Planning my ultimate 2-week Itinerary to England & Scotland took some time to research and plan. I first started listing out every place I wanted to visit. I mostly get ideas through travel books such as the Little Black Book of London. Next, I start looking at Pinterest for ideas. Once I have them all, I start going through them and piecing my trip together one day at a time. I look at where each place is located to see if I can group any.
Here is a quick look at my ultimate 2-week Itinerary to England & Scotland.
Ultimate 2-week Itinerary to England & Scotland
First Day in London
I start my first day in a new place taking a walk and exploring the neighborhoods. In London, you can’t help gravitating toward Buckingham Palace. There are lots of people stuck to the gates trying to get pictures of the guards and taking selfies. I found it best to move to the side to get an unobstructed view of the guards.
After taking my fill of pictures, I walked through Green Park to head to Soho. It was surprising to see so many people in the park sitting on the grass in the middle of a work day. After some more thought, I can understand this a bit, when you have as much rain as London gets. You have to get out and enjoy the sunshine when it shows up.
Soho is eclectic with its crazy shops mixed in with high-end stores. Plus, the vibe is very relaxed. Even with the number of people on Carnaby Street, I enjoyed walking through the area. The crowds just made it more enjoyable for people watching.
I occasionally like to mix up my solo traveling with group tours. This day I signed up for a tour with Evan Evans to experience Windsor Castle, Oxford, and Stonehenge. Windsor Castle, the Queen’s home, is massive, and I only had an hour to see the whole place. I would have liked more time but, I made the best of my time here. I was able to tour the State Apartments, see Mary’s gigantic Doll House, and St. George’s Chapel.Oxford is amazing! I instantly fell in love with the architecture and the city. Oxford University has 38 different colleges. We visited Christ Church, which is the setting for quite a bit of movie sets including the Harry Potter films. The highlight of this tour is seeing Stonehenge and being in the inner circle at sunset. This particular tour is one of the few select tours that allow you to enter the inner circle. We had 30 minutes in the stones for pictures and to experience the sunset. Capturing the sunset through the stones is amazing! This experience is a definite must have compared to standing outside looking in.
Today’s adventure took me to the Southbank of London after a walk through of Westminster Abbey. The audio tour is beneficial in identifying all the famous memorials throughout the abbey. There are memorials & statues on the walls and even on the floor for hundreds of famous dignitaries and royals.After the Abbey, I crossed over the Thames to walk along the river on the South Bank. Right by the London Eye is the cheezy tourist traps, but as you go further, you see where the locals hang out to eat their lunch. You will also pass Shakespeare Globe Theater, the ruins of Winchester Palace, and many other interesting sites on your walk heading to London Bridge. London Bridge is an impressive sight to see up close. If you have time, settle down in the grass, and you might see the bridge lift.My last stop for the day is the Tower of London. The Tower of London is right on the other side of the bridge. I started the self-guided tour along the walls surrounding the fort. Places to visit within the tower are the Fusiliers’ Museum, White Tower, Bloody Tower, and of course the Crown Jewels.
Day 4 in London, took me in another direction to explore. I had a timed ticket for a Buckingham Palace Tour so, before that, I walked around London toward Trafalgar Square. This is a busy area with traffic and crowds by the National Gallery but, amazing architecture.Walking through the Mall to the front gates, I was still early for my 11:15 am tour. Decided to visit the Royal Mews while I waited to get into Buckingham Palace. It was a bit lack luster for me because I was expecting to see more horses. But, the coaches are beautiful to see. Buckingham Palace is an amazing experience. I was there for awhile walking through the State Apartments and seeing the display of the fashion of the queen over the years. The tour ends in the back so, you can walk through the gardens on your way out of the grounds.Next stop was to explore Kensington Palace but, I found a couple of more stops to visit along the way. First was Harrods department store. You can get lost exploring all seven floors of amazing departments. The building itself is a work of art with each escalator area a different theme. The food hall on the ground floor is a perfect place to grab lunch. There aren’t a lot of places to sit but, Hyde park is close by if you want to enjoy your meal outside. Hyde Park is an excellent way to relax your feet from all the walking and watch the swans. The Diana Memorial Fountain is also along this walk to Kensington Palace.Kensington Palace tour compared to Buckingham Palace or Windsor Castle was a bit of a disappointment. The rooms seemed to be run-down, and there wasn’t as much opulence in the State Apartments fitting a Palace. I am surprised with the limited references to Lady Diana in all these palace tours and gift shops. There was some in Kensington Palace that I was glad to see considering how popular she still is today.
