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Frommer's England and Scotland

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The British Isles are the single most popular trans-Atlantic destination for Americans, and an immense body of book-buyers will be the potential audience for this important new travel guide. It incorporates all the elements that have won best-seller status for Frommer's guidebooks: strong opinions colorfully expressed; up-to-date and recently researched information of all sorts; cost-conscious advice that covers every price range. This far-reaching guide of 600 some-odd pages, takes the visitor to every popular destination in England and Scotland, including Edinburgh, Glasgow, Bath, Oxford, Liverpool, Manchester, and more--and, of course, London. A fold-out map, numerous interior maps, and four-color photographs throughout, will make this an exceptionally valuable purchase.

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1 THE BEST OF ENGLAND & SCOTLAND

ePub

The Elizabeth Tower of the Palace of Westminster (Big Ben), with the ­London Eye.

Where to begin your journey through the two major countries of the United Kingdom? In these pages, we share the best of the best: the things we love, and that we think you will, too. From the teeming streets of cosmopolitan London to a far-flung, unspoiled green and pleasant land that hasn’t changed for centuries, England and Scotland are greater than the sum of their parts. A respect for the past rubs along with a vibrant and innovative outlook, evident in places like the Eden Project and Tate Modern. In Manchester, Edinburgh, and Brighton you’ll find tremendous diversity and a dynamic ­cultural life.

Start with London and its historic sights (the Tower, St Paul’s), plus its British Museum (free, like most museums here), expansive parks, and even more expansive shopping. For an insider take on urban England, move on to Manchester, a cradle of industry now reborn; Liverpool, with its Beatles history; and small, esoteric cities with sublime architecture, such as Georgian Bath and studious Oxford. Each will inspire you in a different way. Scotland’s cities certainly aren’t left behind: Edinburgh never fails to dazzle with its contrasting Old and New Towns. Glasgow claims Scotland’s top art galleries, best nightlife, and unbeatable shopping.

 

2 ENGLAND & SCOTLAND IN CONTEXT

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A village and farmlands in The Cotswolds.

Exploring England and Scotland is like climbing a mountain range—you always want to carry on to see what’s over the next peak or around the next corner. It’s addictive, and there’s no shame in carrying around a sightseeing wish list—as long as you take your time ticking things off. England and Scotland may not be big countries but they’re crammed full of incredible sights—and not just historic sights, either. Sport, music, theatre, fashion, and even food here are among the best in the world. You might be visiting a region for the first time but be warned: Once you’ve seen one part of England and Scotland you’ll want to see more.

England & Scotland Today

England and Scotland made world news in late 2014, as a referendum gave Scots the right to choose to remain within the Union or to become an independent nation. At times the race seemed very close, but in the end the people voted to retain the marriage with England, thanks in part to a late offer of increased powers for their domestic legislature, the Scottish Parliament. The final scores for independence were 55% No to 45% Yes. However, Scottish Nationalists remain in power in Scotland, and it seems likely that independence will return to the national agenda again. For now at least, you won’t need to show your passport to cross the border between the two countries in this guide—but at sporting events, Scots will still be heard singing “Flower of Scotland” instead of “God Save the Queen.”

 

3 SUGGESTED ITINERARIESIN ENGLAND & SCOTLAND

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An open-top tour bus on Tower Bridge, London.

You want to get the most out of your trip in the short time that you have available, right? This short chapter has some suggestions for several ways to use your miles wisely. The first itineraries are general highlights tours covering the very best that England and Scotland have to offer for those with limited time. Following those are a couple of itineraries for travellers with special interests, or who wish to explore a smaller part of this island in more depth.

Regions in Brief

England and Scotland are part of the United Kingdom, which comprises England, Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland. Only 50,327 sq. miles—about the size of New York State—England has an amazing amount of countryside and wilderness and an astonishing regional, physical, and cultural diversity. Scotland is geologically older, less populated, with equally historic cities and low-rise mountain ranges that have taken on almost mythical status: the Highlands.

 

4 LONDON

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View of Tower Bridge and London from The Shard, Europe’s tallest building.

