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Picking up Rental Car; London or on our way South?

We 4 adults are staying in London and want to leave early on a Monday morning heading to Canterbury; first thought is to pick the car up at Marble Arch the night before and head South at about 7a.m. (rental site opens at 8). We're staying near Cartwright Gardens with street parking; should we take our luggage on the tube/train South to maybe Gravesend or just drive out in the traffic which I know will will be horrendeous but does it move?
Thanks,
Jean

Posted by
324 posts

Is Canterbury your final destination? If it is, most recommendations I have seen are to take the train or coach from Victoria Coach Station.

Posted by
440 posts

No actually we're driving North to spend a week in the Cotswolds, after Canterbury, then the Lake District, Edinburgh, North Scotland before returning home; we do need a car but hate be stuck in traffic as we have a long day.

Posted by
4792 posts

Our UK friends will have the best advice when they wake up, but I'd think you're better off taking the Tube or a local train to some eastern suburb and getting the car there, beyond the worst of the city traffic. There's a train from St. Pancras to Gravesend every half hour, nonstop, taking 22 minutes. And others from St. Pancras or Victoria to Rochester, farther east, taking 36-44 minutes. Gravesend has a Europcar office and Rochester has Hertz. See D Bahn for schedules, but buy tickets at the station.

I can't imagine any faster way to get out of the big city, though you'll have to take luggage on the train. On the other hand, you might save a day's rental cost by picking up the car in the morning instead of the night before.

Posted by
440 posts

We have reservations in Mickleton that night so need a car and we don't want to go back to London; maybe take the train to Canterbury and pick it up there? We're flying home from Edinburgh...
Jean

Posted by
1871 posts

Cartwright Gardens is 5 minutes from St Pancras. From St Pancras the train takes less than 1 hour to Canterbury. You'll probably still be completing the paperwork for the hire car by the time you pull into Canterbury West.

If you don't want to return to London then hire a car in Canterbury, Ashford or Maidstone. One of your posts states that you're staying in Mickleton - is that the same night as your Canterbury visit - makes things more awkward if it is.

Posted by
1838 posts

Are you actually planning to rent the car, drive out from central London to Canterbury - which is east of London & then drive west to Mickleton in the Cotswolds? If so, the whole idea is not rational. If you are going west from London, the logical thing to do would be visit places to the west en-route - not leave London in the opposite direction only to have to return west.

I think that you should look at Britain on Google Earth. If you enable 'Traffic' from the side menu & try and work out the time difference so that you can check out the traffic flows during daylight hours in the UK. The motorway that encircles London (M25) is one of the busiest in the UK.

Use this route planner to check out your timings & distances from place to place:> http://www.theaa.com/route-planner/index.jsp

High Speed Trains run from London (St.Pancras) to Canterbury.https://www.southeasternrailway.co.uk/your-journey/highspeed/

On street parking may exist near your hotel. It is unlikely to be free or have no time restrictions. Most on-street parking has meters and to deter long stay parking, you may well have a max time limit of say 2 hours. (I could be wrong - so check that with hotel before you get any ideas of hiring a car).

Posted by
26094 posts

Yes, the traffic moves. Very slowly. In fact I saw a story not long ago that the average speed across London by road is now considerably slower than in Victorian days.

Tell me that you don't intend to drive (or train or anything else) to Canterbury, have a visit there, and then backtrack and drive all the way to Chipping Campden in one day?

How are you going to get a car from Marble Arch on a Sunday evening? Will they have special Sunday opening hours that day?

What time of year? It is already still dark at 7am here.

Why Gravesend? Have you ever been there?

Posted by
440 posts

AutoEurope is open on Sunday; we'll we're already booked in London till the Monday and yes we're booked into Mickleton Monday night; we only have 3 days in London (guys wouldn't stay longer); so we have to get there Monday night. Haven't been to Gravesend, just picked a place on the way to Canterbury where we may pick up a car. Parking is by the hour during the day and free after 6:30p.m. According to maps, it's a 1 ½ hour drive without traffic and a total of 5 hours plus stops to Mickleton? Could we not take the train and pick up a car in Canterbury and still make it to Mickleton in the Cotswolds?
We may have to train it to Canterbury on one of our London days???

Everyone here is so kind & informative,

Thanks all,
Jean

Posted by
26094 posts

Gosh.

