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Onto the next trip - recommended 'must sees' in the UK and Ireland?

Onto the next trip - recommended 'must sees' in the UK and Ireland?

Old Mar 25th, 2024, 01:50 PM
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Onto the next trip - recommended 'must sees' in the UK and Ireland?

I’m slowly starting to piece together my next trip (woohoo!) for June-July 2025. Between being peak season and the weather, I’m thinking to visit the UK and Ireland over the alternate option of Italy (as an Australian, I am sure I will still be cold in Scotland even in summer!).

I can set aside about 3-4 weeks for the trip, likely arriving in London and flying out from Dublin (unless we have time to squeeze in a quick trip to Paris at the end).

So far we know that we’d love to see the Scottish highlands and the Isle of Skye, and natural landmarks such as the white cliffs of Dover and Giant’s Causeway. We aren’t hiking people but we do appreciate beautiful landscapes. Bearing in mind my companion will be my 20 year old sister, I suspect we will aim to divide our time between the cities and countryside.

I need to start researching where we will go but thought I’d ask straight off the bat what people’s ‘must sees’ / recommendations of where to go? For more context, we both love history and are big foodies. We are happy to drive but also would prefer to use public transport to get between places where we can.
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Old Mar 25th, 2024, 02:45 PM
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OK -- I'm not really going to be much help. That is really an unanswerable question. There are literally hundreds (thousands really) of musts in the UK alone not even considering Ireland. I've spent cumulatively more than 6 months visiting Scotland and lived in England for 5-ish years and I still haven't seen all of the major sites in either country. So instead of asking us which are our individual 'musts' which could end up with a list of 100 times more sites than you could possibly visit -- maybe you would benefit from getting a few guide books, exploring the Undiscovered Scotland website - and come back with a basic list your own 'musts' and maybe a framework of and itinerary and we can make suggestions

You will find that 3 to 4 weeks is not very much time when you are trying to travel from the far south coast of England to the far NW of Scotland and squeezing in Ireland. Many people spend 4 weeks just in London and southern England, or just in Scotland , or just in Ireland and still have to make serious cuts from their wish lists.
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Old Mar 25th, 2024, 02:52 PM
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Originally Posted by janisj
OK -- That is really an unanswerable question. There are literally hundreds (thousands really) of musts in the UK alone not even considering Ireland.
I hear where you are coming from and there are hours and hours of research that lie ahead to plan this trip - was more just wondering from the perspective of whether there were any places that people enjoyed that they'd recommend or stand outs that aren't quite as well known about.
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Old Mar 25th, 2024, 07:41 PM
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Post #1 from janis is very pertinent, but here's some ideas if helpful.
We did a relatively fast paced holiday (over 3 weeks) recently, flying into London and out of Dublin. Our UK priorities (you need to cherrypick with limited time) were the Cotswolds, North Wales and Lake District, all by car (picked up at LHR). We then returned our car in Manchester and flew to Dublin (Aer Lingus). At Dublin airport, we picked up another rental car to cover Ireland/NI clockwise (again hitting our priorities, way too much to see) : Kinsale >Kenmare (RoK) > Dingle > Doolin (Moher) > Clifden (Conemara)> Portrush (Giants Causeway) > Belfast > Dublin (returned car, and stayed few days before flight home).
I would not combine Scotland with anything else. In my opinion Scotland is the jewel in the crown, and you risk the rest of your itinerary feeling underwhelming. You can easily spend a month there, heres a "relatively" slower paced trip we did last year heres 2023 : A Highland Odyssey - but this one needs meticulous (and early) planning.
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Old Mar 25th, 2024, 08:26 PM
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Thank you ANUJ - you have helped much more than you think - even just seeing the order of your trip is quite useful as you covered off a few places we are thinking to visit.

Out of curiosity, did you prefer the Cotswolds or the Lakes District? I'm not quite sure that they are comparable, but I anticipate we will likely have time for one but not both due to time and having to cherry pick so am interested to hear your thoughts.
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Old Mar 25th, 2024, 09:09 PM
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Glad to know this gives you some orientation. You have enough time to thoroughly research and plan this trip.
Cotswolds vs Lake District - completely different experience and unfair to compare - but if I had to pick one for want of time, it would be the latter.
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Old Mar 25th, 2024, 11:19 PM
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To be able to advise we need to know more about you. If you just want to visit the top ten most visited places then use google.
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Old Mar 26th, 2024, 02:20 AM
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I can help by suggesting that you knock off one of your sites straight away - the white cliffs at Dover. They are not all that white these days and anyway you can't see them from the land very well at all - you need to be out on the sea, which is not easy to do. By all means go to Dover if you're interested in visiting the castle (although there are plenty more all over the UK) but forget Dover for the cliffs. instead go to beach Head and the Seven Sisters to the west of Eastbourne - you will see much moire impressive white cliffs there.

To put the Cotswolds into context, the UK has a number of National Parks and then at a lower level, some National Landscapes. The Cotswolds is designated as the latter and the Lake District is the former. In truth the Cotswolds are a very pleasant rural area but no better than lots of other rural areas across England without any special status or huge tourist crowds.
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Old Mar 26th, 2024, 02:59 AM
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Originally Posted by JohnEW2912
To put the Cotswolds into context, the UK has a number of National Parks and then at a lower level, some National Landscapes. The Cotswolds is designated as the latter and the Lake District is the former. In truth the Cotswolds are a very pleasant rural area but no better than lots of other rural areas across England without any special status or huge tourist crowds.
I think we will likely eliminate the Lake District because of a likely lack of hiking. A bit torn on the Cotswolds as though it seems pretty, I feel like we could probably make better use of time elsewhere since there is a lot to see.

I’ve looked into some initial places that are likely to be of interest and York is looking rather favorable.
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Old Mar 26th, 2024, 03:03 AM
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I presume a lack of hiking means that you don't want to do it? Walking is one of the things most people go to the Cotswolds for, and indeed most national parks.

Assuming that you are both young I might recommend the Peak District NP. Whilst again hiking is a highlight it also has several historic house, including Chatsworth, probably the best in the whole country. It's also close to Manchester, which should be a highlight for you and not far from Liverpool and Chester, again two very interesting and very different cities.
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Old Mar 26th, 2024, 03:13 AM
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Originally Posted by JohnEW2912
I presume a lack of hiking means that you don't want to do it? Walking is one of the things most people go to the Cotswolds for, and indeed most national parks.

Assuming that you are both young I might recommend the Peak District NP.
I didn’t read over my reply and realised I stopped the sentence short - it is likely our mother would join us (spoke to her after posting this) and if so she wouldn’t at all be interested in the nature walks/hikes and we’d likely already be pushing it with the Isle of Skye in terms of outdoorsy things.

Will look into the Peak District - thanks!


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Old Mar 26th, 2024, 05:05 AM
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Here is the link to my trip report from last June that might help with Scotland. We were gone for 16 nights.

Our SPECTACULAR Scottish Journey!!!
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Old Mar 26th, 2024, 07:43 AM
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First you need to nail down whether it is 3 weeks or 4 weeks - that is a BIG difference. If it ends up three weeks, what with travel all the way from OZ, and if Skye is a must (and that does present some issues) then you really probably need to limit yourselves to just Scotland -- or maybe a few days in London and then Scotland. If it is more like 4 weeks -- then maybe 2 weeks in Scotland and 2 weeks in Ireland. Or 4 or 5 days in London, maybe 11-ish days in Scotland (the would be a little rushed) and a 10-11 days in Ireland.

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Old Mar 26th, 2024, 07:55 AM
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Like Janis and others say, the list of "must see" destinations in the UK and Ireland is going to be (a) very subjective, needless to say, and (b) way too long for any mortal to handle in a 3 to 4-week (or a 3-4 month) period. I think the best we can do is suggest that with over a year to plan, you get on the stick with some guidebooks, web searches, Youtube videos, and other resources, to educate yourselves about the options. I'll also say it's (probably) mandatory that you and your sister engage with each other in terms of setting priorities. Those of us on this or other message boards are not mind readers and can only respond if we have enough information to keep us from making unrealistic or non-starter suggestions.

