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Logistical and planning advice

We have a total of 16 days (not including travel days) in England mid May to Jun 4. We have been to London before and want to spend a few (maybe 4) days there on the back end of our trip. We will hire a car from LHR and begin our journey.

We want to experience England with a car, but not get bogged down in larger cities BECAUSE of the car. Considering Bath, Windsor/Cambridge, Cotswolds, Salisbury. Are these good options?

On day 8, we have concert tickets at The O2, so we have to be back in proximity to London. Not sure what to do with the car at that point. I think we would like to take the tube to the venue, but leave the car parked at the hotel. Is this even possible? How should we be thinking about this? Advice appreciated!!

We will turn in the car once we are ready to stay in London. Does it make sense to turn it back in at LHR and then travel via train / tube to the city, or is there a better way to turn in the car somewhere else?

Posted by
3885 posts

Windsor, Cambridge, and Bath can be done as day trips from London so you could save some money and driving stress by seeing them as day trips. Parking in each can be challenging. For the Cotswolds you really need a car if you want to see a few of them. Depending on which ones you intend to visit, parking could be an issue that time of year. When looking for lodging, look for places with parking.

Posted by
20797 posts

There are one-day small-group (van) tours of the Cotswolds from both Bath and Moreton-in-Marsh (accessible from Oxford by train), should you prefer not to drive in that area. I just took a van tour, so I have no idea what a challenge parking would be.

Posted by
476 posts

Hi Sherri. I understand you want to explore with a car but I hope you will reconsider. First, arriving, probably on an over night flight, at Heathrow, you will be tired. You will be dealing with an unfamiliar car with right hand drive and possibly a standard transmission, unfamiliar roads, and driving on the left side. At least consider starting your trip using public transit and maybe picking up a car later.

Most of the destinations you mentioned are easily reached by public transit and are best explored on foot. Keep in mind that many of these destinations will have pedestrian-only zones. Parking will be limited and often inconvenient. Even the Cotswolds can be explored using small group van tours from Bath.

We've made multiple trips to England and used both car and public transit and I'd vote for public transit unless you're visiting a number of really remote destinations.

Anita

Posted by
49 posts

Thanks for your replies so far! We are getting excited to begin planning. We have driven a car in Ireland and Scotland, so do not figure it will be too different... We were hoping to be able to drive the countryside a bit and enjoy the scenery, which is why we were thinking the car option. Nothing set in stone at this point.

We could shorten our time with the car and take day trips to visit the other sites if this makes better sense... I just thought we could make better time to see Bath and some of the other sites on our own time and not constrained by train / bus schedules.

Are there any 'can't miss' sites that are accessible only with a car that we should focus on, rather than the beaten path? We enjoy history and scenery.

Posted by
10939 posts

Here is what I would do based on your interests.

After arrval at LHR, don't pick up a car. Take either the direct bus or bus/train combo to Bath. For Bath itself, you don't need or want a car. From Bath you can explore the Cotswolds and Salisbury/Stonehenge. This can be done either by rental car or by a van tour as previously stated. (I suggest MadMax Tours)

For your concert, drop your car off in Bath and take the train back to London. You don't want a car anywhere near London. Besides the traffic, and impossible parking situations, they have hefty fines if you drive on the wrong days with the wrong permits.

From London, take day trips to Windsor, Cambridge, and/or Oxford, Canterbury, Hampton Court, and even York. Then spend the last few days in London.

Posted by
51 posts

I would echo Frank II's advice with one exception. Drop the car off in Oxford, rather than returning to Bath. We picked our car up in Bath after spending our time there, and, after spending a week driving through the Cotswolds, we visited Blenheim and then dropped the car in Oxford before taking the train back to London. Your O2 visit splits your time nicely so you'd only have to have two home bases for your 16 days.

Posted by
5221 posts

I agree with the advice above not to drive the day after an overnight flight. It's risky for you and others on the road. You could start your visit with a taxi to nearby Windsor and spend the first night there, then rent the car. From Windsor, there's good train service to Oxford, and from Oxford to Bath. You could spend a night or two in each of those cities. You could also rent a car in either to explore the Cotswolds, which are best seen by car. Or you could rent the car in any of them and make it a road trip, giving you more flexibility about stops and schedules, but with the parking issues others have noted. Oxford has big parking lots (aka car parks) around the outskirts with good bus service into the city, and I expect Bath does too. That would help you combine the advantages of driving in the country and being car-free in the city.

Having to be at the O2 on day 8 complicates your plan. If you want to keep the car for the remaining four days, you might find help with parking on the O2's website or do a google search. Cambridge and Salisbury are both doable day trips from London (and Salisbury station has a shuttle bus to Stonehenge if that interests you), or overnights. Keep in mind that you don't have to return the car where you rented it. See if a map helps you find an interesting not-too-congested driving route between your western cities and O2 via either Cambridge or Salisbury. Driving anywhere near London will slow you down considerably.

EDIT -- Now that I've read Dani's amendment to Frank's suggested plan, I think it makes the most sense.

Posted by
27426 posts

Your O2 complicates things.

Once you have decided where you will be that night I can help you get there... you really really don't wnat to try to drive there.

Will you stay somewhere in Greenwich or the eastern reaches of London that night and leave your car where you will go back to on the morning after the concert? Can I assume that the concert will let out very late, or is it a matineé?

