Please sign in to post.

Trip Report: York and Edinburgh, Aug./Sept. 2023

We spent 4 nights in York and 6 nights in Edinburgh (Aug. 27th - Sept. 6th) and had an overall great time. It was our first time in the UK (we’ve already booked a second trip to England for next year 😊)

Getting there: It was not the most serene of starts. Our connecting Delta flight from our city to Atlanta started to board on time and then they abruptly stopped and ushered everyone back off due to a mechanical issue. The flight kept getting delayed and we knew it was time to worry when they brought out a folding table and piled it with water and snacks. Our 3-hour connection in Atlanta started rapidly shrinking as we and everyone else tried to rebook. We managed to get rebooked for a flight leaving right now but we’d have only 35 minutes to connect in Atlanta. The flight attendants on board were great, letting us and others from the rebooked group to the front as other passengers were calling out ‘good luck.’ We ran, we got on the plane train, we ran some more, I waved for my husband to run on ahead as I tapered off into one of those panting half jog half dragging things you see panicked people do in airports. We made it. We were a sweaty mess, but we made it. We were greeted by a smiling flight attendant whose professionalism had to have been tested by the disheveled state of us. This was Virgin Atlantic by the way. We were the last people on board and I watched them close the door as we took our seats and frantically fumbled with the air vents. Then of course the plane sat there for another 45 minutes as they waited for whatever it is they wait for – clearance, gate, something or other.

Day 1: We arrived at Manchester Airport to a grey, drizzly sky and the waiting game continued as the plane sat for 75 minutes after landing as they waited for a shuttle bus to arrive and take us to the gate. When we finally got inside and cleared passport control (eGates) the first thing I saw was Pret-a-Manger, so it was the first thing we ate as I sat and got my second wind with a big dose of pinch me, I’m in England. It always amuses me that when we travel my husband is practically in a fugue state for the first day while I suddenly have all the energy in the world and can’t stop smiling and marveling and practically bursting with giddiness.

We took a train from the very convenient Manchester Airport train station and even though we had two quick changes, it was easy. We arrived in York mid-afternoon on a Sunday before a bank holiday so were not at all surprised that it was crowded. We checked into our hotel and even though I’m always the one saying we shouldn’t nap I fell onto the bed and knocked out. Luckily my husband had the foresight to set the alarm for 45 minutes before he also fell asleep.

We spent the late afternoon and evening walking around York and eventually ended up at The Masons Arms for Sunday Roast. My favorite part of the meal was sticky toffee pudding with custard! My husband doesn’t usually like this kind of thing but even he enjoyed it. We walked off dinner at the surrounding streets and checked out Clifford's Tower.

Weather: Here’s a good time to mention that the end of our dinner on arrival day was the last we saw of rain. The rest of the time it was sunny and a bit warmer than I expected (high 60s to high 70s). Our two jackets and two umbrellas were dead weight for 95% of the trip. Of course, if we didn’t take them, you know it would’ve rained the whole time.

Posted by
2317 posts

Day 2: We had breakfast at the hotel and then walked to The Shambles. It was nice and quiet except for people lined up outside a Harry Potter related store. We walked around the surrounding streets and immediately liked the look of the city. It’s definitely a place to just walk and wander around and we did a lot of that. At 9:30am we went to the York Minster when it opened. There was a small group of people waiting with us, maybe 30 or so. We did not pre-purchase tickets and it was fine. I had seen York Minster so many times in pictures and on YouTube, but of course it looks so much more impressive in person. We really liked it here.

We had a quick lunch in a nearby bakery and then walked on the walls. The views were great but it was a little crowded due to it being a holiday. We walked around the Museum Gardens and St Mary's Abbey, then found ourselves browsing Waterstones (we love this chain!). Things started to close around 5pm-6pm and we found ourselves at another Pret-a-Manger for a light dinner. I ate here many times throughout the trip according to my credit card statement.

Day 3: We took a daytrip to Durham. When we arrived, we headed straight for Durham Cathedral and wow, this one turned out to be our favorite of the trip. Absolutely stunning. We thought this little city was pleasant and we had a great day here – we wandered around Durham Market Hall, had coffee and Millionaire’s Shortbread, discovered Gregg’s Bakery (best sausage rolls of the trip), and sat enjoying the view at The Riverwalk. We headed back to York in the late afternoon and wandered around Marks & Spencer where I bought a souvenir tin of shortbread. We went to Drake’s Fish n Chips for dinner and it was excellent.

