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karrinem Apr 21st, 2015 06:07 PM

Three weeks in the UK - what don't I want to miss?
My husband and I are visiting the U.K. for the first time in July. We are flying into London and three weeks later flying out of Dublin. We want to visit England, Wales, Scotland, and Ireland. I am a history teacher so I am especially interested in historical sites. Some things are a given - Stonehenge, London Bridge, Loch Ness. I'm not sure I want to do things that require standing in long lines and being around hoards of people. We'd really like to explore the "real" UK without being too touristy. This whole idea of visiting the U.K. started when we talked about wanting to do a pub tour. So we're interested in knowing where some authentic, local pubs are. We've thought about just getting a car and driving, and we may do something like that, but I'd like at least an idea of which towns to visit. Please recommend any and everything from London to Dublin! Thank you so much!

ElendilPickle Apr 21st, 2015 06:25 PM

Here are my trip reports from 2014 and 2007 - two weeks in Wales last year, and 12 days in England and Wales in 2007. You might find something that interests you.

My other thought is that you're trying to cover a lot of ground in three weeks, so you're going to have to be fairly picky in what you see to avoid spending all your time in a car or on a train. No doubt others will have comments as well. :-)

Lee Ann

Michael Apr 21st, 2015 06:32 PM

<i>Stonehenge, London Bridge, Loch Ness</i>

This is touristy.

It might be best to get a guide such as the Michelin Green Guide which has good explanations are the beginning of the history and culture of a country and clearly identifiable priorities depending on the time available to the traveler.

MmePerdu Apr 21st, 2015 07:02 PM

You'll probably get a number here mentioning stretching yourself too thin, or something like it. I'll must point out your choice of London Bridge especially impractical, as it's now in Arizona. Tower Bridge is still in London though. I had a London cabbie once stop in the middle to make sure I got a good look, much to the chagrin of other drivers and my surprise.

Lots of travelers start out with too many things on their lists and with a little help from your friends and some flexibility and common sense on your part, you'll whittle it down to a manageable itinerary, I have no doubt.

Kinloch Apr 21st, 2015 08:31 PM

I agree you will just be giving yourself a taste. There will have to be several travel days. I assume you will be doing a lot of sorting.
With that much geography you will have to stay to the centre of Scotland. Killin is a very picturesque town, get a taste of the Highlands, some stunning walks. The Killin Hotel is lovely, atmospheric and live music in the pub.
York was a cool British city with lots of historic buildings confined to a small area.

Havana128 Apr 21st, 2015 11:21 PM

...London Bridge......

You mean Tower Bridge built in the 1890s, not London Bridge built in the 1960s.

Havana128 Apr 21st, 2015 11:22 PM

London Bridge especially impractical, as it's now in Arizona.

Well, one incarnation is but there is very much still a London Bridge it just isn't very interesting.

janisj Apr 21st, 2015 11:35 PM

You only have 3 weeks and want to visit FOUR countries. You might as well take a commercial coach tour (not)

You really do need to scale back your plan. Just London, a bit if Scotland and a small bit of Ireland would entirely fill 3 weeks. That is w/o Wales or any other parts of England.

Get a guidebook or two and read up and start to focus.

bilboburgler Apr 21st, 2015 11:50 PM

1) drop Loch Ness, sorry if it is a given but it is just a loch with a newspaper based tourist trap attached. No history, just huzpah.

"This way to the Egress" as Barnum said.

tarquin Apr 22nd, 2015 12:49 AM

London with day trips, to Brighton for instance

a night in York on your way to

Edinburgh - I agree with scrapping Loch Ness - nothing to see, folks.

Maybe Bath for a night if you are into Georgian architecture.

If you rent a car, you could do 2/3 days visiting castles and the coast in Wales.

Kwaussie Apr 22nd, 2015 03:44 AM

We've just done 3 weeks in the UK. I started out with similar plans to yours - England, Scotland, Wales. On fabulous advice from this forum, we cut back to Scotland, Yorkshire and London and I know we couldn't have fitted in another thing.

