2018 UK Trip

by Katie Lyons


Last March I got to do something I’ve been dreaming of - visit the UK again. I was really fortunate to study abroad there the summer before my senior year of college and ever since I’ve been dying to go back. It was two summers ago, that I realized I needed to stop holding off on doing things I wanted to do just because I had no one to do them with. I decided it was time to make a trip back and told some of my friends of my plans. It just so happened that my roommate, Bec and friend, Abby said they wanted to join!

We started planning in January. Abby hadn’t been to the UK at all, Bec had been to Glasgow, Edinburgh, and London, and I had been all over England. We found cheap round trip tickets to Dublin so we decided to start the journey there. Sunday we’d be in Dublin, half of Monday in Belfast and the other half in Glasgow, then Tuesday in Edinburgh, Wednesday in Newcastle on Tyne, and then Thursday and Friday in London, leaving from Dublin to go back home on Saturday. It was a very short trip for how many stops we planned, looking back I’m not sure I would cram so much into so little time, but we definitely made the most of it in each city. We took a total of four flights, six trains, and who knows how many rides on the tube those two days in London. We also had a bit of a travel mishap getting back because of a bus fire in Gatwick Airport (NEVER FLY OUT OF GATWICK!) which made our trip home miserable being awake for 40 hours and traveling for 36.

However, the travel mishaps did not keep us from having a great time. We got very lucky in Dublin and Glasgow with some sunshine (that’s shocking for the UK in the winter/spring), seemed to encounter all four seasons in Newcastle on Tyne, and had the typical rainy cold of a UK winter for everywhere else. We definitely did the tourist sites in many cities but got the chance to see Newcastle on Tyne as locals with a friend of Bec’s, who showed us all of the local favs including the best fish shack on the beach where we ate lunch. If you want to know more, check out a few of my favorite spots we stopped at in each city below.

Even a short stay in Dublin is like walking into literary history, accompanied by music.

Places to Eat/drink

  1. SoMa at the Spire - The first thing we did once we got off the plane was eat and I’m glad we ended up here. It was such a good breakfast and really started the day off right.

  2. Porterhouse Central - This is a great place to get a traditional Irish meal and has a really great vibe with the walls covered in vintage beer bottles.

things to do/see

  1. Hop On Hop Off Tour - Best way to see the city hands down. It was really a blessing since we were running on very little to no sleep from the flight over. This made it so easy to get around the city without having to walk the whole thing.

  2. The Little Museum of Dublin - This cute, small museum is a a great way to learn a little bit about the history of Dublin and see how the city has changed over the years. It even has a cool little room dedicated to U2!

  3. St. Patrick’s Cathedral - There are several churches to stop at on the tour, but I’m really glad we stopped at this one. This Gothic cathedral is rich with history and has a beautiful garden surrounding it with memorials to iconic Irish authors.

  4. Guinness Storehouse - What a way to end the day! Who knew there was so much to making beer? Apparently the taste of a Guinness brewed in Dublin is extremely different than anywhere else in the world. I even go to pour my own pint!

Glasgow is less polite than Edinburgh, but that’s a good thing – they keep it very real.
— Nik Kershaw

things to eat/drink

  1. beGIN - Apparently Gin is a big deal in Scotland so there is no shortage of a good Gin joints in Glasgow. This one was definitely an A+ in my book for their unique cocktails and their Gin focused menu.

  2. Òran Mór - We finished off the night at this cool church turned pub/bar/music venue/anything else you can imagine. We kept it simple with the drinks but the bar and atmosphere was really cool and unique.

things to do/see

  1. West End - This is where we stayed and did most of our sight seeing and dining. There is no limit on places to eat and drink and it’s also where you can find the Glasgow Botanical Gardens.

  2. Glasgow Botanical Gardens - Unfortunately it wasn’t late enough in the spring for a lot of flowers or wildlife to be seen other than a couple patches of wildflowers. By the time we got to the park the glasshouse was closed for the day, but it is a beautiful park to walk around and from the windows, the plants and flowers inside the glasshouse looked amazing.

Coming back to Edinburgh is to me like coming home.
— Charles Dickens

things to eat/drink

  1. The Malt Shovel Inn | Belhaven Pub - This is the perfect place for a traditional Scottish meal of haggis which was really quite tasty!

  2. Clarinda’s Tea Room - We escaped the cold and rain in this cute, small tea room just off the end of the Royal Mile. The tea and scones were delicious and who knew whipped cream tasted so good on scones?

