9 days in the United Kingdom. Enough time to see most of what this green and pleasant land has to offer? No. But it is certainly enough time to have an incredible trip you’ll remember for the rest of your life!
This whistle-stop UK tour will take you through some of this famous country’s best sights. From historic castles to the serene rolling green countryside to bustling cities with world-class food and accommodation.
The UK is brilliantly suited to touring by train. Many of the country’s biggest cities are close together, with excellent rail links. Even the more rural spots on this list are relatively easily accessible too! Sadly though, compared to a lot of Europe, trains can be relatively expensive here. So you should definitely look into buying a season card or rail pass before you leave.
Anyway, let’s get into it – the best itinerary for 9 days in the United Kingdom, coming up!
Day 1: London
Where else to start, but the UK’s capital? And one of the most visited cities in the world too! World famous landmarks. Incredible food. A rich past and gorgeous architecture. London is an incredibly historic and bustling metropolis and a city like no other.
If you want to spend longer in the capital, try our guide to 5 Days in London (A Local’s Itinerary) You won’t be disappointed!
What to do and see in London?
You could easily spend the whole week in London, exploring winding streets and alleyways and eating some of the world’s best foods in epic surroundings! There’s literally far too much to do in this sprawling wilderness to fit in this modest section, so here’s a bulleted list of options.
- Walk the scenic Thames path along the river, from Tower Bridge to Vauxhall. This passes (deep breath) Tower Bridge, The Globe, the London Eye, the South Bank, the Houses of Parliament, Big Ben, The MI5 headquarters, and more.
- Tour the incredible museum districts in Kensington and Belgravia. This includes The Science Museum, The Natural History Museum, The V&A, The British Museum, the Imperial War Museum, and loads of others.
- Sink in a few pints in London’s famous nightlife districts. Try The George in Borough near London Bridge, a coaching house dating back to the 1600s. Or, visit the countercultural areas of Shoreditch, Camden or Soho for a night you won’t forget!
Where to eat in London?
Oof. What a question! London is a very foody city. You’ll find everything from roast nuts stalls to Michelin-starred fine dining here. If we had one place to recommend, it would be Borough Market. This incredible old building hosts a huge range of food stalls, open from breakfast to dinner.
There’s nought better than a full English fry up and a mug of strong tea to start your day!
Where to stay in London?
- $$$ – Stay in the Shangri La suite at the top of the Shard – Europe’s tallest skyscraper. Or try one of the many luxury hotels in the Mayfair or Belgravia district, such as The Dorchester. London is expensive though, so this will cost you!
- $$ – Stay in a unique funky artistic room in busy Shoreditch’s The Corner Hotel, for less than £100 a night. Easy!
- $ – London has loads of cheap and cheerful budget options. Some of which won’t be in the nicest parts of the city. So, stay central as possible. We recommend the no-frills but clean and modern hostel chain Generator, in Bloomsbury. For less than £20 a night!
Day 2: Brighton
Travel time: Getting to our next destination is as simple as. The iconic British seaside town of Brighton is only 45 minutes on the train away from Central London. Trains leave regularly from loads of main London terminus stations throughout the day including Victoria and King’s Cross.
Brighton has an iconic Victorian pier and pebble beach, loads of boutique independent shops and some beautiful Victorian avenues with unique architecture abound.
What to do and see in Brighton?
Once in Brighton, take a relaxed stroll through the cute streets of independent shops in The Lanes district until you wind slowly down to the beachfront. Here you’ll find the famous pebble beach and Victorian Pier, for a classic British seaside combo.
There are loads of bars, pubs, and even a nightclub bang on the seafront of the main strip. The beach can get seriously busy in summer too, with people partying until the early hours.
Where to eat in Brighton?
You can’t visit the quintessential British seaside town, without having the iconic fish and chip supper to go with it. We recommend the award-winning Rybka (The Fish Likes to Swim) in the main beachfront area of Kemptown. Ignore the odd name and just try the food – a British classic done in the absolute best way!
For something a little classier than chips on the seafront, try The Gingerman. This high-end restaurant serves sophisticated seasonal local produce, cooked par excellence. And not a ridiculous price either.
Where to stay in Brighton?
- $$$ – Q Square – an arty, modern self-catering apartment hotel bang in the centre of the city in Queen’s Square.
- $$ – The Charm Brighton – a boutique hotel that really lives up to its name, with lovingly decorated and detailed rooms.
- $ – Seadragon Backpackers Hostel is a great, low-budget option right in a central location with views of the iconic Brighton Pavilion. No frills, but bright airy, and clean with free WiFi.
