A visit to Ireland and the United Kingdom tops many American travelers’ wish lists. These stately European islands have an almost magnetic pull. Perhaps that’s because the British Isles offer enough storied history and varied landscapes to enrich and entertain you for weeks on end.
But planning a trip across the Atlantic Ocean can be overwhelming. When it comes to international flights and layovers, visas, currency exchanges and even COVID-19 protocols, some travelers prefer the simplicity of group tours. With an expert-curated tour like AAA Member Choice Vacations, you can leave the day-to-day planning to the pros while boosting your chances of meeting new friends far from home.
Though every group tour unfolds a bit differently, each is designed to include the perfect balance of bucket-list attractions, hyper-local experiences and free time for self-guided exploration or relaxation.
Discover just a few of the exciting ways to tour Ireland and the United Kingdom.
Travel Ireland’s Wild Atlantic Way
Picture yourself beginning the week with an Irish storyteller showing you around a historic Dublin home, then days later finding yourself standing tall atop basalt columns on the legendary Giant’s Causeway. Add in stops for a walking tour in Belfast and a dram of whiskey at Bushmills Distillery, and you’ve got just a hint of the many-splendored Wild Atlantic Way.
Ireland’s iconic tourism trail is brimming with jaw-dropping landscapes, culinary treasures and Celtic history. A guided tour along the Wild Atlantic Way is like getting a front-row seat to the beauty and culture of Ireland. It truly is the best of the Emerald Isle.
For most travelers, a two-week itinerary around the perimeter of Ireland and Northern Ireland is plenty of time to hit the must-see spots like Dublin, Galway, Kilkenny and Glenveagh National Park. A vacation of this length also offers free time, which you can fill with distinctly Irish activities like seaweed foraging in the Ring of Kerry and exploring the Cliffs of Moher.
The U.K. includes England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Though some travelers have time for a whirlwind tour of the entire island nation, many choose to focus on just one country. If you prefer to travel deep rather than wide, you can’t go wrong with Scotland.
Scotland is full of rugged coastlines, rich food and resplendent castles on hills. Those castles hint at the country’s long history and deep cultural traditions. For instance, at Armadale Castle and Gardens, you can learn more about the Isle of Skye and its distinct local Clan Donald history. At Inveraray Castle, on the other hand, you’ll learn about Clan Campbell.
Of course, a trip to Scotland would not be complete without also visiting Edinburgh, Loch Ness, Glasgow or St. Andrews. Along the journey, you’ll soak in the Scottish spirit – both literal and figurative! Guided tours include plenty of opportunities to visit Scotland’s famous whisky distilleries.
Spend a Week in London Town
Traversing the English countryside is lovely, but what about giving yourself a full week in one of the most iconic cities in the world? When you choose a AAA Member Choice Vacations Spotlight on London tour, you unpack once and have the entire trip to explore all the city has to offer, from hallowed Westminster Abbey to inimitable Big Ben.
Whether you’re craving high tea, an ale tasting at a classic British pub or a night or two of live theater entertainment, London offers a multitude of destinations and experiences.
The British capital is an ideal destination for tour travel because it’s so well-connected. For instance, after a walking tour near Buckingham Palace with your local guide, you can quickly hop on the Tube (London’s famous underground metro) toward Tottenham Court Road to meet fellow travelers for a pint near The British Museum. You’ll quickly learn your way around and even have time to revisit outstanding museums and restaurants when you spend a whole trip in one city.
Soak in Britain’s Best Landscapes
If you prefer a slower pace that focuses on the picturesque wonders of the U.K., consider a guided trip to Britain’s landscapes.
In Scotland, explore the rolling hills outside of Edinburgh. Take a tour of the Royal Yacht Britannia for a swan’s-eye view of the city, then head south through the Borders Region, marked by gentle slopes and rural Scottish land. From there, you’ll discover all that England has to offer: ancient walled towns and Shakespeare’s charming countryside birthplace on the banks of the River Avon. In Wales, many travelers enjoy sailing the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct for a unique vantage of one of the country’s most charming villages, Llangollen.
Don’t forget your camera if you decide to take a guided tour of the U.K.’s landscapes. From grassy hillsides and placid lakes to quaint, walled villages, you’ll want to remember the incredibly diverse beauty of the British Isles.
Dive Deep Into Celtic Culture
If you have enough time to explore two places, why not take a Celtic-focused tour of Ireland and Scotland? The ancient Celts traveled all over Europe, but warm Celtic culture is still going strong in these two U.K. countries.
Tour Scotch whiskey distilleries and nibble your way through local meats and cheeses (try haggis made from sheep offal if you dare!). Follow in the footsteps of ancient clansmen on the Giant’s Causeway and the pristine forests of Glenveagh National Park in Donegal.
In Dublin and Edinburgh, take time to discover the historic downtowns, shop for souvenirs and enjoy snacks or drinks at local pubs. Just don’t miss the tour of St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Dublin!
During the afternoons, you can choose to quietly soak in the stories from your guide or meet up for self-guided exploration with new friends.
No matter your travel style, there’s excitement and adventure around every corner of history-rich Scotland and Ireland.
Start planning your U.K. tour today.
2 Thoughts on “5 Fantastic Ways to Explore Ireland and the United Kingdom”
How do I learn about travel packages for Autumn 2024 to Scotland, Ireland, Wales and the countryside to England. There are many options, but I do not know what is safest for my husband and I as we plan 3 weeks of travel in September of 2024. Can AAA help with this? Thank you.
Hi Leslie, yes, a AAA travel advisor would be happy to help! I’ve forwarded your comment to our Travel team and someone should be reaching out to you soon. In the meantime, you can also click here to schedule an appointment.