My brother, sister in law, and I will be taking the Best of England tour next fall. My second RS tour, their first. We're booking our flights from Canada to arrive the day before the tour. Rather than stay in Bath the night before (we're already going to be there for 3 nights), we thought it might be nice to stay somewhere between London and Bath the first night, to see a place that isn't included on the tour. Any suggestions on a place with easy access from London, and easy (short) access to Bath the following day? Any hotel suggestions?
I went on the Best of England tour a few years ago. Due to certain issues I could not get to Bath until the day the tour began. It was fine as I was in London before the tour. If I was able to get to Bath before the tour start date I would have. You may be in Bath three nights but your only in Bath on Sunday and Monday and that is not a lot of time to really get to see Bath. On Tuesday you sleep in Bath but you don't stay in Bath during the day as you spend the whole day Wells and Glastonbury which is wonderful.
I would reconsider and go to Bath on Sat before the tour begins on Sunday. Bath is a lovely city and there are several things to see and do including just walking around the city. I felt short changed not being able to get to Bath on Saturday but as I said, there were issues that made it not possible.
Of course it is up to you but take some time to research Bath and you may find that there are things you would like to see on your own that the tour does not take you to. You will be with the tour part of Monday and then have free time Monday afternoon.
It is a great tour, you will enjoy it.
My suggestion would be Salisbury. A nice town with a beautiful and historic cathedral, picturesque half-timbered buildings, nice walking areas, and easy train connections with London and Bath.
We went to Salisbury and liked it a lot. The cathedral is simply amazing. We spent three nights in Bath but took a side trip to Stonehenge for afternoon of one day. I still really felt like we saw every thing there was to see with that time. So personally I would recommend Salisbury.
I’d vote for the extra night in Bath. The tour has 3 nights there so that gives you 2 full days, one of which is spent doing a day trip to Wells and Glastonbury. On your full day in Bath you’ll do a walking tour and end at the Roman Baths for a self-guided tour thru there. You’ll have the afternoon on your own.
The other things I’ve enjoyed over multiple multi-day visits to Bath are:
- Number 1 Royal Crescent (a nicely restored Georgian townhouse)
- The Fashion Museum and Assembly Rooms
- A walk along the River Avon to the Kennet and Avon Canal to see the locks and narrowboats
- The Holburne Museum ( saw a wonderful exhibition of Canaletto’s work several years ago). JA did live in a house just across the street from this museum and down a little.
- Bath Abbey (my BOE tour didn’t actually go inside although yours might)
- the Parade Gardens
- Prior Park with it’s rare example of a Palladian bridge
I’d skip the Jane Austen Centre. It’s overpriced for what it is. She didn’t live there and they have nothing original of hers there. The tea room is supposed to be good.
The Victoria Museum is so-so. I’d probably not spend the time on a first visit.
There is a very cool Jane Austen Festival each year in September. Looks like in 2020 that it’s Sept 11-20. There are some special things during this time including a costumed grand parade thru town, various presentations and some vendor events. If any of your group are JA fans this is fun to see. It does not really impact visitation that much as Bath is always busy.
If none of those things interest you, then I also love Salisbury. I’ve stayed at Cathedral View B&B several times and am fond of the hosts, Steve and Wenda. There is the wonderful, vibrant Cathedral, of course, along with the Magna Carta they have. There is a wonderful local museum on the Cathedral Close along with several houses that you can tour. I love Salisbury just to walk around. If you had enough time to spend 2 nights here you could take the local transport bus out to Stonehenge and come back via Old Sarum and the iron age hill fort there. It looks like the BOE covers Avebury but not Stonehenge. I know many pooh-pooh Stonehenge but I enjoy it.
This tour is wonderful! I learned so much from my guide, Tom!
We went to Number 1 Royal Crescent (Georgian house) which we loved.
I also was going to suggest, unless you are already seeing it on the tour, that you climb to top of the Abbey. The view is actually not that splendid but the tour of the bells is. You get close up with the bells and the clock and see how the Abbey was constructed (also worth seeing).
We also took a boat down the river but thought that was skippable.
As several have mentioned, Salisbury is nice. It's about 2 hours from Heathrow.
Another option is Oxford, which doesn't seem to be on the tour. It's just over an hour from Heathrow and from Bath, and it's a great place to walk around which is always good after a long flight.
All the best,
I am not a fan of Bath other than the two museums I enjoyed there, but I'd recommend staying there the night before the tour begins nonetheless. Your arrival day may well not be worth much, anyway, due to jetlag and sleep-deprivation. By the second day you should be feeling better, but if you haven't spent the night in Bath (ideally at the tour hotel) you'll be spending part of Day 2 checking out of the first-night hotel, getting to the train station, taking a train, getting to the tour hotel, and getting oriented to Bath. How much time would you actually have for enjoying your first-night city?
If you're already in Bath when you wake up on Day 2, you can either take in local sights you won't have time for during the tour or hop on a train or a bus to see a nearby town of interest.
We spent two extra nights in Bath before our BOE tour began. It gave us time to tour inside Bath Abbey, walk around town, and eat at some good restaurants before joining our tour group.
Pam gave you a great outline of Bath and Salisbury, so I need not add to that, except to say
I think you'd enjoy either place for your extra day.
Someone else suggested Oxford. That is an excellent idea too.
Just to throw one more place into the mix, I will suggest Windsor for your extra night. It's a short taxi ride from Heathrow Airport, cost is about 20 pounds. It's a good place to walk off jet lag. See Windsor Castle, walk over the bridge to see Eton, walk around the town of Windsor enjoying the shops and pubs. Easy train connections to Bath the next day.
I just returned from this tour last week. I initially thought about spending the day before the tour starts in Windsor. As it turns out, I'm glad I went to Bath directly from Heathrow. I got there around 4 p.m. and had enough time to get a little bit oriented and to have a nice dinner. I felt that the time I had in Bath was just right. Not too little, not too much.
I do wish that I had scheduled more than one extra day in London at the end. So much to see and do in London.
Thanks to all for the great responses! I think I'll stay in Bath the night before and be refreshed for the beginning of the tour. I'll just have to return to England to see all the other great places.
I land at Gatwick. What is the easiest and most direct way to get to Bath from there? Will be jet lagged and perhaps a wee bit cranky. Thoughts?
Highclere Castle has a couple of vacation property rentals on the estate. That would be fun!
I like going 2 nights before a RS tour. I am going on the BOEngland tour next May. Here is what I plan to do: I will go from London and spend the first night in Wells. I am a musician who just has to go to evensong in Wells. Then I will leisurely go to Bath the next day. I am staying in the tour hotel one night before I meet up with the tour there. I finished up last May in Bath on the Villages of South England tour. I agree with RS about Bath. There is a lot I did not get to do last May that I will do before this next tour. Happy travels!