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Reputable Tour Company for Trips Outside London

Hello everyone. I will be traveling to London from April 5-12. I'm looking for recommendations for a tour company that does group tours outside London. I purchased Mr. Steves guide to London where he recommended a company, London Walks, for tours outside London. After contacting London Walks it looks like they won’t know until March at the earliest whether their group tours will be back. I don't drive and I can’t afford private tours. Can you recommend another reputable tour company? I’m interested in combination day tours to Cambridge, Oxford, Stonehenge, Bath, Blenheim Palace, Cotswolds or Windsor. Your advice would be greatly appreciated.

Posted by
585 posts

Windsor and Cambridge are both easy day trips form London and easy to explore with a local guide or by yourself.. Oxford and Blenheim are also doable as a day trip from London .

Are you planning to visit all these places? If you overnighted in Bath, you could pick up a local tour company and see a bit of the Cotswolds and Stonehenge.

Posted by
2017 posts

Do you really need a tour? I've been to Cambridge, Bath and Windsor all on my own by train and have picked up city walking tours. I've found it's much nicer just to wander about and see what I want to see rather than being headed around. YVMV

Posted by
332 posts

Your advice would be greatly appreciated.

Ask here and people will give advice on how to get to these places by yourself.

Posted by
4592 posts

Bath is an easy solo day trip, I did it last month.

When I was researching that trip Google coughed up several tour companies doing the trips you mentioned, it's not a unique idea.

Posted by
5 posts

I am considering skipping official tours and going on my own, as suggested by a few people on the forum. I'm just wondering about time needed for these places. I'm only in London for 8 days. Trying to strike a balance between sightseeing in London vs the nearby excursions. I was planning to stay strictly in London and travel from there but if it makes more sense to travel to Bath (for example) and take some tours from there I would consider it.

Posted by
3821 posts

Evan Evans Tours do a decent version of the big bus tours that hit 3 or 4 places in a day.
Not my cup of tea, but it's what you asked for.
Browse here: https://evanevanstours.com/

I agree with Andrea above, Rabbies Tours are excellent.
I am also one who believes you'll have the best experience going to these destinations on your own so you can spend as much time there as you want.

Sorry, we were posting at the same time. I didn't see your latest post before completing my post.

Posted by
3821 posts

To address your latest post, I think you have plenty of time for London. I would consider going directly to Oxford when you land (at Heathrow, I assume?) and spending two nights.
This would allow time for you to do a walking tour (starts from the Tourist Information office) and to take a city bus north to see Blenheim. Blenheim is not far out of Oxford.

Then train to Bath, check into a hotel for 2 nights.
Then from there to London to finish out your days.
You may say "But I only have 7-8 days in London!" Well, you won't be spending time in London anyway, if you're constantly taking day trips.
Not being snippy; it's just a fact.

To maximize your time in London, make a "must see" FOR YOU list. What are the things that you personally are going to London to see? Skip things that don't appeal to you.
Make the assumption that you will go back to London again in the future.

Posted by
8635 posts

You only have seven days (less if you're counting travel days. Thats not enough to barely scratch your list, or even see the best of London.

Bath has a free walking tour twice a day. We did Stonehenge and some of the Cotswolds from Bath, using Mad Max Tours (highly recommended). It's too far to try to day trip from London. Windsor is just a short train ride to/from London, and you can figure out what you're looking at without a guide. You can spend as much time as you want there, but counting travel time, it's at least 1/2 to 3/4 of a day. More if you have lunch somewhere. If you're looking you might see Windsor Castle from your airplane as you are making the approach to landing at Heathrow.

Posted by
207 posts

Personally I would stay in London and do two day trips, one to Cambridge and the other to Windsor. We went for 10 days last April and we felt it was the perfect mix.

Don't miss a punting tour in Cambridge!

Posted by
3821 posts

abissett, re-reading your last post, I would say, make a "must see" FOR YOU list. What are the things that you personally are going to London to see?
Plan an itinerary of your London days, then see how much time you have left for other places/towns.
This way, you won't be disappointed.

The members of this forum can be very helpful in planning those days to get the most out of them.
Plus telling you which sights may not be worth doing.
(Buckingham Palace Changing of the Guard, for example.)

Posted by
4592 posts

I think stan is on the right track, print out a calendar and write in the stuff you want to do on each day. If need be, just take educated guesses but be realistic - don't plan on 3 churches or museums a day, only one or two. Use Rick's book for suggested sites, and take some walking tours in the city. You are probably going to have more than enough to do just in London and won't have time for outside trips.

