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11 Day Southern England Itinerary out of 25 day trip - Am I crazy?

I have talking to my wife forever about a trip to England and we finally decided to go nuts for our 25th. After much discussion (and a little argueing) I think that we finally have some idea of what we want to do. We will arrive Aug 29 and stay until Sep 22.

The trip:
Day 1 Rent car in Heathrow, Drive to Windsor
Day 2 Drive to Highclere Castle (the last chance we get before it closes for the year), return car at Heathrow in evening, Tube to London
Day 3-5 London (3 day London Pass already purchased)
Day 6-13 Train to Southampton, Catch NCL 8 day cruise (Rotterdam, Oslo, Copenhagen, Hamburg)
Day 14-15 Rent car Southampton, Drive to Stonehenge, Avebury, Sleep in Avebury 2 nights (Full day in Bath)
Day 16-17 Oxford, Sleep in Cotswalds 2 nights (Stratford-Upon Avon, Warwick)
Day 18 Drive to Merther Tydfil (Wife promised I could ride a narrow gauge train in Wales)
Day 19 Drive to Ilfracombe (Hotel where Peroit was filmed (?))
Day 20 Drive to Lands End/Penzance (Stop in Port Isaac)
Day 21 Drive to Torquay (More Peroit (?))
Day 22 Take car back to Heathrow via Salisbury
Day 23-25 London again, Fly out next morning early.

I had to give up Edinburgh, Hadrians Wall and Caernefon. Wife gave up Dover, Canterbury, York. We wil just have to do Scotland/Ireland on another trip. Maybe even a cruise. Does anyone think this is legit or have any ideas that would be better? Thanks

Posted by
4679 posts

The first two weeks looks fine. Days 18 to 22 will be a lot of one night stays and much driving. Roads in Cornwall are slow! Plus, September will still be busy. Port Isaac is pretty, but Lands End was a disappointment to me - a bit like a theme park. Do you have a particular reason for visiting?

If you want to see anything of the Cotswolds themselves, you have too much planned for days 16/17. Stratford upon Avon is very touristy, but worth visiting if you want to see a theatre performance. Oxford has plenty to interest.

Merthyr is, not to put too fine a point on it, a dump, so I wouldn't recommend that you stay in the town itself. Not sure where the train ride takes you to suggest an alternative.

What is Peroit?

Day 22 - you are visiting very close to Salisbury on day 14. If you need somewhere to visit en route to London, I would suggest the New Forest, which is actually very old, not new!

Posted by
16 posts

Thanks for the reply.
First, I misspelled Poirot (not Peroit lol). I guess there is a Hotel in Ilfracombe that an Agatha Christie Poirot episode was filmed. Sandy Cove Hotel. My wife is a big british tv nerd. Hence the Port Isaac trip for Doc Martin.
If not Lands End, would Penzance be worth it or should we just skip that whole area?
As for Merthyr, it is the closest narrow gauge train in Wales. We found a cool B&B that looked interesting, Ty Taf Fechan B&B, that the train goes past. I guess it is skippable if I give up the train ride. :(
New Forest sounds good.

Had a thought, would it be good to go from Port Isaac to Torquay, skipping Penzance, and stay a night on the Isle of Wight?

Posted by
1063 posts

I wouldn't recommend jumping into a hire car at Heathrow straight off a transatlantic flight (if that's what you're planning).

Posted by
4650 posts

We liked Penzance and St. Ives. Land's End itself is a tourist trap, but there's lots of great scenery along the coast between those two towns. Skip the trap and just enjoy the beauty. Also St. Michael's Mount, just west of Penzance, is fun and interesting. Not as beautiful as its French counterpart but since you'll be there you should try to see it.

I know Torquay not for Poirot but for the incomparable Fawlty Towers, with John Cleese and the late great Andrew Sachs as Manuel.

Posted by
2586 posts

You don't have to drive to Windsor. You can take a bus or taxi there from Heathrow Airport. (It's not far.)
Stash your bags at the luggage storage at Windsor Castle, tour Windsor Castle, then retrieve bags and train into London.
Check into your hotel, drop the bags, walk around London.

