7 One-Week Itineraries in the United Kingdom

7 One-Week Itineraries in the United Kingdom

If you only have a week in the UK, take your pick from these thoughtfully crafted itineraries covering England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland.

Four countries. Seven itineraries. One United Kingdom.

I spent a semester studying abroad in the UK when I was an undergraduate. As a student of English literature and history, I was so excited to finally see all the places I had read about in books. So of course, I did a lot of travelling around Britain and Ireland during my five-month stay. For travellers who might only have a week to spend in the UK—or who might have different travel interests—here are a few suggested itineraries to make the most out of your time in this historic, yet modern region.

1. UK City-Hopper

united kingdom itinerary

Tower Bridge

Day 1-2: London

Arrive at one of London’s international airports on the first day. With only two days to spend in the UK’s largest city, you will have to plan your visit wisely. Westminster Abbey and the Tower of London are my personal recommendations for travellers interested in English history, though a walk by Buckingham Palace might be a better place to spot one of the royals (or at least some handsome guards!). Art-lovers can spend hours inside the Tate Modern and the National Portrait Gallery, while theater-goers will want to buy tickets for Shakespeare’s Globe or the Sam Wanamaker Playhouse. Walking through one of London’s numerous parks is also an option, and so is admiring the architecture of Tower Bridge, the Gherkin, or St. Paul’s Cathedral. In the evenings, have some fish and chips in a pub or enjoy London’s multicultural dining options. You will stay in the city until the morning of Day 3.

Day 3: Cardiff

A vastly underappreciated city in the southwest of the UK, Cardiff is the capital city of Wales. Take an early morning train from London to Cardiff Central, where you will get your first introduction to the Welsh language (but don’t worry—everything is in English, too!). A day is the perfect amount of time to see the highlights: Cardiff Castle, the National Museum, and Cardiff Bay. Learn about Welsh history, culture, and language on a walking tour or by talking to locals. Spend the evening in Cardiff.

Day 4: Bristol

Early in the morning, take an intercity bus or a train to the English city of Bristol, just east of Cardiff. Much smaller than London, Bristol is located on the west coast of England and is not nearly as “touristy” as other UK cities. I lived in Bristol for several months, and I highly recommend the Clifton Suspension Bridge, the S.S. Great Britain, and Bristol Cathedral as the main attractions to visit. In the evening, take a cab to the Bristol Airport for your flight to Northern Ireland.

Day 5: Belfast

Belfast, the capital city of Northern Ireland, has had a tumultuous history with the rest of the UK and is not as popular of a destination as cities like London and Edinburgh. Yet an understanding of the UK would not be complete without a stop here! Belfast Castle and City Hall are excellent places to see, in addition to the numerous museums and cathedrals around the city. Travellers fascinated by the history of the Titanic—or movie buffs who love Leonardo DiCaprio—will want to see Titanic Belfast. Spend the night here before your early morning flight to Edinburgh.

Day 6-7: Edinburgh

Hop over into Edinburgh, Scotland for your final destination. Choose your accommodation along the “Royal Mile,” an area of Old Town which begins at Edinburgh Castle and ends at Holyrood Palace. Climb to the top of Arthur’s Seat, drink in one of the old pubs frequented by the Scottish literati, and tour some of the smaller museums and cathedrals in the city. At the end of Day 7, return to the airport for your flight home.

2. Day Trips from London

Day 1-2: London

Arrive in London on the first day and make yourself comfortable: this will be your central location for the duration of your trip. The first two days are yours to spend as you choose: sightseeing, theater-going, or people-watching in Hyde Park. You might also choose to visit some of the smaller palaces like Kensington or Kew Palace. You will return to London every evening of this trip, so be sure to explore as many options for dining and nightlife as you can.

Day 3: Oxford

Take a day trip to Oxford, home to one of the world’s most famous universities. Lord of the Rings fans can see where J.R.R. Tolkien studied, while Potterheads can see much of the inspiration for Hogwarts. Tour the college and the charming little town before returning to London for the night.

Hampton Court

Day 4: Hampton Court

One of the most famous palaces in England, Hampton Court is known for its lush gardens and unusual architecture (half-Tudor, half-Baroque). Get lost in the Hampton Court maze, see the largest grapevine in the world, and take a behind-the-scenes look at a palace kitchen that was once used to serve hundreds of guests. Historical reenactments take place during the day and are a delight for travellers interested in British royalty. Hampton Court is within walking distance of the nearby train station and the River Thames for easy access back to London.

Day 5: Cambridge

Home to another famous university, Cambridge is slightly north of London and situated on the River Cam. Take a student-led punting tour or a walking tour, learning about the past and present scholars as well as the history of the school. If time permits, you can also walk through the Cambridge Botanic Garden. Return to London at the end of the day.

