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Family Trip Summer 2021

We are cautiously optimistic that travel to England will be permitted by summer 2021. As such, we have purchased late June flights from the U.S. East Coast to Heathrow. We are a family of four, two adults and two teens. Our children are great travelers, and have enjoyed previous trips to Ireland, France, and Spain.

We enjoy small towns, outdoor activities (hiking, boating), good restaurants, cozy pubs, and local markets. Our children are also Harry Potter fans, but we don’t plan on going out of our way for HP sites.

Below is our first crack at an itinerary. We plan on using public transport between cities, then renting a car for the remainder. Right hand drives/left hand roads aren’t a concern.

6/21 - Arrive London (sleep London)
6/22 - London (sleep London)
6/23 - London (sleep London)
6/24 - Train to York (sleep York)
6/25 - York (sleep York)
6/26 - Rent car in York, drive to Malham (sleep Malham)
6/27 - Yorkshire Dales (sleep Malham)
6/28 - Drive to Keswick (sleep Keswick)
6/29 - Lake District (sleep Keswick)
6/30 - Drive to Conwy (sleep Conwy)
7/1 - North Wales/Snowdonia (sleep Conwy)
7/2 - Drive to Cotswolds (sleep Stow-on-the-Wold)
7/3 - Cotswolds (sleep Stow-on-the-Wold)
7/4 - Cotswolds (sleep Stow-on-the-Wold)
7/5 - Drive to Bath (sleep Bath)
7/6 - Bath/Glastonbury (sleep Bath)
7/7 - Bath/Avebury/Bristol? (sleep Bath)
7/8 - Drive to Stonehenge then Heathrow (5:35 PM departure)

Two full days in London may be short, but my wife and I have visited previously and there is so much more of England to see! Questions:

  • Should we forego an overnight in the Yorkshire Dales and add another overnight in York or the Lake District?
  • We would definitely like to visit Conwy and Snowdonia, but it is somewhat out of the way. Worth it, or should we add time elsewhere?
  • A quick visit to Stonehenge seems viable on the way to Heathrow from Bath, especially with the late flight (5:35 PM). Any concerns with that plan?

Happy to hear any suggestions or recommendations. Thanks!

Posted by
26094 posts

don't believe google maps when it says an hour from Bath to Stonehenge and an hour from Stonehenge to Heathrow.

You need to be in the checkin line at the airport 3 hours ahead.

Figure on an hour to gas, return the car and get into the airport with your stuff.

I wouldn't risk it. How is your risk tolerance? Probably higher than mine,

Posted by
74 posts

I would also add that the Stonehenge visit itself takes longer than you might think. After getting your ticket at the visitor center you must then either wait for and ride a shuttle bus out to the site, or walk the 1.5 miles (each way). It’s a lovely walk, but obviously takes a bit of time. You cannot drive your own vehicle up to the stones themselves - it’s either the shuttle bus or by foot. When we were there, the line was fairly long and we had to wait for a second bus (we took the shuttle out, and walked back). It’s a great day, and well worth doing, but I’d agree that it might be tough to fit this in on your way to the airport. I don’t have much to add re: the rest of your itinerary - looks like a whirlwind of fun and adventure!

Posted by
1472 posts

We took a small van tour from Bath to Stonehenge which worked well. If you have a car you could do the same. We caught a shuttle from parking lot and walked back. We then went to the museum. We did not have to buy tickets because was included in cost. We had about 2.5 hours there.

We really liked it and thought it was worthwhile.

Personally, I would not like traveling that far to catch a flight. It is hard to estimate time accurately and likely will end up at airport really early or stressed because not sure will make it. I wondered about putting London at the end of your trip and heading up to York the first day.

Posted by
4792 posts

It would be too rushed for me, with six out of 16 days on the ground spent moving between cities/towns. We did a road trip like yours but with two or three full days at each stop instead of just one (mostly) as your plan calls for. But you have chosen some very nice destinations.

