Skip to content Skip to footer

Our New Scotland and England Travel Guide: Planning Tips from Frommer’s Expert Authors

Authors of the newly released Frommer’s England and Scotland on how to save money, what to see beyond London, and why the world’s best sparkling wine can’t be found in France

For visitors to the United Kingdom who are looking to save some money during their travels, Frommer’s author Donald Strachan has a word of advice: “Get out of London!”

“Don’t get me wrong,” he hastens to add. “It’s my home and I love it. But everything is cheaper outside the capital, especially if you veer away from well-trodden London day-tripping.”

The freshly updated, newly released Frommer’s England and Scotland, cowritten by Strachan, Stephen Brewer, Jason Cochran, Deborah Collcutt, Katie Featherstone, Samantha Priestley, and Simon Willmore, contains plenty about London, of course. It is, after all, indisputably one of the world’s great cities.

But the book also provides a thorough road map (in addition to numerous literal maps) for exploring the rest of England and Scotland, too, from seaside escapes on the Suffolk Coast and in the Scottish islands, to country ambles in the same green and rolling Cotswolds landscapes that inspired poets, to city breaks in lively, ever-changing places such as Glasgow, Manchester, and Liverpool

We caught up with three of the book’s authors—Donald Strachan, Stephen Brewer, and Simon Willmore—by email to get some insider info on what the guide contains as well as expert tips for saving money, experiencing the best new and enduring attractions, and making an itinerary that hits the most rewarding highlights beyond the London mainstays. 

Our exchange, edited for length and clarity, follows. 

(Quirky Glaswegians are fond of putting a traffic cone on the head of the Duke of Wellington statue outside the city’s Gallery of Modern Art. | Credit: VisitScotland / Kenny Lam)

FROMMER’S: What appealed to you about covering your respective regions in this guidebook?

DONALD STRACHAN: I live in London, and eastern England is where I personally go to escape the city. The area is woefully underexplored by visitors from overseas—from North America especially. I have no idea why. My kids have splashed around the coasts of Suffolk and north Kent many times. My dog loves the massive sandy beaches of Norfolk, especially on a wild winter’s day. There’s ancient castles, tons of history, and an incredible aviation museum at IWM Duxford. This is a great part of the country to travel around. Very English—and very close to London.

STEPHEN BREWER: I have family and friends in Manchester and Glasgow and have known this part of the world for most of my life. I love the spirit up here and, yes, even the weather, which let’s just say is moody. The landscapes, of course, are beautiful, and the cities have an amazing energy to them. 

SIMON WILLMORE: I’m British, originally from Worcestershire but now based in Gloucestershire in the Cotswolds, hence one of my book chapters. I’ve been a journalist for 13 years, writing about just about anywhere on the planet but nowadays focusing a lot more on the U.K., largely for sustainability reasons. In recent years I’ve rediscovered my love for the British countryside. England’s green and pleasant land really is as wonderful as William Blake’s poetry would have you believe. 

Did you encounter any challenges or surprises during your research?

BREWER: I spent the days leading up to Christmas in Glasgow. It was all very festive, with Christmas fairs in the squares and pubs and restaurants full of people. Then I made the really dumb decision to walk around the Cathedral Precinct and Necropolis on an icy morning and took a tumble on slick cobblestones and sprained my ankle. Good news is, this being Scotland, I found a good bottle of single malt and got to lie on the couch with a copy of Douglas Stuart’s Shuggie Bain, a wonderful novel set in Glasgow.

WILLMORE: It says a lot about my life priorities, but one big surprise was the closure of a pub. The Eagle and Child in Oxford is currently closed even though it’s the famed former watering hole of the luminary Inklings writers’ group, which included C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien. You can still see the building in the center of the city but for now you won’t be able to visit the storied rooms or have a pint. However, if you’re looking for a Tolkien fix, pop into my hometown, Moreton-in-Marsh. The Bell Inn is the inspiration behind the Prancing Pony pub as featured in the Lord of the Rings books.

(Southwold on England’s Suffolk Coast | Credit: Elle1 / Shutterstock)

What’s some stuff in this book that you’re excited to share with readers?

