2 weeks in the kingdom of four nations- United Kingdom 

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Being the union of England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland, United Kingdom can easily pass for a virtual continent. While some of you may wish to celebrate its culture or live your fantasy of a big city, others may prefer to soak in its history or challenge yourselves to a quest of discovering nature’s hideouts. So here is a list of places from the four countries that reflect the best of these distinct aspects of travel.

From my experience, I would recommend you to spend most of your time in England and Scotland, and set aside just 4 days for Wales and Northern Ireland, put together.

ENGLAND IN 3 DAYS

Why stay in London, ONLY.

The best way to get around England would be to book your stay in its magnificent capital city, London. Of course, your stay here might be slightly more expensive than in other places, which aren’t so main stream. But you will certainly appreciate the ease with which you will find frequent transportation to all other parts of the country.

Located in the heart of the city, the London waterloo train station and the underground from there, connect all parts of the city very well. Further, to get the best out of your visit to England, it is of utmost importance that you tour everything from the big dream city of London and a quaint countryside along the English Channel, to the historically significant Cambridge. All these places are at most 2-3 hours by train, from London waterloo.

TIPS TO PROCURE CHEAP STAY

For solo travellers, youth hostels are the best options. Be spoilt for choice at

www.hostelworld.com and www.booking.com

If you are travelling as a family or group, it is best to book an air bnb accommodation or an entire dorm to yourself (if you are 4, 6, 8 or 10 people). These websites are useful for booking cheap accommodation anywhere in the UK.

TIPS TO SAVE MONEY AND TIME ON TRANSPORTATION AND SIGHTSEEING

Remember to watch out for 2 for 1 passes at cafes, train stations and shops to cut down on your budget for the London wheel and the Thames cruise. Also to avoid waiting in the ridiculously long queues outside London eye, you might have to reach there as early as 8am, when the ride opens.

Buy the London day (13.40 GBP) pass that covers the metro and train lines that connect all zones of London.

If you are a student travelling from Europe, remember to carry your student ID cards to avail your discount on entry tickets into the chapels and colleges of Cambridge.

PLACES TO SEE IN ENGLAND

To soak in the atmosphere of the cities, it is best to chalk out a walking tour.

LONDON

Even though, unlike other cities in England, London is not too small and you will have to take the underground to make your way to some of its points of interest, there is always a list that you can explore on foot. However, time management can play a crucial role in what you can see here in a day. You can choose to visit them in the order specified in this article, to make best use of your time.

ITINERARY

London EyeRiver Thames Palace of Westminster, Big Ben and Westminster Abbey Buckingham Palace  Hyde Park

Photo of London Eye, London, United Kingdom by Mahalakshmi Venkatesh
Photo of River Thames by Mahalakshmi Venkatesh
Photo of Palace of Westminster, London, United Kingdom by Mahalakshmi Venkatesh
Photo of Big Ben, London, United Kingdom by Mahalakshmi Venkatesh

The incredible exteriors of the abbey. To tour its church, there is a modest entry fee.

Photo of Westminster Abbey, London, United Kingdom by Mahalakshmi Venkatesh

Crowds gathering at the royal palace to watch the parades that run during summer months.

Photo of Buckingham Palace, London, United Kingdom by Mahalakshmi Venkatesh

The thick and lush foliage in the park outside the palace. Watch out for squirrels and geese.

Photo of Hyde Park, United Kingdom by Mahalakshmi Venkatesh

You can then take the metro to Tower Bridge and visit the following places.

Hayes Galleria  City Hall  Tower Bridge  Tower of London

Chill to the music played by local bands at Hay's galleria.

Photo of Hay's Galleria, Hay's Lane, London, United Kingdom by Mahalakshmi Venkatesh

Bursting in glory, the Shard and city Hall in London.

Photo of City Hall, London, United Kingdom by Mahalakshmi Venkatesh

Tower Bridge. Living upto its name, and towering over people and vehicles and everything else!

Photo of Tower Bridge, United Kingdom by Mahalakshmi Venkatesh

Lets see you brave a visit into the haunted tower's premises.

Photo of Tower of London, London, United Kingdom by Mahalakshmi Venkatesh

Even if you have left none of these unexplored, it is another thing to appreciate their grandeur at nights. So you can also choose to spend the evening at the tower bridge. High rise buildings like the Shard and St. Paul's Cathedral are visible from the bridge. All these are well lit in the evenings and quite enticing. Further, to spice up your visit, walk to the haunted tower of London from Tower Bridge. Belief has it that its appearance grows spookier by the night. But during my first visit to the tower, I wasn't even aware of such facts. And nothing seemed abnormal.

