Recommendations for a Two Week Trip to the UK

Taking our first substantial (not visiting family for a long weekend) vacation since the Before Time. We’re going to the UK for two weeks. We’ve been to London several times and Bath once, but it’s a big country, so we decided this time to start in Scotland. We’re flying into Edinburgh and flying home from London.

Besides the end points, we want to stay in York for a few days and see what we can in Yorkshire. Other than that, we don’t yet have a fixed idea of where we should go. So I thought I’d ask here for suggestions. Especially looking for pointers to nice small hotels or B&Bs, quirky attractions (we can find the major ones in tour books), and good local eateries. Also suggestions for other cities/regions to visit. Would also be grateful for suggested itineraries (2 days here, 4 there, etc); we arrive on a Tuesday evening and leave the second Tuesday after that in the afternoon.

We are constrained to stick with public transit/buses/trains, because my wife does not want the stress of driving on the left in an unfamiliar place and I am too blind to drive.

Here is public transport excursion from York:

Take the train from York to Scarborough on the coast, then a bus to Whitby further north along the Yorkshire coast. Then take the North Yorkshire steam train to Pickering and a bus back to York.

There are lots of opportunities to break your journey along the way at some of the most picturesque towns and villages in the North Yorkshire National Park. The steam train is very atmospheric. Very Harry Potter!

Actually, this organised tour looks simpler and they pick you up from your hotel.

There are a lot of tours organised out of York, which itself has lots of tourist attractions. It is very big on Railways, Romans and Vikings.

Nice suggestion. We could spend a day doing that and another day or two wandering around on our own (which is our usual modus operandi). The short tours on the River Ouse also look like a good way to kick back for an hour or two and see a bit. Thanks!

I don’t know how far Edinburgh’s airport is from the city center, but if you have the opportunity to take a train into downtown Waverly Station, do so, especially if you arrive at night. Climbing the steps up to Princes Street, you’ll see on one side the looming grandeur of Edinburgh Castle and the Royal Mile, and on the other the neoclassical beauty of Calton Hill and the New Town. I can attest, it makes an indelible impression.

That sounds lovely and right up our alley. Our flight is scheduled to arrive in the early evening on a day in mid-July when sunset is around 10PM, so we may have time to do that after we check in to a hotel on our first night. If not, we do plan to stay in Edinburgh for at least a couple nights, so we’ll have another chance. We plan to be in Scotland for 4 or 5 days before heading towards Yorkshire. That’ll be 2 or 3 days, and we want 3-4 days in London before going home. That’ll leave us room to go to 1 or 2 other places in England, I think. Not sure where yet.

The hike up to Arthur’s Seat near Edinburgh is stunning and not too difficult.

Yes, this is good if you like steam trains and countryside views.
I took a school trip there once and we were extremely lucky to see the LNER A4 pacific locomotive ‘Sir Nigel Gresley’.

Turning to York itself…
The National Railway Museum, Homepage | York Minster and JORVIK Viking Centre - a must see attraction in York are all reasonably close together.
There is a Road Train | National Railway Museum between the Railway Museum and York Minster Cathedral.
You can also walk along The City Walls – City of York Council

Various friends of mine have recently separately moved to Inverness and nearby Nairn, and I must admit both look great, especially the beach and river of the latter. If part of your Scottish leg of the trip is intended to be the Highlands, they look like not a bad couple of places to visit during that bit, and it’s close to the Cairngorms National Park.

If Arthur’s Seat looks a bit intimidating, there’s a fairly easy stroll up the smaller Calton Hill, which is very central and littered with various historical monuments, etc., and which also has great views.

Edinburgh Castle is an obvious draw, but there’s also the more ruined Cragmillar Castle less than 3 miles to the SW (although there is a half mile walk up the hill to get to it from the nearest bus route)

The Water of Leith is a great walk; it runs from the hills outside Edinburgh down to the shore at Leith, right through the city and can be accessed in lots of places. We sometimes take a local bus to Balerno (on the edge of the Pentland Hills) and walk down into the city. Very scenic!

There’s a tram right from the airport into central Edinburgh and there’s also regular buses. No train though, so your first view can’t be emerging from Waverley Station, I’m afraid.

We live in Boulder, Colorado, so the climb itself doesn’t seem that bad in comparison to what we have around here. For me, the issue is mostly the trail conditions. I can see a little, but I use a white cane, and trails that are particularly rocky or full of tree roots can be difficult, especially going downhill. Any idea what the Arthur’s Seat trail is like?

This sounds like it’s right up our alley. Will definitely put it on our list.

