Summer was getting hot here in Florida. Noah’s birthday was coming, and that travel itch was hitting us. After two months back home from India, I was missing my curries.
So we just decided to be snowbirds and fly across the Atlantic in search of cooler weather. The beauty of Europe is it’s just a short 8+hour hop on a flight, and you are in different continent that’s yours to explore.
After deliberating where to go in Europe, England looked attractive for all of us. For me, it was my first visit to the Queens’s land. For Jason, who had two previous quick stops in London, it was exploring the whole of England. And for Noah (the smallest, but biggest Beatles fan), it was his Liverpool.
The UK is such a small country, and is perfect if you want to explore different topographies and have varied experiences in a reasonably short amount of time.
One of the best metropolis in the world is London, with culinary marvels at every nook and corner. There are lush green rolling hills once you come out of cities, the beautiful coastline of Cornwall, and in the South of England, hundreds of castles and stone cottages.
There’s Beatle mania, gorgeous National Parks in Wales, and the spectacular scenic Lake district. There is simply so much to do in England and Wales.
We opted for 5 weeks, as later it would get too cold for my Indian blood, and we didn’t want to miss Halloween back home for Noah. We drove around in a loop, starting in London and going around the southern and western periphery, then back to London.
If you are planning a visit to England in near future, we have compile special tips and suggestions post for you that’s worth reading, England Travel Tips.
Here were our favorite things to do in England and Wales:
We absolutely love London for its multi-cultural vibe and looks, while being steeped in deep history. We spent around 10 total days in the city, which dazzled us with its charm, fun and food.
Oh boy… besides sightseeing, of course, the food is a major reason one should visit London. Any kind of cuisine your heart desires, from all over the world, is there in its finest form. From high end to small little eateries, we found top class, delicious grub everywhere. You can check our Foods to try in England post.
We chose Park Plaza Westminster Bridge for its location, convenient to go walking to major attractions. There is no denying that all the hotels in London are heavy on the pockets.
We found out that if you enroll for Radisson Reward online (which doesn’t cost anything) you can save quite a bit if you book directly through the hotel’s website. This way, we could choose their room with a London Eye view at reasonable price.
This hotel sits near the Thames river, and Westminster Abbey, London Eye, and Big Ben are just a few minutes of walk away, making it easy to spend more time at these locations.
London has things to do for all ages. We always try to include kid’s stuff for Noah. Shrek’s Adventure, the Natural History Museum (with the nation’s favorite dinosaur, “Dippy”), London Eye, and his beloved Hop on-Hop off London sightseeing bus were some of his favorites.
With all of these kid’s attraction, it was a perfect place to celebrate Noah’s 4th birthday.
We highly recommend doing the sightseeing buses (we had a multiple days pass). Not only do you learn a lot about the city with recorded commentary, but they are an excellent way to move around the different neighborhoods of the city, without spending a bomb on cabs.
We visited the major spots like the Tower of London, Tower Bridge, St. Paul’s Cathedral (highly recommended to see from the inside), Piccadilly Circus, Trafalgar Square, the British Museum and Buckingham Palace, among other places. Check out our more detailed post, Things to do in London.
Our next stop after London was Canterbury, towards the southeast.
We recommend hiring a rental car if you are venturing out of London and want to explore the rest of the country. It gives you a lot of freedom to do things at your own pace, without depending on local transportation.
Though it might be challenging to drive on the opposite side of the road and car. Jason needed a learning curve to drive along those very narrow English roads.
Canterbury is merely a 2 hour drive out of London, making it ideal for a day trip out of the city. We rented a cute little home for a few nights right in the heart of Canterbury, and could go walking everywhere.
It’s a small little charming town, famous for its Cathedral, old city wall, and historical buildings like Westgate, its gardens, and pedestrian streets lined with restaurants and shopping.
The White Cliffs of Dover is the region of English coastline facing the Straits of Dover and France. In fact, they say you can see all the way to France on a clear day. No such luck for us.
We did the White Cliffs of Dover on our way to Brighton, and caught our first rainy day in England.
We highly recommend carrying an umbrella or some kind of rain gear all the time during your visit in the country. It often has its rainy spells, but they are mostly pretty light.
Dover is pretty spectacular, with plenty of opportunities to view these chalk cliffs from different vantage points.
Brighton was not only a stopping point on the way to go west, but we chose that particularly for Stonehenge and its proximity to this world famous relic.
Brighton itself turned out to be a pretty awesome southern coastal town that kept us busy for a couple of days.
Our Airbnb home was right at the Brighton Pier, allowing us to go walking on the promenade, and Noah could enjoy his rides at the amusement park on the pier.
The upside down house was fun too.
It’s one of the pebbliest beaches I have ever seen in my life, though its very popular in summer time with Brits.
Royal Pavillion shouldn’t be missed if you head to Brighton. It’s a very remarkable building, built as a summer palace of King George IV. It is known for its Indo-Asian style of architecture and interiors.
Go walking through The Lanes for restaurant and bar hopping, and have an instagram worthy photo at the Hove Beach Huts, which are colorful huts lining the Brighton beach.
Stonehenge is perhaps the world’s most famous prehistoric monument. This unique stone circle is a world heritage site dating back about 5000 years. We recommend spending a few hours there.
Carry a picnic, or buy food from its café. They allow you to picnic anywhere outside of the roped perimeter of the main monument. Just relax, take it easy, and enjoy this world famous monument.
6. Jurassic Coast
The Jurassic Coast is a World Heritage Site on the English Channel, on the coast of southern England. We did this with our base as Weymouth, another charming southern coastal town.
It’s a rugged coast lined with beautiful stone formations and cliffs, and beautiful panoramic views.
