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Thread: Edinburgh, Glasgow, Dublin, London: recommendations

  1. #1
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    Edinburgh, Glasgow, Dublin, London: recommendations

    I'm planning a two-week trip to Edinburgh, Glasgow, Dublin and London next month and was hoping to get some insight from you all on "cool" stuff to check out in these four cities from the perspective of a planner (e.g., interesting buildings, streets, parks/open spaces, waterfronts, nearby villages, transportation systems [the Tube, I would imagine, would be worth checking out]). I've never been to the UK or Ireland so I know very little about any of these cities. Any advice you could provide would be greatly appreciated!

  2. #2
    Cyburbian
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    Hi! It's been a while since I've been to Edinburgh and London but hopefully I can provide *some* help!

    I was only in Edinburgh for two days but it is an amazing place. There are a ton of people there but it truly does not seem like that. The city is essentially divided into two areas, "New Town" and "Old Town". As the name would suggest, "Old Town" is where original Edinburgh was prior to growth. This is where you will find the best architecture and interesting streets. They offer free tours very often for this area of town and they are well worth it. "New Town" is where you will find more of the commercial shops... I wasn't too impressed. And be sure to try some haggis! Even if you don't like it (not my favorite) it's a Scottish classic.

    And London is equally amazing. The tube is amazing but get ready for some black boogers from all the soot (spelling?). But definitely efficient and you can get ANYWHERE in the city. One of my favorite places was St. James park which is right across the way from Buckingham Palace. And for interesting architecture... you can't beat the recently built "Gherkin". Very new and modern... quite the opposite of the rest of the city. Also, be sure to check out the many many many markets! Definitely go to Notting Hill on Portobello Road and Borough Market. These were my two favorites but really... you can have your pick! I found a link below which shows all of the markets. But for the most part, I suggest simply wondering around the city... getting away from the touristy areas (but be sure to hit those up too!). This is where you are going to find the coolest streets and quaint buildings.

    London markets: http://www.streetsensation.co.uk/markets.htm

    Also, if you have time, I highly suggest heading towards Windsor (home of Windsor castle). It's about a 45 minute train ride from London and is well worth the trip! Amazing stores/pubs and a tour of Windsor castle is a must!

  3. #3
    Cyburbian
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    Maybe check out Greenwich Millennium Village in the Greenwich Peninsula in London. It's interesting to see what new communities/infill projects look like when visiting other countries. There is a great view of the skyline in Greenwich Park nearby.
    http://www.englishpartnerships.co.uk/gmv.htm
    http://www.artongreenwichpeninsula.com/index2.php

    I also enjoyed Canary Wharf because of the contrast between it and the rest of London. The tube station is magnificent.

  4. #4
    Cyburbian
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    I lived in Edinburgh for a year. The previous poster was correct in describing Edinburgh's division into two towns, the Old Town and the New Town, but I have to demure on the rest. The Old Town is the historic centre of Edinburgh with a large castle dominating its crest. The Royal Mile is a long, narrow and entertaining road that connects the castle to Holyrood Palace at the bottom of the hill, near King Arthur's seat (the large stunted hill behind the palace). This is where the remains of ancient Edinburgh are and is very popular with tourists and has all the usual tourist shops. The upper part of the Royal Mile by the castle is the most interesting, and be sure to check out the Grassmarket below.

    The New Town is one of the most famous examples of urban planning, and dates from the early 18th century. It's a grand, formally planned area of squares and crescents and circles and endless rows of large 18th and early 19th century townhouses. The main corridors of Princes Street (which faces the Old Town, separated by a railroad line and long urban park) and George Street (two blocks further into the New Town) are the main commercial corridors for Edinburgh, with the department stores and other high street stores. George Street is the more upmarket of the two. The better restaurants and upscale pubs are in the New Town and this is where Edinburghers are more likely to congregate with their friends, rather than the tourist dominated Royal Mile.