Whether you realize it or not, London shaped your destiny. There’s hardly a quarter of the globe that it hasn’t changed. The United States was founded in reaction to London’s edicts. Australia was first colonized with London’s criminals. Modern Canada, South Africa, and New Zealand were cultivated from London. India’s course was irrevocably changed by the aspirations of London businessmen, as were the lives of millions of Africans who were shipped around the world while Londoners lined their pockets with profits. You’re holding proof in your hands of London’s pull: that you bought this book, written in English somewhere other than in England, is evidence of London’s reach across time and distance. And its dominion continues to this day: London is the world’s most popular destination for foreign tourists.

London is inexhaustible. You could tour it for months and barely get to know it. Few cities support such a variety of people living in remarkable harmony. That diversity makes London like a cut diamond; approach it from a different angle each day, and it presents an entirely fresh shape and color—London is many things in every moment.

 

5 THE THAMES VALLEY & ST ALBANS

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The Long Walk, Windsor Great Park, with Windsor Castle in the distance.

The misty, rolling landscapes of the Chilterns and Thames Valley are rooted in 1,000 years of English history. Much of the tourist buzz comes from the region’s connections with English high society: Royal castles, racecourses, rowing galas, and Britain’s poshest university town. Yet it’s also the home of innovative chefs and a dynamic local theatre scene.

Windsor Castle is still home to the Royal Family, a place to enjoy the pageantry of the daily Guard Mounting ceremony (or to even see the Queen herself). Upriver, the ancient university town of Oxford is dripping with history, elaborate medieval architecture, and a lively student population that gives it a cosmopolitan atmosphere. It is also the cultural capital of the region, with a range of plays, performances, and concerts almost every night. Take in some Shakespeare at the Oxford Playhouse, or a high-quality classical recital at the Sheldonian, before wandering over to the Jericho Tavern for a late-night folk concert.

 

6 KENT & SUSSEX

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Dover’s famous white cliffs, with Coast Guard Cottages in the foreground.

The Southeast might at first seem like “England Lite”—perfectly pleasant but lacking the mountains, might, and grandeur of other regions. But look a bit deeper, and you find a world within a world, a place offering extraordinary experiences and serene beauty. And from London, it’s a lot easier to get here than to those distant English and Scottish peaks and lakes.

This is not a region for big cities. Canterbury, in Kent, with its glorious cathedral is the seat of England’s traditional religion. Brighton, the ­Sussex resort, is an unlikely city; a vibrant mix of arts and bawdy seaside fun. Little Chichester has the air of a country town. In Rye and Arundel you can connect with the past—and even stay in a medieval castle.

The county of Kent is nicknamed the Garden of England, a lush place dotted with stately homes and gardens (such as Winston Churchill’s former home, Chartwell). Move west into Sussex to find the South Downs, a chain of hills—the heart of Britain’s newest National Park—that stretch for 100 miles and provide walks with views of country and coast. It is an ancient landscape, where forests mix with wild heathland.

 

7 OLD WESSEX: THE BEST OF HAMPSHIRE, WILTSHIRE, DORSET & SOMERSET

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Stonehenge, Britain’s most important prehistoric monument.

The Regency charms of Bath, the prehistoric mysteries of Stonehenge, and the monumental architecture of Salisbury: These are all found in England’s oldest counties. The kingdom of Wessex, England’s precursor, was ruled from Winchester. A tour of this part of southern England leads you gently from London’s coattails to the rural peace of tiny villages and serene, idyllic isolation.

Regal Bath achieved fame and fortune twice in its history, first as a spa in Roman times, then thanks to the Georgian builders of the elegant Royal Crescent. That most English of traditions, afternoon tea has been big in Bath for centuries, and is paired here with a Sally Lunn or Bath bun. Avebury and Stonehenge date back to prehistoric times, long before the Romans invaded Britain. Cathedrals in the small cities of Salisbury and Wells are as close to the Gothic ideal as you’ll find in England, and the fan vaults at Sherborne Abbey showcase medieval architectural genius.

 

8 DEVON & CORNWALL

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A beach near Porthcurno, Penwith Peninsula.

