Travelling through the British Isles is something many people want to do in their lifetimes. And it’s no surprise as to why. England, Scotland, and Ireland not only have a fascinating history that dates back thousands of years, but is home to both bucolic natural scenery and some of the world’s most vibrant and diverse cities. With so much to see and do in a seemingly small landmass, it can be hard to plan out the perfect London-Scotland-Ireland itinerary.
Luckily, I’m here to help. Read on to find out the best places to visit in Great Britain and Ireland and where you should spend your time!
When to Go to England, Scotland & Ireland
Contrary to popular belief, it is not always cold and rainy in Britain and Ireland. Weather tends to be mild in the British Isles no matter what time of year, with no extreme variance between the seasons. However, there are some seasons to travel to this beautiful corner of the world that are better than others which is important to consider when wondering how to plan a trip to England, Ireland and Scotland.
Summer is the most popular time to go on a London-Scotland-Ireland itinerary. The days are long and the weather is as warm as it can be. Highs in most of England and Ireland in the summer average around 20-22ºC (68-72ºF) and you can expect highs in Scotland to be about 15-17ºC (59-63°F). Though there are definitely rainy days, you can generally expect more sunshine this time of year than in other seasons.
While the weather is fantastic (for Britain) in the summer, it is also the busiest time for tourism. That means that the prettiest cities and towns will be filled with people and accommodation will book out well in advance. Prices are likely to be higher as well. If you plan to go to Edinburgh during you England-Scotland-Ireland itinerary, it is best to avoid the city during the month of August when its world-famous Fringe Festival is going on. Accommodation books out months in advance and it can be absolutely packed with people.
Autumn is arguably the best time to visit Britain and Ireland because you get fewer crowds and decent weather. It doesn’t tend to get properly cold in the British Isles until November, so if you don’t mind a bit of rain and needing to wear a jacket outside, then autumn might be the best bet for you.
Along with the beautiful colours of the changing leaves, average highs in England and Ireland land somewhere around 10-17ºC (50-63ºF) and 8-14ºC (46-57ºF) in Scotland. Plan your visit for late September to early October and you very well might get some beautiful sunny days that are over 20ºC!
Spring in Britain and Ireland can be quite chilly still as the weather doesn’t start warming up properly until mid to late May and doesn’t consistently stay warm until June. It can be quite rainy, windy, and miserable through most of Spring and even a bit dreary as the leaves don’t return to the trees until May. If you’re travelling in the spring, expect highs to be between 9-14ºC (48-57ºF) in England and Ireland and 7-13ºC (45-55ºF) in Scotland.
Winter is the coldest and darkest month in England, Scotland, and Ireland. While the majority of the isles don’t get a lot of snow, it does get dark quite early (around 3 or 4 PM depending on where you are) and it can be extremely wet and rainy. Snow and sleet are common so make sure to pack accordingly. Average high temperatures in England and Ireland in winter clock in around 5-7ºC (41-45ºF) and 0-5ºC (32-41ºF) in Scotland.
Winter in Britain and Ireland can be miserable, however, many do like to travel around Christmas time in order to enjoy the decorations and markets scattered throughout the cities. Cities like London and Edinburgh have wonderful Christmas markets and carnivals set up, but most major towns and cities all throughout this England-Scotland-Ireland itinerary will have something to fill you with holiday cheer.
How to Get Around
When it comes to planning a trip around England, Ireland, and Scotland, many people assume that it is easy to see a great portion of all three countries relying solely on the train. While the train network, especially in England, is extensive, it can be very expensive and they don’t always connect to smaller towns and more rural areas.
In this London-Scotland-Ireland itinerary, we recommend relying on the train and public transport systems while visiting England and then hiring a car once you arrive in Scotland and Ireland respectively. Both of the countries are noticeably more rural than England and don’t have as extensive of a train network.
The bus is also another option and there are more reliable bus connections within Ireland and Scotland than there are with the train. Bus tickets can also be considerably less expensive than train tickets, however, it is almost always cheaper to book tickets for both at least a little bit in advance instead of on the day of travel. We suggest looking on Omio to find the best deals on trains and buses in the UK
If you can drive, however, and your budget allows for it, then we would seriously recommend you hire a car in Ireland and Scotland. There are many places on this Ireland and Scotland itinerary that are much easier reached if you have your own mode of transportation. Having a rental car not only allows you to get to more off the beaten path and hard-to-reach areas, but it also gives you more flexibility. Nobody likes to be at the mercy of irregular bus timetables!
