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One month in England - day trips and weekend getaways

I'll be doing a 1-month language course in England, in London, to be exact, on April 2018. I'll be doing a 3-week budget trip across continental Europe after this (https://community.ricksteves.com/travel-forum/general-europe/3-week-trip-after-course-thoughts), so, unless it's a budget choice, I want to focus on the UK isles while I'm in the said course.

During week days, after class, I want to flavor London and surrounding cities (Oxford, St. Albans and Windsor, for an example). I also want to save one weekend, the first, probably, without any trip. I want to use it to adapt myself to London, and maybe do a special program within London. So, I'm left with 3 weekends. One of those I want to be in Edinburgh, even if I blow up my budget a little bit. The other two, I'm open to ideas. I could come up with 3 itineraries:

1 - Arriving after lunch in Salisbury, on the friday. Stonehenge on the Saturday morning, Bath on the afternoon, night in Bath. Morning train to Cardiff on Sunday, return to London at night.

2 - Arriving after lunch in Canterbury. Rochester (with the castle) and maybe (a big maybe, thanks to the high cost) Leeds Castle on Saturday. Dover Castle on Sunday, return to London.

3 - Arriving on Newcastle on friday afternoon. Hadrian Wall on Saturday (stopping on Corbridge) and, if I have the time, Durham Castle (this is secondary. If I'm exhausted, I'll just not go). To York on the Sunday, returning to London at night.

I'm obviously open to ideas and suggestions. My first, and foremost interest, is history. Ancient, Medieval and Military history. That's why I'll do Dover Castle either way, as a day trip or as a part of the weekend.

My budget per week, total, is £150 (I'll be in a homestay, with breakfast and dinner included), so I'm planning to spend between £70 and £120 on said weekend trip. That's a rather low budget on international trips, even on a low-cost air company, but, if any of you think differently, I would also love to know (Toledo would be a perfect fit to my "needs", for an example).

Also, I'm open on any ideas about quick and unusual day trips from London, alligned with my desires.

Thank you all!

Posted by
1333 posts

Alan (excellent name by the way!)

You might want to look at Battle Abbey, site of the most famous battle in English history. You'd need a train to Hastings and then a bus but, if you're considering Windsor as a day trip, it should be possible.

http://www.english-heritage.org.uk/visit/places/1066-battle-of-hastings-abbey-and-battlefield/?utm_source=Google%20Business&utm_campaign=Local%20Listings&utm_medium=Google%20Business%20Profiles&utm_content=battle%20abbey

There's a very good audio guide available at the site which gives details of the battle as you walk the battlefield.

Cheers

Alan

Posted by
3528 posts

I like your #1-try to find time for Salisbury Museum. Interesting archeology exhibit. Also agree Dover castle is a must-see. I assume your interest in Bath is the baths? If not, you may want to skip Bath and go straight to Cardiff on Sat. There is a wonderful open air museum near Cardiff-St. Fagan's.

I assume you have multiple visits planned to the British Museum-too much to absorb on just 1 visit.

Posted by
4866 posts

Although it might not be altogether your favourite part of history, Salisbury also has the former private home of Edward Heath, British Prime Minister between 1970-4. Contains a lot of political artefacts, art, etc, but also an exhibition about his wartime experience with the Royal Artillery.

Posted by
1292 posts

If you are going to Hadrains Wall, I'd recommend Hexham for an overnight. A lot of the War of the Roses took place here. It was an abbey in the 600s probably built with stones from the Wall. I would recommend Durham Cathedral; the carved stonework pillars are spectacular. St Cuthbert is cloistered here...made famous by the Venerable Bede who is stashed in a closet.

Posted by
24 posts

Alan (what an awesome name, also. Impartial opinion, of course), I loved the description of the Battle Abbey area, seems just my number. And a rather short trip, too (1 1/2 hour, according to Google Maps). I'll definitely do it as a day trip (or even as an overnight in the area, if I stay more than a weekend in London). Reasonable prices, too (UK seems to peak between "absolutely free" and "horrendously expensive" sometimes);
cala, yes, I plan to give Salisbury some decent time. I'll not focus solely on the Cathedral. About Bath, yes, the Roman Baths would be my focus, but between Stonehenge, Old Sarum, Cardiff and the fact that I'll make a small pilgrim to Roman ruins after I depart from the UK (Rome, Ostia, Orvieto (Etruscan bonus) and maybe Pompeii and Herculaneum. If things work out well, also Roman ruins in Athens), I'm considering skipping Bath, in order to optimize time and budget. I'm still thinking, though. And yes, I plan to visit more than twice both the British Museum and the Imperial War Museum. I think I'll also end up visiting the British Library more than one time. The British Museum by itself would justify this trip, though, an All-World place
Marco, it's not my first choice, and I knwo just the basics of British politics, but I'll definitely save the place. The best way for us to learn something is actually studying it, and there's no better place to do that than in this kind of museum. I'll definitely have it written down
Kathleen, I really loved this tip! A central location, would give me a nice home base for both Carlisle and Newcastle. And it's probably cheapier as well. I'm almost sure to use Hexham as a home base now. Really thanks!

Posted by
4915 posts

I wouldn't skip Bath, the Roman Baths are incredible even for those who aren't particularly interested in ancient history.

Old Sarum is a bit of a let down in my opinion and if it meant Bath had to be sacrificed in order to visit it I would drop it in a heartbeat.

