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From Edinburgh to London: 11-Day Itinerary through Scotland and England

From Edinburgh to London: 11-Day Itinerary through Scotland and England | CosmosMariners.com
The ruins of St. Andrews Castle, St. Andrews, Scotland

One of the first major trips that my husband and I took together after we were married was to the UK. I was (and still am!) an Anglophile through and through, having been to the country multiple times before this trip, including a study abroad stint in London during college.

My husband, on the other hand, had only been out of the country once--on our honeymoon cruise to the Caribbean--and had no idea of what awaited him on this trip.

Even though we've been on many adventures together since this one, our Edinburgh/London trip remains one of our favorites. We're hoping to take our daughter on a similar trip in 2017, which will be so amazing that I can't even wrap my head around it.

Anyway, if you're headed to England and Scotland and want to see how much you can accomplish in less than 2 weeks, read on. I've tried to include what we did, where we ate, and what hotels we stayed in whenever possible for plenty of travel inspiration!

Day 1: Flight to London

Since we wanted to spend time in both England and Scotland, our airfare was cheaper from Charleston, South Carolina, if we flew into London. If you're just planning to do the Scotland half of this itinerary, I'd recommend flying directly into Edinburgh if possible or changing planes in London since it's so much quicker than the train we ended up taking.

Day 2: Getting to Scotland

Once we were on the ground, we took the Tube from Heathrow to King's Cross, then transferred to Euston. There was an incredible amount of traffic due to construction going on in the Tube system, and we made it to Euston train station with less then 20 minutes to spare before our train left.

Learn from me and give yourself plenty of time for Tube/train transfers (we allotted 2 hours and that still wasn't enough time between getting off the plane and getting onto our train).

We grabbed a couple of pasties from The Pasty Shop (cheddar and onion for the win!) in the train station, boarded our train, and then spent the next 4.5 hours trying not to pass out from exhaustion. Unfortunately, since we were traveling in the off-season, the sun went down around 5 PM, so we didn't even have anything good to see out of the window.

Once we arrived in Edinburgh's Waverley Station (which is very conveniently located to the New and Old Town), we grabbed our suitcases and headed to our hotel. We stayed in the Jurys Inn Edinburgh, which is only a few hundred feet from the train station and less than a block off the Royal Mile. It's got clean but basic rooms, a restaurant and a bar onsite, and the location can't be beat.

Overnight: Jurys Inn Edinburgh

Day 3: Edinburgh Explorations

Not ones to sleep in on vacation, we were up with the sun and ready to see all that Edinburgh could offer us in one day.

Our day was anchored around what we could see on the Royal Mile. We started out with coffee and tea at the Elephant House, a location I chose wholly by the fact that it was a favorite haunt of J.K. Rowling when she was writing the early Harry Potter novels. Luckily, they have a great breakfast served with a side of literary inspiration.

Over the course of the day, we wandered from one end of the Royal Mile to the other, taking in Edinburgh Castle, Holyroodhouse, and a free choral concert at St. Giles' Church. We shopped for kilts and souvenirs, shared a baked brie and a few pints at a pub, and ended the day with a cheap, filling meal at Yocoko Noodle Bar.

Looking back, I wish we'd been able to stay more than 24 hours in Edinburgh--it is an incredible city and we were only able to see a tiny portion of it.

Overnight: Jurys Inn Edinburgh

Day 4: Heading out of the city

One thing that I absolutely had to do on this trip was go to Rosslyn Chapel. I'd read about it back in high school and had been fascinated by the intricate stonework and mysterious history of the place. It's a quick trip outside of Edinburgh, so it was our first destination after we picked up our rental car at Waverley Station.

Because we were visiting so early in the morning and because it was the off-season we had a completely private tour of the place, which exceeded every expectation I had about visiting. It turned out to be one of the highlights of our trip!

From Edinburgh to London: 11-Day Itinerary through Scotland and England | CosmosMariners.com
Beautiful Rosslyn Chapel
Next, we headed down to tiny Melrose to see the ruins of Melrose Abbey. I'm really, really into ruins (the older, the better), so I tried to pack as many into our Scotland travels as possible. Even though it was a bit out of the way, being able to walk around the ruins and climb high into the remaining buidlings was well worth the detour. We ate at this little tea house that was next to the parking lot at the Abbey, but for the life of me, I can't remember the name of it.

