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England-Scotland-Ireland-England Again Trip Report

Below, find my trip report for our 23 days in England-Scotland-Ireland-Northern Ireland-England (again). I will post subsequent days as replies:
Prep and Travel Day (Day 1):

TL/DR:
Order a specialty meal on the plane for an actual hot meal/delivered first
Add an hour to your pickup time at the airport to reduce stress

I planned to work a full day on our travel day, since we had an evening flight and I could work from home. I started early, so around 3PM I threw another coat of stain on the porch bench (as you do - I can’t be the only person who starts a ridiculous home project right before a trip). And then jumped in the shower. My parents arrived around 3:30 PM and I walked my mother through taking care of our three large, needy cats and then took another spare key over to the neighbors. Eventually we hopped in the car for the most harrowing portion of our trip - my father’s driving.

As mentioned in my packing thread, we were traveling light but not carry-on only. I had a 21 inch rolling duffle plus backpack, and husband (DH) had a larger rolling duffle plus backpack. Mine was 22 pounds, his was 33 pounds.

We were going to stop for dinner on the way, but given how stressed my father was with driving, made the correct decision to go straight to the airport. We hit the sweet spot with arriving. From drop off to our gate was 17 minutes. That included check in, printing boarding passes, dropping luggage, and security. We didn’t have any of the fancy skip-the-line passes as we haven’t traveled out of the country in 3 years.

We settled at our gate and DH took the first lap - stretching his legs and getting dinner while I started my first book (A Fatal Footnote, for those wondering). Then I took my turn of filling up the water bottle, taking a walk, and grabbing a light dinner of rice and a veggie spring roll (DH watched My Cousin Vinny on his laptop).

Boarding for our Delta non-stop Salt Lake City to Heathrow started around 8PM. We were Comfort Plus, so boarded relatively early and got settled. Oof, if that is Comfort Plus I dread to see what Economy/Main Cabin is like! Those seats were hardly comfortable. Dinner service started almost immediately, and as I had a specialty (vegetarian) meal, I was served early. I had an indifferent curry and traded my fruit dessert for DH’s blondie.

I watched Pride and Prejudice, Primal Fear, Mission Impossible, and MI: Ghost Protocol (love the Delta entertainment variety). DH and I both managed to sleep relatively well on the flight. At least to the point where, when my bagel and fruit arrived in the morning, I was, if not well rested, at least not stupid with sleep.

Although we were about 35 minutes late departing, we were only about 15 minutes late arriving. Our gate was at the end of beyond, but eventually we made our way through border control, toilets, and baggage. DH has the new US passport and did have trouble with his passport at the scan-only barrier (my old-school one was fine). The last barrier of customs (just a walk-through) and we were out. DH grabbed a coffee (which he called ‘checking to make sure the credit card is working’) while I connected the Heathrow wifi and was able to get in touch with our driver. Windsor Taxi (I left a review) was on time and resourceful, reaching out to me via WhatsApp. For the record, I had pushed our taxi pickup time + 1 hour past our scheduled arrival, to account for any delays. This allowed us to not rush or stress getting off the plane and worked out really well.

After a relatively quick, if rainy, drive, we arrived at Windsor High Street and the Macdonald Windsor Hotel (I left a review). A warm welcome, and the hotel was clean and among the fanciest we stayed at (I told DH not to get used to it). It was a connecting room, which I generally hate, but incredibly quiet. Nice coffee and tea facilities in -room, and a window which opened for lovely fresh air. Also the bed was an American king.

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Continued:

Lovely, if small, bathroom with very nice toiletries, heated towel rack, and walk-in shower.

We took a few minutes to freshen up, but I was worried about sitting too long and falling asleep! We took a nice walk in the rain (drizzly, not pouring). We found both train stations, checked out the pedestrian area, and found a shop to switch out our sim cards (unlocked iphones, about 20 pounds each). I found the cutest tins of Coronation shortbread and tea at the Marks and Spencer, but I didn’t want to haul it around for the next 3 weeks. Sadly, I never saw it again!

We headed back to the room for a minute and DH took a 45 minute nap, but I woke him up and dragged him to dinner. We ate at the Duchess of Cambridge (I left a review). For some reason, I was anxious before we left about whether we ordered at the table or bar, how it worked, etc. In the moment, I simply used my big girl voice and asked how it worked. Universally, people were lovely about explaining the procedure.

Here we picked a table ourselves and ordered at the bar, then generally explained where we were sitting. I had the fish & chips, DH had sausage and mash. Maybe it was the exhaustion and hunger, but we both scarfed it down! I found the mushy peas especially yummy. We had two rounds of chardonnay and Riverton ale. We sat chatting and just generally exclaiming over how lucky we are to be able to go on such a trip. Around 8 we headed back to the hotel for ridiculous British quiz shows, showers, and 10 hours of sleep!

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Continued:

Windsor and Henley-on-Thames (Day 2):

TL/DR:
Take your time with the castle tour and get the audio guide

I had pre-purchased Windsor Castle tickets for a 10 AM entry. This gave us plenty of time to walk to Pret a Manger for breakfast (although it took a ridiculous amount of time/trouble to find it, and was our first clash of the vacation!). Finally we got there, and I was so happy to get my veggie breakfast sandwich and DH his bacon sandwich and coffee. We walked and ate, and then had additional coffee and tea in the room as we finished packing up.

We left our bags at the hotel and walked across the street to the castle. The Macdonald Windsor hotel is wonderfully located for everything in Windsor. It was easy to show our print-out of the tickets and get to our appropriate lane, and very easy to get through security. We picked up our audio guide and began our tour.

The tour was excellent, from Queen Mary’s Dollhouse to the wonderful state apartments, plus the audio guide adds to the experience. I was thrilled to see the picture of Princess Elizabeth I that I had seen in so many books in person. Highlights also included the bullet that killed Nelson (presumably less of a highlight for him). St. George’s Chapel was also a highlight, and somehow, despite all of my research, I didn’t realize that the queen’s grave was there. But it was surprisingly moving to get to see her resting place.

We spent about 3 hours on site, and were not rushing in any way. The day was chilly and turned from sunny to overcast, but not actively raining. After our tour we stopped by the small museum of Windsor and then crossed the street for a coffee and sausage roll (DH) and tea and scone (me) at a small cafe on the main street. It was a lovely break, and set the tone for our whole trip, honestly. Less rush, rush, rush, and more taking time to relax and enjoy.

DH grabbed cash at a local bank, and since no shop would take cash for me to break a note, I scrounged in my change purse from our last trip to dig up a couple of pounds for the kind valet who grabbed our bags for us. Bags retrieved, we walked to the train station where the clerk at the window was so helpful. He even printed out the changes for me so I wouldn’t miss the two changes we needed for Henley-on-Thames. We had a short wait (15 minutes?) for our next train. Someone else even stopped to give us advice - perhaps we looked particularly confused? But everyone was just lovely.

We took the train from Windsor to Slough and transferred to Twyford and very nearly missed the train to Henley, except the station man pointed us in the right direction and then walked us there to make sure we got on. It was all very easy and seamless, except with all of the up and down stairs I was feeling every one of those 22 pounds of my bag.

We had about a 10-15 min walk from the station at Henley to our hotel (Hotel du Vin) which we did in the drizzly rain. We checked into the Bouchard room, which had a gorgeous walk-in shower and huge bathroom with separate tub, L’occitane toiletries, and heated towel rack. The room was quiet and overlooked a cemetery (I loved this, others might not). There was also a small fridge, and a small tv with a good range of stations. The bed was a king but did not feel like a true American king.

After settling in, we headed to the local Waitrose where we picked up wine, cheese, olives, chocolate biscuits, water, and ibuprofen. You know, the essentials. I had made same-day reservations at the Hart Street Tavern, so we headed there for dinner. The pizzas were very good, the fries too expensive for what they were, and the wine also very good. The service was excellent, and the overall ambiance lovely.

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Continued:
Henley-on-Thames and Race Day (Day 3):

TL/DR:
- Midsomer Tour was great, but do the multi-town tour if you have the time

The reason we were in Henley-on-Thames? DH had a Spartan Race nearby. The front desk was very helpful in getting him a taxi and the restaurant fed him breakfast, so all was good. I took my time getting ready and met my tour guide for my Midsomer Murders tour at 9AM. I met Graham in the lobby, and he was lovely. We tramped all over the town, from the river to the nursing home to the pedestrian square. We had enough time to visit a few non-MM areas of note as well. Next time, I’ll do the traveling tour which takes you to other villages. Around 80 pounds, I paid cash.

My tour ended around 11. It was a warm day, so I stopped in the room to drop my scarf and then headed to Boots for some anti-itch cream. Then to Tesco for a meal deal (salmon sandwich, olives, Pellegrino). The foldable grocery bag I kept in my purse was already coming in handy! I headed down to the river where I found a handy bench to enjoy my lunch and finish my book (A Fatal Footnote, the one I started on the plane).

I took a leisurely walk back to the hotel and, with the window open to a lovely afternoon and a Midsomer Murder on the tv, I took a little nap for an hour. Then I grabbed my next book (Murder in an English Village, how appropriate) and headed to the bar. I ordered an Aperol Spritz and settled in for an hour. Eventually DH joined me after his race and we chatted for a while. I sent him back to the room to get ready for dinner (ie, put on pants) and we walked to the Three Tuns for dinner. We ate outside in the courtyard, which was nice. Dinner was okay, I had a decent pasta and HD had a burger with some sticky toffee pudding for dessert.

Then on to the Argyll so I could have a drink in a MM location. We ended up chatting with two men who had also done the Spartan and spending a lovely hour talking travel and races. What a lovely ending to our time in this charming town.

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Henley-London-Edinburgh (Day 4):
Tl/DR: First class London to Edinburgh is a good deal
Get the 2 Together rail card if you will be doing more than 1 rail trip

This would be a long travel day. I had checked ahead of time, and there were 5 trains between 8-10AM that would work for our Edinburgh connection. DH kept pushing for an early departure, but we were both tired so I lobbied for a later train (and won). We packed up after 2 nights at the Hotel du Vin - I collected my underwear from the heated towel rack (nothing like keeping the place classy). I also took the few toiletries in small containers. Coffee/tea and snacks in the room, then we headed for the train station.

We left at 9 AM for the 9:30 and had enough time to buy tickets (I used the 2 Together rail card throughout, which I’d purchased before we left. It was about 50/50 for attendants asking for them). It was easy enough to change at Twyford, the Paddington train was delayed so we caught it at 9:54AM. It made up time, so we got to Paddington and took Hammersmith + City (using tap and pay) to Kings Cross. The walk from the tube station to the train station was sort of long, so keep that in mind.

We stumbled upon, rather than found, the First Class LNER lounge. And I think we timed it well, with about 90 minutes until our train. We were able to use toilets, have coffee/tea, water, and snacks. DH went to M&S to grab sandwiches. Our 1 PM train was called about 15 minutes before departure. After stopping DH from running into every dividing pillar at the station (Harry Potter), we made it to our car and found our seats. Even in First Class, it was difficult to get luggage space.

The staff immediately came through with corn nuts and water, then a fast follow with the Dish menu. DH and I both had the sweet potato salad. It came with a brownie bite. I had a glass of wine. Then coffee/tea and chocolate pots and more wine. We both read and took naps on the journey. I had hoped for a glimpse of York but was, perhaps, on the wrong side of the train.

We arrived on-time in rainy Edinburgh. I figured out which exit to use while DH made a bathroom stop. It was about a 10 minute walk to the Premier Inn York Place. I liked this hotel. Modern, and in a quieter residential area of Edinburgh. What I like about PIs is that they have everything you need and nothing you don’t. The room was large, with a chair, wardrobe, bed (king, felt smaller than an American), desk and tv. The bathroom had a tub (why are the sides so high?!).

On the train I’d begun to feel a tickle in my throat. Irritating, to say the least, especially with all of my hand washing, wipe downs of tray tables and handles, and vaccinations. I gargled with some warm salt water before we headed across the street to the Conan Doyle pub. Excellent dinner here, they were able to seat us even though we didn’t have a reservation. I had a lovely sweet potato pie while DH had a meat pie. They were out of the wine I ordered, so I ordered something else. Which they also didn’t have! So our wonderful waitress brought me a third wine on the house. Fantastic service!

After dinner we walked to the Royal Mile and investigated the things we’d be seeing the next day We stopped at a pub for a drink and started watching the quiz show The Chase. The friendly bartenders gave us a run-down of the rules, which was fun! Walk back to the hotel where I had some tea and DH’s purloined brownie bite and off to bed.

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Edinburgh (Day 5):

This was a Bank Holiday, which it would have been good of me to remember but more about that later.

Today we were headed to Holyrood Palace. DH found an easier, downhill route which I very much appreciated. We passed the Necropolis but didn’t pop in - don’t worry, we eventually see plenty of cemeteries.

In good time, we found Holyrood right by the striking Parliament Building. Getting in was no problem with our pre-purchased tickets. We picked up our audio guide (excellent) and soaked up the courtyard before heading inside. Ah, yes, Princess Anne, this is a very ‘homey’ house. The royals - they’re just like us!

It was amazing to see the painted ceilings, and the rooms where kings and popes were entertained. Queen Victoria’s breakfast room and the paintings that were covered for her delicate sensibilities! Prince Albert’s shower! And then the amazing rooms of Queen Mary and Lord Darnley. I can’t believe they let us go up the narrow, winding staircase to the Queen’s private rooms and the place where Rizzio was killed. So small!

And then, again, portraits that I have seen reproduced a dozen times in print, there in person. In awe, we finished with the state apartments and walked around the ruined abbey. It was a beautiful day, so we got wonderful pictures. Filled up on history, we stopped at the bathroom and shops and started walking to the Museum of Scotland.

Am I getting old? This felt like quite the walk, although Google tells me it’s just about a mile. We passed the Elephant House of JK Rowling fame and made it to the museum. And..here’s where I should have remembered it was a bank holiday. The museum was heaving with people and families.

I was most interested in the Scottish history area, where it was a bit quieter. The Lewis Chessman, the two remaining harps were a treat. So was the Robert the Bruce cup and the famous Mary Queen of Scots casket. I needed a ‘best of’ tour - the museum was huge and rambling.

DH suggested a lunch break, but all of the museum eateries were jammed. So we went out (free admission, so didn’t matter) and around the corner to the Doctors Orders pub. Quiet, super friendly staff, and decent food. I had a fish and chips (very good) and DH had a bizarre bbq chicken (chicken breast with bbq sauce and cheese?!). He ate it, so it couldn’t have been terrible. This was a welcome rest! We both had a pint. The day had turned gray and blustery, so we sat and took a minute.

After lunch, we stopped at Greyfriars Kirk. We took pictures of the dog statue inside (and watched as a visiting dog urinated on the statue. It’s what Bobby would have wanted). And visited some of the Harry Potter graves. The (forgettable, skip it) church has a HP map, but you can Google the graves for free.

Back to the museum. I checked out the (small) egyptian gallery and the picts/Vikings area and found Dolly. DH saw some armor and the rooftop viewing area. Exhausted, footsore, heads spinning, we left at 5PM as the museum closed.

We had a Mercat tour this evening and didn’t feel like walking back to the hotel and then back to the Royal Mile. We found a bar (Copper and Stills?) on the Royal Mile and popped in for beverages. It delivered soft seats and wine, so a good idea. We eavesdropped on some first dates (our favorite activity) and chilled for an hour.

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Continued (Day 5):
Now it was time for our Mercat tour. We met at the Mercat Cross and quickly checked in. Our guide, Steve, was a delight. We heard lots of ghost stories, visited the underground vaults, and saw Canongate Kirkyard. Somehow the stories were fun and entertaining without being exploitative? Highly recommend. The tour went a little long, so we weren’t done until 8:30. DH found a shortcut home, thank heaven! We stopped at our ‘local’ Tesco for a meal deal and wine - the essentials.

We had a room picnic. Unfortunately, I shared my love of McVite’s with DH and created a monster! We watched some horrifying tv - they have, uh, different views on nudity. Bellies full, we fell into bed.

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Continued:
Edinburgh (Day 6):**

Today was set aside for the Royal Yacht Britannia. The #11 bus had a stop right outside our hotel, so once we were ready and had coffee in hand, we popped outside…just to see a #11 pulling away. Luckily, they run every 10-15 minutes during rush hour so we didn’t have long to wait. We easily tapped in and since our stop was the last one, it literally couldn’t have been easier to find,

At Ocean Terminal, we hopped off the bus and followed the signs. There was the tiniest bit of a line, probably if we had waited a half hour it would have calmed down. The signs/exhibits in the pre-boarding area were excellent, definitely take your time with these.

Again, the audio guide was excellent for this attraction. For instance, we learned that officers had from 6-12 uniform changes a day (what?!). We loved that each rank/rating had a bar, especially since US ships are dry. And we had to research the rum measure, which was finally abolished in 1970.

We stopped at the cafe on board and each had a scone and tea/coffee. The wait was very long, so only stop here if you need to waste some time and/or get off your feet. Some of my favorite parts included the Queen’s sitting room, Prince Phillip’s uniform, and the double bed installed for Prince Charles’ wedded bliss.

