Touring The British Isles

TRAVEL TALK

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Photo courtesy of Ken Brooks

Big Ben is a must-see on any London sight-seeing tour.

The countries that represent most Americans’ heritage would include the United Kingdom, Ireland, Germany, Italy, France and Scandinavia. If you have not ventured overseas to these countries perhaps this is the year to start exploring your roots. In this column, we will take you through a tour of the British Isles.

I often hear people say they would never take a tour. Well, the alternative is to rent a car and do your own thing or, use rail and local busses to get around. Remember, in Britain, they drive on the other side of the road. You have to think left everywhere you go, which is not easy for many. Then, there is the issue of finding a place to park. Something else that is not always easy in many areas of England and Europe. The roads are often quite narrow in towns and villages. London is like Manhattan. I wouldn’t drive there if they gave me the keys to the city.

So, with that said, let’s discuss touring with a professional company that specializes in pleasing the travelers. With a tour, you usually have a tour conductor and perhaps there will be guides who specialize in local areas who will come aboard the coach to give added detailed information in selected areas.

Some of your meals will be included depending on the tour you book and you’ll find that breakfasts are included. In the British Isles you can trust the water to drink and the food you consume.

I also recommend booking a tour because the company does the itinerary and reserve the hotels and coaches, train seats etc. All you have to do is stay healthy and let “them” do the work. You are free to enjoy the adventure of travel.

Don’t forget that British Airways have non-stop flights most days of the week from Phoenix to London and return. You won’t have to change planes enroute. It takes about 10 hours each way.

Tour companies offer many different itineraries for you to consider. Some more detailed than others. The longer you have, the more inclusive it will be. If you have three weeks you should be able to see quite a lot.

So, let’s begin our tour. Most tour companies will schedule you into London where you will be met at the airport and transferred to your hotel. After a night’s rest, London sightseeing will commence. It will probably be a half-day tour, which will include Westminster Abbey, Big Ben, the Houses of Parliament, Trafalgar Square and Buckingham Palace. The afternoon is usually free to wander the streets a bit to familiarize yourself with the city, its way of life, the stores and perhaps find a restaurant you might want to try later that evening.

The next day it might be off to Oxford and that city’s famous university, then visiting Winston Churchill’s grave at Baldon, followed by a scenic drive through the golden stone villages of the Cotswolds to the market town of Stratford-upon-Avon, home to William Shakespeare, who’s birthplace you will visit. Then, perhaps back to London or a night at Warwick. Your tour might take you to Coventry where it is aledged Lady Godiva rode naked through the streets. Here is a wonderful Cathedral and you’ll drive through the narrow streets where you can almost touch the stone buildings as you pass through.

Then it is perhaps on to Scotland and Edinburgh. You’ll head through the landscapes immortalized by the Bronte family and enjoy the scenery of the Northumberland Moors and into Scotland where you might pass the ruins of Jedburgh Abbey and into the Scottish capital. City sightseeing will probably include the Scott Memorial, New Town, Old Town and a visit to Edinburgh Castle. A drive through the so called Royal Mile down to the Palace of Holyroodhouse where Mary, the Queen of Scots lived and it is still the official Scottish residence of the Queen. I enjoyed touring this castle last summer and it was most interesting to see the massive rooms, the furnishings and overall design of the structure.

Then, on to the Highlands where you most likely will visit Loch Ness — I saw it last summer and it is very beautiful. You will pass through many interesting sights heading north and discover very friendly people you will meet along the way. More castles, lakes and meals at inns and hotels that will excite your palate. It’s usually the type of good home cooking we knew when we were growing up. The bread is wonderful and you will be eating too much before it’s all over.

Then, you might head south again and pass into the Lake District after crossing the Scottish border. There is much history with great scenery here and you will enjoy the serenity of the general area. You might see the remains of the Roman Amphitheatre at Chester.

Perhaps then on to Bristol passing through the 15th century mansions of Broad Street, Wye Valley, the ruins of Tintern Abbey followed by Plymouth, the Georgian city of Bath, enjoying more history, a stop at Stonehenge, as you head back to London for another night or two before your flight.

I have also enjoyed a short trip out of London to Windsor and a tour through the castle and strolling through this small town. And, I think you would also find it relaxing to take a short cruise on the Thames River to see the countryside, the beautiful homes lining the riverbank and the wildlife of the area.

There is great shopping and theatre in London, so you may wish to schedule a few extra days at the end of your tour. Prices for us are rather high since the British pound is worth more than the U.S. dollar these days, but do what you can.

Also, with the Chunnel now in full and speedy operation, you could take the train to Paris in two hours, do a little walking, have a nice lunch perhaps at a sidewalk restaurant, and then board the Chunnel train back to London, arriving before dinner. I also enjoy an hour or so cruise on the Thames in London to see the many sights of the city along the banks. There are frequently ferries from which you can hop on and off.

There is much more sightseeing in England I have not included here so be sure to consult your travel professional to secure brochures and look them over to book a tour that will include those areas of interest to you.

You may also wish to include some European countries on your overseas visit and we will talk about Europe soon.

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