    London is a fantastic place. Give yourself plenty of time to explore the city. If you are interested in urban planning and architecture (and the combination of the two) be sure to check out the squares of Bloomsbury around the British Museum (particularly Bedford Square). Take the tube up to Hampstead to see the original Hampstead Garden Suburb. Check out the grand terraces around Regent Park, and the elegance of Regent's Terrace. Visit Sir John Soane's museum. And walk. Just walk up and down and throughout London. Visit Bayswater, Kensington, Marylebone, Mayfair, Belgravia, and up to Notting Hill and Belsize Park for thriving artistic communities. All the major museums are well worth the visit (and free!) but do check out the Sir John Soane museum. Take a side trip into Selfridge's and Harrod's department store, particularly Harrods for its food hall.

    But I do recommend taking a day trip outside London to see the "real' England, as London now really belongs to a different place altogether. Take a day trip to Oxford or Cambridge (Oxford is better for a short visit). If you want to see a great, historic 16th century country house not far from London, take the train to Sevenoaks in Kent, now a prosperous suburb but also the home of Knole, one of the great ancient houses of Britain. Be sure to go during daylight as there is no electricity in the main rooms of the house. Another possible day trip, though a longer one, is Bath, which is reachable by train, as is Salisbury with its magnificient cathedral and close, and historic market town atmosphere.

    If you take the train from London to Edinburgh, you can stop at York for a few hours and visit the cathedral (one of the grandest in Britain), and the compact city centre is still surrounded by its original walls and is a very charming place to visit and have lunch after viewing the cathedral.

    Glasgow is a bit of a dreary city, but it has a good stock of victorian architecture in the city centre. The most famous building in Glasgow is the Glasgow School of Art by Mackintosh. Easy walk from the train station. You might want to view the University of Glasgow for its grand, pompous Victorian architecture.

    Dublin is more provincial compared to the British cities, it's far smaller than London, but it has a terrific pub scene and pleasant Georgian squares.

    If you only have two weeks, I would advise you to skip Dublin (save it for the future) and concentrate on spending more time in Britain. Four-five days in London will disappear in the flash of the eye, and a side trip to Oxford/Bath/Salisbury will give you a taste for the famous British countryside, see a castle or country house or two, and walk the historic streets of these cities. Edinburgh is good for three days, and try to see a bit of the Highlands if you can, and you can see what Glasgow has to offer in a day trip from Edinburgh.

  5. #5
    Cyburbian DetroitPlanner's avatar
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    Going to Ireland and spending time just in Dublin would not give you a fair look of Ireland. Much of its beauty is to the West. I would agree with Penn Planner, that Dublin does have its charms, but it is not a major city. If you are a Christian or historian, a trip to see the book of Kells at Trinity College would be in order. Other good spots would be St. Stephen's Green (great examples of the Georgian Architecture PP mentioned), Grafton Street, O'Connell Street, and the Guniess Brewery. While it is the Capitol of a country, the country is not that much larger than metropolitan Detroit or Philly in terms of population, so there are no grand edifaces of governmental power, just Guarda on street corners with machine guns.

    If you have a week for Dublin, go to Ireland but only spend a day in Dublin and the rest seeing the Cliffs of Mohr, Ring of Kerry, Cork. Ireland has a comprehensive train and bus system but you should review how to use it before you get there. I would not recommend driving unless you have a large group and someone familiar with driving on narrow roads and in british-style traffic patterns. Being from the States we did not have any experience and were bewildered whenever we would be required to make a turn at an intersection. The best days were the days when we did not drive, but used public transport.
    We hope for better things; it will arise from the ashes - Fr Gabriel Richard 1805

  6. #6
    Loads of things to see, so this is just a few suggestions of things you might find interesting (I've missed out Dublin as I don't know it that well):

    Edinburgh:
    - Old and New Town as described above.
    - Scottish Parliament
    - Arthurs Seat (the hill to the south of the city - you can walk up the side quite easily and get good views of the city)

