Planning Stages – Itinerary


So our upcoming trip to Scotland and England in late April/early May is beginning to feel like a reality. We’ve booked our hotels and transportation between destinations, and now are working on our itinerary of sightseeing and activities. We’ll be in Edinburgh for 3.5 days, Oban for 2.5 days, Windemere (Lake District) for two and then London for a week. (A Chunnel day to Paris, which I’m still lobbying for, TBD.) It’s a rather whirlwind tour, but we’re limited in how much time we can be away.

Having never visited the British Isles, I’m a bit overwhelmed with all of the choices and options. Readers, I’m asking for your help. If you had only a short time to spend in each of these locations and had never been to any of them, what are the not-to-be-missed sights and activities? What’s overrated? Any insider tips?

And a reminder that it’s Visible Monday! Head over to Patti’s Not Dead Yet Style to see what everyone’s wearing this week.

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  1. Ok listen to me carefully.

    You must go to Liberty and Harvey Nicks- make sure you eat and the place upstairs at HN.

    Selfridges and Fortnum and Masson are good too.

    I like everything in Marlebourne High St and you have to go to the Tate Modern, and have dinner on the top floor at dusk.

    I like Primrose Hill- walk to the top and look at the city. And eat at Carluccios for cheap eats.

    In Paris you need to g to Galleries Lafayette Food Hall and La Bon Marche.

    Luff Paris, luff the chunnel…

    You should also check out how cheap and fabulous Waitrose is in central London- at least 50% cheaper than groceries in Oz. So jealous.Apparently Londoners think it’s ‘spensive, but they clearly have never bought groceries here

    Cannot wait to go back. x

  2. I spent a memorable few days in the Lakes District several years ago. By far my favorite visit was to Grasmere, where I visited Coleridge’s house, and walked about the lake. Not to miss: Sarah Nelson’s bakery, where one has warm gingerbread, made from secret recipe, and unlike any you have ever had! Be careful. It is addictive, but not to be missed!

  3. You must visit Glasgow. Fun, vibrant city, amazing shopping, great salt of the earth people……much better than Edinburgh !

  4. If you have time in London visit the Victoria & Albert museum. It’s charmingly eccentric and human scaled. Have a pub lunch. Indian food in London is wonderful. Get off/on the Tube at Picadilly Circus to be amazed by how far underground the station is. Don’t try to do too much, time spent relaxing in a pub or cafe is part of your memory too. Don’t forget to find out how to get your vat tax refund before you go.

    1. Yup, I was going to say the V & A too – it’s free and the cafe is lovely. Find space to sit in the rooms to the side decorated with William Morris wallpaper and stained glass windows.

      Ditto not doing too much. You could spend a year and not do everything in London you’d like to do.

      In London, I’d avoid Oxford St as it’s always very, very crowded, the shops are enormous and full of flimsy clothes for 15 year olds.

    2. Yup, the V & A all the way. The cafe has lovely food and William Morris decoration in the side rooms.

      And yup, don’t do too much. It is a holiday, after all and you’ll never see even a fraction of all there is to see.

  5. How exciting! A quick trip to the British Isles sounds perfect for the spring. I see by the comment that you will have expert input to help plan your trip. Another plus for blogging!

  6. Make time for some London theater. London is a very walkable city. The “hop on – hop off” bus tours make stops at all of the usual tourist sites – worth a half day to get your bearings.

  7. Edinburgh – fashion shop called Corniche – the only one of its sort in the world. They have a website so you can see in advance.

    London – forget tea at the Ritz or Fortnums, you have to have tea at Kensington Palace in the Orangerie (where William and Kate live now). It’s an experience you will remember forever.

    Lunch at the Victoria and Albert Museum is also a must, as in fact a whole day spent there looking at the collections – best in the world undoubtedly.

    A very special (incredibly expensive) hand craft clothes shop called Egg, in Kinnerton STreet, not far from Harvey Nicholls. Not open Mondays. A spiritual experience to visit.

    You will also have to see the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace – around 11am every day in the Spring and Summer.

    Unlike Paris where just walking around and sitting in cafes is a heavenly experience, London is what you make of it. The weather is not conducive to sitting around too much, but culture wise it’s fab. If you prefer theatre with bit more bite than the usual Broadway musicals, try the Royal Court Theatre or the National Theatre.

