England, Scotland, and Wales

This trip my friend and I did a guided tour of the UK by Expat Explorers. It was a lot busier than we were used to but we got to see a ton in a short about of time. Our tour started and ended in London, so I flew in a day early. I had already been to London so I didn’t need to go see all the main tourist spots such as: Big Ben (although it’s still under construction for years now), the Tower of London, London Bridge, Tower Bridge (the actually impressive looking one), the Eye (we have one in Orlando also), and Buckingham Palace (although I did end up here again).

My flight came in around 8 am and it was time to start a tired day of exploring. If you’re flying into Gatwick, I highly recommend pre-purchasing a ticket on the Gatwick Express. It was inexpensive and very easy. Heathrow is another story, now bring on the caffeine. After dropping my bags off at my hotel I went off to the Borough Market. What an awesome place, tons of fresh food to buy and tons of vendors selling all sorts of delicious food.

After lunch since I was already by the river, it was more of a wandering along the river kind of day.

After a ton of walking it was time for an uber back to my hotel, the Novotel London Greenwich to meet up with my friend for dinner at Greenwich Union, and then an early night’s sleep to be prepared for an early start to the tour the next morning.

Our first stop in England was Cambridge where we started the tour punting along the river in traditional style, taking in the stunning scenery and epic, historical buildings, numerous college, in the most relaxing way.

We then had some free time to explore the town, grab a mulled wine and then keep journeying towards York. York is a mecca for history buffs, fine architecture, and culture. We started the time there with a walking tour where we saw the York Minister, National Railway Museum, and the Shambles before having dinner in a traditional British pub. Full disclaimer; other than a few places England food is way too bland for me. We spent the time at the Ibis York Center and then it was time to keep going.

Before getting to Scotland we made a stop to see Hadrian’s Wall, a defensive fortification constructed by emperor Hadrian across the final frontier of the Roman Empire in what was then the Roman province of Britannia as well as a stop to see the Angel of the North, a contemporary statue:

Our first Scotland stop was Gretna Green, a beautiful historic village in southern Scotland that is one of the world’s most popular wedding destinations.

There was a lot of driving this day and we ended it with a dinner and some drinks at our hotel for the night.

This day was the one I was looking forward to most, heading north to the iconic Scottish Highlands. An early morning again we headed off through Glen Coe (seeing Ben Nevis and much more).

As we traveled on to Edinburgh, we made a stop at Loch Ness – home to ‘Nessie’ the Loch Ness Monster, doing a short boat tour.

Then we got to our hotel in Edinburgh (the only place we stayed at for two nights). We went on an optional excursion to see the Spirit of Scotland; a private show with dancing, bag pipes, singing, accordions, and a delicious four course meal.

This next day was Christmas and said it was a free day on the itinerary. They did have an option to continue with the group and tour guide for a driving tour as well as a guided walking tour. My friend and I decided since all of the tours were starting late we would get up early and do a sunrise hike to Arthur’s Seat, an extinct volcano. This was well worth it:

The bus tour took us to the four bridges and then up to Calton Hill. On this hill you can see Edinburgh from above, Arthur’s Seat, as well as many monuments on the top:

Then it was time to take a step back in time and wander around the unchanged cobbled streets of the Royal Mile, Grass Market, a row of pubs where public hangings used to ‘entertain’ the crowds, the Edinburgh Castle, Princes Street, St Giles’ Cathedral and more of old town. I would recommend a few days in this town:

We had a traditional roast for a late Christmas lunch and then went back to the hotel to watch a Christmas movie before bed.

It was back to England the next day, first stop being at the Lake District at Lake Windermere. What a cute little town, and we had a delicious authentic Italian meal to go along with our wandering:

We then arrived in Liverpool late afternoon, having free time to explore. We saw the Liverpool Catherdral, Albert Docks, the Beatles Statue, some shopping, The Underground Gin Society, and finally the Cavern Club where the famous Beatles played hundreds of shows. We went back to our hotel Ibis Liverpool Center Albert Dock and called it a night.

We started the next morning with a Beatles driving tour of Liverpool followed by a stop at the birthplace of William Shakespeare – Stratford-upon-Avon. There are numerous Shakespearean attractions and fascinating historical locations we visited before we had crones and high tea at the famous Fourtea:

After this awesome stop it was time for our last country, Wales. We were staying at Park Inn by Radisson Cardiff City Centre which was two steps from everything! We only had a few minutes before dinner at the hotel, so I did some exploring on my own:

I definitely would have liked some more time here. After dinner we went to the Golden Cross, the oldest gay bar in the UK with several people from our tour group. They have drag shows every night and cheap drinks. We all had a blast, then it was time for sleep.

The next day was our last day of the tour, but it was a busy one like all the others. The first stop for the day is Bath. Before we went on a walking tour, we stopped to see the architecture of the Royal Crescent:

Then it was to the city center where we started our tour with the Roman baths: a well-preserved thermal in the city of Bath, Somerset, England. A temple was constructed on the site between 60-70AD that led to the development of the small Roman urban settlement known as Aquae Sulis. It was definitely interesting to see:

Then we wandered around the city seeing Bath Abbey, the Pulteney Bridge, and a stop for lunch:

Our last stop before getting back to London was Stonehenge, an ancient and awe-inspiring structure, which has baffled scientists, tourists and historians for centuries.

Then it was back to London and another night at the Novotel London Greenwich before going back to Gatwick in the morning. This was an amazing trip and I would definitely recommend it! Here are some fun random photos I took throughout the trip: