Recommendations for a Two Week Trip to the UK

I’ve visited Portmeirion and it is as amazing as it looks in the ‘The Prisoner’, that weird and stylish classic TV series from the 1960s… But it is way across the country, on the coast of Wales.

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Thanks; hadn’t known (but should have guessed!) that Rabbies did a Wall tour. Spoending hours each way in a minibus is only for the very committed though, I’d say!

Arthur’s Seat (Holyrood Park) is 640 acres, so there’s loads of well-maintained walks for all abilities and 3 small lochs. As Die_Capacitrix notes, there’s also the 70 acre Botanic Gardens (although their glasshouses are all closed at the moment)

A few years ago when we were in York we took a river cruise down the Ouse (the longest one on offer, I think, down to Bishopthorpe Palace) and spent a very mellow afternoon on board. And walking York’s Roman Walls is a good substitute for Hadrian’s Wall!

Don’t forget to wave when you go through Stevenage !

Great suggestions from all. Keep 'em coming.

Got a shock the other day when looking for accommodations in Edinburgh. Availability is thin and prices are astonishingly high just a couple of days after we get there, and come back down the following week. We perhaps should’ve started in the south of England and ended up in Scotland at the end, given our date constraints. At any rate, we did find a quite reasonable rate for the first two nights in the Princes Street area, but we’ll be limited in what we can manage to see. I am hopeful this will not be our last trip there.

Fortunately, my wife is extremely interested in a lot of things in Glasgow, so we’ll probably end up there (with perhaps another day trip to Edinburgh) for a bit before heading towards York. Any suggestions for parts of town to stay in, restaurants, etc, in Glasgow most appreciated.

@Meurglys We had already noted the proliferation of River Ouse cruises, and will definitely take one. Good to know the long ones are worth the time.

NM, missed the No Car rule! But Durham is a good stop between Edinburgh and York by train, as it’s a stop on the way.

Edinburgh is noted for awesomely high accomodation prices, especially in August! Calton Hill is near the East End (of Princes Street) so is probably fairly close to your accomodation.

We had a nice warm summer’s day for our cruise; might be different in the rain! There were refreshments available and a commentary,which was informative and not too intrusive.

Yeah, I knew to avoid the Fringe. I think maybe the spike right after we get there is for the Jazz and Blues Festival. The prices for a lot of the boutique hotels looked like they about double, if they even have rooms, from about 14-18 July. The place we found is only 140 GBP/night for the nights we’ll be there, fortunately. Well within our expectations. Glasgow looks similar or even cheaper.

We did a two week trip, London to York via train, drove to the Highlands stopping to visit Stirling Castle along the way. We ended up in Edinburgh. A few thoughts:

-We travelled in September, rates got much more reasonable and the weather was magnificent
-We hiked some in Cairngorms. Rocky uneven terrain on many trails, and fierce winds when we were there. Be prepared if you go.
-Edinburgh was hugely fun to explore. The castle and the Royal Mile are amazing. We didn’t spend enough time there. Go find Greyfriars Bobby and explore the nearby cemetary.
-Loch Ness is pretty. Drive by if you are in the area, but don’t take a special trip.
-York was recommended by a friend and worth the visit. The old walls, Ouse river and pubs , and the Shambles are well worth it. Oh yeah, and they had a Viking kingdom here. Who knew?
-Get someone to drive you to and from a distillery tour. They won’t serve you if you are driving, but they will pour your samples in to little bottles to enjoy back at your hotel.

Edinburgh, York, and London are excellent choices! Consider Scotland and England as two separate, distinct countries, which have the variety and complexity of two nations that both have an enormous reserve of history and culture.

You can easily spend a week in both capitals, plus a few fulfilling days in York (the Anglian York was first capital of Deira and later Northumbria, the Emperor Severus proclaimed York capital of the province of Britannia Inferior).

From York to London, I expect you’ll pass through Leeds; the intercity from Leeds to London is very comfortable and pleasant. Leeds is great for more modern activities like shopping and dining; if I were you and had a couple of days spare - I’d certainly take the city into account. Also there’s Hull, which no one has heard of or considered a destination during a holiday (it’s actually quite a nice place for a day’s visit).

I have another question, this one about train travel. I went to National Rail to look at travel times, fares, etc. I think I must be missing something. The Glasgow to York trains seem to come in 2 fares: £18-22 and £112-120. Both fare classes seem to be non-flexible, take a similar amount of time (with similar changes), and the more expensive ones are evening/off-peak, which seems counter-intuitive. I’d heard that rail fares had gotten a bit nuts in the UK, but this seems very odd. Am I going to the right website for train ticket shopping?

If you look carefully at the explanation for those two tickets you may see that one is labelled an “advance” and the other is “off-peak”
For the former (advance) you must travel on a specific train by a specific route and that is much cheaper.
For the other (off-peak) you have the ability to travel on any off-peak train and by various routes that connect the two destinations.
Indeed if you are looking at the national rail enquiries site when you search there will be a little box to the right of each service with the price which also says “ticket valid on this service only” or “other services you can travel on”
and if you click on “other tickets” option there as well you’ll get a range of other possibilities for that particular train.

