With so much to see and do in the UK it can be difficult to narrow it all down and find an itinerary that fits in all the highlights. This tried and tested schedule for 2 weeks in England and Scotland takes you through the best sights these two countries offer, utilising serviced apartments, public transport, combined with car hire and one domestic flight. Here’s how we broke it down.
2 weeks in England and Scotland | Days 1-3: London
The capital of England, and some might say the world, London has much to offer and should not be missed. There’s history, culture, entertainment, markets, the arts – you won’t be able to see it all in 3 days, but with just 2 weeks in England and Scotland, 3 days in London is all you have for a taster of this world class, global city. Highlights include the Tower of London with its ravens, Beefeaters, gruesome history and Crown Jewels, the British Museum, with its gracious and airy Great Court, meandering walks around London, and old, decrepit pubs serving British grub.
Where to stay in London
You’re spoilt for choice in London. The city isn’t cheap by any means, so if you’re looking to cut costs, either find a flat or room on AirBnB within Zone 1, or if you’re in a group, plump for a serviced apartment with kitchen and living room so you can save money by eating breakfast and a couple of dinners in. Alternatively, if you’re looking for a boutique hotel somewhere quiet, try the Rookery in Clerkenwell, which is close to shops and bars, and only 5 minutes walk from the Barbican tube stop. With it’s 18th century setting, open fires and elegant conservatory, the Rookery is the perfect balance between English character and modern convenience. Another option is the Artist Residence London, a 10 bedroom boutique hotel near Pimlico with a cocktail bar and all day restaurant on site. The location is very central and the rooms are beautifully appointed, with a slight New York loft vibe.
2 weeks in England and Scotland | Day 4-5: Take a daytrip from London
With just 2 weeks to spare, you won’t be able to stick around in London for too long. After you’ve had your fill of the sights and sounds of London, head out on a daytrip. There’s lots of options (including a daytrip to Paris!) for a short daytrip out from London, but one of the most popular is a visit to Stonehenge, that mysterious circle of stones, and the prim and pretty Georgian town of Bath, nearby. It’s easy to get around – you can even DIY a combined Stonehenge and Bath tour or if you’d rather just sit back and relax, book a day tour to Bath. To really get a feel for the English countryside, with its patchwork of neat farms and subdued, rolling hills, you have to get out of the smog and smoke of London.
Another option is the twee, country-perfect cottages of the Cotswolds, with their thatched roofs and English gardens, or a visit to Stratford-upon-Avon, where Shakespeare-themed tours culminate in champagne and strawberry scones, along with a scene from one of the Bard’s many plays – when we visited, it was Midsummers Night Dream, acted out by the players of the National Shakespeare Company. There are a number of options for combining a day trip from London to Stratford-upon-Avon with other attractions like Oxford or the Cotswolds.
2 weeks in England and Scotland | Day 6-9: The Lake District
From London, you have the option of taking a train out to the town of Lancaster, the very same that was involved in the War of the Roses, with York. At Lancaster, pick up a rental car and drive towards the Lake District. You can choose to base yourself, as we did, at Windermere, or any one of the other nearby villages like Bowness. The lakes are beautiful, shimmering silver silhouettes of light surrounded by green-grey peaks.
Spend at least 3 days in this area, exploring by driving through the narrow, dry walled country lanes. The Langdale Pikes, old, severe mountain peaks that punctuate the sky like question marks, tower above the landscape. If the weather permits, take a walk up the little hill to Orrest Head for the view, with Lake Windermere stretched out and glimmering in the light.
If you want to get out on the lakes, the easiest way is to hitch a ride on the Gondola, a steam yacht that plies her way around Lake Coniston, the third largest lake in the District. Her pace is slow and stately, and a ride is perfectly capped by a refreshing tea and an ice cream on the lake shores after.
There’s a lot to do here, including a visit to Hill Top, home of Beatrix Potter, who wrote the Peter Rabbit series. Visitors can explore her home, which is now a museum, and stop by at Hawkshead on the way back, a quaint village famous for its association with Wordsworth, who went to school there in the 16th century. The countryside here is quintessentially English, and wonderful for a walk or a ramble if you get the chance and the weather is fine. If you’d rather have someone else do all the organising, hop onto a guided tour that will combine both Hill Top and a cruise on the lakes.
