Monday, September 2, 2019

England and Scotland: A Travel Guide + Recap

This summer, Aaron and I got the chance to visit Europe on a 9 day baby-free trip to England and Scotland through EF Tours. We were chaperones as part of a group of 46 travelers that included students going into the 9th grade, plus their parents. We had quite the adventure getting over there, but once we arrived it was a wonderful trip full of history, beautiful sights, and irreplaceable memories. Here are all the details, tips, and photos from our adventure!


Getting There

To make a very long story short, our task as chaperones was much much harder this time around with some serious delays on the way out- something that had never happened to us on tour before! Our flights from Atlanta to New York City were delayed for five hours and then cancelled, which meant that we missed our overnight connection from NYC to Edinburgh, Scotland. We had a nightmare of a time in the airport trying to get our large group rebooked, with little help from any customer service, and we ended up having to stay overnight in Atlanta and try flying out again the next day.

Our group had to split up into several smaller groups for re-booking, so we had people flying all over the place, with our specific group flying from Atlanta to Boston to Amsterdam to Edinburgh. All of us ended up missing an entire day on tour, which was really a bummer. Additionally, in Amsterdam we had a student think that he lost his passport, which led to a mad dash and hour-long scramble searching around the airport before we found it in his brother's bag. Phew. Did I mention I was pregnant and tired and mildly morning sick? We were SO happy to get there, and then things really got much better!


Edinburgh, Scotland

Edinburgh is beautiful, and full of so much history! Aaron and I had been to London before back on our 16 day trip to Europe in 2015, but we hadn't been anywhere else on our tour itinerary. (See my London Tips in this post!) Scotland was just what I expected: old and full of amazing accents. Once we finally arrived, we headed directly to Edinburgh Castle, which had breathtaking views, engaging exhibits, and a wonderful free guided tour! Definitely check out the prison exhibits. Once we were done at the castle, it started raining, so we ducked into a couple of shops on our way to the National Museum of Scotland, home of stuffed "Dolly" the sheep and other free exhibits, along with a cafe and coffee shop. We were so jet lagged at this point that we could barely keep our eyes open, but we made it through, grabbed dinner, and then headed off on a "Specters of Scotland" ghost tour, which told the story of legends, deaths, grave robberies, and other numerous horrific things that happened in Edinburgh back in the day. The guides were actually fantastic and quite funny, and our worn out group found a little pep in our step.




The next day, we were able to squeeze in a visit to the Palace of Holyroodhouse, which is the Queen's official residence in Edinburgh. This was an awesome visit we were able to fit in that wasn't originally a part of our tour, which was extra exciting because of the day we lost on tour. They had an incredible self-guided tour with headphones, videos, and a map that walked you through everything. It was one of the best guided tours I've ever seen anywhere, which is saying something because I've been on a ton. One of their exhibits even included Meghan Markle's wedding dress! I did throw up on the bus on our way there- it was one of the few times I got morning sickness on our trip. Thankfully I was able to do it subtly and no one really knew.

Warwickshire, England

After our adventures in Scotland, we took a quick drive and entered England. We were able to visit Warwick Castle, which was kind of a jazzed up castle with lots of touristy options for visitors. There was a long walk you could go on with lots and lots of stairs, which I tackled like the pregnant woman that I was, but it did offer some really great views. Unfortunately, the trebuchet was broken, so we didn't get to see it launch, but we were able to hear more about how it was used- let's just say that the hamster wheel job was not one I would be signing up for anytime soon. It was about 65-70 degrees for this entire portion of the trip, which was a lovely break from the steamy KC summer.




Stratford-upon-Avon, England

The next day was probably one of my English teacher favorites: a visit to Stratford-upon-Avon and Shakespeare's Birthplace. It was pretty crazy walking through rooms where Shakespeare was actually born and grew up, especially since I teach his plays to my students every year and talk about the history of his life. We were also able to visit Anne Hathaway's Cottage nearby, which had the most beautiful gardens ever. Just for reference, this not the actress in her 30s, this is the original Anne Hathaway who was Shakespeare's wife. Sometimes people are confused as to why "our American" Anne Hathaway has a cottage over there! We also got to visit Holy Trinity Church, where Shakespeare is buried.




Oxford, England

Oxford was up next, and it was totally what I would expect out of a Harry Potter book. We explored the streets and found some great coffee and gelato (something I can never pass up in Europe). We got to explore many of campuses of New College, including their beautiful chapel, and all of the small schools that make up Oxford University as a whole. The architecture was quite beautiful, and we found a delicious lunch at the local favorite Turf Tavern, which is hard to find but worth the trip. Fun fact, you order your food at the bar at almost every restaurant here- no one comes to your table to take an order!




London, England

After our visit to Oxford, we headed down to London for our last three days. Aaron and I had been here once before, but we'd always said that we wouldn't mind coming back- so here we were! We were bused around everywhere prior to this, but once we got to London we often rode the underground, or "tube" as they call it here. Let's just say that navigating that with 46 people was quite an adventure! London has almost 9 million people, so it's a huge city and we definitely had to buckle down on our chaperone groups to make sure we didn't lose anyone here! Did you know that curry is the national dish of England? With a large Indian population, British-Asian dishes like chicken tikka masala are incredibly popular, and very delicious, as we got to find out at dinner on multiple evenings!


