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Possible England Trip - Feedback Appreciated

Hello. I am fully aware that travel is at a standstill. However my husband and I were bouncing around the possibility of a England based trip should parts of the UK open to us ( Americans) later this year. We actually have a trip planned to Ireland for September but that is looking bleaker by the day and have spent some time this weekend trying to map out a England trip for my 40th birthday. Just in case it would be a option. We have been to London before but there are always things to see and we have friends that normally meet us from Hertfordshire for the day. I would want to do a day trip to Windsor from London this time as we haven't made it there yet. We both enjoy history and period homes and castles. To give you an idea the day I spent at Hampton Court was hands down my favorite on a previous trip. I am a Jane Austen fan and my husband is kind enough to indulge me. We love hiking/walking and beautiful scenery. We spent time in the highlands of Scotland several years ago and loved it. We considered a return trip there but there is so much more to see in the UK. I figured we would rent a car at some point. My husband has driven on the left previously. I have yet to pin down exactly where we would stay everywhere. Rick's England book gives suggestions but I am open to others. This is a very rough itinerary so please be kind but subjective. You should see what we have weeded out already! lol See below and let me know what you think...

Bath - 3 Nights - Possible day trip to Stonehenge or Glastonbury.. Not sure which.

Oxford - 1 Night

Cotswolds' - 4 Nights -Looking at Chipping Campden here. Day trip Warwick & possibly Stratford Upon Avon

Lake District- 4 Nights -Keswick or near.

We know it is a drive between the Cotswolds' & the Lakes. I would be open to dividing our time here but I thought one base would be handy. Hoping to get some hiking in. Open to suggestions. We are interested in seeing Hilltop Farm one afternoon in the south no matter how touristy it is. It does seem to be reopening in May.

Yorkshire Dales - 2 Nights. Still working on a base here. Would like to have time to visit Thirsk at some point as I enjoyed James Harriot's All Things Great and Small.

York - 2 Nights.

London -4 Nights- London sites we have missed on previous trips. Day trip trip to Windsor.

Any suggestions on car pick up and drop off? I was thinking Bath after a day or so as per Rick's suggestion to give my husband a day to get used to the time before he had to chauffer me about. As far as drop off I was thinking LHR or I suppose York and we could train into London. If there is place you think we need more time and a place that we should cut or take time from please let me know. We will have 20-21 nights in total. Thank you for your help!

Posted by
2646 posts

If you have watched the new series based on James Harriot's All Things Great and Small. You will want to stay in Grassington in the Yorkshire Dales, as that is where it was filmed for the village segments; ie, town square, his house, the pub, etc. IMO, Grassington deserves at least 4 nights (3 full days) for a taste of the walks in the area and to enjoy the charming town. Plus there is Bolton Abby and that walk along the river as well. Skipton is an interesting market town to spend at least part of a day in as well. We've never had a car there as the train, bus and taxi worked well for us.

Your two nights in York are fine. You can see the town in one day, easily. Charming town.

Posted by
107 posts

Thank you Wray- Appreciate your feedback. I would be happy to dedicate more time to the Yorkshire Dales. If we do something else will need to cut. We will only have the 3 weeks. Any thoughts as to what? Thanks!

Posted by
1616 posts

Enterprise rent a car in Bath will pick you up at your hotel and take you to their place to get your car. We then dropped it off at Gatwick. There was a drop off fee, but I can't remember how much. I do remember on the way to Gatwick on a Saturday afternoon, driving on the motorway past the Heathrow exit and this was where traffic was at its worst. I suspect though, that the train to London and then to Heathrow would be no faster or convenient.

Posted by
107 posts

Hi Allan- Thank you for your feedback. If the plan stays the same we would have a few days in London at the end of the trip. Obviously we would want to ditch the car before that. Thank you for your feedback. We are actually more familiar with Gatwick than Heathrow and prefer it as a airport. Heathrow is a mess. Might just see how much it would be to drop it in York and train into London seeing as we won't need a car once we are in York. If you have ever spent any time in the areas we are considering I would love your feedback. Thanks!

Posted by
2646 posts

Islandfam, Haha. Figuring what to cut is the hard part, and I can't do that for you as I don't know your interests. So take this with a grain of salt as I don't know what your answer should be.