Stonehenge

Day 6: Stonehenge / Salisbury

Add a prehistoric element to your trip by visiting Stonehenge, a site with burial mounds and a ring of bluestone and sandstone rocks believed to have been arranged by humans thousands of years ago. After admiring the monument, stop by nearby Salisbury for lunch and a visit to Salisbury Cathedral. Arrive in London at the end of the day.

Day 7: London

For your final day, pick up any last-minute souvenirs or visit any of the museums you might have missed during your first two days. Prepare for your flight home.

3. West of the UK

Day 1: London

Arrive in London on the first day and begin touring right away. Pick a few palaces, parks, or museums to explore, or just take a walking tour to get a sense of the highlights of the city. Overnight in London.

Bath

Day 2: Bath

Early on Day 2, take a bus or train to the southwest city of Bath. Named after the famous Roman baths that are still in the city today, Bath is the setting for many English novels. Visit the Roman Baths and Bath Abbey, or wander down the cobblestone streets and peek into the quaint little shops. If you fancy a spa day, Thermae Bath Spa is the UK’s only natural thermal spa. At the end of the day, take a bus or train to Cardiff.

Day 3: Cardiff

Take a detour to Wales by spending Day 3 in Cardiff. Visit Cardiff Castle, the National Museum, and Cardiff Bay. Spend the evening in Cardiff.

Day 4: Bristol

Back to England we go! Take a bus or a train to Bristol and visit the Clifton Suspension Bridge, the S.S. Great Britain, and Bristol Cathedral. You can also just walk around the city and discover treasures like old Anglo-Saxon churches, local shops, and houses by the harbour. Spend the night in Bristol.

Day 5: Salisbury / Stonehenge

Travel from Bristol to Salisbury, where you can visit the Cathedral and nearby ancient sites like Stonehenge and Old Sarum. Overnight in Salisbury.

Day 6: Windsor / London

Wending back toward London, spend Day 6 exploring Windsor Castle, the world’s largest and oldest occupied castle. When I visited Windsor Castle, I even saw the Queen! Spend the morning in Windsor and return to London in the afternoon—just in time for some more big-city sightseeing. Consider buying tickets for the London Eye so you can see a bird’s eye view of the city as the sun sets.

Day 7: London

Spend your last day in London and prepare for your international flight home.

4. Southeast of England

Day 1-2: London

Arrive in London on the first day and spend two full days in the capital city. Check out the Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace, take a ride on the London Eye, or visit some of the palaces, cathedrals, and museums scattered around the city. If you are lucky enough to have nice weather, consider a boat ride down the Thames. Spend the first and second nights in London.

Day 3: Winchester

Take a day trip to Winchester, where you can visit Winchester Cathedral (the site of Jane Austen’s grave) and Winchester Castle. You can also tour the City Mill or one of the numerous museums and science centres. Return to London for the night.

Royal Pavilion in Brighton

Day 4: Brighton

Most travellers don’t go to the UK for a beach vacation. But most travellers also don’t include Brighton in their itinerary! One of the southernmost cities in the UK, Brighton is a beach town with piers and arcades, perfect for a fun day. The Royal Pavilion, a palace designed to mimic the Taj Mahal, is heavily influenced by Asian art and culture and is definitely worth a visit. Return to London for the night.

White Cliffs of Dover

Day 5: Dover

For one of Britain’s most magnificent natural wonders, take a train to Dover to see the White Cliffs. Walk along the beach at St. Margaret’s Bay, stroll through the Kearsney Abbey Gardens, or explore Dover Castle. You can choose to spend the night in Dover or head back to London on the train.

Day 6: Canterbury

Your final day trip is to Canterbury, the setting for Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales and home to one of the most beautiful cathedrals in England. This charming English town features traditional Anglo-Saxon architecture, as well as modern museums and theatres. A walking tour of the city is the best way to experience the history and culture, from ancient times to today. Return to London at the end of the day.

Day 7: London

Final sightseeing in London. Prepare for your international flight home.

5. Scotland and Northern England

united kingdom itinerary

Image: Edinburgh Castle

Day 1-2: Edinburgh

Fly into Edinburgh, Scotland on the first day of your trip. Traverse the Royal Mile to see Edinburgh Castle, St. Giles Cathedral, Holyrood Palace, and Arthur’s Seat, in addition to the cosy pubs and cafes nestled in the narrow alleyways. On Day 2, venture outside of the capital to see some of Scotland’s other historic sites, such as Rosslyn Chapel (a fifteenth-century chapel that is also one of the settings in The Da Vinci Code). Overnight in Edinburgh.

Day 3-4: Glasgow

Travel west to Glasgow, Scotland’s largest city. Explore the art galleries, museums, and historic houses, or take a day trip to the nearby William Wallace Monument or Stirling Castle. Spend the third night in Glasgow and the fourth night in Edinburgh.

Day 4: Alnwick

Cross the border into England, where you will visit Alnwick Castle and its blossoming gardens. After a few hours at the castle, travel southward to the city of York. Overnight in York.

