14 days programme: England-Scotland-Wales
Overview. The country’s profile
No matter your age and profession – our unique two-week programme will give you the most pleasurable experience about the United Kingdom with its beautiful places, people and traditions. The programme combines long journeys, excursions, beverage testing and free-time – so, you could get a perfect inside of this legendary country, Britain, history of which started in the Old Stone Age, or Palaeolithic. Archaeological evidence indicates that what was to become England was colonised by humans long before the rest of the British Isles because of its more hospitable climate.
The Romans began their real attempt to conquer Britain in 43 CE, at the behest of the Emperor Claudius. They landed in Kent, and defeated two armies led by the kings of the Catuvellauni tribe, Caratacus and Togodumnus, in battles at the Medway and the Thames.
In the wake of the breakdown of Roman rule in Britain from the middle of the fourth century, present day England was progressively settled by Germanic groups. Collectively known as the "Anglo-Saxons", these were Angles and Saxons from, what is now, the Danish/German border area and Jutes from the Jutland peninsula.
Christianisation of Anglo-Saxon England began around 600 AD, influenced by Celtic Christianity from the northwest and by the Roman Catholic Church from the southeast. Augustine, the first Archbishop of Canterbury, took office in 597.
On 28 September 1066, William of Normandy invaded England with a force of Normans, in a campaign known as the Norman Conquest. On 14 October, after having marched his exhausted army all the way from Yorkshire, king Harold fought the Normans at the Battle of Hastings, where England's army was defeated and Harold was killed. The Norman Conquest led to a profound change in the history of the English state. The use of the Anglo-Norman language by the aristocracy endured for centuries and left an indelible mark in the development of modern English.
The history of the United Kingdom as a unified sovereign state began with the political union of the kingdoms of England and Scotland into a united kingdom called Great Britain. It happened on the 1st of May 1707, as a result of the political union of the Kingdom of England (which included Wales) and the Kingdom of Scotland. The terms of the union had been agreed in the Treaty of Union that was negotiated the previous year and then ratified by the parliaments of Scotland and England each approving Acts of Union.
Today, the UK is a developed country with population of 62.8 million people. It's financial industry is a significant part of the services-based economy. The UK is a key global player diplomatically and militarily. It plays leading roles in the EU, UN and Nato.
Day 1: Cambridge, Ely
The first day of our big UK journey starts with Cambridge – a well-known university town, the administrative centre of the county Cambridgeshire. It lies on the River Cam and has a population of about 125,000 people, including over 22,000 students. It was established back in the Bronze Age, and after that Romans and Vikings made it an important trading centre. Today, Cambridge economy is based on education, tourism, medical related software, engineering and bioscience. All main attractions are located within 2-3 sq. miles, but the best way to enjoy fantastic views of the world famous Colleges and bridges is a traditional Cambridge punting.
After traditional and satisfying dinner, we continue our journey to another, this time ‘hidden’ treasure of Cambridgeshire – Ely and its beautiful Cathedral which history started from 1082. There are also many other pleasant attributes of this traditional English town, such as riverside, parks, antique shops, pubs and tea rooms.
Day 2: Lincoln, York
After a good sleep night and traditional English breakfast, we are now heading to Lincoln, with one of the tallest cathedrals in the country and the Castle, where the very first sign constitution, the Magna Carta, was developed more than 700 years ago. The earliest origins of Lincoln can be traced back to just past the Iron Age, when settlements of round wooden dwellings (discovered by archaeologists in 1972) were built.
There will be plenty of time to enjoy this truly historical place and a delicious dinner in one of the best family-run pubs in town, before we will be starting our way to York – a walled city, situated at the confluence of the Rivers Ouse and Foss in North Yorkshire, England. It was founded by the Romans in 71 AD, under the name of Eboracum. It became in turn the capital of the Roman province of Britannia, and of the kingdoms of Northumbria and Jorvik. York is noted for its numerous churches and pubs. Most of the remaining churches in York are from the medieval period. The Minster – is the second largest Gothic cathedral of Northern Europe. Its development began in about 1230 and completed in 1472.