Oh dear.

I want to be positive and encouraging to you, so that you can all have a really nice time.

I'm afraid I am being all negative, which I don't want to do.

If you are staying in or near Mickleton which is just outside Chipping Campden I agree that you will most definitely benefit from having a car and a good GPS, and a navigator who can tell you that the GPS is pulling your leg when it suggests to take a dirt farm lane to approach Mickleton from the Fosse Way. Unless you all have very small carry on luggage only, and none of you are large, you want to be sure your car is big enough, and has a big enough boot.

But - if you still think that driving as a rookie is ok in Central London on a Monday morning I need to warn you of several concerns.

The car rental place gets uniformly awful reviews on Google and Google +. It closes at 4 on a Sunday, if it were me I'd want to get there plenty early if I wanted a choice of cars or an automatic or other special requirement. I'd take lots of photos when I hired the car. I'm not clear on when your trip is, but if it is anytime soon, it will be getting dark as 4pm arrives.

Check really, really carefully before you park the car for any CPZ (Controlled Parking Zone) signs, exactly what the restriction is - it can change part way down the block - and can be different on each side of the road. Check for any road markings, any signs near the space, and most importantly for any red or yellow lines on the road. Parking offences are expensive.

Is your hotel inside or outside the Congestion Zone? If you trigger the cameras for the Zone you have to pay the very expensive cost immediately or it gets much higher than that.

There isn't a really good driving route from Central London to Canterbury. Maybe the A2 once you get clear of London, but the problem will be crossing the river. None of the bridges in the centre of London lead onto a particularly fast, convenient or easy route. Staying north until the Blackwall Tunnel or Woolwich Ferry is very slow, congested, and then the built up part of the A2 which is very slow.

You could go east from the Isle of Dogs to the M25, then over the Queen Elizabeth II Bridge but then that is very slow and crossing at rush hour is almost guaranteed to give heartburn and you have to pay the toll electronically because no tolls are collected at the bridge but all cars are photographed. Failure to pay is very expensive.

Parking in Canterbury, my experience, is very difficult.

Then you have to do it all over again from Canterbury to Chipping Campden. You have to use the M25, and you have to use about half of it no matter which way round you go.

If you go anti-clockwise around from the A2 you have the problem of crossing the Thames Estuary almost immediately but the QEII Bridge is only clockwise so you will have to use the perennially backed up and crowded, very narrow, complete with chicane to enter Dartford Tunnel. Like the bridge the toll has to be paid electronically right away or fines get very high very quickly. Then just about half way around the notorious M25. Don't count on any map to give you a true transit time because of construction zones which have very strictly enforced yellow speed averaging cameras at which they will send you a ticket for only a very small breech of the 50 mph limit. There are also gantries on the non construction areas where cameras enforce any posted speed displayed on the gantry. Don't try to do the national speed limit unless the gantries are dark or showing the national speed limit sign.

Once you get off at the M40 the run should improve.

Or, you can choose to go clockwise around the M25. Good idea, no tolls, but then you almost always run into the awful traffic around the M23, Junction 8, Junction 9, the M3, the A3, the M4, all around Heathrow including Staines and the A20, and then onto the M40.

Neither way on a Monday will be a walk in the park.

(more)

Posted by
26094 posts

(more)

The kink in the plan is that trip to Canterbury.

If you didn't have that you could just calmly pick up a car later on Monday after a calm breakfast, either around St Pancras or out at Heathrow (best selection of cars and features) and then a nice calm drive out the A40 to the M40 and onwards to the Cotswolds......

Posted by
440 posts

Ok, you all have convinced me; so I'll take a day from London on the train & back to Canterbury; can you walk to the Cathedral or take a taxi?
Then we'll take the train West to the first place we can rent a car and head North to Mickleton stopping along the way to sightsee!

I have a rental car with Auto Europe; I get a discount so this is it. What town would we pick up the car; which is a Skoda Octavia Estate Wagon or similar; manual transmission.
Thanks,
Jean

Posted by
1838 posts

I would forget about Canterbury - unless doing it as a day trip from London by high speed train.

