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Bath to Edinburgh

My wife and I will be with our 14 year old twins (girl and boy) with two weeks. We plan to spend one week in London and then head over to Bath. We want to spend a couple days in and around Bath and then a couple of days in Edinburgh. We have one week to enjoy Bath and Edinburgh. In Bath area, we plan to do an evensong service, Stonehenge, and Bath proper. We're going in late June 2017. My initial thought was to train from London to Bath, after a day in Bath, rent a car and enjoy Stonehenge. Then drive through the Cotswolds, Avon, and overnight in York, and then into Edinburgh the next day. After a couple of casual days in Edinburgh, we'll hop a flight back to LHR to fly out.

7/4 - Bath
7/5 - Stonehenge
7/6 - York
7/7 - Edinburgh
7/8 - Edinburgh
7/9 - Edinburgh
7/10 - early flight EDI to LHR

We know we could cram more in, but we're pretty slow travelers. My wife and I have been to Bath and Edinburgh, and want to share these two great cities with our kids.
Any thoughts on the itinerary?

Posted by
4003 posts

Usually much much better to return home directly from Scotland and not return to London.

Probably makes sense to ditch car in York and train to Edinburgh.

Agree 2 nights in York minimum, take time from London.

Posted by
3017 posts

I agree you may want to shorten your time in London to allow more time in Bath, York, and points in between. And if you can fly "open jaw" (London arrival, Edinburgh departure or vice versa) that will save you a day's travel returning to your UK airport of origin.

Are you staying in Bath because you want to see that city, or because it seems near Stonehenge? If the latter, be aware that Salisbury is a much shorter, easier drive to/from Stonehenge. From Bath, whichever route to Stonehenge you choose you'll be on fairly slow, narrow country roads with the risk of a wrong turn at any given roundabout.

Driving from Bath to York -- and driving is the best way; train connections would be complicated -- will take you pretty much a full day. If you wanted to see Stratford-upon-Avon you'd really need to plan on spending the night there, or somewhere nearby like Chipping Campden or Warwick.

Again, about York: are you planning to stop there because it's on the way to Edinburgh, or because you especially want to see York? If you're looking for just a good waypoint en route, you may want to stick with the M6 (which you pick up from the M5 on the northern outskirts of Birmingham) all the way to the Scottish border where it becomes the M74, continue to Glasgow and then turn east to Edinburgh. Navigation and highway speeds are fast on that route. In that case, the Stratford-upon-Avon area would be your overnight.

Or, you could head northeast to pick up the M1 after leaving Stratford-upon-Avon and spend the night in Durham. Durham is charming and, unlike York, it's close to the M1. Then you'd pick up the A68 outside Newcastle to drive the rest of the way to Edinburgh.

Speeds of 80 to 85 mph are typical on the Motorways (designated M) and the etiquette is to use the right lane only for passing ("overtaking"); it's not like American highways where you choose your lane and stay in it. On the secondary roads, some people drive fast but the lanes tend to be narrow and there are often stone walls along the sides, or ditches, or other things you don't want your car to scrape against, so you have to figure you'll be making 30-35 mph. Some of the secondary roads have a center divider ("dual carriageway"), but not many.

Posted by
2140 posts

You could fly direct from Bristol Airport to Edinburgh. www.skyscanner.net

Alternatively, you could go by train. Bath to Bristol (15 minutes) where you can change trains. Some direct trains go Bristol> York > Newcastle > Edinburgh. However, it is usually quicker to go Bristol (Temple Meads) > Birmingham (New Street) & change for a Virgin train to Edinburgh via the west coast route.
www.nationalrail.co.uk

Alternatively, why not go by train from London to Bath and then hire a car to explore the south-west or go over the Seven Bridge to Wales. www.visitwales.co.uk

Posted by
2288 posts

A couple of points. First, Durham is near the A1(M) not the M1. Second, while you may see cars hurtle past at 85mph, the speed limit is 70mph. Exceed that and you could get stopped by the coppers.