    Glasgow:
    Several things of interest to planners here:
    - The 'Lighthouse' centre on Mitchell Lane near Central Station usually has a few interesting architecture/design related exhibitions. You can also go up to the roof and look out.
    - The Glasgow Subway (underground railway) is one of the oldest in the world with very small trains. Sometimes called the 'Clockwork Orange', it has just one circular line with 15 stations.
    - Crown Street - one of the earlier regeneration projects in the Gorbals area (go to Bridge Street subway station and walk from there).
    - The West End of Glasgow (around Byres Road) is one of the most interesting mixed-use, medium-to-high density residential areas in the country. Go to Kelvingrove Park - great views from Park Gate at the top of the hill over the park.
    - For an interesting back lane of pubs/restaurants go to Ashton Lane near Hillhead subway station
    - For some traditional Glasgow tenement housing see between West Princes St and Great Western Road.
    - If you're into Mackintosh architecture then the Art School is a great building to see, but as any local will tell you there are many other architects. The St Vincent Street Church (corner of Pitt St and St Vincent St) is particularly dramatic.

    London
    British Musem definitely worth seeing. In addition to the suggestions from others:
    - The areas on the edges of the City are interesting - particularly the area around Smithfield Market (For a nice old pub, go to the Jerusalem Tavern on Brittan Street, 5 mins from Farringdon tube). Also worth seeing the old showrooms and workshops around Charlotte Road near Old Street tube. From there you can also walk down Great Eastern St to the Spitalfields market area. Artillery Passage (near Artillery Lane and Widegate Street) is a tiny lane near Liverpool St station. One of the few surviving bits of the 17th century townscape left in the city.
    - From here you can walk down through the City past the Gherkin on St Mary Axe etc to St Pauls Cathedral
    - Cross new footbridge (often still called the 'wobbly bridge' even though they fixed the oscillation issues several years ago) to the Tate Modern (conversion of old power station into modern art gallery) and reconstructed Shakespeares Globe theatre. From Bankside you can walk east (path sometimes leaves the river) to London Bridge, the 'Darth Vader Helmet' GLA Building, Tower Bridge and the Tower of London).
    - From London Bridge you can get the tube from there to Canary Wharf - worth it just for the tube station.
    - From Canary Wharf, you can get the Docklands Light Railway down to Island Gardens where you can walk to the river edge and get a great view of Greenwich across the river to the south - you can then go into the rotunda and go through the tunnel under the river to get there.

    Also, I don't know if you've made plans for getting from London to Scotland. There are cheap flights with www.easyjet.com from Luton Airport and www.ryanair.com from Stansted Airport. This is slightly faster, but the train is often a much more pleasant journey, and not that much slower once you include getting to an airport and hanging around there. There's Virgin Trains from London Euston station to Glasgow (goes up west coast, bit faster at about 4-5 hours to Glasgow), and the National Express trains from London Kings Cross up the east coast to Edinburgh and Glasgow (these take a bit longer, but the scenery is much better as you go near the centres of Durham, Newcastle, Berwick and along the North Sea coast for the final stretch through Edinburgh and around to Glasgow).

    Have a great trip

  7. #7
    Cyburbian jmello's avatar
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    Can only offer advice on London (been there twice):

    1. Camdentown on Sunday (incredible street markets along canal)

    2. Little Venice west of Paddington Station

    3. Jack the Ripper walking tour through East London at night

    4. Walk around SOHO and all of Westminster

    5. Watch a live trial at Old Bailey (high court)

    6. Theatre in Leicester Square

    7. Walk Oxford Street from Marble Arch to Tottingham Court Road

    8. Take the Tube to Hampstead Station (so deep that the only way to access it is by elevator) and walk up the hill to Hampstead Heath, where you'll find great views of the city

