First, I bought myself and Osprey 45 liter backpack. It's got a pretty waterproof shell, and it's front loading so, easy to dig out what you need - and it's carry on size! Then I bought a couple of REI packing cubes. These things were great and helped me keep what little clothes I packed organized. To be honest, halfway through the trip I realized I could have packed LESS clothes..
Packing two week's worth of supplies into a backpack was harder than I thought but it was pretty freeing to realize just how little I really needed.
I bought myself a BRIT RAIL FLEXI PASS
This pass is a LIFESAVER. It lets you on any UK national rail train at any time - no reservation needed.
Speaking of trains - download TRAINLINE once you're in the UK.. This app makes it super easy to look up train timetables, you can buy tickets through it too, but if you have a Britrail pass, there's no ticket buying necessary!! Train is one of the best ways to travel the UK. The English countryside looks like one of those Thomas Kinkade paintings my Gramma liked so much.
Other handy apps (I was clearly roughing it, y'all).
Wallet is handy - I kept all my boarding passes and hotel receipts and even my tour passes in here.
Booking now by Booking.com - find accommodations on the spot for the night of or the next night. Honestly, this thing was a lifesaver and I never paid over $100 for a night's stay except two nights out of 14 days!
Moovit - This is a helpful app for when you're walking a city or having to use public transportation. It tells you the route of how to get somewhere by foot, bus, train, or a combo of everything.
Viator - If you're looking for deals on tours, get this app. Boom.
All in all, I had a pretty successful trip. I didn't really have a plan, I just took it day by day. I knew some things I wanted to see, but other than that everything was me flying by the seat of my pants. It was freeing and invigorating and scary as hell. I loved every minute of it.
Here's the list of all the places I hit and what awesomeness I saw there:
London - I'd already been here so I didn't do much, just hung out with a friend, had a 20" pizza. You heard me. 20 inches.
Oxford - Saw an excellent exhibit on why Shakespeare's obsessed with death. Climbed 1200 year old steps in the tower of St. Mary's. Saw the Bodelain Library and walked same streets as some of the oldest and greatest minds ever to live.
Edinburgh, Scotland - the castle - self guided audio tour is so worth it and the tea room is adorbs! It snowed! Calton Hill - amazing views!
Scottish Highlands - Inverness/Culloden - The train ride through the Highlands is a must. Inverness is a beautiful old city on the river Ness.. great place! I got lost trying to see the Clava Cairns, got rescued by a REALLY nice cab driver who took me to see them and didn't even charge me! The Cairns - amazing experience, it was raining and I was there alone. I could've sat there forever.
I saw the oldest house in Inverness, and there's this beautiful 15th century church there! I popped into the Mustard seed for an early dinner and some warmth. DELICIOUS FOOD, friendliest people.
I tried to make it to the Isle of Skye. Trained all the way to city of Kyle where you have to take a ferry over or you have to walk over the bridge. TOTALLY SNOWED IN. Here's a tip: Always check the weather!
Got back on a train, and started making my way back down into England because I had a wedding to go to. Rode back down through some highlands and then stopped in the walled town of Chester - they have a beautiful church here too (of course). I walked the wall, had some tea, took some photos, and continued on - back on the train!
Stratford Upon Avon - Shakespeare was born here, lived here, and he's buried here. Did my inner theater nerd geek out? I geeked out. Hard. This is a beautiful village. I saw where the man himself was born, I saw where Anne his wife lived as a girl - amazing cottage! I saw where he's buried. I spent the rest of my day here then headed to the next village over for my friend's wedding.
Once the wedding was over, I got up and headed into Wales. Oh boy, it was so hard to leave here! BEAUTIFUL.
Llandudno - amazingly beautiful coastal town in Wales. Here, I took the tram up the Great Orme, and spend some time hiking around it, taking in the views. This is a colorful seaside town, where the supposed inspiration behind Alice in Alice in Wonderland spend her summers! There's even a white rabbit trail around the city. This place was romantic. I hated leaving.
Betws -y - coed - A hidden village in Northern Wales. Stayed at a great B&B. This place was magic and like something out of a storybook.
More trains! Headed for Ireland!
To get to Ireland, you can train over to Holyhead in Northern Wales then ferry over. It takes about 2 hours. After a quick bus ride I was in Dublin.
Dublin was a really great city, but I was mostly using it as a jumping off point for the 14 hour tour I'd booked for the next day of Northern Ireland.
Belfast/ north Ireland/ Giant's Causeway - THIS TOUR IS EVERYTHING AND YOU SHOULD DO IT. You leave Dublin at 7 am and then take a coach up to Belfast where you have the option of seeing the Titanic museum, which is built where Titanic was built, OR you can take a black taxi tour with a Belfast local and hear all about the turbulent history of Northern Ireland - specifically Belfast.
Then, you head out towards the Giant's Causeway. This is the remnants of an old volcano where these huge basalt columns made of hardened lava keep rising up from the sea. So, so, so, amazing. The winds were crazy, so people were falling all over the place, but it was so awesome!!
Then you head to the Carrick a Rede rope bridge where you walk over the mouth of another old volcano. Again, so awesome.
After Ireland, I made one more stop in England before I made my way to the airport - Bath. I almost skipped this place but I'm glad I didn't. I did the tour of the Roman Baths there and it was incredible. It's a really beautiful city, and the contrast between English and Roman architecture is a sight to see.
So that's pretty much it. There are probably 100 smaller things I'm leaving out but, I have a ton of pictures to edit - so keep a look out!
All in all, I was pretty successful. I only got lost twice, I ate bread multiple times a day but I somehow lost weight - score! I didn't have any negative encounters with people, I didn't get taken, I didn't get injured - although I will say I got a KILLER cold in Scotland - and I made it home in one piece!
If you ever get a chance to go somewhere alone - DO IT. Even if it's just to another state. Traveling opens up your soul, it humbles you, it motivates you, it helps you see outside yourself, if you're open to it.
That's all for now!