Three great trips in Great Britain and Ireland


Eloise Barker

Title photography by alice photo

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March 2018

Look beyond London. It’s easy to tour the UK and Ireland with our three great multi-centres. For holidays in England and beyond, visit musical powerhouses in Manchester, or relax in the easy charms of the Cotswolds.

London – Edinburgh – Dublin

Best for: Combining three capitals

Edinburgh

Travel from London to Scotland with British Airways, arriving in Edinburgh. The capital city is genteel and grand. Both Edinburgh’s historic old and new (18th century) town have UNESCO status.

Keep your eyes peeled for the Skating Minister in the Scottish National Gallery and your ears alert for the gun shot at the magnificent medieval Edinburgh Castle. The 25-pound Howitzer makes an audible impact at 1pm, except on Sundays.

The local food scene has a solid reputation with Michelin-starred Kitchin and romantic tables at The Witchery. Coffee shops caffeinate the city’s student population – among them, The Elephant House. It’s a great stop for fans of JK Rowling; she penned her first pages of Potter here.

Edinburgh is lucky among cities to have wilderness on its back doorstep. Arthur’s Seat in Holyrood Park offers a challenging clamber. Expect great, if fiercely windswept, views from the top.

Where to stay

Until the highly anticipated Edinburgh Grand opens, the Sheraton Grand Hotel & Spa remains the most luxurious accommodation in Edinburgh. Fine-tune the mood lighting in your fancy room, savour the hotel bar’s own-brand gin, and bob around in the heated rooftop pool.

  • Trinity College library in Dublin, Republic of Ireland. ©clu.

    Top tip:

    Buy your tickets to see the Book of Kells online in advance of visiting Dublin. That way, you'll beat the queue of Medievalists on the door.£90 pp

    Flights and car hire

Dublin

Fly to Dublin for the next chapter of your holiday. A city of storytellers, from Joyce to Wilde, sometimes it’s hard to separate fact and fiction.

It’s a fact, though, that Trinity College, Dublin remains one of Europe’s most prestigious universities. It’s famous for The Book of Kells, a Latin Gospel of glorious beauty and intricate decoration, found in the college library.

It’s not true, however, that you can see Guinness being brewed. The famous Guinness tour actually only tours the storehouse. Happily, you still get a pint of the black stuff at the end.

Many choose Dublin for the bar scene. Temple Bar is a famous strip of sticky pubs for ‘craic’-addicts – those after the near-legendary Dublin nightlife.

To clear your head after a long night, visit the large Victorian square of St Stephen’s Green. In leafy Merrion Square, you can meet Oscar Wilde’s statue louchely lounging on a rock.

If you’ve got time to explore the Antrim coast, you’d be mad to miss the geometric basalt at Giant’s Causeway – where, according to legend, a giant once built a bridge to Scotland.

Remember, you’ll need two currencies for this trip: sterling for Scotland and England, and euros for the Republic of Ireland.

Where to stay

They don’t get closer to the action than Temple Bar Hotel. It’s modern and functional, and set at the quieter end of this famous area.

Extend your trip

Glasgow

While Edinburgh brings out the bagpipes for the tourists, Scotland’s biggest city is busy having fun. Plus, Glasgow has an even better shopping set-up. You can find culture, too, in a plethora of museums – many of them free.

In 2018 the city is celebrating the 150th year since the birth of Glaswegian designer, Charles Rennie Mackintosh. Visit the Glasgow School of Art or the lovely House for an Art Lover. If you’re not an Art Nouveau lover, pop into the beloved Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum instead. Free to visit, and split into themed galleries, there are Impressionists in the French gallery and feathered helmets in the Armour collection. At 1pm organ recitals ring out in the magnificent central hall.

Where to stay

Indigo Glasgow is a four-star hotel with modern rooms, generous bathrooms and a renowned restaurant: Marco Pierre White Steakhouse Bar and Grill.

  • The Warehouse Project in Manchester, UK. ©Gemma Parker.

    Seasonal beats

    The Warehouse Project runs from mid-September to New Year's Eve in Manchester.£109 pp

    Book a holiday
  • The Cavern Club, Liverpool, UK. ©Mim Friday / Alamy Stock Photo.

    The Fab Eight

    The Cavern Club saw the Beatles play frequent shows in their early years. Nowadays, the club hosts a Beatles tribute act on Saturdays. Stay in Hotel Indigo Liverpool.

    Book a holiday
  • Children looking over country wall, Cotswolds, Gloucestershire UK. ©fotoMonkee.

    Always greener

    Dry stone walls and a patchwork of fields make up the green and pleasant English landscape in the Cotswolds.£80 pp

    Flights and car hire

London – Manchester – Liverpool

Best for: England’s most musical cities

Manchester

Mad Manchester and rock-and-roll Liverpool make a cool deviation from London. From the glum charm of The Smiths to the city’s 90s clubbing heyday, Manchester is a city of nightlife. Less expensive than London, it’s fun and flirty on a Friday, whether you seek gay bars, trendy hangouts in the Northern Quarter, or the messier student clubs. Head to The Warehouse Project on select nights to keep Manchester’s nineties clubbing spirit alive.