DH suggested a drink in the town, but the map showed a fairly long walk so instead we simply hopped back on the bus. Back at ‘home’, we had a drink at the Conan Doyle Pub. It was quiet, which was a nice break. Then we walked down the street to the Portrait Gallery. This was better than I anticipated - the building was beautiful. But they had some nice portraits and the portrait of Queen Victoria we’ve all seen in books. I did lose the thread a bit when they kept using Jacobite titles for people, but eventually it was explained.

After the museum we took a nice walk around St Andrews square and had an early dinner at Dishoom. No reservations for dinner, but we were early so seated immediately. When we left, there was a line out the door. Everything we had was delicious (veggie samosas, black daal, butter chicken, salad, roti).

Full, we headed home. I love Indian food, but it doesn’t always love me (thank heaven for poo-pourri). Some bad tv (Windsor coronation special, The Chase) and an early night.

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I can’t be the only person who starts a ridiculous home project right before a trip

This made me laugh out loud... My husband! He always starts a project just before a major obligation of any sort...

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mdt, I’m really enjoying your trip report. It brings back memories of being in Edinburgh in ‘19. Thanks for sharing, waiting for more.

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When I posted earlier, I had only read the first couple of paragraphs. Now I'm caught up, and what a delightful read! I find myself laughing regularly, and nodding my head in agreement even more often.

Love the detail and your sense of humor. I'm eagerly awaiting more.

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mdt, I am loving your report so far. Your humorous descriptions are fun. Especially like the comment about Bobby’s approval of the dog peeing on the statue. Oh, and the poo-poree comment — 😁

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3292 posts

This is one of the most useful trip reports I've ever read. In September, we will be staying at the same Premier Inn in Edinburgh, and spending our last night in Windsor. The Royal Yacht Britannia is the one thing I really want to see in Edinburgh.

Thank you so much for posting.

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Thank you all so much for the kind replies! I learned so much from this forum over my year of planning that I'm delighted to be able to give back:

Edinburgh (Day 7):

Our last day in Edinburgh. Today we had scheduled the castle, as the day before it was closing early. We left at 9AM for our 9:30-10AM entry. You guys. The walk up that hill. I had already spent a week at sea level, so my altitude acclimatization was gone, darn it. I needed a break at the top of that hill and gulped down the iced tea I had bought.

It was no trouble to scan our online tickets for real ones, but then the line to get in was very long. Luckily it moved quickly and then, once inside, people took off in different directions. Much like Disney World. We picked up our audio guides and maybe I just wasn’t in the mood, but I felt this was the weakest of the audio guides we’d had so far.

We started with the audio guide and followed the map to the war museum. We spent quite a bit of time in the war museum (Waterloo is sure important to them, huh?). Probably longer than most people would spend, but DH really enjoyed it. Next was the Officer’s Quarters and Regimental Museum and finally I had to divert us to something I would enjoy - the prisons. Look, I’m not saying I’d line up for that prison, I’m just saying I’ve seen worse (I’m looking at you, old Ohio State Reformatory). The story of the breakout was very interesting as well.

St Margaret’s Chapel (touching, peaceful) and the big gun (less peaceful) and then we walked down the steps for a view of the 1 PM gun (and all I could think of was Poirot in Evil Under the Sun talking about the noon-day gun).

Then we tromped backup the hill for the Scottish War Memorial. I did the Honours of Scotland, where it was very cool to see the Stone of Scone missing for the coronation (can it be cool to see an absence?) and the rooms where King James was born. The Great Hall was stunning, and I did enjoy the commentary in here.

We were done by around 2PM. I stopped for some postcards at the bottom of the hill and we continued on to the National Gallery. We found the cafe where I had a tea and scone and DH had a beer and venison, so we were both happy. The museum is undergoing a renovation and much is closed, so it was a fast stop. But I really wanted to see the Monarch of the Glen and Skating on Duddingston Loch and both were on display, so I was satisfied.

We headed back to the hotel for a rest and a nap. After about an hour we were off again to Howie’s on Victoria Street. What a lovely dinner! I had the salmon and the toffee pudding and DH had a steak and we shared a bottle of Sauvignon Blanc on special for their anniversary. Great service, great food. Then we were going to have a drink at our ‘local’, the Conan Doyle, but it was packed so we continued on to the pub next to the Edinburgh Playhouse. I had a tonic water and DH had a beer. Bathroom break and then next door to see Six!

If you get a chance, you should see Six! There was so much energy in that room, and the performances were outstanding. It was in turns fun, funny, and incredibly touching. We had great seats in row 2 of the balcony, and I was shocked at how inexpensive they were (especially considering the cost of the show in Vegas).

We stopped at Tesco on the way home for water and chocolate biscuits and spent the evening packing up - tomorrow we move on from Edinburgh!

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mdtraveler, I'm loving this report. It's super helpful and entertaining.

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3806 posts

Great trip report! Thanks for writing it! I'm really enjoying reading this.

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Inverness (Day 8):

A bit of background on this. DH had specifically requested a trip to Culloden battlefield. And, once he heard about nearby Ft George he wanted to see that as well. While possible to do via public transit, it was all getting to be a bit much. Which is when I decided to splurge and use my experience money. Every year, my company gives employees a stipend to enjoy an ‘experience’ - some people fly to Italy, some buy paddleboards, some take a class on video editing. I decided to do a private tour.

So at 9:30AM we met our driver, Craig, in front of our hotel. The Mercedes van was lovely and clean as a whistle. We did a couple of scenic stops on the way out of town (the school that supposedly inspired Hogwarts) and then had quite a bit of highway driving.

On the way we stopped at the Hermitage and did a really nice short walk to a waterfall and overlook (got in just before the wedding). Then we stopped at a very fancy mall with a lovely food hall (think a country version of Harrod’s). The bathrooms there were so nice I didn’t realize I was in the ladies’ room, it just looked like a lounge and was bigger than my first apartment.

Eventually in the early afternoon we made it to Fort George. You could tell Craig thought we were slightly insane but he was a good sport (also, we were paying him). We toured the site and Craig had done his homework to give us some details. I thoroughly enjoyed the re-created solider’s rooms and prison and DH enjoyed the regimental museum and weapon collection. The views from the top of the walls were stunning, I could have stood there all day. It was blustery and chilly but clear blue skies and sun, so a perfect day.

We had the option of doing Clava Cairns then, but DH said no and since this was his portion of the trip, that was fine by me. Craig dropped us at our Mercure hotel in Inverness and made plans to meet at 9AM the next day. The hotel has a definite 1960s brutalism vibe, but inside is pretty nice. Small but the window opens for fresh air and it was quiet. We had a nice view of the river.

Then I found out why DH wanted to leave when he did - he went to a crossfit drop in. He had brought some t-shirts from his crossfit to share and had fun visiting various gyms throughout our trip. While he did that, I went for a walk along the river. I found a lovely tribute to WWI veterans and enjoyed the quiet evening.

By the time DH was back and had showered it was past 8, and finding a place for food became a little difficult. The pub Craig had recommended was setting up for live music and didn’t have any tables available. The second place also had no tables. The third place was about to close for unexpected maintenance. Finally we stopped at Bella Italia and, although they were also about to stop serving, could fit us in if we ordered quickly. We were happy to, and our waitress was lovely. The pizzas weren’t exactly ground breaking, but they were hot and fast and so we were both satisfied.

Earlier on my walk I had stopped by the co-op for water, cough drops, wine, and chocolate biscuits (I will accept no judgment, I’m on vacation). And when we got back I also figured out how to open the window - user error on my part. The ‘king’ bed here was more queen sized and the bathroom was tiny, but everything was clean and tidy. We enjoyed some terrible British quiz show and got some rest for a busy day.

I know Inverness doesn’t get a lot of love on here, but it was a great stop for an evening.

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Inverness - Glasgow (Day 9):

DH was up early and out to find coffee and a sausage roll, while I finished packing. We met in the lobby just before 9 AM and Craig was right on time.

Today Culloden was our first stop. We did the visitor’s center, and it was wonderful. Really set the context for what we saw and provided a lot of history and details. The film was very good, but the digital map really let us see how the battle unfolded. We spent about an hour in there. Afterwards, Craig took us onto the battlefield and gave us some context and stories. It was moving, although not much is left. There are some stones marking the graves of clans, and of course the Outlander stone is marked off, but otherwise it’s not exactly Gettysburg. Without the visitor’s center and/or Craig it would have fallen a bit flat.

It was a gray, chilly day and perfectly atmospheric for this stop. A quick bathroom break and we were on our way to Clava Cairns. I really enjoyed this stop, and there is no interpretation on-site so it was nice to get the commentary from Craig. We spent some time exploring, walking into the sites, and taking pictures. Since we could move quickly, we were able to finish before two large PaddyWagon buses disgorged their visitors.

