How to Visit 8 Places that Shaped Queen Elizabeth II’s Life for Under $150

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“I declare before you all that my whole life, whether it be long or short, shall be devoted to your service and the service of our great imperial family, to which we all belong.”

Queen Elizabeth II, a princess at the time, made this promise via radio broadcast on her 21st birthday. 75 years later, after a 70-year reign as queen, the United Kingdom’s beloved monarch passed away peacefully in September 2022. She leaves behind an unmatched legacy, due in no small part to the devotion and service she swore to when she was a young woman.

It’s only natural to want to pay your respects to the revered Queen Elizabeth II, and in fact hundreds of thousands of people from around the world have flocked to London in the weeks following her passing. 

The official period of mourning has ended, and with it, the increased hotel prices, travel delays, and crowds throughout London. Less hubbub makes it much more realistic to visit the United Kingdom in commemoration of the queen.

Whether you seek to honor her legacy or simply learn more about the long life she lived, the best way to do so is visiting some of the places that played important roles in Queen Elizabeth II’s life.

To that end, we’ve used our own Wanderu data to develop an itinerary that spans the United Kingdom and includes 8 spots significant to Queen Elizabeth II: from her childhood home, to Westminster Abbey where she was crowned and wed, and even Balmoral Castle. Best of all, you don’t need to strain your budget on the journey across England, Scotland, and Northern Ireland.

In fact, you can visit all eight sites on this itinerary for an average of about £128 GBP, or $136 USD, and you don’t need to pay for a rental car.

Following our itinerary, you’ll travel using buses, coaches (plush, comfortable buses designed for long-distance travel, with amenities like electrical outlets and reclining seats), and ferries. 

The map and fares below provide an overview of the complete route and associated costs. You’ll start in Windsor and visit several places in London, then on to Scotland, going from Edinburgh to Aberdeen to Glasgow, and finish outside of Belfast, Northern Ireland. 

Click on each of the routes below to book your tickets:

ROUTE DESTINATION
Windsor to London Westminster Abbey $15.62 £13.91
15-Minute Walk Buckingham Palace $0.00 £0.00
6-Minute Walk Clarence House $0.00 £0.00
London to Edinburgh Palace of Holyroodhouse $17.09 £12.98
Edinburgh to Aberdeen $22.48 £20.91
Aberdeen to Balmoral Castle (local bus) Balmoral Castle $12.71 £11.50
Balmoral Castle to Aberdeen (local bus) $12.70 £11.50
Aberdeen to Glasgow Queen Elizabeth University Hospital $16.59 £15.37
Glasgow to Belfast $37.49 £34.74
Belfast to Hillsborough (local bus) Hillsborough Castle $4.42 £4.00
TOTAL: $136.34 £127.66
  • Coach prices are based on the average cost of a one-way ticket for the respective route available on Wanderu over a 30-day period. 
  • Local bus prices are based on the one-way fare for the featured routes using Stagecoach and Translink.
Long-distance coach
Local bus
Walk

Visiting these historical, significant places is a meaningful way to gain a deeper understanding of Queen Elizabeth II beyond her official duties. Learn more about each of the itinerary stops below.

1. Windsor Castle, Windsor

We recommend starting at the iconic Windsor Castle, especially if you arrive in England by flying into Heathrow — Windsor is only a few miles away from the airport!

Quite impressive in its own right, Windsor Castle holds the honor of being both the largest and the oldest continuously-occupied castle in the world. And now, it’s also the queen’s final resting place.  Queen Elizabeth II, who spent her life vacationing and enjoying holidays at Windsor Castle, as well as attending church services at the Royal Chapel of All Saints, was interred there in September 2022.

The 1,000-plus room castle, built in 1070 and home to nearly 40 British monarchs since, has long hosted events such as royal weddings and visits from foreign monarchs and dignitaries.

Whether you want to lay flowers in remembrance or peek into some of the rooms, it’s quite easy to visit Windsor Castle. Create your own self-guided tour of Windsor Castle or book a half-day tour from London with one of several guides, most of which build in free time to explore the castle grounds. Either way, you’ll want to book tickets in advance, as lines accumulate quickly, particularly early in the day.

Windsor Castle is open year-round, but has varying hours depending on the season and is closed on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. The changing of the guard occurs daily at 11:00am, so understandably, this is peak time for visitation.

Next Stop:

Windsor to London $15.62 £13.91

2. Westminster Abbey, London

Your second stop is not only world-famous, it was also incredibly meaningful to Queen Elizabeth II. The late queen was married at Westminster Abbey in 1947, and it was later the site of her coronation (along with every other royal coronation since 1066!). Finally, in 2022, the church also hosted the queen’s funeral.

Westminster Abbey is open to visitors from 9:30am – 3:30pm Monday through Saturday, with the exception of major holidays and religious events including Easter and Christmas. People are actually still welcome during these special events — if they wish to attend services and worship. Tours are not offered during these times. 

