They are vastly different...maybe it's my viewpoint coming as a visitor from outside the UK but I have spent a great deal of time in both places and they are certainly not similar. The Cotswolds are quaint in their own way, beautiful tan stone towns and rolling hills. The Lake District is green, green, green with grey stone buildings and whitewashed farmhouses with low stone walls crisscrossing the fells and Herdwick sheep greeting you at every turn of the trail. See both...they are quite unique unto themselves!

Posted by Maureen
14 posts

We were just in Edinburgh last winter...LOVED that city!! However I do think two days will do it justice, AND I personally think you should take a look at Cambridge-- So beautiful and Unlike any USA college towns for sure. Whatever you choose, it will be an amazing trip. Enjoy!

Posted by Kacie
13 posts

We've been to Scotland andEngland several times over the past couple of years and have been to most of the places included in your itinerary. Like others, I agree that it seems like a lot. Someone mentioned American's fascination with Skyewe visited and loved it; however, I was not in love with Portree. It seemed a little touristy. Perhaps because it is where many who visit Skye. We went all the way on the western coast at The Stein Inn and it was amazing. Can't wait to go back there. I would recommend a visit to the Cairngorms Natioanal Park in Scotlandwe stayed in Carrbridge and it was lovely. But it's not really fair to say that your itinerary already seems busy and then to add to it... We've actually skipped Cambridge every time we've been, even though it is always in the original itinerary, for other things. I would shorten the time in York and spend more time in London. If you don't want to do the really touristy London things, although I thoroughly enjoyed most of these, I recommend a leisurely afternoon at Camden Marketgreat food and you can get small amounts from different vendors to try some great stuff and wonderful stalls to wonder through. Don't forget to plan some days just to rest! Differences in how you drive, road signs, and so on always take their toll on usand I'm always the passenger while my husband drives. Also remember that while you may make fairly good time on major highways, many of the smaller roads, like through Skye and what you may travel to see Hadrian's Wall, depending on which part you see, may slow you down more than you expect.

Posted by Carroll
Pittsburgh, PA, USA
1606 posts

I actually think this is a really great itinerary. My one reservation is the drive to Skye. Although I absolutely adore Skye, it might be a bit too much driving for just two nights. It might be better to spend another night in Oban and visit one or more of the islands (the only real reason to visit Oban IMHO). I would add the other extra day in London, which has way more sites that you will have time to see in three days. I also agree that you have too many things planned for your two days in the Cotswolds, but do what you can and plan another trip to see what you missed. You can't see everything.

Posted by Rebecca
Nashville, TN, USA
1290 posts

You have a good itinerary; it just needs to be fine tuned a bit. You are shortchanging the Cotswolds and London. I would tend to steal a day from Bath and put it in the Cotswolds. I would also steal a day from the Lake District and put it onto the Cotswolds. When you leave Bath, drive to the Cotswolds and spend 4 nights. Use it as your base to see Blenheim Palace and Stratford Upon Avon, but then go back to your Cotswolds B&B/hotel and relax for a day. Take a circular drive around to see several villages. Stop and have tea somewhere. Walk part of the Cotswold Way Path. Then continue on to the Lake District. Agree with David, you need to consider how much great stuff there is to do in London and add a night or two there. Agree with Ed, you are trying to do too much. If you scan down the left side of your original post, what you see is Drive, Drive, Drive, Drive, Drive, Drive. There is more to a trip to Britain than being in the car and driving all the time. Consider just how much time you will spend behind the wheel. For me, it would just be too much. Consider cutting a few things from the schedule (Skye for one). That will give you more quality time at the places you visit.

Posted by Michael
13 posts

My wife and I would like to give many thanks to everyone that posted in reply to my itinerary. We are going to take every one of your suggestions into account and I am sure we will be making some changes based on your input. Thanks again.