Planning a vacation to England Ireland Scotland? you can’t go wrong with this epic itinerary that includes some of the most popular sites in each of these these three fabulous European countries!
The original plan: visit the Republic of Ireland. As I puzzled over maps I noted that at their nearest points Scotland and Ireland are a mere 12 miles apart! Only a thin strip of the Irish sea separates them, a short Ferry ride will take you from Scotland to Northern Ireland. So Scotland was added!
While filling out the Ireland and Scotland vacation itinerary I realized that York was an easy day trip from Edinburgh. That is how a two week trip to Ireland morphed into an England Scotland Ireland trip!
Two Week trip to Ireland and Scotland itinerary, plus 1 day in England!
We fit a lot into just two full weeks (14 full days! Plus 2 travel days) ! This is a fast paced trip but if you’re determined you’ll have enough time to fit it all in! Pace too fast? No problem, just pick and choose your favorites.
Travel style for this trip
This itinerary includes some of the most popular destinations in each country. We will be skipping major cities in favor of smaller towns like Edinburgh (our largest city, population 550,000), York, Stirling and Kilkenny. Add the lovely countryside of the Scottish highlands and Ireland! It makes a great “ first trip ” itinerary to Ireland, Scotland and England!
Here’s what you can look forward to in this itinerary
- 4 days in Great Britain ( Scotland and England) historic cities, stunning scenery, lovely lochs, And much more!
- 10 days in Ireland! Historic pubs with traditional Irish music and dance, ancient castles, ancient sites, more stunning scenery! And much more!
Trip to Ireland and Scotland route
This route was planned to be as efficient as possible, cutting down on travel times, while adding as many highlights as possible via plane, train and automobile rental.
We’ll forgo a car while in Scotland and England, saving money on a rental. Additionally, this was our first time in the United Kingdom / Ireland. We had 4 full days to become accustomed to the new concept of cars driving on the left hand side before getting behind the wheel.
We’ll rent a car in Ireland to allow us to go at our own pace.
My husband easily adapted to driving on the left hand side of the road. Have reservations about driving on the opposite side of the road? It may help to:
- rent an automatic.
- remember, the driver is always in the center of the road, right next to the center line
The Best places to search for the best rates are places like Booking.com. Then book with the rental car company directly.
Do yourself a big favor and add the GPS onto your car rental.
Important: Many credit card companies don’t cover rentals in the UK and Ireland. Check with your card issuer and ask for a letter confirming coverage. If they don’t cover you, you will need to pay the additional cost to purchase coverage through the rental car company.
where to stay
I’ve added some recommendations, want more? search for hotels and other accommodations at Booking.com.
where to eat
Find the best options for places to eat on Trip Advisor. Google best places to eat in “blank” and then navigate to the Trip Advisor results. A Good reason to use Trip Advisor: you’ll find listings of the best places to eat with photos and customer reviews!
First up: England and Scotland Itinerary
*** Day 1 ***
The historic city of Edinburgh
night 1: Edinburgh
travel time: just your flight in
Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links at no additional cost to you, I may earn a small commission. I only recommend products I would use myself and all opinions expressed here are my own.
Our adventure starts at Edinburgh Airport (EDI) airport. Try to arrive early in the morning, so you have a full day to spend in Edinburgh.
We like to hit the ATM before we leave the airport. It’s easy and you’ll get the best rates. Be sure to refuse the dynamic currency conversion. (convert to your home currency no: you want LOCAL currency rates!) In Scotland and England you’ll be using the British pound (GBP)
airport to (Old town Edinburgh)
On the first day we explore Edinburgh, a town oozing with Scottish history. The historic buildings in the old town are dark, Gothic and magnificent! Edinburgh is a medieval dream, You’ll feel as if you’ve been dropped down in the middle of one of the Harry Potter Films!
Know before you go: the tourist areas of Edinburgh are horribly crowded, unfortunate because it does detract from the splendor. The best time to explore is either early morning late evening when the day crowds have dissipated. Avoiding crowds can be as simple as getting out of the heavily touristed old town during midday into the lesser crowded areas of Edinburgh, even just a street or two off of the Royal mile! or take a daytrip.
where to stay in Medieval Edinburgh
Johnston Terrace is located right on the steps of the castle! This comfortable 2 bedroom 1 bathroom apartment has an emergency after hours contact.