    Tate Britain is still the best collection of 20th century art in London, although there is also Tate Modern over the river which I find a bit too big and busy.

    And of course, last, but not least, the British Museum – by far my most favourite museum in the world – again at least half a day needed to do any of its collections justice.

    A week in London sounds just about right to get the vibe of the place. Don’t forget your umbrella!

  8. We learned a lot and had a great time on the free walking tour in Edinburgh this summer.
    Dinner at the Drunken Duck in the Lake District…..


  9. One of the nice things about London is that the museums are free. Definitely the Tate and the Tate modern to see the Turners, not to be missed. The collection is spectacular. Don’t miss having afternoon tea. We did ours at the Savoy with a harpist and a view of the Thames. This was a number of years ago, so I’d check your guidebook. We gorged on the theater when we were there.
    Enjoy yourself!

  10. I’d recommend eating mussels at The Doric, 15 Market St., Edinburgh.
    In London, I’d recommend the V&A, the British Museum, seeing a play, and drinking a Pimm’s. I’d also get advance tickets for a tour a Parlament.

  11. Westminster and St. Paul’s are must sees in London. I agree that the British Museum is a must see as well. And yes to the theater—a wonderful evening activity. I still have my two Liberty of London scarves from our trip to London in the 1980s.

    I would not spend a day going to Oxford. (We spent over a week there last year.) While it is lovely, it is not that close and would take an entire day. Instead, I would go to Henry VIII’s castle (forget its name) which is a short and very enjoyable day trip out of London.

  12. It’s been 30 years (definitely time for a return trip!) but I remember thinking that the changing of the guards at Buckingham was overrated. But if you go to see it – all the action takes place behind the fence, in the palace courtyard. All you can see from the center of the circle is the parade in and out.

  13. Faux Fuchsia’s suggestions are good and I like RoseAG’s Maritime Greenwich tip as well. If you get to Greenwich definitely visit Trafalgar Tavern, a pub Charles Dickens apparently frequented, and order the Bar menu Fish & Chips. Let’s see, we also loved the V & A, and a day trip to Oxford.

    Have fun!

  14. Almost forgot to say …. cheap lunch or supper? Selfridges Salt Beef bar in Oxford Street – open till 10pm.

  15. Whenever we’re lucky enough to be in London for a week or so, we make sure to spend a few afternoons having scones and builders’ tea at the cafe next to the National Portrait Gallery after, or before, having a wander around some of the exhibitions. Always restorative.
    As you know, I love walking a city and although London isn’t quite as conducive to that as Paris is (more spread out), it’s still pretty fabulous for walking, with plenty of restorative possibilities along the way in the form of pubs and teashops. I love walking St. Martin’s Canal and coming through Regent’s Park Zoo that way. Love Primrose Hill, watching the kite flyers if you’re lucky. Paul would have a chicken tikka or butter chicken every night if he could — and I don’t object much. Do be sure to see a show or two. Have the olives at the Tate Modern — we build these into every trip, they’re so good!! as is the view there. . . Southbank Centre good for feeling a crowd vibe and then Southwark Market is so vibrant and such marvellous food offerings. Oh dear, I’m getting so envious. Um, I mean happy for you! The wonderful thing is that you’ll make/discover your very own London, just as you have with Paris. I can’t wait to see it through your eyes.
    As for Scotland, I haven’t been there since we went with our girls when they were 8 and 5 . . . they’re now almost 30 years older. . . I suspect your posts will have me wanting to return . . .

  16. Edinburgh: The National Gallery:see the portrait of Lady Agnes (Singer Sargeant:one of yours!) The Grassmarket
    The Georgian Newtown:walk down to Dean Village. George Street Shops. Go on one of the ghost or literary walks. The Botanic gardens.
    London: Maybe its because Im a Londoner…… The London Eye,National Gallery,Libertys,Fortnum and Masons,Spitalfields Market,Royal Opera House( Book on line for a Ballet). Penhaligons. Burlington Arcade.
    Buy a weekly underground pass. The Tower of London. The Cabinet war rooms in Whitehall. Stay somewhere central. I really hope you enjoy it.