Because Westminster Abbey is in fact a working church, it’s totally free to attend services, including the perpetually popular Evensong. Visitors who wish to tour the grounds will find the admission charges quite affordable, starting at £18 for adults and £7 for children. If you wish to join a 90-minute verger-guided tour, add £10 per person to the admission price.

Just a 22-minute walk from the Victoria Coach Station (where coaches from Windsor arrive), it’s simple and hassle-free to visit Westminster Abbey.

Next Stop:

Westminster Abbey to Buckingham Palace 0.7 miles

3. Buckingham Palace, London

For nearly two centuries, since Queen Victoria’s reign, Buckingham Palace has been the official London residence of British royalty. This includes Queen Elizabeth II, who lived in the palace from the time of her coronation in 1953 to 2020, when she lived primarily at Windsor Castle during the coronavirus pandemic. 

People around the world recognize the iconic palace, and in particular, the east-facing balcony. Here, the queen and other members of the royal family step out to wave and pose for the classic “balcony shots” during official royal events and celebrations. 

Visiting the 775-room palace offers a glimpse into the queen’s weekday life, as she spent the vast majority of her time here for decades. 

While most of the palace’s rooms are closed to the public, visitors can explore the Queen’s Gallery, spectacular gardens, and several State Rooms. State Room highlights include the Throne Room, the backdrop for formal royal family photos; the State Dining Room, where countless presidents, prime ministers, and other dignitaries have sat; and the White Drawing Room, used for royal receptions. 

Buckingham Palace tours are offered during the summer months, typically from late July to early October, and on select dates throughout the winter and spring. There are a variety of tours available, some which include only the State Rooms and others that include the State Rooms, gardens, Royal Mews, and Queen’s Gallery. Prices start at £21.50 for adults. Regardless of what you plan to see, try to time your visit to witness the famous Changing of the Guard, which occurs daily at 11:30am.

Next Stop:

Buckingham Palace to Clarence House 0.3 miles

4. Clarence House, London

A royal guard stands outside of Clarence House, a royal residence near St James Palace

Royal Guard at Clarence House by Loren Javier on Flickr

Near both Buckingham Palace and Westminster Abbey, Clarence House is a worthwhile stop — and one that offers a unique perspective into Queen Elizabeth II’s life before taking the throne. 

The modest-by-royal-standards residence was given to the queen, then a princess, following her 1947 marriage to Philip Mountbatten. The pair’s first daughter, Anne, was born at Clarence House and the young family lived there until the queen’s accession in 1952, when they moved to Buckingham Palace. At that time, Clarence House became the primary residence of Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother, where she lived until her death in 2002. Princes William and Harry have both lived at Clarence House, but most recently, Clarence House was the home of King Charles III and Camilla, Queen Consort. 

Clarence House welcomes visitors for a few weeks every August. 45-minute guided tours are offered, where visitors can tour the home’s five rooms and grounds. The elaborate gardens are a star attraction and notably, every room in Clarence House has a view looking onto them.

Next Stop:

5. Palace of Holyroodhouse, Edinburgh

A grassy courtyard in the middle of a large palace, Holyroodhouse in Edinburgh, Scotland

The next leg of your proverbial tour through Queen Elizabeth II’s life is the Palace of Holyroodhouse, located in magical Edinburgh, Scotland. 

The palace was the queen’s official residence in Scotland. She spent time there every summer for Royal Week, also known as Holyrood Week, typically the last week of June into the beginning of July. During this time, Queen Elizabeth II traveled throughout Scotland and hosted thousands of people at the palace, all in recognition and celebration of Scottish culture and people.

Royal Week has traditionally kicked off with the Ceremony of the Keys, a grand celebration in the courtyard at the Palace of Holyroodhouse. The Lord Provost would welcome the queen and present her with the official keys to the city. 

Unlike many other royal attractions, the Palace of Holyroodhouse is open to the public year-round. The only exceptions are Royal Week and occasional special events. Visitors can take a self-guided audio tour or a guided tour, both of which last one hour. 

Located at the end of Edinburgh’s renowned Royal Mile and less than a 20-minute walk from the Edinburgh Bus Station, you could easily turn this stop into a full day or even an overnight excursion

While in town, don’t miss the Royal Yacht Britannia, a retired yacht that transported British royalty more than one million nautical miles on their global travels between 1954 and 1997.

Next Stop:

Edinburgh to Aberdeen $22.48 £20.91
Aberdeen to Balmoral Castle (local Stagecoach bus #201) $12.70 £11.50

6. Balmoral Castle, Aberdeenshire

Exterior view of the back gardens outside Balmoral Castle, one of Queen Elizabeth's favorite residences, located in Aberdeenshire, Scotland

In a 2016 ITV documentary that highlighted rare personal details about Queen Elizabeth II, her granddaughter Princess Eugenie said about Balmoral Castle, “I think Granny is the most happy there. I think she really, really loves the Highlands. Walks, picnics, dogs—a lot of dogs, there’s always dogs.”