Day 3: Durham, Alnwick
Today, we will continue our journey to the North through Yorkshire Moors – with unforgettable driving and views on hills, mountains and valleys. First, we are going to visit Durham – the oldest university, the 11th century castle and Norman cathedral both designated a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1986. The present city can clearly be traced back to AD 995 and played an important part in the defense. The Battle of Neville's Cross which took place near the city on 17 October 1346 between the English and Scots is the most famous battle of the age.
Second stop for today – Alnwick Castle – the star of county of Northumberland – the very last land before the Scottish boarder, the land where many historical battles have taken place. Baron of Alnwick erected the first parts of the castle in about 1096. It was built to protect England's northern border against the Scottish invasions. The current duke of the county and his family live in the castle, but they only occupy part of it. After Windsor Castle, it is the second largest inhabited castle in England. The castle is used as a stand in for the exterior and interior of Hogwarts in the Harry Potter films, as well as other movies. Adjacent to the castle, the present Duchess of Northumberland, Jane, has initiated the establishment of The Alnwick Garden, a formal garden set around a cascading fountain. It cost £42 million and it is very beautiful.
There are also some secrets in the castle and its gardens – have fun and discover them before we carry on our journey to another famous town called Bamburgh, standing on the sea and famous for not just its great castle but locally sourced fish, crabs and ales.
Day 4: Bamburgh Castle, Lindisfarne Castle, Edinburg
First mentioned as a castle in the 1st century and once home to the kings of ancient Northumbria, Bamburgh Castle is one of Northumberland's most iconic buildings. The Bamburgh castle we see today is a relatively recent structure, built by famed industrialist the first Lord Armstrong at vast cost in late Victorian times. It has impressive collections of china, porcelain, furniture, paintings, arms and armour. Also, Bamburgh Castle's epic scale attracts film and television crews and it has featured in everything from Time Team to Becket. It has recently become a popular wedding venue.
The second stop for today is Holy Island – the place you can only visit during certain hours of day, when the sea water is low. The island is within an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty on the Northumberland Coast; many painters, including Turner were inspired by its outstanding views. The island is proud of ancient ruins of monastery, Lindisfarne Priory, and also has the small 16th century Lindisfarne Castle, based on a Tudor fort. The castle sits on the highest point of the island, a whinstone hill called Beblowe – the unforgettable thing to see.
Finally, being inspired by Lindisfarne, we are heading towards Edinburgh, where we will stay for two nights in order to have enough time to discover the Northern capital of The United Kingdom. The road will lead us through beautiful viaduct bridges of Berwick-upon-Tweed – the very last point of Northern England.
Day 5: Edinburg
Edinburg is the capital city of Scotland and the seat of the Scottish Parliament. It is the second largest city in Scotland and the seventh most populous in the United Kingdom. Humans have settled the Edinburgh area from at least the Bronze Age, leaving traces of primitive stone settlements at Holyrood, Craiglockhart Hill and the Pentland Hills – places which will amaze you by its beauty and heritage.
Edinburgh Castle – is another thing to see ‘before you die’. It positioned on volcanic Castle Rock, right above the old town. Human habitation of the site is dated back as far as the 9th century BC. Since then, Edinburgh Castle was involved in many historical conflicts, including the Wars of Scottish Independence in the 14th century. Few of the present buildings pre-date the 16th century, when the medieval fortifications were largely destroyed by artillery bombardment. The most notable exceptions are St Margaret's Chapel, the oldest surviving building in Edinburgh, which dates from the early 12th century, the Royal Palace, and the early-16th-century Great Hall. The castle also houses the Honours of Scotland, the Scottish National War Memorial, and the National War Museum of Scotland.
Holyrood Abbey is a ruined abbey of the Canons Regular in Edinburgh, Scotland. The abbey was founded in 1128 by King David I of Scotland. During the 15th century, the abbey guesthouse was developed into a royal residence, and after the Scottish Reformation the Palace of Holyrood house was expanded further. The remaining walls of the abbey lie adjacent to the palace, at the eastern end of Edinburgh's Royal Mile and old town, where you can indulge yourself whisky and Haggis. But take it easy – save your capacity for the next couple of days, as we are heading to the heart of Scotland to visit one of the most famous local celebrities – Nessy.
Day 6: Perth, Pitlochry, Blair Castle
For the next couple of days we are going to explore one of the most beautiful land on Earth – Highland of Scotland. The roads will take us to a number of authentic places, such as Perth, Pitlochry, Blair Athol, Loch Ness, Fort William and Oban.
Perth – is a city in central Scotland, located on the banks of the River Tay. It was occupied by the Mesolithic hunter-gatherers who arrived in the area more than 8,000 years ago. During the 12th and 13th centuries, Perth was one of the richest trading places in the Kingdom. The Category A listed St John's Kirk on South St John's Place is architecturally and historically the most significant building in Perth. Its collection of medieval bells is the largest to have survived in Great Britain.
Pitlochry is largely a Victorian town, whose success as a tourist resort was due to Queen Victoria visiting the area in 1842, and the arrival of the railway in 1863. Today, it remains a popular tourist resort and it is particularly known as a centre for hill walking. The town has two whisky distilleries: Edradour, which is the smallest distillery in Scotland, and Blair Athol Distillery, which dates back to 1798. Edradour sits to the north of town at the foot of the Moulin Moor. It is privately owned and produces only 12 casks per week with a production workforce of three men. Unchanged since it had started making whisky, it is the last example of a traditional distillery. Blair Athol sits on the main road at the east of town and since 1933 has been owned by Bell's, now part of the Diageo group. There are visitor tasting facilities on the site, so, be ready!
Blair Castle’s history started in 1269 by John I Comyn, Lord of Badenoch, a northern neighbor of David I Strathbogie, Earl of Atholl, who started building on the Earl's land while he was away on crusade. The oldest part of the castle is the six-storey Cummings or Comyn's Tower, which may retain some 13th-century fabric, though it was largely built in the 15th century. The extensions which now form the central part of the castle were first added in the 16th century. The castle also provides the garrison for the Atholl Highlanders, the private army of the Duke of Atholl, noted as the only legal private army in Europe.
Day 7: Loch Ness
The eighth day of our journey is the day of mystery – we are going to meet Nessie – which represents a line of long-surviving plesiosaurs. It is common believe that if you share with it a whisky (by pouring a half of your glass into the lake) the monster will not touch you. The earliest report of a monster associated with the vicinity of Loch Ness appears in the Life of St. Columba by Adomnán, written in the 7th century. Since then the story has become a mystery, as all the evidence of those who saw the monster was not sufficient. Despite that, in December 1954 a strange sonar contact was made by the fishing boat Rival III. The vessel's crew observed sonar readings of a large object keeping pace with the boat at a depth of 480 feet (146 m). It was detected travelling for half a mile (800 m) in this manner, before contact was lost, but then found again later. It is not a surprise why it is so difficult to spot the creature – the 37 km lake is the second largest Scottish loch by surface area at 56.4 km2 after Loch Lomond, but due to its great depth (up to 230 m), it is the largest by volume. It contains more fresh water than all the lakes in England and Wales combined.
After another lake along the way down to South-West of Scotland, Loch Lochy, we will stop for lunch in Fort William – a centre for hill walking and climbing due to its proximity to Ben Nevis and many other Munro mountains – the highest in Britain. It is also famous by movies filmed in or near Fort William including Being Human, Brave Heart, Highlander, Restless Natives, Harry Potter, Rob Roy and other films.
Our seventh night will be in Oban – known as "The Gateway to the Isles", as some 9.4% of the population speak Gaelic. Among all attractions in Oban – the Waterfront Centre, the War and Peace museum, the Chocolate Factory, the Scottish Sea Life Sanctuary, the Cathedral of St Columba, Dunollie Castle, Dunollie House, Dunstaffnage Castle, McCaig's Tower, which dominates the town's skyline, and many more, the main thing to enjoy is the Oban Distillery. The distillery, built in 1794, has only two pot stills, making it one of the smallest in Scotland, producing a whisky that has been described as having a 'West Highland' flavour that falls between the dry, smoky style of the Scottish islands and the lighter, sweeter malts of the Highlands.
Day 8: Glasgow, free time
One may find it too controversial to come back to city environment after Mother Nature; but, there’re plenty things to enjoy in Glasgow, as the largest city in Scotland and the third largest in the United Kingdom. Glasgow grew from a small rural settlement on the River Clyde to become one of the largest seaports in the world. Today, the best place to enjoy Glasgow is its West End – is a bohemian district of cafés, tea rooms, bars, boutiques, upmarket hotels, clubs, restaurants, the University and Botanic Gardens. The area is also home to the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, Hunterian Museum and Art Gallery.
