We'll have a rental car and would like to stay 3-4 nights near enough to Stonehenge to make a sunrise access booking without having to get up at like 3 AM, and near enough to London that we can take the train in for a day's touring of London sights. From the map it looks like Marlborough would be suitable (especially since the next leg of our trip takes us north), whereas we understand Basingstoke is not particularly picturesque. Any hotel recommendations, or places to avoid? We prefer hotels as opposed to B&B.
You might consider staying somewhere like Salisbury which about three miles away from Stonehenge. With a car it is closer than Bath and easy to get to. Salisbury has one of the best preserved cathedrals in all of England and the town is worth at least a day. With its proximity to Stonehenge, I would consider this a good base. For recommendations on places to stay there, you might try a good guidebook. Rick's England guidebook has several good suggestions. You should be able to find a copy at your local library.
I hope this helps some.
Salisbury is closer, very nice, south of Stonehenge. It also has a beautiful cathedral. Bath is to the west of Stonehenge, and has more charm than Basingstoke, plus good rail into London.
Wow, Abe! We posted at the same time, with similar information! When I started typing, there was no other answer to this question, so I figured I'd throw my two cents in. All I would add to my first post is, you should see Avebury Stone Circle while you are in this area. Other neolithic sights in the area are West Kennet Long Barrow and Silbury Hill, both amazing.
You can stay in the small village of Avebury. I recommend The Lodge Avebury on High Street. An old cozy white house that has been turned into a B&B. You can walk to the Avebury stone circle from here.
For good rail service into London, stay in Salisbury or Bath.
Hmm, I'm a bit puzzled why you think Marlborough is too far away as it's only about 30 miles from Stonehenge according to the map. It is significantly closer to London (and, more important, to the railway running to London) than Hindon is. The Lamb Hindon does look like a very nice hotel, but it would be out of our way. We want to spend a day in London and don't want to change hotels, so it matters that we stay somewhere within, say, 2 hrs train travel from central London.
Unless there is some compelling reason to avoid Marlborough (or even Newbury, which I realize is another step removed from Stonehenge), we are inclined to go with one of the hotels in that area that are recommended on TripAdvisor and similar sites.
No railway at Marlborough since 1961. Nearest station is 14 miles away.
Thanks Keith and Marco, yes, I had checked the railway map/schedule so am aware we'll have to drive about 1/2 hour to the nearest station to take the train to London, but that is OK. OTOH, if we stayed in Newbury we'd be that much closer to London but farther from Stonehenge and Avebury.
In any case, we will have time to take a drive to Salisbury (though my husband makes it clear he's not into cathedrals, and to be honest the Salisbury tourism videos I've found on YouTube don't make it look all that enticing) and elsewhere around the countryside, so the recommendations to see North Wessex Downs, Highclere, Ramsbury et al. are most appreciated.
to add a bit to Keith's suggestion of
North Wessex Downs AONB
to explain the abbreviation AONB, that is the official designation of Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty which is definitely worth going out of your way to experience.
Outstanding indeed, judging from the website! Have passed through the area on previous trips, but never had a car and didn't have time to stay and explore. That will be a priority on this trip!
We stayed a little north of Marlborough on our last trip and stopped there to buy groceries and make an ATM run. It was a busy, pleasant town. It was very convenient to Avebury. Stonehenge is not far. Nice area for walks too.
Thanks, Eef! The place where you stayed "a little north" -- is it a hotel you would recommend?
According to National Rail Enquiries, Newbury has trains to London Paddington all day, including Sunday, from early morning to late night and the trip takes just over an hour on most runs, so the service seems comparable to that of Swindon. Highclere, one of the recommended locations, is very close to Newbury. I realize from Marlborough we'd have to drive 20 miles east to Newbury via small country road, whereas the drive would be about 10-15 miles north to Swindon via the A346.
In any case, what I'm most interested in is any recommendation for actual hotels in any towns in the general area of North Wessex Downs, enabling us to (a) drive 1 hr or less to a sunrise Stonehenge booking and (b) take the train to London for a day's sightseeing.
To answer your question, we stayed in a B&B in Ogbourne St. George, so I didn't give you the details, as you were looking for a hotel. I think there may have been a hotel in the village, but I don't know anything about it. We ate dinner in the village pub.
Thanks, Eef! My husband is generally not keen on B&B because he feels they lack privacy (not that we are terribly noisy or engaged in any nefarious activities), but it is good to know there is one in Ogbourne St. George that you considered good.
I remember on my trip to England at age 22 that my friend and I gave ourselves the giggles pointing out the cows grazing in Salisbury and calling them Salisbury Steaks..............