write meg! returns to the UK

Big news! Big, big news. Two years after I last made a journey across the pond, I’m returning to the UK!

With a tour group in April, I’ll be visiting Stratford-upon-Avon, York, Bath, Leeds, Stonehenge and London, my favorite city in the world, as well as a host of other cities in Ireland, Scotland and Wales: Glasgow; Edinburgh; Belfast; Dublin; Kilkenny; Waterford; and Cardiff.

It’s going to be action-packed, crazy and exhausting. I’m going to fill up a hundred memory cards and come home with more photos than I can possibly edit or post. I’ll be making memories left and right as I travel through several countries with my family, and I’ll miss Spencer the whole time I’m gone.

But it will be incredible.

The last time I visited Europe with my family, I had just graduated from college and was just getting ready to start my first full-time job — the one I have now. This spring, I’ll be gone from work for almost two weeks — the most consecutive time I’ve had off in four years. By far. Because of a long weekend and holiday when I visited my friend Stacy in London last time, I only missed two days of work!

So . . . you know. It might get a little chaotic around here. But whatever I have to do in anticipation of leaving, I’m going to do it. I want my head clear when I get on that plane, and I will enjoy the heck out of my scheduled, orchestrated and very stringent time off.

Some people cringe when I mention we’re going to travel around Great Britain and Ireland with a tour company, but honestly? For us, it’s the way to go. You don’t have to worry about transportation or most meals; the highlights you’d want to experience in each city are planned. Because we’re with a group, we don’t wait for most attractions. We show up with our one (overflowing) suitcase, sit back and prepare to have fun.

And that’s just what I’ll be doing.

The downside? Well, it’s the same as the upside: everything is planned for you. With few exceptions, your days are packed — and there isn’t much room for a detour. That being said, if I have to go AWOL from the group to make sure I get to see the Jane Austen Centre in Bath, that’s what I’ll do. Ain’t no way I’m missing that; I’ll hitchhike back to London if I have to. I can’t be in Bath — so, so close to the Austen exhibit — and miss it.

I’ll cry.

Ever been to Ireland, Scotland, Wales, England? What did you see — and what did you do? If I rebel against the Powers That Be and visit something else en route, what shouldn’t I miss? And should I try to clear some room for you in my suitcase? (Spencer might fight you for the spot.)


50 thoughts on “write meg! returns to the UK

  1. I’ve lived in the place (England) for years and years and in York, for 6. It’s a beautiful town with a great Minster (cathedral). Walk along the lanes near the cathedral for the best part of town. If you get a chance, have tea in Betty’s, the famous tearoom.

    But I bet you’ll be whisked away very soon by your lovely tour guide, because, my, my, what a lot of things to see in 1.5 weeks.

    Have a great time!

    • Tea at Betty’s sounds amazing, Judith — I’m going to start writing down all these suggestions! Can’t wait to see it all live and in person.

  2. Sounds like an amazing trip! I’ve never been to the UK but have wanted to ever since my sister went there for school a couple years ago and fell in love with it. The pictures she posted and stories she told made me want to hop on a plan and get over there asap.

    • Looking at travel photos is the fastest way to get the travel bug, that’s for sure! I’ve been whetting my appetite by checking out others’ Irish photos, etc., on Flickr — and whew! Such gorgeous stuff!

  3. Ohh! I am so jealous. I went to Ireland last March and completely fell in love with it. I spent a week traveling around with friends. My favorite city was Killarney. I’d go back there in a second. While in Dublin, I recommend Trinity College – check out the amazing Long Room, which is the most awesome library I’ve ever seen! It’s absolutely beautiful; I know you’ll love it. It houses the Book of Kells and other ancient manuscripts. I also had fun at the Guinness factory and the Gravity Bar, which has the most incredible views of Dublin. The Temple Bar part of Dublin is a lot of fun, especially if you are out and about for good food and drinks; plus, the traditional music is awesome. I also loved checking out all the castles in Ireland. The Rock of Cashel was my favorite. Also, we rode around the Dingle Penisula and the Ring of Kerry —soo very breathtaking. I can’t wait to see all your photos!