  17. read over the other comments some great suggestions … the boat trip to Greenwich is worth it if it is good weather …. the Tower is not to be missed… crown jewels,etc. I would go to the British Museum it was good to have an Empire I would not waste my time with the masses to see changing of the like St. James Park near Queen e.’s “house” .. my favorite place to shop is Liberty of London.. Marks and Sparks like Macy’s everything is $$$ for Americans… try the grocery for little gifts.. tea, candy and Brit fashion and home magazines

  18. I love London and have been there many times.
    On the countryside I especially love the Cotswolds and its picturesque little villages.

    Public transportation is very common and efficient in England and I have used it a lot.
    And I love the politeness and friendliness of people which I definitely miss here in Germany (I am German).

    Lady of Style

  19. The British Museum is amazing. If you have any interest in history, you really should spend at least half a day and probably more there. Go ahead and take one of the tours – the guide will take you to a selected group of items (always including the Rosetta Stone) and explain some of the history. I found it absolutely fascinating. You may also wish to look at the reading room of the old British Library (which has since moved) to see where generations of scholars, including Karl Marx, wrote their manuscripts.

    My next favorite is the British Library. Its collection of original manuscripts (the Magna Carta! Shakespeare folios! the handwritten manuscript of Handel’s Messiah! the Beatles!) literally brought tears to my eyes. Only a small part of the historical collection is on display, so you do not need a huge amount of time to view it.

    Since you will be in Oban, you should also take a day trip to Iona. There’s not much to see, but it is one of the more magical places in the world. Generations of Scottish kings, including Macbeth (!), are buried there. And if you like single malt Scotch you should definitely include a tour of at least one distillery.

    Have a wonderful trip.

    1. Oh yes, the British library has the most amazing historial documents. Just mind blowing like a copy of the Magna Carta, an orignal score of the Messiah by Handel, Beatles stuff and more.

  20. I forgot to mention the obvious – of course you will see the Houses of Parliament (I also liked the Cabinet War Rooms), Westminster Abbey, and the Tower of London. Then also do some walking tour, whether from a book or with a guide, based on some special interest – perhaps homes of famous authors, or, my favorite, the Inns of Court. And you really should go to the theater at least one night. A weekly transit pass is a great idea. You could, of course, just see what Rick Steves suggests; his books are quite good in guiding you around.

  21. I can’t comment much about the other places, but I spend a fair amount of time in London.

    I agree with all who’ve said the V&A, the British Museum. It’s easy to get museumed out, however. I LOVE the Tate Modern, but I love modern art. The building itself is amazing, though. The Saatchi Gallery off Sloane Square is worth a visit, too. Always something interesting there!

    I, personally, think the Tower of London is a must. It’s sooooo interesting, and you get to see the Crown Jewels, which, honestly, I didn’t think would be that big of a deal, but they are spectacular!

    As for shopping, I vote for John Lewis in Sloane Square. It has more “wearable” fashion than Selfridges or Harvey Nichols, and has great home stuff.

    If you’re itching for a day trip for shopping, you might want to check out Bicester Village (pronounced Bisster). It’s an outlet “mall” that’s an easy train ride from Marylebone station. I didn’t know some of those brands would do an outlet…other than Hermes, Chanel and Louis Vuitton, you think of a brand and it was there! I went a few weeks ago and left London around 10 am and was back around 2:30, so it can be an easy half-day trip, too. Your train ticket is good for a shuttle bus to the outlets, too.

    I NEVER leave London without a stop at a Cath Kidston store. If it’s your cup of tea (and you could check out their website to see) they have fantastic bags and aprons, and well, EVERYTHING!! in great kitsch florals. Love them. I usually just wander aimlessly around the store because I can’t decide what to get. Lots of locations, but the one off Sloane Square (opposite John Lewis) and the one on Marylebone High Street are a bit bigger.

    Window shopping on Bond Street is always fun, as are going through some of the covered shopping arcades around there.

    Dinner…so many great places to go. The Tatler restaurant guide is a good app to download. Dinner in the OXO tower is great and has great views. We just had a really nice dinner at a bistro-y type place called Delauney’s that was great. There’s a little place just off Bond street called Cecconi’s that’s nice for lunch or dinner. Make sure you have Open Table, though…reservations are usually a must if you want to get in for dinner anywhere.