Now time to retrace our steps to Glasgow with mostly highway driving. We stopped in Pitolchry for lunch, just sandwiches at Greggs and a quick stop. Unfortunately we got stopped in a terrible traffic jam. Luckily we just ate cookies and chatted while we waited it out.

As a special treat, we stopped at Bannockburn as we got close to Glasgow. It was lovely to see the giant statue and hear the story of the ax and the story of the queen unveiling the statue. At my special request we did a drive-by of the Kelpies, and then our tour was over. We were dropped at the Holiday Inn Express Riverside.

A few notes on our tour: Craig was easy to contact and we worked out our itinerary before hand, although he did slip in a few welcome surprises. I pre-paid via paypal and Craig handled his own food/lodging/and any entrance fees. We also tipped.

Weirdly, we had the exact same room number tonight as last night. The area looked a bit dodgy, but was actually very nice and felt safe (of course, we were generally in by 9PM!). Actual king bed, good air flow, nice tv selection (last night was A Fish Called Wanda, tonight was some Father Brown).

We dropped our bags and took an orienting walk. DH picked Pavement for dinner, a lovely small spot with a limited menu but very good (veggie burger, chicken shawarma) and a dog at the next table who was absolutely appalled he couldn’t sit on a chair.

Although we did a lot of sitting today, we were both exhausted so an early night.

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Glasgow (Day 10):

Coronation Day! DH did a cross-fit drop in this morning. This interfered with my timed entry tickets to Stirling Castle, but I figured (correctly) that they would still let us in. While he was out, I popped down the block to the Sainsbury’s Local and picked up meal deals to have for lunch. Our hotel had a free breakfast, so I also enjoyed that. Then I watched part of the coronation coverage until DH got back and took a shower/changed.

We had scoped out Queen Street Station the night before, so it was easy to find. I bought tickets on the 10:41 to Stirling using the 2 Together rail card. The trip to Stirling was easy, and so was locating the castle. We just walked up. And up. And up. Whew! I was exhausted and sweaty when we arrived. The folks at the entrance couldn’t have been nicer, exchanging my QR code for tickets and our audio guides.

They were doing a special 21 Gun Salute in the courtyard in honor of the coronation, and since it was just about time for that we loitered in that area until the ceremony began. It was a nice treat. After that we toured the Royal Apartments, where there were some live interpreters. Between that and the audio guides you really learned a lot about the buildings. We saw the new Tudor heads and the old ones before breaking for lunch. It was dreary and trying to rain, so we sat underneath the awning at the little coffee stand. It was nice to have our meal deals rather than trying to find something at the cafe on site.

The kitchens had a nice recreation, but my favorite part was the walk around the ramparts and, surprisingly, the exhibit on the tapestries where we both sat through the entire 7 minute video, enthralled with the work and expertise that went into those.

We checked out some canons, the gardens, and the shops and we were done. All told around 3 hours, and we didn’t rush and listened to all of the audio guide. At least the walk back to town was downhill! Unsurprisingly, we stopped at a pub for a drink and chatted with some fellow Americans before ending up at the train station and catching the next train to Glasgow.

We were back in Glasgow at around 5PM. I had made reservation while we were in the pub, so we had time to briefly rest and freshen up at the hotel before our dinner at Citizen M. This was in my top 3 dinners of the trip. Great ambiance, attentive service. I had mussels and frites and DH had a chicken curry and for dessert a Bailey’s cheesecake. Lovely meal. Bellies full, we toddled home to pack for our next city.

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I’m loving this trip report, feels like I’m along for the ride! Keep it coming. V V impressed, your husband is the workout god. Doesn’t just eat everything in sight and hope the extra walking will make up for it, eh?

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Lyndash - I'm the one who eats everything and counts on the walking to burn it off!!
Glasgow - Dublin (Day 11):

Addendum: DH wants me to mention that Citizen M is a hotel, it's just Citizen for the restaurant. Also that we got to do our favorite thing at this restaurant - eavesdrop on a date going on at the next table.

No rush today. It was Sunday, and our destination was Kelvingrove. The museum didn’t even open until 11 AM. We separately had breakfast downstairs, then finished packing and left our bags at the hotel. Oof, the bags are getting thicker and I’m almost out of clean clothes. Good thing we have access to a washer/dryer starting tonight in Dublin.

Business done, we headed to the subway for Kelvingrove. The subway is so small! Super efficient though and easy to navigate and buy tickets for. We got off at the correct stop of Kelvin Bridge and had about a 20 minute walk through the park. The first part felt pretty dodgy, but after that it opened up into a nice, well-trafficked city park. There were signs, so even the directionally impaired like me were fine.

We arrived at Kelvingrove right as it opened. I was more interested in the art/Mackintosh area and DH spent more time in the weapons/armour area. The Christ of Saint John of the Cross is definitely their treasure, and the room they have it in gives space for quiet reflection. But don’t sleep on the Scottish artists, especially the early 20s-30s work that is striking. We also both really enjoyed the Mackintosh exhibits and the back story on the tea rooms

I really enjoyed my time here, and we definitely didn’t rush through. All cultured up, we went back to the subway and headed back to the town center. It was very busy as we got closer to downtown. We had lunch at Nonna Said, a cute pizza place. There was a soccer game on, so many places were full and rowdy.

We had plenty of time to relax ahead of our evening flight. Eventually we went back to the hotel and grabbed our bags and pushed the button for a taxi, which arrived in under 10 minutes. I thought 30 pounds was a bit pricey for the fast trip to the Glasgow airport, but fine. Better than hauling our luggage to the bus station in the drizzly rain, I guess.

We were on Ryan Air. Everything is extra on Ryan, but since we had both checked bags and cabin bags I just handed over all the money and had priority boarding too. At this airport, Ryan had zero announcements for boarding, gate changes (we went to one gate, and figured it out when the gate emptied out), or priority boarding. The flight was also late and I couldn’t understand any of the announcements from the crew or pilot. That said, the plane got there and, as we’ll learn, that alone made Ryan Air the hero of the second half of our trip. More about that later.

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Continued:

We landed in Dublin safely and had our passports stamped for the first and only time on this trip. Being American actually helped here, since everyone from our flight went to the UK/EU passport control and we were with 3 other people in the ‘other’ line. Getting our baggage was super quick, and before we knew it we were outside at the AIrport Xpress bus. Buying tickets was easy, and we were already learning the Irish were some of the nicest folks in the world. I told the ticket person where I wanted to go, and she said ‘oh no, get off at this stop instead, it’s just across the bridge and will save you 20 minutes on the bus’.

In no time we were at the Wellington Quay stop, where I learned that our ‘UK/Ireland’ sim cards were really only UK. In that neither of our phones worked. Luckily, I had written down the day’s itinerary and any directions on an index card for every day. It was an easy walk to our hotel of Staycity Aparthotel on Little Mary St. I felt safe in this neighborhood, even at night and being out early and back late as we often were. There was a hopping gay bar on the corner, several s@x shops, and some loitering around the pubs by young people. There were also plenty of families, young women out, and couples. I just mention it because it is often mentioned in the trip adivsor reviews for this hotel.

We had an incredibly warm welcome from the staff, especially given how late it was. The room was very clean. It had 2 twin beds, which DH put together to make a king-ish bed (the latched together, so one of us didn’t fall down the crack). There was also a comfy chair and a small round table with a chair and a stool. The kitchenette had everything you needed for a simple meal, like pasta or a ready meal. The room slept 3, so there were 3 of everything (forks, plates, etc). The staff was happy to bring you more of anything, including towels, that you needed between cleanings. The bathroom was tiny - I was a sticky toffee pudding away from not fitting in the shower. And since the main shelf was behind the toilet, it was an exercise in making sure we didn’t lose anything down the loo. The tv had good selection and the airflow was good.

We settled in quickly, since it was late and I had work the next day! We came up with a game plan for phones and looked forward to the next phase of our trip.

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Dublin: (Day 12):

First day in Dublin and first day back to work. I was up early so I could be at work by 8 AM for no earthly reason - as I learned, our European counterparts don’t work that early. Anyway, it was about a 20 minute walk, involving one wrong turn since I only had screenshots of the direction I had captured using the hotel wifi. I spent most of the day meeting the team and catching up on emails. DH spent the day investigating the neighborhood, doing some grocery shopping, and getting all of the laundry done.

We had yummy curries for dinner at the apartment, then headed over to the Ha’Penny Inn for our Musical Pub Crawl. At only around 19 pounds a person, this was a bargain. We met upstairs and our coordinator greeted us and put us at our table which we shared with two other Americans on a sister trip who were also from out West. We grabbed a round of drinks and settled in for a delightful hour or so of traditional music and stories. Time to finish drinks and hit the bathroom, and we walked quite a ways to our next location that was a restaurant basement (very different vibe) where we continued stories and music.