If you want to find the best price for a rental car, we suggest looking at Rentalcars.com. It compares all of the prices from every available carrier, ensuring that you get the best deal! We also recommend taking out an excess insurance policy with iCarHireInsurance to ensure you don’t need to pay a cent if you get into an accident. This will be significantly cheaper than taking out additional insurance from the car rental company.
One last thing, it is worth knowing that the majority of rental cars available have a manual transmission. If you can only drive automatic, you need to expect to pay a little bit more for that! Also, this goes without saying, all three countries drive on the left-hand side of the road.
London-Scotland-Ireland Itinerary: 3 Weeks
Now that we have covered what season to go and how to get around, let’s get right into the optimal England-Scotland-Ireland itinerary. In order to get a good feel for each country, we recommend you spend at least one week in each of them. Obviously, you could easily spend weeks exploring all three countries on their own, but then that is what future trips are for!
If you have a shorter period of time, why not make it solely a London-Scotland-Ireland itinerary? While we recommend spending as much time in the massive city that is England’s capital as possible, you can see all of the biggest tourist attractions of London in just three or 4 days before taking the train or flying up to Scotland.
Week 1: England
London — capital of the United Kingdom and largest city in Europe — is the most logical starting point for this England-Scotland-Ireland itinerary. London is an absolutely massive city and while most visitors only spend a couple of days exploring, we would recommend that you spend the entirety of your week in England solely staying in London.
While there is certainly more to England than London, due to its central location as a transport hub, it is easy to visit other English cities as a day-trip by train. And also, with a week in the city, it allows you to dig deeper and see beyond the main tourist draws and get a glimpse at how and where locals actually live in this diverse metropolis.
If you have never visited London before, then it is only understandable that you might want to spend a couple of days seeing everything that makes The Big Smoke so famous. Take the time to visit Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abbey, and the Houses of Parliament. Enjoy free entry into some of the best museums in the world like the British Museum, Science Museum, and the Victoria and Albert Museum. And, if you can, be sure to catch a West End show.
If these are the only things you plan on doing, then we suggest planning to stay in Central or West London (neighbourhoods like Soho, Kensington, and Knightsbridge) in order to avoid wasting valuable time sitting on the tube or bus.
Many first-time visitors to London grossly underestimate the city’s size and expect everything to be quite close to each other when, in reality, travel times in the city can take a very long time.
One benefit to spending one week in London, however, is that you will have time not only to do that traditional “touristy” things but also be able to get a little bit off the tourist trail and significantly reduce your overall London trip cost. After you’ve spent your first couple of days exploring Central London and the museums, take a journey east and hang out with the hipsters in Shoreditch, walk along Regent’s Canal to London Fields, or see some live music in Camden.
London is much more than what is displayed in movies and in the media — it is easily one of the most multicultural cities in the world and has close to 9 million residents. Take the time to realise that London is not solely British and you won’t be disappointed.
Another benefit to spending one week in London is that it gives you the opportunity to take some day trips to other English cities. London is very different from the rest of the country, so it can be a really great experience to see how other cities function in England. Cities like Oxford, Cambridge, and Brighton are very popular day-trips from London and are all within about an hour’s train journey.
If you want to visit some less touristy cities that are still easy to do as a day trip, we would recommend getting up early and catching a train to Bristol in the west, which is a very cool and completely underrated city with an amazing craft beer and arts scene. Or, if you want to see a beautiful walled medieval city, head north to York, which can also easily be visited as a day trip from London.
If you don’t want to spend your entire week in England completely in London, then we would actually recommend spending five nights in the capital before spending two nights in York. There, you can spend one day exploring the city and another venturing out into the beautiful Yorkshire countryside.
