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Anyone ever been on or have advice on guided tours in Scotland, England, and Ireland?


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I have always wanted to see England, Scotland, and Ireland, and now that I have an inheritance, I can finally afford a trip.  I would like to spend around 9-14 days, depending on how expensive it is.  I am not planning on going for at least a year, and want to do all the research and get as much feedback as possible.    I was wondering if anyone here has any input on guided tours in particular, and if either you or someone you know can recommend a specific company, OR give advice?   If you actually are from the UK I would love to hear your input too, as far as places to specifically see.   

Here is what I am most interested in seeing, and I would like input on how long I should plan on spending at each location.

For sure: London (especially would like to see museums),  Edinburgh, and  Dublin.

If feasible: Stonehenge, Blair Castle in Scotland, old medieval and Roman sites. 

What other locations would you recommend?  As always,  Thank you for your advice, folks!

 

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The thing about the guides tours is you don't have to worry about a damn thing. I did it when I went to France when I was 16, it was great. There is still opportunities to slow down and enjoy some culture. On the other hand, I've done a few foreign countries on our own, and its a lot more stressful and I find we don't get as much done as I want because my fellow travelers don't have the energy. My mother in law loves European river cruises. She also likes to go off the beaten path and is over confident about her navigation abilities though lol.

I used Educational Tours and they might be EF now, but they might be for teens with chaperones only.

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Yeah that is exactly why I want to do a guided tour style vacation.  I want to just relax and have a nice experience, and I don't want to have to worry about getting lost or stressed out or whatever.   At least for a first time visit, anyway.  It would be nice to do the off the beaten path for a return trip, but for my first time, I want to do a guided tour.   

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I was raised in England until moving to the United States in 1984. I have been back to the UK several times prior to being a parent (so decades ago now). Hmm. This is probably not going to be helpful at all, so here’s my apologies for that now. Sorry.

I can say that the best moments on our trips home were always unscripted and a bit chaotic. It’s possible however that not being on or enjoying a lot of tour based things was due to our budget being a bit tight, rather than tours being lame.

One of the most chaotic things was my Ma getting us a rental car and then that rental barely being able to drive up slight inclines. The car also had about two inch wide holes in each seat bay where you could see the road beneath. We would come up with theories as to why, from being a former hitman’s car which needed a manner to “easily” wash any evidence away, to there being some sort of Flintstones like technology going on.

Anyway Stonehenge is now blocked off, so the much older times of being able to just stand within it are long gone. The Tower of London tours were neat a couple times. However my favorite things were just hanging out in pubs, buying British sweets and comics from a corner shop, and also chilling along the Welsh coastline. The Pembrokeshire area has some really pretty beaches, well, as far as the UK is concerned. I’m not trying to be like it’s the French Riveria! Or like some place in the mediterranean sea. Just that Wales is, imo, underrated.

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So, I live in the UK and have done for just under 15 years now. Never done guided tours because I moved to London and started living and working right away. I lived there for about 13 years. London is cool but it's very flat. I recommend staying above ground as much as possible to get your bearings, otherwise using the tube you get no sense of direction. You just pop up at your destination, and while that is convenient you get no real sense of the city as an environment. deffo use the tube if you're tired and just need to get somewhere, but I'd advise either walking or taking a bus to the majority of places. Plus the tube is gross. Blow your nose and your snot is black after a few days of using it. Use the overground as much as you can. It serves most of East and South London.

My favourite thing to do in London is walk along the Southbank of the Thames and just walk. There are lots of bars and pubs and restaurants that line the south bank. Also you get a great sense of the city from the river. The Thames used to be the heart of London in Ye Olde times. I recommend Gordon's Wine Bar at Embankment. Nice little spot, and then a stroll across Waterloo bridge (listen to Waterloo sunset by the Kinks) and enjoy the view. One of my favourite pubs is called the Mayflower. Supposedly it's the oldest pub in London. Has a terrace out back that sits above the river, they make decent burgers and fish n chips and have a selection of very nice beers. And also there is a pub in Limehouse called the Grapes and it's owned by Sir Ian McKellen. Gandalfs staff sits behind the bar and he regularly sits in the pub on quiz night. It's also got a deck above the river. At high tide the water sometimes sloshes up between the boards.