I would consider going from the hotel to London (Paddington) & then by train to Oxford. Have a look at Oxford & then pick up a hire car & head of to the Cotswolds.

www.nationalrail.co.uk have the train times & fares for all routes in Britain. (Fares may be cheaper for advance booking). This is the train company on the Paddington to Oxford route :>https://www.gwr.com

The nearest rail station to Mickleton is Moreton-in-Marsh (Honeybourne is nearer but really a small village). It is unlikely that you could rent a car from MIM - hence my suggestion of Oxford. I would find out if they could drive the rental car to meet you at the station - should it be some distance away.

Posted by
26094 posts

As mentioned by another above, Cartwright Gardens is very near St Pancras Station. Take the High Speed Javelin service to Canterbury which is quite walkable, although you could use a bus or a taxi from Canterbury West ( 56 minutes from St Pancras ). It is only less than 2/3 of a mile, 11 or 12 minutes to walk on an easy route.

As far as getting the car, I'd go for Heathrow as I said earlier. Very easy Piccadilly Line tube from either St Pancras or Russell Square, both very easy from your flat. Take the shuttle out to the Bath Road area (I haven't looked up exactly where AutoEurope is but it is likely along car rental row on Bath Road) (don't forget photos, lots of photos), then very easy from Bath Road onto the M4 Extension, onto the M4, one exit to northbound (clockwise) M25, one exit to westbound M40 and you are away. ...

Much easier (for me anyway) than morning traffic in London on a weekday and trying to find your way along the A40 and then M40 before crossing the M25.

Your choice, of course.

Posted by
711 posts

Go with Nigel's plan. You don't need a car in Canterbury. It's very walkable. Make sure you check for cathedral closures before you go. Check their websites. You don't want to go to Canterbury when they have closures. You probably know this but Canterbury has 2 train stations. Either one will work but make sure you know which one you're going back to for your return journey!

Heathrow is very convenient for renting a car when you are heading west.

Posted by
440 posts

I appreciate all your advice; I re-set our rental car to Reading and will take the train from Cartwright Gardens... I got a further car discount for $667 Canadian for 15 days. It would cost more from Heathrow Airport. We'll now take the train to Canterbury Cathedral.

Thanks all,
Jean

Posted by
440 posts

Ok, now I'm really confused: We are staying at 58-60 Cartwright Gardens, London, UK WC1H 9EL; can someone please tell me which station to catch a train to Reading; the rental co. address is 6 - 8 Commercial Road Berkshire, Reading, GB. I'm getting quotes of 9.95 to 52.95 GBP per person, arriving at two different stations in Reading.

Again help with which station from our London location to which station close to Canterbury Cathedral return? Decided to do a day trip on all your advice.

Help,
Thanks,
Jean

Posted by
1838 posts

Your train from Paddington will arrive at the main Reading station (not 'West'). It looks to me that you have no advantage in Advance purchase. I just checked for today & a walk on fare at Paddington for a one way ticket to Reading would cost you £22.70 for early trains. The 9.21 & later would cost £18. You will find trains departing every few minutes. Some are slow stoppers. You need an express that will get you to Reading in about 25 minutes. (These expresses are heading for Bath/ Bristol, south Wales & the south west. The 9.21 is actually going to Worcester via the Cotswolds).

For St.Pancras to Canterbury West; buying today for the 9.09 would cost £38.40 return (on any train). THe 10.08 was priced at £30 return. The cheapest I could find would be buying in advance 2 singles for specific trains on 10.08 or later = £25.90. Quite frankly I just don't think it is worth the saving to tie you down for specific trains - especially as you don't know when you wish to return. (Note that these trains will not be terminating at Canterbury).

The car hire place in Reading is quite a way out from the station. You will need a taxi.

Posted by
26094 posts

I appreciate that Reading may save you some money, but is it worth it? You will need to navigate busy streets in Reading to get to the M4, then how will you get to your destination? M4 to A34 to Oxford then A20 and up? M4 to Bath and the long way round?

I'd check all the figures - Tube plus slightly more expensive rental at Heathrow plus much simpler journey

or

Tube to Paddington plus train to Reading plus taxi from Reading to AutoEurope plus more complicated driving.

I'm lazy. I do the easier one.

Posted by
440 posts

It will be easier to navigate roads in Reading verses London; we'll then take a leisurely drive through the small towns to Mickleton. Once out of London we won't be in a hurry...Actually I'm saving a $300 by renting with Auto Europe with my discount so it's worth it and we do need a car! If not Reading where else and I don't want go to Heathrow; now that's busy...