Don’t worry, there are so many choices it can get confusing, it isn’t just you. I’m no expert but I am in the middle of booking quite a few train journeys at the moment. Feel free to explore and ask further questions.

ETA -your link wasn’t working for me but this is the link that I used and the site which my explanations above refer to.

This is 100% correct. I took a return journey down to London and could be at the station to leave at a predetermined time, but was unsure if it’d be the same returning so I got an advance down and an off-peak to return.

N.B. When entering the station to return, I asked a member of staff which of the 6/7 tickets I needed to keep. Although the staff indicated just one, I kept them all ‘just in case’. One of them was for the journey, but another was for my reserved seat - it seems the system is too complicated even for the staff.

Most tickets are now digital, so this juggling of multiple tickets is less of an issue than it used to be

The UK tried to privatise the formerly national rail company. They tried to create a free market by allowing many private operating companies to compete in selling tickets to the public. They bought franchises for certain routes and introduced a bewildering variety of tickets and prices. Some used sophisticated demand models where tickets a mix of tickets at various prices for purchase in advance are released in batches. If you want to buy a cheap ticket you have to be a keen student of the demand algorithm. It is somewhat like the ticket selling practices of the budget airline business.

If you turn up at a rail station and want to buy a ticket there and then at a popular time, the systems assume you are business person with a generous expense account and the price will be top dollar. You might be sitting next to someone who paid far in advance for a fraction of the price for one of the handful of cheap seats. The bargains are to be found at weekends and weekdays outside of business hours in advance.

Retrofitting market dynamics onto a formerly state owned rail system was something of an ideological exercise when it was introduced and accounts for much of the absurd complexity. You get choice, but you have your work cut out for you as a customer if you are pricesensitive. There are various websites and apps to help, but that is another story.

Ha! just today I went to the ticket machine to print off some journeys that I booked yesterday.
One return to London for my daughter.
Two London return tickets for me
Four London return tickets for the whole family.

When the machine finally stopped churning them out I had 30 separate paper coupons of various relevance and I took 30 minutes to carefully check them all, stack them all and bulldog clip them together.
Less than half of them are actually of any relevance.
One of them was a “mandatory seat reservation” for a specified train, a train on which you cannot actually reserve a seat. Sure enough, look closely and the reservation details on there state “any seat”…brilliant.

By contrast (and as SanVito says) my daughter’s tickets to Glasgow come in the form of a downloadable pdf that you can print out or display on your phone.

Wow. Thank you @Novelty_Bobble, @JustinC, @SanVito, and @filmstar-en. Very helpful. I did notice the “Advance” and “Off-peak” designations on those tickets, but could’ve sworn both of them had the “valid only on this service” warning. The “off-peak” tickets were all scheduled late in the evening or overnight, and the “advance” tickets were all during the day, so I was especially confused by the stunning disparity in price. We’ll be nailing down our itinerary soon, and I will make all the train ticket purchases as soon as we do–we’re not particularly scrimping on this trip, but the price differences there would cover a night in a decent hotel for two of us.

Our most recent rail experiences in Europe (we Americans will persist in thinking of the UK as part of Europe, sorry) were in Germany and Italy. Germany was all e-tickets on the DeutscheBahn app, and we could do e-tickets in advance on the Trenitalia app, too. Though the couple times we bought last minute from a station kiosk in Italy, it was only one piece of paper for each of us. Sounds like British rail is a touch more challenging, but still a good bit better than US intercity, which is terrible outside of the Northeast corridor.

Don’t worry RickG, we’re still European - Brexit couldn’t take THAT away from us.

How is National Rails different than British Rails? Are they both central locations for getting tickets no matter who owns the line?

Meantime, @RickG, you might check the British Rails site for passes. Back in 2004 I was able to get one that let me ride as many trains as I wanted to as far as I wanted for 14 days, which did not have to be consecutive. For me as a tourist, it was much cheaper than buying them individually.

national rail enquiries is the central, national resource for all rail enquiries. (cliue is in the name I guess).
Britrail seems to be one of a number of companies that offer a different front-end to what is still essentially the same search engine. They may curate your experience differently (and of course charge a small fee for the privilege) but I don’t think they have any tickets or deals that national rail enquiries don’t also have.
Others that do the same are TheTrainLine and redspottedhanky. But to be honest, after trying several of those companies and cross-comparing I keep coming back to national rail enquiries, the prices seem to be more or less the same and the interface is pretty user-friendly.

One thing you may consider before buying your train tickets is see if one of the multiple railcards on offer would get you any savings. Just do a search on the national rail enquiries site and plug a few in to the passenger info section and see if it nets you any savings. “network railcards” “family and friends” “two together” are options you might consider. They are all about £30 each so it doesn’t take much for them to be worthwhile. (they last a year and cover as many journeys as you like in that time)
here is a link with the info and you can get them digitally as well.
All you do is, book your ticket, state when you do so that you’ll be using your railcard,the ticket you get will be discounted but will also have printed on it that you are using a railcard discount. When the ticket inspector then checks your ticket you’ll need to also show them your valid physical or digital railcard.

ETA - the rail passes I can’t comment on. It won’t even let me look at them in my region because UK citizens can’t use them.
I suggest you get a quote, decide what travel you will actually be doing and compare against buying just the tickets you need.