Thoughts on 3 week UK trip

Mar 17th, 2019, 12:40 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: Sep 2014
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Thoughts on 3 week UK trip

Hi all,

I'm currently planning a trip to the UK for June of this year. My husband and I (late 20's, PhD students) will be exploring England, Scotland, and Wales for 3 weeks before I head to Cornwall for a conference. I've got a rough idea of an itinerary and just wanted some thoughts on how we can optimise our trip by adding or removing places, and how long to stay at each place (which I know is subjective). At this stage we're unsure about transport - Brit Rail Pass vs buying point to point tickets in advance vs hiring a car (would possibly only do this for Scotland) - so would be happy to hear ideas on that too. We're interested in historical places, cool architecture, good food, shopping, and a little bit of nature. Just FYI we've visited Oxford and Cambridge on previous trips to London.

Itinerary so far (order of places is subject to convenience of travel so can be changed):

June 1-4 London (with day trips to Brighton, Stonehenge, Salisbury).
June 5-6 Bath
June 7-8 Cardiff
June 9-10 York (day trip to see Rievaulx abbey or Fountains abbey? visit Alnwick castle on way to Edinburgh
June 11-14 Edinburgh (trips out to Rosslyn Chapel, St Andrews, Melrose abbey)
June 15-16 Inverness and Scottish Highlands (Loch Ness, trip up to Dunrobin castle)
June 17-18 Isle of Skye
June 19-20 Glasgow
June 21-24 London - we actually only need to be back in London on the 23rd to go to Harry Potter studios with a friend so potentially have a few days to spare to add elsewhere.

Trying more to base in one place for a few days with day trips out though it seems like it might still be a lot of movement.

Excited to hear your thoughts. Sorry if I've left out any vital information - I'll amend this post as necessary.

Many thanks!
cassie15490 is offline  
Mar 17th, 2019, 05:58 AM
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Hi Cassie,
May I suggest you do your planning in nights vs days? It is easier to see how much time in a place you actually have. Four nights in a place yields only three days. For instance June 1st to 4th in London. Does this mean you arrive in London on the 1st. If so what time? Will you be jet lagged? Assuming you arrive in the morning after flying all night from the US, your first day in London will not be a full day. You will need to get to your hotel from the airport and stow your luggage. Then you might forage for food!! That might leave you with an afternoon to walk around and get oriented before dinner and an early night. Then you would have all day on each of the second and third of June. Are you leaving London on the 4th or 5th? Perhaps you have all day on the 4th available too. If you are in London on the fourth, you will be travelling to Bath on the 5th and so will have only part of a day there. Are you leaving Bath on the see what I mean!

You are planning three day trips from London as well. When you will you SEE London?

If you do not already have your air travel etched in stone, it might make more sense for you to fly into Edinburgh (or Glasgow) and work your way south. That way you are not backtracking at the end of your holiday. Fly "open jaw" (called "multi city" on the booking page) into Edinburgh (or Glasgow) and home from London.. You will gain a day by doing this.

Just some thoughts before you make final itinerary decisions........planning in nights will help us help you.

Last edited by jane1144; Mar 17th, 2019 at 06:14 AM.
jane1144 is offline  
Mar 17th, 2019, 06:03 AM
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<<June 1-4 London (with day trips to Brighton, Stonehenge, Salisbury)>>

This is daft.You're going to land in London and then take off for places hither and yon for 3 days? Why don't you just fly into London, continue on to Glasgow, turn your whole trip around and end up with all your London days grouped together at the end (with daytrips or not).
StCirq is online now  
Mar 17th, 2019, 06:16 AM
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I have to admit I gave up at the London plan, but I see you've been before, so maybe ok.

I might try and put all my London bits together. You can also catch a train from Bath to Cornwall which might be better than backtracking.

Cardiff is I guess for friends, or is there a special reason for going, what is you or your partner's technical interest?

For York, Fountains abbey is far more spectacular but probably harder to get to with public transport. This tool is great for joining
bilboburgler is online now  
Mar 17th, 2019, 07:48 AM
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>>thoughts on how we can optimise our trip by adding or removing places, <<

IMO you need to sit down again and re-think everything. The beginning of your trip makes little sense really . . . though not quite as bad as >>You are planning three day trips from London as well<<. It really is 'only' two day trips because I'd assume Stonehenge and Salisbury are on the same day. But in any case - with 3.5 days in London and two of those are day trips -- why would you pay London hotel prices to spend most of your time elsewhere?

