Fall in the United Kingdom
Oh hey, remember when Jon and I took a vacation to England and Scotland? Yeah, it was only a short four months ago… Where did the time go?
Well, don’t worry. Though I’m late posting a recap, I had not forgotten about it! (P.S. – you can always follow along with my adventures with #JetSetKate)
The fall season was a wonderful time to visit the United Kingdom. The colors were glorious and the weather was bright and crisp. Other than some heavy rains in the Scottish Highlands (to be expected), we encountered nothing but bright and sunny skies!
Read on for more details about our trip! If you’re looking for more information on the Harry Potter sights we visited, check out my (mostly) comprehensive guide to Harry Potter sites in England and Scotland. If you want to know about the hiking we did, stay tuned! That’s coming shortly as well.
So, how did we plan this trip?
In planning this trip, we took into consideration that I’ve traveled rather extensively through England and Scotland, and while Jon had only had a quick 6-hour layover in London, we both agreed that we didn’t want to spend too much time in the major cities, that we’d much rather explore and get off the beaten path. Adventuring seems to be a theme to our travels!
In terms of planning where we would go and how we would use our time, Rick Steves’s travel guides were an essential element. For the Harry Potter excursions, we did a lot of Google-ing. You can also check out my Harry Potter guide here.
What did we do and where did we go?
We flew from Vancouver, Canada, to Heathrow on British Airways. (Pro-tip: If you’re in the Seattle area, always check flights from Vancouver. Often times they’re much cheaper!) We split our 10-day trip evenly between England and Scotland. The first half of our trip was spent venturing around London, Avebury, Stonehenge, Bath, and the Cotswolds, before flying to Edinburgh, Scotland. The second half of our trip was spent in Edinburgh and the Scottish Highlands.
For me, one of the top priorities of the trip was getting to check more Harry Potter sites off my list! I absolutely love Harry Potter and wanted the chance to get lost in the magic once more. There’s a full recap on our Harry Potter explorations if you’re looking to plan a Harry Potter-themed trip of your own!
What were our favorite places?
- Harry Potter Studio Tour at Warner Brothers Studio: A must-go for any Potterhead. Make sure to book your tickets in advance – they go fast!
- Tower of London: One of my favorites – I go every time!
- Stow on the Wold: The highest point in the Cotwolds is a lovely little town with good food and cute shops.
- Bath: A lovely stop rich with history. (What part of England isn’t though?) The Roman Baths for which Bath is named is a must visit, too.
- Blenheim Palace: Blenheim Palace is the birthplace of Winston Churchill and is the residential palace of the Dukes of Marlborough. While still used as a palace to this day, the Churchill’s allow visitors to come and tour the palace and the grounds.
Tower of London
- Glenfinnan Viaduct & The Jacobite Train: The steam train and viaduct made famous by Harry Potter is in Glenfinnan. An adventure for Harry Potter lovers!
- Loch Ness & Urquhart Castle: It is really a breathtaking view and though the fortress is in ruins, it is remarkably in tact.
- Cairngorm Reindeer Center in Aviemore: I have always wanted to pet a reindeer, and Cairngorm has Britain’s only free-range herd.
- Camperdown Park for the Camperdown Elm Tree: A random fact about the tree in our front yard is that it is a Camperdown Elm Tree. These trees can all be traced back to one single tree, the original of which is in Scotland!
Where did we stay?
As much as possible, we try to stay in Airbnbs when we travel. (Sign up with my link to get a $35 travel credit!) It’s an amazing way to experience a new culture and get a taste of what it’s like to be a local.
Chic Islington Pad: We stayed in this cozy apartment for three nights. It was not too far from the Underground and was a great location for us!
Shed N Breakfast: This was by far the coolest place we stayed! I found it on Airbnb and since it had such rave reviews and looked ADORABLE, we decided it was worth going out of our way to stay there. If you stop in here, definitely get the breakfast hamper! (Pictured)
Victorian Edinburgh Apartment: A great location just away from the hustle of the city center, this apartment was a spacious stay!
Barriemore B&B Guest House: This traditional B&B was a great place to catch some Zzz’s in Oban. The views of the water were spectacular and the breakfast was amazing (pictured below).
By the Brae B&B: A cute little bed and breakfast down a quiet gravel road. Recommend having your own transportation if you stay here!
Converted Barn: This little gem was quite a ways off the beaten path, so if you plan to stay here, make sure to plan accordingly, especially since there was no cell phone service or internet. However, the quiet little getaway was a nice recharge.
Salisbury Green Hotel: For our last night in Edinburgh this hotel was a place to lay our heads before our early morning flight.
Where to eat? What to eat?
Known for pub food, you really can’t go wrong with English food! You must try the chips (aka fries), which are thick cut and the best of which are cooked crispy (look for tell-tale adjectives like “triple cooked”). Sticky toffee pudding is an amazing dessert, too!
- Maison d’etre: A quaint little coffee house with the most amazing brioche and avocado toast! (Pictured)
- Warner Bros Studios: If only for the butterbeer…
- The Cambridge: Though it’s part of a pub-chain, they have surprisingly good food. Loved the fries!
- Garfunkel’s: A great place for a quick bite midday. We had the pizza!
Scottish food is similar to English food in that there is lots of pub food! For dessert try cranachan. Irn Bru is an orange-colored soda that tastes nothing like orange pop, but is definitely worth a try! I couldn’t convince Jon to try the Haggis, but that’s also a Scottish specialty!
- Guildford Arms: Jon had the blood sausage and really liked it! I loved the cranachan and sticky toffee pudding.
- Elephant House: A quaint little cafe where J.K. Rowling wrote the first Harry Potter book. Looking out the windows towards Edinburgh Castle, it’s easy to see her inspiration for Hogwarts. (Pictured)
- Oink: Every day they roast a hog and make tasty sandwiches. Once the hog’s gone, the doors close until the next day. Get it before it’s gone!
- The Mexican: Some of the best fajitas I’ve ever had.
- La Tortilla: A popular joint with amazing tapas!
How did we get around?
Getting around London is so easy. I really don’t like public transportation much, but I do love the Tube. Jon is always navigating us everywhere on vacations, but he was quite surprised with my knowledge and expertise navigating the Underground. I really wish we had a similar public transit situation here in Seattle – maybe one day! We grabbed Oyster Cards as they were the most cost-effective travel solution for us, but there are other types of transit passes you can get if you’re there for a shorter stay.
Since we were visiting some locations outside of London (Stonehenge, Avebury, the Cotswolds), and in Scotland, the Highlands, we rented a car, which meant we had to drive on the wrong side of the road! Let me tell you, that was trippy. Both the boyfriend and I think that the hardest part were the round-a-bouts. I definitely prefer what I’m used to here!
What would we change about our trip?
This was the first trip that I didn’t take any pictures on my DSLR. I thought that since I had so many photos of the U.K. from previous trips it would be okay to just use my cell phone. In hindsight I regret not having taken photos on a high quality camera. I won’t be making that mistake again!
When we stayed at the Shed N Breakfast, we didn’t realize how cute Bristol was! I would definitely like to explore there more.
Lastly, if we had traveled during the spring or summer we would have loved to get some more hiking in, either in the Cotswolds area or the Scottish Highlands!