Durdle Door, Man O’War Beach and Lulworth Cove are three great stops which are pretty close to each other. You can hike and see these beautiful vistas.
Lulworth cove has a neat town with restaurants and cafes, where you can break for a lunch in between all the walking.
One castle worth visiting on the Jurassic Coast is Corfe Castle, along with its neighboring village. It has magnificent ruins and views.
The town itself is very charming, and a great place to go for a stroll.
Cornwall… beautiful Cornwall. Though we live on the water in Florida, I always get attracted to coastal communities all over the world, and was really looking forward to these world famous English coastal towns.
Though there are bigger and more famous towns like St. Ives and Penzance, we chose Sennen Cove, a small coastal village. It is famous for Lands End, the western most point in England.
It’s a beautiful town on a small harbor, with Cornish cottages scattered all over the hills around, with beautiful water views.
The area is one of the premiere surfing meccas in England, with October through April having the best waves.
We broke our constant moving with a nice 5 night stay at a beautiful Airbnb cottage, with spectacular views of the harbor.
Most of the days were easy, checking the nearby Cornwall towns like St. Ives, Penzance and Mousehole. St. Ives can get crowded, but others are great small fishing villages, dotted with fishing boats, old world charm, cobbled streets and beautiful buildings.
Time to go to a different country within the UK… Wales!! It was our favorite spot of the tour.
The home we chose, named Capel Fachwen, in small little Welsh village called Fachwen, was one of a kind. We had easy 5 nights to relax here with spectacular views of Mount Snowdon and a nearby lake.
It had the biggest kitchen, which inspired us to cook Toad in the Hole for GypsyPlate. Check it out, it taste awesome despite its weird name.
Wales comes very highly recommended if you are visiting the Queen’s land. We chose Snowdonia National Park for this portion of the trip as our base.
Home to Snowdon, the highest mountain in Wales and England at 3,560ft, Snowdonia National Park is a hiker’s dream come true. Full of spectacular walks and hikes around the mountains and passes, you can spend days exploring the nature.
There is a famous train ride that goes up to the summit of Snowdon that’s easy on kids and elderly.
Wales, like rest of England, is famous for hundreds of castles and forts, and we have visited quite a few in our trip.
Walk through historic Welsh castle towns, like Caernarfon and Conwy, with their beautiful castles, surrounded by towns with the same names.
With all that walking in and around the castles, it’s always nice to break in for some cool ice cream and some free entertainment by our son.
Wales is all about scenic, green rolling country side with mountain vistas, thick foliages and sheep farms all over. And they have small pretty villages dotted here and there.
Explore villages like Beddgelert and Betws-y-Coed, with old stone cottages and cobbles stone paths.
Break for local fish and chips, with curry thrown in the mix, with a pint of beer or two. At the Ugly House in Betws-y-Coed, the irregularly structured stone house above, we had our first taste of proper English High Tea.
All in all, Wales is one of the most beautiful places we have visited.
Liverpool might not come on many people’s England itinerary, but our visit was incomplete without a stopover at Beatle Land. Noah has been the biggest Beatles fan ever since he was two, when he started humming all their songs.
Liverpool is all he hoped for. From rocking at the Cavern Club and getting a few applauses for being the youngest singer there, to going on the Magical Mystery Tour Bus and going through the Liverpool legend’s neighborhoods, to the interactive Beatles Story to learn everything about them. He had one big giant smile on his face.
Besides the Beatles, Liverpool really made a great impressions on us for its beautifully revived downtown on the River Mersey.
It has a great harbor catered to visitors, with lots of activities and restaurants and pubs, as well as an excellent shopping scene. We surely will keep on going back to Liverpool again and again.
10. Lake District
Our last big halt was another 5 nighter in the scenic Lake District up north. The Lake District is a region and national park in Cumbria, in northwest England.
A popular vacation destination, it’s known for its glacial lakes, rugged fell mountains and pretty towns dotting the lakes. Popular towns such as Kendal, Windermere and Ambleside are very scenic and picturesque.
Our home was on a hillock near Ambleside, overlooking Windermere Lake.
Explore the lake cruise that runs on the biggest lake, Windermere stopping at several points in different towns. A day pass is for 24 hours, and you can hop on and hop off throughout the day.
We checked neighboring towns like Windermere and strolled around town. Bowness has The World of Beatrix Potter Attraction, where Noah ended up with his favorite rabbit, Peter.
On the way back to London, we stopped for a couple of days in the Cotswold region, in the town of Tetbury.
The Cotswolds are designated an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), and Tetbury is a perfect example of those quaint little towns, with famous Cotswold cottages all over.
Outside London, we used Airbnb extensively and highly recommend it, as it gives you chance to pretend your living in a different country.
You can grocery shop locally, cook your own food, and in our case, even work some on our website, with beautiful homes at your disposal.
In Tetbury, our Elephant Cottage was a typical example of Cotswald architecture, but with a modern kitchen and cozy interiors.
We had our pizza party, as by then we were craving for some nice crusty pizza. It’s great when you involve your child in cooking too. He did great arranging those figs, burrata, prosciutto and arugula on our flatbread pizza.
When we got home, we made the same flatbread for GypsyPlate. Check out the recipe!
So after almost 5 weeks, going all over England, we finally made our way back to London for a few more days before boarding the flight back home.
These were the days we saved for going back again on a culinary feast of cuisines from all over the world, and enjoyed a few more curries before boarding that flight out of Gatwick.
We hope this post inspires you to visit England and Wales in the future, and that it gives you some ideas beyond London. Places like Cornwall, Wales and the Lake District were highlights of this trip for us, and we will certainly visit them again.
Until next time… Thank you England for being so very inviting and charming to us.
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