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Salisbury or Bath?

If you had to choose between a day trip from London to Salisbury/Stonehenge or Bath/Stonehenge, which one would you choose? I'm thinking I won't have time for us to do both Salisbury and Bath in one day.

Posted by
4042 posts

Salisbury and Stonehenge are closer to each other than Bath and Stonehenge are to each other. That will be a consideration if you are driving. If not driving, then search for tours from London to each combination. And then check for tours to Stonehenge from both Salisbury and Bath. That should give you a good idea of the logistics and how they will work with your time frame. Although I love Bath, logistically I think I'd opt for the Salisbury combination regardless of other considerations.

Posted by
5591 posts

Both choices are equally good. If you think you’ll only have the opportunity to visit Bath on this occasion, then I’d choose it only because there are many towns in the UK similar to Salisbury and its cathedral. The big draw in Bath is the old and well preserved Roman bath. If you’ve seen a Roman bath someplace else, then go to Salisbury. You can't Lose with either choice.

Posted by
6084 posts

Good advice above. My vote would be for Salisbury as closer to London, closer to Stonehenge, and having a very special cathedral (they're not all alike you know). You can get there on the train and get a bus from the station to Stonehenge and return.

You're right, don't try to do both cities in one day, that way madness lies.

Posted by
12575 posts

I'd agree that if you are going to include Stonehenge, the Salisbury would be my choice.

The excellent public transport from the RR station out to Stonehenge is very easy and runs a loop all day. You can buy a combo ticket from the bus driver for entry to Stonehenge and Salisbury Cathedral and of course it includes R/T transportation out to the stones, back by Old Sarum and then to Salisbury. There is some recorded commentary on the bus regarding Stonehenge and the outside of the bus says "The Stonehenge Tour" even though it is not guided other than the brief commentary. I very much enjoy Salisbury Cathedral which holds a Magna Carta as well as a smaller museum across the Close from the West cathedral doors. The city center area has a very interesting church, St Thomas, with a Doom fresco. It was built for the workers who were building the Cathedral.

I love Bath but Stonehenge will be harder to see from there. I love Bath for the Roman Baths as mentioned but also for the beautiful Georgian architecture in town. Very cool. Bath Abbey is neat, The Royal Crescent (a line of Georgian homes), the Circle (a circle of Georgian homes, the neat museum at #1 Royal Crescent of a refurbished Georgian townhome. Lots of Jane Austen references if anyone is a JA or Regency literature fan.

Can you tell I enjoy both?

Posted by
3102 posts

I agree, Salisbury - Stonehenge makes a much better day trip from London. If you chose the Bath option, you'd have less time to enjoy and explore each stop because there would be so much time spent on the bus.

Posted by
8 posts

Thanks to all for the advice. Very helpful. Another related question, then: Is it generally better to book an all-inclusive bus tour from London, or take a train to Salisbury or Bath (leaning toward Salisbury at this point) ourselves and depart from there for a tour of Stonehenge? This would be for my family of five, with kids ages 15, 12 and 9.

I've done some initial searching of tours and prices for both options, but I was just curious if some of you UK travel veterans have a strong opinion one way or the other.

Posted by
109 posts

With a 9 year old in tow and possibly relevant for the 12 year old as well, I would choose Bath over Salisbury. (Only going on my experience of my own children) I would imagine that the Roman Baths will hold more interest for them than the sites in Salisbury. Also there’s a fantastic playground in Victoria park in Bath (just below the crescent) which may be a good place for your 9 year old to let off steam (may also be enjoyed by the 12 year old but they’d never admit it!) and a good place for a picnic. In my mind there’s nothing worse than dragging cranky kids around historical sites/churches that they usually have little appreciation of. Obviously you know your kids better than any one else. Why Salisbury? Why Bath?
Also IMO Stonehenge is fantastic if you have an interest in prehistoric sites but if it’s just to tick it off a list I would spend your precious time enjoying somewhere else at a slightly more leisurely pace.

Posted by
6996 posts

Save Bath for another trip and when you do go to Wells, Glastonberry and Avebury as well.

The cathedral at Salisbury has one of the two originals of the Magna Carta. Also, it is a lot closer. You probably have at least a two hour auto ride from Stonehenge to Bath.

Posted by
1316 posts

I'd skip Stonehenge and spend the day in Salisbury. The cathedral is excellent.

Posted by
12575 posts

As far as an all-inclusive trip to either Salisbury or Bath, both are very easy to get to by train from London. While I love multi-day tours like Rick's, and have taken one day tours (for example Mad Max tours out of Bath for a day), with kids I'd go on my own.

If you do go out to Stonehenge on the double decker bus (try to sit upstairs!) there is a small recreated village to show how the workers lived as well as a mock up of how they might have moved the stones. BTW, the Visitor Center has a fairly decent cafe so it'll be a good place for lunch.

Meanwhile, the audio guides in the Roman Baths have a kids track (yes, I've listened to and enjoyed it!) that is fun.

Posted by
6084 posts

To answer Tworth's last question, I'd say go on your own, not with a package tour from London. Easy to manage a train from London and the bus from Salisbury station to Stonehenge. If you're on a group tour and the kids don't like it you're stuck, but on your own you're flexible. I think you can get a docent-led tour of Salisbury Cathedral which might be more interesting for the kids than doing it on your own -- or not, but the investment is minimal if you decide to break away. There's a neat model showing the building of the cathedral, and the pillars at the crossing are a little out of whack, also entertaining.

I haven't been to Stonehenge in many years but I understand the visitor center is very interesting.

As for Bath, it's true that the Roman baths might interest the kids more than other sights. Bath Abbey is a great example of late Gothic, quite different from Salisbury.

Magna Carta? Well, take a look but don't expect the young'uns to get very excited! ;-)

Posted by
54 posts

Another vote for Salisbury and Stonehenge. I love cathedrals and Salisbury is wonderful. Don't forget to walk to the top! I have to admit, I was much more impressed with Stonehenge that anticipated. Yes, it's just a pile of big rocks, but it was strangely affecting.

Posted by
378 posts

Just went via train in July with teens. Definikty diy for cost savings as your own timing. Get group train tickets in advance for much lower pricing. At least 6 weeks out. The Stonehenge tour bus is right at the very small Salisbury station and gives family pricing. You skip the line for tickets and just get on the shuttle bus to the stones. Come back and then go to the museum. There is a nice cafeteria where you can get food and drinks. It perfectly ok to pack a lunch and use inside or outside tables.
Then take bus back to center of town and it’s a quick walk to the cathedral.
For fun , make up a scavenger hunt prior to going to cathedral. Such as find the tomb of xxx. How many different flags are there etc. I did this for various places when my kids were 9-13 and they loved it.
Then stop at the fudge shop right at the gates between cathedral and city befrie getting on bus to return. Lots of fun places to peek in in Salisbury. It was a medieval merchants place. I suggest early dinner before. returning to L.