I'd suggest cutting a day out of Bath and going to Stonehenge the day before your flight. Nigel is absolutely right about the risk of missing it, or at least being very stressed on your last day. You could spend the night after Stonehenge in Windsor or nearby and have time to see the castle on your last morning, before a relatively easy drive to the airport. Or spend that last night in Salisbury, near Stonehenge, and drive to the airport the next morning.

EDIT: Or, as Beth suggests, take a van tour to Stonehenge on one of your days in Bath. But you'll still have to allow plenty of time on the last day to get from Bath to Heathrow on some of the most crowded roads in the country.

Posted by
686 posts

We stayed in Conwy 2 nights as part of a group tour. It's a nice enough town but I'm not sure its worth going out of your way. The day we visited Snowdonia it was very rainy/cloudy. All I remember seeing was wet sheep. I think there's probably better places in Wales to visit. Caernarfon was an interesting castle and the town is fairly similar to Conwy. I wanted to go to Conwy because a favorite author lives there.

Posted by
1170 posts

Well, only you and your family know why you have picked some of these stops, so advice is hard.

I have not yet been to York but am scheduled there for 5 nights on my next trip and keep finding interesting places nearby! I HAVE been to the Cotswolds and if it were my trip, I would definitely give York 3 nights and the Cotswolds 2. The area is charming but not a lot to do unless you plan to do a lot of walking.

Keswick seems more out of the way and if it were me, I would skip and give Northern Wales more nights (oh, oops - that is my plan....). :) Maybe one of those nights could go to York if you don’t want to cut a Cotswolds night.

Bath to Stonehenge to Avebury to Windsor is doable in a long day (7/7) with a car. Then as others have said, you could see Windsor Castle before you head to the airport on 7/8. And even better if you were able to get rid of the car earlier and didn’t have to return the car at Heathrow and could take a taxi or private car straight to your terminal.

Posted by
2774 posts

Regarding your last few days. "Bath to Stonehenge to Avebury to Windsor is doable in a long day (7/7) with a car" -- yes, if you don't want to actually experience these places.

I would say if Stonehenge is important to you, stay overnight 7/7 in one of the hotels very nearby (check a site like Booking.com by map) so you can get there right when it opens, or better yet book inner circle access via English Heritage for a very early morning slot.
Or, readjust so you go to Stonehenge on 7/7.

Personally I would skip Glastonbury. Walking up Glastonbury Tor is kind of neat, and there is a folk life museum in the area, but unless you are heavy into crystals and incense you may find the town disappointing. And you've got Bath on the itinerary as just a stopover -- don't you want some time to enjoy what Bath has to offer? In that case, those last days could be:

7/6 - Bath & enjoy what Bath has to see & do (sleep Bath)
7/7 - Bath/Avebury (sleep near Stonehenge)
7/8 - Stonehenge bright & early then Heathrow

Posted by
258 posts

This sounds like a great trip! We've been to many of these places and we would go again in a heartbeat. Have fun!

Posted by
4895 posts

It’s not a pace that I would want for my own trip, as you are spending far too long in transit vs time at locations. Personally, I would drop the overrated Cotswolds and add another day to the Lake District and Conwy.

As others have pointed out, your last day is difficult, as you have to be at Heathrow by 2.30 latest. Driving from Bath and returning the car will take 3-3.5 hours, so that doesn’t leave long for Stonehenge.

Posted by
16 posts

Thank you all for the replies.

While I don't like one night stays, it seems that the consensus is to be closer to Heathrow on the day of departure (although our departure time is quite late). Windsor seems like a good option, so may consider that.

Regarding York on Day 1 (or Rick Steves' suggestion to go straight to Bath), we arrive at Heathrow relatively late (12:30 PM), so tacking on hours of additional travel isn't appealing.

Thanks again, and I'll update later with a revised itinerary.

Posted by
19217 posts

I don't arrive in Europe anxious to go on to another city, either. However, that first day is a total waste for many travelers, because they are so jetlagged they are zombies. In that situation, using part of the arrival day to go on to a place you want to see the next day can be a good use of the time.

I've never traveled from Heathrow to Bath, but I believe you can get a bus from the airport to Reading, then pick up a train from Reading to Bath.