You will see lots of bridges in London - London Bridge probably the least interesting. Tower Bridge is great.

Loch Ness was the biggest disappointment of all! Endless miles of a a pretty boring looking lake and not a monster in sight. And, if you are silly enough to pay to go to the Loch Ness Centre all your hopes of ever seeing one will be dashed ( or you will wither away with boredom).

My husband and I are both teachers. Our 'educational' highlights were Culloden, the Tower of London, Edinburgh Castle, York, the British Library and the British Museum.

karrinem Apr 22nd, 2015 06:22 AM

Okay, Tower Bridge (which I mistakenly called London Bridge - please excuse my ignorance on this) is OFF my list. I'm sticking with Stonehenge because I teach about it in my history classes but perhaps Lochness will be scrapped after all, as well.

I don't want to spend too much time in London as I'd prefer the English countryside. So what I'm hearing (and THANK YOU ALL SO MUCH) from most of you is that I should perhaps save Wales for another visit. I'm thinking three days in London - what should I absolutely see while there (and where can I get the best - not the most expensive - fish and chips)?

Any suggestions on routes from London to Scotland? Things off the beaten path? Thank you!!

bilboburgler Apr 22nd, 2015 06:40 AM

Well I'd read Kwaussie's visit report, it is lively and covers a lot of ground in detail.

London, there is a nice thread here which lists lots of the very best places to see which you might enjoy.

For me there are a few favorites. The V&A (maybe save for that rainy day) but such nice stuff. Libertys (forget Horrids of even Fortnum's this is the store for me), The templars church just because it gets dragged into more gothic horror books, video games etc that you have to see it. The Tower and St Paul's make up my top 5.

London to Scotland; Hadrian's wall, Durham (maybe meh given your time scales), The West Yorkshire Sculpture park (if this was in France it would be a world heritage site) along with the Hepworth Gallery in Wakefield, Lincoln (-meh), Cambridge (at least once a life time), Ely, should fill in a journey or two.

If you want good F&C then London is really not the place, but there must be someone competent who could rustle something up.

If you are doing stonehenge, dig out the latest ordinance survey map for the area and get to understand the route to the river and where woodhenge was.

KyraS Apr 22nd, 2015 06:53 AM

If you go to the Tower of London, you can see Tower Bridge with no effort or additional time spent on your part. If you like history, I would strongly recommend the Tower of London, and perhaps also the British Museum and/or Museum of London.

I also would suggest the National Portrait Gallery, even if you're not normally an art museum sort of person, the British Library, and perhaps the V&A. And Westminster Abbey, but I admit I'm partial (awful lot of history there, though).

You might also consider Hampton Court Palace, definitely not an in an urban-feeling location.

I'd give London more than three days, especially if the first day of three will be jet-lagged, but of course it's your trip.

I can't speak much for pubs, but there used to be a publication called the Good Pub Guide and I imagine they still exist, probably on the Internet these days, and there are probably other good pub resources online as well.

ESW Apr 22nd, 2015 09:19 AM

Karrinem, I think you really need to do some basic research yourself. One of the problems with a forum like this is that everyone has there own list of things not to be missed. Each will be different and what is a 'must' for me may well be an 'avoid at all costs' to you. Get yourself a basic guide book with lots of pictures and begin to identify where you want to go and see. Dk Eyewitness guides are among the best and they do one covering Great Britain.

When you say Ireland, and flying out of Dublin, I take it you mean the Republic of Ireland? I assume you know this is a separate country with a different currency? It uses Euros.

How are you planning to get between Ireland? You will need to check car hire to make sure you can take a car on the ferry to/from UK and are allowed to drive it in the Republic.

I'd agree with janisj that you need to scale back this trip. There is so much to see and do and you don't want to spend all your time in the car driving - or do you? Ireland seems the obvious one to cross off the list.

An alternatively to a guide book is to visit your local travel agent and pick up some brochures for coach trips in the UK as this will give you some idea of the 'must see' places on the average tourist list.