>>Trying more to base in one place for a few days with day trips out <<. But you aren't doing that at all

This is really a month+ long trip covering three countries wedged into three weeks. The easiest way to start to fix it is to . . . Immediately upon landing in London fly up to Inverness (not Glasgow or Edinburgh if you want to go as far north as Dunrobin, Inverness and Skye. But fly into GLA or EDI instead if you drop the northern bits). Stay one night in Inverness car-less, then collect a car and head to Skye and thence down through Scotland and England ending up in London with all your London days together. But then you really do need to re-think everything. To get 2 days on Skye for example you need to stay 3 nights, 2 days in Glasgow = 3 nights and so on.

One small tweak re Edinburgh: you could do Melrose en route to Alnwick en route to York so you might be able to cut one day from Edinburgh.

But really - back to the drawing board determining how long you want IN each place and accounting for travel time between them.

Last edited by janisj; Mar 17th, 2019 at 07:51 AM.
janisj is online now  
Mar 17th, 2019, 08:04 AM
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>> . . . then collect a car and head to Skye and thence down through Scotland and England<<. should have said >>then collect a car and head up to Dunrobin then down to Skye . . .<<
janisj is online now  
Mar 17th, 2019, 08:29 AM
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My views and recommendations are along Janis' lines. I'd reverse the order of things, and break up the trip into two separate road trips, separated by a quick train ride.

Part 1 - Inverness to York via Highlands, Edinburgh, Northumberland coast, Durham. Map - . Assuming you're flying into Heathrow (from where?) a one-way ticket on BA from Heathrow to Inverness is 66 and change, cheaper than the train. Get the vehicle and drive out to Skye, then return to the mainland via the Mallaig ferry and Glenfinnan (see the HP viaduct.) Down to Glasgow and over to Edinburgh. Drop the car at the airport and spend some time in the capital, then when it's time to head south, get a second car and use it. Note one-way rental car surcharges are unusual in the UK and affordable when they occur. If you want to do day trips to St. Andrews or the Borders while you're in Edinburgh, use Rabbie's, or else don't drop the car in the first place, stay somewhere car-friendly (like the airport area or South Queensferry) and count on some commuting time into and out of the city.

Part 2 - When you head south, stop a couple of places along the Northumbrian coast - Holy Island, Bamburgh (amazing castle) and Alnwick for more HP sites, then for sure spend a day around Durham with its amazing cathedral and castle, then end in York. If you want to stop for Fountains Abbey, or at Housteads (Hadrian's Wall) on your way south, just plan accordingly.

Visit York, then shoot across to Cardiff on the train - around 4-5 hours with a change someplace (probably Bristol.) When you're done with Cardiff, get another car (third?) and head to Bath (maybe via the Cotswolds) then across to Stonehenge, Salisbury, and Brighton. Drive up to Gatwick and drop the car, then train into central London for the rest of the trip. Map -

I won't do a day-by-day plan as this will depend on what you want to add or subtract after researching the various options. I'll only ask, "Why Dunrobin?" Are you fascinated by the Highland Clearances? Personally it would be low on my priority list, but as they say, "We're a' Jock Tamson's bairns."
Gardyloo is online now  
Mar 17th, 2019, 08:31 AM
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Trains would make sense until you reach Inverness - you have little time to take side roads so driving until Edinburgh would all be on Dual-Carriage ways - freeways to us Americans and cars and cities like Bath just don't mix well. Rent a car in Scotland or take a group bus trips like the one many here recommend: Then take train back to London, stopping at York perhaps. There are also overnight trains - Caledonian Sleeper to London. A BritRail Pass if did those day rips by train and then up to Edinburgh would probably be a good deal - hop on any train anytime and not having to book in stone far in advance. has loads on booking own tickets - general info and BETS-European Rail Experts. And consider first class - way more comfy than standard or 2nd class on long-distance trains.
PalenQ is offline  
Mar 17th, 2019, 10:11 AM
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Why Cardiff? Just to say you have been to Wales?
hetismij2 is offline  
Mar 20th, 2019, 06:03 AM
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What do you intend on doing in Cardiff. I live in Cardiff and tbh there are many more spectacular places to see in Wales than Cardiff City Centre which right now is full of homeless people residing in tents. TBH I don't think it has much appeal ATM. If you want to see the beautiful areas in Wales I would recommend Tenby if you can travel that far or the Brecon Beacons, which is beautiful and only 50 mins from Cardiff. You can also do exciting outdoor activities if you fancy something adrenalin filled. There's a fab bike park in Merthyr

You can also do the fantastic Ystradgynlais waterfall walk which is beautiful

If you fancy something more exciting you can also do Gorge Walking in that area which seems to be a firm favourite with visitors. When we go walking in the area, there are always large numbers of people out doing these trips. I think one of the reputable companies are

Enjoy your trip
danip85 is offline  
Mar 20th, 2019, 06:38 AM
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>>I live in Cardiff and tbh there are many more spectacular places to see in Wales <<

Ditto - well not the 'I live there' bit - . But since the Dr Who experience closed, unless one is going to a match at the Millennium Stadium - there are much more worthwhile parts of Wales for visitors. But the OP has not returned so we really don't know their thinking . . .
janisj is online now  
Mar 20th, 2019, 06:51 AM
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Originally Posted by janisj View Post
>>I live in Cardiff and tbh there are many more spectacular places to see in Wales <<

Ditto - well not the 'I live there' bit - . But since the Dr Who experience closed, unless one is going to a match at the Millennium Stadium - there are much more worthwhile parts of Wales for visitors. But the OP has not returned so we really don't know their thinking . . .
Took the words right out of my mouth, janisj. While I enjoyed Cardiff (went because of Doctor Who Experience), and did find other things to enjoy about the city, I'd hardly make a special trip there considering the OP's current itinerary.
Travel_Nerd is online now  
Mar 20th, 2019, 09:40 AM
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I can comment on your Yorkshire day(s).

Rievaulx is lovely and has a small newish museum on site which is great for interpreting the ruins. However it will only take you an hour or so to explore.

Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal Water Garden is a UNESCO World Heritage Site (the award is actually for the unique Georgian Water Garden with its statues, temples and follies). The Estate is huge (there's a free mini bus service to help you get around if you need it) and includes the old Mill, deer park, Fountains Hall etc. You need at least half a day here, and many people easily spend an entire day exploring. I'm maybe biased because I am lucky enough to work there, but it really is a stunning place.
I notice your York days are Sunday and Monday. Sundays tend to be Fountains busiest day of the week (although the Estate is big enough to swallow the visitors). Mondays are MUCH quieter especially in June which is before the children break up for their long summer holidays. So I'd try and go on the Monday.
Morgana is online now  
Mar 23rd, 2019, 01:37 AM
Original Poster
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Hi everyone,

Thank you for your responses, really appreciate your advice - apologies for not replying earlier.

Firstly, I agree that it would be a lot easier to fly into Edinburgh and start our trip in Scotland rather than doubling back to London. However, as we are primarily travelling for a conference and a lab visit our flights are being organised through our university and as such can only be a return trip to London (from New Zealand) for myself and my husband is going to move on to Fribourg for his work afterwards.

In terms of our time IN London, this will be our third visit to the city and we have done most of the main tourist attractions on the previous two visits so this time are just going to enjoy being in the city, eating the food, doing some shopping etc. We want to use it as a base for doing those few day trips because we're going to be flying into London anyway and won't feel like moving elsewhere to base ourselves for those next few days, so figured we might as well just stay put and enjoy a more relaxed pace (as opposed to running all over trying to take in as many tourist attractions as possible - we will be saving this for the other cities . On return from Scotland we have to go back to England to meet up with a colleague (during which time we'll take her to Harry Potter studio and then she and I will head to Penryn the following day). So although I realise it is a bit back and forth, it's unfortunately what we're stuck with for our start and finish.

As for Cardiff - my brother in law is from there so we wanted to visit his home city, although it seems like there is a general consensus that the city isn't really worth visiting? We could perhaps rework those days into a visit to Northern Wales instead? Or maybe add those days to other cities like York?

We're thinking of getting a car for the Scotland part of the trip and probably catching the train everywhere else - maybe catch a Rabbie's tour for the Stonehenge/Salisbury trip.

Many thanks again for your help.
cassie15490 is offline  
Mar 23rd, 2019, 10:56 AM
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There is nothing wrong with flying in/out of London. Most people do.

But you simply don't have time to go up to Scotland an back south again, so IMO you need to think more linearly. The conference is at the end of your trip and down in Cornwall so even MORE important to arrange things from 'top to bottom'. Upon landing (at LHR presumably), fly up to Inverness and decompress from your very long travel day.. The next day collect a car and do your Scotland bits. If you want to take trains after Scotland - then simply drop the car when you get to Edinburgh and then you can train from Edinburgh > York > Cardiff > London. This could be managed in your 3 weeks. You'd want most of two full weeks for Scotland because your wish list is ambitious. But lets say 10 or 11-ish days -- then a couple of days in York, a day or two in Cardiff, and finish up in London.

You could also collect a car in Cardiff and visit Bath and Stonehenge en route to LHR - drop the car there and travel into London by public transport.

Rabbies is fine - great even. But their main niche is touring Scotland and really rural bits of other areas. I'd not use them for a Stonehenge tour if it was me -- I'd do it on my own either by car between Cardiff and London or by train from London.

Last edited by janisj; Mar 23rd, 2019 at 10:58 AM.
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