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South England best touring base?

First time poster. :) Would appreciate suggestions on itinerary and best touring bases for southern England. DH and I planning 13 day trip in Aug 2021.

Arrive Manchester
Liverpool 2-3 nights (Beatles, Beatles, Beatles)
Bath 4 nights (day trips Highclere castle, Wells & Glastonbury)
Dartmoor 2 nights (hiking)

Then ???? we hit a blank spot. With 4-5 nights left we want to explore the SE. Possible places of interest include Canterbury, Dover, Rye, Sissinghurst Garden, Salisbury, Portsmouth, Hever Castle, Hasting, Ton Bridge, Chichester etc. Basically every place RS mentions and then some. lol Not expecting to see all of these, just trying to string together a reasonable slow paced itinerary.

1 - Best base if we rent a car? Want some place charming and quaint.
2- Best base if we do NOT rent a car? Would still like charming but would need transpo connections.
3 - Good launching point out of England into France? Next stop is Colmar France. Ferry from Portsmouth? Chunnel near Dover? Swim the English Channel? Fly?
4 - Input on itinerary would be most welcome!

Thank you in advance for your help!

Posted by
3714 posts

 3. London. Or somewhere close to Ebbsfleet or Ashford stations if Eurostar resumes stopping there. But Dover can also be an option.

Posted by
6822 posts

I’m confused.

Why have you chosen to fly into Manchester? Then head to Bath, then Liverpool? Then to Dartmoor?

Have you calculated travel time by car or public transport to all of the locales.

Please take a moment to look at a map of England. The itinerary needs to be readjusted.

You’ve listed far too many places to try to visit.

More importantly you need to do further post Covid research ….

Posted by
2953 posts

In asking what to do after Dartmoor, you don't mention Cornwall. That might be my preference since you're that far to the southwest. If you did choose Cornwall you'd want a rental car. But I understand you're more interested in the southeast. No doubt others will have some great suggestions for you.

Also . . . Just loving your Beatles enthusiasm! We only got to spend a day in Liverpool, but managed to have a blast visiting the Beatles Experience museum at the Albert Dock, taking the Magical Mystery Tour bus, using our bus tickets for entry to the rebuilt Cavern Club (which BTW serves only beverages, no food), and then having a late-late lunch from the "Any Time At All" menu in the Hard Day's Night Hotel. Gives me goosebumps just remembering!

Posted by
1989 posts

Looks to me like you are trying to cover too much ground for the time available. Your 13 days could easily be taken up in the UK alone.

If you are landing in Manchester and then heading to Liverpool, the next place of interest to visit would be nearby Chester. The most obvious way to go from Chester is west into Wales with perhaps Conwy (Conway) and Llandudno being next places to see.

If in the Llandudno area - visit Bodnant Gardens. The Snowdonia National Park is nearby.>

Dartmoor is OK but Wales is far better. See:>

Don't forget to check out the Wales forum on RS. Once you reach south Wales - should you decide to visit Wales - Bath would then be easily reachable.

Posted by
5971 posts

Do you suffer from jet lag? If so, you may want 3 nights in Liverpool or 4 if you also want to visit Chester.

I would then head to Wales for 2 days of hiking, not Dartmoor. As we are all taking staycations this year, bookings for Devon and Cornwall have rocketed, so as you propose travelling in the peak school holiday season, these would be 2 counties that I would avoid.

Wells is charming, but unless you are into alternative lifestyles, I would give Glastonbury a wide berth as it’s tourist tacky.

Highclere is half way to London from Bath and you want to see the south east, see this en route rather than doubling back.

I would pick a base in the villages around the Tunbridge Wells area for the places you have listed. There is a quaint B&B in the village I live in (I have no connection with the business) - which is a few miles from Tunbridge Wells, but set amongst apple orchards and a vineyard. Tonbridge, Tonbridge Wells, Rye, Sissinghurst, Hever, Hastings and Canterbury are all within an hour’s drive. Dover and Canterbury can be reached by train from nearby Paddock Wood.

Wherever you stay, to cover such a range of destinations, a car is going to be easier than using public transport.

I would fly to France as the tunnel (Chunnel isn’t a phrase used here - half the population wouldn’t know what you were talking about) would only get you to Paris.

At present, you can’t travel from the U.K. to France without quarantining.

Posted by
5997 posts

We loved Bath, as well as the Cotswolds (which you are ignoring). Spend a day there, we stayed at Chipping Campden. Your are going to Chichester, that is good. Salisbury is great to see the Cathedral and Magna Carta. Are you skipping Stonehenge?

Oxford and Blenheim Palace are worth visiting and Stratford Upon Avon is amazing.

Winchester is worth a day.

Consider staying at the Brooks Guesthouse in Bath and the fantastic fish and chips at the nearby Scallop Shell Restaurant.

Posted by
3419 posts

Salisbury could be done as a day trip from Bath. Mad Max also has some good day/half-day tours of the surrounding area, including Cotswolds, Avebury, Stonehenge.

Posted by
19 posts

Thank you for all the positive replies! Your input on revised itin below would be most appreciated! Right now our trip is 26 days (13 in England 13 in France). August 18-Sept 14.