I would cut the Costwolds altogether.

I've yet to go to Bath after innumerable UK trips...but expect I will someday, so I can't comment on Bath.

I would not waste my time at Stonehenge.

Or take one night from the Lake District and two nights from the Cotswolds.
Or drop the Cotswolds and the Lake District, and add on Whitby for some coastline on the east side and fairly well grouped with York and the Dales. And even better drop Oxford and add in Cambridge.

LOL. I'll stop now. These are such tough decisions...but so fun studying them! So many possibilities...good luck!

Posted by
649 posts

Hi island fam -

Well of course you are right to head to Yorkshire, although I must declare bias! Thirsk, although it has the Herriot Museum, is not an ideal place to stay as it sits beneath the Howardian Hills and the North Yorkshire Moors and while strategically placed for the Dales and NY Moors, is a bit, shall we say, utilitarian. The veterinary practice still exists but the new ‘Skeldale House’ is on an industrial estate on the outskirts. The place is also close to major north - south and west - east routes so is hardly quiet. There’s a reason the TV series were not filmed there! A day trip would be ample.

So as suggested above, I think I would head to my home valley of Wharfedale and yes, Grassington is an ideal spot although it does get murderously busy in season, mainly with day trippers, so quieter in the evenings I’d guess. There’s a castle at nearby Skipton and the remains of Lady Ann Clifford’s hunting lodge at Barden (Barden Towers). In addition to the Bolton Abbey estate (owned by Duke of Devonshire so fee payable if you want to park/drive in, so best and freely explored by Shanks’s pony!) there are remote RHS gardens at Parceval Hall, with the fun hike up Trollers Gill (circular walk from Burnsall, but beware the Barguest in the Gill!) also nearby. Further north and east near Ripon with its cathedral is the National Trust’s magnificent Fountains Abbey Estate (extensive Cistercian Abbey Ruins) which combines with the Studley Royal ornamental Gardens - not a mass of flowers, more lakes and water features and a lot of greenery. Check out if possible the remarkable Markington Hall (odd opening times, very sporadic, pre booking essential). Nearer to Leeds is the stately home of Harewood House, open to public on a daily basis in summer. And for a glimpse of industrial heritage check out Salts Mill in the model village of Saltaire between Leeds and Bradford (It’s accessible by rail from both Leeds and Bradford) - massive art books/supplies shop and a couple of galleries devoted to David Hockney, who is a son of Bradford) with other ‘interesting’ shops (if you were thinking of buying a Celtic harp or mediaeval viol for instance...) and a couple of restaurants. It’s a great ‘wet weather option’ and is free, gratis and for nothing to explore.

Lake District, Keswick is a great base, lots of accommodation, but extreme lack of parking and they’ll have your eyes out with the fees for public car parks but the great beauty is there is lots of hiking either straight out of the door or by bus/taxi to relatively nearby - the renowned Catbells and beyond, Grisedale Pike, Blencathra, etc. Rewards research if you don’t plan to have a car there. Avoiding the throngs and fees of Keswick itself, also check out Bassenthwaite north and west of Keswick, Braithwaite (? - Need to check I’m remembering correctly) to the west, Newlands Valley and Rosthwaite in Borrowdale as quieter places to stay.

Feel free to PM me if you need any further help and advice, but you’ve lots to be ‘Googling’ there for a while I think! All the above are what there was pre-COVID, so when everything opens up again fingers crossed that the vast majority has survived.

Ian

Posted by
1 posts

I was 65 yo female traveling solo, I rented my car from auto Europe from Heath row airport and dropped there on return . I had 7 days travel.
I started in North leach, town base for 2 days.Next day to Upper and Lower Slaughter. Gorgeous.
There is a Roman villa remains in North leach.
Bourton on the Water. Gives you the Cotswald feel.
Absolutely beautiful.
Then on to Cheltenham for base.
From there I went to Bath. I personally would not miss this beautiful city.
Roman baths, Jane Austin museum.
Beautiful architecture.
I saw a Rugby game being played across river. Easy to do in one walking about day.
There are many stone circles , easier to just get out of your car and see vs Stonehenge.
On my second trip to the Lake District rented car from Manchester airport drove to Beatrix Potter home and farm.
Drove across to York. Another easy to do day. Prior York I stopped at the Bronte home museum.
I always try to stop at grand homes with gardens for tours, end a tea house for lunch

It is easy to drive, just be cautious on the hedgerow narrow roads.
Above my memories and opinions. I loved every minute.