I did a daytrip to Bath because I knew I liked the British countryside and also wanted to ride the trains. If you're on your first London trip or not, plan your time.

Posted by
91 posts

We used Evan Evans tours for 2 trips; one was to the Cotswolds and the other was a combined tour to Windsor, Stonehenge and Bath the 1st week in Oct.
The Evan Evans tour to the Cotswolds left almost an hour and a half late from their main office ; we were promised that the tour would not be shortened because of it. They lied! There was not enough time in any of the 3 towns we visited.
As for the other tour, there definitely wasn't enough time in Windsor Castle. We were told to go into the chapel to see Queen Elizabeth's grave first which was the wrong advice. We should've been told to go through the Castle first as the line to go into the Chapel first was too long. When we left the Castle which we literally had to run through, there was hardly anyone online for the Chapel and we would've gotten right in instead of wasting 45 minutes on the line.
If you want to do a combination tour, I would suggest not trying to see three sites in one day.
As others have posted, consider taking the train and exploring by yourself. However, when we stayed in London for 10 days it seemed like the railroad workers went on strike every other day.

Posted by
3821 posts

As I said in my above post, make out an itinerary for London.
Plan day-by-day what you want to do.
This will tell you how much time you have left for day trips or days to spend the night in another place (besides London)
such as Oxford or Bath.

Posted by
14249 posts

@Darkmist - Thank you for your first hand account of the day tours and particularly the combo tours. I’m sorry you didn’t find the forum ahead of time because we usually warn against them but it’s good to hear they are as awful as we all presumed they were.

Posted by
3821 posts

You could go directly to Bath from Heathrow, stay two to nights, then take the train to London. Finish out your days in London with London activities and day trips.

While in Bath, you could take a day trip to the Cotswolds and Stonehenge with Mad Max Tours.
Leave most of one day for Bath walking tour and the Roman Baths.

Best wishes and good luck planning your trip!

Posted by
5 posts

Hello everyone. Thank you for your feedback. I will have 8 full days in London. I will stay in London (in the Covent Carden area) the entire time and will do trips half or full day outside. Thinking 2-3 outside trips. I might adjust the plan and spend a night in Bath if it makes sense/more convenient for other nearby tour.

Here is a list of my top attractions so far. Will obviously need to whittle it down.

Westminster Abby
Churchill War Rooms
Tower of London
St. Paul’s Cathedral
National Gallery
British Museum
Victoria and Albert Museum
Tate Modern
Houses of Parliament (?)
British Library
Shakespeare Globe (?)
Wallace Collection

Venice Canal Path
Highgate Cemetery and Karl Marx Tomb
The Attendant
Glassblowing gallery on Bermondsey St
Strawberry Hill House
Queenhithe Mosaic
Courtauld Gallery

Liberty Department Store vs Harods (?)

Half Day or Full Day
1) Bath – seems doable as a full day trip on my own
2) Stonehenge – would it make sense to do as a half day trip on my own? Is there anything to add to the day, perhaps on my way back to London?
3) Is Avebury worth it? I’ve seen it bundled with Stonehenge as well.
4) I do love my castles, but which one or two to pick: Winsor Castle vs Hampton Court Palace vs Blenheim Palace vs Highcliffe Castle

London Walks offers the following tours. If anyone had any experience with them let me know if anything is special.
- Old Mayfair
- Kensington Royal Village
- Old Camden Town
- Ahoy! The Mayflower Village
- Hampstead Village & the Heath
- Highgate Village
- Little Venice

Finally, I will be in London during the Easter Weekend. Are there any activities that you may recommend? For example, there is a crucifixion reenactment at Trafalgar Square on April 7. I’m not religious, just interested in memorable and interesting experiences.

Posted by
2489 posts

Avebury is rather difficult to reach by public transport & north worth the effort.

You can do Stonehenge on your own. Firstly you need to get to Salisbury by train - which can be done from Bath or London (Waterloo). From Salisbury station, shuttle buses go the few miles north to Stonehenge:>https://www.thestonehengetour.info/bus-timetable/
It is well worth walking the short distance from the station to see the medieval Salisbury Cathedral - which means that travelling to Salisbury, visiting the stones and cathedral is really a full day trip.

Hampton Court, Highclear & Blenheim are really big old houses/palaces rather than proper castles. Windsor is a proper castle and be easily reached by train from London (Paddington) with a change at Slough.

Posted by
6701 posts

Stonehenge on your own is really a full day. Train to Salisbury (1 hour 45 minutes each way) then there is an hourly scheduled tour bus run by 'Salisbury Reds' from the station.
The return journey is £17, or you can buy an inclusive ticket for £34- that saves you £3 on off peak days or £12 on peak days.
Travelling independently Amesbury would be a different bus from Salisbury.

