How to Plan a Trip to England, Ireland and Scotland

In 2016, we headed off to explore Great Britain and Ireland. We were drawn to visit by our love of history and literature and our boy’s affinity to Harry Potter and Dr. Who. We plan to return one day to go more in-depth to this profoundly historical place, but this was our introduction (a British Isles buffet, if you will) to figure out where we shall return. We tend to travel pretty loosely and quickly change our plans if we are so inclined by fatigue or excitement. I hope this will help you to plan your one-week UK itinerary. If you want to travel at a much more leisurely pace, this would also be an excellent guide for a two-week UK itinerary.

2 Days in Dublin
Ha’ Penny Bridge, Dublin

What are the British Isles?

The British Isles consist of two large islands, Great Britain and Ireland, and many small islands. On Great Britain are the countries of England, Wales, and Scotland. Along with Northern Ireland, they make up the United Kingdom. Northern Ireland is on the island of Ireland along with the Republic of Ireland.

Day 0- Fly to Dublin, Ireland

Day 1- Dublin, Ireland to Wales

Dublin is the capital of the Republic of Ireland. It is an accessible city to visit because it has excellent public transportation, and you can walk around most of it safely. It is also easy to take public transportation out into the country and get a glimpse of Ireland’s beauty.

United Kingdom Itinerary
The view on my hike in Howth, just 15 minutes from The Clontarf Castle Hotel in Dublin, Ireland.

Things to Do in Dublin, Ireland

Here is a list of what we did on this 24-hour visit to Ireland.

Read all about our day in Dublin, Ireland, or Travel Tips for Ireland.

Since this trip, I have also taken a 4-Day trip to the Island of Ireland. If you have just a little more time consider adding a day trip to Northern Ireland to your itinerary.

Day 3- Cardiff, Bath, and Stonehenge

48 Hours in Cardiff Wales
Spring is a bright and cheerful season to visit Cardiff Castle.

We rented a car once we landed in Wales because trains would have taken too long to see what we wanted with the time we had. Make your England car reservation here. Driving in England was pretty crazy for us Americans. You can read all my thoughts on that here.

  • Cardiff Castle interior tour.
  • Roman Baths and Bath Abbey
  • Sunset at Stonehenge (pre-booking required)
  • We stayed at the Unicorn Hotel.

Read about our time in the Cotswolds.

Day 4- A Drive Through the Countryside

best tea in the world
A cream tea in the Cotswolds at Lucy’s Tea House.
  • Drive to Stratford-Upon-Avon through the Cotswolds. Being is the Cotwolds is like being transported to another time. Read more about my time in the Cotswolds.
  • Shakespeare’s Home and Anne Hathaway’s Gardens
  • Warwick Castle
  • We stayed for two nights at the Shendish Manor Hotel, which is north of London by the Harry Potter Studio and Luton Airport.

Day 5-London

tea cruise on the Thames
The Tower of London, London, England

Day 6- Harry Potter Studios and Fly to Edinburgh

What has Harry Potter meant to your life?

Do I feel like we wasted our precious time in England, spending virtually a whole day of our limited time at the Harry Potter Studio? Not even slightly. Read about our day at the Harry Potter Studio Tour. 

Day 7 and 8- Edinburgh, Scotland

  • This was our splurge with a hotel, and it is one of my favorites I have ever stayed in The Waldorf-Astoria Caledonian, which overlooks Edinburgh Castle.
  • Edinburgh Castle
  • The Royal Mile
  • Arthur’s Seat
  • Greyfriar’s Kirkyard

I absolutely understand that we only got a taste of what this area has to offer, but my family loved our trip, and we did it all over spring break. If we had to relive it, we would do it pretty much the same. I would have skipped Stonehenge and spent a whole day in Bath, but it was important to my kids to see Stonehenge. As far as standing stones, I more appreciated the meaning and solitude of Sweden’s Stone Ship.

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3 thoughts on “How to Plan a Trip to England, Ireland and Scotland”

  1. How helpful! You’ve made it so easy to plan a UK & Ireland trip! I love, love, love that you included Harry Potter, too! Thanks for sharing.


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