It will be glorious trip.
G

Posted by
17907 posts

My interests are very, very different from yours, but here are a few thoughts:

  • One night in Oxford seems painfully short. I enjoyed both Oxford and Cambridge, spending 3 nights in each (on different trips). I'd have found a single night in either one frustrating.

  • You're switching hotels twice as you stay in Bath, the Cotswolds and Oxford. Those are close enough together that one-day bus tours of the Cotswolds originate in both Bath and Oxford. I'd try to figure out a way to avoid at least one of those hotel changes.

  • I really liked my one-day Cotswolds tour, but more than two days in the area would have been too much for me, because I'm not capable of rural walking. How many thatched-roof cottages can one really appreciate on sequential days? It would be different if one were planning a hiking holiday. You didn't mention walking (then again, at 40 I assume you're totally capable of it), so I wonder if you are planning too much time in the area, given what else there is to see in Great Britain.

I'd certainly ditch the car in York and take the train to London. The train will take between 2 and 2-1/4 hours. Driving would be more like 4 hours at a minimum (according to ViaMichelin.com), and I assume you'd be at risk of significant traffic delays. Those are train tickets you'd want to buy as soon as you're confident the trip will happen, assuming cheap Advance tickets are still available at that point.

Posted by
533 posts

Hi islandfam, you have put together a wonderful itinerary. Since you’re visiting Oxford, you may enjoy touring Blenheim Palace from there.
If you are trying to sleep in no more than three places, how about London, Bath and York? Furthermore, I would consider flying in to or out of Manchester and London. You can fly nonstop from Atlanta, Houston, Las Vegas and Orlando to / from Manchester. This means you’ll need to check the multi-city field when booking air travel, and put either London or Manchester in the destination field since you would fly into one (let’s say London) and out the other (Manchester).
Note: in the past it cost more to fly out of London than it did to fly into London, but not sure if it’s still true. The following itinerary has you arriving in London and out of Manchester.
Note: all trains are direct, meaning no connections are required.
Sleep in London and include a day trip to Windsor Castle by train (1h).
Take train to Bath (1h 30m) and sleep in Bath:
Day 1 - Bath
Day 2 – Rent car and drive to Stonehenge from Bath (1h) and Glastonbury (1h 15m from Stonehenge) then back to Bath (1h).
Day 3 - Oxford (1h 30m) to Blenheim Palace (30m). The problem with Blenheim is that it’ll take another 1h 45m to get back to Bath making it a long day. You may want to do one or the other or add an extra day in Bath.
Day 4 - Chipping Campden (1h 30m).
Drive to York (4h) and sleep in York:
Day 1 - York
Day 2 – drive to Keswick (2h 15m). Another long day so if you add another place to sleep, the Lakes District would be the ideal place or remove it as some people have suggested.
Day 3 – drive to Yorkshire Dales (1h 15m).
Day 4 – drive to Thirsk (45m).
Day 5 – return car at airport (1h 30m) in Manchester and fly home.

Posted by
4459 posts

Manchester might be a good arrival or departure point if the flights work for you, with London at the beginning or end of your trip depending on whether you arrive or depart from Heathrow (or Gatwick). I'd definitely use the train between London and York, in either direction.

I'm not a Jane Austen fan, but I'd think two nights would be enough for Bath, with a full day in the city -- the Austen sights, Roman baths, medieval Abbey, and Georgian architecture all around. Between Stonehenge and Glastonbury, I'd pick Stonehenge. But you could skip both to give you more time in Yorkshire. Also I'd cut a day from the Cotswolds and move it to Yorkshire or Oxford. I agree with acraven that Oxford's worth more than just an overnight.

Ms. Austen is buried in Winchester, which also has a great cathedral. I expect that could be a day trip from London but I haven't researched it.

Posted by
533 posts

Yes, Winchester is a day trip from London with direct train service (1h 15m).

Posted by
107 posts

My Goodness- Thank you all for such feedback.

