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Travel Notes from London, York, and Scotland

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Jul 23rd, 2015, 07:32 AM
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Travel Notes from London, York, and Scotland

Some notes from our recent UK visit, but first a sincere thank you for all the great help and advice we received from this forum!

In London we stayed for a week at the Thistle, Kingsley in Bloomsbury, which is about a block from the British Museum, a 5 minute walk from the Holborn tube station (the Piccadilly line which we took straight from Healthrow), and a handy bus stop just outside the hotel. The hotel was conveniently and centrally located. We were delighted with the hotel, our quiet rooms (with AC!), the extensive breakfast, and the efficient, competent staff, and would highly recommend this hotel. We were an extended family of five, 2 seniors, 2 adults and 1 youth.

We stayed for a week and visited many of the major city sights. These have all been so thoroughly discussed and are all truly memorable, and I have nothing new to add that hasn’t already been said about them, so I won’t. We also incorporated three day trips: to Hampton Court Palace, Harry Potter studios, and Greenwich. All three were wonderful, all were different, and all added variety and diversity to our busy city schedule. I highly recommend each.

We traveled around by tube, bus, train, boat, and foot. At the Euston train station on the day we arrived, we purchased 7 day travel cards which we used every single day, not only for transportation but also with the accompanying 2-4-1 vouchers for many major tourist sites. What a remarkable break for tourists! Saved a phenomenal amount of money! While at the station we also purchased the Hop-On-Hop-Off Original Bus tickets (2-4-1) and our Harry Potter train tickets for the HPST day we had planned.

From the restaurant and tavern lists that you all help comprise, we happily ate at several-- Dishoom, Trishna, Zayna, and Tas, plus a few of the taverns—Princess Louise, Black Friars, Museum Tavern, and Mute Swan. We all had different favorites but Dishoom and Trishna were near everyone’s top and Black Friars and Mute Swan were the choice taverns. Mute Swan was a perfect place to end the Hampton Court Palace visit and so convenient to it! Thanks for these suggestions!

Getting from the Changing of the Guards to Westminster Abbey, we found the walk through St James Park to be absolutely delightful and relaxing. This is a very lovely park. Birds were added to Life Lists.

Some of us went to the Theatre, some went shopping (I just had to wander through Selfridge’s department store since I’d been watching the PBS/BBC productions on TV), some went to hear what was being said at speakers’ corner in Hyde Park, some to the Sherlock Holmes museum, and some to the Tate Britain museum. These experiences were beyond the major sights where we went together as a group. They were all nice experiences, and doing a few things apart seemed to work well for us, especially toward the end of our week’s stay.

We all wished we had a few more days, but son and family were off to Bath, and husband and I were off to York (We loved wandering the town and heard a beautiful concert in the Minster.), then to Edinburgh and a three night/four day Rabbies tour to Highlands and Isle of Skye, which was absolutely fantastic. This is a remarkable touring agency! Our tour had an extra day on the Isle of Skye which permitted us to stop more frequently along the way, to and from, and while there, before returning to Edinburgh. The extra day broke up the long drive beautifully and allowed more to be seen on the trip. I’d highly recommend the four day trip. I’d be happy to elaborate on anything, so ask me any questions that you like.
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Jul 23rd, 2015, 10:39 AM
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I'm so glad you ended up in Bloomsbury instead of Paddington . . . were you there during the heatwave? (after we all said a/c wouldn't be necessary )

I think Rabbies is fabulous for anyone w/ a short time and wanting to get out into the Scottish countryside w/o driving.
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Jul 23rd, 2015, 11:21 AM
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Yes, we were there for the hottest recorded July day, and there were a couple of hot days to follow, as well. I am so glad we switched and reserved a place with AC. Even in Scotland the weather was warmer than we expected, though we weren't complaining, since hot or warm is so much better than rain. During our 18 days in the UK, not once did we have to change or cancel plans due to rain.

