Going solo in UK: 7 cities in 17 days

31st Jul 2015
Photo of Going solo in UK: 7 cities in 17 days 1/8 by Pallavi Pasricha
Photo of Going solo in UK: 7 cities in 17 days 2/8 by Pallavi Pasricha
Photo of Going solo in UK: 7 cities in 17 days 3/8 by Pallavi Pasricha
View of the Scottish capital from Edinburgh Castle
Photo of Going solo in UK: 7 cities in 17 days 4/8 by Pallavi Pasricha
Eilean Donan Castle
Photo of Going solo in UK: 7 cities in 17 days 5/8 by Pallavi Pasricha
Cadbury World
Photo of Going solo in UK: 7 cities in 17 days 6/8 by Pallavi Pasricha
Photo of Going solo in UK: 7 cities in 17 days 7/8 by Pallavi Pasricha
Photo of Going solo in UK: 7 cities in 17 days 8/8 by Pallavi Pasricha

When I decided to travel across United Kingdom all by myself, I didn’t know that this would give me such a high, but my first solo international trip definitely ended up being a lifetime experience. The best part of being alone is that you vacation at your own pace – stop when something catches your fancy, order the food you want, turn in early or party late, and never be hurried or delayed by anyone. I would get up early and get going wherever my desire took me – and ended up with some interesting, and some not-such-interesting experiences. Let me retrace my footsteps.

Day 1 & 2: Edinburgh, Scotland

I began with the Scottish capital because this place is all about the old versus new. Old Town architecture vs the spanking new town, traditional Scottish culture vs pub crawls, the quaint shops on Royal mile vs hip new stores on Princess Street. Basically it is a city of many moods and contrasts where the past and present coexist seamlessly.

Don’t miss: The Edinburgh Castle followed by a walk on the Royal Mile. Overlooking the city centre, the castle perched on a cliff is a Scottish highlight. Keep at least two hours in hand to explore it properly and don’t skip the 1 o’clock gun when a shot is fired from an old cannon. The historic Royal Mile – between the castle and Palace of Holyroodhouse – is the heart of the Old Town, lined with charming pubs, restaurants and shops.

Eat: Scottish cuisine can spoil you for choice but be a bit overwhelming as well. If you can’t stomach the haggis - Scotland’s national dish made of sheep's liver, heart and lungs, or their other traditional dish, black pudding, then try the other speciality here, deep fried Mars Bars. It’s really really sweet, but also irresistible. Needless to say, it would be a sin to leave Scotland without trying Scotch, so do for whisky tasting at The Scotch Whisky Experience.

Day 3 & 4: Inverness & Isle of Skye
Distance from Edinburgh: 250km

This charming riverside town is the capital of the Scottish Highlands. It’s a great base for a getaway to Loch Ness, Urquhart Castle and the gorgeous Isle of Skye.

Don’t miss: A walk by the Ness River and watching the sun go down from Inverness Castle – that’s how I fruitfully spent the first day. The next day I took the tour of Isle of Skye, an island, and drove past the famous Loch Ness, a gleaming lake known for a monster. Next came the picturesque and iconic Eilean Donan Castle, the setting for many films. The rugged, magnificent Scottish landscapes just got better as we moved to the Isle of Skye – lofty mountains, velvety grasslands and soaring sea cliffs.

Eat: Traditional Scottish cheese platter and fresh seafood. During the journey, munch on traditional buttery shortbread. Do visit Gellions Bar, one of the oldest pubs in Inverness and guzzle down Scottish brewed beer.

Day 4 & 5: Glasgow
Distance from Inverness: 271km

This hip cosmopolitan city, the biggest in Scotland, is all about edgy, contemporary culture with live music and art galleries.

Don’t miss: Shopping! Dedicate one full day because after all this is the country’s biggest shopping mecca after London! While Style Mile boasts of all the big brands, West End has quirky options. Next day I immersed myself in paintings at Kelvingrove Art Gallery, Glasgow School of Art and the Mackintosh House, but frankly Glasgow was a bit of a disappointment, maybe because the city lacks a distinct flavour.

Eat: Roast beef and Yorkshire pudding and a drink at Horseshoe Bar, the longest continuous bar in Europe.

Day 6 & 7: Birmingham
Distance from Glasgow: 466km

UK’s second largest city had to be on my agenda for just one reason – it’s the home of the Cadbury Factory and the child in me just had to visit.

Don’t miss: It is hard to believe but Birmingham has more canals than Venice, so the canal ride from Brindleyplace had to be done. The Cadbury World is like entering Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory with chocolate theme rides, seeing how it is put together, tasting session and of course shopping to your heart’s content for these sweet delights.

Eat: Explore the famous Balti Triangle. Birmingham is famous for curry and this triangle has about 50 restaurants serving this dish.

Day 8 & 9: Bath & Stonehenge
Distance from Birmingham: 175km

In a country steeped in history, this Word Heritage town goes back further in time than many others, with the famous Roman bathouses which gave the city its name.

Don’t miss: The Roman Baths built 2000 years ago above natural hot springs are a wonder to explore. Do try the water from the spa water fountain. Though it tastes aweful, it contains 43 minerals. And if your knees are strong, climb on top of the Bath Abbey to see the city spread out below you. Stonehenge, about 30 minutes away, is Britain’s most ancient and mysterious site, a ring of monolithic stones that go back 5000 years. The mystery arises from the fact that nobody knows the exact reason for its construction, though many theories exist .

Eat: Traditional English afternoon tea at the Pump Room and the Welsh rarebit bun at Sally’s Nun is a must.

Day 10 & 11: Cambridge
Distance from Bath: 275km (via London)

This charming and quaint university town is famous for two things – punting and prestigious institutes like Kings College, Trinity College.

Don’t miss: The best way to explore this town is by taking a punting ride down the picturesque River Cam along the famous ‘backs’ (college gardens) and catching some great views of the famous colleges here. Also don’t skip King’s college chapel for a dose of truly stunning Gothic architecture.

Eat: I find it fascinating to eat in places where my ancestors might have also dined, because these go back much so far in time. One such place is the Eagle pub that dates back to the 16th century. Order good old fish and chips and wash it down with a beer.

Day 12 to 17: London
Distance from Cambridge: 100km

I have a tendency to keep the best for the last, hence it was London for the end. For five days I soaked in the British capital like never before – admiring this iconic city from top of London Eye or St Paul’s Cathedral, wandering through state rooms at Buckingham Palace, catching a play at Covent Garden, shopping on Oxford Street and going for the Mamma Mia musical. I enjoyed every bit of it.

Don’t miss: You can’t tick off all there is to do in London in just one visit. The mandatory things if you have five days in hand are: Tower of London, the London Eye, Madame Tussads, Buckingham Palace, Changing of the Guard ceremony, a walk from Big Ben to Trafalgar Square, a picnic in Hyde Park, shopping on Oxford Street and partying in Soho

If you are there in summer, don’t skip a visit to the state rooms at Buckingham Palace. Its a fascinating peek into the royal world, seeing how the table is laid for a royal dinner or the Queen’s dresses and diamonds. The walk and ride attraction, Shrek’s Adventure, that opened in July last year, was another highlight. Meeting different characters from my one of my favourite movies was fascinating even for an adult.

Eat: Pie and mash at Anchor Bankside, one of the oldest pubs in London going back to 1615.

I boarded the flight back home promising myself to embark on more solo ventures – to keep the traveller in me going and to connect with myself yet again.

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