Day 3: Bristol
Travel time: From Brighton to Bristol, on the northern tip of England’s southwest region, takes about 3 hours by train. So we recommend leaving as early in the morning as you can. Maybe catch the sunrise by the sea with a coffee, and off you go!
Once in Bristol, we’ll take in as much of what this modern, diverse and pretty city has to offer as we can. Bristol has the youngest average population in the UK, and is known as a bit of a cool-kids party town. So expect a lot of clubs, bars, street art, and live music!
What to do and see in Bristol?
Park Street is the iconic hilly street in the centre of the city. You’ll find loads of independent boutique shops, bars, cafes and eateries with lovely Victorian facades. All not far from the station!
The picturesque spot in the above picture is a favorite of visitors to Bristol. The Clifton Suspension Bridge links Bristol’s western district of Clifton with the town cute little town of Leigh Woods in neighboring North Somerset. It was built in 1864 by the legendary engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel, and remains an open-traffic road to this day!
Back in Bristol centre, you might want to take a look at Banksy’s hometown artwork The Naked Man. It’s painted on a building by the bottom of Park Street, near City Hall. After that, if you’re up for it, sample some of Bristol’s mad nightlife at a club like Thekla or Motion.
Where to eat in Bristol?
Bristol’s melting-pot cultural heritage and youthful vibes cook up a perfect storm together when it comes to gorgeous street food. Try The Harbourside Street Food Market for all kinds of Instagram-friendly takeaway dishes with global influences.
Where to stay in Bristol?
- $$$ – Try the elegant Berwick Lodge, a 4 star hotel in a grand country house to the north of Bristol city centre.
- $$ – For a unique stay, in keeping with Bristol’s hippy nature, try The Base Vegan Retreat. A completely eco-friendly and plant-based food establishment, just outside of the city centre.
- $ – The Full Moon is a lovely vintage-themed hostel in a old Georgian building right in the heart of the city.
Day 4: Sheffield and the Peaks
Travel time: From Bristol to Sheffield is about 2 hours 45 minutes on the train. You need to make sure to book the direct train, which leaves once every hour from Bristol Temple Meads. That’s right in the city centre.
Booking sites might suggest you book via London, which can actually be slightly cheaper, but adds hours onto your journey. Book ahead, and book direct!
Once, in Sheffield, we won’t be staying too long. After a short rest and some food, we’ll head out on a 30-minute train to Edale – and a lovely walk up Mam Tor. Back for the evening, Sheffield is a lovely hilled city with some beautiful places to stay!
What to do and see in Sheffield?
Once you’ve dropped your bags off and had a rest, it’s time to head out of Sheffield. This hilly city is picturesque enough in parts – but the nearby Peak District is where some of the UK’s best views are at.
For an introductory and fairly quick Peaks trip from Sheffield, look no further than Edale and a hike up Mam Tor. On your way to Sheffield station, if you need to, hop on a tram to avoid the hills!
Once in the gorgeous village of Edale, it’s about a 0.2-mile walk to Mam Tor. The hike up takes about an hour, and it’s suitable for most moderately mobile visitors. Even if not, a lovely walk around the base of the hills and through Edale is still well worth it!
Where to eat in Sheffield ?
If you want to eat straight after your Peak walk in Edale, we don’t blame you! Try the beautifully named Old Nags Head, about 20 minutes walk from the base of Mam Tor. This archetypal 16th century village pub offers homely British pub food classics cooked to perfection, including locally farmed meats and vegetables.
If you want to eat back in Sheffield, try Quayside Market for an array of lovely street food stalls with global influences. For a sit-down meal, try Silversmith’s on Arundel St. They offer eco-friendly grass-fed meats and other fresh local produce, and lots of veggie and vegan options too.
Where to stay in Sheffield?
- $$ – Premier Inn Sheffield City Centre (Angel Street) hotel
- $ – easyHotel Sheffield City Centre
Day 5: Harrogate & The Dales
Travel time: Sheffield to Harrogate is the only journey on this route where you’re required to get a bus. Catch the train to Leeds, taking about an hour, and from there it’s another hour by road to Harrogate. So, you could go by taxi, or rent a car for this part of the journey if you prefer.
The small town of Harrogate is a traditional British spa town in a lovely forested valley. It’s also a great place to go out and explore The Yorkshire Dales national park.
What to do and see in Harrogate?
Harrogate is full of gorgeous Edwardian and Victorian architecture, as it’s been a popular tourist spot for hundreds of years. Try a walk through the beautiful RHS Harlow or Valley Gardens, with all kinds of rare plants and beautiful dales backdrops.
If you’re feeling classy of an evening catch a classical concert or theatre performance at Harrogate Royal Hall, an epic venue opened in 1903.