Rereading the title of your thread, it occurs to me that the best advice anyone can offer you about spending two weeks in the UK is: manage your expectations. The UK has so much history, so much beauty, so much interest, that two weeks will only allow you the smallest sliver of all you might want to do and see. So just accept that you’re not going to see everything, and you’ll almost certainly say, “Damn, I wish we could have gone to…” when you get home.

British Rail sells a pass for tourists that lets them travel on as many trains as they need to for 14 days, and they don’t have to be consecutive. I used that when I went to the UK for a month. Edinburgh is a lovely city.

If you can get up to Inverness, there’s a bus tour from there that goes to Castle Urquhart and ends with a boat ride back to Inverness on Loch Ness.

Not sure how close Edinburgh is to Hadrian’s Wall, but the Wall is well worth a look. Vindolanda is really great, they’ve been excavating using mostly their hands which has allowed them to recover a lot of paperwork. There’s a bus tour that runs out of Newcastle upon Tyne (see the cathedral! The Venerable Bede is buried there!) that picks up and drops off at several of the Roman forts being excavated.

Also, what @Slow_Moving_Vehicle said. I spent a month touring and didn’t see 1/100th part of what I’d have liked to see. For a tiny country, Britain is enormous.

Oh, absolutely. We’ve probably spent a total of two weeks just in Central London over the years (and a couple days in Bath), and certainly haven’t seen everything there. But we wanted to get a taste of other parts, especially Scotland and the North. We wanted to end up in London so we could see some friends there and maybe go to the theater, but it’s not the focus. Not being retired yet, we can’t manage anything more than 2 weeks in a single trip, but I imagine we’ll be back.

We try to do a mix of must-see tourist things and more local-interest stuff when we travel, so getting tips here from people who live there is great. Happy to get good local restaurant recommendations, too–we generally prefer a decent neighborhood place over something in tourist land (though the tea room/cafeteria at the V&A in London is quite beautiful and worth a visit for a snack).

Arthur’s Seat is pretty rough walking at the top, although there is chain hand rail on the roughest bits.
There’s an easy, car free walk up to a small loch half way up and then a steepish but smooth grass slope to a broad shoulder just before the rough bit. There are other routes up but they all have sections you should probably avoid. You don’t get the views over the city from the shoulder but they are still pretty good!

Morgyn’s suggestion of Hadrian’s Wall is fine, but not from Edinburgh as doing it in a public transport is virtually impossible. Go to Newcastle and visit it from there.

A nice little side trip from Edinburgh would be to North Berwick, a short train ride from Waverley, which is a little fishing town down the coast. Cute harbour, nice beaches, some good pubs/restaurants. We sometimes just go for a summer evening if it’s nice weather (sunset here will be around 9.45 in mid-July although it will still be light at 10.00 )

I’ve always wanted to go to Whitby since I read Dracula.

I absolutely adore Cornwall, but you’ll be in like the opposite corner of the country.

I’ve always wanted to see if I can free The Prisoner.

Public transportation no, but Rabbie’s offers day trips from Edinburgh. My parents did that, as my dad really wanted to visit it.

I’ll second the recommendation for the railway museum in York, if that’s interesting for you. We’ve been there twice, 12 years apart. We only went on the city walls the first time, but then it was raining quite a bit during our second visit. There was actual flooding and we were lucky to get out before the train tracks got blocked. But that was in November/December.

We managed to almost get stuck on Arthur’s Seat as we got off the proper path. Carlton Hill is closer to town and has gorgeous views and is a much shorter walk. We also visited the Royal Botanic Gardens, as we like formal gardens, and there aren’t many near us.

Buy train tickets in advance, but you probably know that.

I would not recommend Aberdeen.

We have friends in Inverness at the moment, but their thing is to rent a place, get a car, and be away from everybody and enjoying the seaside, including the pub life.

I love the north of England, in fact I’m here right now!

I’ll be back with more suggestions as I could talk about this area for hours.

From York, I’d definitely suggest Durham. I visited there in dreadful weather, so I didn’t get to do as much as I wanted to. The cathedral is stunning, I’m sure York Minster is on your agenda but Durham Cathedral is well worth a visit. As a side note, they did an amazing job during Covid steaming their services during the tightest of lockdowns. I quite liked the nearby Cafedral (not affiliated) for a coffee and pastry after lots of walking.

Sorry, but with such a limited time, places like Whitby, Hadrian’s Wall and Durham are too far out. You really don’t want to spend that much time sitting in coaches.

York Minster, Jorvik, the Railay Museum and possibly a side trip to Castle Howard, will be enough for York. A place to stay might be Tower House.

I would also think twice about London. You might consider Oxford as an alternative and take a tour to The Cotswolds.

The arrival by train into Durham is wonderful. The castle and cathedral are on a headland above the river Wear and the train station gives you a great view. Then it is a short walk into the city and there is lots to see.

I recommend Oxford as well