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Itinerary Help/Train Travel Help

Hoping to get some advice from Rick Steves forum experts! Beginning Oct 3, 2016, a group of 3 or 4 of us will be traveling from Edinburgh (after 2 weeks in Scotland/Ireland) to spend approximately 15 days in England. We hope to do all of our travel by train (or bus, if necessary.) Some of the places we want to visit are York, Cotswolds, Bath, Cornwall (ancestral home!) ending in London for our final 3 or 4 nights. We’ve only been to London on a prior visit, so we are open to suggestions, but because we will not have a car, I was hoping someone would have itinerary suggestions using 2 or 3 locations as hubs that we can venture out from, possibly booking day tours and/or using bus/train service. Since we will be starting out from Edinburgh, my thought would be to go to York first. If you agree, would you recommend we stop first to see Hadrian’s Wall? Could we do that in the same day we travel to York or should we spend one night near Hadrian’s Wall? How many days/nights should we plan for York?

As far as Cornwall, I have a desire to travel to Penzance…would you recommend it? Also, my great grandfather was living at 247 Chapel Street, Camborne, Cornwall per an 1851 Census. I’m hoping to be able to research that location and may visit there if it’s still identifiable. I also have a rough address of my great grandmother’s home near Truro.

We had considered trying to fit in Wales this trip as well, but have all agreed to slow down our travel pace a bit once we hit England and definitely want to include some laid back days in unique English villages, hopefully.

Thank you for any itinerary advice you can give us! Any advice on train routes, etc would be very much appreciated as well.
Amanda H.

Posted by
6113 posts

Excluding your London time, it appears you only have c 10/11 days/nights? Not a long time to cover the area that you want to cover by public transport. You say you want a more relaxed pace, but this maybe difficult with what you plan. Unique English villages tend not to be on train routes.

With 3 or 4 of you, a car maybe the most cost effective mode of transport.

York is the obvious first stop and easily reached by direct train from Edinburgh. A good day trip from there is Whitby on the coast. Hadrian's Wall is best reached by car and as you don't have much slack in your schedule, I suggest that you miss the wall this trip. You need at least 2 full days in York and more if you want any day trips out from here.

I suggest that you cover the Cotswolds as a day trip from Bath. Although you can get around by local buses, they are slow and irregular. Again, an area best appreciated either with a car or over say 5 days by public transport. Unfortunately, York to Bath is not a straightforward journey by train. The quickest way is via London which takes c 4 hours, but you would have to get your luggage across London too. Alternatively, there is a 4.5 hour rail service via Bristol. So, door to door, say 6 hours, so most if a day gone in transit. You need at least a full day in Bath and another for the Cotswolds. This leaves you c 4 days to visit Cornwall. Penzance is a long way into Cornwall.

Google the adresses you are interested in and check them out on streetview before you book anything there. Getting around Cornwall is relatively slow, but there is some fantastic scenery.

Posted by
2191 posts

Hadrian's Wall is not easy without a car.

I would take the train direct from Edinburgh to York for 2 nights. Then, train from York to Bath - with 1 change at Bristol (Temple Meads). Bath for maybe 2 or 3 nights. (Consider Mad Max Tours).

Then it is off to Cornwall by train. Truro is a good central location. St.Ives would also be a nice place to stay if you actually wish to be on the coast. Penzance can also be considered.

You have a choice of 2 rail routes to get back to London. Direct train via Great Western Railway to London (Paddington) or GWR to Exeter (St.David's) & then South West Trains to London (Waterloo). However, I would only consider this second route if you would like to visit Salisbury (overnight) & then use the shuttle bus to Stonehenge. (You could, as an alternative do Salisbury as a day trip by train from Bath). will have details of fares & schedules. (pay on the day for longer journeys is expensive.) Cheapest deals by pre-booking specific trains about 10 weeks in advance. > use this site for finding buses. (Cambourne is on the rail network).

Posted by
1005 posts

As others have noted, Hadiran's Wall is difficult without a car. I found it absolutely fascinating, so if you are a history buff, you might want to consider hiring a local guide who will meet you at the Newcastle train station, take you on a tour of the wall area, and then drop you off back at the station at the end of the day. Rick recommends Peter Carney, but I am sure a Google search would find other guides also willing to pick you up.

Posted by
2 posts

I just did a tour in the Cotswold with a visitor. We did a one day tour with Secretcottages tours. You will be driven around in a 7 passenger van and see all of the great small places in the Cotswolds. The driver will give you a whole history on the Cotswolds and have morning and afternoon British tea plus a full on british lunch at a thatched roof house. The touring company picks you up in Moreton in Marsh where there is train service to Bath. There is no real train service into the Cotswolds it is all by bus so I recommend a tour. Depending on what you want to see I think you can do all of Bath in 2 days. That will leave you hopefully time in Cornwall. Penzance is very far but I would highly recommend going to St Michael's Mount if you get there. It is a monastery/military fort and now home. To tour you can walk out to the Mount when the tide is low and then take a boat when the tide is high. Great place.

Posted by
2739 posts

Cornwall and the Cotswolds are a lot easier if you have a car. I know that in the Cotswolds you would have to use buses, which do not go to a lot of the villages, very limited services, the train only goes to Moreton-in-Marsh, then you would have to use buses, taxis or walk.

Posted by
7175 posts

With 11 nights by train from Edinburgh ...
Durham - 1 night
York - 2 nights
Cheltenham (for Cotswolds) - 3 nights (renting a car for a few days would be advantageous here)
Bath - 2 nights
Via Bristol to Penzance - 2 nights
Sleeper train to London - 1 night