    The Whole Foods market in Knightsbridge is HUGE and great for a quick lunch in the upstairs cafeteria-bit if you are in the area. We don’t have Whole Foods in Canada, so I like to look in the grocery bit, too!

    So many of the posh hotels have fantastic bars that you could go for drinks in. Always fun to see.

    On this last trip, we were fortunate enough to be invited to an event at the House of Lords. I had never been inside Westminster, but you can take tours. It was pretty remarkable. I’m going to do that the next time I go!

    I hope you have a WONDERFUL trip!!!


    1. I need to correct myself…it’s Peter Jones department store in Sloane Square. John Lewis is on Oxford street, but they are the same company. I still prefer Peter Jones, though!

  22. How exciting ! Make sure to visit Iona, a ferry’s ride from Mull, which is a short drive from Oban. Not to be missed is the British Library in London. It’s really the best and also free. Beatrix Potter’s home in The Lakes District is magical. Maybe glance through a few of her stories beforehand to really appreciate it. The views all over this area are breathtaking. I look forward to your follow up blogs.

  23. In London, be sure to take one of the Thames River boat tours. The city really has to be seen from the river. The trip to Greenwich is a nice afternoon — you can easily walk from the dock to the university, naval museum, and charming town. While there, stop for a tea-time snack at Heap’s Sausage Shop and have an amazing sausage roll (and good coffee).

    A daytrip to Oxford is worthwhile too. The city is lovely and small enough to walk almost everywhere. I can recommend the Turl Street Kitchen for a casual lunch or an afternoon drink.

  24. London at Spring Break!

    My boys had a good time in London one Spring Break. They took the train out to Greenwich to see about the Maritime Greenwich which is on the UNESCO Historic places list. There is an Observatory and a Maritime Museum. It was a little chilly so take a hat/gloves.

  25. I really loved visiting the Tower of London. It gets dismissed as a place for tourists and school tours, but I liked it a lot. (It helped that the tour guide was dishy.) The British Museum is a must, as is the Victoria and Albert Museum. There are bus tours that allow you to get on and off all day, which is great, but I just bought an Oyster card for the week and was able to use it for the Underground and buses as far afield as Greenwich. The Observatory is worth a look if you like astronomy. Take time to walk through Regent’s Park and Hyde Park, too.

  26. If (and only if) the Queen is not in residence, you can take a tour of the formal rooms of Buckingham Palace. It was magnificent.

  27. English gardens are sublime. We visited Hidcote Manor Garden in Gloucestershire and it was just lovely. When we go back, we’d definitely plan on seeing more gardens. We loved going to the Globe Theater in London to see Shakespeare. I’ll enjoy hearing about your trip.

  28. What a lovely itinerary! So many things to see and do above, so here are just a couple more suggestions. Take a (very touristy) open top bus tour in London. They are great for orientating yourself, and for hearing anecdotes you might otherwise miss. Some companies include a river boat trip too.

    In Edinburgh, walk the Royal Mile which is fascinating. Lots of lovely places to stop off along the way. If you want original Scottish design try Ness( – 3 shops in Edinburgh. I don’t like everything in there, but the pieces I love, I absolutely adore, if you see what I mean.

    Hope you have a fab trip!

  29. In London, visit the British Museum for sure (free, I think). Last year, my daughter joined me in Paris and we took the Eurostar to London. We visited Kensington Palace where exhibits honour two previous residents:Victoria and Diana. I am going to a play this year. Both Helen Mirren and Judy Dench are on stage during your stay. In Edinburgh, see the Royal Mile and Castle.

  30. Glad you’re getting excited…. don’t forget to look me up if you are in Oban. We will be away in the early part of May, so there is a chance that we may miss each other, but you are coming to Highland Fashionista headquarters…so hopefully we might get to meet in person!

  31. I love Edinburgh! If you have an afternoon to go to the Royal Botanical Gardens(not sure of the official name), it is a great place to relax.

  32. I agree with Ellen Kirkendall, both about the V&A and the pub lunch. Be sure to chat up the publican and you may get more than you pay for. My sisters and I did this at a pub (it had Queen Charlotte in the name) and were shown the secret passage where Queen Charlotte used to secretly visit King George in the hospital across the street and where her maid prepared her tea on the little stove.