  8. #8
    Cyburbian cellophane's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by DetroitPlanner View post
    Going to Ireland and spending time just in Dublin would not give you a fair look of Ireland. Much of its beauty is to the West. I would agree with Penn Planner, that Dublin does have its charms, but it is not a major city. If you are a Christian or historian, a trip to see the book of Kells at Trinity College would be in order. Other good spots would be St. Stephen's Green (great examples of the Georgian Architecture PP mentioned), Grafton Street, O'Connell Street, and the Guinness Brewery. While it is the Capitol of a country, the country is not that much larger than metropolitan Detroit or Philly in terms of population, so there are no grand edifices of governmental power, just Garda on street corners with machine guns.

    If you have a week for Dublin, go to Ireland but only spend a day in Dublin and the rest seeing the Cliffs of Mohr, Ring of Kerry, Cork. Ireland has a comprehensive train and bus system but you should review how to use it before you get there. I would not recommend driving unless you have a large group and someone familiar with driving on narrow roads and in british-style traffic patterns. Being from the States we did not have any experience and were bewildered whenever we would be required to make a turn at an intersection. The best days were the days when we did not drive, but used public transport.
    Ireland is worth several weeks just by itself IMO. I went for a week last spring and it was fantastic. I liked Dublin, but I really liked Cork and the surrounding area more. The Book of Kells is cool in a historical sense but its very touristy to actually go through the exhibit. The history is great and actually seeing the various manuscripts is neat but its not the panacea of destinations. The Guinness Brewery is... interesting. I'm glad I went but I wouldn't go back. It is not a brewery tour but rather a seven story marketing exhibit with some history tossed in for good measure. I admit I'm spoiled by the bourbon distilleries locally that actually have walking tours of the distilleries but still. I didn't find the traffic to be that bad but I was navigating and not actually driving so my dad might have a different story to tell about it.

    If you do have the time to go to Ireland I would definitely take a week and I would also try and go to the smaller historical sites as opposed to the "destination" sites. For example: Jerpoint Abbey instead of Clonmacnoise. There is also a lot to say about just wandering around with no real destination in the smaller towns and just seeing where the day takes you. They aren't really planning related in the modern sense but how often is it you get to walk around buildings that are 1,000 years old?

  9. #9
    Cyburbian DetroitPlanner's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by cellophane View post
    Ireland is worth several weeks just by itself IMO. I went for a week last spring and it was fantastic. I liked Dublin, but I really liked Cork and the surrounding area more. The Book of Kells is cool in a historical sense but its very touristy to actually go through the exhibit. The history is great and actually seeing the various manuscripts is neat but its not the panacea of destinations. The Guinness Brewery is... interesting. I'm glad I went but I wouldn't go back. It is not a brewery tour but rather a seven story marketing exhibit with some history tossed in for good measure. I admit I'm spoiled by the bourbon distilleries locally that actually have walking tours of the distilleries but still. I didn't find the traffic to be that bad but I was navigating and not actually driving so my dad might have a different story to tell about it.

    If you do have the time to go to Ireland I would definitely take a week and I would also try and go to the smaller historical sites as opposed to the "destination" sites. For example: Jerpoint Abbey instead of Clonmacnoise. There is also a lot to say about just wandering around with no real destination in the smaller towns and just seeing where the day takes you. They aren't really planning related in the modern sense but how often is it you get to walk around buildings that are 1,000 years old?
    I'd agree with you on the brewery, I made it to Dublin late in my trip of 9 days (not ehough time) and I had already seen ancient mounds and castles so my experience with the book of Kells was based upon linking the old Ireland with the new (?). I also enjoyed wandering though the Library that the books were housed in. Some of thee ancient castles were very cool, yet it was hard to comprehend how the heck people could live in some of those, granted I assume that much of what was there is now gone.

    Oh if you go to Muckross House the Horsecarts are very over rated.
    We hope for better things; it will arise from the ashes - Fr Gabriel Richard 1805

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