INSIDER TIPS

Finally, if you wish to move away from the magnanimous city to a quiet spot from where you can view the city in its entirety, head to the Primrose hill. If you are also in a mood for some people watching and street shopping, visit the Camden town, which is close by. Of course you can also choose to celebrate the night life here. Head to the Soho Street to take a tour of the most authentic pubs in town!

The best place to catch a glimpse of the London Skyline.

Photo of Primrose Hill, London, United Kingdom by Mahalakshmi Venkatesh

CAMBRIDGE

My travel instincts told me that there was more to Cambridge than just walking in and out of old colleges in the University. And yes, I was absolutely right. By the end of one day in the town, I was convinced that it is worth every traveller's time. There is so much more to the place than just a tour of the reputed university. When I reached the main town, I felt I had time-travelled. The ancient Gothic English style of architecture adopted for construction is absolutely splendid. The main town is just a 25-minute walk from the train station.

Things to do

Cambridge is quite the cyclists paradise. Rent cheap bikes and ride through its petty lanes that unravel the secrets of this age-old town. Find cheap day rentals at

http://www.citycyclehire.com/students-32/

ITINERARY

Great St. Mary's Church Kings College  Market Hill  St. Johns College Campus

The peaceful chapel at Great Sr. Mary's.

Photo of Great St Mary's Church, Senate House Hill, Cambridge, United Kingdom by Mahalakshmi Venkatesh

The magnanimous Kings college. Living here to study? Totally worth it!

Photo of King's College, King's Parade, Cambridge, United Kingdom by Mahalakshmi Venkatesh

Shop for the most authentic souvenirs at Market Hill.

Photo of Market Hill, Cambridge, United Kingdom by Mahalakshmi Venkatesh

An ancient doorway within the St. Johns premises.

Photo of Old Divinity School, St John's College, Saint Johns Street, Cambridge, United Kingdom by Mahalakshmi Venkatesh

DORSET

This port-side paradise is home to natural wonders like the Durdle Door and Lulworth Cove. Although, they are slightly away from the main city, the Durdle door national park can be easily reached by taxis. Available in plenty at Wool, the nearest railway station, Taxis are the fastest means of transport to the national park. To make it your cheapest option, interact with fellow travellers and express your opinion on sharing a taxi and its fare.

During our visit, my Palestinian friend Tamara and I called out to 3 Nepali girls. Together we divided the 14pounds among the five of us. It's nice how simple agreements can lead to new friendships. And these little joys of travel will add to your precious memories. There are some more perks to the drive. You will drive through the spectacular south-western English countryside and also pass some lovely English cottages. Further, you also get dropped off at the park entrance, the most ideal point to start the two hour trek along the English Channel.

ITINERARY

Durdle Door National Park  Lulworth Cove

The 9000 million year old limestone wonder.

Photo of Durdle Door, West Lulworth, Purbeck District, United Kingdom by Mahalakshmi Venkatesh

The cove in its entirety.

Photo of Lulworth Cove by Mahalakshmi Venkatesh

WALES

Although the train service between England and Wales is not bad, renting a car can be quite comfortable and cheap, in contrast to the exorbitantly priced train tickets. Also, the best places to visit in Wales are not exactly in the city centre. So it is best to drive down to Wales. And trust me, the drive certainly comes with many perks. You will literally drive right through the distinct countryside of Wales.

ITINERARY

SKANDA WALESNOWDONIA NATIONAL PARK

The wildlife in Wales

Photo of Skanda Vale, Llanpumsaint, United Kingdom by Mahalakshmi Venkatesh

Tranquil.

Photo of Skanda Vale, Llanpumsaint, United Kingdom by Mahalakshmi Venkatesh

Source- Google images

Photo of Snowdonia National Park Visitor Centre, Betws-y-Coed, United Kingdom by Mahalakshmi Venkatesh

WHY SKANDA VALE?

The captivatingly scenic Welsh countryside will surely compel you to spend all your time here. To add a bit of a twist to your stay, immerse yourself in the culturally diverse atmosphere at the Skanda Vale temple. Built by a Sri Lankan in the honour of Lord Karthikeya, it is a small but beautiful temple constructed on the high Welsh mountains. The ceremonies (pooja) and bhajan at the temple can last as long as 2 hours. But this may be well worth your time, as you will sing alongside priests who hail from different ethnicities, singing their praise for the Lord, with utmost devotion. Also, all visitors are served free Tamil Prasadam, for lunch, after the pooja. And indeed, the food is delicious.