  33. Oban is lovely! Make sure you climb up to the folly and take some photos! If you make it up that far, don’t bother with the Isle of Skye – it’s very touristy and expensive, ditto with anything to do with Loch Ness (although the castle on the Loch is amazing). I ADORE Stirling – it is well worth a visit for Wallace Monument (it’s Braveheart country), Stirling Castle and just the most beautiful countryside.

  34. Such a fun trip to anticipate! We are going to Rome for Spring Break, so I’m excited too. We did Spring Break in London 4 years ago, and had excellent weather, warm enough to sit outside at lunch. Maybe you will be as fortunate.

    I’ve only been to London that one time, but this is what we really enjoyed:

    The Tower of London. Maybe touristy, but fascinating, especially if you are at all interested in history. After the recent discovery of Richard III’s remains, I read a book about his life and the Tower figured prominently. Plus, the Crown Jewels!

    Westminster Abbey. Seems like EVERYBODY is buried there.

    We took the Tube everywhere. It was cheap, convenient, and easy to figure out.

    Walking through the parks: Regent’s, Hyde, St. James, and Kensington Gardens. We stayed near Regent’s Park, which is also near Primrose Hill, and had dinner in that area a few times.

    We saw “39 Steps” at a theatre in Picadilly one evening. We hadn’t planned ahead, so didn’t get tickets to any of the hot shows; but my kids (and we) really enjoyed the old-school production with only four actors playing multiple parts.

    If you want a quick lunch in between sightseeing venues, Pret a Manger is a kind of fast food place with several locations, but they have delicious ready-made sandwiches on baguettes. We ate there a couple of times when we were in a bit of a hurry.

    We also did the Chunnel trip for a day trip to Paris. It was fast and efficient, and my only regret is that I slept most of the way there and back!

    My daughter (then about 13) says she enjoyed the pubs! We went to the Bag o’Nails near Buckingham Palace, which was my Auntie’s favorite when she lived in England.

    Hope you have a wonderful time!

    —Jill Ann

  35. Though I like Scotland and the Lake District I am not an expert in either so will leave others to comment.
    I live 40 miles from London and go there regularly. There is enough there to occupy you for many weeks so I would leave day excursions to Oxford, Windsor, Bath etc for another time (You do plan to return don’t you?).

    Next try and list your “Must Do” things which might include a river trip, the City of London, Greenwich, museums and art galleries. Many shops are open later so rather than spending the day shopping you could visit some in the early evening before dinner. Also the major stores typically open on Sundays for six hours.

    Eating out can be expensive but if you can spare the time in the middle of the day lunch at nice restaurants can be a bargain. Do ask again when you have narrowed your selections!

  36. I’ve been only to London of your destinations, but I too say the Tate Modern is a must. Also, Harrods for the ridiculous excess of it all. I was lucky enough to see an opera at Royal Albert Hall, and Kensington Park (I think that’s what it’s called) across the street from the Hall is gorgeous. The Portobello Road outdoor market is quite wonderful (though keep your purse close). We somewhat inadvertantly took a taxi drive around Buckingham Palace and the Queen Mother’s residence at night and seeing them lit up was lovely . . . and quite enough for me. I’m just a big fan of wandering the streets and seeing what turns up; that always seems like the best way to get to know a city.

  37. Nice trip ! Try an haggis by night in streets of Edinburgh… Tasty and funny.
    I love Scotland and scottish people too( the Old Alliance !!), but, of course London is a great place ( please, go to the Wallace Gallery of you don ´t know it yet)

    Paddychat (France)

  38. I’ve not been to Oban and I wouldn’t have bothered with Windermere, but if you are close enough to see Beatrix Potter’s house, I thought it was worth seeing (and I’ve not read any of her books). I think it’s well worth doing the Tower of London tour and the War Museum’s underground bunker is interesting. A lot depends on how much history you’re into or whether you’d rather do the shopping thing. It’s been years since I’ve been to London for fun; we plan to do the Harry Potter Museum (Warner Bros) our next trip down. I think the V&A museum is to die for, but don’t care for the Egyptian stuff in the British Museum. I don’t see how anyone could not go see St. Pancras station, even just the outside, though I gather the inside has changed a lot (for the better).