And keep to the left lane except when overtaking. You can be fined for hogging the middle and right hand lanes.

Posted by
3210 posts

"after a day in Bath, rent a car and enjoy Stonehenge. Then drive through the Cotswolds, Avon, and overnight in York, and then into Edinburgh the next day."

Covering too much ground, as I assume the Bath to Stonehenge to Cotswolds to Stratford-Upon-Avon to York will all take place in one day.

It's simply not possible to see Stonehenge, The Cotswolds, Stratford-Upon-Avon and York in the same day. And the driving aspect of this, using maps or GPS, driving on unfamiliar roads for this length of trip in one day will be simply maddening. You said in your post, "we're pretty slow travelers." You are not going to make this schedule, slow travelers, so you may wish to start adjusting your schedule.

First, you need more time to do the things you are describing. You need to cut 2 days from London. Instead of a week, stay 5 days in London. Add the 2 days you've just gained into your countryside trek from Bath to York to Edinburgh. This will help you A LOT.

Posted by
3210 posts

The way I would do your trip:
1. Train to Bath. Stay 2 to 3 nights in Bath. On the last day you are there, jump on this tour first thing in the morning. You want tour Number 1 which takes you to Stonehenge and a couple of Cotswold villages. Mad Max Tours use small mini-buses and have a great reputation. This will save you a lot of driving hassle.
http://www.madmaxtours.co.uk/
2. Early morning train from Bath to Stratford-Upon-Avon. This is one of my favorite places in England. You can't just do a drive-by in a car, and say "Look kids, there it is." It is a town that becomes more terrific the more you walk around and get away from the tourist crowds. Walk down to Trinity Church, where Shakespeare is buried, and it is just the way it was in the 1500's. You can't imagine how beautiful it is until you go there. And not just for a drive-through. The River Avon is beautiful, with swans, ducks, and canalboats in the basin near the Royal Shakespeare Theatre.
Stay in Stratford-Upon-Avon at least one night.
3. Train to London. Change stations. Train out to York. This will be fast, fast, fast, unlike the drive you would be doing.
NOTE: We have a train expert who posts here. He may chime in and suggest a better train route from Stratford-Upon-Avon to York.
4. Stay two nights in York. You will LOVE this town, possibly more than Bath or Edinburgh. Trust me. Walk the old medieval city walls. Go to the Jorvik museum that traces the Roman, Viking, and medieval history of York. Go to York Minster for Evensong--you will never forget it.
5. On to Edinburgh by train. The train will get you there FAST. And you can relax, eat a sandwich, enjoy the view out the window as you travel, instead of trying to find your way by car. Much less stressful.

What you are dealing with on your trip is you will barely have enough time to do the things you want. And that's after you rob 2 days away from London. You might rob 3 days from London.

Do some research on good deals you can get on family train travel. They may have a UK Rail Pass for families, which if bought far in advance, will save you a bundle.

The advantage of rail travel is: no stress of finding your way around by car. Also no gas costs. No damage deposit on the car. No hassles with parking in the towns you go to.

I think your family will love the train rides in England.

Posted by
2140 posts

Rebecca (above) offers some sound advice. If going by train from Stratford-upon-Avon to York, walk into Stratford-upon-Avon station on the day and purchase a single (one way) ticket to Birmingham (New Street) for about £8 each (less for kids). You may like to spend an hour or two having a quick wander around central Birmingham. Anyway, pre-book a rail ticket from Birmingham (BHM) to York (YRK) about 11 weeks in advance of trip as this will be the cheapest way of getting tickets. You use your debit card and are given a booking number - which you use to get the tickets. This is the train company for this route:>https://www.crosscountrytrains.co.uk

DO NOT purchase a through ticket from Stratford-upon-Avon as this works out more expensive.