    • Oooh, I’m all over libraries, Christina! I’m so excited to see Dublin — I don’t even know what to expect. Thanks for all the awesome recommendations — you’ve made me even more excited, if possible! πŸ™‚

  4. Awesome!! I was going to ask how it was going with a tour group. I typically hate being on someone else’s schedule like that and like to be more independent, but if I ever were to go over there I highly doubt I’d get the most out of it if I were left on my own. I had a friend who saw Italy and Greece that way and loved it!

    • I’m with you, Jenny — at times, it’s tough being on a tour group because you just want to break free and do what you want to do. But I think the benefits outweigh the cons, which is that you get to see a ton of stuff in a short period of time. There’s no way I could cram so much into one trip on my own! Italy by tour group was awesome, too.

  5. yay! you’ll have soo much fun! i’ve been to all 4 countries and most of the places you’re headed to! i love, love, love edinburgh & belfast (and london too)!
    i don’t know what you’re doing but in belfast i recommend the crown bar, it is absolutely gorgeous! if you have some free time let me know and i can give you some recs, but i bet a lot of the things you’ll be doing are some of my favs!

    • I just might take you up on it, Erin, and I appreciate it! You’ll be my go-to resource for all things Ireland. So stoked! And will keep an eye out for the Crown Bar!

  6. I’m so jealous! I hope you have an incredible time. I used to live in London– it is a terrific city. If you enjoy going to the theater, I recommend the National Theatre. They always had such wonderful performances at a great price. But I hope you just have fun wandering around. I can’t wait to hear all about your trip πŸ™‚

    • Thanks so much! I would die to see a play in London, Melissa — at this point, I think I need a month in the city (or more!) to see everything I’d love to see. I guess that’s just an excuse to go back again in a few years, eh?

  7. What a great trip! I’ve done with tour thing in Ireland with my mom (a different company, though) and I loved it. Yes, it’s scheduled, but you don’t have to worry about transportation at all. And a good tour guide will be filled with all sorts of historical trivia about the places you’re visiting – I loved that because I’m a big trivia buff and it was amazing to see the places I had always read about.

    I don’t know where your trip is taking you in Ireland, but I loved Blarney Castle (it’s a once-in-a-lifetime kind of experience to kiss the Blarney Stone) and I think you should visit the National Library in Dublin. It has a gorgeous reading room.

    • So true, Meredith — a good tour guide makes all the difference. And not worrying about transportation is, for me, the best part! I hate having to worry about the logistics of everything. You know, I just want to go and party. πŸ™‚

      Oh, really hope we get to see Blarney Castle — that would be amazing! And a reading room? I’d be all over that, too.

  8. Looks like a fantastic trip! I am an American transplant in England and by far my favorite city is York. I bet you’ll already be seeing York Minster, but if you can escape for a few minutes you can pop through the park to see York Minster Library, which has lots and lots of medieval books and is in a lovely building – they’re all in the Old Library. My favorite of the museums is the York Castle Museum, which has all sorts of quirky British things from the 19th and 20th centuries.

    I’ve not been to the cities in Ireland, Wales, or Scotland (someday!) but Stonehenge is truly awe-inspiring, Bath is gorgeous, and even Stratford is pretty good – Shakespeare’s house and grave are the best bits. You’ll have a fantastic time. πŸ™‚

    • I’m so excited, Meghan! Thanks for the great recommendations. I don’t know much about York but will reading up on it big time before we go! And I’m all over quirky British things . . . in fact, those are my favorite kind!

    • Any and all rain dances would be greatly appreciated, Vivienne — I just bought a new rain jacket in anticipation of the April showers! The last time we went to Europe, I spent the entire time with wet feet and pants and cold arms. No umbrella in the world could save me. This time? Packing all jeans, sneakers and thick sweaters!

      Is April generally a cool and rainy month? I’ve been too scared to really Google around for answers.

  9. How awesome! In a previous life, I spent six weeks in the UK for work purposes, but boy did we play on our downtime. Too much to tell you in a comment, but I loved the southern coast (did alot of hiking) and we also biked through the Cotswold’s, which is something I will never forget for the rest of my life.