"We've thought about just getting a car and driving, and we may do something like that, but I'd like at least an idea of which towns to visit. "
You are visiting in July. this is the start of the peak holiday season. Scotish schools will be on holiday. Schools in England and Wales break up end of July. Much holiday accommodation will already be booked. Driving without a plan could mean that you are spending time searching for somewhere to stop which could otherwise be spent hiting the sights.

bilboburgler Apr 22nd, 2015 09:39 AM

Not a great fan of taking the ferry with car to Ireland. You'll probably find it time and money cheaper to dump the UK car, catch a cheepo flight and hire a car in Ireland.

dwdvagamundo Apr 22nd, 2015 09:42 AM

"We'd really like to explore the "real" UK without being too touristy." Some places we've felt to be "real": Malmesbury; Jedburgh and other smaller places in the Scottish Borders; Hexham and other places around Hadrian's Wall.

Three days in London is OK for a first trip, with one more day for a day-trip to Hampton Court Palace.

There really aren't too many places you can go in the UK that don't have some history. The problem for a history-lover is that there is too much history, and it's all jumbled together. I love history and my head was spinning after our first trip--it was spinning just after our visit to the Tower of London.

You certainly need to read a guidebook or three and perhaps focus on one historic period or a couple of personalities. For example: in Scotland, Mary Queen of Scots, whose history is all over the place; you could get a very good view of her short and unhappy life in about a week or less. In England, maybe Queen Elizabeth, her rival or, to broaden things, the Tudors. Or the Romans. Or the Vikings or WWII or . . .

karrinem Apr 22nd, 2015 11:01 AM

"Not a great fan of taking the ferry with car to Ireland. You'll probably find it time and money cheaper to dump the UK car, catch a cheepo flight and hire a car in Ireland." Thanks for that tip. That's the plan. We're going to rent a car when we're ready to leave London and drop it off in Edinburgh. Then we'll rent another car in Dublin.

I've already ordered three guidebooks and I'm doing TONS of research. I really appreciate all the feedback and suggestions as it gives me a few reference points. Also, I'm looking for suggestions on places to visit that aren't in the guidebooks. Thanks, all!

JoeCal Apr 22nd, 2015 12:36 PM

I did three weeks with my family a few years ago. We skipped London altogether - too expensive and too much to do and see. Because I used a MasterCard, I rented a car at Heathrow, and went immediately west and spent the night in Bath - Roman history galore. Then we drove west (Stonehenge, Southern Wales, etc.), the took the ferry to Ireland (Waterford, etc.) - did a counter clockwise loop around Ireland and after 7 days or so took a ferry from Dublin to Northern Wales. Cut across along Hadrians wall and then turned north to Edinburgh . Spent 2 nights in Edinburgh and the drove to Sterling castle and over to Oban. Then, running out of time, we spent two days driving back south to Heathrow and our flight home. Should have flown home from the north but didn't know at the time. Roughly speaking, we had about one week in England/ Wales, one week in Ireland and about 5 or 6 days in Scotland. Lots of windshield time but loved the trip and I am a history buff as well. My point here is that IMO London is just too much for so short a trip. Go again next year and devote a full week or more to London on its own - it will still be there.

dwdvagamundo Apr 22nd, 2015 12:58 PM


"Also, I'm looking for suggestions on places to visit that aren't in the guidebooks."

The three places I mentioned, while in at least some guidebooks, are a little bit "off the beaten track," particularly Malmesbury.

You're unlikely to find any "hidden gems" or "untouristy places" in Europe (or anywhere else) these days.

Unless I really do a lot of research and find something peculiar to my or my spouse's interests that wouldn't appeal to many people, my attitude is that if it's not in a guidebook, I won't go there because there's nothing there worth seeing.

That being said, we've found some delightful places in the UK simply by trying to find bases for exploration of an area; Malmbesbury was one. We find these by using the map feature of Tripadvisor and Two on our last trip: Derwent Manor Hotel, which was near enough to Durham, Hadrian's Wall and Hexham to be used as a base, and Beamish Museum, and Ellesmere Port near Chester, Liverpool, and the north coast of Wales.

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