Rabbies was the best! Our van was full with 16 compatible passengers. It was a good group ranging in ages from a couple of teenagers to a few seniors (besides us). The guide was incredible and perfectly blended commentary that included history, stories, music, and current events. In my opinion, it was so much better and much more informative than driving.
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Jul 23rd, 2015, 11:47 AM
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We are contemplating a similar trip in June 2016, so I was very interested in your post. After doing some research, I have been a little worried about frequent rain, especially in Scotland. Since we are from the Puget Sound area, we prefer to avoid "mushroom weather" while on vacation! I know it's not a predictable factor, but it has given us pause.

Despite that concern, we are still interested, mostly because of the many hiking opportunities in the UK, the history and the incredible scenery.

Thanks for posting. Anything you would have changed about your trip?
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Jul 23rd, 2015, 12:45 PM
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You know, I had to think about your question for a while. I asked my husband and he wouldn't have changed anything. But I would have added a day or two to York, though not at the expense of cutting anything from the other places. We had such a busy time in London that by the time we got to York we just wanted to wander around the city. It's a lovely city, so walkable. We had planned to go on the North Yorkshire Moors Railway to Whitby and see some of the landscape, but we didn't. So maybe that change/addition.
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Jul 23rd, 2015, 02:48 PM
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Thanks for an excellent trip report. I appreciate the brevity as you said how much more can one add to the usual tourist sights.

I am also a fan of St. James Park. For several years now, I have been staying at Rubens At The Palace and love walking from there across the park to Trafalgar Square. Next year I'm taking family ( eight of us ) but will have to find a more budget-minded hotel.

Glad you enjoyed Rabbies.
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Jul 23rd, 2015, 04:10 PM
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Thanks for your report!
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Jul 23rd, 2015, 04:52 PM
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Thanks for the kind words about the trip report. I honestly couldn’t think of what else to say about London’s major sites, beyond the fact that they were truly impressive and significant. St. James Park was perfect after the hectic and complex presentation of the Guards, and the park with the water and all the birds was just what was needed. Everyone there seemed to be enjoying themselves.

Finding the right hotel was a time consuming process and we lucked out with our final choice. If you're more familiar with London, it probably won’t be as laborious.

Another nice highlight on our Rabbies tour was that the guide, on a hunch and desire, decided to check on taking an alternative ferry across to Skye; that is the Glenelg to Skye ferry, a manual turntable ferry which is still operating. It was a unique experience!
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Jul 23rd, 2015, 04:56 PM
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Oh, the little ferry at Glenelg is wonderful. Lucky you!
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Jul 23rd, 2015, 06:12 PM
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Hi KATHLEEN,

Thanks for your wonderful report. Sounds as if you folks made the best of it throughout your trip.

I have heard such great things about Rabbies. What hotel options did you choose? How were they?

I never tire of hearing about other folks experience in Britain.
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Jul 23rd, 2015, 06:39 PM
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Kathleen, I meant to ask how you liked the Hop- On-Hop-Off Bus. I have been traveling to London for years and never done it or, for that matter, had any real interest. This coming June, I will be taking family ( 4 adults 3 of which have been to London and three grandchildren ages 10, 10 & 11 ). Thought if everyone is completly knackered when we arrive ( probably get into London in the afternoon ) the bus tour might be the thing to do.
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Jul 23rd, 2015, 10:45 PM
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So glad you liked the restaurant suggestions and that you enjoyed Dishonor, we loved it too.
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Jul 23rd, 2015, 11:25 PM
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Enjoyed your report - liked the places to eat esp as I don't know any of them- .i love York - have been there when it was flooded !!!!
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Jul 24th, 2015, 07:05 AM
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Enjoyed reading this.

I'm about a month out from my London and Scotland trip, and looking forward to my first Rabbies tour.
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Jul 24th, 2015, 08:05 AM
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Latedaytraveler- For the Rabbies tour, we selected the B&B option for our first choice of lodging, and all of our three nights were B&B’s. The first two nights in Plockton were at Tigh an saor (on Harbour St with a fantastic view overlooking the water). The third night in Fort William was at Berkeley House, also a very nice place. Both rooms were ensuite, clean, and comfortable. Both also had made to order hot foods to accompany the rest of the full breakfast- a nice treat. We thought Rabbies lodging selections were fine and reasonably priced.