You could easily get the impression that the farther west you go in England, the better it gets. The two westernmost counties are places of great beauty and remarkable diversity, with gloomy moors in Dartmouth to golden beaches at St Ives, and a lot in between. Exotic seaside gardens flourish around Fowey, King Arthur’s legendary castle clings to a cliff at Tintagel, and pretty storybook villages pop up everywhere, from Clovelly to Mousehole.

Of course, the wild coastlines have been a draw for all sorts of visitors over the centuries, among them writers (Arthur Conan Doyle and Daphne DuMaurier) and artists (Barbara Hepworth and Ben Nicholson), who all of left their legacies. Others come to swim, surf, walk, eat the freshest seafood in the land, and just enjoy this proud and beautiful peninsula.

Exeter

201 miles SW of London

The Romans founded the most westerly holding of their empire on the banks of the River Exe in the 1st century a.d. Exeter has been a target of invaders almost ever since—Saxons, Vikings, the Norman armies of ­William the Conqueror, but none more effective than bombers of the German Luftwaffe, who flattened much of the city between 1940 and 1942. While post war rebuilding has been more practical than artful, the past still pokes through, most spectacularly so in the soaring Norman cathedral but also in a few Roman fragments and some half-timbered Tudor buildings and Georgian crescents from Exeter’s 17th and 18th century days as a powerhouse port and center of the wool trade.

 

9 THE COTSWOLDS

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Arlington Row, Bibury, one of England’s most-photographed locales.

These rolling limestone hills, steep escarpments, and meandering streams might just be the prettiest stretch of England. Medieval wool traders accented the scenery with beautiful villages of golden limestone, and beginning in the 19th century, appreciative artists and other aesthetically minded spirits put on another layer of veneer when they restored fine old manor houses and planted colorful gardens.

Most of the Cotswolds is farmland and protected as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, keeping a lot of 21st-century encroachments at bay. Maybe the best thing the region offers is a chance to slow down a bit—settle onto the banks of a gurgling stream, enjoy a pint in front of a cracking pub hearth, pick through fresh produce at a country market, or just drift off to sleep in a four-poster bed in a creaky, centuries-old inn. It says a lot about the pace of life in the Cotswolds that this is prime walking country, and the region’s rambling paths are among England’s most popular hiking routes.

 

10 THE HEART OF ENGLAND

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Holy Trinity Church, Stratford-upon-Avon.

England reveals many facets in the Midlands, the region that is at the heart of the country geographically as well as in spirit. Shakespeare, the national treasure, was born here in Stratford-upon-Avon, a shrine that draws millions of devotees a year. Nearby, Warwick Castle is one of England’s most beloved medieval monuments, while off to the west, Ironbridge gave rise to a momentous era in British history, the Industrial Revolution. Birmingham is emerging from its industrial past with energy and a bit of an edge, as becomes Britain’s second-largest city. Yet another side of Britain comes into play along the Welsh borders, where green hills and lush valleys are dotted with half-timbered villages that seem to pop right off the pages of a story book.

Stratford-upon-Avon

91 miles NW of London

William Shakespeare was born in Stratford in 1564 and, after making a name for himself in London, died here 52 years later. Almost ever since, the place that began as a medieval settlement on the River Avon has been a one-industry town, where the spotlight is on the most revered author in the English language. While it’s easy enough to find Romeo and Juliet iPhone cases and “To be or not to be” refrigerator magnets on the pretty streets and lanes, Stratford’s shrines to the Bard, including his birthplace and several houses associated with him and his family, are reverently tasteful and sweep visitors back to the 16th and 17th centuries. The magic of Stratford is to become immersed in Shakespeare’s life and times, an experience all the more potent if you take in one of the exquisite performances of his plays at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre.

 

11 CAMBRIDGE & EAST ANGLIA

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Approaching King’s College Chapel, Cambridge.

The farther north and east you go, East Anglia—Essex, Cambridgeshire, Suffolk, and Norfolk—the lower and flatter the landscape becomes; swathes of open fields, crisscrossed by dykes and ditches, turn to ­forest and heath until you come to the watery haven of the Norfolk Broads and then the coast.

