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April in England

Coming back to England for another family vacation. Last time we did London and Oxford/Cotswolds. Bringing family again to London for 3 days (to get to sites we missed the last trip) and wanted to have another excursion into another area.

Any recos for best area for 2-3 day trip that would be easy to car or train back to Gatwick for mid-afternoon flight back stateside on the last day. We could rent a car or do trains, no preference. Bringing a teenage son who would be interested in WW2 sites. Wife likes gardens and seems to be interested in Canterbury/Dover cliffs too... is Southeast England a good thing for mid-April time?

Posted by
8889 posts

Dorset, coast and countryside. Possibly including Somerset.

Posted by
847 posts

If you only have 2 -3 days, and need to get to Gatwick at the end I think Canterbury/Dover is a better idea. Base in Canterbury and do a day trip to Dover. Could be done by train. There are gardens and castles in the area but that would be harder by train.

But actually what I would do is base in London the whole week and do 2-3 day trips - Canterbury and Dover can be combined in one, or each could use a whole day. But there are also a ton of other possible day trips including WW2 sites and castles and gardens. The benefit to basing in London and doing day trips is that on rainy days (which you can expect in April) you could stay in London and do museums or other interior sites, and use the best days for day trips.

Posted by
3685 posts

Totally in the opposite direction, but a possible day trip from London is Bletchley Park. It's a great WWII site and an easy walk from the train station.

Advance research is recommended if your son doesn't know its importance to the outcome of the war. This Wikipedia article is a good place to start.

Posted by
511 posts

I love the idea of a series of day trips. If you're interested in planes, the Royal Air Force Museum in London (Colindale) is worth about 3/4 of a day. If you're very interested in tanks, the Tank Museum is a long day trip (I think two hours each way by train, then a short taxi ride).

If you want to get out of the city and don't mind that it might be cold and rainy, look at Cambridge. There's the university, the Imperial War Museum in Duxford, and the National Stud in Newmarket. Pretty easy to spend three nights. Rick Steves ignores this lovely area so get another guidebook.

Posted by
21080 posts

I normally discourage folks from staying in high-cost cities like London and taking multiple day-trips to areas with substantially lower lodging costs, but Isabel makes a very good point here. It's great to be able to react to weather when finalizing the day's plans.

Canterbury has a very picturesque historic center; no, you won't be the only tourists there, but I thoroughly enjoyed my day-trip (spur of the moment to see a glass exhibition, else I would have found other things to do and spent several nights around Canterbury). The tourist office offers walking tours. The cathedral is the obvious big draw, and it has a stained-glass museum (modest extra charge) upstairs (no elevator). It was interesting to see historic glass at eye level.

Brighton/Lewes/Arunel are places I hit a few years ago, basing in Brighton. They are also recommended.

Cambridge offers a side-trip possibility to Bury St. Edmunds (train), or one could base in Bury St. Edmunds and side-trip to Cambridge and Lavenham. I would normally prefer to make the larger place (Cambridge) my base, but that would put Lavenham beyond reasonable day-trip distance without a car. Google (usually optimistic) rates Lavenham a one-hour drive from Cambridge.

Posted by
27749 posts

Lavenham in an hour is not far off, but it depends on the never reliable A14 road which is undergoing lots of construction and getting through or around Bury St Edmunds which is never fast.

Posted by
21080 posts

Thanks, Nigel. Maybe it's lucky I didn't try to get to Lavenham when I was in that area last year.

Posted by
2658 posts

I agree Canterbury and Dover would be great. I could recommend a great B&B in Canterbury, it’s a 7 minute walk from Canterbury East train station, which is across the street from the Roman Wall. You would just walk over to the wall and walk on the wall to the town centre an 8-10 minute walk.

Posted by
93 posts

We did this last year during spring break - last week of March - myself, my parents, and three kids. We based in London the whole time (stayed 8 nights) and spent 3 of the days doing day trips and 4.5 days seeing London (we had previously spent 5 days exploring London on a previous trip).

This worked out really well for us.. and only used trains. One day trip was to Canterbury- loved it! Visited the cathedral, shopped, ate a nice restaurant, and went on a boat ride. Another day trip was to Hever Castle - very enjoyable and beautiful gardens. Daffodils were in bloom everywhere. We also did a very long day trip to York (my favorite city in England so I had to return, even just for the day) - 2 hours direct train. Left very early in the morning and returned by train about 10pm.

We’ve visited Hampton Court Palace in the past also and loved the beautiful gardens there and particularly the Tudor history. That was a nice easy 30-minute train ride and a very enjoyable day.

Posted by
4006 posts

If in Lavenham, and if you’re interested in WWII, stop into the bar at the Swan Hotel. When we were there in 2011, there were signatures of bomber crews from the 487th bomber squadron who were stationed at a former base there, on the wall. I guess they were found when doing some renovations and are covered by plexiglass so people don’t mess with them. The southeast has plenty to fill a few days; Dover Castle & tunnels, Canterbury, Leeds castle, Chartwell, Ightham Mote, Aylesford Priory, Rye, Hastings, and Bodium Castle come to mind. The IMW at Duxford, north of London, has a nice display of aircraft, many from WWII.

Posted by
331 posts

In case you are not aware already, the cliffs under Dover Castle house a hospital an command centre used in WWII.
Other WWII related sites within would include the D-Day Museum , the Royal Naval Museum and Southwick House in (or near) Portsmouth.
In London itself, obviously the Imperial War Museum and HMS Belfast.