Our fellow tourists were delightful, the musicians were wonderful, and overall it was just a lovely and entertaining evening. We met around 7 PM and were done around 11 PM, so a very full night. It was pouring when we arrived at the first pub, but by the time we left it was a beautiful evening. Again, walking back to our neighborhood at 11 PM was no trouble and we never felt unsafe. DH had got a new Ireland sim card for his phone which helped w/ directions since you end at a different spot than you began. I didn’t bother, since for most of the day I’d be at work where I had wifi and if not we’d be together.

A glass of wine and some reading and we were ready for bed.

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Dublin (Day 13):

Another day at work for me, with a more normal start-time and an easier walk now that I knew the way. Just a note, but work provided both breakfast and a hot, cooked lunch for me. So that was definitely a savings. DH enjoyed the EPIC museum and the famine ship today. I have zero Irish ancestry, but DH’s grandfather (who just died two years ago) came as a child from Ireland to America. So it was great for him to have that experience.

DH came by work around 4PM and we headed to Teeling Distillery for our pre-booked tour. We passed by St Patrick’s and I took some pictures, and eventually we found Teelings. We were early, and they were able to get us onto the 5:20 instead of the 5:40 tour.

Our guide was great (strong French accent, but no trouble understanding him and his immense enthusiasm for the work). We learned about the Dublin distilleries closing (prohibition and break with the UK) and enjoyed a short video before having an opportunity to ‘meet’ the stills and then the (fake) storing room. The tasting itself was nice, I found the straight whiskey a bit much but the cocktail was delicious. They encouraged us to take our time and hang out, and the staff could not have been more welcoming or helpful. Also, this distillery has later tastings than most others, so you can fit this into a full day of sight-seeing.

It had rained during our visit, but was clear on the long-ish walk home. We stopped at a Spar for dinner but found the offerings sparse so walked onto Lidl where we got ready-meals (Irish dinner for DH, egg sandwich for me) with some little snacks, like cheese spread and crackers and biscuits.

Our tv offerings included a station called ‘great movies’ which was a bit of a misnomer. For instance, over the week we ‘enjoyed’ Under Siege, The Rock, The General’s Daughter, and a Fast and Furiouser. Not to mention DH’s disturbing addiction to The Chase (oh no, not the beast! Is something I heard him exclaim at one point). Anyway, we ate our Lidl treats and were in bed early.

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Dublin (Day 14):

Can you have a rest day on vacation? Why not! I went to work per normal, while DH enjoyed the National Museum of Ireland (Decorative Arts) and came home with many stories of the Asgard, which was absolutely the highlight for him. He also had a delicious lamb stew at the pub near the hotel. To be honest, the Decorative Arts museum was on my list for Saturday, but when I saw the map I decided it didn’t have quite enough to entice me over there and I think that was a good decision.

Once home, DH made some pasta for dinner and cheese and crackers for snacks, we enjoyed some wine and some bad 90s movies along with reading and were in bed super early.

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Dublin (Day 15):

Another work day for me, while DH did another cross fit drop-in and visited St Patrick’s cathedral and was really taken with it. I was home by 4:30, enough time to drop my backpack and freshen up a bit. Then we walked back in the direction of my office, but veered off and headed to the National Gallery for their Thursday Lates. I’m very glad we did this, and equally glad we didn’t waste part of our Saturday on this. The museum is free, which is nice. They do not have many treasures, although you can enjoy a Picasso, Monet, and Rembrandt. The Irish works are very nice, and the Irish Princess saga is very good indeed. You won’t regret an hour or two here, but if you don’t have time to make it don’t feel bad.

After enjoying the museum, we headed back to my office for a Eurovision viewing party. The office has an on-site pub, so we grabbed drinks and enjoyed about an hour of the show. The bad news, I got in trouble as evidently you aren’t supposed to bring guests (my colleagues the next day told me that being yelled at by the office experience officer was an absolute right of passage, and I was a true Dubliner now). The other bad news was that this somehow hooked us on Eurovision (and Dh on Hannah Waddingham). After some time at the office we headed home. The Spar near my office had an excellent selection, so we stopped there for sandwiches/snacks and then went directly home where we enjoyed the rest of the show!

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Dublin (Day 16):

Last work day for me! I had definitely enjoyed my time at the Dublin office and appreciated the opportunity to keep in touch with my office, take calls, and keep up to date on email. Friday was a very quiet day in the office, and I actually headed for home shortly after lunch at about 1:30 pm. A short stop at home, where I learned DH had enjoyed some Dublin time and almost took a river tour before realizing he probably didn’t have time before I arrived. We started walking towards the Guinness Storehouse.

It had been 13 years since we did this tour, and things had changed! Last time we rolled up and bought tickets on site, this time they were strictly limiting entry and appeared to be sold out for the day. I had purchased tickets ahead of time so we were good to enter.

I felt like I remembered there was more advertising stuff - but maybe I misremembered? It was fun, but probably not worth the cost of admission for a second visit. The Gravity Bar was amazing, that is definitely worth it. We grabbed our drinks, a table by the window, and eventually had a nice visit with a Canadian couple.

We found some treasures at the shop and then walked home and had dinner at our ‘local’. DH had enjoyed the lamb stew there earlier in the week and had it again. I had a very indifferent fish & chips. We stopped at our local Spar for wine and chocolate, and then back to the hotel for The Chase and The General’s Daughter.

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The "bizarre bbq chicken with cheese" would be "Hunter's Chicken"

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Loved your report, thank you so much for taking the time to write it. Enjoyed re-living memories of places we also visited in 2018, and made some notes for places we didn’t get to.

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Dublin (Day 17):

Today was a Saturday, so no early start since no museum opened until 10AM. So we had a leisurely morning, and then headed out around 10:30 AM for the archaeology museum. We stopped at a coffee shop for coffee for the walk, and I stopped at the Kilkenny Shop while DH finished his coffee. This is a great shop with nearly anything you could want from Irish artisans and shops, I found a lovely bird painting to bring home.

Eventually we made it to the museum. I really enjoyed this one - it was relatively small but told a nice story. I enjoyed the gold hordes, types of goldwork, and the bog people. I also really loved the church artifacts and psalter. The upstairs galleries were nice, but if you have to skip them it’s probably not a huge loss.

The building is impressive as well, so take a moment to enjoy it. The gift shop is nothing special.

We were peckish, so we walked down the street and found the delightful Lemon & Duke on a pedestrian side street. The whole street was fun on this Saturday, with lots of sidewalk dining. We joined the folks having brunch (avocado toast and a white wine for me - is it even brunch if you don’t have a white wine spritzer of some kind?). DH had the hangover breakfast.

After a delicious brunch we walked to Merrion Square for the Oscar Wilde statue and enjoyed a walk around the park. We had 4PM reservations at Roe & Co for a cocktail making class, so we started to head in that direction. It was a fairly long walk, but eventually we made it and had enough time to sit and relax before our class started.

Sean was our tour guide, and what a hoot he was. We got the regular talk on the rise and fall of Dublin distilleries and got a glimpse of the production room (nothing was brewing. Distilling?). But then the fun part - the cocktail class. We were in a large room and everyone had a workbench and a box of goodies. We tasted the whiskey, then learned about the different flavors that go into a cocktail. Once we picked our flavors, we were making cocktails and shaking our tails off. Sean went through and graded us! After the very fun class, we went down to reserved seats at the bar and were served another cocktail. This was a very fun variation on a typical tour and tasting, and I highly recommend it.

We had a long walk back, but it was still fairly early. DH started a load of laundry and I walked to Lidl to pick up dinner - Irish dinner quick meal for DH, pesto pasta salad for me and a yummy loaf of brown bread and butter. I found a Midsomer Murder marathon, DH played a computer game, and we had a quiet night.

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Dublin (Day 18):

This was our final day in Dublin. We had scheduled a day trip with Irish Day Tours which met at the Molly Malone statue and had an early start, so we were up pretty early. We waited at the statue for our tour. And waited. Eventually I was able to call, and they told me that they had canceled the tour and tried to reach me, although I had neither an email nor a phone message from them.

I was upset, mostly at myself for not calling to confirm and feeling that ‘kick rocks’ regret that I’d ruined our day, etc. As usual, DH was on the case. He stopped at Spar and picked up a bottled iced tea and croissant for me. By the time we were back at our hotel and I had some food and caffeine, I was already game planning.

