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Slow(er) travel - help on planning

We are in the beginning stages of planning a 3 week trip to the UK in July/August of next year. Just starting to really look at the places we want to see and it seems like we get a good circle leaving London for Canterbury - going along the coast to Cornwall and then up to Bath and back across by Highclere and Windsor.

I'm trying not to rush too much (which is why we are bypassing the swing to Scotland for a week).

Is a car our best bet on this? How do you plan your hotel stays? I don't want to always be backtracking but don't want to wear ourselves out with constant motion either. Any advice on this is welcome - I haven't had a vacation longer than 7 days ever so planning this is feeling like completely new territory.

Posted by
2186 posts

Going along what coast to Wales? I suggest you read through a lot of the past posts on this forum to gain more knowledge about Britain. Canterbury is east of London and could be done as a day trip by high speed train. Everywhere else mentioned is to the west.

Posted by
3212 posts

We drove along southern England for 2 weeks in September but didn't go further east than Salisbury. We needed a car because several of the places we visited didn't have train service or it was inconvenient. We also found the daily cost of a rental car was cheaper than what a train would have been some days.

We initially were concerned because we had some backtracking, but sometimes it can't be helped, plus when I think of the distances we traveled compared to home, it didn't seem that far.

Here's a link to my Trip Report it provides links to my hotels. We had a lot of luck with Inn's overtop of pubs.

By the way, I think Canterbury is worth a couple of days.

Posted by
7555 posts

Your geography isn’t correct.

Have you driven in the UK?

Research Premier Inns for access.

Have been to London many times. Most recently in July for Wimbledon.

Spent the entire month of November 2021 in England. Stayed with friends in the lovely Richmond neighborhood for some of the month. Also at the Richmond PI for the rest of the month.

Richmond is 25-30 minutes from the city center so not the best option for first time visitors.

Until I caught a cold, I’d venture out and discover somewhere new. Like the OAT coffee shop in Shoreditch when I went to see the wall murals.

Or finally going to Bletchley Park.

Or throughly enjoying the Classical Spectacular at the Royal Albert.

Or watching the Lord Mayor’s Parade.

Or training out to see the Crystal Park Dinosaurs.

Easy day trips by train: Cambridge, Bath, Whitsable, Rye, Windsor.

London and environs are never boring.

Posted by
5889 posts

If you haven't spent time in London, I'd suggest at least your first week there. Canterbury could be a day trip, unless you want to start there and follow the south coast all the way out to Cornwall. Britain has great rail service, but there's a tradeoff between flexibility and the cost of tickets. Cornwall is especially difficult to tour without a car. For your purposes I'd consider renting a car after London, perhaps in Canterbury, perhaps somewhere else you want to start driving that you can easily reach by train from London -- like Brighton or Portsmouth or Windsor or Salisbury, or really any suburb to the south that has car rentals. Auto Europe can help you find your starting point, and you can finish at LHR before flying home, or somewhere else.

Via Michelin is a good tool for estimating driving times, though you have to add generously for traffic and necessary stops. Just for reference, it shows about six hours' driving time from Canterbury to Penzance. While the actual time would be much longer, you can see that there would be time for multiple overnight stops, with just a couple of hours' driving on the longest days, and/or staying in base cities or towns for more than one night. No need for "constant motion," especially if you choose your stops and overnights carefully.

July and August will be busy and crowded months for sightseers, especially in places like Cornwall. I suggest reserving most accommodations well ahead, and paying for the ability to cancel on short notice if your plans change as you go. No point choosing to drive for flexibility and then limiting that flexibility by locking into room reservations.

Use one or more good guidebooks to help you figure out an itinerary. People here are most helpful when you have specific, focused questions about a particular place or issue. Have fun planning this trip.

Posted by
382 posts

Yes, Cornwall will be incredibly busy at the time of year you’re planning to visit. It becomes impossible to find anywhere to eat dinner or to park at the beaches or in the towns. It’s also very expensive to stay, to eat out and the locals are not exactly welcoming. They rely on the tourists financially but also resent them. Don’t expect charming service.

