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need advice for an England trip itinerary

I'm new to this site, but was looking for help from anyone here that might be a seasoned England/Wales traveler.

My wife and I are planning a trip to England in late May or early June this year. We went to England about 5 years ago, but made mistakes that we don’t want to repeat. For that first trip, I was overly enthusiastic and wanted to see everything possible. That included London (5 days), Salisbury (Stonehenge), Bath, various sights around the Cotswolds, Nottingham, Chester, Oxford, Blenheim Palace, etc. We rented a car at the airport as we departed London, and because of my crazy desire to see as much as humanly possible spent the majority of the rest of our trip on the road. There was not sufficient time left for us to really see the places we visited.

This time we think we would like to limit our trip to two or three destinations, but ones with some significant diversity. For brevity I’ll bullet some of the things we would prefer, but any help/suggestions/advice will be greatly appreciated. Also, if anyone reads this post that is a resident of England or Wales, I’m eager to hear your take on this.

  • Unbelievable as it was, we don’t plan to revisit London
  • We will probably fly into London because of the convenience and fares, but would consider anywhere else that might be better
  • Tentatively would like to stay in Cornwall/Devon, Wales (maybe north), and somewhere in
    the Lake District

  • (1) A seaside cottage or small hotel in Cornwall or Devon would be great

  • (2) Preferably a small fairy-tale like village in Wales that time seems
    to have missed

  • (3) Possibly somewhere with farm like accommodations in
    the Lake District.

  • Would like to make as much of the travel between sleeping destinations as possible by train.

  • Would plan on renting a car at sleeping destinations (if possible) to allow for local sightseeing trips

  • Need places with en suite bathrooms, ability to walk to pubs or cafes, as much charm as possible

I hope advice of this magnitude is not too much to ask of members of this forum. Please help if you will. Thank you!

Posted by
23 posts

Thank you, Emma. I'd like to take a month to make the trip, but my wife can only be away from work for two weeks. The previous trip I mentioned was also two weeks.

Posted by
2134 posts

I would consider the Lake District and Wales as your priority. If you throw in Devon & Cornwall as well, then we are talking about covering greater distances - well, by Brit standards! (Don’t forget, that each area has loads of places to see). Note that RS has a separate forum on Wales. I suggest you go to that and read back through past posts to see what might be of interest.

For the Lakes & North Wales, Manchester is the most convenient airport. However, both north & south Wales as well as the Lakes can all be reached by train from London.

You mention staying on a farm. Check out

In north west Wales, Harlech Castle is worth a visit:>

You mention a small village in Wales. You might like Aberaeron and here is a hotel on the quay:>
It is not exactly cheap but lower cost accommodation is available. Nearby New Quay (Wales) and Llangrannog might also appeal but parking is limited - find the places on Google Earth.

Further down the Welsh coast - into Pembrokeshire, you might like St.David’s:>

Tenby is a particularly attractive town on the south western coast of Wales and just a short drive to the west are lovely beaches interspersed with spectacular cliffs.

Posted by
23 posts

Thank you, James, for the guidance and great advice. I really appreciate you and Emma taking the time to help me. I'll use your links to dig a little deeper. I'm so glad I joined this forum.

In answer to a question that Emma asked earlier, when I referred to a "fairy tale like village", I think I really mean a small village with buildings, stone walls, and architecture that are ancient (by American standards) and relatively untouched. I've seen places like this driving through rural France, Ireland, and my previous trip to England, but always found them by accident. With months to spend, I'm sure I could find others in Wales and (as-yet-unseen-by-me) parts of England, but unfortunately I can only spend two weeks.

I understand what you mean about Cornwall and Devon. It's not so much the distance to me, but the time involved to get there that may disqualify it. If I could figure a train route between Cornwall and Wales destinations that was reasonably direct, or could assume no more than a day's drive, maybe I could still swing it. I may be fantasizing about a seaside cottage that doesn't exist anyway.

Thanks again for your kind responses!

Posted by
3428 posts

Dennis- If you fly direct out of Charlotte, you'll be landing at Heathrow, London. I'd suggest going straight to Windsor for the first day and spend the night (or two). It's a great Castle (my personal favorite) and lovely small town/village. You can get a bus from Heathrow to Windsor or take a rather expensive taxi. Then take the train to Cardiff Wales. Spend one or two nights there- again, nice castle in the middle of town and good markets; you could also explore the recently redone harbor area and visit local slate mine(s). Then take the train to Betws-y-Coed Wales. We stayed there one summer. Very lovely small village, lots of good B&Bs (had the BEST lamb and roasted potatoes at the restaurant of one). We took the bus to Mt. Snowdon and did the cogwheel train to the top. Good walks along beautiful creeks/rivers with LOTS of lovely waterfalls. Also some potteries and other artist's studios and shops are there. Here is link to their travel website [][1]

We haven't 'done' the Lake District, or Cornwall/Devon areas, so no recommendations there.