Posted by
748 posts

Hi Captain -

First off let me advise that I am highly biased about Malham - it’s a 30-40 minute drive from my home. But despite the fact that it gets very busy it remains, in my view, lovely. Do walk the Malham - Janet’s Foss - Gordale Scar - Malham Cove route. Those with a head for heights and confident handling rock can do the short scramble up via the waterfall at Gordale (plenty of You Tube videos on this) but easier onward routes to the top of the Cove are available. Descent from the limestone pavement atop the Cove requires negotiating something over 400 steps but it’s worth it to stand at the foot of the Cove and look up. If it’s fine and dry there are usually ‘crag rats’ scaling the vertical face.

Have you got accommodation lined up in Malham? The two pubs in the centre are the Buck Inn and The Lister Arms, but the last time we stopped over in September 2019 we stayed at Beck Hall just a little way beyond the village centre.

I’m sure you’ll get postings that tell you that York deserves more time (they aren’t wrong) but equally the same can be said of the Dales which can take years to explore fully (I’m still at it, or will be once I get my gammy hip fixed!). All you really need is half decent weather. If I can be of assistance with info on the northern parts of your trip, feel free to contact me by direct message.

Today’s info from the Health Secretary suggests that things should be returning to something like normal by Easter 2021. However I would add the caveat that this all depends on how smoothly administering the vaccine to the population goes (or otherwise). But fingers crossed for summer 2021. Assuming we also have a handle on Brexit as well by then....

Have a great trip, fingers and everything else crossed for you!

Ian

Posted by
16 posts

Thanks everyone for the great info! I appreciate your thoughtful responses and ideas.

For the record, I didn't itemize day trips in the itinerary above. For instance, Oxford is definitely in the plan, likely as a stop between Bath and the Cotswolds. Other stops may include Warwick Castle, Ironbridge Gorge, Blists Hill, etc. We try to leave room for serendipity and not over-plan too much.

That being said, I've flipped the itinerary on its head, removed Wales, and added the Peak District. Not only does it seem an appealing area, it also serves to break up the drive between the Cotswolds and the Lake District.

I am a bit worried that the Cotswolds -> Peak District -> Yorkshire Dales -> Lake District is a lot of rural time for the teens, however. They do enjoy hiking and the outdoors, but they also enjoy pounding the pavement of the shopping districts. I suppose Liverpool or Manchester could serve that purpose, but I'm not dying to visit either one. I can be persuaded however, and am open to suggestions!

Revised itinerary:

6/21 - Arrive London, transit to Bath (sleep Bath)
6/22 - Bath (sleep Bath)
6/23 - Stonehenge/Avebury? (sleep Bath)
6/24 - Drive to Stow-on-the-Wold (sleep Stow)
6/25 - Cotswolds (sleep Stow)
6/26 - Drive to Peak District (sleep Bakewell?)
6/27 - Peak District (sleep Bakewell?)
6/28 - Drive to Malham (sleep Malham)
6/29 - Yorkshire Dales (sleep Malham)
6/30 - Drive to Keswick (sleep Keswick)
7/1 - Lake District (sleep Keswick)
7/2 - Lake District (sleep Keswick)
7/3 - Drive to York (sleep York)
7/4 - York (sleep York)
7/5 - Train to London (sleep London)
7/6 - London (sleep London)
7/7 - London (sleep London)
7/8 - Depart Heathrow (5:35 PM)

Posted by
19217 posts

I agree that 9 rural days in a row is a lot. That wouldn't be my preference as a non-hiking 69-year-old. In fact, even 9 non-consecutive rural days would be a lot for me.

Posted by
19217 posts

I'm not greatly fond of Bath, either. The architecture isn't varied enough to hold my interest. For other folks, that's a major plus. I did very much enjoy a couple of Bath's museums, though.

Posted by
16 posts

I admit that Bath is on our itinerary partly because it is a city you are "supposed" to visit. We do not have a great interest in Georgian architecture, but I do think we would enjoy the Roman Baths. We are also planning to use Bath as a staging area for Stonehenge and Avebury, which we do want to visit. That being said, perhaps Salisbury is a better first overnight after arriving from the U.S. We could visit Stonehenge on Day 2, then perhaps Avebury on the way to points north (Cotswolds, Oxford).