York to Edinburgh can be done with either Cross Country or Virgin Trains East Coast. (Go with the cheapest that offers the best price for the timings - see www.nationalrail.co.uk to find out).https://www.virgintrainseastcoast.com

Alternatively, go with Virgin on the west coast route from Birmingham (New Street) to Edinburgh. Then, having spent a couple of days in Edinburgh, take a train down the east coast route to and break the journey at York for 1 night. Advance purchase a separate ticket for the York to London (Kings Cross) leg.

Posted by
10 posts

I am not an expert by any means, but we just returned from our trip to the UK yesterday and would like to throw in my 2 cents. We too planned to rent a car in Bath and spend a day driving around the Cotswolds, and another day at Stonehenge and Avebury. You don't say if you have any experience driving on the left side of the road, but for us it was quite difficult to negotiate the narrow roads and roundabouts through the Cotswolds. As mentioned earlier, it takes a lot longer than you would think just based on distance. Plus, we really didn't get to enjoy the drive as we were concentrating on not running into the curb or the oncoming traffic! After our 1 day of driving, we ditched the rental car and decided to take the MadMax tour of Stonehenge, Avebury, Laycock and Castle Combe. We had a fantastic guide, Tim, and a wonderful, much more relaxing day of seeing the countryside and learning a lot about the area. Of course, it depends on your level of comfort and experience, but please consider what the other posters have said. Hope you and your family have a wonderful trip!

Posted by
220 posts

I visited most of these places this past may (except york-which i'm doing next year). This is one crazy driving idea... I would really say that its untenable as is and you should consider dropping Scotland and save it for another trip at another time. You can train from London to Bath in about 2 hours. From there you can check into your hotel, then pick up a rental car. That will eat up half of your day. Its feasible to fit in visiting the cathedral and baths in the same day and see an evensong...although you will be thoroughly wiped out and really want to cry. Stonehenge is best visited first thing in the morning, its about 1 hour away from bath by car. If you go early you can beat the horrid tour-busses with thousands of foreign visitors. The drive from Bath to York will take you a good 5 to 6 hours. As such, you won't be seeing much of anything on day and probably just want to collapse. York to EDI is really a LONG LONG drive. I drove from Edinburgh to Alnwick and that was a good 2 solid hours, so from there to York is another 2+. The roads are very very slow between those cities. By the time you arrive in Edinburgh (late after noon with no stops) you just have one day (maybe) to see things. I'd really reconsider the whole thing. Driving is horrendously slow, unless you plan on waking at around 4am and being on the road by 5 with your whole family in tow...its not recommended to do such long legs...trains are equally slow as well..the country is big and long in between the major cities.

I'd probably revise your trip to something like this:

7/4 - Train to Bath, visit Abby and Roman Baths
7/5- Stonehenge, Royal Crescent, and Evensong (possible spa stop)
7/6- Cotswolds (south) (note this is still a LOT of driving-especially if you want to get out and actually visit anything)
7/7- Cotswolds (north) - Gloucester, visit stratford upon avon/etc
7/8- Oxford (visit Blenheim palace--that will take up half your day)
7/9 - Oxford (visit colleges in AM) train back to London
7/10- Leave London

The other option is to drop bath and fly to EDI and just visit EDI. But i'd really avoid the long drive through the middle, it will eat up 3 days if not more of your time.

-I doubt you can cram more in....

Posted by
3210 posts

Hi allmain. I hope our suggestions here are helping you plan your trip, and not adding to the confusion.

If you did not like my suggestion in my post on 9/19/16, to cut a couple of days from London, then I suggest the following simplified itinerary.
London>Bath>London>York>Edinburgh
1.One week in London.
2.Split the remaining week between Bath and Edinburgh.
3.Train to Bath; spend 3 days.
4.Early train to London. Change train stations. Train to York.
5. Arrive in York as early as possible. (Which may be about lunchtime.) Walk around York. See York Minster, The Shambles & city walls.
6.That evening, about dinnertime, take the train to Edinburgh. For dinner, you can get sandwiches and eat them on the train.
7.Spend the remainder of your days (3) in Edinburgh.
8.Fly home out of Edinburgh. This saves you the needless hassle of returning to London just to fly home.
9.When searching for your flights and prices online, remember this type of flight is called "Open Jaw". Fly into London, fly out of Edinburgh.
10.The train will get you through this schedule much faster than driving a rental car.

Hope this helps, and that you are still checking in with us from time to time. Happy travels.

Posted by
8 posts

We've been considering our travel plans and just bought tickets in and out of LHR at a great price. This is what we're thinking now, with insight from this forum:
6/27 arrive in LHR mid-morning and train to Bath, spend night in Bath
6/28 MadMax tour #1, spend night in Bath
6/29 Bath
6/30morning train to Bristol and transfer to Stratford upon Avon to spend four or five hours, late afternoon train to York, spend night in York
7/1 Day in York, night in York
7/2 Morning train to Edinburgh, night in Edinburgh
7/3 night in Edinburgh
7/4 night in Edinburgh
7/5 morning train to London
7/10 morning flight back to US
Three nights in Bath, two nights in York, three nights in Edinburgh, and five nights in London.

I was concerned about being in London for the second week of our trip, as that is when Wimbledon takes place, but I think it'll be busy regardless. I'm open to being in Bath one less night to spend another night and day in York. Thanks for your expertise, and let me know what you think of our new plan.

Posted by
4935 posts

I wouldn't worry at all about being in London when Wimbledon is on unless you wanted to visit the museum there. The numbers going there are hardly a ripple in the overall scheme of things unless you are right there.

Posted by
3210 posts

Hi again, allmain! Your plan sounds great! Very wise of you to move your London segment to the end of the trip.
So glad to hear you got a great price on your flights. In and out of Heathrow will work fine, with the way you have rearranged your schedule. Have a great trip!

When you get ready to buy your train tickets, post a new question to the board before buying. You can save a lot by buying tickets ahead of time, several months or weeks in advance.

We have a poster on here who is our rail expert. So do get his advice before buying any tickets.

You will want to buy tickets from www.nationalrail.co.uk

There are lots of sites on the internet that you DO NOT want to buy your tickets from, such as The Train Line or Rail Europe. Ignore these sites when they come up in your search.

You can, of course, buy train tickets on the day of travel, by walking up to the window at the train station and saying, "Ticket from Bath to Bristol, please." But this is the most expensive way to buy. Sometimes, if you are traveling on impulse, as I did one trip, this is the only way. In this way, you remain flexible, from one day to the next, about where you wish to go next.

Posted by
2140 posts

I am not sure that visiting Stratford-upon-Avon is worth the bother as it is not directly linked to Bath by rail.

Anyway, on the Bath to York leg, you could well find it cheaper to pre-order (at Cross Country trains - having first checked the prices & schedules on www.nationalrail.co.uk) ; Cheltenham > Stratford-upon-Avon or Birmingham if not going to Stratford. Then Pre-order Birmingham (BHM) > Derby and a separate ticket for Derby > York. A buy on the day ticket from Bath to Cheltenham is about £14.30.
So, you could in effect, use this ticket to get you from Bath to Bristol where you change for the Cross Country train that will take you to Birmingham via Cheltenham. Such trains would also continue to York but with split tickets, you may have to move seats if they are reserved. A Bath to Stratford-upon-Avon ticket would cost about £59. So, a buy on the day Bath > Cheltenham ticket = £14.30 plus an advance (pre-booked) Cheltenham to Birmingham or Stratford-upon-Avon ticket should be had for £10 to £20 or so - thus saving about half of what a through ticket would cost - even though you are on the same trains! Click ‘details’ on the National Rail website to check when the trains are at the 'split points'.