Arriving before check in? Ask about luggage storage (quite common in Europe.)
Old Town Edinburgh
Our itinerary focuses on the old town, which contains some of the principal sights of central Edinburgh. Many of the popular sites are part of the Royal Mile, a street that runs between Edinburgh Castle on the hill and Holyrood Palace. (Many buildings along the Mile were added during Victorian times.)
sites along the Royal Mile:
- Greyfriars Kirkyard (graveyard) contains a series of beautifully ornate mausoleums, darkened with age. You’ll find names like McGonagall, Moodie, and Riddle. (Closed on Sunday) Just outside the kirkyard is the Greyfriars Bobby statue, Edinburgh’s beloved mascot.
- St. Giles Cathedral (Gothic 15th-19th century)
- 1688 Canongate Church– The Royal family worship here so don’t sit in the front pew, marked with the crown. If the doors are open, go on in! Sunday, late afternoon, is a good time to try and don’t don’t miss the beautiful kirkyard!
- The Palace of Holyroodhouse is the official Scottish residence of King Charles III. Closed Tuesday, Wednesday, and when the King is in town. Check before you go. Also here: Holyrood Abbey, and the Scottish Parliament building where the Houses of parliament meet. Get tickets here.
more old town options:
- Harry Potter guided walking tour: daily 2 p.m. 2 hours, free! meet 154 High Street on the Royal Mile. Look for tour guides with YELLOW umbrellas!
- National Museum: this natural history museum has Roman, Viking, witch-burning etc. free!
- How about whisky tasting at the Scotch Whisky Experience?
- Arthur’s Seat, climb this hill in Holyrood Park for outstanding views of Edinburgh.
- National Portrait Gallery (National Gallery)
This 5 star dining splurge isn’t optional! The Witchery By the Castle. Dark candle lit baroque decor, amazing atmosphere, amazing food. Make a reservation (well) in advance.
Scottish evening entertainment
Frankenstein’s fun gothic venue, eclectic menu and a monster show!
*** Day 2 ***
Loch Ness / Scottish Highlands tour
night 2: Edinburgh
travel time: 8 hours (total tour time, 12 hours)
Scottish Highlands and Loch Ness
We didn’t have a car but weren’t going to let that stop us from seeing the Scottish Highlands and hunting for the Loch ness monster! So we opted to take the 12 hour day trip with Rabbies.
You can’t go wrong with a Rabbies Highlands/ Loch Ness tour, book it now on Get Your Guide! A local guide takes small groups on day tours from Edinburgh. Tours are by van (16 seat coach) for a more personalized experience. Rabbie’s tours are highly recommended, a good time was had by all. Bonus: our Tour guide was great! funny guy!
Highlights of Rabbies Guided tour:
Loch Lomond, Cairngorms National Park, Loch Ness, Ben Nevis (the highest mountain in Scotland) plus more!
Price: starting at just £56.00 Per person for first class service!
Read more about the Loch Ness boat excursion here.
*** Day 3 ***
Medieval York England
night 3: Edinburgh
travel time: 5 hours
York England itinerary
Edinburgh to York, England day trip! York is a short 2.5 hour DIRECT train ride from Edinburgh. Take an early train from Waverley Station and spend the balance of the day in York! WE purchased advance LNER tickets, or purchase at the train station.
Get ready for a packed itinerary that equals a wonderful time! Can’t fit it all in? just pick your favorites!
- First stop, Betty’s Tea room for breakfast! They serve a delightful traditional English tea service….scones, deliciously delicate sandwiches, and delectable pastries!
- St. Mary’s Abbey Benedictine Ruins (11th century Gothic)
- The Yorkshire Museum: Roman, medieval, and natural history. (Due to time constraints you may need to choose between this and the Jorvik Experience)
- Walk the City walls: start at Bootham Bar, then descend the wall at Monk Bar (gatehouse.)
- The York Minster (the largest Gothic church north of the Alps! 1220 AD! This massive church holds 2,000 people (4,000 on holidays!)