I complained heartily about having to cart my macbook pro around, but this was one of two times it came in really handy. Being able to look things up and book on a large screen rather than my phone was really helpful. I was able to quickly schedule a Paddywagon ½ day tour to Glendalough (did I know anything about that area? I did not.) And then I remembered that the woman at the Gravity Bar had mentioned Kilmainham Gaol tour, which had additional tickets released at 9:15 AM. Well, it was 9:25 so I gave it a shot and was able to get 11AM tickets for us.

Our new day was planned. We had some coffee and snacks and I ordered a taxi and we were on our way in about an hour. The taxi was easy to schedule from the front desk, but it was expensive at 14 euros.

The gaol was wonderful, an absolute highlight of our trip. From the exhibits to the tour guides who obviously have a passion for the subject, it was a great experience. It’s amazing how present the uprisings still feel in these historic settings. The museum is informative and continues to fill in the gaps. The Last Words exhibit is moving if not terribly informative (I’d love to learn what happened to those left behind). And the focus on the 1916 time period does mean that you don’t learn as much about the jail as you otherwise would (what can I say - I love a good jail). But overall, we agreed it was a wonderful tour.

We left at around 1PM and took a taxi back to city centre (taxis were easy to find, and there’s a hotel across the street where you can pick one up). We grabbed a hurried lunch at a Spar (egg salad, chicken wrap, shared chips and a tea). We ate there, and let me just say thank heavens for Clorox wipes. It was starting to rain, but we made it to the Molly Malone statue. This time the tour showed up! The bus was packed and we were jammed into the middle seats in the back, but the guide had plenty of good stories on our way to Wicklow.

I honestly did not know what this tour was about, it was simply the only half day tour with availability. Turns out we were going to a monastic area and then taking a gentle walk to a lake. The weather was lovely, sunny and mild. We spent some time in the cemetery/monastic shells before taking a 20 minute walk to the lake. Pictures, enjoying the breeze, and sitting by the shoreline was lovely. We even saw some lambs on the way. We walked through some more of the churches, had a bathroom break, and it was time to get back on the bus.

This time I sat in an aisle seat that was free, while DH took our seats in back. This was much better for me, as I had gotten a little ill on the way up. But there isn’t a lot to see from the bus, so don’t worry that you’re missing much if you don’t have a window seat.

Just a note, they don’t drop you off where you were picked up. On our walk home we stopped by a nicer grocery for dinner (chicken tikka, pasta) and spent the rest of the evening packing, cleaning, and getting ready for an early morning.

My thanks if you’ve made it this far - only 2 more countries to go!!

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Northern Ireland (Day 19):

We had a 7:30 AM train to Belfast, so we were up early - trying to finish up our biscuits and tea that we’d bought throughout the week. Checkout was super simple, and we were sad to leave the lovely staff at the Aparthotel Dublin (but not the exorbitant cost). We walked to the train, which wasn’t far and was easy with such little traffic. DH grabbed a coffee and sausage roll from the shop across the street, and then we easily picked up our pre-purchased tickets. Our train was broken, so we had to move from lounge 2 to track 5. Overall, we were about 30 minutes late leaving and our seating assignments were invalid. However, there was plenty of room and the communication at the station was great. I don’t know where luggage storage was, as ours fit above the seats.

The station at Belfast seemed quite small for the main city, but it did make it easy to navigate. We did the usual bathrooms/coffee stop and had planned to walk to the hotel. Good thing, as there were no cabs. My phone now worked again and DH’s didn’t, if you were following the phone lottery we were experiencing. It was windy and overcast, but the walk to Premier Inn Titanic Quarter was straightforward.

We dropped our bags and walked behind the hotel to find a Spar (DH’s new true love) and the Titanic Museum looming in the distance. I had pre-purchased tickets and the audio tour. The audio tour here is absolutely wonderful, definitely get it. We really enjoyed how each part of the building itself is also part of the story. This is a different take on the Titanic story than you may have experienced - most of the focus is on the town and the building of the ship. Yes, we did the ride (15 minute wait, enough for DH to run to the bathroom while I was in line).

It was surprisingly moving, hearing about the building, and experiencing the launch. But of course, we knew what was to come. The fitting out rooms are excellent, I spent the most time here. I also took my time with the sinking galleries, which were exceptionally well done. I appreciated that they purposefully didn’t have artifacts of the sinking, because they consider it to be a graveyard.

Overall, a very well done experience (and it does feel like an experience rather than a museum) and wonderful incorporation of the building itself into the story. After the main museum we grabbed sandwiches there and visited the store, then explored the Nomadic. Not nearly as well done, but interesting none the less.

We headed back to the hotel. On first glance, it was fine. The rooms were pretty run-down and the bed not nearly the comfortable one I expect from Premier Inn. The staff was great as usual. I got an extraordinary rate on this hotel, but overall would not stay here again given the state of it. Anyway, DH did a cross-fit drop in class and I watched some quality old NCIS episodes. When he returned we ordered a pizza and just relaxed from our early start.

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Northern Ireland (Day 20):

Today we were scheduled for an Odyssey Tour (this time I called to make sure, and we were on!). With an 8:45 meeting time and a half hour walk, we again had an early morning. DH had breakfast in the hotel while I finished getting ready. We stopped at the Spar behind the hotel for meal deals for our tour day. It was hard to find a tour that did everything we wanted, without spending an hour or 90 minutes at a lunch spot. We were lucky to find this one.

We arrived at the meeting spot at 8:35 and our driver, Paul, was already there. A perfect guide, he gave us all a hard time but told great stories and was a fun addition to the day. We were on a small coach, not a large 40-person bus.

We left at 9AM on the dot and left behind 2 participants who hadn’t arrived in time. Our first stop was a small coastal town for bathrooms and a shop for lunch supplies. We met Paddy the carrier pigeon and took lovely photos. I got a tea and DH got a candy bar. Then hopped back on the bus to carrick-a-rede bridge - or at least the viewing point. This was a fun stop, and I didn’t mind that we couldn't cross the bridge. In fact I think our vantage point was a little better.

We continued along the coastal road, with lots of great stories from Paul (hauntings! Weird towns! Eccentric rich people!). We arrived at Giant’s Causeway for a 1 hr 45 minute stop. DH and I chose to walk down to the site, and it was no trouble ( I reserved 2 pounds in case we wanted the bus up). The site is spectacular. It felt like one of our national parks, how they just let you scramble all over things. There was a staff member there giving some direction due to a very slippery spot.

We spent a good amount of time enjoying the stunning natural beauty, then walked back up. Actually, the walk up only took about 15 minutes and we weren’t rushing. So not bad at all. We enjoyed lunch on a bench and then hit the bathrooms before getting back on our bus.

It was a short trip to our next stop, Dunloce Castle where we just had a photo stop. I would have rather been able to walk around the castle for a better view and skipped the hedges, but that’s a public tour instead of a private one. The next stop was Bushmills. A quick 30 minute stop was just enough time to do a tasting and a bathroom break. They have the tastings already poured, like the well-oiled tourist machine it is. They are very generous pours - we each did a tasting but could have shared one. The staff, as always, was very helpful and fun.

We almost lost a couple at this stop, Paul had to go in search of them. I would have loved 45 minutes instead of 30 here, but again. Public tour. Our final stop was the Dark Hedges, which was nice but we’re not GoT fans so definitely not a necessity. The draw here was the delicious ice cream and clean bathrooms. Then back to Belfast! Highly recommend this tour.
We were in the city center, so I stopped at Waterstones for an emergency book ( I was already on my last of 5 I brought) and then Wagamama for dinner (chicken noodles, tofu pad thai, bao buns). A long walk home, water and wine from Spar, and then up to the room. I had to run back downstairs for glasses, and to tell the staff about the full diaper in the hallway. This hotel did not impress with its cleanliness.

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Yay! You’re back😊. I’m so enjoying your trip report, especially the Irish part 🇮🇪. 3 of my grandparents were born and raised in Ireland (before the ‘16 Rising) so I have a huge soft spot for all things Irish even though I haven’t been since 1980. I loved seeing Glendalough way back then. I can’t wait to hear more.

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Northern Ireland (Day 21):

And now for what turned out to be a pretty frustrating day. Our plan was to do the SS Caroline, the last remaining ship from the Battle of Jutland. But since we had an evening flight to Leeds, I wanted to do something else as well. I scheduled a black cab tour, mentioned in RS book, for us at 12PM. This meant I had to go down to the breakfast buffet and hurry DH along, given the chance he’ll spend 3 hours drinking coffee and reading on his phone.

Once we reached the ship, we only had about 90 minutes before we’d need to leave for our tour (I tried for an hour later, but no go). So we rushed through the inside exhibits to get to the ship. Again, this had a really great audio tour. I really enjoyed climbing all over the ship and hearing stories from its time as a warship. The staff, as per usual, was absolutely lovely.