Where to Stay in London
It really depends on what you want to do and see in order to find the best area to stay in London. These are our suggestions for some of our favourite areas of the city:
SoHostel – funky hostel, only a few minutes walk from Oxford Street. Breakfast is included in the rate and they also have a TV lounge and bar downstairs to meet other travellers. Click here to see their latest prices
Z Hotel Soho – cool boutique hotel located right in the centre of Soho. The rooms have been stylishly decorated and there are a number of great cafes, restaurants and bars nearby. Click here to see their latest prices
Astor Hyde Park Hostel – great budget option in this area offering a mix of dorm and private rooms. The hostel has a brilliant common area, large kitchen and cheap breakfast available with proceeds going to charity. Click here to see their latest prices
Eden Plaza Kensington – mid-range hotel located just a few minutes walk from the Science Museum and Natural History Museum. Also well connected with nearby Tube stations. Click here to see their latest prices
Dictionary Hostel – this hostel is set in a converted warehouse (nothing is more Shoreditch!), has its own bar, free breakfast and located right in the centre of all the Shoreditch action! Click here to see their latest prices
The Hoxton – boutique hotel with funky and stylish rooms, located only a few minutes from Old Street Tube Station. Downstairs is a popular bar and restaurant that gets busy on weekends, however, rooms are completely soundproof. Click here to see their latest prices
Airbnb is also a fantastic option for London, especially since traditional accommodation can be extremely pricey. There are a range of properties available — from private rooms to full apartments — in whichever neighbourhood you fancy such as this unique room in an artist’s house in Camden! If you’re new to Airbnb, you can click here to get up to $40 off your first stay!
Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse other options in London!
Week 2: Scotland
After spending one week in London and exploring England, it is time to head north to Scotland. You can reach Scotland either by taking the train — which is incredibly scenic, though expensive — or flying, which is often cheaper.
Begin your adventures in Scotland by spending two days in Edinburgh, the Scottish capital. This beautiful city has an incredible history but it is quite compact and easy to get around — and it’s drastically different from London! Take the time to walk the Royal Mile, tour Edinburgh Castle, swill some single-malt whiskey in a convivial pub, or maybe let your inner Harry Potter nerd run wild at Greyfriars Kirkyard!
After spending two days in Edinburgh, it’s time to venture into the Scottish Highlands and to explore the largest city there: Inverness. Inverness has the feeling of a small town and the main tourist appeal is its proximity to Loch Ness, however, it is very much worth exploring in its own right. Spend one day in Inverness itself and another on a day trip from Inverness to Culloden Battlefield, Cawdor castle, or the famous Loch Ness.
From Inverness, it’s time to get in the car and drive to one of the most beautiful areas of Scotland and a top place to visit in the country: the Isle of Skye. Though many people treat Skye as a simple day trip or stopover spot, it is quite large and really deserves to be explored fully. That is why we recommend spending 2 full days here in order to see some of the main attractions while also getting a bit off the beaten path. There are some really fantastic hikes to do on Skye as well, so make sure you have proper boots!
After you have spent a wonderful two day exploring the beautiful Isle of Skye, head back to Edinburgh of one night before catching a flight to the Emerald Isle
(sign up for a free account with Travel Freely to learn about travel hacking and fly for free!)
Where to Stay in Scotland
Castle Rock Hostel — This small, centrally located hostel continues to be one of the highest-rated places to stay in Edinburgh. They have a number of rooms on offer, from dorm beds to privates, a friendly staff, and are a great option for both budget and solo travellers. Click here to see their latest prices
Torridon Guest House – a quaint bed and breakfast that is a great place to stay in Inverness. It is within a short walking distance of the city centre and a good option if you don’t want to stay in a hostel. Click here to see their latest prices
Isle of Skye
Skyewalker Hostel — This family-run establishment is one of the top-rated hostels in all of Scotland. Excellently located, they have a number of different room options, a friendly staff, and they sometimes organise social events in the evening. Click here to see their latest prices
Creag Dubh Bed & Breakfast — This cosy B&B is one of the top-rated places to stay in Skye. They have a few clean and comfortable rooms available, a beautiful rural location, and very friendly owners. Click here to see their latest prices
Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse other options in Scotland!
Week 3: Ireland
Ireland is a country that fills many people with visions of rolling green hills, pastoral beauty, and incredibly friendly people — and upon visiting you will find that it certainly delivers! While most people spend one week in Ireland going a pretty standard route from Dublin south to Cork and then following the coast up to Galway, we suggest that you venture on a path less taken when you get to this portion of the London-Scotland-Ireland itinerary.