Day 4: Our last day in York was peaceful and uncrowded so we went back on the walls and had them mostly to ourselves this time. One of my favorite things this day was seeing Holy Trinity Church Goodramgate which was especially poignant since I’d watched Gentleman Jack a couple of months before this trip. Finally, it was time for what I’d been waiting for – Betty’s Afternoon Tea. We did not book and only waited for about 5 minutes before being seated. I had a great time here and everything was delicious. In addition to my Afternoon Tea, I ordered a Fat Rascal on the side since I knew I’d not get a chance to come back and try it. Lot more walking followed which was much needed after all that food. We found ourselves back at the Museum Gardens and St Mary's Abbey and then walked around to most places ‘one last time.’ We were sad to be leaving York in the morning. It’s such a beautiful city!

Minster Hotel: We liked the location, the people were friendly, and although it’s a little basic and worn, we knew that going in and were OK with it. It was a good value and looked like the kind of place Rick features on his shows and we could picture him walking in filming one of his monologues in the lobby.

The breakfasts here entertained us to no end. The décor was reminding me of something and then my husband said “I feel like I’m in Fawlty Towers.” Yep, that’s it. Of course, I couldn’t resist whispering “Don’t mention the war!” as the waiter came over. Yes, a waiter. Dressed in black and white with a little notepad and pen. There’s a buffet of cereals, pastries, breads, yogurt, cheese and meat and they also have a menu of cooked to order breakfasts. We had the full English on the first morning and then different dishes on other days.

Posted by
2317 posts

Day 5: We took a morning train to Edinburgh and right out of the train station it was instant stimulation overload and immediately striking. Almost every YouTube video I’d seen showed bagpipe street performers so I was amused when we arrived to a badly played Saxophone outside the station. Luckily, the rest of the trip was chock full of bagpipes so you’d almost be a little tired of them by the end of the trip 😊

After checking into our hotel, we jumped right into things and walked up to Calton Hill. What better way to shock your body out of the flat streets of York than to trek up here? The views were spectacular. We then walked to the Royal Mile – there’s those bagpipe players I was promised – and visited St. Giles Cathedral.

Day 6: We did a lot today. It was probably the most exhausting day of the trip. We started out grabbing a quick coffee and pastry and walked to Edinburgh Castle for our 9:30am entrance. This was enjoyable and had some great views – so many places in Edinburgh are made for standing and looking into the distance. We stopped in at the café at the castle where I had cream tea and my husband had a slice of lemon drizzle cake. We then walked to Vennel Viewpoint to take some pictures and briefly stopped in at the tiny Writer’s Museum. Next, we walked to the National Library of Scotland because I’d noted that Rick mentioned the free exhibits here. I knew my husband would love seeing a Gutenberg bible so I didn’t tell him why we were going there and let him stumble across it. He was pretty awed.

We had lunch at nearby Bertie’s Proper Fish & Chips and here’s where we tried Haggis for the first time. It was in the form of a fried spring roll so we figured you can fry just about anything and it’ll at least taste decent. The verdict? My husband said it was “ok, not bad” and turns out I liked it more than I thought I would. I’d order it again even. The waiter chatted with us and was happy to hear it was our first time trying it and that we liked it. As for the Fish & Chips they were good but we like Drake’s in York a little better.

From here we walked all the way to Palace of Holyroodhouse. I knew ahead of time that the Queen’s Gallery was closed, so we just toured the Palace. I wasn’t sure how much we’d enjoy this but we did. I especially liked seeing the chambers of Mary, Queen of Scots and the glorified closet they made her give birth in.

After this we went back to the room to rest a little and ventured out for dinner later which was at a chain German Doner Kebab restaurant.

Day 7: We started the day by visiting the National Gallery. I was disappointed that we couldn’t see John Singer Sargent’s Lady Agnew of Lochnaw due to renovations, but I got over it quickly when I realized there was a Vermeer here! They have a nice little collection of Dutch art which I loved since it’s one of my favorite styles. We then walked to the Portrait Gallery and browsed around there for a while, then walked around the streets in that area. We ended up at Topping & Company Booksellers, which was our favorite bookstore of the trip. Dinner was a nearby Nando’s.

