We are taking our first trip to England mid-September. We have 10 days to explore (not including our travel days). I was thinking of renting a car when we arrive at Heathrow and heading out to the Cotswolds. We would like to stay in Chipping-Camden for two nights, and then head down to Bath, maybe for two nights? We hope to see Windsor Castle and Stonehenge, and didn't know if that was doable on the way back to London. We're planning on dropping the rental car off again at Heathrow, unless someone has a better suggestion. Does this allow enough time to explore the Cotswolds? Would it be better to take day trips out to Windsor and Stonehenge or stay somewhere out there? Or, would it be better to reverse the itinerary and see one or both of them on our way out from Heathrow? The remainder of our time will be spent in London, and our plans are not set. We're open to suggestions!
We did a four week drive tour of Wales and England (London not included).
We spent three nights in Bath and six nights in Chipping Campden (recommend the Volunteer Inn, they have a great pub and Indian Restaurant and prices are low).
We used Chipping Campden to do the Cotswolds, which took about a day and a half. Also, we visited Oxford, Blenheim Palace and Stratford Upon Avon.
You can do the Cotswolds in one full day, but you might miss a town or two. Rick Steves guide for Great Britain has a suggested self tour. Don't miss Cirencester.
You can do Bath in one full day. We did a free walking tour then went back and spent more time visiting the Cathedral and the Roman Bath Museum. We stayed at the Brooks Guesthouse. Great breakfasts and good location (don't miss the fish and chips at the Scalop Shell restaurant nearby). Parking is a big deal in Bath, but Brooks can help you with that.
If you plan on visiting Stonehenge and Windsor Castle on you way back to London, it will be a full day. You may be able to do it, but check with your times for visiting. Windsor takes 2-3 hours to see and the guides are great.
If you are interested in our full 28 day drive tour, check out my review.
28 days in Britain and Celebrity Eclipse home
I wouldn't try to see both Stonehenge and Windsor Castle in one day on your way to London from Bath, unless all you want is a short glimpse of one or the other. The trip involves a fair amount of road time, especially given the likelihood of traffic delays. Stonehenge has a wonderful visitor centre (indoor and outdoor), and you can either walk or take the free shuttle to the henge. Your entry fee gives you an audio guide so you'll want to listen to it as you walk around the perimeter of the henge. Even if you don't take the time to also visit Woodhenge and Durrington Walls, you can easily spend half a day at Stonhenge. Since you'll have a car, you could give yourself adequate Stonehenge time by staying one night in either Salisbury or Marlborough (the better to see Avebury). Then proceed the next morning to Windsor, see the castle, and drop off your car at Heathrow.
Please don’t get off a plane jet lagged then hit some of the busiest roads in Europe for a 2 hour + drive. It would make more sense to either head straight to Bath by train or have your first night in Windsor, then hire a car. A car is a disadvantage in Bath and Windsor.
The Cotswolds are about 800 sq miles so you can’t see all of this in a day! You can see a few villages to get a flavour and Chipping Campden is as good a base as any. Don’t forget that 2 nights somewhere only means 1 full day there.
Bath to Stonehenge to Windsor to Heathrow to London is too rushed a day - 4+ hours driving alone. Unless you are really into old stones, I would scrap Stonehenge and just visit Windsor (if you haven’t spent your first night there). Windsor needs half a day. It makes sense to drop the car at Heathrow.
We are comfortable driving on the left side of the road (we recently did a month long trip to New Zealand and Australia and did a lot of driving there). After reading the replies, I was thinking that perhaps it made more sense to head to Windsor castle from the airport, spend half a day+ there and then drive on to Salisbury to stay the night. We could explore Salisbury during the remains of that day, and go to Stonehenge the next morning. Afterwards, we could drive to Bath. Would 1 night be enough there or would 2 be better. I still would like to have 2 nights in Chipping Camden to see that area before heading back to London and dropping off the car at Heathrow. Does that sound like a better plan?
I think your Plan B works better. Windsor would be a good "landing place" on your first day. You might find yourselves dragging through the castle but at least you won't be dragging on the motorway!
We went straight to Chipping Campden upon our arrival in England on a three week trip, saving London for last. We based our time in the Cotswolds there, five nights at Badgers Hall, the best B&B we have ever enjoyed, aside from one in York. At Badgers, afternoon tea is included, and breakfast too of course (and the husband-cook is amazing.) Such good food. And the historic rooms right on the square.
Our photo album detailing our stay at Badgers--