- Holy Trinity Church, this 12th-14th century Gothic gem looks exactly that old! free entry
- The Shambles is a crooked little street in York, said to be the inspiration for Diagon Alley, of the Harry Potter series. Today, it’s lined with Harry Potter themed shops.
- Jorvik Viking Center: 40,000 real viking artifacts that were dug out of peat bogs here.
- The Ouse River runs right through the center of York.
- The Ouse river Walk is a 1 mile walk along the riverbanks of York and into the countryside.
- Boat Cruises: City Cruise York offers a short cruise on the River Ouse. Cruises leave from two points: Lendal Bridge or Kings Staith Landing. Every 30-45 minutes. Book here!
where to eat:
York Roast Company is a local restaurant that sells roast meat and toppings wrapped in Yorkshire pudding.
Take a late train back to Edinburgh
for more detailed information on York see my “22 Things to do in York” article! (including Roman baths!)
*** Day 4 ***
Edinburgh Castle, Underground Edinburgh, and Stirling Castle
night 4: Edinburgh
travel time: 2 hours
Stirling Scotland and more Edinburgh
This is a lot to fit in a day. If you have to choose I would recommend the two castles.
Visit Edinburgh Castle
The castle on the hill was the birthplace of this bustling city 1,300 years ago. The Scottish Crown jewels are kept here. St. Margaret’s Chapel, found inside the castle complex, is Edinburgh’s oldest building (1130). Book a 1.5 hour guided tour with skip the line privileges here on Get Your Guide!
Edinburgh gets even more crowded in the month of August when the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo takes place at the castle. (performances by members of the British armed forces including drills, marching, bagpipes and more)
The Real Mary King’s Close
Tour an underground labyrinth where Edinburgh’s poor lived until the 19th century. Advance tickets recommended, book here!
Half day trip from Edinburgh Stirling
After touring the Close we spent the rest of the day in historic Stirling, mini Edinburgh, less crowds (nice!)
Take the train from Waverly Station to Stirling, an easy 1 hour direct train. Purchase return tickets at the train station in Edinburgh.
To fit it all in: upon arrival grab a taxi to the Wallace Monument
- The William Wallace Monument is a very famous landmark in Scotland. The best way to get to the monument is to take the shuttle bus up the hill. You can walk but it’s a haul! Plus, once you get to the monument it is 246 stairs to the top of the tower (panoramic views of the surrounding countryside!)
You may need to grab another taxi to make the last castle tour. Ask at the ticket counter to have a taxi pick you up and take you to the castle.
- Stirling Castle is a stately 1,000 year old castle perched upon a volcanic crag. Mary Queen of Scots was crowned here in 1543. We arrived late in the day and joined a small group for the last tours of the day. After the Tour director finished the tour we were allowed to wander the castle unsupervised. We practically had the place to ourselves! a REALLY nice break from the crowds in Edinburgh.
Dinner: The Portcullis, built in 1787, at the base of the castle. Delicious steak and fries!
Get more details in my Stirling Castle article.
*** Day 5 ***
Travel day Scotland to Ireland, Kilkenny Ireland
night 5: Kilkenny
travel time: 1 hour non stop flight EDI to DUB, PLUS 1.5 hour direct train Dublin to Kilkenny
arrival in Ireland
with its Rich history, spectacular scenery and Beautiful places galore!
fly from Edinburgh Airport (EDI) to Dublin airport (DUB)
Check the best ticket prices at Google Flights
Hit the ATM before you leave Dublin Airport. You’ll need Euros this time.
getting from DUB to the train station
You can take a taxi to Dublin Heuston Station or for a cheaper option you can take the Airlink bus 747. It will take about an hour. Cost: around 6 euros.
Train from Dublin Heuston Station to Kilkenny
1.5 hour direct train (we purchased advance flex tickets: ride any train on that day) from Irish Rail.
Our Ireland itinerary starts in the great little town of Kilkenny, so full of Irish history, where we’ll spend the next couple of days. You’ll likely arrive sometime mid day.
Here’ what you can do with the remainder of the day:
- Canal Walk-there’s a lovely walking trail along the River Nore. You can access it from just behind Kilkenny Castle.
- Talbot’s Tower, 755 year-old tower, remnants of the town wall.
- Historic Taverns, don’t miss them!
- Kyteler’s Inn Est. in 1324 by the first convicted witch in Ireland.
