red double-decker bus passing Palace of Westminster, London during daytime

Contiki Tours Review: Great Britain and Ireland


A tour of the United Kingdom is a great experience everyone should take part in at least once in their life. You will find it deeply enriching with the culture, history, food, and extra activities you can do here.

This is a review of the Great Britain and Ireland group tour provided by the tour company Contiki. It is a 16 day duration traveling through England, Scotland, Ireland, Northern Ireland, and Wales. So you are getting to experience some of the highlights of 5 countries over a 2 week period.

You will follow a flexible itinerary showcasing the cities and countries you will be visiting, but you will be given some free time to explore on your own or join other smaller parts of the group if you have your own ideas on what sites or stops you would like to make during that period.

*Note that tours and activities are subject to change depending on the month, weather, federally recognized holidays, and other restrictive conditions.

Monument at Corgaff Scotland

Group Size

The Great Britain and Ireland is one of the most popular tours Contiki has to offer. Depending on the month and season you decide to sign up for this tour, the group size will vary. It can be a cozy and intimate group of 10-15 people or a large group of 30-40. You will usually never know until you actually arrive. The same goes for the age of the group and country of origin. It’s possible you may find yourself the only person from your country and the majority of the group is from one or two along with a handful of others from various countries.

Contiki Tour Guide

You will mostly be led by your own Contiki tour guide along with other local guides depending on the add-on activity you choose to do. They will have a deeper knowledge of some specific things of Great Britain and Ireland while your tour guide will have more knowledge as a whole.

Your tour guide is there to make sure you have a good time. They will have been trained on communication skills, knowledge of the areas you will be going to, what to do in case of emergencies, and overall to make sure the itinerary is followed.

Part of the fun is that these tour guides are veterans when it comes to travel and will have wonderful recommendations on places to eat or go out for a nightcap after the day is done or suggest hidden gems of activities during your free time in the tour itinerary.

Accommodations

Traveling through Great Britain and Ireland, most of your stay will be in standard 4-Star hotels or smaller but similar lodgings. If you did not select to have your room during the trip, you will be paired with one or two others randomly at the beginning of the tour and they will most likely be your roommates for the duration.

This can have a positive or negative effect on your trip depending on who you are roomed with. If you feel the need to swap rooms with someone else during the trip, mention this to your tour guide who will attempt to make arrangements or reconciliation between you and the person you are not getting along with. This rarely happens as most people on tour groups tend to put their best foot forward and try to compromise but there are random instances.

Transportation

The tour is going to be a combination of a private bus used for the entirety of the trip to get you from city to city. Your daily activities will include light walking, a boat ride or two, and some light hiking as well. The transportation will pass safety inspections and you will be given instructions in case of an emergency. This is the standard process when taking a tour.

Great Britain and Ireland Tour Itinerary

  • Day 1: London to Manchester via Liverpool
  • Day 2: Manchester to York
  • Day 3: York to Carlisle via Lake District National Park
  • Day 4: Carlisle to Edinburgh via Hadrian’s Wall
  • Day 5: Edinburgh
  • Day 6: Edinburgh to Inverness via St. Andrews via Stirling
  • Day 7: Inverness via Loch Ness via Aviemore
  • Day 8: Inverness to Glasgow via Glenfinnan Viaduct
  • Day 9: Glasgow to Dublin via Larne
  • Day 10: Dublin to County Cork via Kilkenny
  • Day 11: County Cork to Galway via Blarney via Cliffs of Mohr
  • Day 12: Galway
  • Day 13: Galway to Derry/Londonderry
  • Day 14: Derry/Londonderry to Belfast via Giant’s Causeway
  • Day 15: Belfast to Dublin
  • Day 16: Dublin to London via Wales

Tour Highlights

Most of the highlights of this tour were the optional add-ons that you can participate in but there were a few that are included experiences. If you decide that some of the add-ons are not for you, then you these as your own free time to explore and meet up with the group later at an agreed upon location.

Beatles Magic Mystery Tour

Great Britain and Ireland Cavern Club

This is a great way to explore Liverpool while getting a quick history of the The Beatles in their younger years. You will be strolling through iconic streets like Penny Lane and finishing the tour at the world famous Cavern Club, where you can see the displays of rock and roll icons.

York Ghost Walk

Another tour add-on except at night where you get to learn about the darker side of the city from a local guide. You’ll need to push your imagination being in a modern area compared to the storytelling but it’s still fun just roaming the city at night in historic areas and crossing through dark alleys with your group.

Traditional Scottish Dinner

You’ve got the bagpipes and a 3-course dinner to really set the mood for dinner here. We definitely recommend trying the haggis as your main entree. It’s a great way to spend the night with a lot of laughs, Scottish music, and just overall socializing.

Swim Loch Ness Lake

Swimming in the Lochness Lake

I wouldn’t say swim as much as dip your toes by the shoreline. During my trip I accidentally slipped on the rocks and fell fully clothed into the water. With the weather being what it is in Scotland, it was very, very cold. But still you will have some gorgeous panoramic views of the lake.

Jameson Distillery

Part of the added fun here is becoming a certified Irish Whiskey Taster at the end of tour, with printed certificate for you to take home as a souvenir. You get to learn about the whole distillery process and Jameson history in Ireland while getting to learn how to spot the subtle differences among several small samples.

Cliffs of Mohr

This location is iconic and nearly every tour you take will make a stop here. The views are just ridiculous at how beautiful it is. You may unfortunately be caught in some bad weather depending on what month you decide to go. It can be very windy and a lot of rain in those parts. Just make sure to bring a jacket or heavy sweater to help get you through the day.

Londonderry Murals

You will see how the political unrest of Northern Ireland may have died down here a little but it has never really been forgotten. Your local guide will take you through the history while viewing all the murals and additional street art in this hub of Londonderry. The mood may be a bit more somber but this piece of history is still very much alive and you should want to learn even just the tidbits.

Giant’s Causeway

Another popular outdoor tourist attraction. You will have a fine afternoon walking the paths and along the rock-shaped formations of this geological marvel. It’s a nice place to stretch your legs and enjoy the Irish ocean breeze. This is a must-visit for Northern Ireland so expect a lot of other tour buses and groups coming through during the day.

Guinness Storehouse

Guinness Storehouse

Finishing up in Dublin, you get to take a tour of the Guinness Storehouse. It’s really one of the best ways to spend your time in Dublin. One of the highlights here is taking the lesson to learn how to pour the perfect pint of Guinness. That way when you are back home you can see how well other servers and bartenders do it compared to you. You will get another certificate similar to the certified whisky taster you received earlier in the trip.

These are just a small fraction of the experiences you are bound to have here and these activities and highlights are always changing so no trip is exactly the same. Don’t worry about having to capture pictures for every single moment of the trip. Just forget about the camera sometimes and just live in the moment of what you are doing in these amazing places.

Is it Worth the Price?

This tour does not include the flight to get to London but it is still a fair deal when you are getting accommodations, transportation, some included breakfast and dinners, and included experiences that are part of the itinerary over 16 days. Yes, if you really deep dive into researching cheaper hotel options and transportation options I am sure you can find some. But you are also really paying to socialize and travel with others like yourself instead of traveling completely solo, which some may not prefer. The tour provides good value for it’s cost and you won’t second guess yourself afterwards.

Score 9/10

The Great Britain and Ireland tour was great overall. It’s the way to get yourself oriented to each of the countries. There is no way you won’t want to come visit again to explore the places the tour couldn’t get to or that you may want to do a deeper dive into more local attractions and highlights.

One of the only recommendations that I have was to expand on the time spent in Wales. There did not feel like there was enough time to really explore and tour the city and was more of a pit stop on the way back to London. Adding a longer stop here or even another day to really discover this country would be a bonus.

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