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English countryside

Hi - trying to decide between a RS tour or find a place to stay for 30 days in England. If I went with AirBNB, etc, where would you suggest I stay to be centrally located to see all of english countryside? Or should I stay 2 weeks in south and 2 weeks in north? Should I rent car? Would there be ample train access? Thanks.

Posted by
224 posts

It depends on what you want out of the trip and some of your interests. With a tour, you have some details, including tickets to some major attractions, taken care of. Plus, you have company. The R. Steves' tours usually offer a good mix of scheduled versus free time. You could do a tour and still have 2+ weeks to travel on your own.

As to where to go on your own, it would be a good idea to travel to several regions for variety, and either have a home base in each or travel from village to village within each region. Trying to find one spot that would let you do day trips to both the Cotswolds and to the Lake District isn’t a good idea. It’s definitely worth spending some time the in the south as well as the north. Each region has its attractions as do the coastal areas versus the inland areas and the rolling countryside versus the mountains.

Renting a car for at least part of the time does offer more flexibility in seeing some of the more isolated spots, but you can get to many places by train or bus fairly conveniently. For example, you can take a train to the Lake District and ride local buses to villages and even trailheads for hiking.

Check out Rick’s suggested itinerary and think about what interests you the most.

https://www.ricksteves.com/europe/england/itinerary

All the best,

Raymond

Posted by
741 posts

Wow, this is a tricky one to answer, because England’s countryside is rather varied and there’s no one central place to see it all. The remoter areas - The Lake District, Yorkshire Dales and Moors, Northumbria, South West England, and Wales for instance, are least well served by rail. Ordinarily I’d suggest doing both, having a ‘toe dip’ on the RS BOE tour, then book somewhere in your favoured locale as extra time. However this is not going to work in this instance, so you could do some research by watching some of the RS videos on this site on England (and maybe Wales and Scotland) and see what floats your boat best. Additionally, you could perhaps give us an indication of what you are looking for in the countryside and what your interests are in going there and that might give us a clue on how to narrow those choices and locations down a bit. I know England appears tiny in comparison to the US (and it is) but it is hugely different from place to place and no one location will tick every box.

Ian

Posted by
4770 posts

If you don't do the tour, I'd say split your time between at least two bases. Being "centrally located to see all of English countryside" is impossible. You'll have to make choices, hopefully with the help of good guidebooks. There's good train service around the country, but not to the most bucolic places. For countryside you should consider a car.

You might consider one of the RS tours. I haven't taken "Best of South England" but I've been to most of the places it covers and it would be a good choice, with no big cities. The tour ends in Bath, and you could get a car, explore the Cotswolds, then head north to the Lake District and/or Yorkshire and/or Northumbria. While you don't mention London, there are many things to see and do there as well.

Posted by
26039 posts

Is this your first trip to England, Lisa? Are you leaving out Scotland and Wales?

Posted by
1192 posts

Hi Lisa, I recommend dividing your time between the Cotswolds and the Lake District. Morton-in-Marsh (the Cotswolds) has a train station that would make it handy to get around by public transportation. Keswick (Lakes District) doesn’t have a train station, but would make a nice home base.
You can fly into one airport and out another. For example, if you visit the Cotswolds you can fly in / out of London. For the Lakes District, Manchester.
To get from London Heathrow terminal five, you would need to hop on a bus and get off at the Reading Bus station (45-minutes). You can then walk to the Reading train station (15-minutes) to catch a train to Moreton-in-Marsh (1h 15m).
To get between the Manchester airport to / from Keswick, you can take a direct bus (2h 45m).

In Moreton-in-Marsh you could:
Walk:
Chipping Campden (2h 15m) via the Catbrook trail (6miles). You can then take a bus back to Moreton-in-Marsh (45-minutes).
Stow-on-the-Wold (1h 45m) via the Fosse Way trail (6miles).
Bus:
Burton-on-the-Hill (30m)
Lower Slaughter (45-minutes)
Upper Slaughter (1h 30m with one connection)
Burton-on-the-Water (30m)
Bibury (1h 15m with one connection)
Cirencester (1h 45m with one connection)
Train:
Oxford (45-minutes) and if you want to rent a car this is probably the closest place to pick it up.
Blenheim Palace (1h). You’ll need to take the GWR train to Hanborough (30-minutes) and then transfer to a bus to get to Blenheim Palace (15-minutes).
Kenilworth (2h with two connections) and walk to Kenilworth Castle and Elizabeth Garden (30-minutes).
Warwick (1h 45 with two connections)
Bath Spa (2h with one connections)
London Paddington station (1h 30m)

Getting between Moreton-in-Marsh and Keswick will take a full day and requires two connections. You’ll need to take a train to Penrith North Lakes where you can hop on a bus to Keswick (45-minutes).
Walk:
Casterigg Stone Circle (45-minutes)
Catbells High Ridge hike (2h)
Buttermere hike (2h)
Theater by the Lake (2h)
Derwentwater Lake (1h 15m)
Bus:
Ullswater hike (2h 45m) and boat ride
Dove Cottage and Wordsworth Museum (45-minutes)
Honister Slate Mine tour (45-minutes)
Aira Force Waterfall (1h 30m with one connection)
Rydal Mount and Gardens (45-minutes)
Beatrice Potter Gallery (1h 30m with one connection)
The World of Beatrix Potter (1h 30m with one connection)

Posted by
26039 posts

A caution about relying on rural buses in Gloucestershire in the Cotswolds (Gloucestershire is the county with most of the Cotswolds area) - they are rare, sometimes only once a week, or from the villages to the town in the morning and one trip back in the afternoon, and several are school bus routes and won't be running in school holidays. The other thing to consider is that Central Government has chosen local transportation as a way to save money after handing out money to keep folks afloat during the pandemic so many Councils are cutting either frequency or, usually, routes in their entirety.