East Anglia’s most famous town is Cambridge, with its ornate colleges and chapels, while to the northeast is Norwich, the region’s largest town, with a Norman castle and cathedral to show for its power and prosperity. Rising from the very flat landscapes are fine old wool towns—Lavenham and Saffron Walden are two of the prettiest—and many remarkable architectural landmarks, including the tall spire of Ely cathedral. Then there are those landscapes themselves—reed-lined waterways that are an adventure to explore by boat, long empty beaches, shimmering rivers, and broad skies that once inspired painter John Constable and will stir you, too.

 

12 NORTHWEST ENGLAND

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Salford Quays, Manchester.

World-class cities within easy reach of the wonderful, unspoiled countryside of the Peak District National Park make the often-neglected northwest of England a must-see. If you want to get to know modern Britain, you’ll find it here. The star turns are the twin (and traditionally rival) cities of Manchester and Liverpool, reasserting themselves after decades in the doldrums while remaining firmly tied to their industrial heritage. And there’s more ancient history, too, at Chester and its Roman amphitheater.

It may not be Britain’s prettiest landscape, but the 21st-century revival of Manchester’s Salford Quays—new home to much of the BBC—makes for a fascinating case study in urban regeneration. Contrast today’s cityscape with historical depictions of the area in the paintings of L. S. Lowry—many of them displayed in a state-of-the-art cultural center named after him.

Museums, especially art museums, are another strength of the region. Liverpool has some of the finest collections outside London, including the Walker, where the paintings cover seven centuries of art history and Tate Liverpool, for visitors with modern tastes. The Walker, as well as Manchester’s Whitworth Art Gallery have almost unrivaled collections of British art, including several works by Turner, Constable, and Hockney. Antony Gormley’s “ Another Place ” installation has raised the status of Crosby from unremarkable seaside town to globally significant art site, with its beach studded with 100 cast-iron casts of the sculptor’s own body, faces turned to the horizon. It has to be seen to be believed.

 

13 THE LAKE DISTRICT

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A Lake District panorama.

Little wonder this compact region is high on just about everyone’s list of favorite spots. The tallest mountain and largest lake in England are here, and that’s just the beginning. Shimmering little lakes, dramatic mountain valleys, craggy peaks, and welcoming stone villages comprise a landscape that has captivated travelers since the Romantic poets rhapsodized about the Lakes in the early 19th century. Ever since, travelers have beaten a path here to walk in the hills, boat on the waters, and just take in the magnificent ­valley-and-peak scenery.

The Lake District retreats of some of Britain’s great artistic lions—­William Wordsworth’s cottage, Beatrix Potter’s farm, John Ruskin’s manor—are big attractions, too, putting a fine polish on all the natural beauty. Every year more than 16 million visitors venture into the Lake District, where more than 885 square miles are protected as the Lake District National Park, helping preserve the hills, mountains, forests, and lakes in some semblance of their pristine beauty and serenity.

 

14 YORKSHIRE & THE NORTHEAST

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Frost on fields in Upper Swaledale, Yorkshire Dales National Park.

Roman ruins, lonely abbeys, castles, stately homes, museums, and literary shrines are just some of the attractions on offer in Yorkshire and the more northern regions of County Durham and Northumberland. Together with historic York, they are also jumping-off points for exploring the wild and remote beauty that characterizes both the interior of England’s northeast and its incredible ­shoreline—which includes the old port of Whitby, Gothic inspiration for the original “Dracula” tale.

A thoroughly modern British city reawakening from a post-industrial slumber, Newcastle is as hip and happening a destination as you’ll find in the U.K. It has earned a reputation for its shopping and nightlife, but there’s also an array of contemporary museum spaces including ­BALTIC, over the River Tyne in Gateshead. Travel back in time west of the city with a visit to the fortified remains of Hadrian’s Wall, which once protected Roman Britain from the wild tribes to the north.

 

15 EDINBURGH, THE LOTHIANS & ST ANDREWS

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Edinburgh Castle viewed from Princes Street Gardens.

