Fall 2017: Ireland and the UK...
An open tour commissioned by a group of clients covering Dublin, Edinburgh, the Lake District, Wales, London, and back to Ireland. Dates of travel: September 8 - 22, 2016.
Price is $4,300. Covers all lodgings, all ground transportation, breakfasts, 24 hour guide, and listed events and meals.
This will definitely be all about experiencing Europe in a tangible, active, and engaging way. We'll be hitting the tourist spots but will also be ducking into some proper local haunts and secret spots which will give our experience much more authenticity.
Because of the amount of ground we'll cover in a short amount of time, we'll strike a balance between some of the best sights and local spots to experience, along with some free time to explore at your own pace. You'll be properly oriented each day, so that you are perfectly comfortable in your surroundings.
Day One: Friday, Sept. 8
With bags in tow, head to the airport and catch your flight to Ireland! (We assist with ALL flight bookings to keep the costs down and the timetable intact. Do not book on your own!)
Dublin, here we come...
Day Two: Saturday, Sept. 9
Dublin is a favorite destination of ours for sure! We'll dive right in and do our Irish hosts proud by visiting some of the key pieces in understanding Irish history.
We'll pick an easy, relaxed pace and course of events after an all-night flight. We'll check bags at the hotel and head out to visit one of the most moving museums in all of Europe: Kilmainham Gaol. The guided tour in this famous jail will cover the plight of the Irish under English rule, the consequences of the Great Potato Famine, and the unforgettable story of the Easter Rising - the keystone event which triggered Ireland's final push for independence.
Our final event for the day will be a visit to the national cemetery in Glasnevin. We'll enjoy a casual stroll to some of the famous graves and learn a little more history before we duck out of the back gate into a local pub and enjoy what Dubliners consider the finest pint of Guinness in all of Ireland.
We'll head back to our hotel in Temple Bar and take a short orientation walk on the way to a restaurant and a welcome dinner.
Day Three: Sunday, Sept. 10
After a well-deserved night of sleep, wake up, enjoy a delicious hotel breakfast, and meet in the lobby to head into Temple Bar and beyond as we embark on an hour and a half walking tour of Dublin. We'll cover some of the various spots and have you fully prepared for your free afternoon.
Following lunch at a favorite spot of ours, we'll head over to St. James Gate to visit the massive Guinness brewery complex. This fascinating two hour tour will take us through the story and steps to making the perfect pint. Our tour will conclude atop this giant building in a circular bar will a 360 degree glass wall. Your stub will earn you a pint atop all of Dublin!
We'll pass through the massive store before we exit and head to Dublin's oldest pub for a customary stop, before you head into Temple Bar to enjoy the rest of the afternoon and evening to revel in the beauty of beautiful Dublin.
Day Four: Monday, Sept. 11
After an early breakfast, we'll grab our bags and head for the airport and a short flight to Edinburgh, Scotland.
With a short cab ride from the airport, we'll soon be at our hotel, located right in the heart of Edinburgh. We'll drop our bags, to be delivered to our rooms when they become available, while we head out to explore the city.
We'll start out with an orientation walk which will lead us to the famous street, the Royal Mile (it's the street connecting the castle to the palace). We'll stop for lunch, before we head up into the castle to enjoy its views and many exhibits.
Next order of business for the day will be a three hour tasting, paired with a first class meal at the Scotch Whisky Experience, for the perfect ending of our first day in Scotland.
Enjoy the rest of the evening walking Edinburgh's picturesque streets or enjoying a pint or a glass of whisky (never call it "Scotch"... would be redundant!) before heading to your charming hotel for a good night of rest.
Day Five: Tuesday, Sept. 12
Today will be a free day to explore and enjoy a wide array of sights and exhibits in Edinburgh...
Head out for a hike on Arthur's Seat, an extinct volcano, located just across the river from the Holyrood House at the end of the Royal Mile. It offers a stunning view of Edinburgh like no other and has much to do with the coat of arms and well known lore, including considerable speculation that it was once the site of Camelot.
For those wishing to delve deeper into Scottish history, look no further than the Museum of Scotland for a fascinating array of exhibits that surpass anything else in the land. It has numerous wings and subjects, but it will offer the best opportunity to learn much about the history of Scotland. Another suggestion would be the National Gallery and its incredible artwork and most famous people.
A final suggestion would be to take a walking tour into the belly of old Scotland. The tour is the Real Mary King's Close... How is it that streets that were once the bustling heart of Edinburgh’s Old Town came to be sealed off and hidden from sight? Be transported back to 17th century Edinburgh as their costumed character guides lead you through uniquely preserved streets and houses.