The next day, go to Highclere and back using one of the many tour buses that go out of London for day trips.
Do the "Highclere Express" trip with International Friends tour company:
https://www.internationalfriends.co.uk/highclere-castle-express.html
As an alternative, this other tour includes Highclere Castle plus some filming locations:
https://www.internationalfriends.co.uk/downton-abbey-filming-locations-and-highclere-castle.html

The bus will whisk you from London to Highclere, and then bring you back to London when the day trip is done.

Posted by
16 posts

Thanks for all the responses.
As for the first few nights, I will definitely look into the bus to Highclere option. One of the things that put me off was on transit to Highclere was getting from Newbury to the castle, but if there are dedicated tour buses that go to the castle only, then great!
The reason for driving to Windsor from Heathrow was so we could then drive to Highclere next day.

I think that I will cancel the Merther Tydfil night, and do either a night In Oxford, extra night in Cotswalds somewhere, or a night on the Isle of Wight. Might cancel Penzance and do Isle of Wight anyways, or maybe a train trip to Dover.

There are too many things that I want to do. Its a good thing I am not going until August so I can change my mind 40 more times.

Posted by
2586 posts

You are going through what we all go through when planning a trip to Great Britain!
So many great things to see, and a limited amount of time!
You are wise to keep an open mind about adding and deleting things from your trip plan.
Glad to see how excited you are about your trip.

You wrote,
"I think that I will cancel the Merthyr Tydfil night, and do either a night In Oxford, extra night in Cotswalds somewhere, or a night on the Isle of Wight. Might cancel Penzance and do Isle of Wight anyways, or maybe a train trip to Dover."

I think that's a wise choice. You will enjoy Oxford and the Cotswolds.
About the Isle of Wight. You take a ferryboat over to get there. You would want to spend a minimum or two or three nights to make it worth going over there.
About a train trip to Dover. There is a train line that runs from Southampton to Dover.
You can also get to Dover by train from London.
The main sight there is Dover Castle, which is really great.

Since many of your places you'd like to go are along the southern coast of England, I'll make the following suggestion:
Maybe take a look at Rick Steves' Southern England Tour.
It's goes all along the entire southern coast of England.
https://www.ricksteves.com/tours/england-scotland/southern-england
If it doesn't work for this trip, then maybe for your next trip to England.

Posted by
244 posts

You can easily drive to highclere castle. We drove from the Cotswolds to Highclere then returned our car to Heathrow airport. If we were going the other direction I think Windsor would be a great stopping point. I liked driving on our own to Highclere, there were no crowds! The tour busses did not arrive until much later later! We arrived when they opened. Make sure you purchase your tickets early they sellout fast. Once we dropped our car off at Heathrow airport we took the Heathrow express into London. It was fast and comfortable!

Posted by
2586 posts

Sometimes you can buy tickets to Highclere yourself; other times, you go to their website and they are all sold out for the season.
The big bus tour companies out of London buy up huge blocks of tickets way ahead of the summer season.
That's part of the reason tickets sell out and you can't get them.
If you sign up to go on one of the tour buses from London to go to Highclere, you will be sure to get in.
Buy your tickets online soon if you will be going on your own, as they sell out fast the closer we get to summer tourist season.

Posted by
16 posts

The Rick Steves tour looked good, but we also want to do the cruise out of Southampton on 9/3. That kind of dictated the trip times and then I just looked for cheapest airfare. Already have plane tickets and cruise booked and paid for. Got Nonstop tix on Virgin Atlantic from Seattle to London for $742 each/RT. Cruise total came to $2100 for a cabin with obstructed view.

Driving to Highclere. Going straight from Windsor the second day and getting there when it opened is a strong point. It looks like alot of the tour buses go to Oxford first, then hit Highclere in the afternoon. I think that I can manage the drive from Heathrow to Windsor right off the plane. We get in at 10:50am so should be able to get to Windsor by 1 maybe and still have a couple of hours at the castle. For sustenance I plan on hitting the pasty shop on Peascod Street asap. :)

Posted by
16 posts

Note: I went ahead and purchased AM tickets to Highclere on 8/30. Either driving, train/cab, or bus, I will be there that day. :)

Posted by
2586 posts

Sounds great. Great price on that airfare. And on the cruise, too.
Glad to hear you've got tickets to Highclere. Have a good trip!