After filling up our stomachs with sandwiches and tea, we hopped back in our rental car and headed to Dunblane, where we were to spend the next few nights. It was a short trip (only about an hour and a half), and we were glad to check into the Dunblane Hydro Hotel. It's a massive complex in a refurbished sanatorium where TB patients would come to relax and take the supposedly healing waters.

Overnight: Dunblane Hydro Hotel

Day 5: Trossachs

In one of those it's-meant-to-be moments, we ran into one of the hotel's workers who liked talking as much as my husband and I do. This man convinced us to change our Day 5 plans from going to Aviemore to the Trossachs: not only were the Trossachs closer, but they were like a mini-Highlands.

In a fit of spontaneity, we completely changed our plans--and I'm so glad that we did. I'm sure that Aviemore and the Cairngorms would've been spectacular, but we had the best time driving around the Trossachs on our new friend's suggestions. We didn't do anything major: we just wandered and took the road where it led us. We did stumble on a few incredible moments like finding the grave of Rob Roy McGregor in tiny Balquidder (much to the delight of my husband, who loves the movie of the same name).

From Edinburgh to London: 11-Day Itinerary through Scotland and England | CosmosMariners.com
Bonding with a new friend on our road trip
To top off the trip, I was able to visit the place where my ancestors (the Buchanan clan) hailed from. There's not much there to see in the way of a castle or anything, but driving around the Loch Lomond region knowing that my great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-grandparents (seriously--we were early to jump on the America bandwagon back in the day) once wandered there too was a fun experience!

Overnight: Dunblane Hydro Hotel

Day 6: Stirling and Dunblane

On our last full day in Dunblane, we decided to stick closer to the hotel. We had another very early morning and ended up opening Stirling Castle. I hate getting up early, but I love having a place to myself to slowly sightsee. We spent about 2 hours with our audio tour, weaving in and out of the multiple buildings of Stirling Castle before heading over to the William Wallace Museum on the other side of Stirling (you can see it from the Castle, which makes for a great picture opp!).

Besides Rob Roy, my husband is also obsessed with Braveheart and the myth that is William Wallace, so he was really into this site. I liked seeing Wallace's gigantic sword, but there wasn't a lot other than that elaborated on the man's life. I also enjoyed going to the Hall of Heroes and taking some pictures with the busts of my favorite Scottish authors (including Rabbie Burns, for whom I hold a soft spot).

If you go, make sure to note that there are no elevators if you cannot walk up the 246 steps. It's quite a hike up the entire monument, but you do get to stop at the various levels to help break up the journey.

From Edinburgh to London: 11-Day Itinerary through Scotland and England | CosmosMariners.com
At Doune Castle
We then had to go to Doune Castle, another must-visit for me. Doune Castle is where the vast majority of Monty Python and the Holy Grail was filmed, and the audio tour is even narrated by Terry Jones. More recently, it's been one of the filming locations for Outlander and Game of Thrones (it's the Winterfell location), but the Monty Python connection will always be near and dear to my heart. (Plus, where else can you  clap coconuts together in lieu of having an actual horse and not get stared at?!)

Again, traveling in the off-season is AWESOME since we had the place to ourselves. There's nothing like rambling 'round a 14th century castle with only the howling wind to accompany you.

Finally, we decided to dunk into Dunblane Cathedral before calling it a day. (As an aside, I cannot believe we managed to do this much in one day!!) We were the sole visitors here as well, and the docent took us around this incredible structure, explaining bits and pieces of the cathedral's history. My favorite part? When the town fell on hard times and couldn't keep up with the work needed, they let the roof cave in towards the back and just used the seats near to the front of the cathedral. Eventually, they were able to raise enough money to restore the place to its former glory, thankfully.

About this time, we realized we hadn't eaten since breakfast, and wandered into town to find some dinner. One pub didn't serve dinner, and another wasn't ready to start dinner service for us. At the third, the man who saw us loitering outside looking hungry took pity on us, brought us in and opened the kitchen early for us. That was the best meal I'd had in a long time because I was so hungry!

Overnight: Dunblane Hydro Hotel

Day 7: St. Andrews

We said farewell to Dunblane and Stirling and headed off to St. Andrews for a day trip. We mostly wanted to soak up the town's atmosphere since I hold ridiculous dreams of being a Ph.D. student there one day, so we did a self-guided tour from one of my guide books.