For more outdoorsy types, a 3 mile hike out of town takes you to Nidd Gorge Viaduct. This beautiful six mile round trip walk takes you along rural streams and up hills with stunning views of rolling green hills of the Yorkshire Dales. Lovely!
Where to eat in Harrogate?
As a famous resort town since the 1800s, there are loads of tiny little tea rooms dotted about the winding town centre streets and broad crescents. The most famous, and probably the best, is The Harrogate Tea Rooms. Stop by for a gloriously traditional afternoon tea before heading out on your afternoon walk!
Where to stay in Harrogate?
- $$$ – If you’ve got the budget, try staying in a gorgeous fully-fitted period apartment on Royal Parade. This iconic Georgian crescent building is right opposite the historic Harrogate Pump Room spa, and minutes away from many of the town’s biggest attractions. It is price on enquiry though, so that means a lot!
- $$ – The West Park Hotel is a 4 star, clean and modern style hotel right in the town centre. Full bed and breakfast with comfy rooms, on a quiet street just 5 minutes walk from the beautiful RHS Harlow Gardens.
- $ – There are no hostels or really budget friendly hotels in Harrogate, as space is limited in the narrow valley. The least-expensive option in town is the the well-appointed White Hart Hotel at about £45 a night. Which is good value still!
Day 6: Edinburgh
Travel time: The longest rail journey of the trip at a scenic 5 hours, our next stop is Scotland’s gorgeous capital city Edinburgh. There are no direct trains sadly, so you’ll have to stop off in York briefly. But the bulk of the journey is on one train.
If you left bright and early, you could easily be in Edinburgh for the very early afternoon. An hour to drop your bags off and settle in, and then you’ve got a whole afternoon and evening to explore this beautiful city.
What to do and see in Edinburgh
Wow. Edinburgh, despite being a lot smaller than London, is a city packed with things to do and explore. For example:
- Hike up to any one of, or all, the best viewpoints in the city. Try the extinct volcano of Arthur’s Seat, the imposing Edinburgh Castle, or the beautiful panoramic views and the monument lookout on Calton Hill.
- Get some whisky down ye’s! Scotland is hugely famous the world over for it’s whisky – so try the Johnnie Walker Distillery tour and it’s rooftop bar. Or, for a different tipple, visit the Lind and Lime Gin Distillery.
Where to eat in Edinburgh?
For real Scottish food and products in Edinburgh, you have to visit the Royal Mile. This stretch of city centre boulevard between the Holyrood Palace and Edinburgh Castle has been preserved for local shops and businesses.
You could eat anywhere along here and it would be lovely. But we recommend the Royal McGregor for all kinds of traditional meaty haggis, tatties and neeps and other real Scottish dishes. All are served in a modern but homely pub atmosphere! You can even try chilli haggis, in a burger.
Where to stay in Edinburgh?
- $$$ – If you really want and can afford to push the boat out? Edinburgh is great for you. As, from the places on this list, only beaten only by London for the amount of high-end and expensive hotels. For the most luxurious, try The Witchery by the Castle. This wallet-busting hotel has 5 star rated service, unbelievably plush rooms and balcony views of Edinburgh Castle next-door.
- $$ – Mid-range hotels are hard to come by in Edinburgh. For one night, try The InterContinental. For a decent price, you know you’re getting a very good standard with this high-class chain hotel.
- $ – Having said that, there are a fair few hostels in Edinburgh too. Try the highly-rated Castle Rock hostel, which is right in the heart of the action in the Old Town area of the city. For a very good price!
Day 7: York
Travel time: Heading back to York, is about three hours on the train from Edinburgh’s central Waverley station. You’ll see the lovely Scottish hills and border areas speed past on this plush high-speed service.
York is a super historic city that has been an important settlement since at least the Roman occupation of Britain, some 2000 years ago.
What to do and see in York?
Our top thing to do in York is to just explore the lovely old city centre neighborhood. And especially the winding area known as The Shambles. Its lovely cobblestone narrow streets are like a true time capsule in places! Try walking up the fantastic York Old City Walls for a real historic experience. They’re remarkably well preserved, if windswept up the top, and you get great views of the city centre.
You could also try the Viking Centre for a museum tour, or visit the Roman Bath pub – where the cellar holds the ancient remains of, you guessed it, a Roman Bath.
Where to eat in York?
York is a place full of funny names. The Shambles. A famously small network of alleyways called The Snickleways. A gate called Whip Ma Whop Ma Gate.
The places to eat are just as great too. One of the best gastropubs in the city is The Rattle Owl, serving high class pub food in a lovely rustic setting. Alternatively, try a big fry up or continental pastry breakfast with friendly local service at at Phill Ya Boots Cafe.