But on the tour you could stop off at Old Sarum. The bus also has an inclusive tour ticket to include Old Sarum as well. That makes a more sensible double visit for the day.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Old_Sarum.

This is the current, winter, timetable

https://passenger-line-assets.s3.eu-west-1.amazonaws.com/salisburyreds/SWWD/ST-timetable-20220905-9999d23b.pdf

I live in the UK and had never heard of Highcliffe Castle. The choice of castles is impossible. That would always be personal preference.
If doing Hampton Court I recommend going one way by train, the other way by boat along the River Thames, You can go to Richmond, Kew Gardens and all the way to Westminster.- the full boat journey is about 3 1/2 hours each way but worth every minute and every penny.
Highcliffe would be another full day. Looks very interesting- especially walking in along the coast path. I will file that one away in my thoughts.

Posted by
6701 posts

@ abissett- Did you mean Highclere or Highcliffe castle?

If Highclere you could probably do a 2 day trip there- day 1 Highclere, Day 2 Stonehenge.

Posted by
84 posts

What about a two-day to Bath and then Salisbury / Stonehenge (or the other way around)? Would that be less travel time than two individual trips?

Posted by
332 posts

Winsor Castle vs Hampton Court Palace vs Blenheim Palace vs Highcliffe Castle

If you mean Highclere and love castles the choice is easy as only Windsor is a castle.

Remember one of the great English castles is in the middle of London.

Posted by
612 posts

London Walks offers the following tours. If anyone had any experience with them let me know if anything is special.
- Old Mayfair
- Kensington Royal Village
- Old Camden Town
- Ahoy! The Mayflower Village
- Hampstead Village & the Heath
- Highgate Village
- Little Venice

Never had a bad London Walks and have done well more than a dozen. Hampstead Village and the Heath was a particular favorite. Nearby is Kenwood House if you want to visit after the walk. Also, if it’s the Sunday walk, there might be some cricket going on at the Hampstead Cricket Club. I took the bus there from Kenwood House and watched afternoon play for an hour or so.

The Citymapper app is very helpful in finding one’s way around London on public transportation or on foot.

Enjoy your visit!!

Posted by
2017 posts

I've done the last three walks and were all good. I love Hampstead and Highgate so those were particular favorites. And Little Venice is interesting but nothing like the real thing. But some of the houseboats are very nice.

I've enjoyed all the London Walks.

Posted by
27414 posts

I've done the same walks as Heather as well as one in Camden--perhaps the one you listed. MyCamden tour spent some time walking through the market area (not pausing for shopping). I thoroughly enjoyed all of the London Walks I've taken. I would caution that the Highgate walk has a rather steep uphill section near the beginning. It took a couple of my group's walkers by surprise; they really struggled.

There are walking tours offered at the Highgate Cemetery, by staff there; that was interesting, too. The tours aren't terribly frequent, so check the schedule in advance if you're interested. I don't know whether you'd need to pre-book these days. The LondonWalks tour doesn't end right at the cemetery, so it takes a few minutes to get over there. You could also just walk around the cemetery by yourself.

I often stop by London Glassblowing when I'm in London. It's a quality operation, and it's three-ring to see the actual glass blowing. Check the website tossed what, if anything, it says about what time the blowing takes place. There might be a hiatus around lunchtime, and I'm not sure about Saturday. I have walked between London Glassblowing and Borough Market, though the two aren't particularly close; check Google Maps forwalking distance and time if you're interested.

The British Museum is a monster and is usually low very crowded--especially the ground floor. Spend some time on its website to figure out which exhibitions you most want to see. There's no possibility of seeing the entire thing during the time hourly have available.

The V&A isn't quite as challenging as the British Museum, but it's another 0lace where you'll need to be selective. If you're interested in the display. collection, I highly recommend being at the museum when it opens and heading to that area immediately. That should get you 20 or so minutes nearly alone before significant traffic shows up and makes it a lot more difficult to just walk up to each showcase and see the display.

Get your ticket in zdvancefor the Churchill War Rooms. The ticketline can be an hour long, and if you showed up in the afternoon, it might be sold out for the day. The CWR has two components: the war rooms themselves (crowded, not taking long to see; audio guide available) and the Churchill Museum, which takes hours if you want to read the posted information and watch the video clips. I was at the site for over half a day. This is an expensive ticket; it's my view that it's overpriced if you're going to skip the Churchill Museum.