I think a couple of items might be useful to clarify, however. First, would you be coming straight from Australia to Britain, or would you be stopping someplace else en route? I see from other posts that you were/are contemplating some time in Italy, or possibly Spain, but maybe those plans have been set to the side? Or is there a contest between continental Europe and the British Isles for this trip?

The reason for asking is that it might be useful to think about the order of things. I personally advocate that travelers coming from great distances - North America, Australia/NZ etc. - consider saving London for later in their trips rather than the start. Plunging into the great metropolis in the peak of visitor season when your body clock is 10 or 11 hours off is hard enough, but then trying to have a high-energy time of it can be pretty fatiguing, even for young adults.

So one thing to consider would be to reverse the order of things. Start in Scotland and work south, ending the UK portion in London, before crossing over to Ireland. That way, by the time you get to London, you'll be de-jetlagged and will have had enough time seeing natural wonders and thatchy-roofy villages (if that's your thing) and ready for the pace and complexity of the big city. Coming from Oz, you could easily arrange flights that take you to Edinburgh, for example (via Heathrow, Amsterdam, Paris, Doha) which is a terrific city in which to land. It's compact, walkable, full of marvelous sights, pubs, all that.. and from which, when it's time, one can travel quickly to the Highlands or other parts of Scotland.

I understand the appeal of Skye, but unfortunately so do countless thousands of other visitors, with the result being shortages of accommodations, crowding at some of the key sites, and what can become a less-than-optimal time of thing. Not saying that's guaranteed, but it's a strong possibility.

Imagine this as an alternative. Land in Edinburgh and spend a few nights in Scotland's beautiful capital. Then get on a train, change trains in Glasgow, and end up in the Highland port of Oban. Oban is a pleasant hub for visiting the Isle of Mull, the second largest of the Inner Hebrides (after Skye) as well as other smaller islands and numerous beautiful and fascinating destinations on the mainland. Hire a car in Oban (several local suppliers) and spend a couple of days touring the area. Maybe visit picturesque Tobermory on Mull, or the impossibly historic Isle of Iona, or Staffa with its remarkable Fingal's cave. (If you're interested in the Devil's Causeway in Ulster, have a look at Staffa instead.) On the mainland, visit Glencoe or Glen Etive, or the prehistoric sites in Kilmartin Glen, a short drive south from Oban... and so on. Google the places on this map - https://maps.app.goo.gl/n9whG9tW6VRcFzZ97

Drop the car, take the train back to Glasgow, then continue south for the English part of your UK visit. For my preference, I'd stick to the east side of the island, maybe using some of the great cathedral cities as stepping stones - Durham, York, Lincoln, Ely - and driving around Cambridgeshire and East Anglia if picturesque villages and historic cities are your thing. Again, drop the car, into London, then on to Ireland if time allows. While these areas are by no means off the beaten tourist track, they're likely to be less congested (York and Cambridge excepted) than the likes of the Lake District or the Cotswolds. But again, this is just to stimulate some thoughts; google the places on this map - https://maps.app.goo.gl/qVsFsiYkijtx3HpY8

Now of course these are all imaginary, but the idea is to get a sense of the variety offered on this relatively small island. This might well be more than you could manage with your time, but maybe it could help with the outline of your plans.
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Old Mar 26th, 2024, 11:20 AM
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I would offer that this summer is not the time to try to think about visiting Paris, as the Olympics will take place in Paris so in July it will be incredibly crowded and expensive as well as featuring many more security checks than normal.
Only you can decide what is a must-see and I would start by reading guidebooks for the U.K,Scotland and Ireland and going from there. There is so much to do in all three countries, 4 if you include Wales
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Old Mar 26th, 2024, 11:54 AM
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Originally Posted by Madam397
. . . There is so much to do in all three countries, 4 if you include Wales
5 if you include Northern Ireland


