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SE England itinerary, still in progress

Wow, is it fun to be planning itineraries again. I thought I'd invite you inside my head and post my current plan and the thoughts that went into it. My wife Carla and I both love history and get a lot of historical refences and trip ideas from historical fiction and TV/movies. I love castles, she tolerates the 8 year old boy in me when I'm in a castle. We both enjoy museums, but she can spend more time looking at everything. I'm the hyper one and bounce from display to display, but absorb everything. She loves Roman history, I love English history.

This itinerary is a work in progress, but we want to book hotels asap as neither of us are spur-of-the-moment types. Feel free to help us plan with your suggestions.

Day 1
Arrive at Gatwick 10:30am. Initially we were going to take a train to Portsmouth and stay near the Historic Dockyard for 4 or 5 days and make day trips via train from there, but after looking at the cost of those trains, we decided it makes more sense to get a car from the get-go. However, I'll follow the advice of others and not drive that first day. Instead we're going to take a train to Brighton and spend the day. It wasn't on the list, but it looks like a quick and convenient train ride. Thinking of a room with a view at the Grand Brighton. It's more than I typically like to spend on a hotel, but it's a happy wife happy life compromise.

Day 2
8 year old boy day. Back to Gatwick to get a car and drive to Arundel Castle (Is it aRUNdel or AIRendale?). Spend the night at the White Swan. We stayed at a Pub and Inn in the Cotswolds in 2017 and enjoyed it. Going to give it a try again.

Day 3
Fishbourne Palace in Chichester-a Roman Villa. We realized it was going to be a sprint to do Arundel and Fishbourne on the same day, so Fishbourne first thing in the AM. Heading to Salisbury later in the day.

Day 4-6
Stonehenge, Sarum, Avebury, Salisbury Cathedral. Haven't figured out an order yet, but I notice that there are special access tours at Stonehenge at 6:30 in the morning. Going to sign up for that. Salisbury has some blue badge guides that offer tours of the city for £6. We love these types of walking tours. Haven't decided on a hotel yet.

Day 7
Portsmouth Historic Dockyard. This will be a Sunday. We decided driving into Portsmouth would be easier that day. Looking forward to HMS Victory and the Mary Rose; if I can't have a castle, give me a ship with a cannon, Carla; not so much. There seems to be plenty to see and do and I think she'll be pleasantly surprised. Heading to Winchester to stay the night.

Day 8
Winchester. I'm a big fan of the Last Kingdom books and then the TV series. Carla is a big fan of the guy who plays Uhtred on the TV series. It's the book series that got me interested in the time period and so this entire trip was initially based on a visit here. But after our preliminary research, we decided Salisbury made more sense. We'll spend the day looking for signs of King Alfred. We are staying at his place; King Alfred Pub and Guesthouse.

Day 9-10
Heading toward Sussex; Lewes Castle, Bodiam Castle, drive along the coast, Beachy Head, Hastings, Rye, Lewes. We don't really have a solid plan yet or what we will cut out, or even a home base for 2 nights. I think these will be the lazy days of the trip and we'll just drive until we see something we like. Except for the hotel, that needs to be booked.

Day 10-15
Stay in Canterbury, the cathedral, Leeds Castle, a full day in Dover. Canterbury was inspired by my favourite sports Movie; A Knight's Tale. Geoffrey Chaucer is one of the characters-does anyone else picture Paul Bettany when they think of Chaucer? The movie doesn't take place in Canterbury but it started my interest in Chaucer and thus, Canterbury. Day 15 is a drive to Gatwick for our flight home at 1:30.

What do you think? Help us plan.

Posted by
12596 posts

Too many one nighters. It also seems there's a lot of backtracking. Try to plan things in one direction going in a circle route.

Print a map of the area then draw your routing. See if you can re-do it without too much criss crossing.

You could then take the map and circle the places you want to visit. Rather than constantly changing hotels, it may make sense to stay longer in one place.

Posted by
23088 posts

A few years ago I spent several nights in Brighton and day tripped to both Lewes and Arundel--one by bus and one by train, I think. I don't know whether it would make your path more efficient to try that; I haven't checked the location of your other stops on a map. It might not reduce your car-rental costs since it looks like you're sitting right at two weeks now, and I know a five-day rental in the US costs as much a one-week rental.

Posted by
14089 posts

As soon as you said the word Stonehenge I wanted to recommend the Inner Circle early morning tours, but I see you already are planning on that.

I don’t know your travel style, but for Salisbury, I suggest you take a look at the Red Lion, an historic hotel in the town centre.

That large attic room shown on the main page is a suite known as the Seamstress room; we have booked it twice but had to cancel both times. I still want to get there. . . . It was not too expensive for the March dates I booked previously booked, but if it is too high for your dates, their standard rooms look very nice too.

Posted by
131 posts

Hi Allan, why go back to Gatwick to collect the car, can’t you pick it up in Brighton? And if you get a chance, Rye is a lovely small town, well worth the visit. Hastings, not so much. (And btw, it’s “AH-rundel”)

Posted by
4939 posts

Back to Gatwick to get a car and drive to Arundel Castle (Is it aRUNdel or AIRendale?)

Why not pick up a car at Brighton rather than trudge all the way back to Gatwick? Arundel (pronounced Arundle with the 'A' prounounced the same as in hatchet) is en route from Brighton to Chichester and makes logisitcal sense.

Reaching the Historic Dockyard is quite easy from the motorway but careful attention needs to be paid because of the number of lanes and roundabouts however if you do take the wrong turning it's difficult to get lost and you'll quickly be able to find yourself back on track. Don't assume Sundays will be quieter, the weekends are busy with visitors to Gunwharf who will all be heading in the same direction as you.

Posted by
3015 posts

Too many one nighters. It also seems there's a lot of backtracking.
Try to plan things in one direction going in a circle route.

?. There are only 2 one nighters over 2 weeks; the first day because I don't want to pick up a car after an overnight flight, so a quick half hour train to Brighton so we don't waste a day. The 2nd is on the 2nd day in Arundel. The plan was to start in Salisbury and work our way east. However that would have put us in Arundel on a Monday and unfortunately, the castle is closed Mondays. Thus, getting there on our way to Salisbury- it adds about 20 extra minutes compared to a direct commute to Salisbury. We chose to hit Portsmouth ahead of Winchester to avoid driving in a larger city during rush hour on a weekday-it will be Sunday. It's only a 45 minute drive to circle back to Winchester from Portsmouth. Not much longer than my commute to work.

Posted by
3015 posts

why go back to Gatwick to collect the car, can’t you pick it up in

We looked at that but there's not a lot of options. Also considered picking it up in Southampton, but since the commute time from Brighton to Gatwick is so short and cheap, it makes life easier to get it from there.

Posted by
3015 posts

I suggest you take a look at the Red Lion, an historic hotel in the
town centre.

Thanks Lola, that hotel ticks a lot of boxes. Previously, at first glance I had dismissed it because it was a chain hotel and we prefer botiquey type in the middle of down. It seems to be a bit of both.

Price wise, we're all over the map, I tend to focus on a combination of price and location because we tend to spend very little time in our room, while Carla would happily seek out a Ritz. She's been spoiled by 5-star conference resorts.

Posted by
2573 posts

A second for the Red Lion. Yes, it’s a Best Western but doesn’t look or feel anything like a chain.

Posted by
5787 posts

Obviously you've thought this out carefully and it looks good to me. My 8-year-old boy would like to come along!

You already know this, but the drive from Canterbury to GTW will likely take at least two hours, and you want to be there by 10:30 for your international flight, plus car return time, so it will be an early morning that day. Since you'll have been in Canterbury several nights, you might consider spending the final night closer to the airport. Sevenoaks is close to Knole, one of England's great country houses, and Sissinghurst gardens are somewhere in that vicinity too. If I were doing this trip, I'd probably spend the final night at or very close to GTW and line up my Covid test for the final morning. But I may be over-cautions about the risk of missing a flight.

Posted by
1750 posts

Another vote for the Red Lion Inn in Salisbury. Parts of it are so old that some of the mason apprentices stayed there when the cathedral was under construction. However, I must warn you that inn has the tightest parking places (the old stables under the inn) we have ever encountered. The manager came down and parked our car for us! We have stayed at several "Best Western" hotels in the UK. They were not chain hotels like in the US - the ones we stayed at were historic. Perhaps it is some sort of franchising thing in the UK?

Other suggestions: try to add Avebury if you are doing the sunrise tour of Stonehenge - it is not very far away. On the eastern end of your trip consider adding Hever Castle (Anne Boleyn's childhood home) and Ightham Mote. If you decide to visit Ightham Mote. you or Carla might enjoy reading an old novel which is set there: Green Darkness by Anya Seton. We enjoyed Hastings waterfront and nearby Battle Abbey where the famous battle actually happened. We had an excellent audio guide as we walked around the battlefield which told the story from three different viewpoints. We weren't fans of Canterbury except for the cathedral.

Posted by
470 posts

Best Western Hotels in UK are independent hotels, its just a marketing association

Posted by
3015 posts

I'd probably spend the final night at or very close to GTW and line up
my Covid test for the final morning.

I'm glad you brought that up, it's something I forgot to consider. Currently, Canada requires a PCR test for re-entry. Looking at options at Gatwick it appears they guarantee a turnaround by 10pm the next day. That may mean I'd have to arrive back at Gatwick on day 13. A quick search and I'm not seeing a PCR option in Canterbury for non residents. I can cross my fingers it's no longer a requirement by then, but I've got to plan for what I know.

Posted by
3015 posts

Thanks for the tip Nigel. It appears Boots doesn't offer testing options to leave the country. However I did find a helpful website called Covid Testing Network
The closest to Canterbury that I could find a testing place is in Folkstone or Maidstone. At least I now know I have options. Hopefully Canada comes to its senses by then and loosens its restrictions. A PCR test will cost £129 = $224 Canadian x 2.

Posted by
2729 posts

If you need a place to stay in Canterbury I know of a great B&B, and they have a small parking lot in the back.

Posted by
3015 posts

Robin, yes I do still need a place to stay in Canterbury.

Posted by
1018 posts

If you have chance, don't miss the Royal Pavilion in Brighton - it is Regency Bling at its best and is absolutely wonderful.

Posted by
4932 posts

In Canterbury we stayed at Millers Arms Hotel. We liked it but would have preferred a room on the front side of the hotel. We got the odors from kitchen in our room on the rear side of the hotel. I can’t remember where we parked.

Posted by
763 posts

This looks like a great trip! I’m a cathedral nut and you’re going to hit 3 great ones. Don’t miss seeing the Salisbury “attic” tour where you get to see the vaults from above and climb the steeple. Reserve in advance. If you are interested in the Magna Carta (you can see one of the 4 copies in Salisbury), read the book by Dan Jones about the Magna Carta. We saw all 4 copies of the M.C. in 2015 which was very cool.

Posted by
12596 posts

Boots does do testing to return to Canada. I did a return test (for the USA) at Boots 3 weeks ago. Go to this page:

and scroll down to where you start seeing the choices of test. Then scroll to the right. It's hidden. They have both PCR and antigen testing.

Posted by
3015 posts

Thanks Frank, turns out it's a much easier website to navigate on my laptop than on my phone. I also found a PCR test I can buy at home and take with me that meets Canadian requirements.