What happens when you try to cram exploring THREE countries into NINE days? You get an action-packed, exhausting, worth-every-stinking-moment 11-Day itinerary for England, Wales & Ireland.
The Planning Begins
Last year, JT and I found a killer deal on roundtrip flights from LAX > London Heathrow on Virgin Atlantic that we just couldn’t pass up. At first, we thought we’d stay in England since we only had 11 days off between PTO and weekends to work with. Plus we had to consider travel time from Phoenix, Arizona to London, and back. Then, JT requested that we add a few stops in Wales to the itinerary. Then, I begged him to add Ireland.
Suddenly, we had three countries worth of sights to see to cram into only 9 days on the ground, and our 11-day itinerary of England, Wales & Ireland came to be.
Check out the video below for footage from our trip and additional information about this itinerary:
Three Countries in Nine Days?!
Now, do I recommend cramming three countries into 9 days? Not really. My ideal itinerary would give us at least a week in each country. Ideally even a month, in order to really explore each destination like a local. That’s how I used to travel and I truly miss it! Unfortunately, when you work full time and have limited vacation time, you don’t always have that luxury when there is a whole world of destinations to see! Thus, our crammed 11-day itinerary of England, Wales & Ireland worked for us.
We made a few mistakes in our planning, but overall, I was shocked at how well we stuck to the itinerary below. We didn’t encounter any major issues that set us off schedule. Somehow, even with all the connections and various forms of transportation, all of our luggage managed to stay with us for the entire trip. Miracles, people! (Although, I did travel with my Trace Me Luggage Tracker just in case!).
Pssst: Check out my post on what was in my in-flight carryon for this trip here.
I’ll be writing about each place over the next few weeks and sharing tips and learnings from each destination. For now, here’s an introduction to the trip with a look at the itinerary we followed.
11-Day Itinerary: England, Wales & Ireland
Phoenix > LAX via Southwest
LAX > London Heathrow via Virgin Atlantic
We arrived in London just before 1:00 p.m. local time and took the London Heathrow Express to our hotel, the InterContinental LONDON PARK LANE, where we quickly changed and ventured out to explore! Our evening was spent taking in the Tower of London. Then we sought out a delicious traditional English dinner…fish and chips! We finished the night with a cocktail at our hotel, which featured delicious drinks inspired by Latin America.
London > The Cotswolds, England
We woke up early and, luggage in-tow, walked to our rental car pick-up location. We picked up a (very small!) car and proceeded to drive from London to Bourton-on-the-Water, a small but stunningly beautiful village in the Cotswolds. Parking was horrendous (especially because JT was trying to navigate driving on the other side of the road!), but we finally found a spot and were able to explore. We got lost in the tiny winding streets and stopped for afternoon tea before proceeding to our AirBnb, a small cottage in the village of Longborough, Gloucestershire. Our host couple was so warm and welcoming, and they greeted us with a Pims cocktail and gave us wonderful recommendations for exploring the area. We rounded out the evening with dinner in one of the small Cotswolds towns, and evening cocktails at the Coach & Horses pub in Longborough.
Quick Tip: We visited the Cotswolds during a peak time (late May), and we found it difficult to get a table for dinner. Apparently, it’s quite customary to make dinner reservations there. We’re not used to this where we are from, but we wished we had made reservations in advance!
The Cotswolds > Stonehenge > Bath, England
This morning was one of my favorites on our trip! We woke up bright-and-early to go on a 3 mile run throughout Longborough. The village was socked in with fog and and it a perfectly brisk morning. Following our run, we went to a small shop in town that was serving a traditional English breakfast, the Longborough Village Shop. Breakfast was delicious, and it was the perfect start for a long day’s journey.
We drove from the Cotswolds to Stonehenge, which was about about an hour and 30 minute drive.
Then, we drove another hour to Bath, a city originally founded by the Romans as a thermal spa. I’ve got a post coming on this incredible destination, so stay tuned! We rounded out an evening in Bath with an Italian dinner and gelato, as the Italian influence is still heavy in Bath!
Bath > Tintern Abbey > Cardiff, Wales
This morning, we woke up and toured the Roman Baths — see upcoming post for details! Then, we grabbed lunch and drove on to cross the border into Wales.
Our first stop in Wales was Tintern Abbey, about an hour drive from Bath. Full post on Tintern Abbey coming soon!
From there, we made the hour-long drive to Cardiff, where we explored the local pubs and had yet another Italian dinner at the famous Giovanni’s. We turned in early on this night, as we had a long journey ahead of us the next day!
Cardiff > Cork, Ireland
We awoke early this morning and immediately drove to Fishguard Harbour Port. This is the site where we would return our rental car and board the ferry for Ireland! We were glad that we gave ourselves enough time, because it took us quite a while to find the rental car drop-off spot.
