Venture into the land of royalty and majesty, knights and castles, where iconic cities mix with quaint countryside, and all the land is steeped in famous folklore. Powerful oceans rush against cliffs, serene beaches grace the coastline, green hills roll along the horizon, and its beauty, like its history, is never far from reach.
Hallowed halls and boisterous bars, Scotch-Irish brogues and the aristocratic lilt of Shakespearean England, the United Kingdom is filled with the sights and sounds that remind you of a different, nobler past. Whether you’ve been searching for medieval castles or modern luxury, the whispers of the past or the songs of the present, search no more: it’s all right here.
Head for the Giant’s Causeway day tour and See the beauty of the Giant Causeway’s coastal area, that has been awarded UNESCO World Heritage Site status.
Your luxury tour of the British Isles begins with your arrival in London, the capital of the UK and a true city of kings. A driver will greet you upon arrival, there to load your equipage and take you to the beautiful and elegant hotel.
Paris is known for romance, Madrid for its culture and Berlin for its charm, but nowhere exudes the aura of power quite like mighty London. London, the capital of the United Kingdom, is located on the bank of River Thames. It was founded by the Romans in AD 50, since when the small settlement has expanded rapidly to become one of the largest cities in the world. Many famous structures are iconic landmarks are situated here, and the city also has loads of shopping areas, theatres, and regular hosting of events and festivals.
Stroll along the mighty River Thames or wander the beautiful and peaceful grounds of Hyde Park, London’s largest swath of green. Then again, it might just be best to stop in at one of the many London pubs for a pint and some pub food: despite the bad rap English cuisine gets, you’ll find yourself pleasantly surprised as you chomp down on fish and chips or discover one of the myriad of the city’s establishments dedicated to serving authentic “ethnic” cuisine.
Overnight stay at London.
Today is dedicated to a tour of this magnificent and unforgettable city, starting and concluding at Victoria Station, an imposing structure that encapsulates perfectly London’s heyday. We start toward the Thames until reaching the Palace of Westminster, the Gothic masterpiece that serves as the meeting place for the two Houses of the British Parliament, and home to the world’s most famous bell, Big Ben, in the world’s most recognizable clock tower. Check out the statues of the famous men of Parliament, including Oliver Cromwell and Winston Churchill, which line the palace walls opposite the Thames. You’ll then visit the West End of London, the heart of the city’s cultural scene, featuring theatres that have seen the premiers of some of the greatest musicals ever written; Trafalgar Square, a stunning monument to the British victory over Napoleon; Downing Street, the home of the Prime Minister and other political bigwigs; and Piccadilly Circus, the boldest, brightest and most beautiful section of city this side of Times Square.
From the West End, you travel to Buckingham Palace, the official London residence of the British Royal Family and one of the most stunning palaces in Europe. With any luck, you’ll see the ceremonial Changing of the Guards, but on the off-chance the ceremony is cancelled, your tour will take you to visit Horse Guards Parade, where British soldiers Troop the Colours and where beach volleyball was played for the London Olympics.
Recharge with a hearty lunch – and maybe an ale or two – at a traditional London pub before trekking to magnificent Saint Paul’s, the magnum opus of Sir Christopher Wren and the second largest church building in the entire United Kingdom. For more than three centuries, the spires and dome of this seat of the Bishop of London have dominated London’s skyline, and the cathedral has been the host of royal weddings and funerals, Jubilee celebrations and survivors of the Blitz. A stairway leads you to the top of the dome, from which you can survey the city in breathtaking fashion; keep an eye out for Shakespeare’s Globe, the London Eye, the Tower Bridge and the Tate Modern just across the Thames.
Next you travel to one of the oldest – and arguably most significant – buildings in Great Britain, the ancient and terrifying Tower of London. Built by the Norman William the Conqueror, the first king of modern England, this fortress has stood for nearly a millennium as the embodiment of the perseverance of the British Crown. Learn about the honorable and lamentable history of the Tower from a member of the Yeomen Warders, the popular Beefeaters, and try to get a member of the notoriously tight-lipped Coldstream Guards to crack a smile.
Then venture into the center to ogle at the regal and stunning Crown Jewels of the United Kingdom, featuring some of the largest and most beautiful precious stones in the entire world. Here you can see the coronation crowns of Queens Victoria and Elizabeth II and Kings Edward and George I, the supposedly cursed Koh-I-Noor from the reaches of India and the Cullinan diamond, the largest gem-quality diamond ever unearthed.
At night, return to the hotel for overnight stay.
