Explore the ancient history and modern culture of northeast England. Visit medieval York, discover Roman ruins, and sample hearty English pub food in Tynemouth. See the impressive Durham Cathedral, 16th-century Lindisfarne, and the wild seascape of the Farne Islands. End your trip in Edinburgh—home to the Scottish monarchy, world-class whiskey, and the cafe where J.K. Rowling penned the first Harry Potter novel.

Highlights

  • Explore the wild and rugged coastline and marine wildlife at Farne Islands
  • Visit England's iconic castles, including Tynemouth, Lindisfarne, and Bamburgh
  • Discover England's industrial history in Newcastle upon Tyne
  • See military artifacts, stately homes, and ancient alleys in Edinburgh

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 York Day One York
Day 2 York Day Two York
Day 3 North Yorkshire Whitby
Day 4 Durham City Durham
Day 5 Newcastle Day One Newcastle Upon Tyne
Day 6 Newcastle Cultural Day Newcastle Upon Tyne
Day 7 Tynemouth Newcastle Upon Tyne
Day 8 Alnwick Castle Alnwick
Day 9 Bamburgh and Lindisfarne Bamburgh
Day 10 Farne Islands and Dunstanburgh Bamburgh
Day 11 Edinburgh Historical Day Edinburgh
Day 12 Edinburgh Cultural Day Edinburgh

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: York Day One

York Minster and shopping street
York Minster and shopping street

Welcome to York, one of the oldest cities in Northern England. Spend the day touring the city's historic highlights, which date back to pre-Roman times.

Start in the medieval York Minster, one of the largest cathedrals in Europe, then stop by The Shambles for a cozy lunch. These markets are the original Middle Ages markets of York and are famous as the setting for Diagon Alley in the Harry Potter films. Shop in the same locations as Harry, Ron, and Hermione and experience the magic of the wizarding world. 

In the afternoon tour York's historic walls to see the old city limits, then enjoy some free time and shopping in the shops along the old streets. Enjoy an upscale dinner at one of York's many restaurants or settle in for a casual brew with the locals at a neighborhood pub. 

Day 2: York Day Two

Old York City Walls
Old York City Walls

Start your day at the Jorvik Viking Center to learn about the 1,000-year-old ruins of York's Viking settlement. Continue to the York Castle Museum to tour the medieval castle and learn about York's Middle Ages, then break for lunch at The Roman Baths pub. After ancient Roman baths were discovered in the pub's basement in the 1930s, the pub opened a small history exhibit to visitors. Stop and see the ruins, then head upstairs for hearty English pub food. 

In the afternoon head to the National Rail Museum to learn about the history of the British rail transport system and how it revolutionized modern-day Britain.

Day 3: North Yorkshire

Ruins of the Rievaulx Abbey
Ruins of the Rievaulx Abbey

Depart from York in the morning and travel through the North York Moors National Park. Your first stop is the ruins of the 12th-century Rievaulx Abbey, which was once one of the most powerful monasteries Cistercian monasteries in England. The abbey ruins are impressive and the accompanying museum educates visitors on the lives of the monks and their religious lives. Stop and enjoy a quiet morning teatime in the nearby tearoom before heading out. 

Continue on a 2.5-mile walk through the North Moors landscape to the market town of Helmsley.  Go shopping or explore the town. Helmsley does have its own impressive medieval castle, but if you've had enough history for the day, simply enjoy the town's wide selection of galleries, boutiques, breweries, and the Walled Garden. 

 In the afternoon travel to the shipbuilding and fishing town of Whitby on the North Yorkshire coast, which was built on a cliff face with a ruined abbey above it. Whitby's roots are in the Anglo-Saxon culture but the town is more famous as the location where Bram Stoker's Dracula landed in England. Explore Whitby's Gothic history and enjoy the local take on fish and chips—a national staple. 

Day 4: Durham City

Durham Cathedral in autumn
Durham Cathedral in autumn 

 Spend the morning touring the town of Durham, and the Durham Cathedral, one of the British Isles' most beautiful. The cathedral was built on the burial site of St. Cuthbert, England's most important saint from the 8th to the 12th centuries, and was the largest church at the time it was built—larger even than the Pope's medieval St. Peter's in Rome.

Break for lunch, then continue to see the Open Treasures, a museum of items collected by the Cathedral and Durham Bishops over the last thousand years. Nearby the cathedral, the Museum of Archaeology also houses an extensive collection of northeast history and is a must-see. 

Day 5: Newcastle Day One

View across the River Tyne towards Newcastle upon Tyne
View across the River Tyne towards Newcastle upon Tyne  

Welcome to Newcastle Upon Tyne, the regional capital of northeast England. Originally a Roman fort, Newcastle has grown to become one of the major cities of the industrial revolution. Go on a walking tour of the city to see the historic highlights. Stops include the 11th-century Cathedral Church of St. Nicholas and Newcastle's Castle, which was built in 1080 by one of William the Conqueror's sons. 

 Spend the evening strolling around the city or head out for a show. Plays at the Theater Royal, musical performances at the Sage Gateshead, and comedy at the Stand Comedy Club are all popular local options. 

Day 6: Newcastle Cultural Day

Sage Gateshead concert hall on Newcastle Gateshead Quayside
Sage Gateshead concert hall on Newcastle Gateshead Quayside 

Start your day at the Laing Art Gallery, which was founded by Newcastle alcohol proprietor Alexander Laing in 1901. It houses a large collection of British watercolors, silver, and ceramics, as well as local art and crafts. It's also home to a collection of 18th- and 19th-century artworks, including pieces by John Martin, Paul Gauguin, and William Holman-Hunt’s pre-Raphaelite masterpiece Isabella and the Pot of Basil. 

