I have driven from London to St. Michael's Mount, up in to Scotland and have taken the ferry to Ireland but I still do not feel comfortable writing this section. So, I am going to give you some of my general impressions, perhaps in a somewhat haphazard manor.
First, some clarification, Great Britain's official name is, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. It is composed of four political areas that are referred to as "constituent countries" that include Northern Ireland, Scotland, Wales and England. The individual constituent countries are not politically independent even though they may be separately referred to as a country.
Visiting the UK
The United Kingdom is rich in history, as the Kingdom that once bragged that the "sun never set on the Empire" it has effected almost every country and culture in existence today. Styles, from Victorian to Tudor have their roots in Britain. Legends, such as King Arthur and Brave Heart, with their stories played out on movie theaters around the world, are as much a part of our culture as theirs. People come to London to see the plays, experience the ultra modern and hip, but for many of us it is this connection to history that attracts us to the UK.
The links to the left will provide you with some ideas as to a few of the attractions of the UK but keep in mind content for the moment is limited to southern England.
Particularly if you have children but even if you do not, consider including a rare breads farm in your itinerary. Rare breed farms are trying to preserve the farm animal lineages that are no longer desired for husbandry. Many farm animals common during the middle ages are on the verge of extinction. We visited one in Scotland during 1992 and found the experience very enjoyable, for our children it probably was the highlight of the whole trip.
When to visit?
Plane tickets and accommodations generally are always cheaper in the off season, winter, fall and spring. Weather and opening hours of the " sights" can be the determining factor as to when to go. The two times I have visited the UK have both been in July and the weather was fairly sunny. In 1992 we encountered drizzling rain in Scotland and Northern Ireland that continued for days, but we had excellent weather in England. During our 2006 visit we were greeted by only sunshine, there had not been rain in southern England for weeks and the locals were concern by the continuing draught. Historically, the UK tends to get a lot of damp weather and along the coast it can be delivered with rather strong winds. No matter what season you visit the UK, don't forget to take a good but compact umbrella (see Travel Umbrellas at my Travel Store). Do check opening dates for tourist sites in your British Guide Book, it seems like many places shut down or limit visiting hours during the off season.
Getting around the UK
The British Island is large, while it might be possible to tour from St. Michael's Mount to the top of Scotland in three weeks by car, I would not recommend it. Modern divided highways make traveling the island a fairly speedy affair but pull off on to a winding, hedge lined, back road and your speed will/should plummet (see driving in the UK).
In my limited experience, some UK communities like Chester, Edinburgh, and Bath offer travelers sufficient attractions that train travel in the UK might be an option, still to see sights like Stonehenge or the Avebury Circle you will need to book day/multi day tours or rent a car. I suspect, for those that prefer not to drive in the UK, a mix of train travel and multi day tours would be a viable option.
To get to Northern Ireland, ferries are a pleasant option, catamaran are your fastest choice. In 1992 we took a traditional ferry, that also carried cars to Northern Ireland. We were surprise to find there was a child play center on board and a restaurant, making for a pleasant passing. If you do not want to take your car to northern ireland their are car parks. As we were meeting family in Belfast, we opted to leave the car in Scotland as the cost of parking it was cheaper than transporting it back and forth from Northern Ireland. Ferries to Belfast can be found at Birkenhead, Dougles and Stranraer. If you do plan to take a car on the ferry, reservations may be necessary.
Areas to cover on the next Trip Planning pages:
Using the Heritage Pass - Once you buy the pass you get free admission to almost 600 attractions in the UK
Where to stay
Packing and a packing check off sheet
Make copies of everything - passports,
Important information to carry with you and in your luggage.