Quick note:
- we are double vaxed
- we have and will continue to track the ever changing COVID restrictions. We see UK into France requires 7 day quarantine. If this is still the case by our trip date of Aug 18 we would postpone our trip or not do two countries (England AND France). We would pick one or the other. Our hope is that this restriction will ease in the next two months.
- we understand Boris Johnson has said he expects UK restrictions to be lifted as of July 19. Our hope would be at that point USA would be a "green light" country. If this is not the case, again, we would cx/resched our trip.
- because we are using frequent flier miles and only booking refundable lodgings we have the flexibility to adjust last minute.

We have been to England a couple of times (have seen a lot of London and some of the Cotswolds (Chipping Camden, Stow-on-the Wold), also Stonehenge & Avebury, Stratford-on-Avon, Warwick Castle). Our goal this trip was to a) relax, slow down, savor b) see new sites c) longer stays in each location d) try to avoid crowds.

Arrive Manchester
Liverpool 4 nights (Beatles, Beatles, Beatles yeah yeah yeah!)
- Private Beatles tour - any suggestions?
- John & Paul House - Nat Trust Tour
- Beatles Experience Museum (Albert Dock)
- Cavern Club
- Beatles Museum (next to Cavern Club)
- meal at Hard Day's Night Hotel "Any Time at All Menu" (thanks epltd!)
- other Liverpool sites, possible side trip to Chester or North Wales (thx Jennifer and James!)

Oxford 4 nights
- Oxford
- day trip: Blenheim Palace
- day trip: Highclere Castle
- rent a car for Cotswolds (parts we haven't seen - thanks geovagriffith!))

Bath 4 nights
- Bath
- day trip: Mad Max cheddar gorge/Wells
- day trip: Mad Max? Salisbury Cathedral (thx Cala!), possibly Portsmouth for naval history
(thx for Brooks Guesthouse and Scallop Shell rest rec!)

  • VISIT HIGHCLERE CASTLE! - either from Bath or Oxford. Thoughts which would be better?

Bristol 1 night
- fly to Strasbourg France (thx Badger & epltd) no "chunnel" for us!

Thinking the far east (Canterbury, Dover, Rye, Hever, Hastings, Canterbury) and southern coast will have to wait for another trip. Thx for Tunbridge Wells suggestion. Will remember for our next trip!

1 - Does above itin look "do-able"?
2 - Other thoughts/suggestions?

"In asking what to do after Dartmoor, you don't mention Cornwall. That might be my preference since you're that far to the southwest. If you did choose Cornwall you'd want a rental car." Thx epltd - makes sense. We'll shelf Dartmoor/Cornwall for another time.

Thanks again to everyone for your help! Planning a trip can be so overwhelming. One's head starts acting like an echo chamber!
Wishing everyone safety, health and good travels!

Posted by
28820 posts

we understand Boris Johnson has said he expects UK restrictions to be lifted as of July 19. Our hope would be at that point USA would be a "green light" country. If this is not the case, again, we would cx/resched our trip.

just mentioning that the red/amber/green list covid testing and quarantine programme is separate from the emerging from lockdown lifting of domestic restrictions. The two are reviewed on different schedules and follow different criteria.

Today the new review of the red/amber/green lists was announced with a small handful of islands added to green and several additional countries added to red.

With our covid case numbers shooting through the roof I saw a government minister say for the first time that the July date may not be definite. Unusual for this government.

Or it may change for the better,

Posted by
21992 posts

There's a lot to see and do in Oxford; if you want to slow things down, I believe you may be a day short there.

Posted by
129 posts

I actually thought your original schedule was doable. But you said relaxed, so your 2nd schedule is better for that. and looks great! We did a 12 day trip to England a few years ago. NO car. Used trains. Flew into Manchester and straight to Liverpool. I found 2 nights in Liverpool to be enough. It was Beatles for us too! We did the National Trust ahead...and it was amazing. Also went to Cavern Club. And the Magical Mystery Tour. And the Tate Modern . We loved Liverpool but it's a party town. We liked being back at the hotel by 11 because the drunkenness.. pretty impressive.

Then we took a train to London and caught an overnight train to Cornwell (we have family there) and did 3 nights in Cornwall. Then train to Bath for 3 nights. Took a Stonehenge and Laycock bus trip while we were there. Then train to London and 4 nights there.


Posted by
58 posts

Hi Susan,

I'm an American who lives in the UK so here's my quick two cents: if it is a priority to you to avoid crowds, I would recommend avoiding coming to the UK in August, especially this August. The way the school system works here is that all the kids in England have their summer break the same six weeks- late July through the very beginning of September. And because of all the covid stuff this year, hardly any families will be traveling abroad. So that means lots of English folk will be swarming all the attractions. I guess you could argue that since not many foreigners will be in the UK, that that will balance things out, but who knows. If you have some leeway in your schedule, I would really recommend coming in September as school will be back in session and places will be quieter.

Good luck!


Posted by
4843 posts

I'd echo what Kate said. Plus, visiting in September will mean the weather will be better because Sod's Law dictates that when the British want to holiday at home it will inevitably rain.

Posted by
19 posts

Thank you very much for the helpful responses. My DH and I are pondering everything and will keep an eye on covid updates. So many factors to consider. Thanks again!