Where to stay in York?
- $$$ – No.1 By Guesthouse York. This place wasn’t messing about with their name, and they deliver on the service too. Are they Number 1 in York? Maybe. Do they have excellently appointed rooms in a beautiful old building right by a lovely city-centre park? Definitely!
- $$ – Try Dean Court York for a very reasonably priced 4-star hotel experience, right in the heart of the old town?
- $ – For lower budget options, the relatively small old city centre area is probably out of bounds. Try, YHA York which is right by the train station in the newer city centre area for a clean and comfortable but no frills room. Or shared dorm if you’re up for it”
Day 8: Cambridge
Travel time: Heading back down south for our penultimate stop will take you about 2.5 hours on the train – to Cambridge. This famous and celebrated university town is a picturesque delight to explore.
What to do and see in Cambridge?
The foremost of things to do in Cambridge is obviously a wander past the amazing buildings of the city’s University. First founded in 1208 no less!
This academic excellence has led the city to play a key role in British culture. The first game of football with the coordinated modern rules of today was played here, on the public park at Parker’s Piece. And it was the place where Nobel Prize winners Watson and Crick were working when they discovered the helix structure of DNA.
That all means loads of gorgeous old museums, libraries, alleyways, courtyards and gardens to explore. Or, take a lazy afternoon’s punting boat tour along the waterways of the city’s River Cam.
Where to eat in Cambridge?
For a great late-breakfast slash brunch after your long journey from York – try The Locker Café. Less than a mile away from Cambridge’s main station, The Locker does an excellent English fry-up breakfast in a friendly, local atmosphere.
We wish it was possible for you to eat in some of the University halls here, which literally feel and look like a magic Hogwarts feast. But alas, you’d have to get into the famously prestigious University for that! For something a bit less pretentious, and a whole lot less expensive, try dinner at Cambridge’s oldest pub – The Eagle. A Greene King chain pub, it offers simple but tasty and good value pub food in historic surroundings!
Where to stay in Cambridge?
- $$$ – Stay right by the historic Parker’s Piece park in the plush University Arms Hotel.
- $$ – Try the Fellows House in a quiet residential street about a mile out of the city centre. This eco-friendly local collaboration with Hilton chain is a reasonably priced bit of luxury.
- $ – Amazingly, you can actually stay in a Cambridge University College dorm room at Jesus College – for a very reasonable price. For even less spend, but definitely in a less spectacular location, try YHA Hostel Cambridge.
Day 9: London
Travel time: Cambridge to one of London’s many terminus stations is just a short 45-minute trip on high-speed rail. Much of it through picturesque farmland and countryside. Easy!
Back in London for your last day, eh? When a person is bored of London, they’re bored of life. Or something. Anyway – lets fill your last day with some cool stuff.
What to do and see in London Pt. 2?
So it’s your second day in London on this UK tour. For that we have another non-exhaustive list of options for things to do, in this city where you’ll never run out of them:
- Take a walk through Green Parks. Literally! London is famous for it’s massive array of public green spaces. Try Green Park, Richmond Park, Hyde Park or Kew Gardens to start. Another good option is Hamsptead Heath in the north, with the best views of the skyline in town.
- Ride an old-school red London bus and hop on the tube. You’ve probably done both of these already. But if you’ve been ubering it around town? Give the public transport a go. It’s rough and ready but iconic and absolutely real London.
- Go see a football match. It’s hard to describe quite how popular football is in the UK. There are loads of matches every weekend throughout the city. And sometimes on weekdays! We recommend seeing Arsenal or Tottenham, both of whom have massive modern stadiums that are easily accessible.
Where to eat in London?
Oof. Again, there are almost too many great places to eat in London. Where to start?
If you’re staying at a fancy Belgravia or Mayfair hotel, you could try dinner there. Many of those restaurants have Michelin-starred or celebrity chefs on their books, and you won’t have to go far.
For a more budget-friendly, hip option try visiting Camden Market just north of the river. The famous Pizza Pilgrims. Club Mexicana vegan tacos. Oli Baba’s, who claim to be the inventor of Halloumi Fries! Whatever dish you choose, it’ll look just as good as the surroundings as you wander under the picturesque brick railway arches or around the locks.
So there you go – 9 days in the UK, the ultimate itinerary.
From ancient castles to bustling cities. From fry up breakfast to haggis burgers or cream teas, from Victorian beaches to wild peaks -we hope you found this green and pleasant land an inspiring place to visit. Because there’s a whole lot more to see, so hopefully we’ll see you back again. And stay, #EarthCurious!