Whatever your fancy, Edinburgh has much to enjoy. We'll meet up for a fantastic dinner at a local favorite and compare notes on the day's activities.
Day Six: Wednesday, Sept. 13
Today we'll begin our journey into England, heading south and down into the Lake District. You're going to love our next destination:
The prettiest village in the heart of the English Lake District, Hawkshead is truly historic and wonderfully picturesque, characterized by its cluster of whitewashed houses, archways and alleyways, courtyards and squares. A prosperous medieval wool town, its rich history includes important connections with the poet William Wordsworth and children's story author Beatrix Potter.
Hawkshead has flourished since its beginnings as a medieval market town. Today, with its car-free village centre, it's the perfect place for the visitor to experience the 'real' Lake District. The cobbled streets, squares and courtyards and the beautiful whitewashed cottages, topped with local Lakeland slate, give this little place a magical feel.
The village is steeped in history and heritage, from the ruins of Hawkshead Hall (built by medieval monks) and the 15th-century St Michael's parish church and court house, to later buildings such as the grammar school (1855) which the poet William Wordsworth attended. There is also a Beatrix Potter gallery and some other charming shops.
The surrounding scenery is some of the finest in the Lake District with forests, lakes, and falls to enjoy. We'll arrive in the early afternoon and have time to check into our rooms and enjoy a lovely afternoon and evening in a most restorative location. The inn where we'll be staying serves up some delicious food and has plenty of good ales to enjoy.
Day Seven: Thursday, Sept. 14
Our journey into the tranquil and mysterious regions of the UK will continue as we head into the gorgeous reaches of northern Wales.
We'll head out of Hawkshead mid-morning and attempt to miss the peak traffic times as we run the gauntlet between Liverpool and Manchester. Once we get into Wales, you'll see full well why it's on the itinerary...
Our first stop will be the lovely town of Betws-y-Coed (pronounced "Bet-wes - E - coid" - and good luck trying to make any sense of the Welsh language!). We'll have lunch there near a gorgeous old bridge over a waterfall, and then drive a short distance further to have dessert and the "ugliest" tea house in Wales.
We'll then take a scenic drive along breathtaking mountain roads and wind our way over to the coast for an unforgettable night at Portmeirion. This wonderful tourist village was designed and built by Sir Clough Williams-Ellis between 1925 and 1975 in the style of an Italian village, and is now owned by a charitable trust. Full of charming shops and amazing architecture, you'll fall in love with this little hideaway.
After 6pm, the gates are closed to the public. Enjoy walking the grounds before a sumptuous, first class meal at one of the two highly regarded restaurants on the grounds, including one inside a restored castle.
This will be an overnight stay you'll never forget...
Day Eight: Friday, Sept. 15
Castles, crags, and "creation"...
Today promises to be a most excellent and fun-filled portion of our journey!
We'll head out from our lovely lodgings in Portmeirion and skirt the coastline of northern Wales, visiting two beautiful castles: Criccieth and Caernarfon.
Dating back to the 1200s, we'll explore the ruins and museums/shops of two iconic fortresses which were fought over by the English and Welsh, both of which will offer some of the most breath-taking views and photo opportunities. We'll have a chance to grab a delicious meal before we turn back into the wild and barren mountain region of Snowdonia.
We'll head to the train station and board a train for a one-of-a-kind ride up to the very peak of Mount Snowdon. This will be one fantastic experience, and you'll want to have your camera at the ready!
After we return, we'll load back up and make the drive across the beautiful Welsh countryside and end up in the famous city of Shrewsbury, a key fortress city on the Welsh/English border.
Shrewsbury is a market town whose center has a largely unaltered medieval street plan and over 660 listed buildings, including several examples of timber framing from the 15th and 16th centuries. Shrewsbury Castle, a red sandstone fortification, and Shrewsbury Abbey, a former Benedictine monastery, were founded in 1074 and 1083 respectively by the Norman Earl of Shrewsbury, Roger de Montgomery. The town has historically been a center for the wool trade and brewing.
It's also home to none other than Charles Darwin... You can still visit his childhood home.
We'll check into our rooms before heading out for a walk and a splendid English meal at a favorite restaurant of ours.
Day Nine: Saturday, Sept. 16
After a lovely breakfast and room checkout, we'll leave our bags with the hotel reception and head out to experience Shrewsbury by day...
Head over on a short walk to visit the home of Charles Darwin. Darwin himself declared that he was born a naturalist, but even he would acknowledge that his childhood experiences of growing up in Shropshire combined with his liberal upbringing helped to create the perfect inquisitive mind.