Posted by
23 posts

Thank you, Toni. That may be a better plan. Silly as it sounds, I was a little surprised to hear from someone so close.

Posted by
23011 posts

Best of luck with your trip, Dennis. I'll be in the same area later in the summer and will watch for the suggestions you receive.

A. Craven, even closer
Morganton High School Class of '69

Posted by
3203 posts

If you change your mind about some of the places on your destination list, I would suggest you rent for a week in the Cotswolds. If you are looking for "a small fairy tale-like village", that's where you will find it. I can suggest a few villages, hotels, or a rental if you like.

Posted by
2134 posts

If you are going to use the trains, will tell you the fares and timings. For longer trips, advance booking specific trains is much cheaper than pay on the day.

Posted by
23 posts

Emma - if I make it to Betws and find a pen knife with any markings on it, how ever undecypherable they may be, I'll assume it's yours and will post pictures here for your assessment. Fair enough?

Mister Craven, good to hear from you. I've worked and traveled over much of the US and been to D.C. several times. While every place has its charm, I can't say you've upgraded from Morganton, NC. It's a cool place.

Rebecca - please do recommend villages and hotels/rentals in the Cotswolds. Everything's on the table for now as long as it can reasonably fit into the 14 day window. (Cool. Winston is just down I-40, as I'm sure you know. And, I was just in Nashville staying at the Gaylord, before Christmas-a place that seems to be a village unto itself.)

James - thanks for the link. I'm looking at it now. The fares seem to be a little pricey, but I have little basis for that opinion. It does make me wonder if I'd be better off (1) flying to Manchester, (2) taking a train to Wales destinations or the Lake District, and then (3) renting a car to drive to either Cornwall or Devon, returning it to either London airport before trip home. I'm fine with driving British roads, as long as the driving doesn't consume my whole trip. The only drawback is my wife is a bit of a white-knuckled passenger.

Posted by
257 posts

If you decide to visit Devon, I enjoyed the town of Moretonhampstead. From there, you can drive to Hound Tor and Haytor Rocks, which were used in the filming of an older Sherlock Holmes “Hound of the Baskervilles” movie (late 1970’s). This area is part of the Dartmoor National Part, and it has a wilder, more desolate feel than some of the other rural areas I visited. I was there in the 1980’s so I can’t give current reviews of pubs, inns, or B&B’s, but if you have time and are looking for something a bit different, it’s a place to consider. The park has a number of old stone circles that may pre-date Stonehenge, and a deserted medieval village. I enjoyed hiking along different backroads and footpaths and across the moor and never encountered a gigantic hound, although while at Hound Tor, a thick fog bank came up which completely obscured the road only a short distance away.

In Wales, I recall Brecon as a charming town on the north edge of the Brecon Beacons National Park. It gets crowded with a jazz festival in August, but that should affect your visit.

The small village of Tintern on the River Wye allows you to visit the ruins of Tintern Abbey, the subject of a William Wordsworth poem, and it’s near the Cotswolds.

The Cotswolds are closer to the Lake District and Wales than Devon, and there are some lovely villages (Moreton-in-Marsh, Stow-on-the-Wold).

You might consider flying to Dublin, Ireland; then taking a Ryanair flight to Liverpool and driving from there to the Lake District. It’s probably cheaper than flying to Heathrow. The Dublin airport is much less crowded and overwhelming than Heathrow and clearing customs is much nicer in Dublin. Even with the transfer time for the 2nd flight, you would probably get to the Lake District sooner. A work colleague who visits relatives in England always does this.

Posted by
3203 posts

"We rented a car at the airport as we departed London, and because of my crazy desire to see as much as humanly possible spent the majority of the rest of our trip on the road. There was not sufficient time left for us to really see the places we visited."

You want to prevent that from happening again this trip. It's really easy to put too much on the schedule and race around trying to get from here to there. I have done that myself, and I've been to England perhaps 40 times.
If the Lake District and Wales are your priority, you may wish to leave Cornwall and Devon for another trip. The Lake District and Cornwall are not very near to one another.
I know it's hard to leave something off until next trip. But sometimes that's the only way you see things adequately. Take time to see them and not just a blur as you race from one place to another.

If your focus this trip is the Lake District and Wales, it is not very far from either to the Cotswolds.
Sometimes it is best to plan an itinerary around things that are reasonably close together.
Villages in the Cotswolds that are my favorites for stopping and staying for several days are Chipping Campden, Stow On The Wold, and Bourton On The Water.

Posted by
3203 posts

To throw out a new suggestion....In case you get tired of trying to plan this trip.

Rick Steves does two England tours. Each covers an area you mentioned you'd like to go to.
Rick Steves Best of England in 14 Days Tour.
I believe you would really enjoy this tour. Take a look at the itinerary. It takes you to the Cotswolds, two castles in Wales, several days in the Lake District, and more:
Villages of South England in 13 Days Tour
Take a look at this Rick Steves tour. You might choose this one if Cornwall is something you are determined to see this trip.
It hits the highlights of Southern England, including Dartmoor and Cornwall. Look at the itinerary and see if this appeals to you. the other tour this trip; the Southern England Tour next time you go back to England.

