When you visit England, Scotland, and Wales on this tour of the United Kingdom, walk in the footsteps of centurions and soldiers, kings and queens, writers and poets—in a land permeated with legend and romance. Experience the diversity of Great Britain as you travel from city to country and back again, from London and a guided tour of Scotland's capital, Edinburgh, to the Cotswolds region, a beloved area of gentle hills with stone walls criss-crossing the landscape. It's a place one should visit and savor in depth and detail, and you’ll be able to do just that on our England, Scotland & Wales Land Tour.
Depart from the U.S. today on your flight to London. Please refer to your individual air itinerary for exact departure and arrival times.
Arrive today in London. A Grand Circle representative will meet you at the airport and help you transfer to your hotel, where you’ll meet your Program Director and your fellow travelers, including those who took our London, England pre-trip extension. The balance of the day is at leisure to relax after your overseas flight or do some exploring on your own.
You might consider a visit to the British Museum, which houses antiquities tracing the history of human culture. Its treasures include the Rosetta Stone, the largest collection of Mesopotamian antiquities in Europe, and more than 13 million other historical objects. Or perhaps you’ll wander around Covent Garden, an outdoor marketplace since the 17th century, when it was a center for traders and merchants, and today home to some of London’s most talented street performers. In fact, Covent Garden is the only part of London where street entertainment is licensed, and performers must audition and sign up for specific time slots in order to perform there.
In the early evening, gather with your Program Director and travel companions for a Welcome Drink and briefing. Tonight, enjoy a Welcome Dinner at your hotel.
On an included panoramic tour this morning, you'll get an introduction to London's major landmarks, including Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament.
After lunch on your own, you have the balance of the afternoon and evening to make your own discoveries. Perhaps you'll visit one of London's many museums, including the Victoria and Albert Museum or Tate, a family of four galleries.
After breakfast this morning, depart London for Oxford, whose university has educated some of the world’s most prominent scholars and statesmen.
Upon arrival, you’ll enjoy a walking tour through the city center, passing some of the legendary colleges that have been seats of learning for many prime ministers, great writers, and various scholars, including Oscar Wilde, Jonathan Swift, and John Wesley. The University colleges dominate the center of Oxford, as you can see by the spires and the numerous stone walls bordering college buildings.
Oxford University was established in the eleventh century, but there is evidence of structured teaching dating back as far as AD 872. Rather than orienting around a central campus, the University is a collection of more than 38 colleges and buildings spread throughout the city. Oxford is also one of the settings for the Harry Potter movies and the Inspector Morse television series.
After lunch on your own, you'll stop at Stratford-upon-Avon, where you'll enjoy free time to discover the town of Shakespeare’s birth, youth, and retirement.
Late this afternoon, transfer to your hotel in Cheltenham, located near the Cotswolds, a verdant landscape of rolling hills and charming country cottages. Dinner is at your hotel this evening.
Today’s discoveries begin at Bath, where an included tour features a visit to the Roman baths. Bath is named for the springs that well up in this city, producing about 500,000 gallons of water each day at 120 degrees Fahrenheit. The lead-lined bath, steps, column bases, and edging stones all date from Roman times. The town later became a prosperous, high-society destination. The striking and elegant architecture of the city, Roman baths, and Georgian terraces inspired the setting for Jane Austen’s novel, Persuasion. You’ll see the principal sights here and enjoy lunch on your own in the city.
Then continue on to Stonehenge, the starkly dramatic stone monument that has engaged the world’s imagination for centuries. As one of the world’s most recognizable images of a prehistoric culture, Stonehenge creates a powerful impression. In addition to appreciating the unique design and construction, many visitors experience a feeling of uncommon mystery.
This evening, enjoy a traditional English experience with an early dinner at a local pub. Take in the local scene and sample hearty pub grub like steak pie, fish and chips, or bangers and mash, over a pint. Return to Cheltenham in the late evening.
After an early breakfast, you’ll check out of your Cheltenham hotel and travel to the Snowdonia region of Wales. You’ll enter Wales and stop en route in Llangollen for lunch on your own.