Wray- Yes. It is a tough call. So much interest us it is hard to nail it down. I will let my husband have a look at both Oxford and Cambridge and have him pick between the two. As far as the Cotswolds go it has always been of interest to me as well as Bath so I am still going to try and spend some time in those areas. Neither my husband or I are particularly fussed on Stonehenge. I think it was more of that feeling that everyone says to see it but it most certainly could be skipped.

Ian- I can not thank you enough for your feedback. I have spent time on Google and your suggestions are awesome. It seems that we will need some extra time in the dales as suggested. If you had 6-7 nights between the dales and the lake district how would you split them? I am sure to some I am asking about how to split time between two favorite children but I am curious about your feedback seeing you know the area so well. Feel free to PM if you would like.

galestarratt- Thank you for your feedback and for telling me about your trip. The Bronte home museum is of particular interest so I will be adding that to my itinerary. I am sure much to my husbands boredom. It is my birthday trip after all. Your advice about Stonehenge is also appreciated. We saw standing stones in Scotland and I am aware they are lots of different places so perhaps skipping it would be the thing.

acraven- Hello again. I believe I have bumped into you before or perhaps I have just read through so many other threads I recognize your name. I understand your theory of doing more day trips and staying longer in one spot. We have done both on trips and I am not a fan of one night stands so will try to decide between Oxford or Cambridge and will spend two nights at one or the other. As far as the Cotswolds' go we do enjoy walking/hiking. As a matter of fact all of our vacations tend to have some sort of active outdoor pursuit. We tend to avoid bus tours at all cost but do appreciate the value of a good tour guide so I will look into some of the day trips you have mentioned. Thank you for feedback concerning the car rental pick up and drop off.

MaryPat- Thank you for your feedback. I had considered Manchester actually as I am in Orlando. I used to work for Virgin so I am familiar with that route. I have a credit with BA so that is why the roundtrip London flights as they do not fly direct to Manchester from Orlando. Actually at the moment there is even confusion as to if they will be back at LGW or continue with the LHR flight. We will see. I much prefer LGW. It is possible we could fly Manchester on VA and out on BA out of London which would mean two one ways but not terrible. I will check and see how feasible that would be. I can see the benefit. I also appreciate your itinerary. It gives me a lot to consider. Especially your mention of Blenheim Palace.

Dick- Thank you for your suggestions. Yes, I agree that Oxford looks like it deserves more time. My husband doesn't seem fussed about Stonehenge now that I have talked about adding a night to more of a rural setting. We have always talked about visiting Harris & Lewis on our next trip to Scotland so may decide to reserve our stone circle experience for there. That being said, two nights in Bath might just be enough if I can get in early enough. I also appreciate you mentioning Winchester. Thank you again!

Posted by
2930 posts

Other possible day trips from Bath could include Cardiff, Tintern Abbey, Chepstow castle, Wales, Salisbury, or Wells. If wanting to see some sights where the new version of All Things Great and Small is filmed, the pub exterior and house are in Grassington, the church in Skipton, and the train station in Oakworth, Keighly, the pub interior scenes are filmed in another pub, The Green Dragon, Bellow Hill, Hardraw, Hawes DL8 3LZ.

Nearby is The Twelve Apostles Stone Circle, Burley in Wharfedale, Ilkley LS29 8BT. A possible alternative to Stonehenge.

We always pick up and drop off the rental car at Heathrow. Depending on traffic, construction, and time of day, it takes about 2.5 hours to get to Bath. If Bath is your first stop, parking is at a premium, so find lodging that has parking.

Posted by
107 posts

jaimeelsabio- Thank you so much for sharing the All Things Great and Small feedback. The area looked so charming it really made me want to visit. My husband is of the mind that he could pick up the car at the airport and do a at least 2 hours or so but I am not so sure. I will find accommodations with parking for sure. I think that was the reasoning for not picking up the car until departure. It seems you have traveled this area some. Have you ever traveled a itinerary such as ours? We had considered Wales as well but we try to do a country at a time so said we would return for a Wales trip another time. We have a good friend who lives in the Brecon Beacons but she will hopefully be back to work with Royal Caribbean by that time so we will have to visit when she will be there. If in fact she is home we may just scrap a few things in favor of a visit with her. Do you think we are biting off too much? Would love your feedback. Thanks.

