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UK - 17 days - England, Wales, Scotland, Ireland - doable?


I'm planning to take my family on a tour of the UK, with 17 days to work with. I'm thinking London start, London end (because we'll be heading to Paris for 3 days after UK). Rick has great suggestions for Great Britain (excluding N. Ireland) and for Ireland (Republic and North), but not for a combo. Have you done this? What route did you take? We'd be going in August, and renting a car to leave London (no car in London of course).

Posted by
47 posts

Thanks, Kent. I guess it's my travel style - as a teacher and (unpaid) tour guide I take 30 grade 9's through 7-8 W.European countries over 18 days every year; however, those school trips have a charter coach, so I don't have to do the driving.

The UK looks compact enough for me to take my 3 grade school kids and wife on a driving tour myself, and I definitely don't travel to "relax". I'm glad to hear the first response to my query is positive. I'm wondering if you would go from London to Wales, ferry to Dublin, Ireland, Belfast ferry to Scotland, back down to London,
OR London to Scotland, ferry to Belfast, Ireland, Dublin, ferry to Wales, back to London?

Posted by
3428 posts

Just an alternative suggesstion (this is based on a similar, but not identical trip we've done several times). Consider the following- DON'T DRIVE. London 2 nights with day trip to Windsor. Train to York- 1-2 nights. Train to Edingburgh or skip it due to crowds at festival and go on to Aviemore -1 or 2 nights. Train to Inverness 3-5 nights with trips to Isle of Skye,and maybe Orkney. Train to Sterling-1 night. Train to Stratford-Upon-Avon 1 night. Train to Bath-1 night. Train to Cardiff Wales 1 or 2 nights. Train to London for rest of time with day trips to Canturbury and/or Dover, Oxford or Cambridge, or Winchester. If you must do Ireland- ok, but personally, I'd rather spend more time in Scotland. Feel free to contact me about more ideas of details.

Posted by
964 posts

Hi Craig,
Prety hard to follow what Kent has so eloquently written! So I won't try.
The one thing I would like to say is that when you're working out your driving times in the UK, although the distances look small, the journey can take much longer than you're used to in N. America. I have dual citizenship Canadian/British and when I came back to the UK I kept getting the journey time wrong, so these days I double the estimate. For example, for 30 miles I would allow 30 minutes in N.America, in the UK I give myself an hour.
August is a very busy time on the roads in the UK because it's peak vacation time. The roads down to Cornwall and Devon are especially crowded that time of year.
Hope you have a really great vacation!

Posted by
964 posts

Me again- I should add that Motorways are fast. And my estimate includes time for me to get lost, (something I see to do a lot of) stop and curse for a while then turn around and find the right route.
Hopefully that won't be part of your vacation experience!

Posted by
658 posts

The route I would suggest is London to Edinburgh going up the A1 out of London and switching to the A1M when you get to the north.

Edinburgh to Glasgow.

Glasgow to Liverpool via Carlisle and taking in the Lake Disrict but using the M6 as the main route.

Liverpool to Belfast on the ferry.

Belfast to Dublin

Dublin to Hollyhead on the ferry.

Hollyhead to Cardiff and then take the M4 back to London.

That's a very rough route guide. It's doable but unless you do some very careful micro time management you run the risk of seeing nothing more scenic that the inside of the motorway service stations.

Remember that even hire cars break down on rare occasions. Remember that somebody else's motorway accident can add anything up to six hours to a long journey. Make sure you get a rental agreement that includes unlimited mileage. Remember that currently UK gas prices stand at over $2.00 per litre and that price is never going to go down - only upwards. Buy a good map book.

Posted by
505 posts


If you are planning on Scotland in August and want to do Edinburgh, you'll need to find accomodation now. The series of festivals in August mean that housing is at a premium, and so prices high. Also, don't take a car into Edinburgh or Glasgow - either return to the airport first or use a park & ride.

One thing to consider is that UK cars are smaller (high petrol prices, narrow roads & parking spots etc.), so three kids and two adults plus luggage could be a real squeeze. So you may want to do some research on cars which would hold 5 + luggage, but won't cost an arm & leg for petrol and be a pain to park. It's worth looking at the train for some legs of the trip - you can get good deals on family tickets and kids under 10/11/12 often get a discount on tickets anyway.


Posted by
2760 posts

I agree with Kent, your plan sounds great. Driving in the UK is great, and you can se so much. The biggest mistake some people make is to not drive. You and your family will have a great time. Have a great trip.

Posted by
1 posts

im traveling to ireland, scotland, england, and wales.....coming from el paso ...wondering where is the cheapest counrty to fly in....would like to stay in hostels....bed and and a castel or two....maybe one thats haunted.....would like to travel once rail...ferry.... hired car and the good old bus....i have roughly 14 days and would like to stay a few days in each country.....any ideas would be greatly appreciated.....stephanie

Posted by
16 posts

Here's what I did with my wife over 10 days as a gauge in the early 90s by car: - London to Yorkshire, 2 days in Thirsk/Hutton le hole/Helmsley (loved it so much returning with our teenagers this summer but doing York too) - Yorkshire to Edinburgh and spent a night. Explored city and St, Andrews - Edinburgh to Inverness, exploring Loch Ness and Lomond along the way. Spent a night - Inverness to Isle of Skye and spent two nites took car ferry. - Skye to Dumfries - Dumfries to Stratford on Avon. Shakespeare of course
- Stratford on Avon to London Driving, stopping wherever/whenever we wanted for pints or tea or cheese. B&Bs each night. Amazing country. Yes petrol is pricey but cars are cheap and the flexibility driving affords is priceless. Pack light.

Posted by
635 posts

Why are people replying to a post made in 2008? I guess that applies to me too.

Posted by
47 posts

Yes, Ken, it does apply to you too! I was amused to be alerted to two replies to my 5 year old query in two days. We did the trip in 2010, but spent 32 days rather than 17. And I've since guided tours of Britain for my own company, OneLife Tours. Got another one coming up this summer! 2013, not 2008. haha.