Posted by
2317 posts

Day 8: Daytrip to Sterling. We walked to the castle from the train station and headed inside without a wait. It wasn’t crowded here the day we went (Sunday). We both liked this castle more than Edinburgh Castle, especially the outside and the views. After the castle I just had to have another cream tea in the café, and then we wandered down to the adjacent cemetery and The Church of the Holy Rude, both worth a quick stop. We wandered down Broad Street and wanting to get out of the sun we spotted a Pizza Express and decided to have lunch there. The restaurant was flooded in sunlight and I politely asked if we could sit out of the sun. The waiter seemed perplexed, as if wondering why anyone would possibly want that. He took us to a table that had about an inch of sunlight and as we ate the patch of sunlight grew so that by the time we were done eating I was sitting practically at an obtuse angle. I’m sure I seemed nuts.

Day 9: We had planned a daytrip to Glasgow today, or even somewhere on the coast, but alas https://community.ricksteves.com/travel-forum/general-europe/sinuses-and-travel We spent today taking it easy, wandering around, I did a bit of souvenir shopping, had tea and a jam doughnut at Gregg’s, browsed another bookstore. Maybe tomorrow he’ll feel better.

Day 10: He didn’t feel better. Since it was our last day, he powered through and we spent the day seeing a lot of things ‘one last time,’ plus a few we hadn’t seen yet, like Greyfriars Kirkyard, Candlemaker Row, hanging out in the Princes Street Gardens. It was a low-key end, but it was kind of nice.

Motel One Princes Street: Exceeded our expectations. I was a bit worried, even looking to change hotels a couple of weeks before we left, but I’m glad I didn’t. The location was perfect between the Old and New Towns, it was spotless, everyone was friendly, the room was not quite as small as it appeared in the pictures, and best of all, we didn’t hear so much as a pin drop for the entire 6-night stay. We had a beautiful view overlooking Princes Street and the buildings of the Old Town.

Posted by
13869 posts

Mary! What a fun time you had in spite of hubby's sinus infection! I had to laugh about the dead weight of the rain jackets and umbrellas but really, you are right. If you hadn't had them, you'd have needed them! In UK you can never tell and it's best to be prepared.

I loved seeing all the blue sky in your pictures!

Yuck to your start! I guess I did not know that there were ATL to Manchester direct flights. That's something to keep in mind as I prefer Delta or Sky Team flights. I'm sure the FAs were just glad to see you all no matter how bedraggled you felt.

Thanks so much for taking the time to do a TR. You know if I'm not traveling I want to read about those who are!

Posted by
4010 posts

Several of my favorite places from last summer! Loved York - and I never mind returning to Edinburgh. I was fortunate to get to stay 2 nights in Durham next door to the cathedral also. Your trip sounds wonderful (except for the sinus thing….). And my wait at Betty’s was longer than yours! 🤣

Posted by
6257 posts

Mary, wonderful trip report! I laughed so hard at the story of you and your husband racing for the plane, only to have it sit on the tarmac for 45 minutes! The same thing happened to me years ago at JFK when I was racing for a flight to Turkey. I thought I was going to die!!! And then we sat for 30+ minutes.

Loved the info about York - it's been so long since I've been here so I will definitely refer to your report when I head there next year! And I wholeheartedly agree about Stirling Castle - I enjoyed it more than Edinburgh castle as well. Sorry about your husband's sinuses but hopefully he'll have a good remedy before next year. When are you going to the UK next year? Will you be there in April by any chance?

Posted by
3199 posts

You packed a lot in for a 10 day trip! We are still on a time limit for our trips too ( 2 weeks), and each trip feels wwwaaayyy too short.

Posted by
742 posts

Thank you for posting your trip report. York and Edinburgh are on my travel wish list.

Posted by
357 posts

Thank you for this wonderful report, ! We're getting excited. Three weeks from today we will have spent a couple of nights in York, and we will be on our way to Edinburgh. We visited the Durham Cathedral in 2018, and had a retired professor who was breaking in a new guide. She stayed and talked with us after the tour---such a fount of knowledge..

And...even though we haven't taken our trip yet (this will be our 3rd vacation to the UK, not counting N. Ireland) but we are just about to book a flight for next spring---probably April or May. My current obsession with this travel forum has made my feet very itchy. People ask why we keep going back to the UK. We just respond, "Why do people go to Hawaii every year?"

Posted by
2317 posts

Thanks all.