Day 9: Carlisle, Lake District
Through Loch Lomond National Park famous by its nature and golf clubs, we are coming back to England, Carlisle and county of Cumbria. The early history of Carlisle is marked by its status as a Roman settlement, established to serve the forts on Hadrian's Wall – the most important monument built by the Romans in Britain. Begun in AD 122, during the rule of Emperor Hadrian, it was the first of two fortifications built across Great Britain. The second one was Antonine Wall, lesser known of the two because its physical remains are less evident today. Hadrian's Wall was 80 Roman miles (73 statute miles or 120 km) long, its width and height were dependent on the construction materials which were available nearby. East of River Irthing, the Wall was made from squared stone and measured 3 meters wide and five to six meters high, while west of the river the wall was made from turf and measured 6 meters wide and 3.5 meters high. Apart from the Wall, there is The Cathedral Church of the Holy and Undivided Trinity, otherwise called Carlisle Cathedral – the seat of the Anglican Bishop of Carlisle. It was founded as an Augustinian monastery and became a cathedral in 1133. The Citadel, built in 1810, is another interesting place to look at in Carlisle.
Having been inspired by the ancient history, it will be perfect to have a sound sleep in Lake District National Park, also known as The Lakes, is a mountainous region in North West England. A popular holiday destination, it is famous not only for its lakes and its mountains (or fells) but also for its associations with the early 19th century poetry and writings of William Wordsworth and the other Lake Poets. All the land in England higher than three thousand feet above sea level lays within the National Park, including Scafell Pike, the highest mountain in England. It also contains the deepest and longest lakes in England, Wastwater and Windermere – our tenth night stay.
Day 10: Blackpool, Liverpool
Presumably, the late beer testing night in Windermere went well, so the early wake up is not likely. However, the boat journey along the lake will definitely make things even better, before we depart for Blackpool, Lancashire in North West England. Since 1881 Blackpool was a booming resort with a population of 14,000 and a promenade complete with piers, fortune-tellers, public houses, trams, donkey rides, fish-and-chip shops and theatres – all still there, despite the common trend for Brits to go to on holidays to other destinations in continental Europe. Blackpool's major attractions and landmarks include the Blackpool Tower, Blackpool Illuminations, the Pleasure Beach Blackpool, the Winter Gardens, and the UK's only surviving first-generation tramway. The tramway dates back to 1885 and it is one of the oldest electric tramways in the world. It is run by Blackpool Transport (BTS) as part of the Metro Coastlines network, owned by Blackpool Borough Council. The tramway runs for 11 miles (18 km) and carries 6,500,000 passengers each year. It is also one of only a few operational tramways in the world that operate using double-deck tram systems. The others are the Hong Kong Tramways system and Alexandria Tram in Egypt.
Day 11: Liverpool, Chester (Manchester – optional)
After breakfast, we are doing to discover Liverpool – a city and metropolitan borough of Merseyside, England – the greatest sea gates of the country, the port of registry of Titanic. Liverpool was founded as a borough in 1207 and was granted city status in 1880. By the early 19th century, 40% of the world's trade passed through Liverpool's docks, contributing to Liverpool's rise as a major city. For periods during the 19th century the wealth of Liverpool exceeded that of London itself. Liverpool is internationally known for music and is recognised by Guinness World Records as the World Capital City of Pop. Musicians from the city have produced 56 number one singles, more than any other city in the world. But the most of the glory of it is, of course, The Beatles, formed in 1960, and later became one of the most commercially successful and critically acclaimed acts in the history of popular music. There will be a choice – either to discover more interesting facts about this legendary band in The Beatles Museum, or to visit another legendary British city – Manchester.
For those who prefer Manchester option, it should be mentioned that it is the third-most visited city in the UK by foreign visitors, after London and Edinburgh, and the most visited in England outside London. The history of Manchester began in 79 AD with the Roman fort of Mamucium. Today, Manchester is famous with its nightlife, art and music. Bands that have emerged from the Manchester music scene include The Smiths, the Buzzcocks, The Fall, Joy Division and its successor group New Order, Oasis, elbow, Doves, Ten, Happy Mondays, Morrissey and The Stone Roses.
