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Rental car/driving help: pick up in Bath? where to return in Cotswolds, get train to London?

We are a family of 4 traveling in England this July. We'd like to pick up a car and drive from Bath to Chipping Campden (hopefully with a stop at Avebury along the way), use the car to explore the Cotswolds for about 4 days, and then drop off the car in as quiet a town as possible to take the train to London. We have never driven on the opposite side of the road before so are nervous especially about congested areas. We would appreciate advice about what it is like to pick up a car in Bath in terms of how challenging the navigation and traffic is. We also would really appreciate suggestions of towns which are relatively easy to navigate for our car return (and which would allow us to get a train back to London). I've thought of using Enterprise because of the pick up/drop off option offered but have seen dismal reviews, so any specific car rental company suggestions would be great. Thank you!

Posted by
109 posts

I can't address your pick up or drop off as far as towns go, however my husband and I have used Enterprise exclusively when renting in the UK. We have always had a good experience. The pick up/drop off option has worked like a charm.

Posted by
1911 posts

The simplest drop off would be Heathrow as you just head to the M4 motorway which goes to the airport, then tube to central London.

As for how difficult it is really depends on how confident a driver you are and how easily you can interpret UK road signs

Posted by
31 posts

I agree with the Heathrow suggestion. After spending 4 days in the Cotswolds you should be comfortable with the driving. From the Cotswolds you would be taking the M4 until the turn-off to Heathrow. I recommand taking a break at one of the rest stops to relax a bit. If you do drop off at Heathrow, get a map and mark the route to the car rental location and have your passengers look out for the directions to the rental car locations near Heathrow. They are usually in different spots around the airport. A GPS would be nice also.

I assume you are picking up the car as you leave Bath. Having a car while you are in town would be a hassle. I did a search and see a couple rental agencies just west of Bath on the A36 road. This should be relatively easy to take the A36 and catch the A4 to Avebury. You could take a taxi to the agency or ask if they can pick you up at your hotel/B&B and return you to the agency. I would not recommend starting your first driving lesson from central Bath ;-).

Upon leaving Avebury drive east to Marlborough and then north. Driving north out of Avebury can be a little confusing because of no direct access to the M4 motorway.

Posted by
31 posts

Also, there is a rest stop just west of Reading which you can use to gas up and the tank should still show full when you arrive at the rental agency. That way you can avoid the hasle of finding a station near the airport.

Posted by
4538 posts

I personally wouldn't drive all the way to Heathrow - Oxford has more or less all the major hire companies along the Botley Road which is a relatively straightforward drive from the A34 and on the right side for an onward rail journey (2 fast trains an hour, 1 hour). Other alternatives are Avis in Moreton-in-Marsh (but only one train an hour to London) and Enterprise in Didcot (railway station is in eyesight of the office - 3 fast trains an hour, 45 mins).

Posted by
26370 posts

and the drive to Banbury can be slower especially the last few miles (mind the camera) and more difficult

Posted by
524 posts

My husband and I stayed a week in Blockley a couple years ago. We took the train to Moreton-in-Marsh and rented an Avis car there. It was an easy location to pick up and drop off the car--The White Hart Royal Hotel on High Street. There is some traffic, but not so much that it was overwhelming. I did not want to encounter any larger city traffic. I drove to the villages that we were most interested, while my husband played navigator and insured that I kept to the correct lane. As to driving, I was very, very cautious, especially the first day. Left handed shifting wasn't an issue, I know to drive a standard (learned on my grandfather's old truck), and the brake,gas, and clutch are in the same order. My problem, I kept trying to drive too close to the left curb. After dropping off the car, we took the train back into London, easy peasy.

Posted by
109 posts

A couple of pieces of "advice" I can add to first time UK drivers
*Rent the smallest car you can comfortably fit in. Many of the roads are more narrow than you are used to
*Have a designated navigator...better yet take a Garmin with maps of Britain and Ireland installed...you will be happy you did
*Be sure you get familiar with the UK road signs/speed limits before you go. These can be found on line

Posted by
12 posts

Thank you all for such helpful suggestions! I truly appreciate it!

Posted by
2638 posts

If you don't want to drive to Heathrow, Oxford would be the next best place and might be easier for you. You would probably feel more comfortable driving on a "A" road then the M, which is like our interstates. Depending on part of the Cotswolds you are in you can take A34 or A40 which would take you into Oxford. On their motorways, the outside lane is the fast lane, the inter lane in the slow lane.