We needed to grab cash for our tour, but of course the cash point was blocked off for window washing?! Instead we grabbed bottled drinks at the Spar and waited for our cab. After about 10 minutes, I got a call from the excellent driver who was at the wrong Titanic hotel (the nice one, probably) and he was there in 5 minutes.

What an informative tour! I was shocked to learn about the current divisions in the modern town. Sure, I watched Derry Girls, but I had no idea so much division was still ongoing. Shutting down streets at night, barbed wire fences, and roadside shrines. It was quite the education. Definitely consider this if your time in Belfast allows.

We had him drop us at the Titanic Museum where we again grabbed sandwiches and then went back to the Caroline. We spent some time with the internal exhibits this time, and considered going on board to do the film we missed the first time, but then we were lured away by the Titanic Distillery. They had a lovely bar in the courtyard, and we had both their whisky and vodka drinks, which were both yummy.

Back to the hotel where we picked up the bags and grabbed a cab to the airport. We were flying Aer Lingus from the city airport to Leeds. Checking in was easy, my backpack was flagged and searched with no big wait. We were in line for boarding when they announced that our flight was canceled.

And here began an odyssey. First, they sent us to the check-in desk, after grabbing luggage (DH waited for luggage, I got in line). Then they sent us out of the line. An airline rep came to tell us they would not be doing anything for us at the airport. But we’d get an email with our re-booked flights in about an hour, and could call if those didn’t work for us.

So I booked a hotel on booking.com (I generally book direct, but I didn’t have that kind of time). Believe it or not, the first hotel I booked with canceled my booking while I was in the taxi line! So I booked Ibis Belfast and that one stuck. We took a cab from the airport back to Belfast and checked in. Very clean, modern hotel. I liked the almost Scandinavian look, but DH thought the walls were thin.

They gave us a great recommendation for dinner, and we had a relaxing evening at Mourne where the staff went above and beyond to make us feel at home. Delicious dinner (DH ate vegan again, which was an interesting choice but he enjoyed it).

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Continued:
And yet no email from Aer Lingus. So I hopped on the phone, where, to my surprise, they informed me that my flight had not been canceled. I insisted that it had been, but they had not been told yet by Emerald, so to them it hadn’t been. After over an hour on the phone, I finally got them to confirm it had been canceled and put us on 2 different flights to Leeds the next day. But then my tickets had not been released yet, so they could not actually book the tickets. They told me to call back the next morning (which they also told me at the beginning of the call). I said wouldn’t the tickets be gone by then? Well, yes, they admitted. They would be. But they could possibly get me to Leed on Friday or Saturday. This was Wednesday.

This was the second time my computer was helpful. While on with the unbelievably unhelpful Aer Lingus rep, I was able to get tickets from Belfast International to Manchester on Ryan, and then a train from Manchester to Leeds. Yes, we were losing most of a day in Leeds, but we’d still make our day at the Royal Armouries Museum which was our actual purpose in going.

Overall, Aer Lingus needlessly made our evening stressful and difficult and Ryan Air saved the day. This was not a fun night, to be honest. However, having the resources (cash and internet) to be able to figure it out and get us where we needed to go made it less stressful.

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Belfast - Leeds (Day 22):

We had a 10AM flight to Leeds from the International Airport, so it was another early morning. We had heard bad things, but this airport turned out to be super easy. We got boarding passes and checked luggage (again, I just threw money at Ryan Air to make the pain stop) and then were done with security very quickly (this time DH’s backpack got extra scrutiny). The flight left on time and wasn’t full - I bought us both aisle seats, and we each had an empty seat next to us. Interestingly, there were two folks on our flight that I recognized from our canceled flight the day before.

We got off the flight, picked up our luggage (there before we were). We walked to the train station and had just enough time before boarding a train to get a bathroom break in. A one-hourish trip on the train (sitting across from that couple from our canceled flight!) and we were finally in Leeds. The train station here is under construction, so factor that in. The taxi line was crazy and the walkways weren’t much better, but we finally navigated out and made the walk to our hotel (Premier Inn Leeds Arena). When we checked in, they knew exactly who we were thanks to the great PI in Belfast. We went upstairs to our room, the hotel felt very dorm-like, but the room was big and had good air flow. The original plan was a trip to Harewood House, but it was already 2PM and I didn’t think we’d have enough time to get there and enjoy it in under 2 hours. So instead we walked into the pedestrian area and found sandwiches.

We wandered into the City Museum. I wouldn’t go here on purpose, but it was fun on a drizzly afternoon. I loved the Victorian exhibits. I have the weekend off each week and mostly watch tv, they closed the factories for half a day on Saturday and the Victorians came up with a host of clubs and events - camera clubs, hiking clubs, lecture series and classes on chemical engineering. I wish I had that kind of stamina. Anyway, the museum is cute if you’re stuck with nothing to do. We also popped into the art museum, but it’s undergoing a renovation and had precisely one room open that was hardly stocked with treasures.

We explored the lovely Victorian arcades that dot the city, then had a drink at Head of Steam. A very nice bar that quickly filled up with locals after work. For dinner we had reservations at Bill’s, I had a delicious curry and DH had a burger. It was a nice restaurant in an historic building. For dessert I ate an entire package of jaffa cakes and watched 8 out of 10 cats.

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I'm loving how you manage to consistently turn lemons into spritzes, and remain upbeat and cheerful.

Great report! Thank you.

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mdt, you must be a military history buff, yes? I must confess ignorance of the Battle of Jutland until time in the Imperial War Museum some years ago. I love the mix of things you did on this journey.

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Leeds (Day 23):

At the beginning of planning, I had scheduled the trip through Wednesday in Belfast. And then told DH he could plan our last 3 days. I expected him to want to explore additional parts of Ireland, perhaps the West coast or areas where his family had lived. Nope. He wanted to go to the Royal Armouries Museum and the RAF Museum. That’s why we were in Leeds.

As always, getting DH out of the house took a bit of pushing. But we packed up and dropped bags at the front desk, then started walking to the museum with a stop at Pret for breakfast (coffee, sausage sandwich, pastry). DH was feeling bad that I had missed my trip to Harewood, which was very nice of him but honestly I only found it as something to do since we had two days in Leeds. Originally the Royal Armouries was scheduled to be open Thurs and Fri, but when I went to get tickets it was closed Thurs for a special event. Thus the two days.

Anyway, I told him not to worry but that if I really wanted to, or was bored, I could go alone. Well. No reason to worry about being bored here. The museum has wonderful live-action demonstrations, and I was hooked after the first one of the Roundheads. Later we watched the sword fighting, katana, and dueling demonstrations. The exhibits were fantastic - the Earl of Leicesters’ armor, Henry VII’s armor from the field of the cloth of gold. The Lion Armor. The only extant elephant armor. Just astounding stuff, and told really well. We even took a lunch break at the Pizza Express across the street and came back!

We spent all day at the museum, and eventually walked back to the hotel to pick up our bags and go to the train station for our 5:15 PM train to London. DH suggested calling a cab, since the streets were packed with pedestrians and it was about a mile. We did, and almost missed our train. Remember what I said about the area near the train station being under construction? Well, it led to a crazy, circuitous route to the station and a back-up once there. Luckily I had cash so getting out of the cab was fast, and I had our tickets on the LNER app, so I didn’t need to get tickets. Although my battery was almost dead, so I quickly took a screen shot of the tickets and sent it to DH.

It all worked out. We found our seats and I plugged in my phone (a faulty charger wire was to blame for it not charging the night before). The ride was relaxing, and I made it halfway through my new, emergency book (Murder Before Evensong). It was an easy trip to King’s Cross station. We easily found our Hub hotel (note, we only had my phone for directions as we never put the UK sim back in DH’s, but we were mostly staying together). The room was very small, there would have been a homicide if we were spending a week in it together. But it was very clean, very modern and streamlined. Bed was huge, loved having the controls all on the headboard. And the staff, although worked off their feet, could not do enough for you. Coffee/tea and water were always available in the breakfast area.

We dropped bags and immediately headed out for dinner. We walked in the wrong direction into a residential area, but it was good to stretch our legs. Then back the other way until we found Honest Burger. Great burgers, tons of veggie options, everything was great except the stereo was turned up to 11. A wonderful end to our evening. We ran by a Tesco Express for wine and biscuits (come on. You knew that). Continuing our love of terrible movies while on vacation, we watched a Fast and Furiouser ( In the next one the cars will be wearing bikinis. It’s the only logical step).

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Thank you again for all of your kind replies!

I had no idea it was called 'Hunter's Chicken', as it was listed as bbq chicken on the menu but did give a description so those of us from North America could not claim ignorance!

Well, DH is more the military history buff after 30 years in the Army, but I suppose over time I've picked some of it up by osmosis!

