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Logistics help

My family of four (2 parents, 2 adult children) are fortunate to be able to go to the UK next spring for several days. We fly into Heathrow, arriving mid-afternoon Thursday 4/20 and depart on Saturday 4/29 in the evening. This will be our first trip to the UK. I am hoping to get some guidance on the best way to get to most of what we want to see. We don't have the opportunity to travel together internationally but every few years and we want to maximize our time. As the saying goes, we'll sleep when we're dead (sorry to be morbid)! We are looking at lodging in the Paddington/Covent Gardens/Kensington areas as our first picks.

So here's where we want to go and the options I'm mulling over
4/20-4/24 (or 25): Tour London sites
4/24: Go to Salisbury, do Stonehenge and the Cathedral--stay overnight?
4/25: Train to York, tour York, stay overnight
4/26: Train to Edinburgh, tour Edinburgh
4/29: Train back to London to fly out (I realize an open jaw would have been better, bought tix on a deal couldn't pass up)

Where I'm stuck is on Salisbury. Stonehenge is a must see for us but I'm concerned about making it a day trip from London. That train trip plus touring makes for a very long day. But I also don't want to start from further away to get to York. So it's either day trip then London-York on 4/25, or leave London on 4/24.

Thanks for your help!

And last question, for now, if you had to pick...Bletchley Park or Churchill War Rooms? I really wanted to do Bletchley but I'd probably have to go alone, whereas I can convince everyone to do CWR.

Posted by
380 posts

So, your plan is to stay in Edinburgh for 3 nights? If so, I suppose that is fine but spending just a half day and an overnight in York would be sad. I personally prefer York to Edinburgh but both destinations are worth at least 2 full days, if not more. Also, even with an evening flight home on 4/29, I would want to have my last night in London. Less stress with getting back from Edinburgh the night of your flight. Salisbury is a nice town but I would just do a day trip tour from London to Stonehenge and leave Salisbury out of this trip. If Edinburgh is a must visit for you, consider taking an overnight train there.

Posted by
6113 posts

You have in practice 8 days - discount your first day as it will be early evening by the time you are settled into your hotel. You need to stay in London the night before your flight home.

Getting to York or Edinburgh is easier from London than from Salisbury, so I would do Stonehenge as a day trip in the middle of your London stay.

York is worth 2 full days and I too prefer it to Edinburgh, but if Edinburgh is a must for your group, I would consider dropping York and take the train straight to Edinburgh. I find night trains awful and you risk losing the following day if you are dead on your feet.

I have never been to the Churchill War Rooms so I can’t comment, but Bletchley is a full day including getting there from London. You have a full day to Stonehenge, so that only leaves you 2 days for London if you go to Bletchley.

I don’t care for the Paddington area. Covent Garden can be noisy, so pick your location carefully. I prefer Marylebone, Lancaster Gate or Bloomsbury areas.

Posted by
16866 posts

I’ll take the opposite view because I love Salisbury. And spending the night there makes it easy to do the special Inner Circle tour before or after regular opening hours, so you have it more to yourselves without the crowds. Since Stonehenge is a “ must” for you, this is worth considering.

Tickets are limited but there appears to be good availability in late March and all of April.

Salisbury to York by train is not a bad journey. It is 1.5 hours from Salisbury back to Waterloo Station and 2 hours from Kings Cross Station up to York. You just need to connect the two London train stations by tube and “Bob’s your uncle”.

Buy those train tickets we’ll ahead to get the economical Advance tickets. And check out the Red Lion Hotel in Salisbury for your overnight.

Posted by
1694 posts

We did a sort-of reverse order of what you are thinking, except that we did not go to York. However, some of the things we did might help you.

  1. We flew between Edinburgh and Southampton on an airline called Flybe. There may also be connections between York and Edinburgh, although I can't say for sure.

  2. From Southampton, we hired a taxi (Stu's Taxi) to take us to Salisbury. Since Stu lived near Amesbury, he took our luggage to our B&B in Amesbury for us. We spent the afternoon in Salisbury, toured the Cathedral and the Magna Carta, and then caught a bus to Amesbury.