And I 100% agree that summer of '24 is not a time to be visiting Paris.
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Old Mar 26th, 2024, 01:27 PM
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Originally Posted by bilboburgler
To be able to advise we need to know more about you. If you just want to visit the top ten most visited places then use google.
I'm not really sure what else to add beyond what I already did?
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Old Mar 26th, 2024, 01:28 PM
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Originally Posted by janisj
First you need to nail down whether it is 3 weeks or 4 weeks - that is a BIG difference. If it ends up three weeks, what with travel all the way from OZ, and if Skye is a must (and that does present some issues) then you really probably need to limit yourselves to just Scotland -- or maybe a few days in London and then Scotland. If it is more like 4 weeks -- then maybe 2 weeks in Scotland and 2 weeks in Ireland. Or 4 or 5 days in London, maybe 11-ish days in Scotland (the would be a little rushed) and a 10-11 days in Ireland.
We're now looking at 4-5 weeks instead to make it work - will still have to cherry pick but should give us a bit more wiggle room.
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Old Mar 26th, 2024, 01:34 PM
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Originally Posted by Gardyloo
I think a couple of items might be useful to clarify, however. First, would you be coming straight from Australia to Britain, or would you be stopping someplace else en route? I see from other posts that you were/are contemplating some time in Italy, or possibly Spain, but maybe those plans have been set to the side? Or is there a contest between continental Europe and the British Isles for this trip?

So one thing to consider would be to reverse the order of things. Start in Scotland and work south, ending the UK portion in London, before crossing over to Ireland. That way, by the time you get to London, you'll be de-jetlagged and will have had enough time seeing natural wonders and thatchy-roofy villages (if that's your thing) and ready for the pace and complexity of the big city. Coming from Oz, you could easily arrange flights that take you to Edinburgh, for example (via Heathrow, Amsterdam, Paris, Doha) which is a terrific city in which to land. It's compact, walkable, full of marvelous sights, pubs, all that.. and from which, when it's time, one can travel quickly to the Highlands or other parts of Scotland.

I understand the appeal of Skye, but unfortunately so do countless thousands of other visitors, with the result being shortages of accommodations, crowding at some of the key sites, and what can become a less-than-optimal time of thing. Not saying that's guaranteed, but it's a strong possibility.

Drop the car, take the train back to Glasgow, then continue south for the English part of your UK visit. For my preference, I'd stick to the east side of the island, maybe using some of the great cathedral cities as stepping stones - Durham, York, Lincoln, Ely - and driving around Cambridgeshire and East Anglia if picturesque villages and historic cities are your thing. Again, drop the car, into London, then on to Ireland if time allows. While these areas are by no means off the beaten tourist track, they're likely to be less congested (York and Cambridge excepted) than the likes of the Lake District or the Cotswolds. But again, this is just to stimulate some thoughts; google the places on this map - https://maps.app.goo.gl/qVsFsiYkijtx3HpY8
.
Thank you for the detailed response - this was very helpful!

I was in Spain last year whereas Italy is the alternate option to the UK and Ireland (likely Italy will be 2026 and beyond now that we've shifted gears to focus on the UK and Ireland).

Our logic to starting in London was that it'll be peak season and we'd prefer to be in the big metropolis earlier on before the crowds pick up even further, and given we will still likely be freezing our tushies in Ireland and Scotland even in their summer, gives us that wee bit more time for the weather to warm up a bit further.

I do think we will need to evaluate our England picks and the more I think on it, the more I'm wondering whether we do steer away from the Cotswolds (Lake District has now been ruled out) in favour of other locations. York has quite some appeal so I do like your suggestion for sticking to the Eastern side of England - I assume that the logistics of it will also make much more sense.


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Old Mar 26th, 2024, 01:36 PM
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Originally Posted by Madam397
I would offer that this summer is not the time to try to think about visiting Paris, as the Olympics will take place in Paris so in July it will be incredibly crowded and expensive as well as featuring many more security checks than normal.
Only you can decide what is a must-see and I would start by reading guidebooks for the U.K,Scotland and Ireland and going from there. There is so much to do in all three countries, 4 if you include Wales
This is for June-July 2025, not this year. As mad as I am, even I have my limits and certainly wouldn't be booking this kind of trip 3 months out. We are planning already for next year because we need to know well in advance what we are doing for work purposes and otherwise understand that in places like Skye, accommodation books out well in advance.

Have gotten some great input on this thread so far so has given us some great direction as to our starting points and things to consider. We're now looking at 4-5 weeks to allow more time but even with that time we still will have to be very selective with what we see and do.
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