Posted by
627 posts

I also worry that your trip has a lot of countryside visits for teenagers. Whenever I have taken teenagers to the UK with me, I have tried to have a "highlight" for them to look forward to. I have done the HP studios three times now. I can honestly say it is quite enjoyable even for a non HP fan such as myself. You can do this when in London. Just to throw something else out there, have your thoughts about going north of York to Durham or Alnwick Castle? Lots of HP connections there but would totally change your other plans. I can honestly say when I am putting an itinerary together I have lots of big plans and then I have to re-work it several times over into a more realistic trip and one that has a little something for everybody. I really enjoy visiting Yorkshire; the Dales and Moors and we really enjoyed taking the NYMR steam train to Whitney Bay and eating the best fish and chips by the harbor. You can stop at Goathland Station. Hogsmeade Station in the first Harry Potter movie. It's far away from the usual "tourist' spots of the Cotswolds and Bath (but they are lovely too). So much to do in Yorkshire.

Margaret

Posted by
389 posts

My children are slightly younger than yours but they enjoyed Bath for a day, if you go to Avebury go to Lacock as well as that is an HP location. when I've taken them to the Cotswolds I have to throw in interests for them as well i.e Bird World and the Model village in Burton on the Water and Cotswold Wildlife Park which I highly recommend for value, attractive gardens and great animals. I have to say HP Studios is amazing if your a fan and enjoyable even if you're not for the shear amount of detail you get to see. There is lovely countryside to be enjoyed in England without having to venture to some of the 'destination' locations. You might be fortunate to be in a heatwave at that time year when hiking out in the midday sun is no fun for anyone, or it could be torrential summer rain. I'd definitely cut out North Wales, Snowdonia has become overun with walkers in recent years.

Posted by
2634 posts

I would skip Bath, stay in Salisbury. Also, I think the idea of going straight to Bath from the airport instead of London is ridiculous!

Posted by
19217 posts

I think it makes sense if it allows you to do your London sightseeing at the end of the trip so you're not worried about rushing back to Heathrow from a more distant location, trying to guess how much time to allow for gassing up and returning the rental car, etc.

Posted by
16 posts

Thanks again for all of the wonderful recommendations and suggestions. We had not considered the North York Moors areas suggested by mpaulynsettle. Whitby, Robin Hood’s Bay, and the towns along the North York Moors Railway line are very appealing. Our plan is to drop a rental car in York, so it may make sense to see these areas beforehand, rather than as a tour originating from York.

Emma’s recommendation of Chester also gives us some ideas. We have penciled in two nights there. That gives us the option of a day trip to Conwy if the weather is fair, a day trip to Liverpool if weather is inclement, or just fully exploring Chester.

Finally, we added an extra day in London. As we compiled all the things we would like to see and do, it became clear that two days was not enough.

The latest certainly has a lot of driving. We particularly need to refine the span between Chester and York. Whether that means revising the Yorkshire Dales (sorry ianandjulie!) or revising the North York Moors is to be determined.

6/21 - Arrive London, transit to Salisbury (sleep Salisbury)
6/22 - Stonehenge/Avebury (sleep Stow-on-the-Wold)
6/23 - Cotswolds (sleep Stow-on-the-Wold)
6/24 - Drive to Chester (sleep Chester)
6/25 - Chester/Conwy/Liverpool (all TBD) (sleep Chester)
6/26 - Drive to Keswick (sleep Keswick)
6/27 - Lake District (sleep Keswick)
6/28 - Lake District (sleep Keswick)
6/29 - Drive to Malham (sleep Malham)
6/30 - Yorkshire Dales (sleep Malham)
7/1 - Drive to Whitby (sleep Whitby)
7/2 - Drive to York (sleep York)
7/3 - York (sleep York)
7/4 - Train to London (sleep London)
7/5 - London (sleep London)
7/6 - London (sleep London)
7/7 - London (sleep London)
7/8 - Depart Heathrow (5:35 PM)

Posted by
748 posts

Hey Captain Ed -

No need to apologise for adjusting your itinerary as I am a staunch advocate of the NY Moors! Although they are not as picturesque as the Dales they are big and empty and scenic and Whitby is one of my favourite places in the entire country. If time allows I too recommend a side trip to Robin Hoods Bay, a little further down the coast. Good suggestions from others as noted!

