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England - 6/16-6/30 - London, York, Canterbury - planning phase 2

Thanks to the several folks that kindly replied to my previous post, “ England itinerary help - June 17-July 1”. Well, our dates have shifted a bit, but we now have our flights booked. I’m now trying to get the itinerary roughly planned to determine next steps. Some points to consider:

  • This will be our third trip to England.
  • We plan to rent a car and drive to many of our destinations.
  • We will not go to London except to catch a train (if possible). Exception, stay at LHR night before flight out.
  • Our plane arrives at LHR at 7:20am on Wed 6/17 and leaves LHR on Tues 6/30 at 9:05am.

Overview of itinerary thoughts:

First 1/2 of trip

  • Take train/tube to King’s Cross station and then train to York.
  • Possibly 1-2 nights in York to see York Minster and main sites.
  • Rent a car day 2 in York to tour North Yorkshire Moors, etc.
  • Possibly drive across North Yorkshire, Durham (?), Cumbria to stay a few nights around Keswick.
  • After touring some of the Lake District (Our 2nd trip there), drive back to York
  • Drop rental car and depart York for South/southwest destination

Second 1/2 of trip

  • Arrive in Canterbury or 2nd leg destination (Dorset, Hampshire, West Sussex?).
  • Rent a car again (rent in London and drive southwest possibly?).
  • Spend half of our time in this area (see Canterbury, Corfe Castle, possibly Thomas Hardy house in Dorset, etc).
  • Considering dedicating a day to visiting Guernsey (Victor Hugo house and scenery, walking).
  • Monday, return rental car and stay overnight at Hyatt Place LHR for Tuesday return flight.


  • Is any or all of this “want list” too aggressive? Suggestions?
  • Can anyone propose ideas that would help flesh out this itinerary?
  • Would I be better off renting a car from the beginning at LHR and just driving to northern destinations, then south?
  • Am I needlessly complicating things by renting cars twice?
  • And, on a personal note, I hate to arrive in London and a start a day of travel/sightseeing with no opportunity to shower/shave. Surely, I’m not the first to consider this.

I’m sorry this is so long, but I tried to keep it to the point. Many many thanks to the people that have helped me before. I regard all of you as the experts.


Posted by
2359 posts

First 1/2 of trip - have you considered going south first? Summer solstice begins 20Jun, so you might have warmer weather the second half of your trip.
From York, drive to Hadrian's Wall (2h 30m) then to Keswick (1h). Durham isn't that pretty, but is a jumping off point for the wall.
Why not drive between Keswick and Canterbury?
Second 1/2 of trip:
Canterbury would be my choice not Dorset, Hampshire or West Sussex.
Do you really want to rent a car the day you arrive and drive 4h to York or 1h 45m to Canterbury? Have you rented a car after a night of little sleep? Remember, you're driving on the opposite side of the road with the steering wheel on the right too.
I would rent one car and drop it off in a different location.
Check LHRs website on showers:

Posted by
23012 posts

I wouldn't try to combine Canterbury (way southeast of London) with Dorset (way west).

I enjoyed my trip to Guernsey (a long time ago) but would certainly not go there for just a day. The ferry from Poole (not a very attractive place in my mind) takes 3 hours; the ferry from Portsmouth, 7 hours. You'd have very little time actually on Guernsey when all was said and done. I'd want to spend at least two full days (3 nights) there. Another thing to keep in mind is that Channel ferries sometimes get canceled. I'm told I've been incredibly unlucky, but I've booked 5 Channel ferries in my lifetime (all of them between May and September) and 2 were canceled--one of them for 3 days in a row.

York is definitely worth a 2-night stay.

I would definitely not drive away from LHR after an overnight flight. Aside from the safety issue, the train will get you to York faster. I think the same holds true when you are ready to head south, assuming you're going somewhere beyond London. However, I don't know what the cost difference will be.

Posted by
6113 posts

Personally, I would not want to head all the way up to York after a transatlantic arrival at Heathrow. What if your flight is delayed by a few hours? It would have made more sense to fly into Manchester than Heathrow. An even worse suggestion is to drive there from Heathrow on day 1! Please don’t.

York itself can easily fill at least one very full day there. Walk the old city walls, visit the Minster, the Railway Museum is a must and see The Shambles old retail area.

Spend a day on the North Yorkshire Moors Railway steam heritage line from Pickering.

The North York Moors can be combined with Whitby on the coast as a day trip.

Drive around the Yorkshire Dales, visiting Harrogate en route and the Wensleydale Creamery in Hawes to sample their cheeses.

