The UK is such a great destination to spend your 3-week vacation. It comprises four beautiful countries; England, Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland. Visiting the UK will make the most out of your annual holiday. You will get to chill at the beach, hike a mountain or two, visit ancient cities and ruins, explore vibrant cities, and, well, finally, have the best fish and chips you will ever have.
In this article, I will show you how to spend 3 weeks in the UK. I will first list things you should prepare before you book anything, then I will proceed to show you must-see places and must-do activities during your holiday, plus tips on places to stay in each country.
THINGS TO KNOW BEFORE GOING TO THE UK
The United Kingdom, also known as Great Britain, can be confusing to people who are not local. The name Britain came even before the now-known United Kingdom. When Scotland joined England in 1707, the name Britain was used. Ireland has always been part of the English colony since the 12th century but not officially. When the Northern part formally joined Great Britain, the term United Kingdom of Great Britain became official.
Today the terms the United Kingdom and Great Britain are used interchangeably. Here are some quick tips for travelling to the UK; before you book anything, take a look and plan your trip properly:
When is the best time to go to the UK
Normally, when we talk about the best time to visit a place for a holiday, the summer season for the global north or the winter season for the ones near the equator – are the two best times to go.
But for the UK, the best time to visit is during spring. It’s the time when it’s drier and warmer. Summer in the UK is filled with rain, while winter is freezing and still raining. If you get allergies from the pollen that spring brings, remember to bring your medications.
Are 3 weeks enough for the UK
The UK is not a massive country when it comes to land size; however, there is just so much to see. I really want you to focus on creating a travel itinerary, even though just a basic one. In this way, you can see how much you are willing to spend in one place and what type of attractions you prefer to see.
Renting a car will only save you time if you plan to use it anywhere but London. In that city, it’s better to use public transport. But in countries such as Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland, having your own vehicle can help you see more places.
Average cost of 20 days in the UK
The cost depends on many things, such as your preferred type of accommodation, dining, and transportation. But to give you a quick idea, $2,300 is a good mid-range budget. You’ll dine out in a private room in a mid-range hotel.
But if you have a tight budget, you can bring that down a little bit to $1,500, where you’d be staying in youth hostels and probably half cooking at the hostel and half eating out. If you want to make this a luxury trip, $4,500 will be an amazing budget for sleeping in 5-star hotels and eating out at fancier restaurants.
Accommodation will cost the most when travelling in the UK, especially in London, where a room can easily go as high as $90 per night. If you can minimise your stay in London to 2-3 days, it will make a big difference in your budget.
How to get around the UK
The UK have one of the best transportation systems in place. There are domestic flights, buses, and the most popular – train. Sure, they can be annoying for being late sometimes, but it’s still reliable. If you have an international driver’s license that is valid here, you can also rent a car which will give you so much more freedom with your schedule.
If you need to get out of the UK, there are a lot of affordable flights going to other parts of Europe. At the same time, Heathrow is one of the busiest airports in the world. Flights here go all over the place, to Latin America, North America, Asia, Africa, and even all the way to Australia.
CHECK-OUT: Scandinavia for 3 weeks
Visa and COVID-19 policy
The UK always had a different visa policy than the EU, which is a member of the Schengen States. So, Brexit didn’t really affect travellers visiting the UK.
If you are from EU countries, you can enjoy a 180-day visa-free, the same goes for North Americans, countries from Oceania, some countries in Latin America, Namibia and Botswana, East Asia, Malaysia and Singapore. On the other hand, Ireland has freedom of movement with no time limit.
Fully vaccinated tourists can enter the UK without showing negative test results. However, your airline or connecting flights might require you to show one. Unvaccinated visitors might be required to do further tests and quarantine. Learn more about the UK COVID-19 protocols.
Other travel tips
For basic tips like where to look for accommodation, booking a car rental, and even where to find awesome tours, I always use these services:
PINNED MAP OF THE MUST-SEE PLACES IN THE UK
Click the top-right logo to enlarge the map. Credit: map data: Google
3 WEEKS IN THE UK ITINERARY
In this travel itinerary, I will be covering all 4 countries in the UK, which are composed of England, Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland. I must say, though, this itinerary is a bit packed. If you want to slow it down or spend more time in other countries, you can cut down some days from England and leave some for your next visit.
If you want to travel slower, you can reduce the number of countries you want to see. Here are a few samples: 7 days in England, 6 days in Scotland, and 6 days in Northern Ireland. You can also try 7 days in England, 6 days in Scotland, and 6 days in Wales. Then explore the country you missed on your next holiday in the UK.
England for 9 days
England is such a big country; maybe 10 days won’t even cut it. While reliable train connections exist between all the big areas of England, it can still take some time to travel around. If you rent a car, it will give you a bit more flexibility.
England is known for its historical spots, very diverse culture and people, and the home to the many food hubs and pubs to try. Not to mention, most Harry Potter film locations are around England (some are in Scotland).
London alone has so much to offer, from history, architecture, adventure, and local pubs. If you are staying right in the city centre, you can see many iconic landmarks just by walking around. You won’t run out of things to do near Tower Bridge and of course Buckingham Palace.
If you only want to see England in the UK, we have an itinerary for 3 weeks in England as well.
Best places to see in England:
- Tower of London and Crown of Jewels – you can book a tour
- Tower Bridge and Big Ben
- Join a fun Harry Potter guided walking tour and get a ticket to Harry Potter Warner Bros Studio
- The British Museum
- Kensington Palace – you can join a sightseeing tour or a Royal high tea
- Buckingham Palace
- Book a spooky Jack the Ripper tour
- Westminster Abbey – hop on a boat cruise from Westminster to Greenwich
- The National Gallery
- London Eye – you can get a fast-track ticket to save time
- St. Paul’s Cathedral
- Stonehenge – you can get on a tour from London
- Hyde Park
- Madame Tussauds – visit one of the most popular museums in London, get your entry ticket
- Windsor Castle – get your admission ticket
- World War II – walking tour with a visit to Churchill war rooms
- Trafalgar Square
- The Shard – you can get a ticket to enjoy a panoramic view
- Book a dinner cruise at the Thames River
South and southwest of London:
- The Royal Pavillion
- Leeds Castle
- Bodiam Castle
- Hever Castle & Gardens
- Hampton Court Palace
- Thorpe Park Resort
- Salisbury Cathedral
- Stonehenge – get your ticket here if you’re planning to get there on your own
North and northwest of London (Leeds/Liverpool/Manchester):
- Cadbury World
- Get a hop-on-hop-off bus for Liverpool – this includes a city tour and Beatles tour – or simply book The Beatles Story tour
- Shakespeare’s Birthplace
- Mersey River – book a cruise
- Dayton Manor Theme Park
- National Railway Museum York
- Blackpool Pleasure Beach
This list is just a few of many. Check out our pinned map; from there, you can see which attractions are close to each other. You can uncheck the layers per city to see a better look. You can plan your trip to start in London, then go south, southwest, then the north part – Machester/Liverpool/Leeds area.
Accommodations in England:
- Budget hostels (London): Wombat The City Hostel or YHA London Central
- Mid-range hotels (London): The Lilac Door or The Brownswood
- Luxury hotel (London): Montcalm Royal or The Landmark London
- Budget hostels (Brighton): Selina Brighton or The Queensbury Hotel
- Mid-range hotels Brighton): The Twenty One or Sea Spray
- Luxury hotel (Brighton): The Grand Brighton or Jurys Inn Waterfront
Wales for 3 days
Wales is the place for people who love the outdoors but perhaps not planning to travel all the way to Scotland. The great National Park of Snowdonia is popular with foreign tourists and the locals. Even though Wales is significantly smaller than England, there are still many places in Wales that you must see during your visit, such as the following:
Best places to see in Wales:
- Join the wandering tour of South Wales – read the reviews and check the price
- Caernarfon Castle
- Snowdonia National Park and Snowdon – book this tour with 3 castles visit or Snowdonia with Portmeirion tour
- Conwy Castle
- Llangollen – go on a whitewater rafting or canoeing tour
- Cardiff Castle
- Prembrokeshire Coast National Park
- West Wales – there’s a mystical tour you can join
- Harlech Castle
- National Trust – Bodnant Garden
- Barry Island – filming locations of Gavin and Stacey
- Swansea Castle
- The National Waterfront Museum
- Devil’s Bridge
Accommodations in Wales:
- Budget hostels (Cardiff): BunkHouse
- Mid-range hotels (Cardiff): ibis Budget Cardiff or Cardiff Sandringham Hotel
- Luxury hotel (Cardiff): Lincoln House or Hotel Indigo
Scotland for 5 days
If you have 3 weeks in the UK, you must include Scotland on your itinerary. When one thinks of Scotland, we quickly go to the inaudible England accent and the very traditional kilt (a Scottish skirt-like). But this country is more than that.