Posted by
440 posts

Thanks James; we're close to Russell Square station do we take that train to Paddington to get to Reading (thanks for stating the main Reading Station not West). Also do we take Russell Square Station to St. Pancras to Canterbury West?
Jean

Posted by
4537 posts

That rental place is situated really on the wrong side of Reading for where you want to go.

Somewhere off the Botley Road in Oxford (which has pretty much all the major hire companies) would be better IMO - or even Didcot where Enterprise has a new office within sight of the station.

Posted by
1838 posts

From Cartright Gardens to St.Pancras station is only about a 10 minute walk.

When you wish to go to Paddington Station - make the same walk to St.Pancras & go to the Underground Station. You can travel to Paddington on either the Hammersmith & City or Circle Lines - just make sure you are going the correct direction! (They have charts to show you).

Marco is right when he says that your car pick up in Reading is the wrong side of town for where you want to go (Mickleton). However, not to worry as I have a suggestion that is a longer route but could be easier for you. You leave the car hire place (on the south side of Reading) & drive south to join the M4 at Junction 11. Then proceed west - the signs probably say Swindon/ Bristol or just M4 West. You are now driving on a 3 lane (each way) divided highway (Motorway in our language / Interstate in American). After about 20 minutes or so on the M4 you reach J13. Leave M4 & follow signs for A34 (a divided highway with 2 lanes each way) north towards Oxford. You continue northbound on the A34 and skirt the west side of Oxford. Eventually you come to a junction that says A44 Evesham - come off A34 & follow A34 for Evesham for it is this route that will get you near to Mickleton.

After a short distance you come to Woodstock. You may wish to make a slight detour here & visit Blenheim Palace.http://www.blenheimpalace.com

When leaving the car hire at Reading, if you put in for Mickleton in a SATNAV, it may well direct you on a shorter (but more complicated route) than my suggestion. Should you wish to follow my suggested route, I would insert your position at M4 J13 (Chively) & then your destination of MIckleton (or Blenheim Palace). On leaving Blenheim - put in for Mickleton. (Beware that SATNAVS can send people down minor roads. I would certainly use a map to know where you plan to go).

I would look on Google Earth at these roads & judge whether my route is better for you than the shorter but more complicated route.
If using M4 J13 - zoom down at the junction and look at the way you would go to transfer from the M4 to the A34 - driving on the left.

Posted by
440 posts

Good suggestions James; Thanks and I always take a map with our GPS, as you say you never know where it sometimes will take you!
Thanks again,
Jean
P.S. Off line for a few days may not be able to see more reports.

Posted by
26094 posts

To try to answer some of the most recent questions - again -. Trying not to pull out what remains of my hair.

13 answers ago, I said:

As mentioned by another above, Cartwright Gardens is very near St
Pancras Station. Take the High Speed Javelin service to Canterbury
which is quite walkable, although you could use a bus or a taxi from
Canterbury West ( 56 minutes from St Pancras ). It is only less than
2/3 of a mile, 11 or 12 minutes to walk on an easy route

So. From your address you can take the tube - the Piccadilly Line - one stop from Russell Square to Kings Cross/St Pancras or, just as fast and probably easier and with no backtracking, walk the short distance to St Pancras and go around until you get to the Southeastern Trains area and board one of the frequent very fast trains from there to Canterbury West and then walk. When you return walk to Canterbury West station, get on the train to St Pancras and walk from St Pancras to your flat.

The Piccadilly line goes to Heathrow but not to Paddington Station. I suggest you have a look at a map of London which will likely include a map of the Underground so you can see where the various lines go. Russell Square will do you no good getting to Paddington. You will need Paddington for any of Reading, Didcot or Oxford.

Walk or otherwise get to St Pancras and right below the Euston Road entrance is the main booking hall for the Underground. Down into the bowels of the earth and onto an anti clockwise westbound Hammersmith and City Line train or a similarly routed Circle Line train. Destination on the Hammersmith and City train will be Hammersmith. Destination on the Circle Line train will also be Hammersmith. If a Metropolitan Line train comes along do not board it as it turns right at Baker Street. Go 5 stops and alight at Paddington and look for your train. Fair warning - Paddington is a very big station and because almost all the trains there are diesel (instead of electric at my station) it is a very noisy station. Find whichever train you need to be on, sit back and enjoy the view once you have cleared London.