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London and Ireland - 12 days

My husband and I are attempting to plan our first trip overseas. We'd like to go to Ireland and London, but feel a bit overwhelmed (there's so much to see). Is it crazy to try to visit both countries in 12 days (including travel time) or should we just stick to one country. If we go to one country, which country would you recommend. Thanks in advance!

Posted by
3 posts

Thanks for the quick responses! We hope to make our trip in September/October. I'm leaning more towards one country, so we can ease into our first overseas trip. There is so much to see and I really do not want to feel rushed. The hard part will be figuring out which country to visit. Thanks again for all of your suggestions!

Posted by
12172 posts

Go through Rick's books and pick the highlights of Britain and Ireland you would each really like to see.

Then go back through that list to decide the things you must see. You may find that 12 days is enough.

If you can't get the must see list down to a doable 12 days, reduce the trip to one island, or part of one island, and rent a car to reduce your travel time.

It's better to reduce the scope of your trip and see all of the things that are important to you in one area than to leave after 12 days disappointed because of the things you had to pass up.

If you have completely different ideas of what is must see, this is the time to figure it out. I love art, history and culture but I'm dead if I schedule only churches and museums and don't throw in things my wife enjoys.

You also should be realistic about your physical and mental ability to charge through a vacation. You may need to plan at least one do-nothing day.

Posted by
11 posts

Sure, I say go for it! The first thing I would look at is Rick's guides to Ireland and London, both of which I found invaluable. (No, I do not work for Rick, just a satisfied reader!)

But, if you do decide on only one destination, London has to be the one.

Posted by
9363 posts

You're going to get a lot of different opinions on this, but I think 12 days is plenty of time to do highlights of both countries. You will have to be selective about what you want to see, and consider travel time between locations within the countries as well as between them. Are you planning on using public transport or renting a car? Driving in either country will take much longer than driving the same distances here. How do you intend to get from one country to the other? Once you narrow down some of these considerations and can ask more specific questions we'll be better able to offer advice. If you have to pick one country, though, I'd vote for Ireland.

Posted by
147 posts

I'd feel a bit overwhelmed too. That's a lot of sight seeing in 12 days. I've done the hustle tour and told myself never again. With the time difference, you burn at least a day getting normal. Then I tried self-catering and that seemed to give one more time to see, and less time packing and unpacking. I spent 15 days in Ireland last fall, and that was about right for 1/2 the island,

Either place would be nice depending on the time of year, but doing both would be a blur IMHO

Posted by
47 posts

Cara, I don't think it's crazy to try to visit both countries in the time you have available, as long as you don't try to cover too much ground. For example, if you enjoy urban settings, you should be able to cover London and Dublin pretty well. If you want to get out of the big city for more than a daytrip, then perhaps you are better off limiting yourself to either England or Ireland.

Someone suggested scheduling a rest day, which is a good idea. Also keep in mind that you'll be seriously dragging on your first day (jet lag) and won't be up for too much. You'll also have to allow for travel time, so you don't really have 12 days.

Posted by
32244 posts

Cara, given that this is your "first overseas trip", I'd recommend limiting your visit to one country (my preference would be England, although it's expensive!). I'd rather have a rewarding, interesting and stress free visit to one country, rather than a rushed visit through two countries.

There are LOTS of things to see in England! I spent a full week in London in Sept. and hardly "scratched the surface". There's also Bath, York or other locations. You could easily spend 12-days there. On the other hand, if you were planning to visit outlying areas in Ireland, some planning would be needed to get around, as public transport is not as well developed.

Regarding renting a car and driving in Ireland, that's not for the "faint of heart". I was also there this fall on a RS Tour of Ireland, and found that it can be a dangerous and confusing place to drive (I've driven in England on several occasions, and while it can be "challenging" at times, I had no problems).

Good luck!

Posted by
75 posts

My husband and I visited both London and Ireland in 2006. Just plan your trip carefully so you see and experience things that fit in with your schedule. Of course, you won't be able to see and do everything, so pick things that you REALLY want to include. We had a wonderful time and you will too. Besides, if you don't get to everything, it's a perfect reason to return.

But .... if you just want one country, visit London first. It's an awesome (but expensive) city with so many wonderful things. Careful planning will keep you within whatever your budget is. Do your research and you'll be fine.

London was the first overseas city we visited. We've been three times and hope to be able to visit every year.

We fly direct into Gatwick (from Tampa) and find that it's a good "hub" to get to other places.

Have a great trip.

Posted by
8700 posts

It would certainly be fine to limit yourself to London--with a couple of daytrips out of the city for contrast. If you're like me, you'll enjoy those relaxing train rides.

If you only go to Ireland, certainly include Dublin. But if you go to both islands, consider skipping Dublin in favor of more time in someplace like the Southwest.

Definitely rent a car. It's the only practical way to see small towns and rural areas in a timely manner. I didn't find driving in Ireland to be difficult. However, I've been driving manual transmission cars on narrow, twisty roads most of my life.

Consider flying open jaw, into London and out of Shannon. To get from London to the Southwest, you can fly from either Luton or Stansted to Kerry on Ryanair; from either Gatwick or Stansted to Cork on Ryanair, or from Heathrow to Cork on Aer Lingus; or from Gatwick, Luton, or Stansted to Shannon on Ryanair, or from Heathrow to Shannon on Aer Lingus.

If you limit yourself to Ireland, again fly open jaw, e.g, into Dublin and out of Shannon.

Posted by
3428 posts

I'd suggest starting with London. In the 10 days (ground time) you have, you could see a great deal. Do Kew Gardens, visit Covent Garden Markets, see "all" of London and do lots of great day trips. You could pace yourselves and not get too tired. I recently published an article on day trips out of London for AAA Carolina's "Go" magazine. Feel free to check out the online version at (just use 28208 as the requested zipcode). Don't hesitate to contact me if you have questions.

Posted by
525 posts

and don't forget Bushmills and Carrick a Rede bridge on the Antrim Coast in Ireland. Stay a day in Dingle to tour if you can fit it into your schedule.

Posted by
3 posts

Thank you all so much for your suggestions. This message board has been so helpful!

Posted by
1806 posts

I spent a month each in Ireland and England in 2007. With only 12 days, focus on one country. Be selective about the areas you'll cover, don't feel bad if you miss something. If you loved the country, make time to come back another year.

While London is incredible, the exchange rate is hard to take (roughly $2.12 US per 1 Pound), your money isn't going far. The exchange rate on Euros is only slightly better, but don't let this deter you from going to England or Ireland.

My vote would be for Ireland. Most tout Dublin as the place to go, but I feel Galway gives you a more authentic taste of Irish "city life", has better music and Western Ireland is more scenic. Galway makes a good base for booking day trips (Connemara, Cliffs of Moher, Aran Islands, etc.) so you can avoid the need to rent a car. September is the Galway Oyster Festival-book a room early. If you go the Dublin route, try to squeeze a couple nights into a trip to Belfast, Derry, Antrim Coast/Giants Causeway.