Not only it’s filled with beautiful destinations for hiking, camping, and historical spots – Scotland is rich in culture and offers such wide and interesting varieties of whisky. If you’re a fan of Harry Potter, there are more filming locations and activities you can do here. Do you know that golf came from Scotland?
Best places to explore in Scotland:
- If you can spend five days in Scotland, check the itinerary on this 5-day tour to save you time and make the trip more convenient
- Edinburgh Castle – get your skip-the-line ticket
- The Royal Palace
- National War Museum
- Loch Ness – join a full-day Scottish Highlands tour or this tour
- Palace of Holyroodhouse
- Dean Village
- Hogwarts Express – ride the train from Inverness or from Edinburgh
- See more of the Harry Potter – HP guided walking tour
- National Museum of Scotland
- Arthur’s Seat – you can take the trail from Holywood Park
- St Andrews and Fishing Villages – check the tour price
- Calton Hill
- Camera Obscura & World of Illusions
- Craigmillar Castle
- Portobello Beach
- Don’t miss the spooky features – haunted underground and graveyard tour
- Duddingston Golf Club
- Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum
- Loch Lomond – you can enjoy an hour of boat cruise
- The Trossachs National Park
- Tease your taste buds with – chocolate tour and Scotch whiskey tour or food tour with drinks
- The Gatehouse
- Scottish National Portrait Gallery
- Ben Nevis
- From Inverness – you can do a full-day tour to the Isle of Skye and Eilean Donan Castle
- Stirling Castle
Accommodations in Edinburgh:
- Budget hostels: High Street Hostel or Royal Mile Backpackers
- Mid-range hotels: Native Edinburgh or Holyrood Aparthotel
- Luxury hotel: Apex City of Edinburgh Hotel or Kimpton – Charlotte Square
Northern Ireland for 3 days
I’m not going to lie, I didn’t have a lot of expectations from my visit to Northern Ireland, mostly because conflict and war get me quite easily. But I was stunned! I can now say that 3 weeks in the UK are not complete without visiting Northern Ireland.
Northern Ireland (especially the city of Derry) may be known for having long and dark war history that happened not long ago. Some people might even think that the tension is still as strong as it was about 30 years ago.
While there are places, you should visit to understand more about the war in the 1990s. There are also so many beautiful spots to see. Many are related to the famous Titanic. Not to mention how adorable and honestly hard-to-understand accent people have. And if you love whiskey or are simply curious, make sure to try traditional Irish whiskey.
If the Potterheads had their day in Scotland and England, Game of Thrones fans would also enjoy a great time in Northern Ireland.
Best places to explore in Northern Ireland:
- Crumlin Road Gaol Visitor Attraction and Conference Centre – get a self-guided tour
- Peace Wall Belfast – combine Peacewall and Mural in a tour
- Northern Ireland War Memorial Museum
- SS Nomadic – you can book a guided tour for SS Nomadic and Titanic Experience
- Titanic Belfast
- Vertigo Titanic Park
- Wall Mural – join a political taxi tour
- CS Lewis Square
- Game of Thrones – book a day tour that includes Giant Causeway
- From Dublin – there’s a package tour for Giants Causeway, Dark Hedges, and Belfast
- Have fun at Beer Bike tour in Belfast
- Giant’s Causeway – you don’t want to drive there, you can enjoy a luxury coach tour
- Get the hop-on, hop-off bus for Belfast
- National Trust – Divis and the Black Mountain
- Join the Bloody Sunday and Bogside Mural guided tour
- Museum of Free Derry
- Bishop’s Gate, part of the Derry Walls
Accommodations in Northern Ireland:
- Budget hostels (Belfast): Vagabond Hostel or Belfast International Youth Hotel
- Mid-range hotels (Belfast): Tara Lodge or ETAP Hotel
- Luxury hotel (Belfast): Ten Square Hotel or Titanic Hotel
SUMMARY OF 3 WEEKS IN THE UK
The UK have so much to offer to every kind of visitor. History lovers, hikers and, nature enthusiasts, even people who want to explore the UK through different dishes – there’s always something for everyone. You can cover all four countries and do so many things during this time.
I hope that you found these 3 weeks in the UK itineraries helpful and that you will have a fun holiday in this region.