Begin your England, Scotland, and Wales vacation in London with a day of independent activities or optional tours. Then, head out to Shakespeare’s Stratford-upon-Avon and Lady Godiva’s Coventry. Take a walking tour of York, England’s most complete medieval city, see a section of Hadrian’s Wall, the Roman coast-to-coast defense against marauding northern tribes, and cross the Scottish border. In Edinburgh, Scotland’s capital, the guided sightseeing tour includes a visit to mighty Edinburgh Castle to see Scotland’s Crown Jewels. On to St. Andrews, home of golf, and via Dundee and Perth to the Victorian mountain resort of Pitlochry. Spend the night in Cairngorms National Park, then visit the Highland capital of Inverness and search for elusive “Nessie” at legendary Loch Ness. Via Glasgow, Scotland’s largest city, continue through the Lowlands to Gretna Green and through the lovely Lake District to charming Grasmere and the shores of beautiful Lake Windermere. Overnight in Liverpool, of Beatles fame. In Wales, stop at Betws-y-Coed, Caernarvon, and Conway as you travel through scenic Snowdonia. Later, drive via Brecon Beacons National Park to Cardiff, the Welsh capital. Back in England, explore elegant Georgian Bath, famous for its Roman ruins, and hear about King Arthur in Glastonbury. Visit quaint Widecombe-in-the-Moor, made famous in The Hound of the Baskervilles, and see the Mayflower Steps in Plymouth, where the Pilgrims embarked on their voyage in 1620. On the way back to London, encounter mysterious Stonehenge and majestic Salisbury with its magnificent cathedral. Your tour concludes with free time in London, a great way to end this fantastic vacation.
Day #1 Arrive in London, England. Check into your hotel. In the afternoon there’s time to rest or start exploring the lively British capital; uniformed hosts are available to help you make the most of your stay.
Day #2 London. A full day to enjoy our exciting program of optional activities. Morning sightseeing with a Local Guide includes all the famous landmarks: the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben beside the River Thames, Westminster Abbey, Whitehall’s mounted horseguards and the Prime Minister’s Downing Street, Piccadilly Circus, and Buckingham Palace. Highlights are a visit to St. Paul’s Cathedral and the ceremonial pageantry of the Changing of the Guard, if held. This afternoon you may want to visit Windsor Castle or the Tower of London with the spectacular Crown Jewels, and tonight a leisurely cruise on the River Thames would be fun. (B)
Day #3 London–Stratford-upon-Avon–Coventry–Leeds. Meet your Tour Director and traveling companions and depart at 8 am for a memorable day of sightseeing. Head for Shakespeare’s Stratford-upon-Avon to take your pictures of Anne Hathaway’s Cottage, then explore the town at your own pace. After lunch, visit Coventry, whose center had to be rebuilt after the devastation of World War II bombings, and hear the tale of Lady Godiva and Peeping Tom before admiring the splendid modern cathedral. Finally, head northwards out of the Midlands to tonight’s destination. (B,D)
Day #4 Leeds–York–Jedburgh, Scotland–Edinburgh. In York, England’s most complete medieval city, stand in awe in front of the great structure of York Minster, then follow your Tour Director through a maze of quaint streets including the narrow Shambles. Continue through wild Northumberland National Park and see a section of Hadrian’s Wall, the Roman coast-to-coast defense against marauding northern tribes. Then, cross the Scottish border and at Jedburgh, glimpse the house of Mary, Queen of Scots, and see the abbey ruins. Late-afternoon arrival in Edinburgh. A suggestion for this evening: enjoy a traditional Scottish night out with Highland dancers, bagpipers, and, of course, the Ceremony of the Haggis. (B)