Posted by
158 posts

a few years ago, to start our trip we took a cab from Heathrow to Windsor. It was short and cheap. Stayed overnight in Windsor, walked around, visited the castle. The next morning we took an even shorter ride to Slough , picked up our rental car then and off we went. No matter what anyone thinks, driving after a long-haul transatlantic flight is probably not the best decision. I figure the cab was surely less money than the rental car day would have been.

Re Poirot, you might find Torquay itself a little disappointing. It's a bit run-down although the location & setting are beautiful. There is a small exhibition of props at the local museum but it takes about 15 minutes to see.

However near Torquay is Greenway, the house where Agatha Christie lived and the setting for a number of her books. The TV Poirot "Dead Man's Folly" was filmed there and it's a stunning place to visit.

You can get there by some combination of bus and steam train from Torquay or by ferry and steam train from the very pretty coastal town of Dartmouth.

Here's a guide to Poirot tv locations in the U.K.: https://commons.m.wikimedia.org/wiki/Category:Film_locations_of_Agatha_Christie%27s_Poirot_in_the_United_Kingdom

Posted by
16 posts

Cab to Windsor/Rent in Slough option. I will look into that. Thx

Torquay. Thanks for the recommendation for Greenway. It looks beautiful there. I will see what I can find for lodging. We were planning on The Grand Hotel in Torquay. Also, has anyone done the caves in Torquay? (Kents Caverns) I am a sucker for underground stuff.

We have decided to skip Wales, and do 3 nights in Oxford/Costwalds. Leaning towards Ettington Park Hotel near Stratford-Upon-Avon. Also will be skipping Penzance for Isle of Wight.

Posted by
3464 posts

Please reconsider driving on the day of your arrival. Jet lag, lack of sleep, and not being familiar with the local road system around the airport can all be a problem -- not to mention driving on the "wrong" side of the road. There are some people that are not bothered by any of those things. Others think they are ok but are really driving somewhat impaired. Still others are complete zombies and should never drive the same day. Suggest you take a train or bus to your first destination, stay overnight, and rent the car the next day. Don't mean to rain on your parade, just something to think about.

Posted by
26 posts

It sounds like you are putting together a grand trip for your 25th. Like other posters, I'd recommend you minimize your travel time (and check-in/out time) as much as possible and spend more time in a concentrated area. The South of England is perfect for that and Hampshire is a fine county to explore, especially in September. You may not even need to go to the Isle of Wight.

In lieu of your Merthyr Tydfil trip, you could look into the Watercress Line - a standard gauge preserved heritage steam railway that runs several trains in September, including real ale and dining trains. It's located 20 miles North East of Southampton, not too far from historic Winchester:
http://www.watercressline.co.uk/

Located on the Eastern edge of the New Forest is Beaulieu which has an excellent motor museum, house and grounds.
https://www.beaulieu.co.uk/attractions/
http://www.nationalmotormuseum.org.uk/

What other things interest you both? Cultural sites? Traditional villages with thatched cottages? centuries-old pubs with good food, hand drawn ales and cider? What kind of food do you like? Do you like to shop? Walk/hike? Is there a particular historical period that interests you?

Posted by
16 posts

Thanks for the recommendation on of the Watercress Line. We get off our cruise at 10am and do not need to be in Avebury till evening.

This will be our first major trip without kids and we want to enjoy the many places that kids would say "I'm bored". Will be stopping at every castle/museum/henge/market that we come across. We also have a few pubs that were used as filming locations marked.

Looking forward to seeing any historical timeframes from Roman to Victorian. Not big on ales, but general pub food and atmosphere.

Hopefully in a few years we can come back and do Northern UK/Scotland.

We have modified our plans:
Day 1 Cab to Windsor
Day 2 Rent car in Slough and Drive to Highclere Castle (the last chance we get before it closes for the year), return car at Slough in evening, Train to London
Day 3-5 London (3 day London Pass already purchased)
Day 6-13 Train to Southampton, Catch NCL 8 day cruise (Rotterdam, Oslo, Copenhagen, Hamburg)
Day 14-16 Rent car Southampton, Drive to Stonehenge, Avebury, Sleep in Avebury 2 nights (Full day in Bath)
Day 17-19 Oxford, Sleep in Cotswalds 3 nights (Ettington Park Hotel), Visit Stratford-Upon Avon, Warwick, Blenheim
Day 20 Drive to Ilfracombe (Sandy Park Hotel), Visit Wells (where Hot Fuzz was filmed) and Glastonbury on the way
Day 21 Drive to Torquay (The Grand Hotel) via Port Isaac/Tintagel
Day 22 Isle of Wight (wife really wants to go)
Day 23-25 Drop off car in Southampton, Train to London 2 more nights, Fly out Friday at 1pm

Hi meyoo
just a quick addition to your tour info - I was visiting the forum via google for a different reason and read your post.