  3. We stayed overnight at the B&B, and had arranged with Stu to take us to our (very!) early morning inner-circle visit to Stonehenge. He picked us up afterward and took us back to the B&B, where we had an amazing, and well-appreciated breakfast.

  4. Stu picked us up after breakfast and drove us the train station in Salisbury to catch the train to Exeter, which was our next destination. We were in Exeter for lunch.

In case you want to consider any of these options to help you work out your itinerary, here are some links:


Stu's Taxi:


In case you want inner circle access at Stonehenge:

Also, I would be inclined to go elsewhere from London first and end my visit in London, so as not to worry about missing my flight home.

Posted by
14246 posts

I don't usually recommend a day trip for Stonehenge and Salisbury but since your time is so short in London that would probably work best for you.

You can take the train to Salisbury and from the Salisbury train station there is a local shuttle bus out to the stone that runs frequently. It's called the Stonehenge Tour but it's not really a "tour" and is a route run by the local bus, Salisbury Reds.

Get the ticket where you get transportation and entry to Stonehenge, it will save you some time.

You didn't ask, but to me you are trying to see too much in your 9+ days on the ground but it's your first trip and I know you are trying to see a lot. Personally I'd cut Edinburgh and add nights to York and London. That would also allow you to spend a night in Salisbury but it's your vacation, thus your choices.

BTW, the War Rooms are excellent. Just to know Churchill walked those underground halls is amazing. It's also easy to get to and will not take up as much time as getting to/from Bletchley.

Posted by
4292 posts

How important is Edinburgh to you? It's worth seeing but maybe not this trip when you're so tight for time.

I'm with Lola and her Salisbury opinion. We did the Stonehenge Inner Circle tour in September and it was well worth the extra cost and the early morning. You're pretty far away from the stones on the standard ticket. We stayed for 3 nights in Salisbury and don't regret it. If all you really want to do is see it during the day and nothing else in Salisbury then I'd make it a day trip from London so you're not wasting time schlepping bags to a hotel before heading to Stonehenge.

Posted by
365 posts

I would reverse the order, go to furthest point away and work yourself back to London, ending with days/day trips in London Vs starting there for logistical reasons better to be close to airport before flying home.

Posted by
15665 posts

I agree with the reverse order. Since you will be at the airport anyway, catch a flight from London to Edinburgh on arrival and get a good night sleep that first night in Edinburgh. You will be tired. Then work your way backwards.....Edinburgh....York.....London with a day trip to Stonehenge or even an overnight if you prefer. Getting from Salisbury to Heathrow will be easier than trying to get there from Edinburgh.

You might also look into a day tour from London to Stonehenge. London Walks used to offer one and they may once again offer it next spring. They also have excellent walking tours in London as well.

The distances are not that bad for your intended stops. Try to get early morning trains--assuming they are running on time or at all--and you can have more sightseeing time in each place.

Posted by
694 posts

I think it is risky returning from Edinburgh to London on the day of your return flight. Although not likely to happen there are a lot of “what ifs” that could happen, rail strike, train delay, etc. that could then cause you to miss your flight back home and that would be an expensive mistake to make. I would return to London on the 28th and do some last minute siteseeing there on the 29th until it is time for you to head to the airport.

I also agree that York deserves more time. As much as you want to squeeze all these destinations into your trip it may be better to save one for a future visit.

Posted by
15 posts

Thanks all for the help. Based on the "you're trying to do a lot" responses it's a good thing I took Inverness off the list. 😉

In looking at reviews and suggestions elsewhere on this forum and elsewhere I'm surprised by all the York over Edinburgh votes here. What makes this the better option in your opinion?

Reverse order of the tour had been a consideration, my concern was we'll already have been traveling for approximately 14 hours at the point of arrival. While I can summon stamina not sure about the other 3 in my party. But it's worth looking into options!

Posted by
33299 posts

We flew between Edinburgh and Southampton on an airline called Flybe

That might take a degree of courage now.

The new midget airline is just a shadow of the flybe that collapsed 2 years ago, just running a handful of small planes to a handful of destinations.