Day #5 Edinburgh. A full day to enjoy the Scottish capital. Morning sightseeing with a Local Guide introduces you to the 200-year-old “New Town” and famous scientists, inventors, and novelists. In the “Old Town,” drive up the narrow Royal Mile to Edinburgh Castle to admire Scotland’s Crown Jewels. Afternoon at leisure. Later, a unique optional experience: board the former Royal Yacht Britannia, which for the Queen was once the perfect royal residence for glittering state visits and family holidays. Tour five decks and see how the Royal Family and crew of 240 lived and worked on board. Dinner rounds off this optional evening. For departures July 29 through August 19, tickets are included for tonight’s performance of the world-renowned Military Tattoo, a vast spectacle of massed Scottish pipe bands that takes place in an arena on the esplanade of Edinburgh Castle. (B)
Day #6 Edinburgh–St. Andrews–Pitlochry–Newtonmore. A day of memorable sightseeing: take the elegant Forth Road Bridge to St. Andrews, whose Royal and Ancient Golf Club has given us the rules of golfing, then cross the Firth of Tay and via Dundee and Perth, head into the Highlands, with a stop in the Victorian mountain resort of Pitlochry. Spend the night in Newtonmore, situated in Britain’s largest national park, the Cairngorms. (B,D)
Day #7 Newtonmore–Culloden Moor–Inverness–Fort William–Glasgow. Via the battlefield of Culloden Moor, and Inverness, the Highland capital, skirt Loch Ness as you drive to Fort William beneath Ben Nevis, Britain’s highest mountain. Enter haunting Glen Coe, where the MacDonald Clan was massacred in 1692, pass wild Rannoch Moor and then drive along the “Bonnie Banks” of Loch Lomond to Glasgow. (B,D)
Day #8 Glasgow–Gretna Green–Lake District, England–Liverpool. South through the history-steeped Lowland Hills and a visit to Gretna Green, where the blacksmith used to wed runaway couples. Drive through beautiful scenery in the Lake District, considered to be the finest of England’s national parks. Visit Wordsworth’s Grasmere, then follow the shores of Lake Windermere. End the day in Liverpool, of Beatles fame, once the departure port of the great transatlantic liners. You may wish to join an optional city tour this evening. (B,D)
Day #9 Liverpool. North Wales Excursion. A day dedicated to the mountainous splendor of North Wales. After a stop in pretty Betws-y-Coed, drive over spectacular Llanberis Pass and through Snowdonia National Park to Caernarvon, where the castle saw the investiture of Charles as Prince of Wales. Then, follow the coast road via the walled town of Conway back to Liverpool. (B)
Day #10 Liverpool–Chester–Ludlow–Cardiff, Wales. In Chester, the historic county town on the River Dee, your walking tour includes the Roman remains, black and white half-timbered buildings, and the two-tiered arcades called the “Rows.” Pause in the pretty market town of Ludlow before heading back into Wales and Brecon Beacons National Park, land of salmon rivers and the Welsh mountain pony. Finally, through “The Valleys,” whose iron ore and coal were the raw materials for the Industrial Revolution, to the Welsh capital. Here, an orientation drive introduces you to the major attractions: Cardiff Castle, Cathays Park, Millennium Stadium, and the stately civic buildings. A suggestion for tonight: why not join an evening of Welsh entertainment and dinner? (B)
Day #11 Cardiff–Bath, England–Glastonbury–Widecombe–Plymouth. Leaving Wales, cross the Severn Bridge for a visit to the elegant Georgian city of Bath, famed for its Roman relics, before heading into the romantically scenic West Country and Glastonbury with its King Arthur associations. In the heart of Dartmoor National Park, visit quaint Widecombe-in-the-Moor, ghostly setting for Conan Doyle’s The Hound of the Baskervilles. Finally, in Plymouth, hear about Sir Francis Drake and see the Mayflower Steps, where the Pilgrim Fathers embarked in 1620. (B,D)
Day #12 Plymouth–Stonehenge–Salisbury–London. On the final leg of your journey, take in Thomas Hardy’s Wessex; views of the intriguing prehistoric monument of Stonehenge; and Salisbury with its vast cathedral, the ultimate in Early English Gothic architecture. Return to London around 4 pm. How about celebrating the success of your tour with a night out on the town? (B)
Day #13 London. Your vacation ends with breakfast this morning. (B)