When visiting Avebury, the pub in Avebury, the Red Lion isn't the best for food. I recommend you try

the Bell in West Overton http://www.thebellwestoverton.co.uk/

or the Waggon and Horses http://www.waggonandhorsesbeckhampton.co.uk/home

Don't forget to visit West Kennet long barrow and see Silbury Hill. Hope you enjoy Avebury.

edit: I expect you know the website for info but just in case: https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/avebury

smallblueplanet

Posted by
16 posts

Thanks. We are actually staying in East Kennett at The Old Forge B&B. That is with 2 miles of Silbury, W Kennett Long Barrow, Avebury and The Bell. Hopefully the weather is nice.

Posted by
529 posts

I am also a big BBC Mystery and masterpiece fan. IMHO you still have too many one nights and places. I would do Cornwall and Torquay only. Torquay and the suggested places will giveyou the Agatha Christie aspect. Cornwall is where both Poldarks ( the 70s and the current version, ) Doc Martin and at least one Miss Marple is set.
On our (long ago )trip, We based ourselves in Penzanze for 3 nights and did day trips. There is a beautiful , easy hiking trail along the coast that went past the home that was used in the original Poldark. Then we drove back to Plymouth and dartmoor- but you could drive back to Torquay . I think many would agree that its more efficent and less stressful to minimize the one nights - its surprising how much time checking in an dout of hotels, finding the hotel etc. takes.

Posted by
2586 posts

Comment on Day 22 of your new schedule:
Here is your ferry to the Isle if Wight.
Since you will approach from the west, you will want to drive to Lymington to catch the ferry (see map):
http://www.wightlink.co.uk/

Posted by
16 posts

So I have changed out itinerary one more time, using suggestions form here. Thanks everyone!

Day 1 - 8/29 Cab to Windsor
Day 2 Rent car in Slough and Drive to Highclere Castle (the last chance we get before it closes for the year), return car at Slough in evening, Train to London
Day 3-5 London (3 day London Pass already purchased)
Day 6-13 Train to Southampton, Catch NCL 8 day cruise (Rotterdam, Oslo, Copenhagen, Hamburg)
Day 14-16 Rent car Southampton, Drive to Salisbury, Stonehenge, and Avebury, Sleep in Avebury (The Old Forge) 2 nights (Full day in Bath)
Day 17-19 Oxford, Sleep in Cotswalds 3 nights (Ettington Park Hotel), Visit Stratford-Upon Avon, Warwick, Blenheim etc
Day 20-22 Drive to Torquay, visit Chepstow (so i can say we hit Wales) on the way, stay in a harbor view Airbnb for $80/night 3 nights
-Visit Port Isaac, Tintagel, Dartmouth, Greenway, etc. Possible steamtrain/paddlewheel tour
Day 23-25 Drop off car in Southampton, Train to London 2 more nights, Fly out Friday 9/22 at 1pm

Posted by
4521 posts

In case it isn't clear, if you take a London taxi off the rank at Heathrow to Windsor you will pay handsomely for the privilege. You need to pre-book a private hire car (minicab) from Windsor to pick you up to be economical.

Posted by
2586 posts

There is a bus to Windsor that leaves from Heathrow Airport's Coach (bus) station. Cost is about 5 pounds.
I believe it's the Number 50, but they will tell you at the ticket window when you purchase your bus/coach ticket.
(Follow the signs to the bus station inside Heathrow when you get off your plane.)
Just go out the glass sliding doors, take a seat on a bench, and wait for your bus/coach to pull into the stalls.
Check to see it's not already sitting there.
The bus driver will take your bags (if they are larger than carry on) and put them under the bus in the luggage storage bins.
Carry on bags--just take them on the bus with you.
Bus takes you to the center of Windsor. You can easily walk to the castle or a hotel.
There is luggage storage at Windsor Castle in case you want to visit the castle.