From Edinburgh to London: 11-Day Itinerary through Scotland and England | CosmosMariners.com
With my trusty guidebook at the St. Andrews Cathedral ruins
We wandered the ruins and graveyard of St. Andrews Cathedral, explored the claustrophobia-inducing tunnels under St. Andrews Cathedral, did a Chariots of Fire run along the beach, and watched a few cold golfers tee off. We warmed up at North Point Cafe, which is one of Will and Kate's old haunts during their university days.

Sadly, we couldn't linger in St. Andrews for too long, as we had to return the rental car that night back in Edinburgh. We did take the scenic route, winding around East Neuk as we headed into the city.

From Edinburgh to London: 11-Day Itinerary through Scotland and England | CosmosMariners.com
Onboard the Caledonian Sleeper. Spacious, isn't it?
After dumping the rental car at Waverley Station, we took our suitcases to the train portion of the station and waited...and waited...and waited. We were taking the Caledonian Sleeper back to London (something I was ridiculously excited about, having never been on a sleeper train before), and it didn't start boarding until around 10:30. We spent two very long hours people watching and drinking wine out of plastic containers we got at the onsite convenience store. We are some classy party animals!

Overnight: Caledonian Sleeper to London

Day 8: London

After a bumpy night on the train, we awoke in London, ready to conquer my most beloved city in the world. My husband hadn't ever been before this trip, so I was ready to show him all of my favorite things. We left our luggage in a locker in the train station and headed to the Tower of London for the morning. The Tower is one of those places that you can spend hours, and we ended up staying for a good portion of the day.

From Edinburgh to London: 11-Day Itinerary through Scotland and England | CosmosMariners.com
At the Tower of London
We then headed over to the British Museum for tea and a glimpse at the Egyptian exhibit and the Elgin marbles. This is another place that you need to pace yourself! There's no way to see everything it has to offer on one trip (or ten!), so choose a few highlights each time you go.

We were tired after a long day of sightseeing, so we retrieved our luggage, found our hotel in Chelsea, and called it a night.

Overnight: Avni Kensington Hotel, Chelsea, London (near Gloucester Road tube stop)

Day 9: London

I'd planned our trip purposefully so we could have a Saturday in London: this meant that our first stop was the Portobello Road Market where we stuffed ourselves with gigantic fresh doughnuts, went antiquing (and found the coolest owl bookends), and people watched.

From Edinburgh to London: 11-Day Itinerary through Scotland and England | CosmosMariners.com
Fresh doughnuts at the Portobello Road Market!
Next, we darted over to the TKTS booth to grab tickets for an evening performance since I can't go to London without seeing at least one play.

I made my husband go on a bit of a Natalie-history tour, as we went sightseeing in Chelsea, where I had studied abroad in college. After he got tired of hearing "and this is where I liked to get tea and this is where I did my grocery shopping and this is where I saw Brittany Murphy," we walked to Sloane Square, hung a left and went to Harrod's for a snack and some shopping.

We ended the day in the theatre district and took in a performance of The Woman in Black, the longest running play on the West End. IT. WAS. AWESOME. I didn't know how only two actors would be able to pull off all of the characters, but they were talented beyond belief. Just see it.

Overnight: Avni Kensington Hotel, Chelsea, London

Day 10: London

By the last day in London, we were starting to feel the constant overexertion of sightseeing, so we did the low key route and went shopping in Leicester Square and Covent Gardens.

From Edinburgh to London: 11-Day Itinerary through Scotland and England | CosmosMariners.com
My husband in Covent Gardens
After getting home, I realized that my husband hadn't seen the London Eye, Westminster Abbey, Parliament, Buckingham Palace, Downing Street, or any of the South Kensington museums on our trip. London guide fail! If you plan on recreating this itinerary, I'd highly recommend taking in one or more of those attractions in your final day in London.

Overnight: Avni Kensington Hotel, Chelsea, London

Day 11: Heading home

Well, that's all she wrote. We spent the better part of the morning getting ourselves back to the airport and through security before heading back to Charleston. Until next time, Scotland and England!

From Edinburgh to London: 11-Day Itinerary through Scotland and England | CosmosMariners.com

Have you been to the UK? What attractions were on your must-see list? 


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