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Where in British Isles to visit next summer?

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Jun 13th, 2018, 05:58 PM
  #1
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Where in British Isles to visit next summer?

My wife and I have previously traveled on three separate trips to the UK or Ireland. We are each late 50's. Each trip was 13 days, including air travel. One was to Southern England (South of a line between Norwich and Gloucester, including London), one was to central Scotland (Edinburgh to Caledonian Canal), and one to the Southern part of Ireland (Dublin to Limerick). We enjoyed them all very much, England the least, and Scotland the most. I prefer time to visit areas, not a "if this is Tuesday, it must be Belgium" pace.

We want to make plans for July of 2019. Since I will use frequent flier miles for a pair of business class tickets, I probably should make reservations by September, so it's not as early as it sounds. I need to decide where to fly into. I have three options; I haven't been to any of these, and would really appreciate advice.

Option 1 - Southern Scotland/Northern England - I've always wanted to visit York and Northern England. Scotland has been my favorite of any Country I've been to, I plan on visiting the Highlands and Islands on another trip. If I visit York, Hadrian's Wall, Northumberland, and the part of Scotland South of Edinburgh and Glasgow (been to both), I can finish Scotland. I will go back because I loved it.

Option 2. - The Northern part of the Republic of Ireland and Northern Island - The last time I went to Ireland, we flew into Dublin and flew out of Shannon. We spent 4 days in Dublin, and the rest in a coastal semi-circle to the South. This time, we'd fly into either Shannon or Dublin, go in a circle to the North until we reach the other airport.

Option 3 - Central England and Wales - Stratford upon Avon, Midlands, Warwickshire, Great Castles in Wales, Snowdonia National Park, etc. I know less about this area than about the other two.

We're very mobile, but not overly athletic. Get tired after walking for a few hours. Love scenery and historic sites, not into hiking up mountains or spending all day rambling in the Lakes District.

I've narrowed to these three because they all sound good, and places where we could enjoy spending around 11+ days (13 days minus travel). Any thoughts from you experienced Travelers in that area?

Thank you in advance.
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Jun 13th, 2018, 07:58 PM
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All of these would be excellent choices. I haven't been in Northern Ireland for years so I don't feel particularly current on destinations or activities that would be of interest to travelers; I will say, though, that you'll find extraordinarily friendly and hospitable people throughout the region, as well as the northern counties in the Republic.

Option 3 could offer a lot of variety, but with 11 days, trying to include Snowdonia or really, much of Wales at all, would have the potential of limiting your ability to do justice to the English counties in this very large and very diverse area.

My own vote (but note I'm quite biased about this) would be Option 1. Here, too, you'd need to budget your time and set priorities or run the risk of a serious time crunch.

There are, generally speaking, two areas of Scotland that would fall into your description of "southern Scotland," basically (1) Dumfries and Galloway and (2) the Borders.

Dumfires and Galloway is a large area in the southwest of Scotland bordered by the Solway Firth to the south. It's an area of considerable variety, with lovely upland and moor areas, but with numerous interesting and very historic towns like Dumfries itself, and a personal fave, Kirkcudbright ("kir-KOO-bree.") It is, however, somewhat isolated, and any itinerary that includes Dumfries and Galloway and also areas in the north of England is going to involve a fair amount of time in the car, not all of it particularly scenic.

The Borders region is also full of beautiful country and VERY historic towns; this has been a focal area for battles and drama for centuries, but also of some significant history. It's an important region for woolen production, and there are numerous abbeys, castles and fortified houses to explore.

So if it was me, I'd have a look at a route something like this - https://goo.gl/maps/6XEWA1AhjrD2 . This would start in Edinburgh and end in York. In the meantime you'd travel through the eastern Borders, including Rosslyn Chapel, Melrose with its historic abbey, then follow the River Tweed downstream and into England. Pause at the Black Bull pub in the tiny village of Etal - the northernmost thatched pub in England. You'd stop at the Holy Isle of Lindisfarne, then follow the coast past Bamburgh (one of the most impressive castles in the region) through Seahouses, then to Alnwick ("annick") with its jaw-dropping castle, used in the Harry Potter movies.

You'd then swing inland to Hadrian's Wall (I've shown the Housesteads fort on the map, but there are alternative places to see it, then over to Durham. Durham Cathedral is, in my view, the single most impressive building in Britain, and in the top ten in Europe. The ancient city of Durham (not a very big city) is simply beautiful, and worthy of a full day if not more. It's very special.

You'd finish with a loop through the Yorkshire Dales (your choice of places to see - just shown on the map as an indication) and end in York. Drop the car and take the train to wherever your flight home departs - Edinburgh, Manchester or London are all easily reached.

So in a nutshell that would be my suggestion. Others might well offer alternatives, no doubt equally valid. For descriptions of the places mentioned above as far south as Alnwick, I'd recommend Undiscovered Scotland - https://www.undiscoveredscotland.co.uk/index.html
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Jun 13th, 2018, 08:28 PM
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Gardyloo's plan is excellent. If it was my trip (which it isn't ) I definitely do a version of that.

You could do it in either direction. In to MAN and home from EDI or vice versa. That is a lot of territory in 11 days but doable.

I'd probably start in Edinburgh and stay one night car-less to get acclimated and recover from the jetlag.

Then try to book a couple of nights at Traquair House - the most amazing experience.

Then maybe 3 nights in either Bamburgh, Alnwick or Rothbury for St Abb's Head, Lindesfarne, Bamburgh, Alnwick, Cragside and the eastern bits of Hadrian's Wall. Four nights would not be too much for this leg.

Then a night in Durham.

