The Grand British Isles Tour: England, Ireland & Scotland

A 15 day trip to England, Ireland & Scotland 
4.526315
4.53 out of 5 stars
38 reviews

From high tea to High Crosses, from the River Shannon to the River Thames, from Buckingham Palace to Edinburgh Castle: the destinations are filled with the places and the people that are the hallmark to an unforgettable vacation tour of the British Isles. This is the place of perfectly made Irish coffees and the mysteries of Stonehenge, where St. Patrick converted a country and Jane Austen created her most famous characters, where the words of the Bard flow to the melodies of bagpipes. The British Isles is where memories are made, and where time itself seems to stand still.

Customize This Trip For Me
Most tours are customized for private travel.

General Information

Photos
Malahide Castle, Dublin.
Detailed Itinerary

Places Visited 

London, Stonehenge, Bath, Newport, Cardiff, Waterford, Killarney, County Kerry, Southern Ireland, Dublin, Malahide, Belfast, Edinburgh, Ainwick, York, Coventry, Stratford-upon-Avon

Departure Dates 

Dates are flexible and customizable for private departures.

Detailed Itinerary 

Day 1: Welcome to Swinging London!

You land in the morning on the outskirts of puissant London, a true world city whose power and influence is unique in global history, and where the pull of the past and the role of tradition fill the air. A driver will be waiting to escort you to your centrally located and elegant hotel, where you can be sure the staff courteous, helpful and engaging.

Spend this evening getting your bearings in this astounding capital by taking the tube to one of the city’s world class restaurants: from classical European culinary masterpieces to the comfort and flavor of an authentic Indian meal, it can all be found in this magnificent metropolis.

What’s included: Private transfer and accommodations

Day 2: Exploring the Capital of the UK

Start your day with a tour from a local expert guide, who will not only show you the great sights of London, but also key you in on local customs, lesser-known history and a great understanding of the monuments of its past. Discover the Neogothic Palaces of Westminster, where Parliament is held and where some of the great politicians in English history guided the country through its most difficult decisions. You’ll certainly hear the famous Westminster chimes, and you’ll certainly be on the listen for the tolls of Big Ben, who alerts you to the hours.

Stop by adjacent Westminster Abbey to see the remnants of remains of the great leaders and figures of the United Kingdom. Elizabeth I and her sister Mary are buried on top of the other in a gorgeous chapel near the altar, and the monuments to Shakespeare and Newton are not to be missed. You’ll certainly be interested in seeing St. Edward’s Chair, the Coronation throne of the monarch of the United Kingdom.

From here, make your way to Whitehall, the center of Her Majesty’s government and a statute-lined street that is one of the most impressive in London. You can catch a glimpse of the Prime Minister’s residence at 10 Downing Street before moving on to the bustle and brightness of Picadilly Circus and the stately grace and grandeur of Buckingham Palace.

Your day concludes with a visit to a masterpiece of British architectural achievement: St. Paul’s Cathedral. Built by Sir Christopher Wren, this imposing yet elegant structure became symbolic of Britain’s resistance to the Nazi regime in World War II as images of its soaring dome standing tall amongst the wreckage of the Blitzkrieg inspired thousands of Allies. Climb to the top of the dome for a stirring viewpoint of this miraculous city, as you get a sense of the weight of glory that lies heavy along the banks of the River Thames.

What’s included: Breakfast and accommodations

Day 3: The Glories of Wales and the English Countryside

Today, you leave the streets of London to travel through the inspiring rolling hills of southern England. Your first stop today is on the expansive plains of Salisbury, where a structure older than the pyramids marks a major contribution of pagan society to the United Kingdom: haunting and mesmerizing Stonehenge. Built using unknown construction methods – some even claim the magician Merlin is responsible for the structure – and for a purpose subject to speculation, this memorable site is sure to leave you breathless and moved by its timelessness.

Then it’s on to the sophisticated city of Bath, a Roman/Georgian spa town that has been one of the country’s most beloved escape destinations since the time of the Caesars. Discover the ancient Roman Baths that gave the city its English name, get a sense of how the aristocratic life was lived in Georgian and Victorian England at No 1. Royal Crescent, or simply enjoy the parks, bridges and charming streets that fill this delightful destination. There are also excellent museums dedicated to Jane Austen, a local literary light.

Your day ends in the arresting Wales, on the banks of the River Severn and in the town of Newport, where a delicious dinner awaits you upon your arrival to your charming and elegant hotel.

What’s included: Breakfast, dinner and accommodations

Day 4: The Southern Shores of Ireland

Your morning begins with a jaunt to Cardiff, the capital of Wales and one of the most well preserved cities in all of the United Kingdom. Highlights of Cardiff include the stolid and spectacular Cardiff Castle, whose gorgeous restorations and unforgettable Victorian Gothic opulence will dazzle the senses. The spiraling sky of the Arab Room is a masterpiece of color, perspective and artisanal skill, and the wall art in the Banqueting Room is truly splendid. The castle also offers insight into the rich history of Wales and its long relationship with its powerful neighbor, as well as showcases some of the great treasures of the Welsh state. Cathays Park is also certainly worth a visit, as it has been judged to be “the finest civic centre in all the British Isles” in a recent architectural guide.

Continue up the Welsh coast until you reach the village of Fishguard, where a ferry awaits your arrival to transport you across St. George’s Channel and to the port city of Rosslare, where the luxury travel in Ireland portion of your vacation begins. From this quaint village, you will be taken to the august and venerable city of Waterford, the oldest city in Ireland and the home to a wide range of cultures and traditions, stemming from its Celtic roots and its past all the way back to the Vikings. The night scene here is welcoming and eclectic, with locals who are always willing to share advice or tip a point in you honor. The evening concludes with a fascinating and tasty look at how to make the perfect Irish coffee, the popular potable that keeps your blood warm and your sense alert during the lively Irish nights.

What’s included: Breakfast, dinner, Irish coffee demonstration and accommodations

Day 5: An Iconic Castle and Incomparable Crystal

The morning starts at a center for high Irish crafts and arguably the most famous of the island’s exports: the House of Waterford Crystal. At this incredible complex, you’ll learn about the history of Irish crystal, its ties to the region and the city of Waterford, and the techniques behind making some of the most prized crystal pieces on the planet. You’ll also get a chance to peruse some of these amazing pieces, and see if you can find a souvenir to remind your of your time in this elegant region.

From here, turn northwest to the rebellious County Cork, where you’ll make a stop by one of Ireland’s best known structures: Blarney Castle. Here, after strolling through gorgeous gardens and climbing stairways and ramparts, after walking the far length of the battlements and catching a glimpse of the stirring country beyond, you will have earned a chance to dangle under the crenellations and kiss the famous Blarney Stone. It is said to give all who kiss it the gift of gab, an Irish specialty of easy grace and flattery.

The journey ends in the vivacious village of Killarney, a gorgeous town that is known throughout the country for its hospitality, warmth and happy-go-luckiness. You might spend this evening enjoying an option dinner in Tralee, the gourmet center of Ireland, followed by an incredible show at the Siamsa Tire National Folk Theatre.

What’s included: Breakfast and accommodations

Day 6: The Emerald Isle’s Glittering Southwest

A ride unlike any other you’ve ever experienced awaits you today, as you visit to the Atlantic Coast of Ireland for a singular turn around the scintillating Ring of Kerry. Turn far to the west and encounter the plunging, plummeting Gap of Dunloe, lined with a verdant reminder of Ireland’s fertile soil. Witness the unspoiled spread of the Lakes of Killarney from the gorgeous vista afforded at the Ladies’ View and marvel at the beauty of the countryside. Lose yourself in the majestic awe of Macgillycuddy’s Reeks, those rising crags that form the ridge of Ireland and rise like sentinels above the rolling hills and meadows. Then conclude your visit at the peerless grace of Muckross House, a Tudor treasure that seems perfectly at place in the midst of such natural splendor.

The afternoon sees you back in Killarney, where you might choose to enjoy the unique pleasures of a horse-drawn carriage ride through the area, or visit the city itself with more depth. While the treasures of the outside world cannot be denied, you might find yourself hard pressed to part with the verve and good cheer that emanates from all corners of Killarney.

What’s included: Breakfast and accommodations

Day 7: Winding East Through Ireland’s Heartlands

Your eastward ventures begin at Adare, a quaint and quiet thatch-roofed village that has long been a cultural destination for the Irish and foreign guests. Desmond Castle, perched prominently on the north banks of the River Maigue, is a fascinating structure that was once the castle of the ruling clans of the region. The grey stone of the Trinitarian Monastery is indicative of the tension between beauty and austerity in this part of the world.

Continue on to the Rock of Cashal, an astounding structure that was said to be the site of conversion of the pagan King of Munster to Christianity by St. Patrick, the now famous patron saint of Ireland. The High Cross at Cashel is a stunning achievement in Irish sculpture, Cormac’s Chapel and the Round Tower are impeccably preserved, and the entire area echoes with the voices of the poets and patriots of the past, singing their songs about Ireland’s favorite man of God.

You’ll also stop just before reaching the limits of Dublin at the famous Irish National Stud, the thoroughbred farm that has produced some of the greatest horses in Irish, European and world history. The complex is awash with entertaining and informative exhibits detailing the lives of these most famous horses and the years of success here, while those non-aficionados will find the Japanese Garden and the nearby Tea House delightful stops along the winding road to Dublin.