Go to the National Gallery, National Portrait Gallery and Tate Britain. Tate modern is kind of cool but I don't really care for conceptual art or abstract expressionism unless there are specific exhibitions that pique interest. Victoria and Albert museum is a favourite too. 

If you want to get a taste of contemporary London hipster life go to Dalston, lots of good pubs bars and cafes. 

Stay away from Camden. 

Soho is kinda cool but is a shadow of its former self. Been bought out by corporations, chains and investment bankers.

Honestly i would avoid doing tour buses. They're very expensive and the only real benefit will be the nuggets of contextual information the guide gives (that probably is lifted from a nearby plaque). Just research what you want to see and make your own way there, be it underground, bus or on foot. A lot of the tourist attractions are within walking distance of each other anyways. 

Generally speaking west London is wealthy big old Georgian houses, and afro Carribbean culture. think Notting Hill starring Hugh Grant.( Actually Notting hill carnival is party of the year for a lot of people if youre in town at the right time.) Westminster and central London has been bought out by chains and corporations, but has a lot of tourist attractions. East London is where most young and "hip'' locals live, work and drink/play. But East London is now heavily populated with young professionals and so the art community and punks and creatives and such (who started in Soho, then moved east) have all gone south to places like Peckham and Camberwell. So your crazy pop up bars with pizza and natural wines and cocktails served in a carpark roof are gonna either be in Peckham or Camberwell (if you're into that sort of thing.)

Also spend lots of time in the parks. There is a lot of them and Brits love nothing more than drinking in the park.

 

 

 

 

 

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That's my London advice..oh plus download an app called CityMapper. Public transport guide. Just enter where you want to go, choose your transport Prefs and it'll show you the way. Invaluable when navigating London. 

rest of the isles (in my limited experience) coming soon 

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Edinburgh is awesome. One of my favourite cities. It feels properly medieval. Lots of snaking little alleyways, cool whiskey bars and such. It's really hilly so you can get great vantage points and views and a real feel for the layout of the city. Plus you know..the castle. 

If your budget will allow I highly recommend the Isle of Skye. There are mind-blowing walks, hikes and mountain treks there and the landscape is jaw dropping. My wife and I climbed Bruach na Frithe in the Black Cuillin Mountains and it remains one of my most memorable life experiences so far. The whole region is simply spellbinding even if you don't do any hard core treks or hikes. Take midge spray if it's summer. Those bastards can bite. Also the talisker distillery is on Skye and their single malts are super nice.

I've never been to ROI only Northern Ireland. Belfast specifically. Seems like a really cool town, you can get tours through the Trouble neighborhoods..which seems kind of ghoulish or insensitive..but can provide strong emotions of relatively recent events. Quite powerful. The giant murals of the Catholic and Protestant martyrs is a heavy thing to see. Also Irish people are lovely and friendly, and absolute maniacs when they drink. Which we did a lot of in Belfast since the reason to be there was a Pougues show.

In the north Chester is a great city to visit. It's built on an old Roman city, and part of the city walls are  the original Roman ruins. It's amazing for the history, has a beautiful cathedral and has good shopping in the centre of the old town. Which is a cool novelty for tourism. Shopping in an old medieval town centre.

Never been to Manchester.

Liverpool is alright, but just another stony English city. Albeit the Beatles hometown. Can do a pilgrimage to the cavern and various other places related to the Beatles if you care to.

The west country is beautiful. But its beauty is subtle. It lies in the knotted valleys and rivers and ancient woodland. Has a real mystical feel to the forest walks and the nooks and crannies that make up the majority of the topography.

Stonehenge is cool. But like Spidey said it's blocked off, you have to walk a path around it and can't go into the circle anymore. There are plenty of other pagan circles and historic sites dotted around Somerset like Avebury (which I'd recommend above Stonehenge), Wiltshire and Cornwall. Burial mounds and ancient forts are everywhere.

Dorset is amazing for the coastline, and the chalky cliffs that drop off into the sea. Particularly recommend Durdle Door. 

Cornwall is cool too if you like beaches and coastline. There is surfing if that's your thing, but the surf is better in the autumn or winter when the swells pick up. There is Tintagel castle to visit which is thought to be the birthplace of King Arthur.

 

 

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