It is fitting that Queen Elizabeth II passed away peacefully at Balmoral Castle, surrounded by family. This is your next itinerary stop, the queen’s private and personal favorite residence, where she spent most of her summers. Spanning 50,000 acres and comprising 150 buildings, the castle sits inside the spectacular Cairngorms National Park in the Scottish Highlands. 

Balmoral Castle is generally open to visitors from April through July each year, when the royal family isn’t in residence. The Ballroom is the only room inside the castle open to the public, but visitors can also enjoy the pristine grounds, which include a tearoom, gift shop, and stables. We highly recommend exploring more of Cairngorms National Park while you’re here.

Next Stop:

Balmoral Castle to Aberdeen (local Stagecoach bus #201) $12.70 £11.50
Aberdeen to Glasgow $16.59 £15.37

7. Queen Elizabeth University Hospital, Glasgow

Queen Elizabeth University Hospital and Royal Children's Hospital in Glasgow, Scotland, seen from the outside with modern architecture and colored glass accents

Queen Elizabeth University Hospital by George Allison on Wikimedia

Countless places, both in and outside of the United Kingdom, are named for Queen Elizabeth II: Queen Elizabeth Planetarium in Alberta, Princess Elizabeth Land (an Australian territory in Antarctica), Queenstown in Singapore,  Villa Reina Isabel II in Chile, and no less than 16 roads and bridges in England alone.

While a worldwide tour of all of her namesakes would be an impressive journey in Queen Elizabeth II’s honor, we’ve picked just one to represent the many, many locations that bear her name. Plus, Queen Elizabeth University Hospital is conveniently located in Glasgow, on the way from royal residences in Scotland to one in Northern Ireland.

The South Glasgow University Hospital opened in April of 2015, affiliated with the University of Glasgow. Later that year, Queen Elizabeth II granted the hospital the right to use her name, and officially opened the renamed hospital alongside the Duke of Edinburgh in July. 

We don’t blame you if hospitals are not your favorite destinations, though. If you prefer, relax in Elder Park in the Govan neighborhood nearby or head down to the much more engaging Glasgow Science Centre — which the queen similarly opened in 2001.

Next up, head to the final stop on our journey, across the Irish Sea in Hillsborough, Northern Ireland. First take a coach to Belfast (the coach doesn’t float, but it can drive onto a ferry which does), then switch to a local bus to get to Hillsborough.

Next Stop:

Glasgow to Belfast (coach & ferry included) $37.49 £34.74
Belfast to Hillsborough (local Translink bus #238) $4.42 £4.00

8. Hillsborough Castle in Hillsborough

Hillsborough Castle by David in Lisburn on Flickr

While not as well-known as the other royal properties, Hillsborough Castle was Queen Elizabeth II’s official residence in Ireland, hosting her several times each year. The castle sits on 100 acres of impeccably-manicured gardens just 20 minutes from Belfast.

Hillsborough Castle is especially welcoming to visitors. In addition to its current onsite dining and shopping options, the castle began an extensive 5-year renovation in 2019, adding a visitor center and learning center geared toward community and school groups. There’s even an interactive walkway for children.

Generally, the castle is open from Wednesday through Sunday and visitors get access to the entire property without a time limit. Admission is around £15 for adults. Its proximity to Belfast makes the castle well worth a visit!

Hillsborough is the last stop on our tour of significant places in Queen Elizabeth II’s life, and from here you can continue to explore Northern Ireland, head south and travel Ireland by bus, or fly home from Belfast International Airport.

How We Did It

There are many ways to honor the life of Queen Elizabeth II and learn more about her fascinating legacy and British royalty in general. Touring some of the places that were most significant to the queen is a meaningful, memorable, and unique way to do so (while also getting to experience travel through the gorgeous landscapes of the UK!)

Thanks to Wanderu, it’s also surprisingly simple and affordable to travel throughout the country by coach. If you visit all eight places, you’re looking at a total of just under $150, but keep in mind that it’s based on average bus and coach fares, so your total could be even less! Plus, you don’t have to deal with the hassle of getting a rental car, covering the cost of fuel, worrying about where to park, or — if you’re coming from outside the UK —how to drive on the left side of the road.

Of course, you may want to visit just a few of these sites, or bop around London to see if there’s any tea about Harry and Meghan. Either way, head to Wanderu.com or download the free Wanderu app to compare ticket prices and ensure you get the best deal. 

And if you’re interested in more historical tours, check out some of our itineraries on the other side of the pond, heading to iconic sites in the lives of Martin Luther King, Jr. or Alexander Hamilton.

You are welcome to use the information on this page, crediting Wanderu. If you do so, please link back to this page, so that travelers around the globe can check out all the available trips and find out how we came up with the itinerary.

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About the author
Taryn Shorr

Taryn Shorr

A classic Type A personality, Taryn's favorite aspects of travel are the planning and meeting new people. She's most drawn to the mountains and has a knack for quickly finding the best happy hour in new destinations. When she isn't writing for Wanderu or traveling, Taryn runs her own blog, Chasing Trail.