Ian

Posted by
2849 posts

Our now-25-year-old daughter has been traveling with us since she was 4 months old. Her first trip to London was when she was 4 and my husband did a sabbatical in Hampstead. She would find all 3 nights in the Cotswolds to be boring, even now. I'm not a HP fan, but you must do the studio tour and it requires reservations many months in advance. We also enjoyed spending one night in Durham, near York-the cathedral is lovely and the cloister was in one of the HP movies. It is a comfortable, small, relaxing college town. We took the half-day Rabbies tour that went to Avebury, Castle Combe from Bath and it included HP's parents' house.

Posted by
2 posts

Hey Captain Ed,

Let me start by saying I love all the proposed itineraries you’ve put forward, it sounds action packed but it’ll be an overall amazing experience!

I’ve been to many of the places you’ve mentioned and wanted to offer some advice on the first half of your itinerary. My first question is why you’re going into London to then go back out to Salisbury? I know you’ve changed this idea a few times, but you’ll already be 20 miles west of Central, and it’ll take you a good hour to get into the city if traffic is bad (which it usually is!). If you’re going to spend the night in Salisbury I’d suggest a direct transfer from Heathrow or pick up your rental from the airport.

Secondly, you’ve cut out really nice places off your original itinerary (in my opinion) like Glastonbury & Bath, but you could easily add one of them to your Stonehenge/Avebury day. If you’re starting the day in Salisbury, you’re only 20 minutes from Stonehenge, which opens at 09:00am to the public, or as someone highlighted you can even book the ‘Special Access’ entrance with English Heritage and go inside the stone circle. Whichever option you choose, you’ll be ready to leave Stonehenge by 11:30/12:00pm latest. Avebury’s only 45 minutes away and will keep you entertained for around an hour, so you should be done with both of those sights by around 2pm, with just over an hours drive to Stow.

So… if you really wanted to stick a lunch stop or see either Bath or Glastonbury, you could put this in between Stonehenge and Avebury. I’d probably say Bath is the best of the two, and go and see the Roman Baths Museum.

The next bit of advice I’d offer is to look more in depth into The Cotswolds. I agree that your original 3 night stay at Stow would have bored the kids, as many of the villages are pretty similar. However, the area is massive… Some of the villages that have been mentioned like Lacock (with Harry Potter connections), are much closer to Avebury than they are to Stow, so you could potentially add them into your Stonehenge/Avebury day. Effectively, there are 3 main counties that would take you hours to drive through them all - Oxfordshire, Gloucestershire and Wiltshire Cotswolds. We took a private tour to The Cotswolds with a London based company and they have a nice summary of some of the main villages worth visiting - here’s the link if you want some inspiration: https://www.mytailoredtours.com/our-destinations/cotswold-information/

Once you’re done in the Cotswolds and heading to Chester, you’ll be driving up the M40 for a few hours… you may want to break up the day and see any of Oxford/Warwick Castle/Stratford-on-Avon. They’re all just off the motorway and barely a diversion (well maybe Oxford is a bit out of the way) but well worth considering as you’ll be bypassing them. If you chose to see Oxford, the kids will love the Harry Potter locations there as well.

I really like your day in Chester which offers flexibility to head into Liverpool or see North West Wales. A few years ago I took a tour to Conwy, Carnarfon and Snowdonia - there are some spectacular castles and history if you’re into that sort of thing. The city walls are also very enjoyable to walk and offer amazing views. I’d almost consider an extra night in Chester so you can see Chester, visit Wales and see Liverpool (if you’re into The Beatles!).

The rest of you’re itinerary goes beyond my knowledge… but it looks like you’ve got some great local advice from others in this forum! Good luck!