Tammy, our next trip is 14 nights so a bit better. I'm 43 so looooong time to go before retirement!

Mardee, we'll be there in March.

Posted by
2317 posts

CanAmCherie, good answer. I hope you have a great trip!

Posted by
380 posts

Mary, what a glorious trip report— thank you! I had a similar flight experience last November. I was sprinting (well, ok, my version of sprinting!) through the Houston airport, with my carry-on roller and small backpack. I remember passing a few people and I was proudly panting as I got to the gate agent, who was checking in a group of 20-somethings. Just as I started to hold out my phone, 2 of the people I’d passed come up and push in front of me. The 20-somethings say, oh here’s mom and dad … Grrr.
I LOVE Pret-a-Manger and always look for them in France and England.
York and Edinburgh are on my list and your TR has moved them up a few slots.

Posted by
140 posts

Your trip report was a real treat to read, Mary! Loved your pictures, too. You and Carrie have got me thinking I need to incorporate York into my travel plans. And of course it was a pleasure to revisit Edinburgh through your eyes. I’m bookmarking Topping & Company to visit when I’m in town again.

I’m sorry your trip got off to a rough start with the plane issues and delays, and that your husband’s sinus woes put a crimp in your itinerary. Even so, you managed to see and do a lot! I hope you get to go back to Scotland sometime and see Glasgow and anything else you missed this time.

Posted by
6469 posts

Thanks for this, Mary. Glad you had a good time and I appreciated your story. Durham Cathedral was a highlight of our trip years ago, one of the only Norman cathedrals in England. I remember being shown a modern stained-glass window along one side. The guide said it was the "millenium window," installed in 1996. But the millenium it commemorated wasn't the year 2000, it was the thousandth anniversary of the cathedral, consecrated in 996. A very special place.

I hope the sinuses have cleared up and you have another great trip next time.

Posted by
2655 posts

Great trip report!!! Makes me want to go back to both York and Edinburgh.

Posted by
1113 posts

Thanks for posting, Mary. We’re planning a 3-4 week trip in May so your TR had a lot of great info. We’re planning to spend the whole time in GB and have a general idea of where we want to go. I’ve been to London a few times but have only done daytrip a to surrounding areas and a couple of days in York so it’s going to be a challenge to narrow down what we want to do. I’ve also stayed in a Motel One in Vienna and was very happy with it. Didn’t know it was in the UK as well so will add that to the list of chain hotels I don’t mind staying in which includes Premier Inn.

Posted by
2317 posts

I’ve also stayed in a Motel One in Vienna and was very happy with it.

Good to hear this. I've already looked up the one in Vienna for a future trip.

Posted by
2317 posts

I guess I did not know that there were ATL to Manchester direct flights. That's something to keep in mind as I prefer Delta or Sky Team flights.

Pam, it's a route I think I'll fly again someday as it'll be super convenient for seeing other parts of England.

Posted by
2477 posts

Enjoyed your trip report, especially York which was fun to revisit through your eyes. We didn’t make it to Durham which I still regret. York was one of my favorite places. I liked it better than Edinburgh.

We once ran through with our son through the Atlanta airport. He was on the cross country team at the time so you can imagine my struggle to keep up. Someone yelled at him “run, Forest, run!” Of course, after we arrived out of breathe we found out the flight had been delayed!

Posted by
1018 posts

Enjoyed your TR. May have to put York in my list. I agree….. It seems we keep going back to Uk for us too! Spent 41 days I. May-jun on two tours and time on our own in Glasgow and London. Going back in November.

Posted by
2317 posts

I definitely get the appeal, kim. I can tell we'll visit multiple times. So much to see!

Posted by
1368 posts

Mary, I enjoyed the report and I am like you. When I arrive in Paris I can't wait to get out of the apartment and start walking the streets and figuring out which cafe will I have my first drink or meal at while sitting there and enjoying the atmosphere all around me.

Posted by
2415 posts

Hi Mary,

I enjoyed your report and am glad you had a good time other than your poor husband’s sinuses. I am also glad you liked the Motel One. We stayed there last year and I was on the fence as well about canceling due to some iffy reviews. But like you, we found the hotel was quiet, the staff was friendly and we had a nice view of the castle from our room. I would definitely stay there again.

Posted by
2317 posts

Thanks, brushtim and Mary. It was such a nice hotel for the price and a perfect location. I find myself looking for Motel Ones when researching future travels.