Either tour would be fantastic. And better than racing all over England in a car yourself trying to cover too much ground to really enjoy it.

Posted by
23 posts

Thanks for the advice fcraymond76 and Rebecca.

After the guidance I've received here and discussing it with my wife, I think we may be changing plans somewhat. Flying into Manchester seems to offer easy accessibility to the Lake District. Also, from what I can tell, Wales, though beautiful, doesn't seem to offer as many "quaint villages" as I might find in the Coteswolds. While I previously planned to rent a car for day trips and use the train for longer travel, I may look at a hybrid solution. Driving is okay as long as I can manage it to specific time slots and not be in route to a new destination everyday. Here is what we're thinking.

  • Fly (business class) from Charlotte to Manchester. (Reasonable compromise comfort-to-cost)
  • get rental car at Manchester airport and drive to Lake District (possibly Grasmere vicinity)
  • stay several days at B&B or small hotel
  • return to Manchester airport, turn in rental car, and take train to Bristol
  • get rental car in Bristol, drive to B&B or small hotel in north, south, or east Devon.
  • hopefully, we can find a seaside cottage or hotel on either coast. Stay several days.
  • drive to Cotswolds (possibly Moreton-in-Marsh, Stow-on-the-Wold, etc).
  • stay several days (B&B or small hotel again).
  • drive to Manchester airport day before flight home. Turn in rental car.
  • stay in airport hotel to depart following day.

This seems to be workable. With my Garmin and their excellent U.K. Map card, I can navigate it. The train trip will break up the driving and spare my wife from being in the car for the longest continuous leg of the trip (plus we really like train travel). And, it will give us some days at each destination to see some of the locale.

It would be a big help if someone will offer suggestions for great places to stay or sights to see in these destinations.

Thanks to everyone for the many generous and useful replies.

Posted by
171 posts

Although I lived in England for ten years I have only spent the equivalent of a weekend in Wales and Cornwall. Both areas were beautiful but I am hardly qualified to give advice, Instead I will comment on three places outside London that appeal to me. These are the Cotswolds, the Lake District and Cambridge. In two weeks you should have plenty of time to enjoy them. I would suggest spending the best part of a week in the Cotswolds and the Lake District and two nights and one day in Cambridge.

I have traveled by train in England but it was years ago and very limited geographically. In recent years all of our European (is England still in Europe?) trips have involved renting a car at our arrival airport and driving to wherever we were going to stay. So I cannot help with the rail part of your trip or renting cars outside of Heathrow.

The Cotswolds, as you know is (or is it "are") filled with villages that I would classify as being fairy-tale like villages. We stayed in an Airbnb property in Cold Aston. The suite was very well equipped for a week long stay. It was a few steps away from the Plough pub which served reasonably tasty food and, no doubt, good beer - although I'm not much of a drinker. The town was also just around the corner but we did not spend much time there. Cold Aston is very near Bourton-on-the-Water, which is one of the prettier villages in the Cotswolds.

We spent the week touring the Cotswolds. Our favorite town was Snowshill for its beauty - viewing the church from the uphill part of the churchyard. I am not sure what the town itself has to offer but I would visit it just for that view. One year the roses in the gardens adjacent to the church were spectacular. In June I would expect a great display. Bourton-on-the-Water has a shallow slow moving river with numerous cute little bridges and quite a few shops. It is also very photogenic. If you are into gardening you should visit Hidcote. My wife and I loved it.

While we were in the Cotswolds we made side trips to Blenheim Palace and Bletchley Park. Both were worth a visit - Bleheim for its opulence and Bletchley for its significance in WWII. We have been to Blenheim several times and find our selves enjoying it each time. I am a WWII nut but my wife is not and, to my surprise, she found Bletchley particularly enjoyable.

In the Lake District we stayed at the Overwater Hall Hotel near the lake called, you guessed it, Over Water. The hotel is not particularly grand and my wife thought it was overpriced but that it served good food. Altough it is not a farm it might as well be as it seemed to be surrounded by sheep. Our favorite drive in the Lake District is the road from Seatoller to Low Lorton via Buttermere - very scenic in our opinion. A long while ago we stayed at the Rosthwaite Hotel (located on the same road). It still looks very nice but we do not know any more than that.

One last thought about both the Cotswolds and the Lake District - the roads in both areas seem much narrower than we remember them. It could be old age and it certainly is partly because there is more traffic and bigger cars but I would suggest renting the smallest car you can find. Also the British talk about "white van syndrome". White vans drive faster than most cars and you will find them at the apex of all blind corners!

Cambridge - just briefly: If you decide to go be sure to rent a punt and see the major colleges from the river. Nothing in Oxford compares. If you decide to go I will meet you on the Cambridge forum.