- Tynan’s Bridge House Bar, established 1703.
- The Hole in the Wall Tavern Est 1592
- live music? Experience traditional Irish music, song, and dance! What a treat!
- Kilkenny Train Tours: leave from Kilkenny Castle throughout the day. I found it difficult to see anything but it was nice to sit back and relax.
is a cute little Boutique hotel across from the Hibernian House is just around the corner from the castle. (currently not booking but the Hibernian Hotel is just next door.
*** Day 6 ***
night 6: Kilkenny
travel time: none…enjoy it!
Day 2 in Kilkenny!
- First thing we took a guided walk from Amanda Pitcairn: Guided tours are a Great way to get to know a new town. On the 1.5 hour city tour: witchcraft, history, 3 historic churches/ cathedrals, and Kilkenny’s fun nooks and crannies!
- After the tour backtrack and visit these:
- St. Canice’s Cathedral, Gothic 13th century cathedral (my favorite of the three, just wow!!!) Don’t miss the 1,500 year old ordination chair!
- Black Abbey is another 13th century Gothic. (be respectful of parishners at worship)
- Kilkenny Castle This castle originated as a wooden fort built by Strongbow in 1172. If you happen to be here on a Thursday don’t miss the market in front of the castle.
- Tea at Langton’s: More tea service? My vote goes to the English on this one but it wasn’t bad!
- Early evening and into the night are a good time for a stroll in Kilkenny. Many of the sites are warmly and romantically lit.
- More lively music in the pubs!
*** Day 7 ***
Rock of Cashel and Cahir Castles
night 7: near Cork or Cobh (Ballintotis Castle?)
travel time: approximately 2 hours drive time
Castles of Ireland
It’s time to pick up the rental car, because this trip is now officially a road trip! We rented through Enterprise and arranged for them to pick us up at the hotel (yay! thank you Enterprise!)
Drive to the Rock of Cashel
The Rock of Cashel
was the seat of the ancient Kings of Munster from 300-1100 A.D. Ireland’s famed High King, Brian Boru, who is often credited with banishing viking invaders from Ireland for the last time, once ruled here. Today the hill is topped with a 12th-century Romanesque chapel and a 13th-century Gothic cathedral. Don’t miss the Hore Abbey medieval monastery ruins just down the hill.
one of Ireland’s largest and best preserved castles. It has a great feel and was a favorite of our group.
Drive to your accommodations for the night
Need laundry service? Now’s your chance! Once we got into Midleton we dropped off our laundry, pick up your clean laundry tomorrow! Awesome!
Where to stay? Ballintotis Castle is a super rustic castle that you can rent and have the entire castle to yourself CHEAP (at last check they were not renting the castle to overnight guests. I’ll keep you updated here.)
*** Day 8 ***
Relax in your own castle OR spend the day in Cobh
night 8: near Cork or Cobh (Ballintotis Castle?)
travel time: minimal drive time
I took a break from my tour manager duties and spent a glorious day playing Queen of this castle. I relaxed, read, caught up on my sleep, and took a bath. My idea of a great time!
My husband and his sister headed to Cobh (pronounced Cove) for some sight seeing and a round of golf. See the Ballintotis article for more things to do in the area.
The Hunted Hog in Castlemartyr (2.5 miles from the castle) traditional Irish Pub food in Castlemartyr.
Wait, what about blarney castle and the famous blarney stone? Was not in fact on my itinerary but you are close! It’s just north of Cork about 10 km. Consider hitting it your way from Cahir to Cobh, or from Cobh to Dingle.
*** Day 9 ***
night 9: Dingle
travel time: 2.5-3 hours drive time
Drive to Dingle. 2.5-3.5 hour drive
Dingle is a lively colorful harbor town. Local pubs come alive evenings with traditional Irish music (and step dancing.) Gaelic is still commonly spoken here.
Sea Fishing Excursions, we took a deep sea fishing tour on a shared boat from the harbor with Dingle Bay Charters. Then took our catch to John Moriarity’s Pub where they prepared for us.
If fishing isn’t your thing you can take in the beautiful scenery of Dingle Bay on a tour boat, then spend the rest of the day exploring.
where to stay
Dingle Harbour Lodge, it sits right on the harbor and is within walking distance of all of the fun stuff!
book it now on booking.com!