See Durham Cathedral en route to a full day at Beamish Museum, showing what life was like 100+ years ago. It’s a bit like Williamsburg ie period costumes.

I prefer the western end of the Lake District such as Eskdale, which is more interesting than Keswick.

No matter what you do, you are going to lose the best part of a day getting from the Lake District to southern England. York is back across country, so it doesn’t make sense to drop the car there, take the train to London, cross the city, then take another train out then hire another car - it would make more sense to keep hold of it for the duration.

I think you need to decide what your priorities are for this second half. Canterbury doesn’t sit well with Dorset, being a 4+ hour drive. The Thomas Hardy properties owned by the National Trust aren’t very exciting, but are close together and can be seen in less than a day.

Guernsey would make more sense as at least a 1 or 2 night stay.

Posted by
1065 posts

"Remember, you're driving on the opposite side of the road with the steering wheel on the left too."

Eh...... The steering wheel will be on the right.

Posted by
11462 posts

I'll just throw out a few thoughts on the Canterbury area if you decide to keep this in the mix. In your other thread there was some advice about what to see so I won't repeat that except to say to me Canterbury needs at least 2 full days to see the highlights. I am not sure if as individual visitors you can book to see the stained glass studios or not. This was a highlight for me on the RS Villages of Southern England tour. I loved that conservation of 13C glass was going on side by side with artists creating new windows for different parts of the Cathedral and Cloister.

I enjoyed Dover Castle with it's history extending back to the Iron Age. What I really wanted to see were the tunnels from which the evacuation of Dunkirk was directed and found them very interesting. If you are interested in WWII history, I'd add that in as well as the Battle of Britain Memorial. I found the statue of the flyer looking over the Channel to France very poignant. I visited on a Rick Steves tour and this was one location I did not have enough time at.

With a car you could also get to the Battle of Britain Museum at Hawkinge. It can be done by public transport but seems like it would be easier via car.

You may have no interest in WWII but I thought I'd throw those locations out to you.

Posted by
23 posts

MaryPat, acraven, and Jennifer, thank you. Excellent points. I agree that driving to York would be nuts, plus I’m not as young as I’d like to be. So:

  • London to King’s Cross to York by train
  • Rent a car in York and spend three nights and 3+ days in walking the city and making day trips
  • Work in a drive or walk in the North Yorkshire Moors.
  • Possibly go north to see Hadrian’s Wall (but I spent a day at and near Housesteads Fort 3 years ago, so not a must-do)
  • Travel by car to Eskdale area and stay two nights with limited day trips
  • Then head for Canterbury? I would like to see some of the southern coast if possible.
  • Maybe I’ll forego Thomas Hardy (GRHS) and Guernsey. Too much for only two weeks


I understand that driving from western Cumbria to the Canterbury area could take a long time—looks like about 6 1/2 hours. I don’t mind driving—last trip I drove from Ambleside to Northern Cornwall. However, if I could turn in the car, take a train to the vicinity of Canterbury, and get another car for the remainder of the trip it would be nice. Which would be better, drive or find a train route?

Please offer any other suggestions. These are great!


Posted by
6430 posts

First half of trip (7 days?)
We spent 3 nights in York and were busy touring the city on all days. We spent 3 hours at the Minster, which has a wonderful tour.
We visited a couple of museums that were excellent. Also, we walked the walls and explored the town including the area with the narrow streets, think it was called the shambles.
The National Railway Museum was great, I recommend it. Two days is a minimum, but recommend three nights and 2+ days.
We drive over the Yorkshire Moors after visiting Castle Howard and overnighting in Pickering. There is an old steam train you can take that goes east. We didn't take it but drove and then visited the rail station anyway, ending up in Whitby. We spend about half a day at Whitby, which was interesting.
From Whitby, we drove to Durham and spend two nights there, the Cathedral is amazing, as is the old Castle and old city.
We spent three nights in Keswick. The Lake District is very scenic and appeals mainly to hikers, etc. I don't think you can include the Lake District if you do all that I suggested here. We also, did a night at Haltwhistle to see Hadrian's Wall, which is great if interested in Roman History.

I think taking the train to York is best, then renting a car. You don't want to drive anywhere near London, unless you rent outside the M25.

Second Half of trip, consider taking a day trip to Canterbury from London.

Dorset is not that close to Canterbury, it would involve driving on the M25 or back roads across southern England, which we found to be filled with auto traffic.

How would you get to Guernsey? We visited the island on a cruise and had a great bike tour there, but not sure if you how much time it would take for you to get there on a ferry or flight.

