From Hamlet to Hogwarts: Immerse Yourself in Great Britain’s Timeless Charms

Stonehenge, Shakespeare, Harry Potter. Britain is jam-packed with cultural touchstones. Experience some of England’s most popular attractions and tour Scotland’s famed Edinburgh Castle.

Young woman taking a selfie with her smartphone in front of the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben

by NEA Member Benefits

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Bragging isn’t the British way. But the island nation, just a channel away from Europe, will wow you at every turn with its cultural richness, from 2,000-year-old cities, medieval castles and walled towns to opulent royal palaces, world-class museums and impeccable gardens.

Whether you relax over afternoon tea or a pint in a local pub or you stroll along the scenic countryside, you’ll unwind on this trip, where the next amazing site is just around the bend.

Explore the countryside with Trafalgar Guided Vacations

On the 9-day Real Britain getaway, you’ll see top destinations led by your expert Travel Director. Plus, you’ll discover less well-known gems through Trafalgar’s signature Insider Experiences, where local guides provide a unique, off-the-beaten-path travelers’ adventure.

Along the way, you’ll have the chance to:

  • Go on a city tour in London and Edinburgh
  • Behold the curious, prehistoric Stonehenge monoliths
  • View Bath Abbey, Cardiff Castle, the Lake District's magnificent scenery, Hadrian's Wall, York Minster and Anne Hathaway's thatched cottage
  • Tour iconic Edinburgh Castle and stroll the nearby gardens and parks
  • Dine with a local family at an English country home
  • Learn about William Shakespeare’s life and inspiration at Stratford-upon-Avon

Thanks to the British Isles’ mild weather, this trip runs throughout the winter and costs less than summer excursions, although a similar option is available at other times with a few variations in the itinerary.

Classic and cosmopolitan London

With more than 8 million residents, London boasts an impressive range of pleasures, both historic and modern—people-watching in Trafalgar Square, viewing masterpieces by European painters at the nearby National Gallery, visiting England’s stately Houses of Parliament and seeing Big Ben, one of London’s most famous landmarks.

Visitors to Buckingham Palace can admire a small part of the royal family’s art collection, which in total consists of more than 1 million pieces, or get a taste of British pageantry watching the Changing of the Guard.

For a look at less formal local culture, settle in at a neighborhood pub for a pint and a chat with area residents. Or explore the city’s culinary delights, from world-class Indian food to steaming fish and chips at takeaway shops.
 
Lesson-plan destination:

Trace ancient history in the West of England

Stonehenge and the city of Bath, a pair of UNESCO World Heritage sites, serve as reminders of just how well-preserved Britain’s ancient historic roots are. Archaeologists still don’t know who built Stonehenge’s stacked-stone structure 3,000 or 4,000 years ago, or why it was built. But they continue to unearth clues and artifacts, including ceramics, tools and weapons, many of which are on display at the new Stonehenge museum and visitors center.  

The Romans founded Bath in the first century AD to take advantage of its hot springs, constructing an elaborate aquatic complex, now the Roman Baths heritage site. The original Sacred Spring continues to flow, and among the objects in the Baths’ museum are some 12,000 Roman coins tossed into the springs as offerings to the gods.

Head north from Bath for more rich historic and cultural attractions, including local pottery craftsmanship at the Wedgwood Visitor Centre, the medieval walled city of Chester and the stunningly scenic Lake District, the largest national park in England.

Lesson-plan destinations:

  • Download a free Stonehenge Teacher’s Kit for historical information and classroom ideas and activities.
  • In addition to a guided tour, find online Roman Baths resources for teachers.

Scotland’s verdant hills and iconic castle

As you approach the Scottish capital of Edinburgh, your gaze naturally rises to behold Edinburgh Castle, sitting dramatically atop a rock hill, where it was home to monarchs and armies battling for and defending Scotland since the Iron Age.

While touring the castle’s tiers and turrets, you’ll discover the equally striking view looking down at Edinburgh’s Old Town, including the Royal Mile thoroughfare of cathedrals, restaurants and shops.

Located at the opposite end of the Royal Mile, the Palace of Holyroodhouse serves as the Queen’s Scottish residence, with impeccably manicured gardens and visitors’ galleries, including the chambers of Mary, Queen of Scots. Arthur’s Seat, the craggy hillside carpeted in green, is the highest point of the Royal Park next to the palace, with yet another striking vista. 

Lesson-plan destinations:

Literary inspiration in Alnwick and Stratford-upon-Avon

Across the English border in Alnwick, a medieval market town, Alnwick Castle has been the family home of the Duke of Northumberland for more than 700 years. Don’t be surprised if parts of the castle’s opulent rooms and romantic gardens feel familiar: Alnwick has starred as Hogwarts in several Harry Potter movies and has also been featured in episodes of Downton Abbey.
 

To the south, in the Roman city of York, you’ll feel like you’re in a storybook tale walking The Shambles. The extremely narrow, medieval lane was once a trading center lined with butcher shops and hanging meat. Today it bustles with cheery cafes, sweet shops and chocolatiers such as Monk Bar Chocolatiers.

Finally, in Stratford-upon-Avon, Henley Street is home to tea cafes, gift shops and the town’s biggest attraction, William Shakespeare’s Birthplace and Visitor Center. As you explore the town, you’ll see many of the same timber-framed, thatched roof buildings that Shakespeare viewed 400 years ago, including Anne Hathaway’s Cottage & Gardens, where Shakespeare’s wife spent her childhood.

Lesson-plan destinations:

Book your Britain adventure

Trafalgar’s Real Britain trips depart weekly, including over the holidays. As an NEA member, you'll save 10% when you book through NEA Member Benefits.

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