My last stop on my walking tour of London is Notting Hill. I stopped at the Travel Bookstore, and surprisingly there are no books. Portobello road has some beautiful photo opportunities of homes. There are also lots of London gift choices with all the shops in Notting Hill.
I took the tube out to Kew Gardens. This stop is a bit confusing to figure out which direction to go in but, it is a short walk to the gardens once you figure it out. The gardens are beautiful! The palm and lily houses are very humid so, remember to protect your camera. Queen Charlotte’s cottage was neat to see on the outside. Certain times of the year it is open to see inside the cottage. The grounds are massive. There are tons of paved, unpaved, and elevated paths to follow and see the peaceful gardens and lovely landscapes. Kew Palace, in my opinion, is nicer than Kensington Palace. The history of this palace circles around King George’s mental illness and how the royal family lived here to keep it from the public. It is also interesting to see how the family slept on separate floors. The King is on the Ground Floor, Queen on the 1st floor and the princesses on the 2nd floor. A different life compared to the modern family of everybody on the same floor.
York is a very attractive old medieval town with it fortress walls surrounding the city. You can easily spend a couple of days here because there is so much to see. The Yorkshire Museum Gardens are beautiful and St. Mary’s Abbey’s ruins are breathtaking to see up close. York filled with Viking & Roman military history, museums, shops, restaurants, and of course York Minster is abundant with choices for you to explore. I even got to hear the Minster Choir sing. There are no words.
I took the scenic route (A68) from York to Edinburgh. Along the way, I stopped at Chesters Roman Fort & The Clayton Museum. This stop also has an exposed portion of Hadrian’s Wall. This break in the trip is a nice stop for an hour or so, to see the ruins of the barracks, baths, towers & gates along the River North Tyne.
I made it into Edinburgh by late afternoon. Walking along the Royal Mile to Edinburgh Castle, I admired the street performers and window shopping; there is a lot to see here. The castle sits on top of Castle Rock and has a commanding view of the city. Plan to spend a couple of hours going through all the castle buildings.If you have some time at the end of your day, Calton Hill is an excellent spot to view the city and capture the sunset. Come early to find a good place to sit. It does get crowded so, plan. But, the view and shots you get are worth it!
Today’s adventure starts at Edinburgh Waverley Railway Station with a ticket purchase to Linlithgow Palace. Remember to make sure you plan your days because no trains are running before 11 am on Sundays. Linlithgow Palace is a remembrance for the Stewart Monarchs. Although this Palace is crumbling away, it still is an impressive part of history. You can freely walk around the castle and up and down stairways.
After taking the train back to Edinburgh, I trekked on the Royal Mile away from Edinburgh Castle and ended up at Palace of Holyrood. Pick up an audio self-guided tour of the palace and the abbey ruins. You can walk through the Royal and Historic Apartments and see Queen Mary of the Scots rooms. So much violent drama surrounded her at Holyrood Palace.
Scheduled another group tour for this day. This tour was with Timberbush for a one day tour of Loch Ness, Glencoe, and the Highlands. Glencoe was picture perfect with the rolling hills giving way to huge mountains. When the mist & rain moved in it just added to the mysterious Highland atmosphere and gave everything a softer look. We had a couple of quick stops along the tour for breaks. One is at Kilmahog which has a pair of Highland Cows to photograph. The other stop was for lunch at Fort Agustus.The stop after lunch is at Urquhart Castle which resides on the banks of Loch Ness. Mostly ruins now but, still neat to visit. After the Jacobite Rising and Defeat, the British destroyed all potential holdings so; they could not regroup. It is a shame that so many of these impressive structures were destroyed this way and Urquhart Castle is one of them.
Driving from Edinburgh to Inverness, I couldn’t help stopping at a couple of places. First is the village of Culross. Culross has been the backdrop of one of my favorite shows at the moment, Outlander. I walked around the village to photograph the houses and Culross Palace. I also walked up to Culross Abbey. The abbey grounds have some ruins but, the church is still functional today.
Next stop is The Hermitage which is part of the National Trust for Scotland. This is another a great stop for a bit of hiking and stretching the legs between car rides. You walk on paths along the River Braan, and after awhile you can hear the roaring water of the Black Linn Falls. The best way to view the waterfall is within Ossian’s Hall.
Since I was close and already on the Duke of Atholl’s land, I decided to stop at Blair Castle. The castle is privately held and not within the National Trust for Scotland. The fee to tour the castle and gardens is 10 pounds. The Duke of Atholl was a game hunter. There are antlers everywhere within the castle. He even had deer and stag for pets. As I was leaving the castle, there was a Scottish Highlander playing the bagpipes in the forecourt of the castle. Lovely music!
This day was spent visiting more somber sites of Scottish History. The first stop is to Culloden Moor. What an unbelievable experience. It is so serene and quiet that it is hard to believe the Highland Clans were wiped out so quickly here in 1746. How different Scotland would be if this battle had ended differently.After Culloden Moor, I drove a short distance (5 minutes) to Clava Cairns. One of the few Standing Stones left in Scotland. The area has burial chambers along with the standing stones. I also visited Brodie Castle. I took my first guided tour of a castle. It was very informative on the history of the Brodie family. It was exciting to see the secret doorways and passages connecting all the rooms on tour. The National Trust for Scotland owns and runs Brodie Castle. You can also walk the gardens which in the spring is covered in daffodils.The rest of my day was spent exploring Inverness, going inside churches, bookstores, and shops. If you have time, try to visit Inverness Castle. What a wonderful Highland city!
Left Inverness to drive back to England via Gretna Green. This is by far the cheesiest tourist trap so far on my trip. Although there is a lot of history on why so many couples eloped here just across the border to Scotland, the buildings they grouped and the museum doesn’t do it justice. My thoughts also could have been from visiting this place solo. Who knows maybe visiting as a couple you would have an entirely different experience than I did.
The drive through the Lake District of England was the most harrowing I’ve had since being in the U.K. These were truly the narrow roads I was warned about. Even with me white knuckling the steering wheel, the views are fantastic in this area of England. One of my sudden stops was at the Stock Ghyll Force waterfall in Ambleside. This is a nice break from driving to hike to this amazing waterfall. There are lots of photo opportunities along the stone bridge over the falls and even stairs to a path at the bottom of the falls. Beware there is a lot of mist so, keep your camera covered. The town of Ambleside where I stayed over night is so quaint tucked up into the bottom of the mountain. It reminded me of Colorado in the summertime. The town is filled with excellent shops, including many hiking and adventure stores.
This day I spent exploring the Cotswold area of England. Broadway, came highly recommended to visit. The light amber colored buildings are so picturesque to view. I walked up the main street and kept walking through the residential area. There are so many houses for sale; I started to get tempted and thinking of the future. This village would be a great place to retire.My overnight stay is in Bourton-on-the-Water. Referred to as the Little Venice of the Cotswold with its many bridges over River Windrush. The river is full of ducks which the kids love to scare and wade into the water. There are many people on the green that it might seem too touristy. But, to see it fresh in the morning without people is pure beauty. This is a great place to take day trips from and is small enough town that you can see the whole place in a couple of days.
Drove to Bath from Bourton-on-the-water which took about an hour and 15 minutes. Most of the road is motorways but, there is a portion that goes through single lane small towns and villages with people parking right on the road so, you have to veer into the other lane. Make sure to watch for oncoming traffic. Bath has several park & rides outside the city for easy parking and getting into the town. Bath seemed very touristy walking around the buildings but, that disappeared once you entered the building. The moment you entered a building you are whisked back in time. The first place to visit is Bath Abbey to see a similar set up as Westminster with all the memorials and stones on the walls.The highlight of Bath though is the Roman Baths and especially the Great Bath. Even knowing that this isn’t how it looked back in the Roman era it is still just as magnificent. There are interactive displays and a museum below the Great Bath along with glimpses of the actual bath ruins that put this whole complex in perspective.
Another photography site to see is Pulteney Bridge. The bridge crosses River Avon and consists of rows of shops on both sides of the bridge with a narrow road between them. A tiered waterfall design on the River Avon below the bridge adds to the setting.
The Fashion Museum & Assembly Rooms is an enjoyable site especially if you are a fan of historical romance novels. The Ball Room looks exactly how I imagined it would be. I can see the ballroom filled with ladies in Victorian dresses waltzing with the gentlemen and all the spinsters lined up sitting along the wall. I sat in one of the chairs but, I do not feel like a spinster. My last item on my Bath must see the list is the Jane Austen Centre. The museum devoted to her life in Bath and her writing is exceptional. Jane accomplished so much before she died at 41 years.
I know that this is a lot of information but, I hope you find something worthwhile to add to your list for your next vacation to England & Scotland. Oh, the places you will see…7 Palaces, 6 Castles, 2 Standing Stone Circles, amazing landscapes filled with mountains, waterfalls, and sheep. If you do follow this guide or have been to any of these destinations, drop me a note and let me know how it was. I would love to hear from you!