STRACHAN: The food scene in eastern and southeastern England is always exciting. Proximity to the sea helps. In fact, one of Britain’s first railways connected the oyster beds at Whitstable with Canterbury—the railway was built for mollusks, not people! North Sea fish, Kent salt marsh lamb, Suffolk’s Blythburgh pork, so many farmhouse cheeses . . . I could waffle on for ages. But what’s exciting me at this particular moment is the drinks scene. Thanks to a combination of chalky soil and climate change, Sussex and Kent are producing the world’s best sparkling wine, in my opinion. I guess the authors of Frommer’s France would push back? I urge any visitor to get to Rathfinny Estate, get to Balfour Winery or Ridgeview or many others, then let’s talk.

BREWER: In Glasgow I was really pleased to see the amazing Burrell Collection, one of my favorite museums in the world, reopening after a huge rebuilding project. Manchester, always on the move, has transformed an old railway bridge as the Castlefield Viaduct, their version of New York’s High Line. The Manchester Museum, with vast natural history collections, has been completely reimagined. In LiverpoolLiverpool One, a vast shopping precinct, has completely transformed and revitalized the city center in the past decade. 

Got any quick planning tips?

WILLMORE: If you’ll be doing much train travel, check out the Network Railcard, which gives 30% off tickets. It’s £30 ($38) to buy, lasts a year, and, although it’s only for off-peak, there are no restrictions for who can buy the pass. A return ticket from London Paddington to Oxford can cost over £60 ($75) without a rail card, so you just need to do two similar trips in 12 months to start saving money.

STRACHAN: The BritRail Pass is another good value, and any town you’d want to visit probably has a rail station.

BREWER: Visitors to the north of England and Scotland will probably be surprised to see that prices are moderate compared to those in London, New York, and a lot of other places. Two can get by quite nicely on $100 or $150 a night for lodging; it’s worth checking out what’s on offer from Motel One, Indigo, Malmaison, and other budget-conscious European chains. To save on meals, browse the food halls, where stalls sell a huge variety of prepared dishes. 

(Riding ponies in the English village of Upper Slaughter | Credit: Marso / Shutterstock)

If you were showing a first-time visitor around the region you wrote about for the book, what would be at the top of your list?

WILLMORE: Have a walk near Upper Slaughter or Longborough in the Cotswolds. The countryside is much prettier than the name “Slaughter” implies. It comes from Old English slohtre meaning “wet land”—marsh, essentially. Try to avoid Cornwall and Devon in the school holidays (July and August) because the small roads become gridlocked with traffic. Still, the scenery there is as picturesque as anywhere in the world. Grab some fish and chips and a pint of lager or cider and find a bench near Portreath or Perranporth and watch the world go by.

BREWER: Friends often ask me to help with an itinerary for Scotland, and I always recommend beginning in Glasgow, rather than Edinburgh. It’s less expensive and, as the saying goes, “You’ll have a lot more fun at a funeral in Glasgow than you will at a wedding in Edinburgh.” People don’t always realize that the two cities are only about 45 minutes apart, so it’s easy to visit one from the other. Plus, Glasgow is on the edge of the west, so from there you can visit Loch Lomond and drop down to the coast and the Hebrides. Everyone should see the Isle of Skye, all the better if it’s offseason, and from there cross the Highlands to Aberdeen for a boat out to the Orkney and Shetland islands. 

STRACHAN: With apologies to everywhere else in this rich corner of England, I’m picking the Suffolk coast. We’re lodging in a seaside cottage in Southwold, walking to the dunes at Walberswick in the early morning, eating lunch at the Aldeburgh Fish & Chip Shop, dinner at the Unruly Pig, then home in time for a pint at the Lord Nelson. Ask me this question tomorrow and I’ll come up with a completely different and equally enticing itinerary. There’s so much here. Even I haven’t finished exploring yet.

Frommer’s England and Scotland is available now in paperback and e-book versions.

For more on England beyond London, Pauline Frommer spoke with authors of Frommer’s England and Scotland on the November 12 episode of the Frommer’s podcast.