Looking to cross off some bucket list sites while traveling across Britain, globetrotter Kathy Bunbury discovers there are endless wonders just waiting to be uncovered.
It was a week into our vacation, sitting on a steam train, enjoying Welsh beers, traveling through some of the most beautiful countryside we could ever have imagined, that my husband Duncan and I decided that this had been one of our best trips ever. Because we had already traveled to London a couple times before, we opted for Insight Vacations’ Scenic Britain 11-day escorted tour as it checked all of our “must see” boxes, as well as several of my bucket list items.
Britain is such an iconic country that I thought I already knew everything I was going to see, but there is so much more to experience and learn, especially in the hands of talented and knowledgeable tour guides. It’s incredible to walk in the footsteps of royalty and experience the joy of visiting historic places that you have only read about or seen on television.
Our royal experience began with a tour of Buckingham Palace on our free afternoon. Duncan and I were in awe walking through the elaborate staterooms and the Mews, with the royal coaches. We were also able to get up close to the Royal Horse Guards and take pictures, both en route to the changing of the guard and at the parade grounds in Whitehall during our half-day tour of the city.
Early Sunday morning we met Rory, our Tour Director, along with the interesting group of 27 fellow travelers that we would be touring with for the next seven days. Our group was comprised of people from across the world – Aussies, Canadians, Malaysians, South Africans and of course a few from the U.S., with a range of ages from 17 years to early eighties. The lively discussions of the group helped to pass a lot of the time as we journeyed between each of our stops. Under Rory’s direction, our luggage handling and hotel check-ins were a seamless process, leaving us ample time to enjoy each destination.
Some of my biggest discoveries came in some of the most unsuspecting places. York was a fascinating medieval town proudly displaying Roman walls and Norman battlements. Walking through the shambles was like taking a step back in time with the ancient stores, pubs and homes, many now housing now modern shops. On the other hand, I thought Liverpool would be a more modern industrial city – instead it’s a beautiful city dating back to the 1200’s! There we were all given a close-up look at why the Fab Four wrote and sang about this cosmopolitan city by an inspired Liverpudlian host who gave us a close-up tour of the Beatles old stomping ground.
Standing in the courtyard of Edinburgh Castle I could conger up images of Scottish royalty of old and of battles fought within those gates. The old section of the city was perfect for walking tours and book-lovers looked forward to seeing sites that inspired authors like Sir Walter Scott, J. K. Rowling and Robert Burns, while the more adventurous braved the ghostly underground at night.
After seeing delightful towns like Stratford upon Avon, the Roman ruins in Chester and Bath and the delightful Lake District, we have already started a list of places we would like to return to and spend even more time exploring.
At most of our stops we sampled some of the local beers and ales, as well as local dishes and treats. Besides cream teas and Yorkshire puddings, we tried shortbread and haggis in Scotland, Cornish pasties, cottage and shepherd’s pies in many English towns, and faggots (large lamb meatballs) in Ludlow. One of the best dining experiences was at a Food Center near Conway in Wales, where we were treated to a locally grown and prepared three-course dinner.
One special place that had been on my bucket list for years was Stonehenge. Walking around the circle, communing with the Druids and pondering the mystery that these ancient stones have held for thousands of years was awe-inspiring and a wonderful way to end a fantastic week of touring scenic Britain.