England and Scotland
England is a country steeped in history and character, from Stonehenge to London’s theaters, you will find yourself walking through a living past. With a few day trips in the surrounding countryside to Oxford, Cambridge, Windsor, or Bath, you can easily plan an entire vacation based in London. But for those with more time, spend a few days wandering inland along the Cotswold Way, or head north to the historic walled city of York. Go hiking in the mountains and forests of the Lakes District or visit the craggy cliffs and sandy beaches of the English coast. The home of Wordsworth, William Blake, and Shakespeare, the English landscape evokes a sense of vitality and tranquility, and no matter where you travel, take comfort knowing a thatched-roof restaurant or local pub is never far from where you stand.
A thriving metropolis with nearly nine million people, London has a plethora of world-class museums, excellent performing arts, Michelin-restaurants, and cozy pubs. A city founded by the Romans, London is filled with history and layers of distinctive architecture; visit Westminster Abbey, St. Paul’s Cathedral, and Kew Gardens for a hint of what the city holds in store. With great shopping districts and innovative cuisine from around the world, there is no right way to experience London, but make sure to find a pub, grab a pint, and join the local football fans watching a match.
The Romans constructed bath houses over England’s only natural hot-springs here nearly 2,000 years ago, but Bath truly came to life in the 18th century, and is celebrated for its Georgian architecture. Explore the excavated site of the original Roman baths, and then plunge into the luxurious modern Thermae Bath Spa. A gem of historical city planning and visionary architecture, visit the Circus, Royal Crescent, and the Assembly Rooms for a glimpse into the world of Jane Austen and the flamboyant 18th-century cultural Master of Ceremonies Beau Nash.
The undulating hills and medieval villages of the Cotswolds are the very essence of the English countryside. Slate and thatch-roofed houses built of yellow limestone, weathered to a gentle honey-gold, line winding country lanes. A region that prospered from the wool trade in the middle ages, it has held onto its pastoral allure. With a network of hiking trails and roads that seem meant for cycling, the Cotswolds provide charming bed and breakfasts and an irresistibly relaxing atmosphere.
Home of one of the world’s most eminent universities, Oxford is imbued with stately grandeur. With examples of every era of English architecture since the Saxons, winding cobblestone streets, and hidden courtyards, this august university city still manages to feel young. The bustling city outside of Oxford’s hallowed walls won’t let you forget that there is more to explore here than the university. Wander past the grand buildings of the old town, stop into a historic pub, and take a stroll along the city’s soothing waterways.
The 13th-century walls surrounding narrow streets lined with timbered homes with gabled roofs give you an immediate feel for the medieval history of York. Visit the magnificent York Minster Gothic cathedral, walk the miles of ancient walls, and feel pulse of history in the very streets. York also serves as a marvelous home base to explore the riverside market town of Knaresborough, visit the mystical North York Moors, or hike the famous Three Peaks of Yorkshire Dales National Park.
With lush forests, pristine lochs, soaring highlands, and enchanting moors, this small country is positively packed with breathtaking beauty and a boundless wealth of history and tradition. In a landscape that feels expansive and solitary, you can access the Scottish Highlands on your way up to Inverness, and visit a handful of castles, all in a few days. Lose yourself in a labyrinth of cobbled streets in Edinburgh, or hike into the vast and mystical vistas of the Island of Skye. Visit a distillery and savor the taste of tradition in a glass of Scotch whisky in its homeland, or peruse the high-end designer shops in Glasgow. In a land of historic golf courses, a trip off the beaten path to St. Andrews is well worth the ride for golf-enthusiasts. No matter what your itinerary, you will be enchanted by mystical landscapes, layers of history, and the warmth of the locals.
Painted dramatically across seven rocky hills overlooking the sea, Edinburgh is a poised and picturesque capital, woven tightly into its landscape. Edinburgh Castle looms over the city, where it has stood proudly for a millennium, and is a crown along the turreted skyline of Edinburgh. Wander the medieval maze of streets in the Old Town, or tour the Georgian New Town. Be sure to climb the grassy slopes of Arthur’s Seat, an imposing old volcano with great trails and panoramic views of city and sea. Make sure to spend your time walking the streets and you will be sure to stumble on trendy restaurants, dramatic vistas, and hidden history in this lively city.
A vibrant city of stylish shops, top-notch museums, and trendy restaurants, Glasgow is hip and full of history. Grand Victorian architecture reflects a legacy built on ship-building and trade and rubs shoulders with unique designs by Charles Rennie Mackintosh. Visit his House for an Art Lover at Bellahouston Park, built nearly one hundred years after he first imagined it. Save time for the Kelvingrove Art Gallery which hosts everything from fine art to artifacts from Ancient Egypt, and then relax and enjoy Glasgow’s music scene that bursts from every pub.
Perched on both sides of the Ness River, Inverness is the capital of the Highlands and a great base to take day trips throughout the region. Walk across the Culloden Battlefield where the 1745 Jacobite Rising came to a decisive end, or visit the elegant Cawdor Castle of Macbeth fame. Go search for monsters or take a boat ride on Loch Ness, or visit the castles of the Black Isle. Cairngorms National Park, the largest park in the British Isles, is an idyllic outdoor playground with activities from mountain trekking to river walks and wildlife viewing; there is an activity for everyone.
Isle of Skye
A dreamscape of sheer sea cliffs, mist-laden moors, craggy mountains, and glittering lochs, the Isle of Skye is 50-miles of mystery. From summer sunsets that seem to linger all night, to the misty black peaks of the Cuillin HIlls, there is no end to the magic here. Explore Dunvegan Castle and Gardens, or take a boat trip from Elgol, but make sure not to hurry away from this incredible isle.
The Scottish Highlands are a landscape of legend. Sweeping views across isolated lochs, rugged mountains, jutting pinnacles of rock, and iconic castles make visiting the Highlands an unsurpassable experience. Get out on the water of Scotland’s largest lake, Loch Lomond, or hike the surrounding mountains for awe-inspiring views. Take your time and let the serene tide of green hillsides and crisp sea air wash over you.