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Adding Oxford or Cambridge to RS England tour

I'm thinking of going on the RS Best of England in 14 Days tour this summer. The tour begins in Bath and circles the country clockwise, ending in London. I noticed that it doesn't go to Oxford or Cambridge, and would like to go to one of those, but not both, before the tour. Is this practical? If so, which one is better? Can it be done in one day? Does anyone who has gone on the RS tour have anything to say about it? Thanks.

Posted by
2796 posts

As we are thinking of doing a long day-trip to either Oxford or Cambridge during our London week this spring, we are also curious as to whether there are any strong reasons to choose one over the other, and we'd love to see opinions on the two.

Posted by
3392 posts

Oxford is a bit easier to get to for a day trip and, personally, I think there is a lot more to see and do there than in Cambridge. Both of them are amazing to visit but Oxford, IMHO, has more to offer.
Both have beautiful colleges, a river that you can punt on, and fascinating architecture that goes on and on!
Oxford has a few more colleges than Cambridge, they are more centrally located, and more of them can be visited. The Bodleian library can be toured and there is a wonderful room off of the main courtyard that has rotating exhibits that are fascinating. You can attend a concert in the Sheldonian Theatre, have lunch at the Eagle and Child where Tolkien and Lewis used to compare manuscripts and write, and go up St. Mary's tower for a view over all of the "dreaming spires". Magdalen College has a beautiful deer park. The walk along the river is beautiful especially when you get down to where the college boathouses line the river. Lots of little lanes and alleys to be explored...it's a great place to visit!

Posted by
5386 posts

The cheapest return rail fare from London to Oxford is also £12. May be a coincidence, maybe not.

If you want to tack on some time in Oxford before going to Bath rather than a day trip, Oxford is rather more convenient than Cambridge from Heathrow.

Take the 'airline' bus from Heathrow Central or Terminal 5 stand 10 (two service per hour - book in advance or pay driver in cash). Cost £23. Travel by train to Bath, changing at Didcot Parkway (fares from £11 advance - need to book early for this rate)

Posted by
16938 posts

Assuming you are flying into London for this trip----Oxford would be an easy and practical choice. You could go straight there from Heathrow ( bus or train) and spend the night there instead of in London. Then travel to Bath by train (1 hour 22 minutes, one change) to meet your tour.

For comparison, Cambridge to Bath is a 3+ hour journey with two changes----between Kings Cross and Paddington stations in London, so by tube.

Posted by
15 posts

Sounds like Oxford it is. The London guidebook that I have from a few years ago doesn't have Oxford in it as a day trip from London, unfortunately (it has Cambridge). I guess I have to get the England guidebook to help me plan our itinerary.

Posted by
1010 posts

We have taken the trains out to both Oxford and Cambridge. It is very convenient after you arrive. You exit the train stations and you can immediately take advantage of the Hop-on, Hop-off buses. We have gone to Cambridge twice and used the buses.

Posted by
15 posts

According to the RS England book, it's best not to stay in Oxford because it's expensive. It sounds like the best bet is to go directly to Bath, spend an extra day there in addition to jet-lag-adjustment day, and do Oxford as a day trip. That way, I don't have to worry about the baggage, and I'll be settled into the place where the tour starts.

I prefer trains to buses, so Heathrow Express to Paddington, then the train to Bath. I just have to see what my options are for day return between Bath and Oxford.

Posted by
5386 posts

Hotels in Bath will be hardly cheaper than staying in Oxford in my experience. The key to both is probably to book early.

Back tracking to Paddington does not make practical sense if you are arriving at Terminal 5 - 2/3 is a wash time wise, leaving cost out of it.

If you prefer trains over coaches, you can do Heathrow to Oxford by taking the Connect to Hayes and Harlington and taking the slow train from there to Oxford, which is still quicker normally than going into and out of Paddington. Cheaper too.

Posted by
3392 posts

The previous poster speaking of Oxford being more expensive than Cambridge because "Rick says so" is not based on his own experience. I don't know how Rick came to this conclusion but I've spent considerable time in both towns and there was no noticeable difference in price.

Posted by
2455 posts

Al, I took the RS Best of England Tour in June 2015, and also wanted to experience both Cambridge and Oxford, so I did, right after the tour. I spent 3 days in Cambridge, then took the bus from Cambridge direct to Oxford, and spent 2 days there, then went to Heathrow to fly home. Stayed in B & B's in both places, something of a walk or local bus outside the center. The two cities are a lot alike, but also different. Cambridge is more a college-focused small town, Oxford also college-focused but much bigger and more urbanized. In Cambridge I did a Food Tour, attended a wonderful concert in Kings College Chapel, visited some colleges and museums, and even visited Ely with its magnificent Cathedral and Stained Glass Museum (upstairs in the Cathedral), which is just a 15-minute train ride from Cambridge. In Oxford, I also visited colleges and museums. They are each equally easy to get to from London I would say. A day trip would certainly limit you. It would be a toss-up I think, but I would choose Cambridge just because I like smaller towns better, and because the Cambridge University coat of arms is really beautiful! I got a sweatshirt, t-shirt, and cap, all featuring the coat of arms, plus a lovely beaded Cambridge University blazer patch from the Royal Family's official purveyor of crests and buttons, which I happened upon in London. I needed all that stuff like a hole-in-the-head, I should have just picked one! However you do it, enjoy!

Posted by
15 posts

I am confirmed for my tour!

Now I have checked a map, and I see that going from Heathrow to Bath via train involves a serious backtrack, so busing to Reading and taking the train from there might be better and cheaper. I'm still evaluating the feasibility of visiting Oxford.

Posted by
5386 posts

You don't have to take the bus to Reading if you find travelling on one uncomfortable - take the Heathrow Connect to Hayes and Harlington and the train from there to Reading - or even all the way to Oxford if that is how to fit that in.

Posted by
1243 posts

Should you consider staying overnight in Oxford - or Cambridge, for that matter - consider staying at a college.

http://www.universityrooms.com/en/city/oxford/home

It's different and not too expensive. The only downside I have experienced is that, in some colleges, high school student groups may be staying for summer sessions, and that can be a bit noisy. But, if you are selective, you might avoid that.

PS, I have not searched for this summer's activities, but often, you can catch a Shakespeare performance in the evenings at one of the colleges or theatres. That might be difficult to fit into a day visit. Just a thought.

Posted by
5386 posts

I think the point being made relates to the difference between an Oxford to Bath journey, compared with a Cambridge to Bath one rather than day trips from London.