Posted by
17907 posts

I wouldn't recommend that someone with a rental car take a bus tour of the Cotswolds. I just meant that if you're mobile and not really interested in hiking/walking (which turns out not to apply to you), I think there's a good chance you'd reach the point of diminishing returns after two days of cute little villages and pretty hills. I think it would be lovely to do some village-to-village walks in the area--if only I didn't take a serious fall every time I tried rural walking and end up with at least one wrecked ankle.

Posted by
4364 posts

You can fill 2 days just in Bath. Three nights somewhere means 2 days. Drop Stonehenge if it doesn’t interest you. Wells is nicer than Glastonbury IMO.

Combine Oxford and the Cotswolds into one stay. The overrated Cotswolds aren’t my favourite part of the U.K. and a day here would be plenty for me.

Oxford/Cotswolds to the Lake District will take the best part of 6 hours driving. Personally, I prefer the more rugged Eskdale and Buttermere to Keswick. Ripon is nicer than Thirsk which is more functional. Hill Top opening is subject to the U.K. Covid restrictions being lifted 17 May, as currently planned. Last year, the NT had significantly reduced visitor numbers and even car parking had to be booked in advance. We are members and struggled to park at many sites.

The National Railway Museum in York is worthwhile. I also like Whitby on the coast that’s a good day trip from there.

The drive from York to London is tedious, so drop the car here and take the train.

Posted by
119 posts

IF you have an interest in stone circles (we have fun hunting them as we travel) - you might try Avebury. It's about the same distance from Bath as Stonehenge. But you are able to walk the fields and enjoy exploring the henge and stones scattered around the village. Nice for a short wander in a lot of space. Lots of parking and not massive crowds.

Posted by
1616 posts

Hi Allan. If you have ever spent any time in the areas we are
considering I would love your feedback. Thanks!

  • Bath has a free tour a couple of times a day that leaves from the Roman baths area. It's a mass of people but quite good.
  • We stayed at https://pulteneyhotel.co.uk/, It's a B and B, quite nice with good rates.
  • I'd recommend the Roman Baths as soon as it opens as it can get quite crowded.
  • My wife really like the Fashion Museum. https://www.fashionmuseum.co.uk/
  • We spent 2 nights in the Cotswolds and honestly, I thought after I'd seen one town I'd seen them all.
  • The one area that I do talk about is Upper and Lower Slaughter. The drive between the two on a single track road was absolutely beautiful. I regret now not taking a hike between the two.
  • Warwick Castle was great. Some on this forum accuse it of selling out and becoming Disney-like, but I was like an 8 year old by running along the walls.
  • The parking lot is quite small and already full when we pulled in just before opening. About a 10 minute walk away is the St Nicholas Park which has a pay lot that will have space.
  • Love love loved the London Museum. I think it's very underrated. It's a chronological history of London from the primoradial ooze to modern times. there is also the remains of a Roman Wall outside.
  • I don't know if you or your hubby are into James Bond, but the London Film Museum has a permanent exhibition on some of the cars used in the movies. It's a fun coulpe of hours.
  • Across the street is our favourite restaurant so far in London, San Carlo Cicchetti.
Posted by
156 posts

