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Need help with our tour of UK/Ireland!

Hello fellow Chowhounds,

I've been a longtime lurker on Chowhound. Chowhound has been a fantastic resource for planning my honeymoon in Argentina and last year's trip to NYC; this is in addition to the great finds I've gotten living here in the SF Bay Area.

Here is the help I need:
The wife and I are traveling the UK and Ireland June 4th thru 17th and have no idea what to eat and where to go.

This is our tentative schedule:
London - 4 days
Oxford and Manchester -3 days
Edinburgh and scotch whiskey tasting - 3 days
Dublin - 3 days

The only things we have so far is that: we are going to St. John and The Kitchin in Edinburgh. (couldn't get into The Fat Duck [does anyone have any tips on getting a rez?])

The tips I was hoping you all could provide are:
1. London - What are the can't miss spots to hit? We enjoy all kinds of food but really want to concentrate on local specialties we can't anywhere else in the world (best black pudding, best high tea, etc.)
2. London - Besides restaurants, are there any street food / food markets that are exceptional?
3. London - Is 4 days enough time to spend in London?
4. Are there any places that we can't miss between London and Edinburgh?
5. Does anyone have any lodging tips for any countryside farms that host visitors and give them the agricultural experience? [milking cows and making cheese and then lunch with the family?]
6. The wife and I are big scotch drinkers and plan to visit some distilleries in Scotland; does anyone have any recommendations?
7. Is there any food reasons to travel outside of Dublin while in Ireland?

Sorry if any of this has been answered before; thanks in advance for the responses!

Thanks

Gia

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  1. You are asking for a HUGE amount of information. I'm sure this group is up for it. :-)

    If you are in London on a Friday, try to get to the Borough Market. It's much more of a mob scene on Saturdays.

    Four days is definitely not enough for London, but if that's the time you have, then enjoy the four days by planning out your itinerary as that always helps. Try to do lunches near the sights you'll be seeing, but that takes some research.

    It sounds as if you are driving to Edinburgh. The Lake District is definitely one area to see if you are driving north. The scenery is fantastic, and there are some top-notch restaurants in the area. There could even be the farm experience you crave.

    7 Replies
    1. re: zuriga1

      But if you're driving to Edinburgh, wouldn't it be up the M1?...

      Whisky - well, where do you start! A lot depends on how far you are prepared to travel. This is a pretty definitive map http://www.dcs.ed.ac.uk/home/jhb/whis... but there are plenty of places to drink whisky in Edinburgh itself, here's a city map http://www.scotlandwhisky.com/plan-yo...

      Don't underestimate how long it takes to drive places in the UK - the major roads can be quite slow due to heavy traffic and roadworks. London to Edinburgh is a very long day, if you can break it then probably the yorkshire dales (possibly picking up a nice michelin starred pub)

      1. re: mr_gimlet

        I was on the M1 a few weeks ago. I'd avoid that road even if it means a slightly longer drive, which it probably would not. The Dales is a good idea, though. There's a B&B/Restaurant called the Wensleydale Heifer. It's supposed to be very good - also very popular.

        1. re: mr_gimlet

          Not if they're planning to go via Oxford and Manchester.

          1. re: greedygirl

            We are not dead-set on Manchester. We are weighing our options right now and could be easily convinced to go elsewhere...

            1. re: giahua

              Consider the Lake District rather than Manchester. I assume you're going to Oxford for the University? I'm a Cambridge girl myself - I don't know much about Oxford!

          2. re: mr_gimlet

            Thanks for the whisky maps! Hopefully my liver can keep up with the travels. I'm just looking forward to driving on the left side of the road.

          3. re: zuriga1

            Wow. thanks for the all the info. The Borough Market is definitely on the list now. We may try to extend our London leg of the trip. We will be driving from London to Edinburgh and the Lake District looks like a must. I'm still having trouble finding the farm experience but I'll keep looking.

            Thanks,

            Gia

          4. If you are driving to Scotland, be sure to stop by here
            http://www.westmorland.com/

            Most motorway service stations in this country are depressing, but this one is one of 2 independently run places with a farm shop selling loads of great local produce from the lake district.. MAny make a point of stopping here en route to and from Scotland.

            1 Reply
            1. I think with 3 days in Dublin you probably don't have time for this.

              A trip to Cork would be worth while in terms of food in my opinion. You would need a car but could visit Ballymaloe Cookery School, Visit Frank Hederman's Smokehouse and pay a visit to Gubben. In Cork the English Market is an experience.

              http://www.gubbeen.com/
              http://www.frankhederman.com/
              http://www.cookingisfun.ie/
              http://www.corkenglishmarket.ie/

              The Cliff House in Waterford got a star this year - http://www.thecliffhousehotel.com/

              Bon Appetit in Malahide is about 35 minutes from Dublin - I fear the food might not excite despite it's one star

              Here is a recent thread about Dublin restaurants: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/7042...

              2 Replies
              1. re: tonto21

                We are still debating about a day trip to outside of Dublin. Is three days too much time for just Dublin?

