I visited England and Scotland from April 15 to May 6, 2014. The ambition had been also to see a bit of Ireland, but, as I started planning for the three weeks I had, I realized I had to give up many places of interest for my first trip here, otherwise I would be merely hopping in haste. Resources which I found helpful in route planning was Lonely Planet Guides on England and Scotland, Rick Steve's website and English Heritage home page.
The itinerary I finally followed worked fine, visiting a good amount of locations to acquire a general impression of the land while allowing adequate time to see each place. Places visited are marked in yellow colour on the map. I stayed with B&Bs whenever possible and found each of them very nice and charming. Below is the detailed itinerary.
Apr. 16-20: London (including a day trip to Cambridge). Stayed at the very conveniently YHA London Central.
Apr. 20-21: Salisbury/Amesbury for Stonehenge: Train from London to Salisbury and taxi to Amesbury. Special early morning tour of Stonehenge. Booking needed with extra charge with English Heritage well in advance, but well worth it. Salisbury Cathedral before taking the train to Bath. Stayed at Mandalay guest house in Amesbury (£75 per night).
Apr. 21- Apr. 23: Bath. Stayed at One Three Nine, a short taxi ride from the train station. Highly recommended (£138 per night).
Apr. 23 - Apr. 25: Cotswolds. Picked up rental car (booking needed well in advance if automatic gear is required) and drove to Cotswolds, stopping by Oxford. Chipping Campden is a very good base to explore the area if one plans to continue up north. Most beautiful places in Cotswolds are Snowshill, Bibury, Lower Slaughter and Stanton. Stayed at Dadgers Hall in Chipping Campden, charming old house and very friendly hosts (£90 per night).
Apr. 25 - Apr. 28: Lake District. Long driving day on 25th with a stop in Stratford upon Avon to visit Shakespeare's birth place. Stayed at Beckside Guest House Keswick(£72 per night). Recommended again. One needs a lot more time to explore the Lake District than 3 days, during which one has better focus on one or two places.
Apr. 28: Stopped overnight in Oban on way to Isle of Skye to break the long driving, but pleasantly surprised by the beauty of the small leisurely sea-side town. Good seafood. Stayed at the very nice Barriemore Guest House (£99 per night).
Apr. 29 - Apr. 30: Isle of Skye. Long driving along the beautiful Scottish northwest coast, making stops at a few castles on the way. Stayed at The Uig Hotel on Isle of Skye (£120 per night). Hotel is a bit tired and basic for the daily rate, but the choices at Uig are quite limited. Skye is extremely beautiful. Given more time, I would definitely stay at least two more nights here. Tour of Talisker Distillery is also very interesting.
Apr. 30 to May 2: Beautiful city of Edinburgh. Stayed at the very nice and friendly Ebercorn Guest House (£80 per night). .
May 2: A visit to the mysterious Rosslyn Chapel on way out of from Edinburgh. Stopped by the Vindolanda and Housesteads sections of Hadrian's Wall. Beautiful landscape and interesting museums. Overnight in Durham. Stayed at Radisson Blu Hotel (£80 per night).
May 3 - May 4: York. Dropped the rental car. Very lively city with a mysterious feel. Minster is a must. Stayed at Beechwood Close, the only place during the whole trip that I wouldn't recommend.
May 5: Back to London by train and getting ready for the return flight to HK.
I wish I had a few more days to spare on the Isle of Skye and also to drive up to the very northern tip of Scotland. If I return, even though I'm aware there are so many other places to see, I would really love to spend many more days in London, in Cotswolds, in Lake District and in the Scottish highlands.
If my trip to east Africa was a reconnection to the very origin of human life, then my first trip to the UK renewed my love for human histories and cultures, which have led to the rich and colourful world we now live and to the diverse peoples we co-habit on this planet.