Your next day in London promises more breathtaking sights and a view into the constantly evolving history of this memorable metropolis. With so much to see, you’ll appreciate our recommendations for these can’t-miss locales.
We will have you booked for a ride on the London Eye, the largest Ferris wheel in Europe and an attraction experienced by more than three and a half million people every year. Get a birds-eye view of the Millennium Bridge and Parliament, track the Thames and scout for the less prominent peaks of the London skyline; however you choose to spend your ride, you’ll be sure to never forget. Try to arrive an hour early, as seats fill up fast.
You’ll also want to explore Westminster Abbey, home to the remains of some of the most famous names in world history. St. Edward the Confessor is buried here, as is Edward I, known as Longshanks and the Hammer of the Scots; here too are Elizabeth I and her sister, “Bloody” Mary, buried one on top of the other. The Abbey is not merely a resting place for monarchs and their consorts, however: Sir Isaac Newton has a monument here, as does Charles Darwin, and in Poet’s Corner are interred some of the greatest names in English letters – Dickens, Chaucer, Hardy, Kipling, Tennyson, Browning, Blake and Spenser, to name a very few. And, of course, the Abbey is also home to the chair of King Edward, the throne that has anointed sovereignty upon the rulers of Great Britain for more than 700 years.
If the Elizabethan era is your cup of tea, you’ll also want to venture to Shakespeare’s Globe, a reconstruction of the Bard’s own playhouse that was burned to the ground in the seventeenth century. A tour of the theatre includes a look at drama and comedy in Shakespeare’s day, an in-depth exploration of the man who became the greatest playwright the world has ever seen, and even a signature performance from some of the finest actors in London.
More recent history can be discovered at the unparalleled British Museum, one of the best on the planet. Established in 1753, and expanded at a right rivaled only by the growth of the Empire itself, the British Museum houses some eight million objects from all over the world. Marvel in the cuneiform collection that includes the Epic of Gilgamesh, the world’s first epic poem; beautiful works of art from Greece, Italy, and beyond; and the finest assortment of Egyptian objects known, highlighted by the Rosetta Stone, the most famous translator of all time.
Overnight stay at London.
Today you leave the capital of England en route to Edinburgh, the ancient capital of the Kingdom of Scotland and one of Great Britain’s best-kept secrets. A short and scenic train ride will take you through the sublime English countryside and into the rugged lowlands of Scotland the Brave, directly to the capital city’s train yard. From here, transfer to your elegant Scottish hotel. Thrown in the hotel’s proximity to prominent Edinburgh landmarks like the Scottish Parliament and Holyrood Park, and the Macdonald Holyrood is sure to be the perfect domicile during your Scottish adventure
Overnight stay at Edinburgh.
Intimate and ancient, Edinburgh is full of the spirits of the past and the glories of yesterday, and the Royal Edinburgh Ticket is the best way to explore everything this beautiful city has to offer. This incredible item not only gives access to unlimited travel to the city’s sight-seeing tours, but also provides admission to three of the most spectacular sights in Scotland: Edinburgh Castle, Holyrood Palace, and the Royal Yachyt Britannia.
Situated atop Castle Rock and dominating the city skyline, Edinburgh Castle was the house of the Kings and Queens of Scotland and is now the most popular paid tourist attraction in Scotland. Wonderfully maintained and restored, the castle can be toured with the assistance of excellent guides, who will regale you with stories of the darker parts of Scotland’s history and its struggle with its mighty southern neighbor. Be sure to check out the Royal Palace in the heart of the Castle structure, the Queen Anne Building, and the Scottish National War Memorial, commemorating the Scottish dead in World War I, World War II, and more recent conflicts.
On the other end of the Royal Mile, you’ll find the Palace of Holyroodhouse, the official residence of the Queen in Scotland. The palace features the Queen’s Gallery which houses works from the Royal Collection and which is arguably the finest in Scotland; the apartments of Mary, Queen of Scots, which are still used for state and royal functions; and the ruins of Holyrood Abbey, a structure nearly one thousand years old and the inspiration for the rest of the complex. And if you’re lucky (or perhaps not), you just might glimpse the ghost of Agnes Sampson, a woman accused of witchcraft who is said to roam the halls.
On the harbor of Leith, you can tour the former Royal Yacht of Queen Elizabeth II and see what it was like to rule the seas as only the British Monarch could. You can catch a glimpse of the racing yacht Bloodhound moored beside her, one of the most successful ocean-racing yachts ever, take in the three beautiful masts and the flawless lines from stem to stern, and imagine life in a post-nuclear world: the vessel was intended to hold the Queen of the Northwest coast of Scotland in the event of nuclear war.