The principality of Wales, together with Scotland and England, makes up Britain. Until the time of English King Edward I in the 13th century, this was an independent nation whose Celtic people fiercely defended their sovereignty. Welsh identity remains distinct today, exemplified in the language, which is actually much easier to pronounce than it looks once you learn the sounds associated with the letters.
Our destination is the strikingly scenic and mountainous section of Wales called Snowdonia, which surrounds the region’s highest peak, Mount Snowdon. Snowdonia is part of the impressive Cambrian Mountains, which are steep-sided and rugged, presenting some of the most spectacular natural beauty in the British Isles.
You are staying in Caernarfon, a small historic town right on the coast looking across to the Island of Anglesey. Near your hotel is the medieval castle and walls built by the English after their conquest of Wales. It was here that Prince Charles was formally inaugurated as Prince of Wales in 1969.
This evening, enjoy an included Home-Hosted Dinner and some of the legendary Welsh hospitality.
Enjoy a day to discover Snowdonia on your own.
Or, join an optional tour that includes a steam train ride on the Ffestiniog Railway from the coast of Porthmadog into the mountains at Blaenau Ffestiniog. The Ffestiniog Railway is the oldest independent narrow-gauge railway in the world. It was built in 1832 to carry slate but has been carrying passengers since 1864. This route will take you through some of Snowdonia’s spectacular scenery. Then you’ll pay a visit to the village of Portmeirion for lunch, and finish with a visit to a Welsh slate museum.
The remainder of the day is yours. Enjoy dinner on your own this evening.
Today after breakfast, you'll leave Wales for York via Chester. Upon your arrival in Chester, enjoy a short walking tour of this ancient English town with Roman roots and a well-preserved medieval center. Then you’ll have free time for lunch on our own.
Around AD 60, the Romans expanded their empire in Britain to the banks of the Dee River, where Chester is located. The city today still displays the Roman layout, extending from the Cross, where a Roman fortress stood, to four city gates. In the Middle Ages, commerce on the Dee River, particularly with Ireland, enriched the town in the twelfth and 13th centuries. The prosperity of those times is still evident in one of Chester’s unique features: “the Rows,” a series of two-tiered shops along the ancient streets of the historic town center. Chester also holds a significant place in English cultural history as the town where, beginning in the 14th century, mystery plays (public theater depicting biblical events) were presented.
Dinner is included tonight at your hotel.
After breakfast, we walk through the medieval city to the magnificent York Minster, where a local guide will highlight the history of the cathedral, the largest Gothic cathedral north of the Alps. The stained glass here is magnificent. The cathedral’s Great East Window—created by John Thornton of Coventry and completed in 1408—is the largest expanse of medieval stained glass in the world. It is 76 feet tall and comprises 1,680 square feet of glass. After our visit, you’ll set off for a walking tour of the city with your Program Director, where centuries-old city walls enclose the best-preserved medieval town center in England. York’s history stretches back into ancient Roman times, when it was called Eboracum and served as the military capital of northern Britannia. Traces of Roman garrisons built before the fifth century are sprinkled throughout the city. By the ninth century, Vikings—from what is now Denmark—had succeeded the Romans, calling the town Jorvik and leaving one legacy you’ll still see today: the suffix “-gate”—meaning “street” in the old Viking language—in many street names.
Later, perhaps you'll use your included voucher for a traditional English "cream tea" at Betty's Tea Room—which you're free to use anytime during your stay in York—and enjoy the balance of the day to explore York at your own pace. Maybe you'll take in the Shambles—originally the meat-butchering area of the city. The cramped, ancient street now houses a variety of shops, and in some areas it is possible for upstairs residents to stretch out and shake hands across the street. Or pay a visit the National Railway Museum, one of the world’s best museums devoted to the legacy of steam engines and railway memorabilia.
Dinner is on your own this evening.
Today is yours to explore at your own pace.