    As to Edinburgh, the Palace at Holyrood House is good but all of what I enjoyed about Edinburgh castle was on the outside – it’s a very military place. I liked the contrast between Holyrood and John Knox house. Mary King’s Close is brilliant. Jenner’s Department store is beautiful. You can always visit my blog and click on Edinburgh and zip through the photos if you like…

  39. If you enjoy wine and spirits you must check out the following places in Edinburgh:

    -The Whiskey Experience (great tour all about how to make whiskey plus one of the best whiskey tasting bars in the world).
    -Demijohn (they sell unique liqueurs and wines from all over the UK — think ginger wine and black cherry liqueur).

  40. I think the places we enjoyed the most on our trip: The V &A. Best museum ever! You will love it with your interest in fashion, color, etc. You have to go to Harrods. The Tower of London was great and the market on Portobello Road was terrific! Just watch your pocket. I too am going at the end of May and can’t wait!

  41. So many places so little time…my recommendations if you have time:
    London…The Tate, Westminster Abbey, Blenheim Palace

    Scotland…Iona, Abbotsford which was Sir Walter Scott’s lovely estate.

    1. In Edinburgh, the Royal Botanic Gardens, the lovely gardens behind Dunbar’s Close, Rosslyn Chapel. And you must go to Iona.

  42. Take a look at the National Trust UK website to see what properties you’ll be near. We have found them to be uniformly excellent, well-maintained, with lovely docents and wonderful tea rooms. In London, Covent Garden was my favorite shopping area.

  43. I have a dear friend who lives in Liverpool and works in London and Glasgow intermittently. I’ll ask him and get back to you with his suggestions – which I’m sure will be off the beaten path.

    Spashionista (Alicia)

  44. There is so much to see in London it is difficult to know where to begin. I would agree with the V & A they have some great exhibitions and Kensington Palace. Buckingham Palace does not open till July however there seem to be evening tours check here
    Bond Street is good for Designer shops and I particularly like Fenwick (a small dept. store) or more quirky shopping areas are NottingHill and Marylebone High street. London parks are fantastic, especially at that time of year, either Hyde Park or Regents Park. I hope to be around in April so email me direct, perhaps we could meet up or if you let me know what you like I can give you more info.

  45. Judging by these comments , it might be best to live here for six months . It is difficult to know what you intend to focus on – scenery – culture – shopping , I imagine a mixture . So here’s my sixpennorth . Edinburgh is great but the royal mile is very touristy , try to walk the Wynds – very old pedestrian alleyways off the mile , perfectly safe & fascinating . Windermere is an unusual choice , pretty but crowded . If you want a little peace try the boat on the lake or a walk along one of the public footpaths – though they can be crowded too . There is a house in the area lived in by Ruskin which is open to the public & if you are a Wordsworth fan go to Grassmere . Oban is in a wonderful position with fabulous trips in all directions . Yes , Iona is a must , again a busy spot but get your boots on & stretch your legs . London , I leave to the experts . I do hope the weather is kind , we rarely have endless sunshine but there is real beauty to be had in shifting clouds & the odd gentle rain shower . You will need to spend quite alot for great food but the curry houses are usually worth a visit & good fish & chips are unbeatable.Have fun……wendy

  46. SOunds like an amazing trip. I’ve spent a good bit of time in London but never got to drive around England. Really looking forward to hearing about experiences ad recommendations. As for London my top recommendations are Simpson’s on the Strand for traditional English roastbeef and Cheshire CHeese, a restaurant where Wadsworth and other literary greats hung out. For shopping for vintage jewelry and collectables , I love Portobello Road and Spitafilds Market. Harrod’s is worth a visit for the amazing foodhalls and a great afternoon tea.

  47. Here are some tips about Edinburgh (I was there in November):
    The Airlink bus is a cheap and fast way to get from the airport to the city center. My top sights (apart from Edinburgh castle and the Royal Mile) were Holyrood House, the short (but steep) hike up to Arthur’s Seat for a great view of the city, and taking a local bus out to Rosslyn Chapel. It’s famous for The Da Vinci Code, which I haven’t read, but I appreciated the chapel’s history in its own right. We rented an apartment and didn’t eat out much, but I liked Eteaket for afternoon tea (41 Frederick St). Shops: Sadly, 95% of the goods on the Royal Mile are made in China or elsewhere. If you want clothing made in Scotland, go to Brora (48 Frederick St). I loved everything in that shop, though it is expensive. They also have shops in London. Neal’s Yard (102 Hanover St) has amazing body/bath products and good massage therapists. The best coffee chain in the UK is Nero (superior to Costa). Wagamama is a fun place for lunch if you like Asian food.