Break for lunch at the Sage Gateshead, an international venue for music and home base for the Royal Northern Symphonic Orchestra. 

After lunch, visit the Baltic Center for Contemporary Art, housed in a  2,600 square meter former industrial flour mill. The center aims to create relevant and environmentally significant art and is a locally and internationally recognized leader in contemporary art. 

Catch another show at night—other options include the Tyneside Cinema and the Folk Orchestra. 

Day 7: Tynemouth

Tynemouth Priory and Castle
Tynemouth Priory and Castle

Spend the day in Tynemouth, a small seaside town in northeast England. Visit the Tynemouth Castle and Priory to learn about its dramatic history as a Roman fort, Norman castle, and finally as fortifications against Nazis during World War II. 

In the afternoon take a walk along the beach and enjoy fish and chips at one of the many seaside restaurants. Tynemouth is a great place for souvenir shopping and sightseeing in the town's historic downtown area. 

Adventurous visitors who want to brave the cold water will enjoy one of the best locations in the northeast for surfing. 

Day 8: Alnwick Castle

Alnwick Castle and the River Aln
Alnwick Castle Keep

Visit the historically significant Alnwick Castle and the nearby town of Alnwick. The castle has been on the border with conflict for 600 years thanks to its location on the border between Scotland and England, and the imposing medieval walls bear testament to its history. These days its the home to the Duke and Duchess of Northumberland, and enjoys a new legacy with its film appearances—most famously in Happy Potter, as well as Downton Abbey and Transformers: The Last Night. 

Tour the staterooms, the world-famous poison garden, the immaculately manicured gardens, and the many rooms and halls. Young and young at heart will love the Harry Potter-themed activities available, including broomstick lessons and potion classes. 

After touring the castle enjoy lunch in a treehouse restaurant and dine inside a restaurant built inside a tree—a unique local experience. Afterward, explore the town of Alnwick and catch up on souvenir shopping. 

Day 9: Bamburgh and Lindisfarne

Bamburgh Castle
Bamburgh Castle

Today you will visit the castles of Bamburgh and Lindisfarne. The fortress of the Kingdom of Northumbria Bamburgh was the center of the largest kingdom of England during the 7th and 8th centuries and was developed in the middle ages to protect against Scottish attack. Though it was ruined during the English Civil War, the castle was restored in the 19th century to its original size. 

Visit St. Aiden's Church in Bamburgh Village to see foundations and fabrics dating back to early Christian missions to Northumbria. 

In the afternoon explore 16th-century Lindisfarne, located on Holy Island and separated from the mainland by closely-monitored tides. Read the posting about tidal times to avoid being stranded on the causeway as you travel to and from the island. Lindisfarne is famous in part for being one of the first locations in the United Kingdom to be attacked by the Vikings and is often called the cradle of English Christianity due to the importance of its monastery during the Dark Ages. 

Day 10: Farne Islands and Dunstanburgh

Farne Island Boat Tour
Farne Island Boat Tour

Travel from Bamburgh to Seahouses, a village on England's northeast coast.  Take a boat trip around the Farne Islands to see marine wildlife such as puffins, dolphins, seals, and porpoises. For the adventurous, an option to scuba dive to see the animals up close can be arranged.  

After lunch, continue to travel south to Craster, then take a beautiful cliffside stroll to Dunstanburgh Castle, one of the largest surviving medieval castles. Return to Bamburgh for dinner. 

Day 11: Edinburgh Historical Day

Edinburgh Castle
Edinburgh Castle

Welcome to Edinburgh, capital of Scotland. Tour the city to learn about its stone age roots, Roman and Northumbrian history, and Scottish legacy. Start your tour at the historic Edinburgh Castle to learn about its history as a key military fortress, as well as its history as the home of the kings and queens of Scotland. Visit St. Margarets Chappel, the city's oldest building,  as well as the artillery display and the National Wartime Museum. Time your visit to see the traditional Gun Firing at 1:00 PM, then grab lunch at the castle or head down to the Royal Mile shopping street. 

Walk down the Royal Mile—the historic spine of Edinburgh's old town—to see medieval architecture and stately homes. Learn about Scotland's heritage of whiskey making on a Scotch Whiskey Experience and sample a variety of Scottish whiskeys. 

In the afternoon head to Mary Kings Close, which was hidden for nearly 300 years before being discovered during the 1970 renovations to the Royal Exchange. Finish your history tour with dinner at the World's End Pub—the final pub on the road heading from the city. For a look into the darker side of Edinburgh's history, join a nighttime Ghost Tour to explore the city's sinister history. 

Day 12: Edinburgh Cultural Day

The Elephant House, the birthplace of Harry Potter
The Elephant House, the birthplace of Harry Potter

Start your cultural day in Edinburgh with a visit to the Scottish Parliament, then head across the street to the Royal Residence of Holyroodhouse. Explore the official residence of the Monarch of Scotland and see where countless Scottish nobles—from Mary Queen of Scots to Bonny Prince Charles to the current monarch Elizabeth II—have lived. 

Continue to the Elephant Cafe, the famous birthplace of the Harry Potter book series. Enjoy a hearty British and Scottish meal and experience J.K. Rowling's Edinburgh. 

In the afternoon choose from a variety of art galleries and museums. The Scottish National Art Gallery, the Museum of Childhood, or the National Museum of Scotland are all great places to spend a cozy afternoon. Alternatively, spend the afternoon enjoying the fresh air and exploring more of the city on foot. 

Map

Map of Highlights of Britain's East Coast - 12 Days
Map of Highlights of Britain's East Coast - 12 Days