For culture, the Salford Quays on the riverside is the city’s most modern destination. Visit the Imperial War Museum North, where you can consider conflict from the First World War until the present day. The Lowry gallery will help you rediscover your working-class roots, thanks to the city’s most beloved painter. For a change of pace, catch a United game at Old Trafford, if you’re lucky enough to score tickets.

Manchester has great shopping, too. At one end of the spectrum, there’s Harvey Nicks for high fashion. At the other, the grungy charms of Affleck Place include vinyl, customised trainers, and souvenirs emblazoned with the city’s famous worker bee symbol.

Where to stay

No more than a mile from most main cultural attractions, Innside by Melia Manchester is modern four-star with a gym and sauna on site.

Liverpool

Liverpool is a welcoming northern city shaped by its docklands and its music. Thanks to a little band called the Beatles, it has the most UK number ones of any city. Tourists flood the buses to set out on a Magical Mystery Tour, where you can see the birthplaces of the Fab Four. It’s the facts that make these somewhat ordinary streets fascinating – did you know that in the early 1960s, the Beatles played their local spot, the Cavern Club, nearly 300 times?

The rebuilt Albert Dock is now stuffed with museums: here you can visit the Tate Liverpool or The Beatles Story. When you’ve had your fill, ditch the dock for a ferry ride, crossing the Mersey to the Wirral. It leaves the city far behind in favour of the sandy beaches and green scrubland of the peninsula.

If you’ve hired a car, head north on a 40-minute drive from the city to Southport to see ‘the iron men’. Anthony Gormley’s cast iron statues stand in varying degrees of submersion on the beach, looking out to sea.

Where to stay

Hotel Indigo Liverpool is a colourful, modern four-star with luxurious rainfall showers. The city centre is a short walk away.

Extend your trip

Lake District

On a clear day, you can see the Lake District from Liverpool’s Radio City Tower. Roughly two hours’ drive from both Manchester and Liverpool, this national park is a land of mirrored lakes, rock massif and huddled towns with bright window boxes.

Climb Catbells, a fell on the side of Derwent Water, then visit Beatrix Potter’s charming cottage at Lake Windermere. You can circumnavigate the banks of beautiful Buttermere – one of the country’s best circular walks.

Where to stay

The Forest Side at Grasmere is a gothic mansion with great guest rooms. Enjoy the Michelin-starred restaurant on site.

  • Narrowboat moored on the River Avon by the Royal Shakespeare Company theatre, Stratford upon Avon, UK. ©Andy Roland.

    Play time

    It's always worth checking the playbill for the Royal Shakespeare Company – productions have included Macbeth starring Judi Dench and Ian McKellan, and record-breaking musical Matilda.

    Book flights

London – Cotswolds – Stratford Upon Avon – Oxford

Best for: William Shakespeare, Winston Churchill and Jane Austen

The Cotswolds

Creamy yellow stone and gentle hillside come to mind when you think of the Cotswolds, an area of natural beauty that covers five English counties. This destination is immensely popular with well-to-do Londoners seeking a rural escape, but the area’s mix of the bijou and bucolic is just too good to keep secret.

Stratford Upon Avon

Set around the River Avon, this charming town is best known for ‘The Bard’ – William Shakespeare, that is. His childhood house, his wife’s house and his daughter’s house – squat Tudor cottages – are the town’s treasured touchstones. The Shakespeare Theatre Company and The Swan put on numerous Shakespeare productions. Catch a comedy or tragedy (skip anything with a number after it if you aren’t into the history of the UK monarchy) but don’t expect to get every joke: it’s not easy for modern audiences to decipher some of Shakey’s one-liners.

Oxford

Hopeless romantics will fall in love with Oxford, enamoured by its so called ‘dreaming spires’, and the idea of punting along the River Cherwell (rent the boats from Magdalen bridge). A tip: don’t ask to visit ‘the university’ – there isn’t one. Oxford University is comprised of 38 colleges, which are scattered through the city centre.

Make those poor students envious by shopping at nearby Bicester Village, a designer outlet just outside the city. Pick up a Vivienne Westwood blouse or a Burberry trench coat.

Where to stay

The Macdonald Randolph in Oxford is one of the city centre’s iconic hotels, with a 150-year history. Bill and Hillary Clinton, Mikhail Gorbachev and Hugh Grant have all visited.

Extend your trip

Bristol and Bath

An hour apart, these cities offer something a little different. Bristol is arty and fun, whilst Bath is grand and historic, if a little quirky.

Bristol, Banksy’s hometown, is the green, progressive gateway to the West Country. The piratical history and current appetite for art endear visitors and locals alike. Hang out in neighbourhoods like Harbourside and Montpellier, then do the tourist thing: National Trust Tyntesfield Estate and Brunel’s Clifton Suspension Bridge.

In Bath, The Roman Baths and the Pump Room at Bath are an essential stop, thanks to the medicinal waters and the witty audio guide by Anglo-American comic Bill Bryson. Jane Austen loved it here, too, and you can follow her footsteps through the city, or visit the Jane Austen Centre. Bath features heavily in both Persuasion and Northanger Abbey.

Where to stay

Francis Hotel Bath is set in an old Regency Townhouse, but refurbishment has brought its interiors up to date. Many rooms have four poster beds – a nice touch.