Our first night in, we were able to take the twilight ride up on the London Eye. Aaron and I didn't do this back in 2015, so it was an extra special treat, and it offers amazing 360 degree views of the city. It was fun looking out and seeing all the places we had visited previously.




We started one morning on a narrated bus tour which was actually phenomenal. We got to see a bunch of places we didn't visit the first time around, including Abbey Road. Of course, we had to get a picture crossing the famous crosswalk! We also saw Buckingham Palace and the changing of the guard again, visited Westminster Abbey, saw Big Ben (which was sadly covered up and under re-construction), and many other tourist favorites.




The next day, we were off to Windsor Castle, the oldest and largest occupied castle in the world! This is the Queen's weekend home, and also has the famous St. George's Chapel where Prince Harry and Meghan Markle got married! We were able to tour both, and again, the audio/video tour was incredibly well done. They also had lots of benches which helped this pregnant mama rest her feet from all of the walking we did each day (we're talking 5-9 miles a day).




One evening we were also able to catch a theatre performance, which was Thriller - a Michael Jackson tribute show. I guess the British folks are pretty obsessed. It was well done and the singers were great. The London nightlife is a whole different ball game, and after a long day I was ready to get back to our hotel, which was right next to the Wembley Stadium. We were in town when Wimbledon was taking place! I really enjoyed London, and felt like we have a really good grasp on it after visiting twice!

Stonehenge, England

One of things I was really looking forward to on our trip was getting to check Stonehenge off of my bucket list. As one of the new seven wonders of the world, it was a place I knew I'd want to visit someday. Ironically enough, Aaron and I took Eli to visit the Stonehenge Exhibit that happened to be at Union Station in KC this summer, so we had a lot of prior knowledge coming into our visit. We also planned to do our pregnancy reveal photo in front of the iconic stones, so I was extra excited for that! I'm really glad we got to visit, and I would definitely recommend it, although it did fit a bit underwhelming in the moment. Maybe because the pathway is fairly far back in some places, but it just felt a little smaller than I had anticipated. It was still really cool to see though, and I love the photos we got to announce that Baby K was on the way again! Definitely worth a trip outside of town a bit!





Salisbury, England

On the same day as our visit to Stonehenge, we got to visit the city of Salisbury. This was honestly one of my very favorite parts of the trip. We got to tour and visit the beautiful and historical Salisbury Cathedral, which has the best preserved original copy of the Magna Carta (only four remain in the world). After that, we went into the city, and I just loved the rolling hills, the sheep, and the feeling of being outside of the big city after our time in London. They were even having a farmer's market in town that day, and they had some of the very best bread, sausages, and hummus I've ever had! I would highly recommend a visit here as a part of your visit to Stonehenge!




All in all, a trip to Europe is never a bad one, and once we got over the initial craziness of trying to get over to Scotland, we thoroughly enjoyed the rest of our trip adventuring around Scotland and England. If you're looking for a great trip for July, with temperatures in the 65-75 degree range (with it being cooler in Scotland and warmer down in London), definitely consider this trip! Some of our group also went on to Paris, which is an easy ride through the Chunnel or a short plane ride away. We had been there before and had been away from Eli long enough so we decided to pass and come home earlier. Either way, it would be easy to add on a trip to Ireland or a trip to Paris and make this a multiple country adventure! Send any travel questions my way!

Currently,
Kelsie


20 comments:

  1. Awwww... wish we explored more of the countryside in England when we visited last year. Scotland looks amazing as well! Thanks for sharing!

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  2. What an incredible adventure! I've always wanted to visit Scotland!

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  3. What an amazing trip! You got to see so much. I’ve visited England but haven’t made it to Scotland yet.

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  4. I gotta say - chaperoning doesn't sound very appealing to me - but seeing England and Scotland certainly does! I'm dying to visit both (and really the rest of Europe). Browsing through all these photos just makes me want to go even more!

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    1. Haha- when it's a free trip it changes things a bit :) You should definitely go!!

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  5. This sounds like an amazing trip!! Scotland is near the top of our must-do list. You handled it like a champ for being preggo!

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    1. It was awesome! And thanks so much- I knew I had to make the most of it!

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  6. I've always wanted to visit some of these places. You got some great photos! Thanks for sharing this travel guide. :)

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    1. Thanks so much! I hope you can make it there- it's awesome!

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  7. Wow, England is amazing. You have great photos in here and I am so loving them. Hope to visit this place soon. Thanks for sharing

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    1. It truly is amazing! Thanks so much! You should definitely visit!

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  8. What a fun adventure. I am loving all of these photos. I've never been to Europe but I hope to go some day!

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  9. This place looks great for a weekend escape and hope you guys had great time xo


    www.theninebyivanablogspot.com

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    1. It's great for any sort of escape that you can manage. We had a great time!

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  10. Ahhhh looks amazing! I'm planning a trip to the UK sometime early next year - England and Scotland are definitely on my list. Looks like so much fun! I can't wait!

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