It is easiest to begin your Ireland trip in Dublin, the capital of the Republic of Ireland. Dublin is a large and dynamic city with many layers, however, it can be quite expensive for tourists and there aren’t a plethora of things to do. Two days in Dublin should be more than sufficient to see the main sites such as Trinity College, Temple Bar, and the Guinness Storehouse.
From Dublin, instead of following all too many tourists ahead of you and going south, it’s time to instead head west for the naturally stunning Connemara region in County Galway. Situated on Ireland’s west coast, Connemara is famed for its rugged scenery, mountainous and boggy terrain, and unique Gaelic culture. Though Connemara is your eventual destination, there are a number of interesting stops you can make in the drive along the way.
Spending two days in Connemara will give you time to experience all of the fantastic things to do in this beautiful peninsula. You can spend the day driving the famous scenic Sky Road outside of Clifden, explore charming fishing villages like Roundstone and Letterfrack, lie on the pristine white sand of Dog’s Bay Beach, and visit the gorgeous and historic Kylemore Abbey.
The final stop of this England-Scotland-Ireland itinerary sees you in the wonderful Irish city of Galway. There are a number of great things to do here from exploring the main sites like the Spanish Arch and Eyre Square, whiskey tasting at Garavans Pub, listening to traditional Irish music in the trendy West End, and eating at some of Ireland’s top restaurants.
Spend two days exploring Galway city and one more day to take a day trip to one of Ireland’s most famous natural attractions: the Cliffs of Moher. These amazing cliffs are a popular spot for a reason: they are absolutely stunning. Avoid the tourist crowds by trying to get there early, you won’t be sorry!
Where to Stay in Ireland
Sky Backpackers — This centrally located hostel is a great place for solo and budget travellers. As one of the best-rated hostels in Dublin, they have a range of dorm rooms and privates available (all with en-suite) and they also organise social events. Click here to see their latest prices
Amberly House — Conveniently located in Dublin’s North Side, this small guesthouse has a number of clean and comfortable rooms on offer, a friendly staff, and breakfast available for a small extra fee. Click here to see their latest prices
Island View B&B — Located in the small seaside village of Roundstone, this B&B is the perfect base to explore all that Connemara has to offer. They offer a tasty and filling breakfast and the rooms were clean and comfortable. This is absolutely one of the best places to stay in Connemara. Click here to see their latest prices
Kinlay Eyre Square Hostel — Centrally located just off of Galway’s Eyre Square, this is one of the top-rated hostels in Galway City. They have both dorm and private rooms on offer and also include breakfast in their nightly rate. It’s a fantastic option for both budget and solo travellers alike. Click here to see their latest prices
The Stop B&B — This is a great bed and breakfast located in the Claddagh neighbourhood of Galway. Though the location is more quiet and residential, it was only about a ten-minute walk to the city centre and even closer to Galway’s vibrant west end. They also have a fantastic breakfast in the morning, included in the room rate. Click here to see their latest prices
Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse other options in Ireland!
If you have more time to devote to your London-Scotland-Ireland itinerary, it can be worth adding a week onto all three countries, or forgo visiting one country altogether.
If you want to see more of England, consider spending a week in the beautiful southwestern region of Cornwall or heading north to the perennially popular Lake District. The latter makes more sense for and England-Scotland itinerary.
If you have more time and want to spend it in Scotland, consider adding on the Orkney Islands or driving all of part of the North Coast 500 route…this will allow you to see some of the most beautiful areas of the country where few tourists ever venture.
If you want to spend more time in Ireland or want only an Ireland-Scotland itinerary, you can head south from Dublin and spend time in Cork and the Ring of Kerry before tacking on Galway City and Connemara.
Also, it’s always good practice to get a travel insurance policy before you head on any trip, but particularly a London-Scotland-Ireland itinerary that involves a fair amount of outdoor activities. You never know what might happen while abroad and it’s always good to be covered. We use World Nomads as our travel insurance because they offer affordable rates and cover a number of activities. Click here to get a quote from World Nomads!
Planning the perfect London-Scotland-Ireland itinerary can be difficult as there is so much to see in each country. With these suggestions, however, you are sure to have the trip of a lifetime!
Are you trying to plan an England-Scotland-Ireland itinerary? Have you been? Let us know in the comments!