We proceeded to board the ferry for a 3-hour ride that dropped us at Rosslare Harbour. Once we arrived in Rosslare, we took a cab to our rental car pick-up location. Then, we made the two-and-a-half hour drive to County Cork, where we settled in for the night at the Ambassador Hotel & Health Club.
Quick Tip: We were advised that there would be plenty of taxi cabs available when the ferry arrived in Rosslare, but this was NOT the case. We waited for over an hour for the only cab driver we could find to make two more drop-offs before he could get to us. If we could go back, we would have scheduled for a private transport pick-up from the harbour to take us to our rental car pick-up location, which was about 30 minutes away.
Cork > Kinsale > Blarney Castle > Kilkee
Because we were following such a strongly regimented itinerary, we wanted to leave one day “uncharted.” We started this day with a great workout in our hotel. Then, we headed south to Kinsale, a charming little town I had fallen in love with on Instagram and wanted to see in person. After a traditional Irish lunch in Kinsale, we got on the road. We needed to head northwest, because we had plans to see the Cliffs of Moher the following day, but we had no plans — including no hotel reservations for that night.
On our way northwest, we saw signs for Blarney Castle and pulled over to see the Blarney Stone. What an adventure that was!
From there, we continued and eventually hit the west coast of Ireland just before dinner time. We drove through several towns before we landed at Kilkee — a charming town on the water — and found a room at the Stella Maris. This was truly a gem of a find…especially because we hadn’t done any research on this area! We ate both dinner and breakfast the following morning at this hotel, and both were delicious, fresh, and made with local ingredients. Our son stayed at the hotel that evening while my husband and I explored a few local pubs for a nightcap (or two…).
Kilkee > Cliffs of Moher > Ballyvaughan
We started this day with an early morning run on the water and a delicious breakfast at our hotel. Then, we drove 50 minutes north to the Cliffs of Moher, and absolute must-see destination in Ireland. I’ve got a separate post coming about the Cliffs in the coming weeks!
From there, we drove another 30 minutes to Ballyvaughan, the location of our hotel that evening: The Waters Country House. I must admit, this was my favorite hotel on this trip. The house was warm and cozy and we stayed up late as a family, playing board games and sipping wine by the fire. Well, the adults sipped wine. 🙂 I felt like I was in the Gryffindor common room and I was 100% here for it.
We ventured into Ballyvaughn for dinner and fell in love with this cute little town. I wish we had had another evening to enjoy this stop!
Ballyvaughan > Galway > Dublin
Breakfast at the Waters Country House was a traditional Irish breakfast and it was DELICIOUS. (Probably another reason why this was my favorite hotel!) But alas, we had to move on to stay on schedule, so, we drove 55 minutes north to Galway.
We hadn’t had the pleasure of seeing a large city in Ireland yet, and were pleasantly surprised by the Latin Quarter in Galway. The colorful shops of the Latin Quarter were so much fun for us to wander through. We grabbed a coffee before settling back into the car for the long, two-and-a-half hour drive to Dublin.
The original plan was just to relax in Dublin since we had been on the go so much… That was until my husband and son learned that the US men’s soccer team was playing the Republic of Ireland at Aviva Stadium in Dublin that evening and tickets were still available. Suddenly, we were on our way to the game!
Dublin > London, England
We were dragging this morning after a late night at the game. Still, we made it to the airport early to drop off our rental car at Dublin Airport. Then, we checked in for our flight back to London. Overall, Dublin Airport was easy to navigate and we had plenty of time to spare before our Ryan Air flight.
We landed at London Gatwick with enough time to spend half of the day exploring London, and bought tickets for the Hop-On-Hop-Off tour. We wanted our son to see all that London had to offer in a short amount of time. Plus, my husband greatly appreciated letting someone else do the driving for a while!
Quick Tip: I’m not sure what was going on, but we were really on an Italian food kick on this trip, so we had our final meal at San Carlo Cicchetti…and absolutely fell in love. In fact, we have eaten at this restaurant twice more on subsequent trips to London, and would go back again in a heartbeat! We haven’t had a single dish that we didn’t enjoy at this Italian tapas-style restaurant. 10/10 recommend!
London Heathrow > LAX via Virgin Atlantic
LAX > Phoenix via Southwest
That concludes our 11-Day Itinerary of England, Wales & Ireland. Is this an itinerary you would ever tackle? Let me know in the comments below.
Planning an itinerary like this can actually be REALLY complicated and there are so many details that go into it! I’ve become an expert on complicated itineraries, so I’m offering you guys my “Travel Itinerary Planning Checklist + Template.” You can download it for free below!
Check out the video below for footage and additional information about this itinerary: