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Britain Itinerary May/June 2020 input

We are planning a trip to Britain end of May-early June and have developed the following itinerary:
Any suggestions are welcome especially things not to miss in the areas we have chosen. Any old ruins of castles on this trip we should visit? We have already purchased our plane tickets so London to London is a given.
Thanks
We land at Heathrow on May 25 @7:00 (from Boston)
Day 1- Pick up rental car and travel to the Costwolds (Chipping Campden) stopping at Stonehenge and Windsor Castle on the way. Check into B&B and explore the area
Day 2 - explore the villages of the Costwolds and perhaps a side trip to Stratford or Oxford
Night in Chipping Campden
Day 3 - travel to Lake District (Keswick) with a stopover in Kniveton (my ancestral home).
Check into B&B and explore the town and area.
Night in Keswick
Day 4 - boat ride/hike on one of the lakes.
Drive tour of Lake District (as per Rick Steve’s guidebook)
Night in Keswick
Day 5 - travel to Edinburgh
Explore Edinburgh
Night in Edinburgh
Day 6 - Edinburgh
Night in Edinburgh
Day 7 - head to Oban with stops at Stirling Castle and Loch Lomond
Night in Oban
Day 8 - Bus/ferry tour of Inner Hebrides (Mull/Iona) as per Rick Steves.
Night in Oban
Day 9 - Explore the area and back to Edinburgh
Night in Edinburgh
Day 10 - drop off rental car and take train to London
Night in London
Day 11 & 12 - London
Relying heavily on Rick Steves suggestions including the ‘Westminster Walk’
Perhaps a West End show one of the nights...any suggestions?
Day 13 - home to Boston

Thanks for any input..

Posted by
9382 posts

Day 1 is a very long driving day after an international overnight flight. I would not recommend it jet lagged and faced with driving on the opposite side of the road from what you are used to. Perhaps drive to Windsor only and spend the night so you can hit Stonehenge the next day?

I would skip Scotland in a 12 night trip and add days anywhere else. You are, IMO, shortchanging London. A week is a good start in London.

Posted by
5149 posts

Going to be a long first arrival day of driving. Much longer than you will be anticipating. I’d drop Windsor at the beginning and use a 1/2 day from London and go by train.

Can’t comment about Scotland. Never visited.

I agree with Laurel you are shortchanging my favorite city on the planet.

Been to London Numerous times. Ever evolving yet always the same. I’m presuming cuz I haven’t read the RS London guidebook that Westminster Walk is a stroll about Parliament Square and nearby environs.

It’s an easy walk you can do on your own. Tube to Westminster and exit and walk outside to where you will be in the shadow of Elizabeth’s Tower ( in scaffolding).

Follow the hordes, crossing the road at the light and remember only idiots jay walk in a country where you forget traffic will come from the opposite side of the street than your brain is programmed for....so wait for the light!

Photo ops of Parliament, Westminster Abbey (Vergers tour is well worth the £’s. So is going early) and then meander to the Churchill War Rooms. Timed tickets are needed to book in advance.
Then I’d stroll thru St James Park via Bird Cage walk up to Buckingham Palace. If the flag is up HRH is in residence. Forget the Changing if the Guard, boring and a massive crowd.

From the Palace cross the roads....they’ve set up traffic barricades to make it easier to get past the Victoria Memorial to Green Park. Stroll through it and you’ll be at Piccadilly. Turn right and head toward Fortum and Mason. Stop, shop ( tea tins for gifts are a good option), have an afternoon tea and if tea isn’t appealing then stroll down (200 yards
maybe) along the adjacent Jermyn Street to Cafe Nero next to St James of Piccadilly. Theres a small park. Lovely albeit expensive shops along Jermyn. If you walk past the park, Cafe Nero and St James to Duke of York street and turn right you’ll find a Red Lion pub and nearly next door a Pret a Manger.

As far as theatre I loved seeing Witness for the Prosecution at County Hall by Jubilee Gardens and London Eye in December. It’s staged in actual courtroom.

If not that then hit the Leicester Square ticket booth for half price day of tickets. In days of yore you find the offerings written on a chalk board and it was cash only. Now daily offerings are listed online and the booth is digitized. Something like Hamilton won’t be offered but Lion King might be.

I’d like to offer up a suggestion to check out the Mercado Mayfair market. Converted church. Food booths, sit down eateries, main level and balcony and a lovely vaulted wine cellar restaurant in the basement. Google it.

I’m also big on taking a walk along the Regents Canal from Granary Square which is behind St Pancras station ( you should look inside St Pancras as well. The statue of the Kiss is worth it, so is having tea or a cocktail at the gorgeous Booking Office)
to Camden Lock market. You could also bike it.

So much to see and do besides the “ must see “ sites. Stroll in a park, find a traditional
pub along the Thames ( my fav away from the city center is the Dove), visit the The museum of Water and Steam, climb Parliament Hill for a view of London, visit Kew Gardens, Cruise the Thames at dusk and watch London light up, find a London Walk(www.walks.com)

that meets your interests and take it, etc., etc., etc.!

Slow down after the beginning whirlwind and explore not just see London!

Enjoy!

Posted by
128 posts

That is a very aggressive itinerary and I feel you are being unrealistic in your expectations. It involves a lot of time driving and you won’t have much time for things to see in the different places you have chosen.

Don’t underestimate the time needed to drive in the UK. Distances may not look far but this is a built up country and driving can be very slow, especially if there is a lot of traffic. If using google maps add 25% on to their drive times AND THEN TIME FOR STOPS...

Have you got accommodation booked yet, or can you be flexible about altering your itinerary?

Day 1 is a punishing day - especially if you are arriving off a transatlantic night flight. You are talking about 155 + miles driving which is going to take you a MINIMUM of 4+ hours.Stonehenge is very much the long way round between Heathrow and Chipping Campden. As it is taking you really out of your way, delete it from the itinerary.

Even Chipping Campden is a long way to drive when you are jet lagged. Oxford would be a more realistic overnight

Day 2 - Unrealistic. Oxford or Stratford need a day as does a tour of the Cotswold villages. You are trying to cram three days sight seeing into 1 day.

Day 3 - this is 275 miles and is going to take at least 6+ hours to drive PLUS stops. With Kniveton, this is going to be effectively a full day with no time to explore the area...

Day 5 - Not sure what the RS drive tour is but again you are going to be pushed to include a boat trip or hike as well.

Day 7 is about 5+ hours driving . Stirling Castle will need 2-3 hours to see so again that is a full day.

Day 10 Rather than drop the car off in Edinburgh, think about dropping it off in Glasgow instead. You could keep Loch Lomond for this day instead of Day 7. Think about taking the sleeper train to London rather than one during the day.

Posted by
7603 posts

If you feel you need to keep Stonehenge in the mix, I'd spend that night in Salisbury. I don't drive in UK so I'm not sure about car rental from Salisbury but I'd look at the possibility of taking public transportation from Heathrow to Salisbury, take the public shuttle transport (Salisbury Reds is the bus company) out to the stones and then pick up your car the next morning.

Even if you weren't coming off an international flight with jet lag/travel tiredness Day 1 is too much. Windsor takes a 1/2 a day on it's own. I usually spend at least a half a day at Stonehenge if not longer. I know many here are not fans of this site but I love it. I love the well done audio guide and I like walking back to the VC via the barrows and Cursus.

You could consider spending that first night in Windsor taking public transport there and seeing the castle and town, then head for the Cotswolds the next day. I also agree with Claudia that Windsor is easily done as a day trip from London if you'll give yourself a bit more time there.

I also don't think your plan of seeing Cotswold villages plus adding in Stratford-upon-Avon or Oxford is a good idea. Either/or. Cotswolds or Stratford-upon-Avon or Oxford.

Is this your first visit?

Posted by
3936 posts

As you already have your flights to/from London, I would suggest that you drop Scotland for this trip.

Day 1 - please don’t hire a car at Heathrow then drive on some of Europe’s most congested roads with jet lag. It’s not safe for you or other road users; notwithstanding this, Windsor, Stonehenge and the Cotswolds is a two day trip, not one. Use public transport to get to Windsor and hire a car on day 2 there. Does Stonehenge interest you? It’s not my bag.

Day 2 - Stratford upon Avon (Stratford is in London) and Oxford are full day visits each. Add another day here if you want to see either of these places. My vote would go to Oxford, as SuA is too tacky.

Day 3 - over 6 hours driving (possibly nearer 7 hours), so not much time for any exploration of the Lake District. Not a pleasant day, staring at tarmac for hours. Add at least 1 other night in the Lake District.

If you haven’t been to London before, you can easily spend a week here.

Posted by
4 posts

As others have said that is quite an ambitious itinerary with lots of driving and your current proposed schedule means that you are “short changing” the places you plan to visit. Unlike others, I think it’s great you want to get to see other parts of the UK and not just London. If you really want to go to Scotland on this trip, would suggest you drop the Oban part of your itinerary and instead add time to your earlier plans so that you can do justice to Oxford, Stratford on Avon and the Lake District. Also you will be retracing your steps to go to Oxford from Chipping Camden; you’d be better off stopping off there on your way to Chipping Camden. On your way from the Lake District to Edinburgh do make time to stop at Rosslyn. It was one of the highlights for us when we went up to Edinburgh:
https://blog.ricksteves.com/cameron/2015/08/rosslyn-chapel-when-great-sights-transcend-pop-culture/

Posted by
9 posts

Thank you all for your input.
To answer one question I have been to Britain before but that was fifty years ago.
We are traveling with another couple so there will be two drivers.

Posted by
1062 posts

One idea for your 1st night is to stay in Woodstock which is just past Oxford. See Blenheim Palace that afternoon. 2nd day go to Salisbury Cathedral (you can ticket for both) and Stonehenge (time entry reserved) spend night in Bath, see highlights. 3rd day go north to Cotswolds and Chipping Camden. 4th day stop by Stoke on Trent, visit Wedgwood Museum & Factory, spend night in Chester. 5th day visit Liverpool highlights, then drive to Keswick and Lake District. 6th day drive to Hadrian' Wall, spend night in Hartwhistle. 7th day drive to York spend night. (You can go south from here if you want to spend more time in London). 8th day drive to Borders area Scotland, tour ancient Abbeys. 9th day drive to Edinburgh spend night. 10th day visit Stirling, Falkirk area. 11th day morning train to London. 12th Day London Highlights. These suggestions are a push, but we did a similar trip in 15 days, plus 6 days in London. I call this a Whitman Sampler Tour, but it's OK to check where you might want to return. My suggestion is to do the Scottish Isles as a dedicated trip, as ferries and boat connections eat up a lot of time and most need reservations.

Posted by
10 posts

We did a similar itinerary 2 years ago, and it was not bad at all.
We did spend the first day/night in London, and then headed out the next morning, picked up our car and drove to Windsor. Pretty easy drive. We got our car on the outskirts of London, so avoided the heavily congested roads.

From Windsor, we drove to Chipping Campden and stayed there 2 nights, exploring the various nearby villages.

From the Cotswolds, we drove to Oxford, again spending 2 nights.

Drove the longest stretch to York, and spent one afternoon/night there, and caught the train to Edinburgh the next day. We knew we would only have time to explore Edinburgh, so we didn't even try to see other parts of Scotland. After 2 nights, we took the train back to London, explored a bit more, and then flew home the next day.

In looking at your itinerary, Day 2 is the concerning part. You absolutely will not be able to see Oxford or Stonehenge and explore the Cotswolds all in one day.

Is the Lake District a must? If so, then perhaps limit this visit to just England, and don't try to fit Scotland in, as well.

Posted by
3899 posts

Thank you all for your input. To answer one question I have been to Britain before but that was fifty years ago.
We are traveling with another couple so there will be two drivers.

As you'd imagine, a lot has changed over 50 years not least the traffic. Having two drivers is irrelevant, both of you will be jetlagged, it takes a momentary nodding off to result in a fatal collision, a nodding off that is difficult to anticipate or foresee.

Driving straight off a transatlantic flight is a no-no, trying to cram in Windsor, Stonehenge and The Cotswolds on day one is a disaster waiting to happen, please reconsider your plans.

Posted by
451 posts

Just for safety, I'd change the first day. As others have said, you will be jet-lagged plus driving an unfamiliar car on unfamiliar roads on the left side of the roads. How about going directly from Heathrow to Oxford by the Oxford bus? Explore the town, and pick up the rental car on the second day. I don't think you will want your car in Edinburgh so you might do your car trips in Scotland and return the car, then explore Edinburgh.

Posted by
2618 posts

At stated, it’s to aggressive, especially day one, as others have stated. You’re not giving the Cotswolds nearly enough time to adequately see them. There are a lot of villages in the Cotswolds, so unless you’re only going to visit a very few of them, you’re not doing that area justice. Remember you’ll be driving at no more than 40mph on those roads. In one day, taking your time, you could see Chipping Campden, Lower Slaughter, Stow-on-Wold, and maybe Stratford Upon Avon (or similar towns). Just my opinion, but the itinerary seems more like you want to check the boxes by saying you were someplace, rather than visiting and enjoying the places you want to visit.

Posted by
3899 posts

For an example of the caution in calculating journey times in the UK, the last time I visited Stonehenge with my sons we left Portsmouth just after 09:00, it's a journey of 63 miles along a route I'm familiar with and in my own car. Salisbury is the killer, it becomes very congested and can eat into your journey time considerably. We didn't actually spend much time at Stonehenge as my youngest was bored, by the time was grabbed a quick lunch and drove home it was mid afternoon.

From Stonehenge through The Cotswolds to Stratford Upon Avon could well take 3 hours without stopping, that's simply driving through the villages and admiring them whilst keeping your eye on the road. The last time I drove through The Cotswolds was on my way back from Derby. We made one stop for a tea break and it took 4 1/2 hours to reach Portsmouth, no sightseeing, no walking around the villages, just straight through.

I haven't even considered factoring a visit to Windsor Castle, that's at the very least a half day visit.

Posted by
128 posts

Things have changed a lot in 50 years - particularly traffic and urban development. Be guided by JC's advice in the above post. Locals tend to cover distances faster than visitors as they are familiar with roads etc. I travelled from Chester to Doncaster last October, a journey that usually takes just over 2 hours. It took nearly 5 hours as traffic was so bad!

Having two drivers won't make any difference to traffic conditions or shorten drive times.

Posted by
4 posts

Day 4 is ambitious. The Lake District covers nearly 900 square miles and the roads are very small and twisty. You won't get to see a lot in one day if you are driving/navigating yourselves. A lot of people take a day tour to cram in as much as possible and then the driver gets to see things too rather than worrying about the traffic and squeezing past cars on the narrow roads!

Posted by
226 posts

From LHR, you can take the tube to Paddington station and hop on a direct train to Oxford and rent a car there. Chipping Campden is an hour away.
My sister and brother-in-law travelled with friends years ago who insisted on renting a car the morning they landed in London and totaled it shortly after leaving the rental agency. Luckily no one was hurt. I would skip Windsor as a couple others have also suggested.

Posted by
608 posts

Not meaning to add negativity, but you ARE trying to cover a lot of ground and you will find you don’t have enough time for what you already have planned. So I won’t try to suggest more.

Day 1 is a disaster in waiting, no matter two drivers or not. You will need one driver and one navigator on full alert all the time. I say this in humility, because my husband and I made the same sort of mistake on our first trip to England. Never again. I will drive upon arrival but only for a short distance. Jet lag will catch up with you. There are ways to fix Day 1 but not without giving up something - and none of us know what top priority is.

Effectively, for the rest of your trip, you mostly have 1 day in each location because your distances are so great that they take up almost the full day transitioning.
To help with that (the 1 day, not the distance),
Day 5: why don’t you drive Keswick to Oban instead of to Edinburgh?
Day 6: Take your 3 Island tour.
Day 7: Drive to Edinburgh with your stops. Turn in the car at the airport and enjoy
Days 8 & 9 in Edinburgh. A car there will only be in the way. And keeping your Edinburgh days together will give you more efficient sight-seeing time.
Either: Day 9 night, take the night train to London or
Day 10: train to London
Days 11 & 12: London. While that is far from enough time, you are going to be extremely tired by this time, so that may be enough to give you a nice taste.

If you take the night train (end of Day 9) you might squeeze in another day (Day 10) in London. Or you could add that day at the beginning to allow for seeing what you want on Days 1 and 2.
Maybe Day 1: pick up your car, drive to Windsor, see the castle, then drive maybe 2 hrs (caveat, I have only done this portion by train) to Salisbury for the night. If you are still awake, you could visit the cathedral.
Day 2: Morning Stonehenge and afternoon drive through Cotswolds to your next place.

I am not advising all this - just looking at how you could do it more efficiently and less dangerously.

Posted by
645 posts

I too worry about how jet lagged you will be. I suggest you avoid the problem by doing your trip in reverse.

Day one take the train to Edinburgh. You won't need a car there. Stay a few nights maybe visit Stirling Castle by train, then rent a car to explore Scotland followed by The Lake District and The Cotswolds. Drop the car off in Oxford and train or bus to London from there.

I would also cut a lot of Scotland in order to slow down and enjoy what you do see.

Posted by
645 posts

Cutting is hard, but, it's what we always inevitably do as part of our trip planning whether we are going to be at home or abroad. Try to group a number of day-trips around a single town to avoid changing hotels every other day. It may limit what you see a little, but it will maximize your time to actually see what you do see.

Posted by
9 posts

Thank you all for the input. It is very much appreciated! I will definitely be redoing the itinerary. I’m usually pretty good at this but think I may have dropped the ball on this one.

Posted by
9 posts

Thanks you all for your input. I have revised the itinerary based on your suggestions. Again, any input is welcome.
Day 1- We land at Heathrow on May 25 @7:00 (from Boston)
Take train/bus to Oxford. Explore Oxford in afternoon/evening
Day 2 - Oxford in the morning then drive to Chipping Campden
Night in Chipping Campden
Day 3 - Explore Cotswolds. Night in CC
Day 4 - “travel day”
CC >Kniveton (my ancestral home)
Kniveton>Keswick
Night in Keswick
Day 5 - Explore Lake District (night in Keswick)
Day 6 - Lake District (night in Keswick)
Day 7 - to Edinburgh (night in Edinburgh)
Day 8 - Edinburgh….side trip to Stirling Castle and Loch Lomond (night in Edinburgh)
Day 9 - Edinburgh (night in Edinburgh)
Day 10 - drop off rental car and take train to London
Night in London
Day 11 & 12 - London
Day 13 - home to Boston

Posted by
234 posts

Your new itinerary sounds better and do-able! We did something similar last summer but spent more time in London. The train from Edinburgh to London is a great idea.

In Edinburgh, the castle is a must-see as is the Royal Botanical Garden. Oxford has a lovely pub on the river called The Head of the River. London.... we could’ve spent two weeks there... Borough Market, Wallace Collection, Hamilton, Tower of London, Tombs of Mary Queen of Scot and Queen Elizabeth side by side in Westminster Abbey.... it was all a dream!

I have trip reports on here somewhere!

Posted by
128 posts

That sounds a much more reasonable itinerary.

Have you thought about getting a sleeper train from edinburgh to London?

Posted by
1062 posts

Your final itinerary is much better for a less stressful journey! Best wishes and enjoy your ancestral visit. I did my Ancestry DNA and now have over a 1000 Anglo-Saxon Ancestors; in 1600s their descendants funneled through New England as Colonists, the Shenandoah after the Revolutionary War, the Midwest and finally in the West in the 1800s the with the Railroads. If you haven't gone on a computer program for Genealogy yet, I would recommend it. Bon Voyage!

Posted by
608 posts

That looks like a really nice trip! Just a thought: you could probably drop the car off on Day 8 as you return to Edinburgh, if the rental return is open. You won’t need or want it on Day 9 while in the city nor on Day 10 when you are catching the train.

Posted by
9 posts

Thank you all for your suggestions. We have decided to postpone our trip until the coronavirus pandemic has run its course, hopefully sooner than later and maybe even add some time to our trip. I hope all of you are safe and staying healthy.