  3. Patisserie Valerie - We not only got the best dessert here but also had a really good breakfast the next morning before moving on to Newcastle.

things to see/do

  1. Old Town Chambers - If you’re visiting Edinburgh you MUST STAY HERE! They are wonderful apartments right in the heart of Old Town Edinburgh and it the best place we stayed the entire trip. In fact if I could do it all over again, Edinburgh would be our central location each night with day trips to other cities just to be able to stay here every night.

  2. Edinburgh Castle - Amazing and incredible views of the city. They do free tours around the grounds every hour or so and we got in just in time for one to start and then continued exploring ourselves.

  3. Scottish Parliament Building - We found ourselves here after we tried to go see Holyrood Palace and it was closed for the day. It’s right across the street and is free to the public. We even got to sit in on a parliament session.

  4. Cranachan & Crowdie - Walking back up the Royal Mile, we discovered this amazing gift shop with a wonderful selection of “Made in Scotland” pieces. The owner also has quiet the Gin selection in store and even lets you taste before purchasing (I came home with a lot of goodies from here).

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Its party reputation is still well-deserved, but Newcastle is more than just a night out – it’s a breeding ground for avant-garde art and cutting edge culture too.
— TNT Magazine

things to eat/drink

  1. Riley’s Fish Shack - This hole-in-the-wall fish shack on King Edwards Bay will be the BEST meal you ever have! No joke. With fresh fish, beautiful views, and a local experience, this is the perfect place to eat in the seaside town of Tynemouth.

  2. Mister Woods - We stopped in here to pick up some waters and while we didn’t actually eat anything here, this really cute restaurant in the heart of Tynemouth smelled great and had quite the pastry cabinet.

  3. Kiln - Once we headed back into the city, Caris took us to this wonderful coffee, bakery, AND pottery house. The coffee and cake was delicious and it was a great setting to sit down and get lost in conversation for a couple of hours. It took all within me to not come home with all of the tea cups and saucers.

  4. The Botanist Newcastle - We finished off our evening at this experience of a bar. It’s kind of like a woodlands themed Opryland, stuffed into a multi-level bar. The drinks were ok but the atmosphere definitely made up for them and makes it worth a quick visit.

things to see/do

  1. King Edwards Bay - The first place Caris took us was to the beach at King Edwards Bay and it was so nice to get away from the city and enjoy a typical English seaside town.

  2. Tynemouth Pier Lighthouse - Really cool walkway out to the lighthouse right by the mouth of Tyne. Watch out though, because the farther along you get down the jetty, the easier it is to get soaked by the waves crashing over the rocks around you. You have to run or you’ll get soaked like we did.

  3. Hadrian’s Wall Path - In order to show us proper downtown Newcastle, Caris took us to the walking path along the River Tyne. It was a great way to see the Swinging Bridge and the High Level Bridge - quite the contrast between modern and old town Newcastle.

LONDON

A bad day in London is still better than a good day anywhere else.

things to eat/drink

  1. All Bar One Leicester Square - This stylish bar was a nice way to get out of the rain and get in some small plates and a good drink. Very busy though with many working Londoners who wanted to grab a drink after work.

  2. Eggbreak - Best breakfast of my life! This adorable house turned into a restaurant, is a great cozy place to get the best breakfast in town. I highly recommend the crab cake with the poached egg!

things to see/do

  1. Walk the Sites - You can find the Buckingham Palace, Westminister Cathedral, Big Ben, the London Eye, Hyde Park, and Kensington Palace all within a good walking distance of each other. Find a map of the city and take an afternoon to walk around and see all the sites.

  2. Sky Garden - Want to see the whole city without walking anywhere? This high rise has 360 views of the city and you can take it all in while having a great cocktail or delicious meal. They even have a live band that plays in the evening if you want a view of the city all lit up.

  3. Piccadilly Circus - This is London’s main theater district. You can find a kiosk where you can purchase discounted tickets to shows in Golden Square and find plenty of food to eat.

  4. Notting Hill/ Portobello Road Market - Notting Hill is a neighborhood not quite like anything you’ve ever seen. Between the colorful pastel houses of Westbourne Park Road and the grungy street fair of the Portobello Market, I could have spent way more time than just the morning visit we had there. I would love to go back and explore this area more.

This was definitely different from my last trip - I knew it would, but I just didn’t realize how different it would be. I still had the same love affair with the culture and the scenery as I had before, but even the look of the UK in the winter/spring is much different than that of the summer (I really missed all of the flowers). I missed the familiar places I had visited the last trip - traipsing around the streets of Oxford, walking the Moors, and climbing the ruins of Tintagel - but at the same time there was too much to explore of the places I had never been before to even consider going back to where I had already visited. Bottom line is, I don’t think I’m done with my trips to the UK and I really hope another one is in my future so I can continue to explore. This trip was really a great start to a really awesome 2018!