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Great Britain’s Extraordinary History You Can Touch

In partnership with United States Tour Operators Association

Nov 10, 2021

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The Tower of London stands tall.

Photo by VisitBritain/Andrew Pickett

The Tower of London stands tall.

From England’s Stonehenge to Welsh and Scottish castles, Great Britain has plenty to offer travelers seeking history, culture, and true adventure. Here, three enlightening tours on which visitors can experience Great Britain in all its glory.

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Bursting with iconic sites, Great Britain is awash in ways to immerse yourself in contemporary culture and history for the kind of perspective-shifting experiences that traveling is all about. Scotland, home to some of the world’s most legendary castles, offers ample opportunity to walk where royalty once tread and marvel at the architectural beauty of these majestic structures. Or revel in gorgeous landscapes and Outlander filming locations in the Scottish Highlands, Orkney Island, and the Isle of Skye.

When you visit these storied places with a trusted USTOA tour operator, your vacation promises to be hassle-free and secure while also providing a deeper experience. Taking a guided tour makes it easier to fully enjoy each destination. Tour operators secure tickets to popular attractions, plan out meals, and coordinate transportation. With nearly all logistics taken care of, all tour-goers need to worry about is focusing on each place they’re visiting.

That means you can be fully present when you see many of Great Britain’s exemplary sites including Windsor Castle, Stonehenge, and Cardiff Castle in Wales. Or spend some time in London for the unparalleled experience of seeing landmarks like Big Ben, the Houses of Parliament, Westminster Abbey, and the Tower of London with your own eyes.

Traveling with a tour can also be more mindful thanks to the many that have a strong focus on sustainability. These trips transport tour-goers to off-the-beaten-path places, helping to alleviate over tourism and sustain local economies. Go the extra mile by booking a tour during off-peak travel periods and you can enjoy lower prices, fewer crowds, and seasonal wonders too. Keep reading to learn more about three tours where visitors can more deeply experience the best of Great Britain’s history and culture.

Revel in history at Scottish castles

Dunnottar Castle at sunset, Aberdeenshire // Photo by VisitBritain/©Merek Kargier

Exploring the power and majesty of Scotland’s castles is perhaps one of the best ways to experience Scotland’s rich history. On this tour from Edinburgh to the Highlands, you’ll join the ranks of esteemed history fanatics while you travel over sea, loch, and glen. Visitors who book the “Scottish Castle Experience,” led by Celtic Tours get all the benefits that come from a family-owned and operated company that’s been striving to provide guests with personalized and intimate tours that cater to the needs of each and every traveler since 1972. And choosing operators like Celtic Tours makes for more sustainable travel to by helping to support small businesses and protect local communities and their ways of life.

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After arriving in Edinburgh, the six-day tour kicks off at Falkland Palace. Constructed in the 16th century and a favorite hideaway for Mary, Queen of Scots, this royal Renaissance palace is also home to one of Britain’s oldest tennis courts and comes complete with an extensive, lush garden. The tour also includes a visit to Dalwhinnie Distillery in the heart of the Scottish Highlands and the highest distillery in the country at 1,164 feet above sea level. Using water from the nearby River Spey, the distillery produces iconic Single Malt Scotch whisky.

Don’t worry, there are plenty more royal dwellings in store. Perched on a 160-foot cliff, Dunnottar Castle is a ruined medieval fortress located on a rocky headland. And, dating to the 13th century, Fyvie Castle features an extensive collection of arms and armor in addition to colorful tapestries dating to the 17th century. The final castle visitors will see is Lochleven Castle, a ruined castle on an island only reachable by ferry and perhaps best known as the place where Mary, Queen of Scotts was jailed and forced to abdicate the throne. 

Dive deep into England and Wales

Bath, England // Photo by Visit Britain/Simon Winnall

Soak up Britain’s rich cultural offerings on the all-inclusive “Highlights of Britain” tour by CIE Tours. Guests see Devon and Cornwall in England, learn more about the medieval heritage of Wales, and check out Scotland’s gems, all with full daily breakfast, welcome drinks, most meals, transportation, free WiFi on luxury buses, entrance fees, and a welcome gift including a backpack, rain poncho, and documents wallet.

Highlights of this 14-day tour include Windsor Castle and Stonehenge. Located about one hour from London, Windsor Castle is the largest and oldest castle in the world; it’s where Queen Elizabeth spends many of her free weekends, and many heads of state have walked the red carpet. One of the world’s most noteworthy structures, Stonehenge is considered the most architecturally sophisticated prehistoric circle anywhere.

You’ll also visit the well-preserved, 2,000-year-old Roman Baths that still flow with mineral-rich waters in the aptly named city of Bath. Fans of Netflix’s hit series Bridgerton will recognize some of the filming locations from the popular Shonda Rhimes show. From there you’ll go to the capital of Wales to discover 2,000 years of history at Cardiff Castle, a medieval castle with an opulent interior that was lavishly renovated in the Victorian era, featuring elaborate wood carvings, murals, stained glass, marble, and gilding.

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Book enthusiasts will quickly fall for Hay-on-Wye, also called “The Town of Books” with more than 20 book shops and home to the annual Hay-on-Wye Festival of Literature and Art (May 26 to June 5, 2022). And on another day, you’ll go to Shakespeare’s birthplace in Stratford-upon-Avon to see the Bard’s childhood home. Rounding out the tour, a local guide will take guests to view some of London’s most exemplary sites including Piccadilly Circus, Trafalgar Square, and Westminster Abbey—the breathtaking church where the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, Prince William and Catherine “Kate” Middleton, wed in 2011.

Experience the Scotland of Outlander

The Blair Athol Distillery // Photo by Mogens Engelund/Creative Commons

Outlander fans can visit places in Scotland from the acclaimed television show on Trafalgar’s “Highland Trail inspired by Outlander” tour. And you can know that when you go, you’re doing your part for a more sustainable world by going with Trafalgar. As the anchor brand of family-owned-and-operated The Travel Corporation, the company is part of a joint initiative with the TreadRight Foundation formed in 2008. Supporting more than 60 sustainability projects worldwide, specific goals around its mission include reducing food waste, achieving carbon neutrality by 2030, and sourcing 50 percent of their electricity from renewable sources by 2025. This 13-day tour also features the tour operator’s personal service and attention to detail and begins in Edinburgh with a sightseeing experience of the capital of Scotland.

A local specialist will guide guests as they see the iconic Edinburgh Castle. Pass under gates, admire the oldest crown jewels in Britain, and the royal palace that have all stood the test of time for decades. Visitors can learn more about rural Scottish heritage at the Highland Folk Museum, also home to a recreated 18th-century township used as a filming location in Outlander. Interspersed among the history and gorgeous settings—like the scenic countryside where Eilean Donan Castle sits on an island where three lochs meet—travelers get to taste one of Scotland’s most famous exports, whisky. At the Blair Athol Distillery, they’ll learn how the distillery makes their notable single-malt whisky with ancient water.

As a spectacular finale, the tour heads to St. Mungo's Cathedral or the Glasgow Cathedral, the oldest cathedral in mainland Scotland, the oldest building in Glasgow, and the filming location for the L'Hopital des Anges in Paris on the show. The tour wraps up with a farewell lunch with the Wood Family on their 15th-century farm on the shores of Loch Ard to give tour-goers a truly local experience.

For these and many other tours that mean expertly planned trips, access to VIP and off-the-beaten-path experiences throughout the year, local and knowledgeable guides, around-the-clock service, and more, head to USTOA.

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