The UK is such a great destination to spend your 3-week vacation. It is composed of 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 in showing 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 in the use. 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 become 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 pollens that spring brings, remember to bring your medications.
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. While 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 those in the EU that is a member of the Schengen State. So, Brexit didn’t really have much effect on 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. While 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:
MUST-SEE PLACES IN THE UK (pinned map)
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 is 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 and maybe 10 days won’t even cut it. While there are reliable train connections 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, the majority of Harry Potter film locations are around England (some are in Scotland).
London alone has so much to offer, from history, architecture, adventure, and of course local pubs. If you are staying right in the city centre, just by walking around you can see many iconic landmarks. You won’t run out of things to do near Tower Bridge and of course the Buckingham Palace.
Best places to see in England:
Let’s start with London, it’s easier to get around by either using hop on-hop off bus or using public transport:
- 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
- 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
- Stongehenge – you can get on a tour from London
- Hyde Park
- Madame Tussauds – visit the one of the most popular museums in London, get your entry ticket
- Windsor Castle – get your admission ticket
- Trafalgar Square
- The Shard – you can get a ticket to enjoy a panoramic view
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
North and northwest of London (Leeds/Liverpool/Manchester):
- Cadbury World
- Get a hop on-hop off bus for Liverpool – this includes 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 Waterfron
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. It’s a great national park Snowdonia is both popular with foreign tourists and the locals. Even though Wales is significantly smaller than England, there are still many spots that you must see during your visit, such as the following:
Best places to see in Wales:
- Snowdonia National Park and Snowdon
- Conwy Castle
- Cardiff Castle
- Prembrokeshire Coast National Park
- Harlech Castle
- Caernarfron Castle
- National Trust – Bodnant Garden
- 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
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 so many interesting varieties of whisky. Do you know that golf came from Scotland?
Best places to explore in Scotland:
- Edinburgh Castle – get your skip-the-line ticket
- The Royal Palace
- National War Museum
- Palace of Holyroodhouse
- 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
- Dean Village
- Calton Hill
- Camera Obscura & World of Illusions
- The Gatehouse
- Scottish National Portrait Gallery
- 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
- Ben Nevis
- Loch Ness – join a full-day Scottish Highlands tour
- Stirling Castle
- From Inverness – you can do a full-day tour to Isle of Skye and Eilean Donan Castle
Accommodations in Scotland:
- Budget hostels (Edinburgh): High Street Hostel or Royal Mile Backpackers
- Mid-range hotels (Edinburgh): Native Edinburgh or Holyrood Aparthotel
- Luxury hotel (Edinburgh): 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 with visiting Northern Ireland. Northern Ireland (especially the city of Derry) may be known for having long and dark war history that happened not a long time 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 the traditional Irish whiskey.
If the Potterheads had their day in Scotland and England, Game of Thrones fans will 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. Lovers of the history, hikers and nature enthusiasts, even people who want to explore the UK through different dishes – there’s always something for everyone. During this time, you can cover all four countries and do so many things.
I hope that you found these 3-weeks in the UK itineraries helpful and that you will have a fun holiday in this region.