The municipally-owned Manchester Art Gallery on Mosley Street houses a permanent collection of European painting, and has one of Britain's most significant collections of Pre-Raphaelite paintings – plenty of things to do before our departure to one of the most beautiful jewelries of England – Chester.
Day 12: Chester, Snowdonia, Aberystwyth
Chester, is a city in Cheshire, England. Lying on the River Dee, close to the border with Wales, it was first mentioned almost 2,000 years ago. The more unusual landmarks in the city are the city walls, the Rows and the black-and-white architecture. The most prominent buildings in the city centre are the town hall and the cathedral, which since 1541 has been the seat of the Bishop of Chester and centre of worship, administration, ceremony and music. Of the medieval city the most important surviving structure is Chester Castle, history of which dates back to 1070.
The National Park Snowdonia covers 827 square miles (2,140 km2), and has 37 miles (60 km) of coastline. Only 26,000 people live within the Park, of whom about 62% can proudly speak at least some Welsh – very old Celtic language.
The beautiful scenic roads will bring us to Aberystwyth – a historic market town, administrative centre and holiday resort within Ceredigion, Wales. It is an isolated town, the history of which starts from 700 BC. There is a beautiful Norman castle dated from 12th century, as well as the longest electric cliff railway in Britain, which offers amazing views over surrounding countryside.
Day 13: Swansea, Cardiff
Swansea – situated on the sandy South West Wales coast. Archaeological finds are mostly confined to the Gower Peninsula, and include items from the Stone Age, Bronze Age, and Iron Age. The Romans reached the area, as did the Vikings. Being here, it is worth to discover Swansea Castle, which was founded by Henry de Beaumont in 1106 and had its unusual sub-rectangular/oval design overlooking the River Tawe.
After lunch, we will continue our journey to the heart of Wales, Cardiff – the capital and largest city in Wales and the tenth largest city in the United Kingdom. All evidence show the place was established by Neolithic people that had settled in the area by at least around 6,000 BP (Before Present), about 1,500 years before either Stonehenge or the Great Pyramid of Giza was completed. In 1081 William I, King of England, began work on the castle keep within the walls of the old Roman fort. Cardiff Castle has been at the heart of the city ever since, and the original Roman work can still be distinguished in the wall facings – must see.
Day 14: Oxford, London
The final leg of our beautiful programme will be dedicated to one of the legendary university-towns, Oxford. Oxford is a wonderful place to ramble: the oldest colleges date back almost 750 years and little has changed inside the hallowed walls since then. Oxford has a long industrial past and was the birth place of the Morris motor car as well as Mini. We will enjoy a unique tour to Christ Church – the smallest Cathedral in the country, which has the remarkable links with the Alice of Wonderland stories.
The Oxford Castle Unlocked is an interesting look into the history of Oxford from within the building that has existed since before the Norman Conquest. It’s amazing slice of the British History. Parts of the original castle still can be found at St. Georges Tower, which was built by Anglo-Saxons. Visitors can climb up the narrow staircase to the very top to be met by a 360 degree view of Oxford and it’s surrounding area. This is your chance to experience the dark atmosphere of the 900 year old underground Crypt, marvel at the Mound of the 11th century bailey castle. It’s also possible to experience the overnight ghost hunts (for those who do not mind to come back to London on the next day by train). In the castle, you can also discover the truth behind the Oxford Castle (the Black Assize of 1577), when several hundred people died within 5 weeks and the awful conditions endured by the prisoners and of great escapes. The castle has been exposed to numerous wars over the years. It was witness to the Tudor period, which was fraught with its own battles, as well as to the British Civil Wars and throughout the dissolution of the monasteries.
There have been many reports of paranormal activity at the Oxford Castle. The Murderer Mary Blandy was tried and hanged at Oxford in 1752, her ghost has been seen several times walking in the Castle. There was poltergeist activity and the priest was called to conduct the exorcism. Also the Castle has been used as a film set. During the filming a group of film extras heard incredible shouts and screaming echoing around the main buildings. There were several unexplained physical damages to various items stored at the prison. Security guards during their rounds at night and the most terrifying apparition was spotted by one guard and his dog on the nightly patrol. The dog stopped and growled while its master saw two black figures in front of him, later on the dog died of fright… Yes, we promise you an unforgettable trip before you start your another discovery – the capital of the world, London.