If cities were movie stars, Edinburgh would be Katharine Hepburn, or, as this is Scotland, Tilda Swinton. The Scottish capital is a cool, classic and cultured beauty. The Scottish Parliament, tucked in the shadow of extinct volcano, Arthur’s Seat, might be strikingly modern, but Edinburgh feels more like a historical film set than a contemporary political powerhouse—even after the 2014 referendum for Scottish independence. The capital was a staunch "no" vote, for the record.

Surprisingly compact and built around a series of hills, Edinburgh is peppered with tiny neighborhoods, each with its own distinct character and charm. Dipping in and out of these is one of the best ways to explore the city, and to shake off the crowds. Away from the main arteries there are pockets of peace where it feels almost sleepily provincial. All you can hear is the rumble of cars on cobbles as you breathe in the heady scent of hops and soak up the history seeping out of the stonework.

 

16 THE SCOTTISH BORDERS

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Overlooking the market town of Kelso.

The Borders, once tagged the “debatable lands” forming the age-old divide between England and Scotland, and for centuries the scene of border skirmishes and bloody battles, came into sharp focus once more during the Scottish referendum in 2014. Political wrangling threatened to redraw a line that had become smudged. This gently rolling landscape dotted with sturdy stone towers and fortified farmhouses designed to defend against marauders still bears the scars of its turbulent history, but had been dozing peacefully, out of the spotlight, for years.

As it slumbered, however, tourists sped past, on their way to the Highlands and the “real” Scotland. Yet the Borders is as rich in history and natural attractions as the Scottish Highlands but with the added advantage of being off-radar, barely observed by northbound crowds.

This understated region is crammed with castles and stately homes to discover; the shadow of Mary Queen of Scots greets you at every turn and literary connections jump off each page. In fact, the novelist responsible for kick-starting tourism to the Highlands, Sir Walter Scott, lived here and you can visit his former home, Abbotsford just outside Melrose. Add the glorious ruins of four great 12th-century abbeys, Dryburgh, Melrose, Jedburgh, and Kelso —now linked by walking and cycling routes—and you’ve got plenty to keep you busy for a few days.

 

17 GLASGOW, THE WEST COAST & THE SOUTHERN HEBRIDES

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The Clyde Arc Bridge reflecting on the River Clyde, Glasgow.

These days a lot of old industrial cities claim to be coming back from the brink to enjoy new life and vitality. In Glasgow, that’s really true, though Scotland’s largest city never really lost its edge. Many of the 19th- and 20th-century shipyards and factories are shuttered, but elegant Georgian merchants’ houses and grand Victorian piles remain, as does Scotland’s oldest medieval cathedral and rows of tenements built to house the working class. They all speak legions about this city’s down-to-earth values and an unpretentious worldliness, as much in evidence in old pubs as it is in glitzy shops, sophisticated bars and clubs, and outstanding museum collections. Glaswegians are well aware that a lot of the world considers Edinburgh to be more elegant, but they really don’t care. As they like to say, the only good thing to come out of Edinburgh is the train to Glasgow.

Glasgow makes an ideal jumping off point for the Herbridean Islands just offshore. There are few better places to experience Scotland in all its rugged beauty. They’re discussed later in this chapter.

 

18 THE HIGHLANDS & THE ISLE OF SKYE

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Snow capped mountains and a path in Glencoe.

Mist-shrouded mountains, gloomy glens blanketed in pungent pine forests, swollen lochs and wild heather-sprung moors: a vast ancient landscape grazed by herds of magnificent red deer, and golden eagles wheeling far above. Rushing rivers swim with trout and salmon while a mythical monster lurks in the region’s most famous loch. Add a scattering of gnarled castles, Bonnie Prince Charlie connections at every turn, one of Scotland’s bloodiest massacres and the grand ancestral home of Shakespeare’s “Macbeth” and you’ve got all the ingredients for a jam-packed, history-soaked road-trip.

This is the tartan-clad Highlands of romantic imagination. The region is also a giant outdoor adventure playground, with slopes to ski, Munros to bag and coastline to kayak, while for those who hanker after gentler pursuits there’s a Malt Whisky trail to meander. Scotland’s most famous bard, Robert Burns, hailed from the Borders, but even he penned a poem claiming “My Heart’s in the Highlands.”

 

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