Hi. I have not done the Dales, but a few years ago, we did the Windsor/Oxford, Cotswolds etc part and were very satisfied with how our plan worked. For us, the key to this successful trip was basing ourselves in Witney (town of about 30,000 and some history) about 51 miles from Windsor and sort of smack in the middle a very interesting area, including the Cotswolds. And an easy drive to all the places we went.
Day 1, we flew into Heathrow and took a cab (there are also buses) to Windsor. (20 minutes). We had arranged an early check in at the hotel. That day we toured Windsor Castle, wandered about, had a beer and a sandwich, went to Evensong at St George's Chapel and went to bed and soundly asleep.
Day 2 we picked up our rental car in Windsor, drove through some "Midsomer Murders" towns, looked for the White Horse of Uffington and ended at "The Witney Hotel", adorable and well-located in Witney. The drive is well under 2 hours, we took about 4.5 for wandering and looking about. Parked and left rental
Day 3. One great thing about Witney is great bus service about 5 minutes from the hotel. So, we took the local bus to Oxford (there are lots, about 45 minutes and about $9 return) We spent the day, loved it, walked and walked, saw so much . Left about 5, to Witney, great pub, bed.
Day 4 Drove to Blenheim, visited Great Tew (so lovely), The Rollright stones with no people, and Chastleton House (close to Morton-in-Marsh,) built about 1610. returned to Witney, rugby game at pub with food. so fun.
Day 4 We started the day driving to Warwick Castle. With an enormous interest in English history 1100 - 1600, I couldn't miss it. We enjoyed it a lot and loved the raptor show and the town of Warwick as well. We did some driving around after the castle and visited Chipping Camden too.
Day 5 Today we went to Bletchley which was just amazing!, Then Woburn Abbey then home to pack
Day 6 we returned the rental car to Oxford and we took the train into London, where we spent a few days before going on to Paris and Normandy.
We felt like we saw a TON, drove through so many picturesque villages, check off a lot of must see boxes and never felt crowded or rushed or stressed.

Posted by
17907 posts

I've found the local tourist office often has a walking tour. I've enjoyed all I've taken. I've always just signed up on the day of the tour (and I don't know that it's possible to do so earlier), but they typically do limit the capacity so it's a good idea to take care of that as early as convenient, after checking the weather, etc. The "free" tours I've observed seem a lot larger, and they aren't really free, because there's a moral obligation to pay the guide. Guides are charged a fee by the company for each person who shows up; I think Rick said several years ago that fee is often the equivalent of something like $3.50 or $4 (I don't remember). So the guide starts out in the hole.

Posted by
107 posts

Hi Kate & Allan- Thank you both for your post full of such helpful information. I have been reading everyone's advice and appreciate the feedback. We do want to do Warwick Castle.

Allan - Did you visit Warwick from your base in the Cotswolds? Just curious. I would like to do a bit of walking in the Cotswolds if weather allows but our friends in the UK are encouraging us to head north as they say he scenery is best. That being said we may shorten our stay there. I was also keen on Blenheim Palace.

Kate- I appreciate your mention of one home base. Seeing as we have so much time I had considered it. I will check out the town you stayed in. Thanks again!

Posted by
1616 posts

Allan - Did you visit Warwick from your base in the Cotswolds?

Yes we made a day trip out of it from our base in Chipping Norton in the Cotswolds.

Posted by
4619 posts

We did a four week drive tour of South Wales and England in 2017 it was wonderful.

This link is to my lengthy narrative of our tour with hotels/B&Bs, tours and what places we visited.
28 days in Britain and Celebrity Eclipse home


https://www.cruisecritic.com/memberreviews/memberreview.cfm?EntryID=599139

We have been to Stonehenge and Glastonbury. Not even close, do Stonehenge.

Bath is great, enjoyed the Brooks Guesthouse and especially the fish and chips at a local restaurant, details in my review.

Oxford is good, we did our day trip there from Chipping Campden (Stayed at Volunteer Inn)/

Don't do Stonehenge on a day trip from Bath, it is too far. Stay and see Salisbury and its wonderful cathedral. We did that on another trip to England.

The Lake District (we stayed in Keswick) is great for hiking. We did Rick Steves recommended circle around the lake from Keswick.

York is a must. So much to see that wonderful Cathedral in that Roman Walled city.

Warwick Castle is good.

Posted by
202 posts

Our last trip began with the car rental at Heathrow and then a short drive to Windsor. We've driven several times and haven't found it difficult. But we make sure and get an automatic with sat nav and full insurance. We fly from Los Angeles and haven't found it a problem to drive a little on the day we land but I'm able to get 4 or more hours of sleep on the flight. Driving is a great way to see England but don't drive into London. We found Liverpool and Edinburgh manageable if needed.

Chipping Campden was beautiful. We stayed at the Old Bakehouse which I think Rick still recommends. We liked Cambridge slightly better than Oxford.

We actually stayed at Eton instead of Windsor at a little place a block from the foot bridge to Windsor with a lovely view of the castle. And we took a carriage ride just like Harry and Meghan on the Long Walk.

Your itinerary brings back many good memories. I think you'll love it.