The Darwins were keen gardeners and the young Charles would often be found in the garden looking at bugs and beetles. He would also go to the River Severn that surrounds the town exploring the fields and floodplains, or go to the Dingle set in the heart of the Quarry Park - and the Dingle is a spectacular garden well worth visiting!
Also in walking distance is the Shrewsbury Abbey, which has an impressive war memorial inside - and a sculpture in the back garden in memory of one of England's greatest war poets, Wilfred Owen. Or simply stroll along the walking street and visit Shrewsbury's many shops.
After lunch (yes, you'll probably want to head back to the Henry Tudor House), we'll strike east for Cambridge, with one stop planned along the way: one of England's most famous cathedrals.
Ely Cathedral has its origins in AD 672. The present building dates back to 1083, and cathedral status was granted it in 1109. Architecturally it is outstanding both for its scale and stylistic details. Having been built in a monumental Romanesque style, the galilee porch, lady chapel and choir were rebuilt in an exuberant Decorated Gothic. Its most famous feature however is the central octagonal tower, with lantern above, which provides a spectacular internal space and, along with the West Tower, gives a unique exterior landmark that dominates the surrounding landscape.
We'll arrive into Cambridge late in the afternoon/early evening, check into our hotel, and head out for a bite to eat.
Day Ten: Sunday, Sept. 17
We'll enjoy a lovely breakfast in Cambridge before heading further east to Reydon and Southwold.
We'll stop for a visit at the ancestral church of one of our travelers, St. Margaret's of Antioch. We'll visit the graveyard and perhaps even attend a service, depending on how our night in Cambridge goes! After walking the graveyard and taking some photos and perhaps an impression of a tombstone or two, we'll make the short trip over to see the sights of Southwold, where we'll enjoy a leisurely lunch.
By mid afternoon, we'll wrap up our time in Southwold and make the drive to London. It's about three hours away, so we'll likely find some charming village to stop in for a pint and breakup the journey.
We'll check into our hotel in a pleasant, central location in London, before heading out for a little orientation walk and sumptuous dinner in our home base for the next four nights.
This promises to be a highlight of our travels, as we'll take a much needed break from driving for the rest of our trip. For the next two days, we'll enjoy all of the skip-the-line privileges of a London pass and soak up one of the most diverse and culturally rich cities on the planet!
Days 11 - 13: Monday - Wednesday, September 18, 19, and 20
So many choices among a plethora of museums, galleries, monuments, shops, pubs, and famous buildings...
We'll likely head out on our first full day to take in the most prominent of the sights of London, upon reaching a consensus after each stop.
Choices include Buckingham Palace, Westminster Cathedral, Big Ben, Parliament, the Tower Bridge, Piccadilly Circus, the Imperial War Museum, the Tate Gallery, and on and on the list goes...
You'll be properly oriented with our previous evening's tour and be equipped with a map, should you choose to explore something on your own.
The wealth of this fabulous city will be at our fingertips for three unforgettable days of sights, sounds, smells, sips and swallows... After all, we'll surely be hitting some excellent eateries and perfect pubs in between all of our movements. London rivals any place on the planet with dining and drinking choices.
Day Fourteen: Thursday, Sept. 21
And back we go to Ireland...
In a most fitting way for an American to pay homage to the many immigrants who came over to the New World by sea, we'll head to Euston Station to board our train for a "rail/sail" trip back to Ireland.
We'll cross the English countryside and head up into the northwest corner of Wales, arriving at the train station/ferry port of Holyhead.
After walking down the long covered terminal building, we'll head through customs (back to the Euro!) and be taken up into our ship via bus.
The sea crossing takes around three hours, and you'll have a few restaurants to choose from for food, a giant bar, a cinema, and multiple lounges and sitting areas. Of course, you'll want to be top-side, when we pull out of the harbor, for one spectacular view.
We'll arrive into Dublin port, head to our hotel via taxi, and drop bags and freshen up before one final and fitting hurrah in Temple Bar.
We'll enjoy a final, farewell meal, before striking out for a pub or two to celebrate our glorious two-week trip around Ireland and the United Kingdom.
Go as late as you wish... you can sleep on the flight home!
Day Fifteen: Friday, Sept. 22
Wake up, check out of our hotel, and head to the airport. You'll clear customs IN IRELAND, so no long lines, customs, and going back through security once you land in the USA. Your flight will be treated as a local carrier... one of the best perks of all about traveling home from Dublin.
OVERNIGHT: YOUR BED