Where to stay in the Lake District
Begin by choosing your base while in the Lake District – Keswick or Windermere? Bowness or Ambleside? The main (and busiest) villages are Ambleside or Windermere, which offers lots of B&Bs and amenities for travellers and are centrally placed to the lakes, Great Langdale and Hill Top. If you prefer somewhere quieter, Keswick is a good base for exploring the northern lakes and dales of Borrowdale or Buttermere. In Windermere, the Cedar Manor is a lovely B&B in the heart of Windermere village. The daily breakfasts are a joy. Another option is the Nanny Brow, in Ambleside, with its faux Tudor façade. With direct access to the Cumbrian Fells, the Nanny Brow best suits those with a car as it is a 20 minute stroll into Ambleside town centre. Lastly, if you prefer the quieter surrounds of Keswick, try the Brierholme Guesthouse, a cosy Victorian guesthouse with all the mod cons.
2 weeks in England and Scotland | Day 10-12: Edinburgh
After you’ve had your fill of the placid English countryside, catch another train up to Auld Reekie, known also as Edinburgh, Scotland. It’s often cold and wet in this great Northern city, but the regular fogs and rain that fills Edinburgh’s streets simply add to the city’s medieval charm. You’ll need about 2-3 days in Edinburgh to get a flavour of her main attractions. The Royal Mile is Edinburgh’s main artery, and it is along here that you’ll find many of the famed ghost tours of Edinburgh – entertaining and with bits of history thrown in, this is an excellent way to get to know Old Town Edinburgh.
Other highlights include Edinburgh Castle, the National Museum and Greyfriar’s Kirk. The closes in and around old Edinburgh are worth a wander, with its dark alleyways and sense of history sustained in the stones. A popular tour is the Mary King’s Close Tour, which delves underground and takes visitors through the old streets of Edinburgh, still intact and in good shape, with wallpaper and other household features preserved.
Where to stay in Edinburgh
For a cosmopolitan boutique hotel, look no further than Le Monde on George Street, with its 18 rooms, each styled after a different global city. Another option to try is The Bonham, an elegant 19th century townhouse, decked out in modern colours. Lastly, if you’re willing to splurge, book a room at The Witchery by the Castle, a 16th century establishment right on the Royal Mile. Gothic, sumptuous and decked in baroque splendour, the rooms here are filled with antiques, free standing baths, wood panelling and velvet drapes.
2 weeks in England and Scotland | Day 13-14: The Scottish Highlands
In contrast with the English countryside, the glens, lochs and mountains of Scotland are wild, rugged and remote and worth a visit. The Scottish Highlands are easily accessible on a day tour to the highlights in the area, including Glen Coe, Ben Nevis and Loch Ness, but to really get to know the area, it’s recommended that you spend a night in the area, exploring the silvery lochs surrounded by imposing peaks.
Besides historical Glen Coe, there’s also the Three Sisters, the Old Man of Rannoch Moor. The moors are filled with heather and bracken – scenery straight out from the pages of Wuthering Heights. If you want to try your luck at spotting Nessie, you can stop at Fort Augustus, as we did, located on the southernmost tip of Loch Ness. The four great lochs of Scotland are all connected by locks, so if you wanted to, you could sail from the sea straight into the heart of Scotland through the canals.
Where to stay in the Scottish Highlands
Like the Lake District, the Scottish Highlands are a patchwork of towns and villages, so choosing your base will depend greatly on what interests you. You can base yourself in Fort Augustus, which is a bit of an all-rounder, catering to hikers, trampers and drivers, with lots of shops and other amenities. Located right at the shores of Loch Ness, staying here will give you a front row seat to spotting Nessie. Stay at The Lovat, a quaint and charming hotel which offers free WiFi and onsite parking. It’s not super cool or modern by any means, but for the price and location, it can’ be beat. Alternatively, if you’re looking for an affordable castle to spend the night in, drive through Inverness towards Tulloch Castle Hotel in Dingwall for wood panelling, rich red walls and antiques. The former seat of the Davidson clan, the castle houses 20 ensuite bedrooms and is well placed for hikers looking to explore Cairngorms National Park.
With just 2 weeks in England and Scotland, this itinerary makes the best of a short trip. Combining independent travel via trains and car rentals with organised day trips will help you save time and allow you to see all the highlights within the short fortnight’s timeframe