                1. re: giahua

                  No not at all, I would say it's probably about right for Dublin...you wont have time for Cork etc with just three days though.

              2. Hmm. How are you planning on getting about? By car? Bear in mind that you will be doing a lot of driving and the London-Oxford (2ish hours) and Oxford to Manchester (3 hours) routes are pretty busy. If you are driving from Manchester to Edinburgh, it's definitely worth taking some time in the Lake District. In fact (and don't tell Mr GG as it's his home town) I'd skip Manchester and do the Lake District instead. Were you then planning to fly to Dublin?

                I actually think you are trying to do too much in the time you've got. You'd be better off leaving Ireland for another time and seeing more of London and Scotland. Four days is definitely not long enough for London.

                Anyway, in London, try to get to the Harwood Arms, which is a fantastic gastropub which recently received a Michelin star. Specialises in locally sourced food, esp game but it's not the right time of year for that. Being a local, I don't tend to do afternoon tea, but there are lots of posts for places on here and I'd definitely recommend trying it. I'd say that Indian food is a local speciality and will probably be better than what you can get in the SF area - does that interest you at all?

                Definitely go to Borough market, and check out Neal's Yard Dairy for the best English cheeses.

                5 Replies
                1. re: greedygirl

                  We were planning on taking a Ryanair flight from Edinburgh to Dublin (only $25!). We can't cut out Dublin since our flight back to the states is Dublin. Thanks for the tip on Harwood Arms, just made a rez on Opentable. Indian food is something we really want to try in London as it's a bit weak here in San Francisco. (North Indian is a bit Americanized here, but South Indian food is getting really popular here and tastes more authentic.) I can search the archives for recs on that.

                  We plan to buy cheese in the morning and indulge on cheeses throughout the day. Do the cheese shops have good wine to sell to pair with the cheese? We loved in Paris that every cheese shop had the perfect wine to pair with whatever cheese they sold. Also, is it legal to drink in public parks in London?

                  1. re: giahua

                    Cheese shops don't generally sell wine, no. In London, as well as Neal's Yard Dairy, I would recommend La Fromagerie on Marylebone High Street. They have a cafe in-store, but you could buy stuff for a picnic in nearby Regent's Park. If they don't sell wine there, go to a nearby off-license called Nicolas (French chain), or Waitrose (upmarket grocery store) to get your wine. It is perfectly legal to drink in the park. :-)

                    For Indian food centrally, try Moti Mohal or Gaylords. If you're willing to travel a little bit, Indian Zing comes highly recommended (Ravenscourt Park).

                  2. re: greedygirl

                    "In fact (and don't tell Mr GG as it's his home town) I'd skip Manchester and do the Lake District instead".

                    I shall grass you to Mr GG - we north westerners have to stick together. Innit

                    That said, there's an argument for skipping Manc for the Lakes (which is still in the north west - although the BBC local news doesnt think it is). There's possibly two.

                    First is an arguable one. In the Lakes, you can come across top food - four Michelin starred restaurants in the county. But they are well spread out and there's quite a bit of crap food in between them. Whereas in Manc, you find the best concentration outside London of decent mid-range stuff all within the walking distance in the city centre. No high-flyers but damn decent nosh.

                    The other argument is that the Lakes are more attractive than an industrial city. Always assuming your idea of attractive is lakes, hills and a lot of sheep.

                    1. re: Harters

                      I can't speak to the Manchester vs. Lake District choice directly as I've never been to Manchester. If you do go in for the lakes, hills & sheep, however, I'd strongly recommend this B&B in Boltongate, in the LD: http://www.boltongateoldrectory.com/
                      Food was great -- in addition to breakfast, we had 2 dinners there. It's very near the Scottish border, in terms of your driving itinerary.

                      1. re: Harters

                        But Manchester also has some of the best urbanscape and museums of the industrial revolution, if you're interested in that - the industrial museums are amongst the best in the world. Then there's the Imperial War Museum, the Lowry and John Rylands library. But then, I like cities - you can see grass and sheep from the motorway.

                    2. Forget Dublin and head straight for Ballymaloe! I had the pleasure of spending a week there last September. Took a 2 1/2 day class with Rachel Allen at Ballymaloe Cookery School and enjoyed amazing 5-course meals at Ballymaloe House each night. I'm in my mid-thirties and have lived in NYC for 15 years. I wasn't sure if the Ballymaloe experience would be too stuffy or old fashioned for me. I absolutely LOVED it! No TV's in the rooms so you hang out in the gorgeous drawing room on the ground floor, sipping your Irish whiskey or wine, chatting to other guests. Food was off the charts fantastic...all of it is sourced from the Ballymaloe farms or from farms just down the road. YOu don't need a car to get down there from Dublin. Just take the train from Heuston station in Dublin to Cork City and it's about a 30 minute cab ride. They also just opened a commuter line to Midleton, Cork so you could also just transfer to that line as well. Let me know if you want more details! BTW, I've been to Ireland 11 times and to Dublin 7 of those times. You won't be missing anything if you skip it.