By Jenna Conant
Ever since I completed a class project on the history-rich United Kingdom at age 10, I have been absolutely fascinated with all things UK-related, and the country has moved to the top of my bucket list for destinations to visit. As a self-proclaimed Anglophile, I have put together my itinerary of sites that I would absolutely have to see while traveling across the pond.
Because there are so many options and paths to choose from, I based my choices on popular selections from top-10 lists as well as places I’ve often read about in my many literary adventures. But, considering how often I’ve looked up airfares to New York and London and budgeted how much I’d need to do all I wanted when I got there, I’d say I pretty much want to do it all. So I narrowed down my absolute musts as a frame for my ideal trip to the United Kingdom.
1: The City of London
No first trip to England would be complete without the iconic double-decker tourist trek through London and ogling at the Tower of London, Big Ben, and the Buckingham Palace. It’s just a must, and I will embrace my inner photo-heavy tourist, pointer finger at the ready, and relish every second.
The next items to do on my bucket list before I leave London is to embark on a few walking tours. How else can I see as much as I possibly can without blazing through everything? The City of London Walk and the Queen’s Walk are each two-hour walks to stretch my feet across the city and hit some historical points. There are several sites that include similar routes and more, along with maps to use as a guide and show points of interest to hit. The City of London Walk hits many noteworthy stops, one of which I hope to detour on severely: Leadenhall Market.
2: Highclere Castle
Before I stray too far from London, I will definitely be checking out Highclere Castle, the site of the TV show Downton Abbey. I fell in love with this historic home while watching the show, and it’s a short 40 minutes west of London.
3: Bath and Canterbury
From here there’s really no order for my journey; I just chose spots at random that interest me. I have to check out Bath, as recommended by both my mom and an English friend of mine who studied there. He indulged my imagination with stories of his adventures, and such a famous town cannot be passed up. There is a tour I can take there that lets me dive into Jane Austen’s Bath, which of course I can’t resist. Also on my famous-site-search part of the list is Canterbury, seeing as I enjoyed reading Chaucer so much in college. Both trips will most likely include me searching for literary clues of inspiration that have been used in some of my favorite books.
Another literature great who inspires a stop on my tour is Shakespeare, who hailed from Stratford-upon-Avon. Considered one of the most influential and iconic voices of English literature, his hometown is bound to be full of ideal touristy treasures waiting to be discovered.
5: York and Leeds
York is just two hours north of London, and another unique town I’ve heard about and of course had to add to the list. It’s also not too far from Leeds, where a good deal of Harry Potter was filmed, so naturally this bookworm has to swing by there as well. Maybe there’s a local pub that the actors frequented that I can discover some stories from. There’s also Leeds Castle, worth a day’s exploration in itself.
Cambridge is a big college town where I’m sure to find several decent pubs to try, and then walk it off through the gorgeous architecture that is Cambridge University.
Recently I came across the hometown of my last English-born ancestor before he came over to the states, and I believe it was the southern county of Devon, which is steeped in history in itself—much like 99% of the entire United Kingdom. So I put it on the bucket list for a gander at some of my family’s roots.
8: The Orkney Islands
The trip to Devon could very well lead to a coastal trip back up the side of the country, stopping at a few more castles along the way. I’d like to take the remaining leg of my trip up to Scotland and finish with a peaceful and reflective stretch of enjoying some (most likely cold!) fresh air in the Orkney Islands. They are supposed to be gorgeous, with no hustle and bustle city life to distract a visitor from taking it all in.
With so many sites to see, and considering my plan to do it all at one go, I started with London and then spread out. I’ll probably never see all there is to see, but I will continue to dream away until my feet touch the ground at Heathrow. Then I’ll…probably keep right on dreaming, just with a skip in my step.