Your evening concludes in this dashing capital city, where the banks of the River Liffery have given inspiration to some of the greatest writers in the English language. Enjoy an optional Irish cabaret filled with fine food and fine entertainment, or walk the streets of Temple Bar, the city’s most popular segment for nightlife, including marvelous restaurants and pubs that double as music venues.

What’s included: Breakfast and accommodations

Day 8: A Day in Dublin

Enjoy the treasures of the capital on the Liffey, the home to some of the great poets, writers and leaders that Ireland has seen, all inspired by the city’s streets and squares and sense of charm. Stroll the length of O’Connell Street, from the monument to the Great Famine victims past the Dublin Spire, to the statue of O’Connell himself, the Irish politician who gave Catholics the right to vote. This is the major road in north Dublin, and there is history everywhere, from the plaques in the streets detailing scenes from Ulysses, to the bullet holes in the General Post Office - remnants of the Easter Rebellion of 1916.

Amble past the elegant Georgian townhouse and through some of the beautiful spots of greenery, including Merrion Square and St. Stephen’s Green, Dublin’s answer to Central Park - which is certainly the best place to spend a sunny afternoon. Then, make your way down Grafton Street, the main fashion hub of the city. It is home to fine department stores, independent jewelers, art galleries and rare book collectors.

Continue through the area south of the Liffey to explore St. Patrick’s Cathedral, the mother church of the church of Ireland and a grand testament to the power of faith in this country. The evening is spent enjoying the many offerings of this city, from the fine eateries on Dawson and Kildare Streets and the delicious gastropubs on the banks of the Liffey to a stroll through south Dublin, admiring the architecture and enjoying the charms of a pub that might have been built before the United States existed.

What’s included: Breakfast and accommodations

Day 9: Into Northern Ireland

You turn north into the province of Ulster and a new country, but not before seeing one more treasure of the Republic. Less than ten miles north of Dublin is Malahide Castle, the ancestral home of the Talbot family for nearly 800 centuries and an elegant example of a fine Irish castle. Enjoy a guided tour of this magnificent facility: from the Oak Room to the Great Hall to the gorgeous Talbot Botanic Gardens, which offers examples of elegant flowers endemic to the Southern Hemisphere. Nearby Malahaide Abbey is also worth a visit, as further example of architecture of the area.

From Malahide, you ride until Belfast, the capital of Northern Ireland. Belfast, a center of the British Empire for generations, a bastion of Union and Protestant politics as well as the power of industry. Learn more about one of the most tragically famous products of Belfast’s great shipbuilding tradition at the Titanic Exhibition. You’ll learn more about this famous ship, her construction, her fateful maiden voyage, and the events of the nights when she famously sank in the North Atlantic.

Following your visit to the Titanic Exhibition, you can enjoy the rich, hearty and unforgettable flavors of traditional Irish cuisine at the Crown Liquor Saloon, a Belfast institution that serves only the finest Irish hospitality, and some incredible food as well.

What’s included: Breakfast, dinner and accommodations

Day 10: Touring Two Capitals

Today begins with a tour of Belfast, taking in the stirring sights of this singular city, a home to peace where for so long war and violence raged. Cast your eyes upon the soaring, glorious elegance of the Albert Memorial Clock, a dedication to the husband of Queen Victoria and a landmark of the city, before continuing on to Belfast City Hall, the Baroque Revival masterpiece that dominates the city scene around it. You’ll also want to visit the Queen’s Quarter, where you can take in a bit of sophistication near the gorgeous university.

From Belfast, you board a ferry that you will take you back to the island of Britain, where you’ll offload in bonnie Scotland, a romantic and engrossing country that is filled with locals that are warm, welcoming and wonderfully entertaining. Enjoy your trip through the Scottish lowlands before arriving at the capital of Edinburgh, dominated by the medieval Edinburgh Castle and serving as one of the cultural centers of Great Britain. This evening, you might enjoy a traditional Scottish meal as a rowdy welcome to this one-of-a-kind land, where you’ll enjoy Scottish dancers, bagpipers and, should you be brave enough, the Ceremony of the Haggis.

What’s included: Breakfast and accommodations

Day 11: Discovering Enchanting Edinburgh

Today, venture to Edinburgh’s New Town, the home to some of the city’s great literary minds and incredible monuments to their brilliance. Robert Louis Stevenson was inspired to write his horror masterpiece The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by these winding streets, and J.K. Rowling penned her first words to the Harry Potter series in a café in the heat of New Town. From here, you turn to learn more about Scotland’s older and more epic history: from the towering and imposing battlements of Edinburgh Castle to the Royals of Scotland, a set of Crown Jewels that are among the oldest of their kind in the United Kingdom.