*** Day 10 ***
Dingle Peninsula Drive (Slea Head Drive) for stunning views
night 10: Killorglin
travel time: less than 2 hours
Dingle Peninsula drive/Slea head Drive
The Dingle Peninsula / Slea Head drive is a 30-mile loop with stunning scenery and ancient structures. We’ll drive it in the recommended CLOCKWISE DIRECTION:
- Celtic and Prehistoric Museum: ancient artifacts, bones and fossils, some of them millions of years old! You may need to make an appointment, contact information here.
- Dunbeg Fort from Ireland’s Iron Age (500 b.c.-500 a.d.)
- Irish Famine Cottages (hold a baby lamb at the Sheep farm!)
- Dun Chain Pier
- Gallarus Oratory, 11th or 12th century chapel and Kilmalkedar Church, 12th century chapel ruins.
Get all the details here! Slea Head Drive, Dingle Peninsula
drive to Killorglin
You can now either drive directly to Killorglin OR take the scenic drive / panoramic tour instead! Conor Pass is a scenic panoramic drive right here on the peninsula.
Tip: stop for picnic supplies for your Skellig Excursion tomorrow. There’s a Eurostar Grocery just a short walk from Kingston’s.
Home base for 4 nights:
We chose to base ourselves in Killorglin because it was central to our activities.
Kingston’s Bar and Townhouse, Killorglin. This beautiful spotless property is a great home base if you plan to see a lot of the sights in county Kerry. On site beautiful old world themed pub, sauna, and game room. book it here on Booking.com!
unique dining opportunity in Killorglin
10 Bridge street is located in a gorgeous old stone church. Open mid March, weekends only and 5 days per week from June – September. Location: Old Church of Ireland, Bridge St, Killorglin
*** Day 11 ***
Skellig Michael Landing Tour / Ring of Kerry
night 11: Killorglin
travel time: 2.5 hours drive time
Skellig Experience and the Ring of Kerry
Drive to Portmagee Marina: 1 hour drive from Killorglin.
is an island in the Atlantic Ocean off of the coast of Ireland. A monk colony lived here over 1,000 years ago. Book a landing tour for this Unesco World Heritage Site. Tours allow you 2.5 hours to explore the island. Climb to the 618 treacherous steps to the top for a 20-minute Guided walk among the “beehives.” Don’t miss the tiny puffins on the island!
IMPORTANT: book as soon as you have your travel dates. It is a ridiculously popular spot (thanks in part to it being a Star Wars filming location) The season is short and permits are limited, it books up fast.
This activity is weather dependent (the Wild Atlantic!) so I worked the next TWO days in as alternate Skellig Days.
Get full details (including which tour company we used) in my Skellig Michael article.
Ring of Kerry
Next stop the scenic Ring of Kerry drive located on the (Iveragh Peninsula in County Kerry.)
Leave Portmagee after Skellig and head north to Valentia Island.
Sights along the Ring of Kerry scenic drive:
- Tetrapod Trackway fossilized footprints of a prehistoric animal! (350 and 370 million years old!)
- The Kerry Cliffs. While not as impressive as the Cliffs of Moher you won’t want to miss the Kerry Cliffs. Simply mesmerizing! The intense blue water is indescribable!
- Coom Wedge Tomb-2300 BC?
- Ballinskellig Castle Ruins/Abbey (12th-15th century)
- the photogenic coastal stretch (between Waterville and Caherdaniel.)
- Eightercua Stone Row (1,600 BC)
- Loher Stone Fort (9th Century)
- Derrynane Beach– Caherdaniel Stone Fort (600 AD)
- Staigue Iron Age Ring Fort (400 and 300 AD)
drive back to Killorglin
The Oratory Pizza and Wine Bar, Cahersiveen. Why? it’s on your way back to Killorglin, located in an old stone church, and maye I was just hungry but I had some of the best pizza I’ve ever had!
Black Valley and a massage!
night 12: Killorglin
travel time: 2 hours 45 minutes drive time
Black Valley and Free time
(Alternate Skellig day #1)
The Black Valley is the perfect place to experience some of the most beautiful scenery in all of Ireland. Get details on how to see the Black Valley here.
