Great Britain Itinerary

By Rick Steves

So much to see, so little time. How to choose? To help you get started, I've listed my top picks for where to go in Great Britain and outlined my plan for your best three-week trip. (If you're planning a more focused trip, see my recommended itineraries for England and Scotland.)

Depending on the length of your trip, and taking geographic proximity into account, here are my recommended priorities:

  • 3 days: London
  • 5 days, add: Bath
  • 7 days, add: York
  • 9 days, add: Edinburgh
  • 11 days, add: The Cotswolds and either Stratford or Blenheim Palace
  • 14 days, add: North Wales, Wells/Glastonbury, Avebury and/or Stonehenge
  • 17 days, add: Lake District, Hadrian's Wall, Durham
  • 21 days, add: Scottish Highlands, Liverpool, Ironbridge Gorge
  • 24 days, add: Choose two of the following — St. Andrews, Glasgow, Cambridge, South Wales

Tip: Instead of spending the first few days of your trip in busy London, consider a gentler small-town start in Bath (the ideal jet-lag pillow), and let London be the finale of your trip. You'll be more rested and ready to tackle Britain's greatest city. Heathrow Airport has direct bus connections to Bath and other cities. (Bristol Airport is also near Bath.)

Rick’s Best Three-Week Trip to Britain

The recommended itineraries below give you an idea of how much you can reasonably see in 21 days, but of course you'll want to adapt them to fit your own interests and time frame.

If you enjoy big cities, you could easily spend a week in London (top-notch museums, food, street life, and entertainment); Edinburgh and Glasgow are also engaging and lively. For a slower pace of life, settle in any of Britain's many appealing towns, such as York or Bath. If villages beckon, linger in the Cotswolds, where time has all but stopped.

Nature lovers get wonderfully lost in the Lake District, Wales, and the Scottish Highlands. Literary fans make pilgrimages to Stratford-upon-Avon (Shakespeare), Bath (Austen), and the Lake District (Wordsworth and Potter). Golfers take a detour to tee-tour St. Andrews. Beatles fans form here, there, and everywhere head to Liverpool.

By Car

This itinerary can also be done by public transportation, with modifications (see below).

Day 1:  Arrive in London, connect to Bath by train or bus (sleep in Bath)

Day 2:  Bath (sleep in Bath)

Day 3:  Pick up car, visit Avebury, Wells, Glastonbury (sleep in Bath)

Day 4:  South Wales: Cardiff, Tintern Abbey (sleep in Chipping Campden)

Day 5:  Explore the Cotswolds, Blenheim Palace (sleep in Chipping Campden)

Day 6:  Stratford-upon-Avon (sleep in Ironbridge Gorge)

Day 7:  Ironbridge Gorge, to North Wales (sleep in Conwy)

Day 8:  Highlights of North Wales (sleep in Conwy)

Day 9:  Liverpool (sleep in Liverpool)

Day 10:  South Lake District (sleep in Keswick area)

Day 11:  North Lake District (sleep in Keswick area)

Day 12:  Drive up west coast of Scotland (sleep in Oban)

Day 13:  Explore the Highlands, Loch Ness (sleep in Edinburgh)

Day 14:  Edinburgh (sleep in Edinburgh)

Day 15:  Edinburgh (sleep in Edinburgh)

Day 16:  Hadrian's Wall, Beamish Museum, Durham's Cathedral and evensong (sleep in Durham)

Day 17:  York, turn in car (sleep in York)

Day 18:  York (sleep in York)

Day 19:  Early train to London (sleep in London)

Day 20:  London (sleep in London)

Day 21:  London (sleep in London)

Day 22:  Whew!

By Public Transportation

For three weeks without a car, cut back on the sights with the most frustrating public transportation (parts of Wales, Ironbridge Gorge, and the Scottish Highlands). Lacing together the cities by train is slick, though some journeys in this itinerary involve transfers (usually just one). Buses, slower and cheaper, can get you where the trains don't go. With more time, everything is workable without a car.

Day 1:  Arrive in London, connect to Bath by train or bus (sleep in Bath)

Day 2:  Bath (sleep in Bath)

Day 3:  Stonehenge and Avebury by minibus day tour (sleep in Bath)

Day 4:  To Cotswolds by 2.5-hour train to Moreton-in-Marsh, then half-hour bus to Chipping Campden (sleep in Chipping Campden or Moreton-in-Marsh)

Day 5:  Explore the Cotswolds, or day-trip via 1.5-hour bus to Stratford, or 1-hour train-plus-bus trip to Blenheim Palace (sleep in Chipping Campden or Moreton-in-Marsh)

Day 6:  To North Wales by scenic 5–6-hour train (sleep in Conwy)

Day 7:  See highlights of North Wales on a leisurely train and bus loop (sleep in Conwy)

Day 8:  To Liverpool by 2-hour train (sleep in Liverpool)

Day 9:  To Lake District by train to Penrith, then 3-hour bus to Keswick (sleep in Keswick)

Day 10:  Explore Lake District on foot and/or by bus and boat (sleep in Keswick)

Day 11:  To Oban, Scotland, by scenic 5–6-hour train (sleep in Oban)

Day 12:  Boat tour of islands of Mull, Iona, and possibly Staffa (sleep in Oban)

Day 13:  To Glasgow by 3-hour train or bus (sleep in Glasgow)

Day 14:  More Glasgow, then to Edinburgh by 1-hour train (sleep in Edinburgh)

Day 15:  Edinburgh (sleep in Edinburgh)

Day 16:  Edinburgh (sleep in Edinburgh)

Day 17:  To York by 2.5-hour train (sleep in York)

Day 18:  York (sleep in York)

Day 19:  Early train to London (sleep in London)

Day 20:  London (sleep in London)

Day 21:  London (sleep in London)

Day 22:  Whew!