I can't say some of the setbacks didn't get me down, and I've tried to be honest about that. But overall, our small hiccups were an annoyance, not a disaster. And as of now the airline has refunded us for our added expenses.

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London (Day 24):

Last vacation day! It has been a wonderful trip, but I’m not sorry to be headed home. I tracked DH down at the hotel breakfast. As usual, it takes a bit to dislodge him from his coffee and phone. But once on our way, we had an easy walk to King’s Cross and then a subway (tube) to Colindale on the Northern Line..Super easy and takes about 30 minutes. From there, it was an easy 10 minute walk to the museum. Admission is free, but they are still suggesting online tickets (which I had). On the way, I tried to get some same-day tickets to a show but nothing we wanted was available. So instead I scheduled us for a walking tour that night

With 6 hangars to explore, I admit I felt overwhelmed and thought about ducking out early. But it turned out to be a fairly easy to navigate museum. The first hangar is mainly history/background and some really fun interactive games which we totally played. The WWII hangar was the best, with examples of each ‘Fighter Four’ and a new exhibit on Bomber Command. Obviously not on your list if it’s your first trip to London, but it was really interesting.

We were done around 1PM, and stopped at the local Sainsbury’s we’d passed for a, you guessed it, meal deal. Hey, where else are we going to get lunch for two for 7 pounds? We ate outside on a bench in a grassy area, then took the tube back to London. We got off at Leicester Sq for the National Gallery.

The city was hopping, but we managed to get into the museum. My favorite painting there, The Execution of Lady Jane Grey, was back on display (it wasn’t there on our last trip). So I dragged DH to go see it and we enjoyed it together. Then we split up, per usual, and enjoyed our own experiences. I found a new favorite in Van Gogh’s Two Crabs, while putting my undergrad art appreciation class to the test with other masterpieces. DH enjoyed the special exhibit on St Francis of Assisi.

After about 90 minutes we had seen what we wanted and the crowds were getting to us. Well, that’s a Saturday in London for you. We took the tube to Tower Hill, where our walk was meeting. We were much too early, or course, but it seemed easier to grab dinner outside the Trafalgar Sq area. We took a walk along the river and enjoyed the amazing views, then had dinner at the Walrus and the Carpenter with a lovely staff to help us. They were out of a lot of food items, but we had no trouble finding a veggie pie to eat.

Finally, we headed for our meeting spot at Tower Hill (London Walks, helpfully they have a picture of the meeting place on the website for those directionally impaired like I am). The hotel next door is pretty chill about people coming in just to use the bathroom.

We were doing one of the Jack the Ripper walks. And so were 5-6 other walking tours! I didn’t learn a ton, I’ve ready quite a few books on the subject and have a degree in criminology, but it was still a fun experience and a great walk. The walk ends far from Tower Hill, so keep that in mind. A quick walk to Liverpool Station (fantastic, clean bathrooms) and we were soon back at Kings Cross. We stopped for a drink at our hotel bar, very generous pours, and chatted over our amazing trip. Then off to bed and packing!

Tomorrow - travel day home!

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London-SLC (Day 25):

Our flight was not until 3PM, so we were in no rush. Today we both went downstairs for the hotel breakfast. I thought it was a decent bargain at 7 pounds. There were I think 3 cooked items (eggs, sausages, something else?) and fruit, yogurt, pastries, and juice along with the free coffee and tea. Seating was at a premium, but we found something. We didn’t rush, then were back upstairs to finish packing. I had brought a small tote that DH could use as an extra carry-on (he only had his backpack) if necessary, but we didn’t need it. I really had kept the shopping to a minimum, despite my best efforts. If I had found those cute coronation tins again, that bag would have been full!

We started off around 10:45. This was plenty of time, but by the time we had hauled everything to Kings Cross, found the right train, boarded, and gone through the long trip, we were arriving right around 12 PM. The line to drop bags at Delta was excruciating. The lady at the front of our line to send us to an open desk was so bad the man at the separate VA line (code shared Delta/VA) was also directing our line.
Then up through security, which was surprisingly fast. We bought a few things at Duty Free and I walked around the terminal and grabbed a new book and my final meal deal. DH then took a turn doing the same and it was time to go to our gate. I had considered getting a lounge pass, but really we didn’t spend too much time in the airport.

The flight was on time, with a great crew. We had bulkhead seats which were very comfortable. Neither of us slept, trying to stay awake so we would sleep that night. Arrival in SLC was easy as always, and before we knew it we were home to 3 angry cats (yup, someone pooped in the laundry basket that night to indicate his displeasure) and a frozen pizza.

One last wrap-up post coming, and hearty thanks to anyone who made it this far.

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Vacation Wrap-Up

This was a fantastic trip. Sure, we had some hiccups, but overall we were able to overcome them. DH is a great travel partner, and we try to make sure that both of us aren’t tired/hungry/or angry at the same time, so that someone can always think clearly.

Budget:

While I always have an eye toward the bottom line, I don’t generally budget for a trip. I just try to keep costs in the middle (ie, a splurge in one area means a non-splurge somewhere else). I try to prioritize convenience and experiences. For instance, we stayed in some 2-star hotels and ate a lot of meal deals, but then did a private tour and paid all of the entrance fees to a million attractions. How much did the trip cost all together? Eh, a lot. Whatever. It’s just money, I’ll make more of it.

Food:

We both enjoy a good meal, but neither of us is a foodie and we rarely go out to eat at home. Meal deals and cooking for ourselves in Dublin were great choices for us, and so was shopping grocery stores for snacks and drinks. That said, we had some great meals. I’d list our top five as: Citizen (Glasgow), Dishoom (Edinburgh), Bill’s (Leeds), Howie’s (Edinburgh), Conan Doyle Pub (Edinburgh).

Hotels:
PIs usually give me everything I need - clean, comfortable bed, AC, decent bathroom. This time, I found several that fell below standards. So I’ll pay more attention to reviews next time and perhaps pry open the purse a bit. Highlights of PIs were Edinburgh York Place and the Hub Kings Cross. I’d stay at either again. Hotel du Vin Henley and Macdonald Windsor were also highlights.

Trains:

First class was worth it for the long trip from London to Edinburgh, but unnecessary (I felt) for shorter trips where we were plenty comfortable and could bring our own snacks. The 2 Together Rail Pass quickly paid for itself.

Packing All-Stars:

I did mostly athleisure clothes, with tech t-shirts and leggings. I could layer that with 2 long-sleeved tech shirts and a tech jacket and then a rain jacket. My packing list is over on the packing forum, but my all-stars were: Foldable grocery bags (2, one for each of us), Small fan with usb port, roller ball for foot pain, flip-flops for the room.

Learnings:

I think every trip is an amazing opportunity to learn, not just about the area and the people you’re visiting, but about yourself. This time I realized that we both enjoy experiences and storytelling over regular museums. This might be relatively new for us, since living in the West we’ve spent more time visiting national parks and exploring than indoors. On our next trips, I’ll prioritize these types of experiences and allocate less time to straight museums (although we will still go to them!).

Sight-Seeing

We thoroughly enjoyed everything that we saw, but to give some structure…

Would Skip: National Galleries of Scotland (Portrait), Scottish National Galleries, Leeds Art Gallery, Leeds City Museum, Greyfriars Church, Mercat Tour (Doomed, Dead, and Buried), Guinness Storehouse,

Do but Limit Time: Museum of Scotland, Greyfriars Kirkyard, Kelvingrove, National Gallery of Ireland, Archaeology Museum Dublin, RAF Museum

Met Expectations: Edinburgh Castle, Holyrood Palace, Windsor Castle, Stirling Castle, Ft. George, Culloden, London Walking Tours, Teeling Distillery, Titanic Experience, Royal Yacht, Clava Cairns

Exceeded Expectations: Royal Armouries, Six!, Private Tour (scotland mini-tours w/ Craig), National Gallery London, Roe & Co Distillery, SS Caroline, NI Mini Black Cab Tour, Musical Pub Crawl, Kilmainham Gaol, Glendalough, Odyssey Tour to Giant’s Causeway

By the Numbers
Planes: 4
Trains: 7
Hotels: 10
Books: 6 (A Fatal Footnote, Murder in an English Village, Bless Her Dead Little Heart, Wine & Punishment, Murder in an Irish Pub, Murder Before Evensong)
Meal Deals: 13
Movies on Planes: 8
Drinks in pubs: Unknowable

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Our next trip is Disney World in September with friends, and then next summer in Iceland. I’ll be back on the forums to learn all I can of Iceland and keep up on the latest packing trends! Thanks to everyone who has read this far. Until next time,

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Oh my goodness, I enjoyed every word. Thanks so much for taking the time and making it so fun. You have a great writing style. When I can get to scheduling a trip to Ireland I will be hitting you up with questions.