TIPS TO GET THE BEST OUT OF YOUR DAY AT THE SNOWDONIA NATIONAL PARK

You will need an entire day to spend at the park alone, which is home to the charming Welsh countryside. Naturally you cannot visit every spot of natural beauty in the wide expanse, in a day. So, a wise thing to do would be to choose a few as per your liking. You could choose one of the following. But if you do wish to cover them all, then you must extend your stay in Wales up to 3-4 days.

SNOWDON MOUNTAIN TREK

Although the trek can be very exhausting, the efforts will lead you to locations with the most stunning views of the Welsh mountains,

GWYDIR FOREST

You can choose to trek across the luscious thickets, away from the main city. Alternatively you can also trek through the thickets surrounding the Skanda Vale temple itself, and even spot some herbivorous wildlife like deer, elephants and peacocks. Also, this trek doesn’t take too long and gives you a good experience of hiking in a forest.

SWALLOW FALLS

It’s a good idea to drive to these nearby falls, nestled in the Welsh thickets. Combining this with your day trip to the Snowdonia national park would be a day well spent with nature.

INSIDER TIPS

Rent cheap cars at http://www.rentalcars.com/ for below 15GBP, over 2 days.

Mind you, the network coverage can be quite poor. So it is best you have the location tracked, beforehand.

SCOTLAND

Itinerary

EDINBURGH  GLENCOE  ISLES OF SKYE

After spending a good two days exploring the best of scenic English landscape in Wales and driving all the way to Scotland, it would be a good idea to celebrate the slow pace of life in the historically rich old city of Edinburgh. It is good to keep changing the type of travel experience, in order to have a taste of everything.

PLACES TO SEE IN EDINBURGH

Edinburgh castle Camera ObscuraHollyrood Palace and Hollyrood parkScott MonumentArthur’s seat

Source: Google images

Photo of Edinburgh, United Kingdom by Mahalakshmi Venkatesh

Source: Google images

Photo of Glencoe, United Kingdom by Mahalakshmi Venkatesh

Source: Google images

Photo of Isle of Skye, United Kingdom by Mahalakshmi Venkatesh

INSIDER TIP

The adventuresome side of you needs to also relax a little before going overboard with hikes and treks. Let the curiosity of the child within you awaken, at Camera Obscura. Although a trek to the Arthur’s seat may offer beautiful views of the spectacular Scottish capital city, it is best to take a break from hiking in the UK, for a while. At times, certain travel experiences can bring about a monotony that may not go away even with a change in your surroundings. And this can be really dangerous, especially for an ardent traveller. You don’ want to get tired of a beautiful holiday too soon, do you?!

But of course, I wouldn’t ask you to give the visit to Arthur’s seat a miss. Go there, either during a sunrise or a sunset, after spending an entire day in the main city. You will cherish both perspectives well into your life time.

Once you have spent quality time in a city, it would be even better to embark on a quest to discover the well-hidden charm of the Scottish highlands. The many hiking trails at three-sister Glencoe mountains and Isles of Skye are the best places for this. Driving around Scotland, Wales and Ireland is the best way to get around them. It can be really inconvenient otherwise.

EXPENDITURE

Camera Obscura- Entry tickets for adults-14.5 GBP

Edinburgh castle entry ticket prices -16.5 GBP

NORTHERN IRELAND

Belfast  Ballycastle  Portrush

Source: Google images

Photo of Belfast, United Kingdom by Mahalakshmi Venkatesh

Source: Google images

Photo of Belfast, United Kingdom by Mahalakshmi Venkatesh

Source: Google images

Photo of Belfast, United Kingdom by Mahalakshmi Venkatesh

Whether it is a curse or a blessing in disguise, to get the best out of your travel across the United Kingdom, it is best to stay away from mainstream cities here. While Belfast can only be good enough to give you the experience of a new city in a far away country, it is Ballycastle and Portrush that carry the essence of Ireland, its tall cliffs, raging deep blue seas and clear skies.

Northern Ireland is relatively small compared to the other three countries and the drive between these three main destinations will not take you any more than 2-3 hours.

WHAT TO EAT WHILE IN THE UK

Savour as many of their bakery breads as you can. They may not be so fresh in any other part of the world. Fish and chips and Jacket potatoes are the most popular dishes across the UK. They can make the cheapest authentic lunch you could ask for. Finally, if you do have a sweet tooth, don’t miss out on delicious desserts like the apple crumble pie with custard.

Of course there is much more to see in the United Kingdom. After all, it isn't for nothing that it is a Kingdom and not just a country. But it's good to leave some things for a next time, and just cover these during your first visit. Have faith in the fact that the traveller in you will bring you back here, another time!

BEST TIME TO VISIT June to September, unless you want to battle the piercingly cold winds in addition to all the exploring!

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