If the Southampton Edinburgh route actually happens next year it won't happen much before spring so that gives little time for developing a plan B if it isn't up to snuff or doesn't survive the high fuel prices and rampant inflation and belt-tightening....

Your appetite for risk may be higher than mine, but I'd be exceedingly wary.

Posted by
369 posts

London Walks does a nice day trip to Salisbury/Stonehenge, we enjoyed it very much.

I would not want to take a train from Edinburgh to Heathrow on the day I flew home. I don't have that kind of risk tolerance. I would want to be in London the night before my flight out.

Posted by
16866 posts

It is not that York is a better option than Edinburgh; the problem is that you are trying to fit too much into too little time. They are both lovely places with a lot on offer, but you need time at either to get the benefit. With one night in York, you just have time to get to your hotel, maybe walk around a bit and have dinner, then the next day you are off to Edinburgh. So you are just using York to break up the journey, but you won’t give York it’s due.

If the goal is to reach Edinburgh and enjoy that city, then go straight there from London. But that would mean changing your plans for Stonehenge/Salisbury. My advice above was based on your comment that Stonehenge is a “must see”. Given that, you need to make some choices; you can’t “do it all” and have an enjoyable trip.

And I would never ever plan to travel back from Edinburgh to Heathrow on the day of our flight home. We generally spend the last night near Paddington so we can take the fast train to the airport the next day. Once we spent our last night as far away as Henley-on-Thames, which is actually not far. But that was an exception.

Posted by
413 posts

Agreed it's not really a comparison between York and Edinburgh, it's more about trying to do so much on a really limited amount of time. You're really not doing York justice with the time you've assigned - I would definitely recommend longer there, just to see the basics and really appreciate it.

Again, can't really compare Churchill War Rooms v Bletchley Park. Both are fascinating, but the ear rooms are in central London and faster to get to.

Posted by
15 posts

So, your plan is to stay in Edinburgh for 3 nights? If so, I suppose that is fine but spending just a half day and an overnight in York would be sad.

This is what prompted my comparison question. I've looked through what York has to offer and feel, for my family, a day would be sufficient. We have reasons, again particular to us, why we would prefer more time in Edinburgh. I was just wondering if perhaps I'd missed some little known offering or appeal to York. If it's just that it's the preference of responders, then I'm okay with our decision to only stay a day. Our intent is to get there as early as possible to have more than half a day, and leave around midday the following.

I get we are trying to cram a lot into a relatively short amount of time. We've done it before and been fine knowing we may not be seeing all we could see--as long as we hit the highlights we are interested in at each location, it is a successful trip for our family.

Again, thanks for all the logistical assistance being offered. I am rethinking either our order of visits as suggested OR coming back 4/28 to avoid risk of missing flight.

Posted by
15665 posts

To maximize your time in York, If you are going from London, get an early morning train. You will arrive late morning. Drop your bags at your hotel and spend the day exploring. Stay near the center of the city to make is easy to explore. Get up early the next day, explore some more and get a mid afternoon train to Edinburgh. You will arrive early evening.

If from Edinburgh, catch an early train to York and then a later train the next day to London. It's only two hours.

As of now, Loganair, a small Scottish airline, flies between Southampton and Edinburgh a few times a day depending on the day of the week. I have flown them numerous times with no problems. On this route they use regional jets.

The train from Salisbury to Southamptom Airport rail station is under an hour. And some are without changes.

You could go London-Salisbury (Stonehenge)-Edinburgh (Fly via Southampton) then take the train to York and return to London the day before your flight.

Posted by
852 posts

We all have our preferences - I found York to be a way too touristy disappointment, and regretted not having more time in Edinburgh. I agree that putting your journey north in the middle of your trip makes logistical sense. One way to make your time in York more efficient is to stay at the hotel connected to the train station - you literally roll your luggage from the platform into the hotel. It's a short walk from the hotel to the railway museum, which I found to be the highpoint of our time there. So you can check out in the morning, leave your bags, visit the museum, then catch a train back to London - I would do Edinburgh first.

Posted by
222 posts

As tempting as it is, I would NOT try to go to Edinburgh if you are going to do London and the "Beautiful South" too. Unless you are very old, and with major health problems, you can always go back, and you should.