    • I’m absolutely fascinated by the Cotswolds, Sandy — they look . . . breathtaking. And how fabulous that you were able to go to the UK for work! My friends go on business trips to places like California and New Orleans and color me jealous. I’m sure you had an amazing time.

    • On a message board at work, I wrote down a quote from Tennessee Williams: “Make voyages! Attempt them! There’s nothing else . . .” Whenever I’m afraid about taking a chance or a leap or embarking on an adventure, I look at it and try to go for it. Adventures still scare me in many ways, honestly, but I think they’re crucial to life. In fact, like Mr. Williams, I think they’re everything.

  10. This sounds like a fabulous trip! I don’t know if anyone else has mentioned it but you can see Shakespeare’s home in Stratford Upon Avon so I recommend that for the literary lover too πŸ™‚ I’m excited to see what you think of this tour.

  11. Meg,
    How wonderful to take this trip. Having lived in England for the eight months (gosh, has it been that long), taking a Tour is probably the best way to go, as you won’t have to navigate the roads around here.
    London, make sure to get to Trafalgar Square (this is MY London spot!), right in front of the National Gallery, and hopefully you will get a chance to do the British Museum.
    My personal favorite city is Cambridge, but doesn’t sound like it’s on your tour? And I will get BACK to Bath.. can you believe that I went to Bath, but the JA Center was closed and we had to leave before it opened?!
    Stonehenge is incredible, and hopefully your tour will get you in the center! So many things to see and do.
    One of the many things I love about England is that you get to TOUCH (most of) the ruins, like walking inside castle walls! Have a blast and SOAK it in! (and hopefully not just rain – hee hee!)

  12. How fantastic! I love, love, love the UK. Edinburgh is probably one of my favorite cities. If you have a chance to sneak away from the tour, check out the Scottish Poetry Library (http://www.spl.org.uk/). And of course, you have to have coffee at The Elephant House and a pint at either Greyfriar’s Bobby or the Jekkyl and Hyde.

  13. A friend and I randomly chose to drive Aberystwyth in Wales when studying a map and we absolutely loved it. It’s a quiet and beautiful seaside town with a beach and a ruined castle.

  14. Oh I’m so lucky Meg! Knowing how much of an Anglophile you are, I can only imagine how happy you must be.
    I think group tours can be fantastic occasions! I never went on one personally, but I know some friends who did and they loved it; they got to see more than they could have hoped for and met fantastic people from around the world, with whom they’re still friends today. And you can always do another trip later, with a schedule allowing more free-time.
    I can’t wait for you to come back and see your pictures πŸ˜€

  15. Climb up Arthur’s Seat in Edinburgh! It gives an AWESOME view of the whole city and out to the water. I know your camera will love it.

    I don’t know what’s on your England list, but Cornwall is BEAUTIFUL. Brighton is also a cool picturesque beach town with lots of shopping and interesting buildings (esp the Royal Pavilionβ€”super weird).

    I am jealous!

  16. Oh my goodness, I’m so happy for you and only a little jealous. My daughter is going to go on a European tour this spring with a college group. She’ll be going to London, Paris, Rome. One of her London side trips is to Bath and I must tell her about the Jane Austen Center. This semester she’s been taking a Jane Austen Book to Film class and this would just be icing on the cake.

    It’s been almost two decades (sigh) since I’ve been to Europe but I still remember that Caernarfon Castle in Wales was just lovely. I know tour groups bad rap but for “most bang for your buck” they’re a great way to go. What a wonderful way to start spring. I hope we see lots of pictures.

  17. Ummmm…don’t look in your suitcase cause I’m totally in there already. SURPRISE!!!!

    Seriously, have a blast and I am completely green with envy over here!!!

  18. I am so so so so so excited for you! Sorry if my eyes are glazed over and I missed this, but are you traveling with anyone else, or just heading with the tour group yourself?

    Good for you for taking some deserved time off work to enjoy yourself. I can’t wait to see all of the pictures!

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