While on your way to each of these incredible destinations, be sure to make time to shop for some of Edinburgh’s noted handcrafts and food. Wool and tweed garments are of especially high quality, and there are many stores along the Royal Mile that carry more than a thousand family tartans in any manner of presentation, from scarves and bowties to wedding-quality kilts. Whiskeys are of course available everywhere, and the shortbread and fudge are as justifiably famous as they are ubiquitous.
Overnight stay in Edinburgh.
Today features a magnificent tour through the incomparable Scottish Highlands into the lake country, and will take you past some of the most famous castles, monuments, and wildlife in the British Isles. Your journey starts a mere 15 miles west of Edinburgh at historic Linlithgow Palace, the birthplace of Mary, Queen of Scots and one of the principal residences of the Scottish Crown in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. Though the castle has been burned out and is partially destroyed, efforts have been made to possibly restore the roof to the castle in the near future, restoring it to its former days of glory. From here you venture towards Stirling Castle and through a region thick with reminders of the valiant Wars of Scottish Independence: you’ll see the statue of Robert the Bruce on the castle esplanade, Tom Church’s Freedom statue, and the towering National Wallace Monument, marker to the great Scottish patriot and the inspiration for the movie Braveheart. At the monument your guide will give you a more accurate – but no less thrilling – account of the deeds of William Wallace, and you’ll be able to see Wallace’s gigantic claymore and the Hall of Heroes, a gallery of busts of prominent Scots.
You’ll next pass by Doune Castle, a site made just as famous in recent popular culture as by its historical significance: the castle served as the backdrop for five of the most memorable scenes from Monty Python and the Holy Grail and was the set of the 1952 film Ivanhoe starring Robert and Elizabeth Taylor. From here you stop for coffee, tea and shortbread in the Trossachs, the home of Red Robert MacGregor, better known to the world as Rob Roy. You’ll meet the one and only Hamish, our “Hairy Cow,” and follow him through the Highlands to Loch Tulla before crossing the weathered wilderness of Rannoch Moor to the bluffs of Glen Coe, the site of one of the more dismal moments in Scottish history, where feuding lords massacred most of the MacDonald Clan in 1692. Fans of HBO might be interested to know that the Glen Coe massacre was the inspiration for the infamous “Red Wedding” in the fantasy series Game of Thrones.
You’ll stop to replenish at the Onich Hotel near Fort William, then travel on past a breathtaking view of Ben Nevis, the highest mountain in Great Britain and one of the most beautiful places in Scotland. Check out the renowned Commando Memorial and cast your eyes over the rough beauty of Lochaber before heading down the Caledonian Canal and arriving at Fort Augustus on the shores of the mystifying Loch Ness.
By boat (from Easter to December) or on the shore, you’ll try to spot Nessie, the world’s most famous sea-monster and the ultimate dream for cryptozoologists everywhere. The black waters might hide much below the surface, but the beautiful hills surrounding the lake will be sure to make up for Nellie’s likely absence. While you may come for a monster sighting, you’ll almost certainly leave with the impression that this – the deepest and largest loch in the United Kingdom – is a treasure with or without its most famous “resident.”
The voyage back to Edinburgh winds through Glen Spean and runs adjacent to Loch Laggan, the set of the BBC series Monarch of the Glen. You’ll also pass Dalwhinnie, the site of Scotland’s highest distillery, and travel through the Grampian Mountains in the direction of Blair Castle before a stop in Pitlochry, where you can have a light dinner or a romantic walk through this quaint village. Coming into Edinburgh, you’ll cross over the Forth Road Bridge in sight of the striking Forth Rail Bridge, one of the most remarkable engineering achievements of the Victorian Age and a crowning landmark of Scotland.
Overnight in Edinburgh.
Today sees you leaving bonnie Scotland and travelling west to one of the world’s most beautiful and endearing countries: the Republic of Ireland. A train takes you from the capital to the port city of Troon, where you can experience the same trip thousands of Irish immigrants made, but in reverse: ferry across the Irish Sea to Larne before heading through Belfast and the rest of Northern Ireland to the indescribable city of poets and patriots, Dublin.