  48. I’m chiming in to agree with others about the V & A – and DO make time for lunch in their dining rooms, you will be impressed.

    We have been exploring East London, Spitalfields and that area. If you are in London, check out some of the street markets. The Borough Market is an amazing place (you can find Neal’s Yard there, too!), and if you are in town on a Sunday, go to the Columbia Road Flower market. You can walk from there through Brick Lane’s Sunday market – great street life.

    There are some amazing pubs, too. If you are near Charing Cross Station and the Embankment Tube station, check out Gordon’s Wine Bar for a wonderful, old atmospheric place.

  49. I lived in Edinburgh as a student and went back last spring for a visit. I loved the restaurant at the National Gallery, appropriately named Scottish Restaurant and Cafe. Also discovered a Scottish artist (Phoebe Anna Traquair) and bought silk scarves of her art as one of my big souvenirs. I also liked the thrift shops on Stockbridge and found Fair Isle sweater and other small mementos there. I second the suggestion to go to Arthur’s SEat, the Castle of course, Holyrood Palace plus the Scottish Parliament which is a modern building (near Holyrood) and quite controversial. In London, the Victoria and Albert has very good public wi-fi (i used it to email friends and upload to an instagram-like site so my friends could follow my trip) and it is one of my very favorite museums. It is free but special exhibits cost money. Check out Ottalenghi shops in London: there are three take-away shops and one restaurant and each one was a highlight of my day! I brought home chocolate as a gift (well, and for me too!). It is named after the chef, and there is a website (apparently one can now buy the goods on-line but I perish the thought!) I travelled at the same time of year as your trip and had fabulous weather every single day so good luck to you!

  50. I was in London for the first time last year at the exact same time of year. The weather was very wet and cold, so my packing advice would be to plan to layer! At that time of year I’d say the “can’t miss” places would be St James’ Park because the trees and flowers will be in full bloom, Churchill War Rooms if you’re at all interested in WWII, and Westminster Abbey. Those were the highlights for me. There’s a free iPhone app with Tube maps & schedules & it’s worth downloading. We took the Tube or train everywhere.

    I didn’t shop a lot but really enjoyed walking through Harrods and looking at the price tags. We had tea there and it’s a lovely treat, but very expensive. I bought a few tops at M&S – affordable and different from what you find in the States.

    We grabbed a bite at Pret a couple of times (there is one seemingly on every corner), but found that shopping at the small grocery stores for beer, wine and snacks was great for those times when we didn’t want a full meal.

  51. How I envy you! We went last Sept when our daughter was studying there. Windemere is beautiful, and you can take a boat tour around Derwent lake and get off at any time to walk and then get back on when you’re ready. We went to Grasmere in the Lake District. If you like gingerbread, and even if you don’t, go here: This is in Grasemere in the Lake District, and it’s the most picturesque village. If you can visit the Cotswold area you would be in for a treat.

    There are so many things to see in London. We took one of the double decker bus tours which gives you a roughly two hour ride around the city. It points out all the “must sees and don’t bothers,” and you can get off at any spot along the way and then back on as well. The Eye, The Tower of London, B Palace, etc are all worth your while. And the museums! They are free, and I highly recommend the Victoria and Albert Museum. There was a ball gown exhibit that was extra $ while we were there that I bet you would love. Not sure if it’s still there. We ate at a lot of gastro pubs, and the food was excellent.

    The weather was either very nice or perfectly miserable:) Take layers and scarves. Next time I will leave my umbrella at home and purchase one there. Our daughter bought one there, and it handled the wind and rain so much better than ours. Have fun! Can’t wait to read about your adventures!

  52. I forgot to mention one thing! We wanted to do a “tea,” but they are expensive. We ended up doing two of them in the Cotswold area for lunch, and that helped with the expense.

  53. In Edinburgh I would suggest going to the National Portrait Gallery in Queen Street, not just for the portraits but for the cafe with wondeful baking. Or if you prefer Modern Art the Gallery of Modern Art One (it has a cafe too). And Harvey Nichols is close to the Portrait gallery. The castle is very spectacular to look at but the exhibitions can be quite military in feel. The Grassmarket and Victoria Street have interesting shops. You could also visit Cramond and see Cramond Kirk and look across the river Forth to Fife.

  54. Yet another thing… Kew Gardens was one of my favourite day trips from London. You can take the train out. The Gardens are enormous with all sorts of things like tropical indoor areas, an aboretum, roses, formal gardens, water gardens etc. and again, surprisingly nice food in the cafes. It’d be lovely in spring (in fact, I think we must make the effort to trek up to London again around that time).

  55. I was last in London two weeks ago (and grew up south of the city in Surrey). I *highly* recommend you go up The Shard, which is now the tallest building in London — if the weather is good, the view of the city is 360 degrees and outstanding. NB, you *must* book online a few days in advance as the slots are limited and always sell out. Before or after, eat and shop in Borough Market, which is at the base. You can make a day of it: Shard, Borough Market (and Neal’s Yard Dairy), Tate Modern, walk the pedestrian bridge across the Thames to St. Paul’s, and on. To make this all easier, buy an Oyster Card for the Tube — go to the manned window in the station, the automats don’t accept US credit cards. (The Tube from Heathrow into central London is an easy ride — you get on at the terminus, therefore before all the commuters — and cheap.) On a completely separate note (and separate part of town), the Boots with the biggest beauty department is the one in Kensington High St.; it has things that many other Boots locations do not.

  56. oh also, sorry: for your pub lunch, consider checking the site; it is a company that has spiffed up about ?12 historic Victorian pubs, preserving the architecture and decoration while upgrading the food and beer-wine.

  57. The Lake District is stunningly beautiful. But Windermere is, like most of the towns and villages there, quite twee. So the best treat that you can give yourselves is to walk out on one of the public footpaths/trails. You don’t need to go far – even just half an hour will get you up and out of the residential areas and into the spectacular (and deserted) nature in the hills. The further lakes are perhaps even more beautiful than Windermere, so if you can bus/drive then walk, so much the better.

    As for London, someone above recommended going to Henry VIII’s castle rather than Oxford for a day out. I second that idea! It is called Hampton Court Palace and it is within Greater London, on the River Thames at Kingston. Very interesting from a historical perspective and has delightful gardens. Easy to reach and you can combine with a river walk, pub lunch etc.

    Enjoy yourselves!

  58. Definitely have to check out the Tower of London and the Crown Jewels. Then of course Westminster Abbey, and if you have time check out the Parliament building next door. Then the London Eye gives you a great view of the city if you can chose a time when the line is not too long. If you like climbing up to tall places, the view form St. Paul’s cathedral is great, although climbing the narrow passages at the top is a little uncomfortable. Have fun!

  59. Please take me with you to Scotland! Will you have a car? I think one of the most spectacular sights in Scotland is the drive on the A82 west across Rannoch Moor to Glencoe. That drive gives a real taste of the Highlands with absolutely stunning scenery on the approach to the Glen. The National Trust for Scotland visitor centre at Glencoe is superb. Easily acheivable in a half day from Oban, doing an anticlockwise loop and returning via the coast road.
    The Oban distillery is worth a visit, even if you detest Scotch Whisky. Have fun!

  60. Pop into Harrod’s for a few minutes if you have a chance. That store is outrageous! On the bottom level is a shrine to Princess Diana and Dodi. THe museums are fabulous. I saw a Grace Kelly exhibit at the V&A a few years ago. I think the Tate has a David Bowie exhibit going on. Don’t kill yourself trying to do it all. I have been to London several times and have not seen it all. Cath Kidston is uniquely English. Everything is floral.

  61. There is a cheaper and faster way of travelling to Greenwich if you use the Thames Clipper, which is what my daughter uses to go home from work in central London. If you have an Oyster card you will save money on your boat ticket too, so long as there is enough credit on it: If you are going to be eating out in the Borough area, I recommend this restaurant, where my family took me on Mother’s Day: I don’t think it was cheap but all of us enjoyed our food, and we are fussy eaters! I am going to Scotland and London as well, but will be later than you as first of all we are going to my niece’s wedding in June. Look forward to reading about your travels!