Posted by
2359 posts

Hi Dennis,
Where in Cumbria were you departing from to get to Canterbury?

Posted by
703 posts

You can easily do a day trip to Guernsey, the flight is an hour, get the first flight from Southampton or Gatwick and evening flight back. You would have about 8 hours on the island. But if you want to do Hugos house (amazing) do pre book. Would not recomend ferry for a day trip, but agree a couple of nights would be better. But do you really have time with in your packed schedual?

Posted by
23 posts

MaryPat, I’m not sure where in Cumbria I’ll be staying yet. I would normally do that as Phase 3 in my inane planning process.

1 - determine time slot, destination and departure airports. Book flights. (done)
2 - determine areas we want to see and narrow down to specific sites.
3 - choose overnight bases, book lodging.
4 - book incidentals (reservations, tickets, passes, etc).
5 - document entire trip (including times, flights, places, maps, etc) into a pamphlet to get an at-a-glance reference.
6 - go and do it.

Sorry, but it works for me.

Anyway...we stayed in Ambleside a few years ago. We loved that, but wanted something different. I thought about Keswick after reading that RS suggested it. Someone else under this topic suggested Eskdale, but it may be more rustic than we want for an overnight stay. Ideally, we’d like a small to medium sized town with comfortable accommodations. We love farms and farmland with places where we can walk—maybe even from village streets to countryside. Ideally I’d stay there from 2-3 nights and depart from there to Canterbury. I assume driving unless it would make sense turning in the car and taking a train.

This brings up another point. I’ve examined Canterbury through websites, google earth, etc. I’m starting to worry that the area may be more industrial than I knew. We have been to so many other areas, we figured somewhere along the south coast would give us a new look and allow us to see the Channel. We like farmlands, quaint villages, animals, ancient/historic buildings, ruins, to give you a bit of what appeals to us. I really don’t want to go to an area loaded with industrial installations, even with popular tourist sites interspersed throughout. I understand that I could be completely wrong.

Anyway, if you or anybody has recommendations, please reply. I almost changed gears and decided to come down from Cumbria and turn right to skirt Dorset, and tour the south coast of Devon and Cornwall. We’ve been to North Devon (Exmoor, etc) and Cornwall, but not South. Someone else suggested that Dorset and Thomas Hardy sites that I considered might be a bit dull. Thoughts?

Thanks again to everyone!

Posted by
23 posts

caro - if I could swing an overnight in Guernsey with arrival one day and departure the next, would it be worth taking the 3 hour ferry, to and from? I thought about flying, because I’d like to see the island, but figured it would cost from $300-$400+ for same day transportation. Not sure I can justify that expense.

Posted by
5772 posts

The National Rail website seems to show rail service between the Lakes (Penrith) and Canterbury, or Manchester and Canterbury, only through London, i.e. into Euston and changing to St. Pancras. Maybe there's some roundabout rail route that skirts London without too many changes, but it isn't obvious. That suggests keeping the car and dedicating a long day to the drive, almost from one end of England to the other. That's not a terrible idea, just be ready for it. And of course keep well clear of London and vicinity.

I agree with the poster who recommended Durham Cathedral, if you haven't been there. One of the best I've seen.

Posted by
703 posts

Alot of people do day trips from Poole, so i would say yes with an over night stay.

Posted by
23 posts

Dick, thank you for your reply. I’m a senior (god, I hate to admit it), but I’m used to driving many miles in the US (Mexico to Maine and Las Vegas to Charlotte, NC), Ireland, England, France etc. I actually enjoy it because I can pull over on a whim and photograph a particular view. You’re right in being ready for it—good night’s sleep, reasonable meals, and right mindset. I’ve driven from near Scotland down through Cornwall before, so I really look forward to it. Thank goodness for unlimited mileage rental cars.

Caro — thank you for helping. It’s wonderful to hear from someone who actually resides in a destination. I need to research some of the things to see and do there. Maybe I can convince my wife that two nights would be worth it. If I miss it, I’m sure I’ll regret it later.

Emma — thank you for your wisdom. It’s to easy to want a country to look like a 1950s postcard, from shore to shore. I’ve traveled around the world and England is my all-time favorite place. I took some photos of the Kirkstone Pass Inn above Ambleside that I look at frequently. Those pictures could have been made 2 years or 50 years ago and would probably look the same. I spent 40 years working corporate jobs in major cities, so should be more grounded in reality.

That said, I may forego the train based on complexity and just drive the route. It has its upsides. Being from London, Emma, I would appreciate your thoughts about the southern counties, towns, and shore. Where would you go if you were me?

Thanks all.