Posted by
2076 posts

On Sundays, many smaller shops are closed. If you visit Cardiff on a Sunday, you will find the Central Market is shut as are smaller shops. The more modern malls are open along with the bigger shops. Train/bus frequencies can be less on Sundays and engineering work often means that trains get sent on longer routes or bus transfers are arranged.

If you are going to travel a lot by train, you may be eligible for a Railcard which will cost £30 but get you a third off - but read the small print especially noting that travel may not take place before 9.30am weekdays on many routes.https://www.railcard.co.uk

Posted by
420 posts

Hi Alan,
one place I cant see suggested so far is Bletchley Park - WW2 code breakers. Easy trip, starting at Euston Station - could take all day, depending on how interested you are.

Noticed you'd included York in one of your trips. Think York could easily take a weekend (or more) - lots to do, the Minster, walking the walls, the fab railway museum etc ........

Have a look at London Walks www.walks.com, both for their 2-hour walks within London, lots will cover your interests. But they also do day trips from London. Often nice to join in with a group if you are travelling alone.

Katy

Posted by
24 posts

JC, to be honest, I'm having a hard time fitting Bath, Stonehenge, Salisbury and Cardiff on one weekend without blowing my budget on said week. I thought on this week about dropping Stonehenge, instead. The ideal thing for me, even money wise, would be do these four. I need to check it out. Oh, and I'll assume you're from Portsmouth, UK, so, I need to take this chance and ask: the old ports seems to concentrate everything related to the Royal Navy's history (including Nelson's flagship. I read it isn't a great visit, but, regardless, it's Nelson's flagship. I mean, I studied about Trafalgar in middle school, and I live an ocean away), and I really enjoyed the Southsea Castle (that looks more like a fort in the XVII sense than a castle, but OK, semantics). I can do Portsmouth in one day, or it's advisable to sleep there? If the latter is true, Winchester seems as a quick day trip nice for me - military heritage, British history and a toe on the fantastic, with the Round Table. Oh my, there are so many options haha
James, I'm not looking into shopping (the majority of my "non-survival" budget is, so far, on attractions and transportation), but the Central Market being closed is an issue, yes, since, as far as I ressarched, it's a cheap place for nice meals. I'll look into the viability of the railcard, but it seems a good offer. I'm relying more on bus, thanks to the price, but, to someplaces, the train seems inevitable. Thank you.
Katy, I had Bletchey Park on my agenda, absolutely. I'm a WWII buff, Bletchey Park is right there with the IWM, Churchill's War Room, the RAF Museum (I think it's in Wembley, I ressarched it a while ago), the National Army Museum and the Belfast as must do sights, even considering the price (like I said, the UK has no middle ground. Either an attracion is absolutely free or quite expensive). And I know about York and the surrounding region (I mean, the Hadrian Wall by itself could take a week, if done slowly). If I go there, I'll go with the mentality "I wanted to see everything, but I'll not going to be able to, so I'll se as most as I can". I was looking in my budget for Edinburgh and this thought applied: I wanted to go to Stirling, but the extra cost would be prohibited. So, I'll enjoy what I can, and try not to be upset about losing something (which I'll, anyway. But I need to have a positive thought. I mean, half a year ago I would be on the moon with the possibility of spending 24 hours in London, much less a month in the UK).

Posted by
278 posts

Alan,
We visited Portsmouth last year. My husband is a retired Colonel (graduated from the Naval Academy a long time ago and went Marine after graduating.) He really liked Portsmouth. Says you could easily spend a day there. He enjoyed the HMS Victory and the museum with its Mary Rose on display. I am not a military history fan but even I enjoyed the Victory and the museum. I found the Mary Rose and many exhibits in the museum to be well worth the day we spent in Portsmouth. From there we took a train to London easily. We missed Winchester and hope to catch it in September when we return to the area. And we are looking forward to Bath and Cardiff.

Posted by
3528 posts

Alan you can do Pompeii as a day trip from Rome and there are baths there.

Posted by
3528 posts

Alan you can do Pompeii as a day trip from Rome and there are baths there. I didn't go to the baths when I was in Bath so can't compare the two for you.

Posted by
977 posts

We visited Dover Castle 3 weeks ago. It was a Saturday and thewiting time to go into the Underground bunkers and display was at least an 1 hour and 10 minutes. As we were on a tour which included The White Cliffs of Dover and Canterbury cathedral, we couldn't spare the time. We were able to access some adjoining tunnels which housed a few bits of information and relics from the Dunkirk evacuation planning. Perhaps if you visited during the week, the waiting time wouldn't be as long. However, we were not disappointed with the Castle and the surrounds.

Posted by
409 posts

I spent two months in Ampleforth, north of York, last summer. I highly recommend it as a weekend getaway. You can train to York and then bus to Ampleforth. There are private bus companies all over England, so it's hard to plan in some ways (no one source for bus travel). Ampleforth has a 500 year old abbey & boarding school (my now husband taught there and I went to visit often). There are glorious walking trails, castle ruins, small market towns (what they call pretty villages with picturesque everything!), great food, etc etc! I did lots of hillwalking and cycling. I couchsurfed in York on my own, and have stayed in many B&B's. York is expensive as it's a big tourist town. Stunning minster (cathedral) there.

As for trains - the best site in the world is www.Seat61.com - it tells you everything you need to know about train travel. I've learned so much from this guy, I book ALL my on-line tickets through his site. The most important thing I learned from him was times of trains - how much they change prices when you're traveling to/from London. I took a train one morning at 6:30 a.m. to save almost 40 pounds off the 8:30 train. Well worth it, as I just got to Doncaster and had a relaxing coffee!

Enjoy!

Susan
Waterville, Ireland