This was the vacation of a lifetime for my husband and I! After several months of research, planning, dozens (and dozens!) of emails, our travel company did a fantastic job putting our custom England and Scotland trip together. We didn't want to go with a tour group (too many people, too structured), and we didn't want to necessarily wing it either, so this was the perfect solution. Our travel plan was a little complicated and very busy, but our travel advisor worked very hard to make sure everything we wanted to do was included, every detail was organized and that the logistics made sense and were easy to follow. There was a perfect balance of luxury and moderate accommodations, and all of the the hotels and B&Bs she chose were just wonderful (and our travel company surprised us with a bottle of champagne on our first night!). We chose a couple hotels on our own and had some "must see" items on our list, but we trusted our travel advisor to make a great travel plan for us, and she did. The accommodations were in awesome locations, had excellent service, and had everything we asked for. She arranged private tour guides for us in London, Bath, York, and Edinburgh....now this is the way to see a city!!!! During the planning stage, there was constant communication via phone and email, and she was very responsive. During the trip, she was also in contact with us, confirming tours and letting us know of any changes. Our trip ended up stretching to 19 days because there was just so much more we wanted to see and do that we discovered through the planning process, and our travel advisor was extremely accommodating making adjustments.
There is no way we could have planned everything on our own. Our travel company worked within our budget and were excellent partners to make the trip happen. The have established relationships with the guides, hotels, and tour companies. They really listened to us and what our interests were and made it happen. There were a couple small hiccups, but overall we are very impressed, very pleased, and will definitely use this company again.
Thanks for a great trip!
Christine and Larry
We loved having private blue badge guides in the major cities we visited. It was so laid back, so casual, and not the cattle herding of a group bus tour. We realize that they are more costly that doing an organized tour, but it was so worth it. The guides really knew their stuff and were very passionate. We kept a loose agenda and got to see lots of off the beaten path sites. It helped that we were resolved to be flexible, because there were some things we weren't able to do, such as St. Paul's Cathedral and Westminster Abbey on a Sunday because of services. Instead, our guide took us to the Churchill War Rooms as well as the Camden Lock Market, both of which were not on our original list, but ended up being so awesome. We did the churches on our own on a different day. Despite the fact we were on an island, we didn't think we'd have a chance to see the beach/ocean and merely mentioning it to our guide in Edinburgh ended up rerouting us to a gorgeous beach to snap a few pics. Our guide in Bath was so kind...he offered to meet us in his home town for coffee before we got on the train to Bath.
Other major highlights of the trip are, of course, the pubs and the people. Not being world travelers of any sort whatsoever, we thought we would get our feet wet by going to an English speaking country first with whom we have something in common....language and beer. Everyone was so friendly and welcoming, and we got to know a lot of the bartenders! We made friends with other patrons and even took turns buying a round. In the more remote areas, people got excited when they heard our "American" accent. We just really thoroughly enjoyed ourselves wherever we went. And several of the pubs had really nice "beer gardens" (patios) outside.
Here is a list of our favorite things:
Churchill War Rooms St. James Park Our hotel London Eye - we thought this was going to be stupid and cheesy but was actually really cool. Tower of London Westminster Abbey Hampton Court Palace Day Trip - we did a bicycle tour around the park near the palace and it was one of our very favorite things we did the whole trip. Downtown Abbey day trip
Lacock Abbey Fashion Museum Bath Abbey Roman Baths Our hotel Bradford on Avon - stop here on our way to Bath. Really cute town...would have liked to spend more time here.
York - we really loved everything about York. Can't wait to go back.
York Dungeon Riverboat tour The pub at the Judge's Lodging York Minster National Railway Museum
Hadrian's Wall - drove here on our way to Scotland. Wish we had more time to hike around and have a picnic lunch.
Inveraray - visited Inveraray Castle, which was beautiful and spent a lot of time at the pub in the village. Really cute town.
WOW Scotland day trip tour of the highlands (and sampling some Glenlivet at the distillery) The rest of the time here was just relaxing and wandering around town.
Small group tour day trip of Scottish border lands and Rosslyn Chapel Driving around Edinburgh with our private guide seeing the sites of Edinburgh. Impromptu visit to the beach. Our hotel The bar at our hotel Mexican food! - we found this tiny Mexican restaurant that actually had really good margaritas and foo
If I had to do something differently, I would have liked to stay in Bath rather than a village outside of town. While the village, Lacock, was absolutely lovely and interesting, it was a bit sleepy for us, who like a lively night atmosphere. Coming back from the pub in the village at night to the B&B, I felt like I was sneaking home past curfew at my parents house again. I later heard that the pubs do indeed get very lively, but it mustn't be when we were there. Regardless, I would have like to have spent more time in Bath, because we only had one day. There were lots of shops, parks, restaurants, and pubs that were of interest.
Driving: I don't know if I would this differently or not because it was the most logical way for us to get around for the things we were doing. It was really quite terrifying at first, and my husband never really quite caught on to driving on the opposite side. I seemed to do ok, but it was very stressful (at least my husband was a very good navigator). Driving did give us the flexible to pull off on the side of the road and take some pictures of the beautiful scenery. I think we would be interested in doing all rail travel next time; we really enjoyed the times we did spend on the trains!
The first day of our trip we got to London very early in the morning. Our plan was to see the British Museum because we wouldn't be able to check in and it was very near our hotel. We only managed to get through two rooms before I couldn't go on anymore. I was so tired, and I can't sleep on a plane. Knowing this about myself, I should have made sure we had appropriate time to see the British Museum.
Wish we had time to walk the wall around York.
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