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Good Morning, The Lanesborough Hotel

Familiar destinations often hold the most promise for new discoveries.  You have seen the highlights, leaving you the luxury of time to wander, explore and just sit and sip whisky for hours.   My recent trip to Great Britain is a perfect example.

Summary sound bite: (See below for details)

1. Fly directly from the U.S. to Scotland

2. Spend a full day walking around Edinburgh, you will reach your 10,000 step goal.

3. Have your travel consultant book a private tour of Holyroodhouse Palace.

4. Follow the footsteps of Queen Victoria and Queen Elizabeth II….go north to the Highlands.

5. Learn about Falconry. You will be amazed.

6. Take a train….any train.

7. Enjoy a “Country House” weekend.

8.  Experience the true opulence of Regency London.

9. Enjoy an intimate visit with Henry VIII, his wives and his daughter.

The full story:

Great Britain is familiar territory for me.  My daughter lives in London and I  frequently travel around the British Isles. Here are a few personal tips and  highlights from my latest “Great British Adventure”.

  1. Fly directly to Scotland and work your way south. If transiting through Heathrow, be sure your flight lands around 6am. This is when customs opens.  Lines are usually very short or nonexistent at both passport control and security.  I left Dulles airport in Washington, D.C. at 6:20 pm.  I was in my hotel in Edinburgh by 9 am the next day. Quick enough for a long weekend hop for me.20160217_124114_001

    View from my room at the Waldorf Astoria Edinburgh.

  2. Spend you first day in Edinburgh walking.  This may be the most walkable city in the world. If it is your first or tenth visit, walk the Royal Mile, climb to Edinburgh Castle for the view, walk through Princess Street Gardens and end in the New Town.  Always end your day with a whisky tasting in Scotland. My top choice is the new whiskey bar at the Balmoral Hotel.  You will enjoy an hour or more with one of their Whisky Ambassadors, tasting their finest, all while sitting in one of the most iconic hotels in the world.12677416_1110807762293293_357031485_n

    Whisky Bar, Balmoral Hotel, Edinburgh

  3. Take a private tour of Holyrood House Palace. Have your travel consultant arrange a private tour at the Palace of Holyroodhouse, HM Queen Elizabeth’s official residence in Edinburgh.  Only on a private tour can you tour Queen Elizabeth’s private apartments.
  4. 20160218_064647_004 Palace of Holyroodhouse

    Go north. Queen Victoria loved the Scottish Highlands (the John Brown question aside) and so does HM Queen Elizabeth II.  Now I understand why. Go to the Highlands..specifically go to Gleneagles Hotel and Spa at the entrance to the Highlands. This is a country estate the likes of which I have read about in Gilded Age literature.  The elegance of ages past with every modern comfort.  The spa is fabulous but the hikes, horses and falconry lessons refreshed my spirit.  A resort known more for its golf courses (The 2014 Ryder Cup was here) has so much more. Gleneagles is also home to Scotland’s only 2 Michelin Star restaurant, Andrew Fairlie’s at Gleneagles.  You can see my video of the dinner here.20160221_124224 (1)

    Gleneagles Hotel, Scotland

  5. Learn about Falconry.  My lesson went way beyond releasing a bird of prey and having him/her return to you.  This was one of the most fascinating things I have done in my travel career.  Gleneagles is a leader in this sport.  I learned not only about the sport, but about the differences between the different birds of prey, their temperaments, their handling, the history of the sport, the 6 month “vacations” every bird takes and so much more.  I also learned that Victor, pictured below, a red hawk, is a teenager.  As such he was a little “cheeky” in his responses during training.  Cheeky, but always ready to make sure he got the treats for performing.  A much longer article coming about this bucket list experience that I didn’t even know was on my bucket list–add it to yours. 
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    Falconry lesson at Gleneagles
  6. Take a train, any train.  The Royal Scotsman is one of the finest in the world, but this trip I took Virgin’s East Coast train for a breathtaking journey from Gleneagles to London.  The train was nice, comparable to the Acela on the U.S. East Coast, but what made the trip pleasant was the seaside views,  the tracks and the strong wifi.  Unlike the Acela, the tracks are smooth, you arrive relaxed and not shaken. Boarding the small, almost private, station at Gleneagles, I enjoyed a wonderful 5 hour journey to London’s Kings Cross Station.
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    View from Train
  7. Enjoy a Country House weekend. The glamour of British Country House living is the stuff of movies and mini-series.  The term “Country Houses” is the same, grossly understated misnomer as the “Cottages” of Newport, Rhode Island. Huge estates, hosting weekends of horses, hunts and clandestine liaisons appear to be the axis on which the British Empire turned in many of our favorite movies.  Visiting these estates has been a favorite tourist pastime since the 18th century.  My top choices include Chatsworth (where you can now stay in the Gardener’s Cottage,) Cliveden and Coworth Park.  I stayed at serene Coworth Park this visit, a perfect 21st century country house experience, right next to Ascot.  How much more British can you get?
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    Coworth Park, just 40 minutes from central London2016-02-23 13.34.05-1
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    A proper British tea at Coworth Park with the lovely Samantha Pinder-White,

     

  8. Be transported to the opulence of Regency London.  Hotel or House Museum? The Lanesborough Hotel which sits at the entrance to Hyde Park in London almost defies description. Two original Joshua Reynolds portraits, original period art and a dining room that is a beautiful homage to Josiah Wedgwood are only a few of the exquisite design details of the Lanesborough Hotel in London.
    More Regency than Regency London, George IV would be right at home and Jane Austen would have a new venue for her next novel were they to visit. Formerly Lanesborough House, it reopened in July 2015 after a two year, over 80 million GBP renovation. I think it should be a museum, but luckily for me it is not. Arguably, the top hotel in London, here are a few pictures to show you what I mean.

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    Private Dining Room at The Lanesborough

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    The “Withdrawing” Room, at the Lanesborough Hotel, London

  9. Stop by to say hello to Henry VIII and his wives. For this history nerd, I must visit the Tudors and the Stuarts at the National Portrait Gallery every trip.  My favorite guide is  Siobhan Clarke.  Siobhan is an official guide from Historic Royal Palaces and can often be found in costume at Hampton Court Palace.  Siobhan and her colleagues offer other tours through “The History Guides”. Her insights make the infamous and famous even more unforgettable.  I will be traveling with author and historian Alison Weir, Siobhan and many other historians in April on a tour to all the sites associated with Richard III.  Stay tuned for my tips on true insider historic travel in Great Britain next.
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    Queen Elizabeth I at the National Portrait Gallery, London
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    Next trip….Richard III.

Please note:  I was the guest of VisitBritain, Signature Travel Network ,Dream Escape Ltd.  and the hotels mentioned above. But as usual, I never promised a positive review, article, tweet or post.  The praise and recommendations above are my own.  

The expert travel consultants of Signature Travel Network helped design this perfect itinerary.  Let me know if you need a recommendation for an expert to perfect your next adventure. 

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