It has always been good advice to check before counting on buses, but particularly now CHECK before you count on the bus.

It is important to check with the company operating the bus, or an official app or page such as Traveline. Traveline is a bit tricky because you sort of need to know what you need to know before using it. The Cotswolds are covered by Traveline SouthWest at http://www.travelinesw.com/

If you do a google search for a bus you will get lots of answers from Rome2Rio. Caution. While a good site for a general overview their estimates of time are often way out, their schedule and frequency information is not to be trusted. They do often say who the actual provider is, and that is where you need to check.

I spent a fair amount of my childhood in the Cotswolds and my parents retired back there, my family is there. Part of the attraction of the area is the rolling hills. If you aren't an experienced walker and not in the best of condition you may find long walks in the hills are tiring.

Most folks walking between Stow on the Wold and surrounding villages head south towards the Slaughters and Bourton on the Water (be careful about hunting for Bourton on the Water, often folks abbreviate and think they can search on "Bourton" - you may well land on Bourton on the Hill which is several miles away in the wrong direction, so use the whole name. If I were walking, I wouldn't be walking between Moreton in Marsh and Stow on the World - I don't know of much particularly scenic between the two towns. It is pretty much out in the open flat farm fields, not until the hill before Stow on the Wold do you get much in the way of trees.

I think that you will have a great time...

Posted by
242 posts

There is good train access between major cities with London as a hub. The problem comes if you are wanting to get away from the main cities into the countryside. Rail access may not be as good or even non existant in many places. Bus services in the countryside can be very hit and miss depending on where you are staying. A car will be a definite advantage if you are wanting to stay in the countryside rather than cities. Many attractions can be inconvenient to reach by public transport and you may have to use taxis.

Don't underestimate the amount of time it will take to drive between places. Distances may not look far but will take as lot longer to cover than you might expect. Much of England is congested and driving through built up areas is slow.... Motorways are a good way to cover the distance quickly but are very boring driving and many of the more interesting places will be off them. Build in plenty of time to allow yourself chance to stop if you see something unexpected or to explore an interesting side road or small town or village. Many visitors make the mistake of trying to cram too much into a day.

You don't have to pick up and drop off the car in the same place - you can always arrange a one way hire if this works better.

If you are wanting to base yourself in London for a few days, you will NOT need a car. Driving in London is very congested and expensive (there is a congestion charge to drive in central London). Parking will also be an issue. This is one place where you can rely on good public transport and use it as a hub to visit surrounding places by train. Oxford and Cambridge are doable as day trips from London by train. So is Bath.

Start off in London and then hire a car when you are ready to leave. To save driving out of London, it would make sense to pick up the car at either Heathrow or one of the towns easily reached by train from London - eg Oxford if you are deciding to do make the Cotswolds your base, York is you are heading north. (Again if you are wanting to spend time in the centre of York, all the main attractions are in walking distance of the city centre and many hotels do not have parking. If so, leave hiring the car until you are ready to leave and explore the countryside.

With the luxury of 30 days will give you chance to really see something of England. One of the first things you need to decide before selecting areas to stay is what your priorities are for the trip - what are your interests, what sort of things are you wanting to do and see? What sort of scenery attracts you. Are you wanting beaches or rolling countryside or mountains. That may well determine what areas you want to base yourself. With 30 days you could easily have four different locations.

Where ever you finally choose, you can't go wrong - Devon and Cornwall, Bath, Cotswolds, East Anglia, Yorkshire, Northumberland, Lake District....

Posted by
2711 posts

"Hi - trying to decide between a RS tour or find a place to stay for 30 days in England."

You could take two Rick Steves tours, back to back, for a good look all around.
Maybe first take the Southern England tour. It ends in Bath, which is where the Best of England tour starts.
This makes it unnecessary to rent a car, as all transportation is furnished during the tours.
Best of England ends in London, making it easy for you to reach Heathrow airport at the end of your vacation.

We usually travel on our own in England, using the trains, but we did enjoy the Best of England tour a couple of years ago.

Posted by
2774 posts

If you are truly only interested in the countryside, I would say rent a car. That will give you the most flexibility to go where you want, when you want. The Cotswolds and Lake District are probably the most popular countryside regions for tourists (judging at least from what I see on these forums, and what I've experienced on the ground in those locations) -- and likely so with good reason as they are very charming -- so you could stay 2 weeks in each. However, if you want to get away from a touristy feel and experience small village /countryside life, there's a vast choice of locations with lovely scenery where you could spend your time instead. Durham and points north, Norfolk, and Devon/Cornwall all come to mind.

OTOH if you enjoy tours and want to get a taste of the places around England that RS considers the most appealing, by all means consider two tours back to back.

Posted by
4937 posts

In 2017 we did a four week drive tour of England and S. Wales renting a car and didn't go to London. Largest cities we visited were York, Cardiff and Winchester.

Here is my detailed review of our great trip, largely in the countryside.

https://www.cruisecritic.com/memberreviews/memberreview.cfm?EntryID=599139

We found that AIRB&B options were not located close enough to city or town centers so we could walk to the sights. We stayed largely at B&Bs that I found using TripAdvisor.