Historytraveler- We loved the H-O-H-O and thought it was a great way to get an overall glimpse of what’s-where in London. We passed by many of the places we knew we’d go to in the next few days, but viewing them this way acclimated us to the size and scale of the city. We took the (yellow route) bus that had the “Live Commenter” and hopped off a couple of times, then waited for the next yellow bus. We also took the free river cruise that goes along with the tour. That cruise gave us a different viewing perspective and we had some wonderful views of some iconic landmarks: the Tower of London, Tower Bridge, The Shard, Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, etc. We enjoyed it immensely, plus the cool breeze on the river cruise was welcoming!

Welltraveledbrit- If you meant Dishoom, yes, we loved it! We didn’t have reservations, but went in the middle of the afternoon and there were a few tables available. We were downstairs in a large booth with plenty of room. Loved the variety of food!

Northie- We loved York and ate well there, too! We enjoyed Cafe Concerto and Il Paradiso for meals, Betty’s for tea and fat rascals, and the House of the Trembling Madness for drinks . We stayed three nights (two and a half days) and thought that would be more than enough time. But with the two hour free walking tour, a minster tour, a couple of museums, a walk around the walls, and many walks around town, we found two full days was not nearly enough time. York was especially enchanting in the evenings when most of the tour bus crowds were gone. A flooded York would be curious and not sure how that would be.

Elberko- I’m pretty sure you’ll love a Rabbies tour—which one are you doing?
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Jul 24th, 2015, 08:17 AM
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Kathleen, thanks for continuing your great TR. I think James Park is also a wonderful place. It is so peaceful in the middle of a bustling city. I really enjoyed watching the birds and photographing them!

Thanks for the info on Rabbie's tours.

History Traveler, I have enjoyed the HOHO bus tours in London. The live commentators share a lot of info and tell great stories! For me, I wouldn't do it right after arrival. I fall asleep too easily. I need to be up and walking that first day. But that is just my opinion, FWIW.
Your grandchildren are at a perfect age to go. I took two of my nephews when they were 10 and 12 and we had a blast. (Can't believe it was 25 years ago!)
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Jul 24th, 2015, 08:29 AM
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My son and I are doing the Outer Hebrides & Skye Adventure 6 Day Tour, which sounded like it included a bit more walking than some. I was pleased to hear that there were a variety of ages on your tour--my 30ish son would probably appreciate that.

http://www.rabbies.com/tours_scotlan...our.asp?lng=en
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Jul 24th, 2015, 08:35 AM
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irishface and historytraveler, Yes I agree and forgot to clarify that! We bought our tickets the evening we arrived, but actually started the H-O-H-O the next morning, our first full day (after a good night's sleep). We were at it for several hours, really, with the hopping off and the river cuise, which had to be taken on the day of the tour. I believe it is a 24 hour thing, so maybe it goes into the next day depending on when you start. But I'm not clear on that point. My grandson is 12, like your nephews were at the time, irishface, and yours are now historytraveler, and a very good age for this kind of tour.
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Jul 24th, 2015, 08:47 AM
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I'll be in York for one night/best part of 1.5 days late next month. Hadn't heard of the House of the Trembling Madness - will check it out. Most of the reviews mention it being small, and crowded much of the day. Did you have trouble getting in?

I love York but haven't been in the city for several years - was supposed to visit a year ago May but a little issue/visit to A&E (Emergency Room) in North Allerton while my traveling companions got to visit York (and didn't bother going inside the Minster - grrr ) so I'm squeezing in a short stop over between Edinburgh/Glasgow and London.
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Jul 24th, 2015, 08:50 AM
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elberko- Your tour sounds exciting! In reading the highlights, I noted that you'll see a "broch" which we also did--two of them. They are fascinating, old, old structures, architecture which I always find intriguing.

As we stood in line at the departure place in Edinburgh, I noted a huge variety in the ages of people waiting for their specific tours to depart. Most ages actually seemed to be between 20 and 40, so your son will be right in the middle.
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