After spending the day on one of the best local hikes get some relief from your sore tired muscles with a massage. I am a huge fan of Thai massage. Zen Healing is just around the corner from Kingston’s!
*** Day 13 ***
The Gap of Dunloe Ireland Tour
night 13: Killorglin
travel time: 1 hour drive time
(Alternate Skellig day #2)
Gap of Dunloe
The Gap of Dunloe is a scenic mountain pass through Killarney National Park. Take a horse drawn jaunting car ride through the Gap with Killarney Januntings Cars AND a boat ride across the lakes, round trip from Ross castle!
Spend the remainder of the day exploring the national park: 15th century Ross Island/Ross Castle, Innisfallen Island and 7th century monastery, waterfalls and more!
The Tomies Wood hike that includes the O’Sullivan’s Cascade waterfall, I hear it’s better than Torc Waterfall!
*** Day 14 ***
Travel Back to Dublin
night 14: Dublin
travel time: 1 hour drive time, PLUS 3 hour train ride, Killarney to Dublin
Sadly, all good things must come to an end. We chose not to spend any time in Dublin, Ireland’s capital city as well as its largest city, but if you choose to some popular options are:: Trinity college (with the Book of Kells) Dublin Castle, Phoenix Park,, St. Patrick’s cathedral.
Drop off the rental car
in Killarney and then make your way to the Killarney train station.
Note: Rental car companies often charge extra to drop off at a different location. IF prices are exorbitant you may have to drive the 3 hours back to Kilkenny to drop off the car there.
Train Kllarney to Dublin Heuston Station
3 hours. Consider semi-flex ticket (train before or after). Change trains in Mallow.
Dublin Heuston Station to The Castle Hotel
Red Line Bus OR take a taxi
Where to stay
Castle Hotel has a restaurant in a 19th century wine vault. Live music AND it’s on Airlink 747 route to airport. Book it now on Booking.com!
The pace of the trip was catching up with me so I spent the reminder of the day reading. There is also a massage place close. Nick Angie Guinness Storehouse tour.
at the Castle Hotel, neat looking dining room not far from your bed! Looking for something different?
when in Rome
Things to try “when in Scotland”
- Haggis, minced organ meat with herbs and spices. They served it with neeps and tatties (mashed turnips and potatoes.)
- Scotch Eggs, a boiled egg encased in sausage, breaded and deep fried, try them at The Ensign Ewart in Edinburgh (dates back to 1680.)
Things to try “when in Ireland”
- Irish Breakfast, similar to a full English breakfast but the black and white putting isn’t optional! try it!
Two weeks is how much time we had to dedicate to this Ireland and Scotland vacation, (14 days in Ireland and Scotland! plus a bonus day in England!) and that is the absolute minimum! Otherwise, you’ll have to skip some of this fun stuff!
trip cost and money saving tips
How much does a trip to Ireland and Scotland cost? This 2 week trip to Ireland and Scotland itinerary
” entire trip cost per person ” is based on double occupancy: (as of publication travel prices are quite high now. Let’s hope they go back down!)
|hotel||$1,100.00 (14 nights)|
|Tours and admission||$676|
|Train travel:||$145 (train travel in the UK can be EXPENSIVE. Approx. $78 of this is Edinburgh to York round trip)|
|estimated total||= $2,171 (plus the cost of food/drinks)|
Add your airfare (we fly free, learn here here!) one-way flight to Edinburgh, Edinburgh to Dublin (prices as low as $87, bag included) Dublin home. Sign up for “Going” (formerly Scott’s Cheap Flights) to get FREE flight deals sent to your inbox! see the world for less!
Protect yourself with trip insurance
Protect your investment with “cancel for any reason” trip insurance. Did you know that pandemics, as well as a LONG list of other situations aren’t covered by most trip insurance policies (including those airlines offer when purchasing tickets)? MOST of these scenarios are covered when you purchase a “cancel for any reason” policy! Shop for one at Travel Insurance.com! but don’t delay, most CFAR policies need to be purchased within 14-21 days of your initial trip payment, depending on the policy.
Check out my Travel Resources page to learn how to get the best deals on airfare, rental cars, accommodations, language learning resources and more!