Clifford’s Tower, York

Day 5: York

Walking through York is like taking a time machine back to the medieval period. York Castle, the city walls, and York Minster are some of the most popular destinations that will transport you to the past. At the end of the day, take a train westward to Liverpool.

Day 6: Liverpool

Known for its football clubs and association with The Beatles, Liverpool is the perfect destination for travellers interested in English pop culture and sports. Visit the stadiums and racetracks, or go on a Beatles-themed tour of the city. Take a bus or train to Manchester at the end of the day.

Day 7: Manchester

Make the most of your last few hours in the UK by touring Manchester, the second-largest city in England. Considered the birthplace of the Industrial Revolution, Manchester is known for its Museum of Science & Industry. Manchester also has the John Rylands Library, churches, cathedrals, and museums dedicated to art, culture, and history. In the evening, prepare for your flight home from Manchester International Airport.

6. Scottish Highlands

Day 1: Edinburgh

Arrive in Edinburgh on the first day and explore all the city has to offer—palaces, castles, museums, and pubs. It’s all landscape and mountains after Day 1!

Loch Lomond

Day 2-4: The Western Highlands

It is easiest to explore the Scottish highlands with a tour group, which will provide transportation to the various mountains, lakes (or “lochs”), and towns in the northern part of the country. Over the next three days, pass by Argyll Forest Park, the bonny, bonny banks of Loch Lomond, the historic town of Inveraray, the port of Oban, and the soaring mountains of Glencoe. Watch out for the infamous monster as you visit Loch Ness!

Isle of Skye

Day 5: Isle of Skye

The easternmost point of your trip is the Isle of Skye, which is surrounded by the Cuillin mountain ranges and the sea.  The town of Portree hosts travellers every year, while the Armadale and Dunvegan Castles showcase some of the architecture of this region.

Day 6: Central Highlands

Returning to the mainland, stop by Cairngorm National Park and see the “hairy coos” – reddish-brown cows that are native to Scotland. Begin your journey south toward Edinburgh.

Day 7: Edinburgh

Before returning to Edinburgh for your flight home, stop by Stirling Castle and/or Rosslyn Chapel en route, grounding you back in reality after your trip to the heavens. Depart for your home country in the evening.

7. Literary Journey

Day 1-2: Edinburgh

Begin your journey in Edinburgh, the birthplace of famous literary characters including Sherlock Holmes and Robinson Crusoe. Sip some tea in the Elephant House Café, where J.K. Rowling began writing the first Harry Potter book. Visit the Writers Museum to learn about Scottish wordsmiths such as Robert Burns, Walter Scott, and Robert Louis Stevenson. In between your literary adventures, check out some of the historic sites situated along the Royal Mile. You can also spend a morning or afternoon visiting Rosslyn Chapel, which features heavily in The Da Vinci Code. Overnight in Edinburgh on the first day, and fly to London on the second day.

Day 3: London

Where to begin?! Take a literary tour of London by visiting sites connected to some of the city’s most famous writers and their works. The Dickens House and the British Library are close in proximity to each other, while Shakespeare’s Globe is across the Thames. Westminster Abbey holds the tombs of numerous writers, including Chaucer and Dickens, and is one of the most important sites in the city. Spend the night in London.

united kingdom itinerary

Bodleian Library, Oxford

Day 4: Oxford

The academic home of J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, and many other writers, Oxford has produced some of the greatest literary minds in Western civilisation. Go on a walking tour of the university, learning about these famous writers, and marvel at the gorgeous architecture and sheer size of the Bodleian Library, where many of them would have worked. Return to London at the end of the day.

Day 5: Canterbury

“From every shires ende of Engelond to Canterbury they wende,” writes Chaucer in The Canterbury Tales, a medieval poem about a group of travellers making a pilgrimage to Canterbury Cathedral. Follow the pilgrims’ journey by visiting this magnificent cathedral and the small city that surrounds it. You can also see the ruins of St. Augustine’s Abbey and Canterbury Castle. Return to London at the end of the day.

Day 6: Stratford-upon-Avon

Shall I compare thee to a vacation day? Take a day trip to the birthplace of the Bard himself. Shakespeare’s Birthplace is open to visitors, and so is the cottage of his wife Anne Hathaway. The Church of the Holy Trinity holds Shakespeare’s grave, and the Royal Shakespeare Company performs plays from Shakespeare and other playwrights. At the end of the day, return to London.

Day 7: London

Remember what you didn’t have the chance to see on Day 2? See it on Day 7! Do your final sightseeing and then fly home.

About Author

Janine Perri
Janine Perri

Janine Perri is a history enthusiast, Fulbright Scholar, and world traveller who loves exploring new places. Her travels have taken her to different countries in Europe, Asia, Latin America, and the Caribbean. Some of Janine’s favourite travel experiences include swimming with sharks, dancing to Gangnam Style at a PSY concert, and seeing the Queen of England during a castle tour.

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