Personally I cannot be bothered with all of the above and always go to Pembrokeshire in August which is just as beautiful and nowhere near as busy. It’s also friendly. It doesn’t offer the high end luxury cottages, hotels and restaurants that Cornwall has but if that isn’t something you are fussed about I would honestly bypass Cornwall in the summer.

Posted by
6113 posts

Sorry, but another vote for Pembrokeshire over Cornwall in the summer. At least in Pembrokeshire the traffic doesn’t get grind to a halt for hours when the sun shines and you can park a car. You can look across the bay from Pembrokeshire and see the north Cornish coast, so they have similar landscapes.

Sorry. The coast will be a nightmare in July and August.

Stay in London for a week. Have a day trip by train from London to Canterbury. The coast road south of Canterbury heading west via Eastbourne, Brighton etc is always busy and slow even in winter, so hire a car when you leave London. Alternatively, stay a few nights in Canterbury - visit Dover by train from here for the castle or walk along the cliffs to the lighthouse and then hire a car.

The Kent Battle of Britain Museum in Hawkinge near Folkestone is interesting if you have an interest in WW2 for several hours and spend the afternoon in Hythe - there is a heritage railway or walk along the Royal Military Canal. Drive to St David’s for 5-6 nights, stopping at Newbury for a couple of nights to see Highclere en route.

Conclude with Bath (3 full days) and Windsor (another day).

If you do Canterbury as a day trip from London, hire a car from Heathrow then head to the New Forest for 4 nights to explore the coast and have a day trip to the Isle of Wight. Then head to St David’s before heading to Bath, Highclere and Windsor.

Posted by
2186 posts

Helen & Jennifer are correct in saying that Pembrokeshire (SW Wales) is less busy than Cornwall and also has spectacular coasts.
Tenby is the main holiday resort on the south coast of Pembrokeshire.
July and August are the main holiday months and the schools usually finish around the 3rd week of July and go back the first few days of September.
As well as hotels and chalet parks, cottages can be rented and this is just one of the agencies in Wales:>

If you state the type of accommodation you desire, people might come on with tips. (You could be a student looking for cheapo stuff or a high roller looking for 5* hotels or anything in between).

Posted by
24035 posts

The tourist office in Canterbury offered a good, inexpensive walking tour as of 2018.

I don't remember whether anyone has mentioned London Walks in this thread. It has a huge slate of walking tours. I especially like the ones that focus on a neighborhood and take you to out-of-the-way corners.

Posted by
61 posts

Thank you all! This is great feedback so far! I forget how many cities there have great walking tours. It definitely looks like we will need to hire a car once we get out of London. I have done London before and my friend has not - so they are going in first and I will join for the last couple of days for the items I want to see again or new things to me (as I only had a week so there is more to see).

I like the idea of staying in Canterbury and doing a day trip to Dover via train - it is that type of thing that we are looking for. We are not fancy hotel folks but like unique and smaller locations. Budget is lower trying to stay under 100 pounds per night overall but on my research that seems totally doable.

Cornwall doesn't have a lot on our must do list - so we may turn north at Southampton and head up to Highclere from there or vice versa - just to avoid some of the crowds.

Posted by
6113 posts

If it doesn’t have to be Cornwall, then try for a shorter route and explore places better. Possible locations - Leeds Castle, Sissinghurst gardens (plus many other National Trust places), Rye, Battle (Battle of Hastings), Brighton, Lewes, Arundel, Petworth, Chichester, Portsmouth, the New Forest, Winchester, Highclere and Windsor.

With costs rising rapidly here, you will probably find a Premier Inn for your budget if you book well in advance, but not a twee B&B. The B&B down the road from me in a small village nowhere near the coast or major tourist attractions currently charges £130 a night for double occupancy. If our double digit inflation continues, then that figure is likely to be higher next year.

Scottish schools have the whole of July off and my old school starts their summer recess 12 July 2023, albeit many aren’t off until the third week of July. Prices usually rise in school holidays as demand soars.