Your home away from home in this one-of-a-kind location is the fabulous Gresham Hotel, a Dublin institution and one of the finest on the island. Located just to the north of the Liffey on historic O’Connell Street, the Gresham will dazzle you with its elegant accommodations, ideal location and personable staff. The main lobby opens to a beautiful lounge where you can take tea, break your fast on a traditional Irish meal, or simply engage in what the locals might call “enhanced conversation.” You’ll be unable to miss the giant spire commemorating the former site of Nelson’s Pillar, but keep a lookout for the General Post Office, which features a statue of the Gaelic folk hero Cuchulainn as well as bullet holes from the Easter Uprising in 1919, and the statues of the newer heroes of Ireland, like James Larkin and Charles Stewart Parnell.
Overnight stay in Dublin.
Today is dedicated to discovering one of the most enchanting cities on Earth and all of its many treasures. You will be provided with tickets for Dublin’s wonderful tour bus system, which allows you to hop on and hop off at a number of the most popular attractions throughout the city. Pick it up just south of your hotel near the O’Connell Street Bridge and ride it south of the river to the gates of Trinity College and the start of Grafton Street, the center of Dublin fashion. Check out the statue of the unofficial mascot of Dublin, Molly Malone (known lovingly to the locals as “The Tart with the Cart”) or the incredible shopping at Brown-Thomas, an upscale department store in the heart of the city.
The tour will continue on to Dublin Castle, the seat of British power in the city for more than a millenia and the centerpiece of the conflict for Irish nationhood; near the castle is the remarkable Chester Beatty Library, housing one of the finest collections of Asian and Islamic art in the world as well as some of the most significant written works in history (search out the Christianity Room to find the oldest piece of the Gospel of Luke known to exist).
Further highlights include Saint Patrick’s Cathedral, the National Cathedral of the island and a bulwark of Irish Catholicism and the storehouse for Guinness, the world’s most famous stout. While the beer is no longer made at St. James’ Gate, the tour of the storehouse will explain the process of making Guinness, the components that give it such a unique flavor and body, and an idea of the changes the company has undergone in its nearly three centuries of existence. It all ends with a perfectly poured pint with a 360-degree view of Dublin and its environs, including the sweeping Wicklow Mountains and the green land that have given Ireland its most enduring nickname.
Other popular destinations include Trinity College and the magnificent Book of Kells, St Stephen’s Green and the luxurious Claremont Hotel, and the many public houses that make Dublin famous: The Bank on the Green on Dame Street, Davey Byrnes on Duke Street and The Stag’s Head and Oliver St. John Gogarty’s in Temple Bar are four of the best.
Overnight stay in Dublin.
The day is free for leisure and exploring the city on your own. Alternatively you may choose to take the optional tour to Giant Causeway. See Northern Ireland’s spectacular UNESCO World Heritage Site – Giant’s Causeway – on a day trip from Dublin.
Your day trip to Giant’s Causeway will set off from Dublin in the early morning to make good use of the quiet roads. There will be a brief coffee stop as you enter Northern Ireland, before continuing north to the picturesque Carrick-a-Rede town, home to the famous Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge – a rope suspension bridge that links the island of Carrick to the Northern Ireland mainland. Enjoy an hour’s walk along a rugged, coastal path before crossing over the historic bridge. Make sure to bring your camera to capture views of the Mull of Kintyre in Scotland and Rathlin Island, which is the northernmost point of Northern Ireland.
Taking the scenic route from Carrick-a-Rede you’ll head through the Irish countryside to catch your first glimpse of the famous Giant’s Causeway – a fascinating rock formation that was the result of an ancient volcanic eruption. Most of the rocks are hexagonal in shape and look like stepping stones that lead down from the cliff edge and disappear under the sea.
The Giant’s Causeway area is now listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and bearing testament to this status, you’ll find the Causeway coast to be an area of unsurpassed natural beauty. As you travel, pass romantic towns and quaint villages, surrounded by isolated ruins, rocky shores and green glens. Unsurprisingly, the Causeway coastal road is often referred to as one of the world’s greatest road journeys, so sit back and enjoy the ride!
Your route back from Northern Ireland to Dublin follows the Giant’s Causeway south, so you’ll have further time to take in the amazing views and spot coastal wildlife. There will be a stop in Belfast on the return journey and you’ll have chance to stretch your legs and have a look around the capital city, which has undergone extensive regeneration work in recent years. Your day trip arrives back in Dublin in the early evening, after an exhilarating day at Northern Ireland’s most spectacular location.
Return to the hotel after this sightseeing tour for your overnight stay.
Check-out of the hotel after a delicious breakfast and depart for the airport to catch your flight back home. The sights and sounds and tastes and experiences of the past two weeks will flood over you, leading you to smile in remembrance of times past and to plan for your inevitable return visit.