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Heathrow to Cotswolds and back to London advice

We are coming to England in Aug and plan is to land at Heathrow and rent a car to drive to Oxford/Cotswolds. Stay in Cotswolds for a few days then back to London for part 2 of vacation. Any advice on car rental from Heathrow and ideas on where to return car - back to Heathrow or drop at train station outside London and then train into town.

Also any good ideas for fun things to do with 13 year old boy interested in WWII history in Cotswolds area.

Thanks
Bruce

Posted by
4667 posts

Why are you visiting the Cotswolds? I know it's an attractive part of England although there are many equally attractive places throughout England and I know it's on the list of many who visit but is there a specific reason? If your 13 year old is interested in WWII history there are a wealth of places to visit throughout England (and the rest of the UK). If it's "chocolate box villages" you're after or gorgeous countryside then you're spoilt for choice. Have you considered the South Downs? Personally I think it has more to offer than the Cotswolds, access is easier from London/Heathrow and for a WWII buff you can't go wrong with Portsmouth (I know I'm slightly biased). There is the Portsmouth Dockyard (http://www.historicdockyard.co.uk) which has some impressive ships and museums, the D-Day museum (http://www.ddaymuseum.co.uk), the Royal Marines Museum (http://www.royalmarinesmuseum.co.uk) and nearby Southwick Village where Churchill and Eisenhower planned the D-Day invasion. The wider South Downs area has so much going for it that you could spend months and still not experience it all, http://www.independent.co.uk/travel/uk/travellers-guide-to-south-downs-1923800.html.

Or you could go the other direction towards the New Forest and Dorset............

Posted by
35 posts

thanks JC for the speedy reply... to clarify we are going to the Cotswolds as it is on my wifes bucket list _ BBC show setting and RSC nearby in SuA... the WWII request was just in case to keep my son interested while we are there...

thanks
bruce

Posted by
4689 posts

Oxford might be a good place to dump off the car, either if carrying straight back to London or even prior to an overnight stay. You can book Advance tickets from Oxford to London (Marylebone or Paddington) from £5 upwards. It also has a large range of the rental companies based there.

Posted by
2939 posts

Give some thought to this plan. From Heathrow you could take the bus/coach to Oxford. There is a bus station at Heathrow Airport from which many buses or coaches go out to various towns and cities in England. You can just walk up to the bus station window inside Heathrow and buy a ticket. Fairly inexpensive. At Oxford, catch a train to Stratford-Upon-Avon. You already mentioned that your wife wanted to see RSC or a show in Stratford-Upon-Avon.
A year ago, we took the train to SUA, stayed for three nights. One day we explored the Shakespeare sights including RSC.
The next day we took an all day tour of the Cotswolds with the company Go Cotswolds. It was great! We were relieved to not have the hassle of renting and returning a car.
Read a Trip Report I did of our tour with them here:
https://community.ricksteves.com/travel-forum/day-tours/go-cotswolds-tour-with-tom-the-most-fun-we-had-while-in-england

We found Stratford-Upon-Avon to be a good base for exploring the area and it also has some good pubs and restaurants. The Avon River at the center of town is beautiful with boats and swans on it. We walked north out of town on a path beside the canal and watched some narrowboats pass through some of the locks. My husband helped the boat owners with the locks. Very interesting to watch boats go through the locks and to chat with the owners who lived aboard.

Not far from SUA is Warwick Castle which would interest a 13 year old boy I am sure.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Warwick_Castle

From Stratford-Upon-Avon, just catch the train to London.

If you would prefer to drive, there are companies that rent minivans. This might be good for a tall person.
Some friends rented a minivan from Parkers Rent A Car and were very pleased with the vehicle and the service. The company is based in Sussex, but will deliver a car or van to Heathrow. You can see their ad in the latest edition of Britain Magazine. Do mention that you want an automatic when reserving if that is what you want. Don't know what you prefer.
www.parkers-group.co.uk
Hope this helps.
Have a great trip.

Posted by
809 posts

If you do end up going first to Stratford u/A I have one suggestion from sad experience. Don't book tickets to a play that first night! I dozed through parts of King Lear, pinching myself in a vain attempt to stay awake for the amazing performance. At least the parts I saw were amazing. All fine by the second night when we saw another great show, but i still regret that lost first night. Oh well - at least my teen daughter was awake enough to enjoy it.

And Warwick Castle should be lots of fun. We went when daughter was 10. A wonderful archer demonstrated rapid firing and put 17 arrows into a man-shaped straw target in under a minute. How they won at Agincourt!

Posted by
2940 posts

I second Kathleen's advice about having trouble staying awake through a RSC performance. I find I have that problem with any evening concerts or theater performances in Europe, even when I've had many days to adjust my internal clock to European time! Maybe a few cups of strong coffee beforehand...

Be aware that the lower-priced seats in RSC are very small, designed for people probably 5' tall and 100 lbs. My husband is a big guy and he had to leave at intermission because he was in so much pain being unable to move his legs. If I had it to do over, I'd say it's worth it to pay more for the better seats.

Posted by
249 posts

I have traveled extensively in England and most recently spent a week in the northern Cotswolds (near Chipping Norton). The only WW2 sites I can think of in the area are:
1. Blenheim Palace, because of the Winston Churchill exhibit (he was born there). However, it's a huge place, and a 13 year old boy would likely be bored with the rest of the palace.
2. Top choice outside London but within easy day trip range of the Cotswolds: Bletchley Park, site of the codebreakers. AA (the British version of AAA)'s website Route Planner shows that it is a 1 hr 15 minute drive due east of Chipping Norton. However, if you are staying in the southern Cotswolds, it would likely be too far to drive on a day trip.
As others have pointed out, many of the great WW2 sites outside London are on the south coast (such as .1. Portsmouth; 2. the best tank museum in the world is in Bovington, Dorset and it's only 1 mile from T. E. Lawrence "Lawrence of Arabia";s cottage, which is open to the public)

Regarding car rental, I have always rented at Heathrow and returned at Heathrow. I don't know how that compares in price to renting and returning outside London.

Posted by
251 posts

Bruce. I just returned from a trip to England and rented a car with Europcar at Heathrow. After clearing passport control, customs and baggage you will catch a 10 min. shuttle to an offsite rental car operation. We were onto the Motorway towards Oxford in less than 10 minutes. A week later we returned our car to the offsite Europcar location at Heathrow and within 5 minutes we were on the shuttle back to the terminal.
Sorry but I've not dropped off a car closer to or in London. Europcar does have a half a dozen locations within the London "city limits" which may save you time if you can get closer to your hotel.