If you are seriously considering any driving, even for a short distance inside the M25, and especially inside the North/South Circular please come back so I can fill you in on ULEZ, Congestion Zone, tolls, and the new high charge for driving in London. Otherwise just accept that it is a bad idea.

Posted by
27426 posts

if it is the resked Celine Dion, do you know it is Sunday and Monday?

Posted by
49 posts

Nigel, the concert is Bryan Adams on Thurs, 26 May. Also, hubby wants to consider visiting York. Is this too much and too far?

Posted by
476 posts

Several people have suggested visiting Oxford and Blenheim Palace and I would agree those are interesting destinations. To avoid the problem of driving right after arrival at Heathrow, we once used the Oxford coach which was easy, inexpensive, and a pleasant way to start a trip. The coach station is quickly accessed in Heathrow. Tickets can be purchased in advance for the day of arrival but do not restrict customers into a specific time. Luggage was stowed by the driver in the compartment under the coach. The coach makes a number of stops in Oxford. While staying in Oxford, we took a double decker bus to Blenheim. There are simple train connections from Oxford to Bath.

Posted by
5324 posts

Yes, you can do day trips from London for all these places, but why spend so much time traveling. Day trips to Windsor Castle and Cambridge, works find from London, however, I suggest splitting you lodging and consider staying in Bath at least one night, perhaps two. The Brooks Guesthouse is a great B&B centrally located and the nearby Scallop Shell Restaurant has the best fish and chips in England.

You could also stay in Chipping Campden at the Volunteer Inn and use is as a base to visit the Cotswolds and consider Stratford Upon Avon and Blenheim Palace.

Also, lodging in London will cost you more than away from the city.

Posted by
423 posts

Have you factored in the Queen's Platinum jubilee celebrations which are taking place at the end of your trip? They begin on 2nd June for four days.

Posted by
49 posts
  1. Re: The Queen's Platinum Jubilee Celebrations June 2-4. What do we need to know about the event? Disruptions to tube schedules? More crowds, harder to find accommodations? I'm not familiar with this so not sure what to expect.

  2. Are we better off with backpack type luggage, or are roller bags good? Thinking about sidewalk/street surfaces and what might be the best.

  3. Our flight leaves out on 4 June from LHR. Should we plan a hotel closer to LHR the night before, especially considering the jubilee celebrations? The flight leaves at 1315, and we need to be at the airport by 1100.

Thanks for any information!

Posted by
27426 posts

Re: The Queen's Platinum Jubilee Celebrations June 2-4. What do we need to know about the event? Disruptions to tube schedules? More crowds, harder to find accommodations? I'm not familiar with this so not sure what to expect.

Nobody else is familiar with a Platinum Jubilee. This is the first one, so its new to us too. But based on previous Jubilees of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, unless you are near a particular event in central London you might be hard pressed to know that there is one on. You may find street parties in residential neighbourhoods and it might be well to think about crowds around the Mall, Trafalgar Square, Buckingham Palace, Whitehall, etc. You may well find more difficulty getting the rooms you want at the price you want to pay in Central London over the weekend. But we are used to big events here and if you aren't where the action is you will pretty much see life as normal. Well, as normal as life can be during a pandemic. Who knows what it will be like in May and June? My wife and I are still in isolation after 2 years.

Are we better off with backpack type luggage, or are roller bags good? Thinking about sidewalk/street surfaces and what might be the best.

London, and the rest of England, has very little cobblestone. Expect pavements (sidewalks) of paving stones, concrete, or asphalt. Quite smooth except around tree roots in some places if the pavement has lifted. Most but not all corners will have pavement cuts for wheelchairs - much less in the rural districts. Roller bags should be not much trouble - go with what you prefer.

Our flight leaves out on 4 June from LHR. Should we plan a hotel closer to LHR the night before, especially considering the jubilee celebrations? The flight leaves at 1315, and we need to be at the airport by 1100.

For a flight to the US? You've been here before so have your own experience, but 2 hours is brave. Even before the pandemic 3 hours was the normal for transatlantic. 2 should be ok for domestic and Europe. The Jubilee is unlikely to make much difference at Heathrow. For such a late flight I wouldn't move hotels for one night. Tube takes an hour. You can even have a leisurely breakfast.

Posted by
27426 posts

The Platinum Jubilee dates are 2nd through 5th June. Extra Bank Holiday Thursday 2nd, Bank Holiday Friday 3rd, Saturday the 4th and Sunday the 5th. Back to normalish on Monday.

Posted by
58 posts

In terms of seeing a place that's off the beaten path- our family loves a place on the south coast called Beachy Head (also known as Birling Gap and the Seven Sisters). It is just gorgeous and so fun to hike. There are plenty of places to walk and the views of the white cliffs are far superior to that of Dover. You can also access the rocky beach at the bottom which is lots of fun. You'd need a car to get there and and experience it. Rick references it in his England book.

Cheers!

Posted by
38 posts

I have never done this but Bath and Salisbury are close by train, though I don't know the specific logistics of getting from one to the other. You can walk the Cotswolds (which I have done a bit of) for scenery on the Cotswold Way from Bath. Both Salisbury and Bath have direct train service to London.