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January 15-20 in 2020: Lonely Planet is having their big sale – 45% off all their travel guides, no coupon code needed. Click HERE to shop the sale, or browse the featured guides from the British Isles below (all of which are on sale for these five days).
Whether you're actively planning a trip or just dreaming, travel guides can be a great source of ideas, inspiration, and eye candy. There are loads of guides on the market, but in this post, we'll take a look at Lonely Planet's offerings for England, Scotland, and Wales – and help you figure out which one is best suited to your purposes.
Looking for guides for a different destination? You can view all of their offerings HERE.
Travel Guides for England
Lonely Planet has a number of guides for both England as a whole and specific cities. The guides for England can be great if you're not sure where to start with your trip planning, but if you're going to be in a specific city for 3+ days (which we always recommend if you can manage it), definitely look into one of the city or region-specific guides. You'll get a lot more depth and insight into the area, and most of the guides contain insights from locals instead of just the same old generic travel advice.
The maps are slightly less useful now that we all have Google Maps on our phones – but they CAN be really useful for getting a sense of a city's layout and how to plan your days.
General English Travel Guides
This guide is a great overview for anyone visiting England, and it includes chapters on:
- Planning your trip
- Canterbury & the Southeast
- Oxford & the Cotswolds
- Bath & Southwest England
- Cambridge & East Anglia
- Birmingham & the Midlands
- The Lake District & Cumbria
- Understanding England
- Newcastle & the Northeast
- Manchester, Liverpool, and Northwest England
The only thing I don't love is that they combined Oxford & the Cotswolds, and I feel like the Cotswolds is a big enough area – and a popular enough area – that it needs its own section to really do it justice. They're right next to each other, of course, there's just so much to see and do in both.
Region-Specific English Travel Guides
Bath, Bristol, & the Southwest
Lonely Planet offers two products for Bath, Bristol, and the Southwest: a planning map, and a pocket guide.
Devon & Cornwall
If it's a seaside escape you're after, Devon & Cornwall are great counties to explore – though in fairness, both have plenty of pretty countryside, too. The guide offers a few different suggested itineraries, along with helpful suggestions on seasons. It's definitely beefier than a lot of the “pocket guides” they offer for other areas.
Fair warning – this is one part of the country where it's tough to explore without a car. You can still do things by train and bus and taxi, but it takes a lot longer. You won't find the itineraries very useful if you're not prepared to drive.
Oxford & the Cotswolds
An area that's high up on many lists, Lonely Planet offers two guides for Oxford and the Cotswolds – a pocket guide, and a map. Neither are quite as comprehensive as I'd like to see, though, and if you're going to be spending a lot of time there, I'd recommend supplementing with another guide like The Cotswolds (Slow Travel) or The Rough Guide to the Cotswolds, Stratford-Upon-Avon, and Oxford. The map is great, though.
The Lake District & Cumbria
Though the Lake District may not be as popular as the Cotswolds, it's a beautiful area with a lot to offer. Lonely Planet has two guides for the area:
First on many traveller's lists, London is always popular with visitors. Though I much prefer the countryside and smaller cities myself, I do enjoy London in small doses, and I know it can also be totally overwhelming to a first-timer. Even with a week, you can only scratch the surface of what's on offer – and it's so much more than just Big Ben and the London Eye.
- Lonely Planet's London – 480 pages. This is the big one, for the person who wants a really in-depth look at all that London has to offer.
- Lonely Planet's Best of London – 288 pages. This guide is a bit shorter, focusing on London's most popular attractions.
- Pocket London – 224 pages. If you're looking for a guide that covers the basics and adds in some local insight, this one fits the bill.
- London City Map – This handy map is waterproof and easy to fold.
- London City Trails – Designed for kids aged 9-12, this guide focuses on interesting bits of London trivia – great for anyone travelling to the UK with kids.
- Pop-Up London – This pop-up book is intended for little ones – making it the perfect gift for the mini-Anglophiles in your life.
- PhotoCity London – 160 pages. This book offers 160 photos to illustrate a single day in the life of London.
Travel Guides for Scotland
General Scottish Travel Guides
At 480 (colour) pages, this guide offers an excellent overview of Scotland. It has chapters on:
- Southern Scotland (aka the Scottish Borders)
- Central Scotland
- Northeast Scotland
- Southern Highlands & Islands
- Inverness & the Central Highlands
- Northern Highlands & Islands
- Orkney & Shetland
- Scottish Survival Guide
Region-Specific Scottish Travel Guides
Lonely Planet has three guides for Edinburgh – a pocket guide, a city map, and a FREE guide to accessibility at top attractions and events.
There are two Glasgow-specific guides: one pocket guide with the basics of the city and its attractions, and another (FREE) guide to local accessibility for people with various challenges.
Highlands & Islands
As great as Glasgow and Edinburgh are, there's something special about the Highlands and Islands – and this huge stretch of Scotland is definitely worthy of an entire book.
Travel Guides for Wales
Wales doesn't get nearly as much tourism love as the rest of Great Britain, but it's not for lack of beauty and fun things to do.
- Wales Travel Guide – 352 pages. This guide dedicates a chapter to each of the major regions:
- Swansea, Gower & Carmarthenshire
- St Davids & Pembrokeshire
- Anglesey & the North Coast
- Brecon Beacons & Southeast Wales
- Aberystwyth & Mid-Wales
- Snowdonia & the Llyn
- Wales Planning Map – Again, like other Lonely Planet maps, this one is waterproof and easy-to-fold.
Other Related Travel Guides for Great Britain
Some of the Lonely Planet guides combine multiple areas within the British Isles, so we gave those their own section.
- Best of Great Britain Travel Guide – 324 pages. This overview guide focuses on England, Scotland, and Wales, and it includes loads of colour photos and 60+ maps. If you're looking to build a highlights tour for yourself, this is a great place to start. You may not find it quite as useful if you're looking to build a trip that spends 3-4 days each in a smaller number of locations.
- Lonely Planet Great Britain – 1056 pages. This is the big daddy of Lonely Planet's British travel guides, coming in at more than 1000 pages. If you want a VERY thorough overview of your options in England, Scotland, and Wales, it doesn't get much better than this one. It contains 152 maps and loads of color images to daydream about.
- Great Britain's Best Trips – 448 pages. If you want specific car trip suggestions without doing tons of research, this is the guide you want. It includes recommended routes through England, Scotland, and Wales, complete with driving tips, detours, and 132 maps.
- Great Britain Planning Map – If you want a good-sized map of Great Britain (England/Scotland/Wales) – something bigger than what's included with normal travel books – this is a great buy. There are tons of great maps, and some of the Rick Steves books do have large fold-out maps, but I love this one because it's waterproof and easy to fold. After turning one map into a soggy, damp mess in Skipton, I resolved all my future maps would be waterproof.
Where's Your Next British Trip?
What's on your trip agenda? And are you a planner who collects and studies guidebooks ahead of time, or a “let's get on a plane and wander” sort of traveller?