My alternative 14 day itinerary for a tour of Britain: week 1

The Rock, Sango Bay, Durness, Northern ScotlandIn a previous 501 Places post I wrote about a crazy 3 day road trip we took with some good friends of ours who were over from America for a few days. London to Inverness in 2.5 days is not for the faint hearted, but it got me thinking. If we had longer, say two weeks, what itinerary would I propose? I have lived almost my whole life in England and Wales and have taken countless trips up to Scotland, so I have many favourite personal places that I would love to show to visitors.

I’m no tour operator, but here’s my suggestion for a 14 day itenerary for Britain (England, Wales and Scotland). This is best suited for people with the same tastes as me: those who love walking, want to see historic sites and gorgeous landscapes, prefer remote isolation to the bustle of the city, and will go to great lengths for the best cakes. I am deliberately using London as an entry/exit only as you could easily spend a week there on its own and still not do it justice.

Day 1 Arrive London and head up to Oxford. Head out of town to Woodstock. This is a pretty village with lots of nice cafes and pubs, and you can walk into the grounds of nearby Blenheim Palace for free (ask anyone to show you the ‘secret green gate’. Once in the estate you can walk around freely on the many public rights of way)

Peak District at Castleton

Day 2 Heading north as far as the Derbyshire Peak District, today is the day for a good walk in the hills. Park in Castleton and hike up to Mam Tor. You can see for miles around and it’s so exposed that if it’s really windy you’ll struggle to stay on your feet. The hike up and down will give you a great appetite for some of the good local pub food on offer. If you have time there are even caverns to explore, including one that involves an underground boat trip.

Day 3 Up to the Yorkshire coast today, and a visit to Whitby. Whitby is famous for Captain Cook, Count Dracula and the best fish and chips in England. There’s also a ruined abbey that is very photogenic, with the sea offering a spectacular backdrop. Visit nearby Robin Hood’s Bay for a wander through the quaint alleys and a fabulous cream tea.

Day 4 Durham and Newcastle. Durham cathedral is perhaps England’s finest, and you can admire its grandeur while working out which Harry Potter scenes were shot here. The river Wear winds round the base of the cathedral and offers a tranquil and scenic walk only moments from the heart of the city. Newcastle by contrast is one of the world’s great party cities. Walk along the waterfront to see the many iconic bridges, and then up Grey Street to the Monument, admiring the great architecture. Don’t miss gawking at the revellers out in the Bigg Market and on the waterfront at night. It’s a sight you won’t forget in a hurry.

lindisfarne viewDay 5 Northumberland coast. One of my favourite parts of England, this area deserves to attract many visitors, yet one of its attractions is that it is thankfully deserted. The castles at Warkworth and Bamburgh are stunning, and the magical Lindisfarne castle on Holy Island will set off the romantic in almost everyone (don’t get caught out by the tide). Head up to Edinburgh for the end of the day.

Day 6 Edinburgh has many charms that can keep you enthralled for several days, but time is short and allowing for a half day here means a visit to the castle and perhaps my favourite attraction here, the Camera Obscura. Head on from the city across the famous Forth Bridge, and visit some of the beautiful fishing villages of Fife, before stopping in St Andrews for some stupendous cakes at the famous Fisher and Donaldson shop. You might even squeeze in a round of golf if you’re that way inclined.

Inverness Castle

Day 7 From St Andrews it’s long day of beautiful scenery today. A morning drive up to Inverness in time for lunch and a walk along the riverside and under the imposing castle. Stop to see the dolphins frollicking at Chanonry Point before heading up to the extreme northwest of Scotland. Stop at Ullapool for tea and cake, and once past here it’s single track road for the last 50 miles or so. You have saved the best till last: you won’t pass much traffic but the scenery on this stretch is out of this world. At the tip of NW Scotland is the famous lighthouse of Cape Wrath, and nearby is the lovely village of Durness. I absolutely love this corner of Britain. Stunning deserted beaches, friendly little craft shops and even an excellent chocolatier. There’s even a NATO bombing range just off shore, so you can watch the fighter jets coming in low and dropping their load onto a poor little island.

By the time you arrive in Durness you’ll be ready for dinner. There are some great seafood restaurants around here (ask around for suggestions; many open and close depending on season and whether the owner is around).

You are now almost as far from London as is possible, so week 2 will involve a slow return southwards. Part 2 to follow…. I’ve already realised that 2 weeks is nowhere near enough either. I’m missing out lots of great places. I should have made this a month!!

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7 Responses to “My alternative 14 day itinerary for a tour of Britain: week 1”

  1. Very cool itinerary. I’m fascinated by the trek up to Ullapool. Scotland is my home away from home and yet the NW part is the area I’ve least explored.

    January 21, 2010 at 10:51 pm
  2. Wonderful and almost impossible to do in practice. And planning the accommodation. what a headache!

    January 22, 2010 at 9:04 am
  3. Thanks Keith and Andrew. As I was writing this I thought to myself that I should make this a 6 week itinerary. I missed so many places out, and as you say Andrew this would be nigh on impossible in a week.
    Keith, take the chance to see the NW if you can. It’s wild, remote and truly stunning.

    January 22, 2010 at 9:16 am
  4. Ah, but most tourists, at least in the US, only have two weeks, so this s a great itinerary. Looking forward to seeing week 2.

    January 22, 2010 at 5:29 pm
  5. Thanks Barbara. I struggle to understand the whole 2 weeks only vacation thing, but then I guess so do lots of travelling Americans.

    January 22, 2010 at 7:54 pm
  6. Caroline V. #

    “There’s even a NATO bombing range just off shore…”

    Well, doesn’t that sound lovely! I think I’d skip that last section of the trip altogether if that’s what awaits me at the end.

    February 19, 2010 at 7:53 am
  7. Haha! Don’t worry Caroline, if you don’t want to watch the planes doing their manouvres there are other quaint villages dotted along the northern shoreline that are equally picturesque and minus the bombs.
    There is something fascinating (it’s probably a boy thing) about watching low flying aircraft and seeing them create a flash and a bang as their drop their shells. And as long as they’re doing it on an uninhabited island, they’re not killing anyone…

    February 19, 2010 at 8:19 am