Walk triumphantly down the Royal Mile, passing relics of Edinburgh like the Heart of Midlothian and the High Kirk before arriving at Holyroodhouse, the official residence of the Monarch in Scotland and the home of Mary, Queen of Scots. The palace is an incredible example of Scottish high taste - with an excellent art gallery and beautiful grounds that blend into the rolling countryside beyond. You also might feel inclined to simply walk the area around this beautiful structure, gaining soaring views over the city beyond.

This evening, why not discover what life was like for the Royal Family during some of the most intense missile scares of the twentieth century? The Royal Yacht Britannia offers tours of this incredible ship. Or, enjoy the delicious food that fill the streets of New Town or the older gourmet stops near the steps of Edinburgh Castle.

What’s included: Breakfast and accommodations

Day 12: The Sites of North England

Journey into the far north of England: the outer limit of the Roman Empire for centuries, and the battlegrounds for the many conflict between the English and the Scots. Marvel at the rolling surf and gentle undulations of the North Sea as it glitters across the shore and offers a kind of softness to the scene. Drive past Berwick-upon-Tweed before stopping in Alnwick, named the best place to live in Britain in 2002 and one of the most beautiful and charming market towns in the county of Northumberland.

Then its on to the city of York, a present-day reminder of its incredible importance during the wars that plagued Britain for generations, from the soaring sight of York Minster to the remains of the walls that showcase the city’s impregnability. The stained glass windows that dominate the Minster are a treasure of English craftsmanship, and history buffs might want to visit the JORVIK Viking Center, an amazing museum that recreates life as it would have been lived in the early 1000s. The afternoon sees you with an experienced and engaging tour guide, who will lead you through some of the narrow and tortuous streets of York, including the famed Shambles that have seen humans passing through for centuries.

What’s included: Breakfast, dinner and accommodations

Day 13: Birthplace of the Bard

Your journey begins to wind toward the end as you ease your way to London. Visit the prototypical village of Coventry, where the cathedral here is revered for its indomitable perseverance, including withstanding the devastating Nazi Blitz campaign. The new cathedral is a dramatic, modernist interpretation, and its elegance meshes beautifully with the hallowed remains of the old cathedral.

You continue on to the small and easily overlooked Stratford-upon-Avon, long since famous as the birthplace and home of William Shakespeare. The village itself is a delightful example of an English country town, but the presence of the Bard – and his wife Anne Hathaway – is as inescapable as it is undeniable. Stop by Hathaway’s cottage and see the funeral bust of the Bard himself before enjoying one of dinner at one of the city’s fine restaurants or taking in a play at the gorgeous Royal Shakespeare Theatre. Or park at The Black Swan, one of the best pubs in the town and a hangout for actors and other local luminaries.

What’s included: Breakfast, dinner and accommodations

Day 14: One Final Day in the Stunning UK

Your homestretch into London is dominated by the awesome presence of Blenheim Palace, the seat of the Churchill family for generations following the Duke of Marlborough’s victory at the Battle of Blenheim. The Prime Minister grew up here, in all of the finest expectations of British aristocracy and all of the joys of the thriving English countryside. This house’s endless class is on display both inside and out. The interiors are sumptuous; the gardens surrounding the palace are meticulously maintained and artfully designed, evoking the countryside with subtle hints and grand sweeps. And there is surely no finer way to cap off this experience than with a glass of fine champagne with a spreading vista over the surrounding Water Terraces.

The afternoon sees you back in London, where you can engage in whatever pleasure your heart demands. Stop by the stalls at Harrod’s, one of the world’s great department stores, or stroll through St. James Park or Kensington Gardens to get a sense of the lush beauty of London. Or, of course, you could always take in a play or a musical at London’s famed West End, home to some of the finest performances in the world. However you choose to spend your evening, you can be sure it will be a fitting farewell to this beautiful region.

What’s included: Breakfast and accommodations

Day 15: Returning Home

After a hearty and delicious breakfast at your hotel, your driver will arrive with ample time to take you to the airport, where you will await your flight home. From the strength of England to the whimsy of Ireland to the charm of Scotland, this is surely a trip that you will never have trouble remembering.

What’s included : Breakfast and private transfer

For more vacation planning ideas, visit Zicasso's tour of Europe page.

Price

Starting Price 

$5,245
This trip is customizable for your private travel.

What's Included 

  • Accommodations
  • In-country transportation
  • Some or all guided tours and activities (dependent on season)
  • Expert trip planning
  • 24x7 support during your trip
The starting price is based on travel during the low season for a minimum of two travelers staying in shared 3-star accommodations. Please inquire for a custom trip quote based on your travel preferences and travel dates.