Then divide the rest with maybe 1 night IN York and 2 or 3 nights in the Dales.

Fly home from MAN (or do the whole thing in reverse)
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Jun 13th, 2018, 09:06 PM
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Please keep those suggestions coming.

Gardyloo and JanisJ - Thank you so much for the thought that clearly went into those replies. I sincerely appreciate it.

Gardyloo - you said you were prejudiced. Why? Are you a big fan of Scotland? It is the favorite country I've ever visited. I think that between 12 days I spent in Central, 12 days I plan on spending in Highlands and Islands, and at some point 6-7 days in South, that'll be over 1 month is Scotland, which I think will give me a good flavor of the Country. Last time I spent 3 nights in Edinburgh, 1 week in Dunkeld, and 2 nights in Aviemore. Spent my last night in Manchester because I flew out of there the next morning. I hope to spend more time in Scotland.

Thank you both again.
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Jun 13th, 2018, 10:41 PM
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Option 1 for me without a doubt - but then that's because I live there (Yorkshire Dales). Would never want to live anywhere else!!
Garydloo's suggestion for an itinerary is good and encompasses the 'major sites' in the area.
My only comment would be that you say you are travelling 'in July'. This is peak period as I am sure you are aware (English school children finish for their long summer break mid July). So those major sites are all going to be very busy - even 'oop north' which gets nowhere near as crowded as many other areas.
If you pick Option 1 then do come back and ask more questions as I can give you much more specific advice especially about North Yorkshire.
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Jun 14th, 2018, 05:19 AM
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Originally Posted by SenatorSteve View Post
Gardyloo - you said you were prejudiced. Why? Are you a big fan of Scotland? It is the favorite country I've ever visited. I think that between 12 days I spent in Central, 12 days I plan on spending in Highlands and Islands, and at some point 6-7 days in South, that'll be over 1 month is Scotland, which I think will give me a good flavor of the Country. Last time I spent 3 nights in Edinburgh, 1 week in Dunkeld, and 2 nights in Aviemore. Spent my last night in Manchester because I flew out of there the next morning. I hope to spend more time in Scotland.
Yes, lived and worked there for years, and return as often as my knees and banker will permit. Lots of friends, all getting older like me. (Sigh.) A pal of mine (also approaching dotage) gets together with his crew every week in a pub in Dalkeith and tells me that before they get down to the business of beer they conduct an "organ recital." "How's the arthritis, Jimmy?" And like that.

A month is better than no time, but Scotland, like any complex place, can't be understood quickly. Free advice: just see what you can see, and pay more attention to the people than to the buildings.
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Jun 14th, 2018, 05:45 AM
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I too live in Yorkshire and feel you could spend more time in the county, but Scotland is fine (though I bore people here by saying Orkney is the best of it it would not fit into your itin). Fountains abbey is a great place to visit and should be on your itinary. I can take Durham or leave it alone, certainly the views towards are worth it especially from the large park that surrounds the mound/rock it sits on, lots of scrambling about, but I was less impressed with the actual cathedral than say Salisbury or even York Minster.

If you have time for Fountains then make time for RIpon Minster as well, especially the carvings in the pews, do you recognise any of the animals and what book were they used in?
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Jun 14th, 2018, 06:22 AM
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Another variation on a theme:

Two nights in the Borders, 3 nights in Northumberland, and the rest in the Dales, doing York as a day trip drive car to MAN and fly out - or - possibly dropping the car in York and spending your last night there then train to MAN (the train takes 1:45)

Re Scotland -- I never lived there like Gardyloo but did live in England for about 5 years and visited Scotland very frequently. Now I travel to the UK at least twice a year and specifically Scotland maybe every 2 or 2.5 years. In aggregate have spent between 9 months and a year in Scotland (and still haven't seen it all) It is close to my favorite place on Earth. You still have a lot of unexplored corners of the country.
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Jun 14th, 2018, 08:36 PM
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It sounds like most of you recommend option 1, so I think that's what we'll do. Bilboburgler, I did say that I want to do the Highlands and Islands on a trip to Northern Scotland, and I'll certainly do Orkney as part of that.

Question: I'm from Florida, and the heat and humidity here is oppressive in July and August. I need to be back by early August for work and to help move children to college. Morgana says that it gets really bad there because of kids school break by Mid-July. Do we know when that starts? I normally would go the last two weeks of July. I could go the first two weeks of July, or even start the two weeks at the end of June if that would avoid the crowds. Is it bad all of July, or just the last two weeks? I didn't see horrible crowds when i was in Mid-Scotland in July a few years ago.

Once again, please accept my thanks for all of these suggestions, and I'll create another post after I book my flights, probably in September.
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Jun 14th, 2018, 08:47 PM
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Any time Mid June through early July would be terrific. EXTREMELY long days, and the big crowds haven't arrived yet because British schools are still in session.
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Jun 14th, 2018, 10:08 PM
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School term dates can vary from county to county in England and even school to school. But for next July most of the schools will stop for their 6 week break some time around week commencing Monday 15th July or the beginning of the next week.
I agree with Janis - June or the beginning of July would be much better.
It really does make a big difference. Now my own children are grown up I would never choose to holiday between mid July and the beginning of September. Places like Alnwick for example will be heaving (Harry Potter connection).
Prices often get a hike up during school holidays - so going a bit before should save you a bit of money too!
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Jun 18th, 2018, 01:45 AM
  #12
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Schools in Scotland break up at the end of June and go back around 20th August.

English and Welsh schools break up a month later at the end of July and go back the first week of September.

Dates of individual school may vary a day on either side of these dates.
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