Or, join us for an optional tour to Whitby and Castle Howard. After crossing the heather-clad North York Moors National Park, you'll arrive in Whitby, a key setting for Bram Stoker’s Dracula. We visit Whitby Abbey, where, on a clear day, you will have spectacular views over the city itself and the North Sea. It was from this town that the explorer James Cook first set out to sea, and during the 19th century, Whitby was renowned for creating jet jewelry that was a favorite of Queen Victoria’s.
On this optional tour, you'll take time in this original whaling port to savor an included Yorkshire lunch of fish and chips. Afterward, you'll head for Castle Howard, one of England’s finest stately homes, still lived in by the Howard family and where much of the filming for Brideshead Revisited was done. Although construction on this Baroque masterpiece began in 1699, it took 100 years to complete. Admire its lavish, treasure-filled rooms—including paintings by Rubens and Gainsborough—and perhaps enjoy a stroll in its famed Rose Gardens.
Dinner is on your own this evening.
This morning, depart for the scenic Lake District, England’s largest national park and home to 16 major lakes. Set amidst the most mountainous region of England, it has been the inspiration for countless writers, from Wordsworth and Keats to Beatrix Potter. En route, you’ll visit a local farm for an exclusive Discovery Series Event in which you’ll learn about the challenges of modern-day farming, and enjoy a light lunch.
You'll arrive at your hotel in the late afternoon, and enjoy dinner here with your fellow travelers later this evening.
Today, set off along the road to Edinburgh, enjoying an included lunch along the way. During your drive, you'll pass through Gretna Green, Scotland's southernmost town that was once popular with couples desiring to elope and marry.
By late afternoon, you'll arrive in Edinburgh and check into your hotel, then join your Program Director for a vicinity walk to acquaint yourself with the area around your lodgings. Tonight, dinner is on your own.
After breakfast, enjoy a panoramic guided tour of Scotland's capital, Edinburgh, long the center of Scottish culture, commerce, and education. You’ll see the unique atmosphere and architecture of Edinburgh’s Old and New towns as you pass along the Royal Mile.
Your tour includes a visit to Edinburgh Castle, which overlooks the city from a perch atop a long-extinct volcano. A royal dwelling has been located here since the twelfth century, and the castle’s St. Margaret’s Chapel—the oldest surviving building in the city—dates to this time.
Tonight, enjoy dinner on your own. Your Program Director will be happy to make some recommendations.
Or, join us for an unforgettable optional evening of Scottish entertainment at the stables of Prestonfield House, set in the heart of Edinburgh. It was built in 1688 by Sir James Dick, one of Scotland’s most prosperous merchants. Distinguished guests who visited Prestonfield House during the 18th century include Benjamin Franklin and Samuel Johnson. Today, Prestonfield House is a privately-owned hotel.
Your Scottish evening includes a selection of typical historic Scottish tunes and melodies played on the accordion and fiddle, accompanied by a variety of singers. There will also be a demonstration of Scottish dancing, the Addressing of the Haggis (during which a Robert Burns poem is recited), and a performance on the Scottish bagpipes. Traditional songs such as “Amazing Grace” and Scotland’s unofficial anthem, “Scotland the Brave” will round off the evening. The grand finale includes the audience participating in saying good night by singing "Auld Lang Syne."
Enjoy a full day to make your own discoveries.
Or, join our optional Royal Scotland tour, where you’ll follow in the footsteps of British monarchs. Begin with a visit to the Royal Yacht Britannia. Commissioned by Queen Elizabeth II in 1954, the vessel was perhaps most famously used by Prince Charles and Lady Diana for their honeymoon cruise. Next, explore Holyrood Palace. Its carefully designed additions over the centuries have made it one of the most admired buildings in the British Isles. The palace was completed in 1501 and was the site of the marriage of Mary, Queen of Scots and Lord Darnley in 1565, and of much subsequent intrigue. Less than a year later, the jealous Darnley had Mary’s private secretary murdered here in her presence.
Your afternoon is at leisure for independent discoveries. This evening, join your travel companions and Program Director for an included Farewell Dinner.
Return home today, or continue your guided tour of Scotland with our optional Scottish Highlands extension.