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Here’s a common travel dilemma: you’d love to visit the UK but you only have two weeks off. With so much to see and do, you could easily spend that amount of time in its capital, London, so figuring out how cover more ground without your holiday feeling one big rush is no easy matter.
But it is possible – here’s how to spend two weeks in the UK.
Fit a week’s worth of London sightseeing into a long weekend
Most international visitors fly into and out of one of London’s airports, so it makes sense to begin here. The city is home to almost 9 million people, so the trick to having an enjoyable visitor experience in a place as large as this comes down to basic geography.
Put simply, what you need to do is treat London as a serious of zones, completing your sightseeing in one of them before moving on to the next.
That way, you don’t waste time backtracking and instead, you can use the days you save to see another of the UK’s top destinations.
On your first day, tick off the statue of Eros in Piccadilly Circus and the Queen’s grocer, Fortnum and Mason before strolling through leafy Green Park to Buckingham Palace in time for the Changing of the Guard ceremony.
Next, it’s down The Mall Trafalgar Square for a quick look at Nelson’s Column before a ride in a vintage Routemaster to the Tower of London via St Paul’s Cathedral. Across Tower Bridge, the one that opens, end the day up The Shard, London’s tallest building.
The following day, work your way through a couple of South Kensington’s world-class museums, such as the Science Museum or the Natural History Museum.
Combine it with a side trip to Harrods in Knightsbridge and if it’s fine, a few hours spent boating on the Serpentine Lake in Hyde Park. After dinner, round off your second day with a concert at the Royal Albert Hall.
On Day 3, start at the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben; walk across Westminster Bridge and take a morning flight on the London Eye.
From the pier, don a lifejacket and jump onboard a super fast RIB for one of the most exhilarating rides the Thames can offer. Alight at Greenwich for the Observatory or travel over to the Isle of Dogs to learn about the city’s industrial history at the Museum of London Docklands, housed in an old sugar warehouse.
Round off your stay with tickets to a West End show in London’s theatre district.
It’s time to head west
Accept that you’re not going to see every single part of the UK on this whistle-stop tour.
Choose a direction – in this case, west – though there’s no reason why you couldn’t travel north instead and see the Peak District in beautiful Derbyshire, Northumberland’s castles or the exquisite scenery of the Lake District.
But if it’s west you’ve picked, travel first to Oxford and tour its famous colleges. Don’t miss the hall at Christ Church College, and Hertford, famous for its Bridge of Sighs.
Tick off the Bodleian Library, the Radcliffe Camera and the Ashmolean Museum, but leave time too for a punt down the River Cherwell to see the city from a different vantage point.
Make Stonehenge the next stop on your itinerary. Theories abound but this remains one of England’s most compelling archaeological mysteries, though historians agree that the story of this iconic stone circle dates back 4500 years.
From Wiltshire, continue west to the Roman city of Bath, known then as Aquae Sulis. The place is also famous for its Georgian terraces, called the Royal Crescent. Hang around to visit its excellent museums and try a Sally Lunn bun.
From Bath it’s a short hop to the maritime city of Bristol. The Clifton Suspension Bridge, designed by Victorian engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel, should be top of your sightseeing list.
Brunel’s SS Great Britain, launched in 1843, was once the longest ship in the world and shuttled back and forth to New York. Check out this historic steamship in Bristol Harbour.
Plan to spend at least two or three days exploring England’s most south westerly county, Cornwall. Its craggy coastline is punctuated with quaint fishing harbours and broad sandy beaches, where you can learn to surf or simply relax.
Meanwhile the brooding moorlands of its interior are perfect for hiking.
Hop on a flight to see a bit of Scotland
Backtracking to Bristol, catch one of the frequent direct flights to Glasgow with budget carrier easyJet.
Scotland’s largest city has a proud artistic heritage and you soon spot some of the colourful murals that adorn its buildings. The artist whose name has become synonymous with Glasgow is Charles Rennie Mackintosh.
See how his plans were interpreted at the House for an Art Lover in Bellahouston Park or view original designs at the Kelvingrove Museum.
A day out in the countryside takes you to Loch Lomond. Amid the luxurious surroundings of the Lodge on Loch Lomond, splurge on afternoon tea or at the very least nibble on a few pieces of Scottish tablet.
Explore the pretty shoreline on a bracing hike or get wet while you master wakeboarding or stand up paddle boarding on the lake itself.
Cut across country to Falkirk where at the Helix Park you can admire the Kelpies. This gleaming sculpture features the oversized heads of two Clydesdale horses. Measuring about 30 metres tall, they’re the second largest equine sculpture in the world, after the Genghis Khan monument near Ulan Bator, Mongolia.
Continue east to Edinburgh, the Scottish capital. There, in a couple of days, you can tick off most of the major sights.
The spectacular castle, built on a plug of volcanic rock, and the lavish Palace of Holyroodhouse, situated at the bottom end of the Royal Mile near the Scottish Parliament Building and Arthur’s Seat, should be top of your list. There are plenty of museums, monuments and must-try restaurants to encourage you to stay.
Whether you do, or if instead you fill your last few days with a side trip to Belfast, a road trip through the Welsh hills or the myriad delights of God’s Own County, Yorkshire, one thing’s for certain.
There’s so much more to see, you’ll spend at least some of your journey home planning a return visit.