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Southwestern England, inclusive of Windsor, Oxford, Cotswolds & cathedral towns?

This is a question for the Community as well as Rick+staff for post-COVID travel...

My wife and I have traveled a lot (numerous cruises, plus a fantastic CIE tour of Ireland about 10 years ago). We've also toured London and visited good friends in Norwich. As part of a business trip, I've personally toured Windsor Castle, Stonehenge, and Bath and want to include those 3 locations in a return visit with my wife that would also include Oxford+Blenheim Palace, the Coswolds, and cathedral towns of Winchester, Salisbury, Canterbury, and Exeter. We would like to take a Rick Steves tour.

I like the fact that Rick Steves' "Villages of South England in 13 Days" tour also visits Dover (I remember the Rick Steve's Europe episode), Portsmouth with its historic waterfront and ships, Cornwall, Tintagel Castle, plus pasty and stained-glass demonstrations along the way -- providing a better-rounded tour. I wish that tour were amended slightly or made longer to include Oxford, the Cotswolds, and one or two of the other cathedral towns. Then there's Wales.! What to do??

Open to any and all suggestions. Thx!

Posted by
6705 posts

Well, many folks here on the Forum combine a RS tour with time on their own before and/or after their tour.

So, depending on your available vacation time, you could do the RS tour, which finishes after breakfast the last morning, then build your own mini-tour for the days after.

Posted by
16869 posts

Some tour members with more time will book two tours back-to-back, with Rick Steves Best of England and Wales starting at the same hotel in Bath and taking care of several more stops on your list. Unfortunately, you can’t read the details of that route online right now. As the fall 2020 departures have been cancelled, the whole web page for the tour “fell off.” (The southern itinerary is still online because it departs later, into October.)

Posted by
1272 posts

You wrote Plymouth, but I assume (and hope), it's going to Portsmouth rather than Plymouth. Both places are seaside dumps, but Portsmouth at least has the famous ships.

A tour called "Villages of..." isn't likely to be cathedral heavy by definition and the existing itinerary already seems to be taking a pretty relaxed view of what counts as a "village". But if you end in Bath, then you've got a fairly easy route back to Heathrow that takes in the Cotswolds, Oxford & Windsor in a straightish line; so you could add those post-tour yourself without great difficulty. Winchester wouldn't be out of the question either, assuming you have enough free time, since all these are in roughly the same part of the country. However, since you've been to these places before, have you considered moving to another region entirely after the tour, such as going to York and then heading out from there? Plenty of cathedrals, villages and countryside in that part of England too, mostly better than what's in the South as well. It really depends how much extra time you have and to some extent, if you want another coach tour or will be content to "DIY" using public transport / hire car.

Posted by
8413 posts

Yes, Villages of Southern England goes to Portsmouth and you are able to spend a few hours at the Portsmouth Historic Dockyard. That place is SO interesting!

As you can tell, I've done the Villages tour and I've done the Best of England tour although not back to back. I've also done several different programs with Road Scholar that covered some of your wants.

Here's a breakdown:

Villages - Canterbury, Dover, Salisbury, Stonehenge, Cornwall, Tintagel, pasty making (blech) and stained glass demo (which was fantastic!). Also included a Mine tour and the Lanhydrock garden tour as well as a day seeing Neolithic sites on Dartmoor

Best of England - 2 nights in the Cotswolds, Blenheim Palace (but not Oxford). 2 nights in Wales (not enough but it's a taster of an itinerary) plus it starts in Bath which is one of my favorite cities.

Road Scholar Cornwall - Cornwall, of course and Exeter Cathedral. Also included both a Mine tour and a tour of the China Clay pits and museum at Wheal Martyn, Lost Gardens of Heligan, Neolithic sites on Dartmoor but different ones than on the RS tour.

Road Scholar hiking program that's changed a bit now - Winchester

Road Scholar Wales - Pembrokeshire and Carmarthenshire. The itinerary has changed a little but it looks like the same Welshman is leading it.

None of the tours included Windsor Castle but that is so easy to do as a day trip from London that you can do it on your own.

I've been so impressed with the way Rick has responded to the Covid crisis. He is ethical and has been upfront with his customer base.

Although I've enjoyed my programs with Road Scholar- similar educational focus and small groups - I'm not so impressed with Road Scholar's response to the Covid crisis. They first refused refunds on trips they cancelled but were then pressured in to making them. Now I'm getting begging letters weekly from them asking for donations (they are a non-profit) or for me to set up a Crowdfunding site to raise money for them. I'm not sure what nitwit thought of that plan but it's pathetic. I suspect I will travel with them again but I'll not book real far ahead and I'll only book what I think I can lose either on it's own or with trip insurance.

I do not think you are going to get everything you want in one tour or one trip. You can certainly piece things together before or after a Rick Steves tour. Anything you can't see on your next trip you can put on your "to-do" list!

Posted by
4944 posts

We love Britain and all the places you mentioned in your narrative.

We did Windsor Castle, Stonehenge, Salisbury and Avebury six years ago, then in 2017 did a four week drive tour in S. Wales and England that was wonderful.

We drove to Bath for three nights, then on to Wales for five nights, visiting Cardiff, Tenby, St. Davids and several castles as well as Tintern Abbey.

Then back to England, where we used Chipping Camden as a base to visit the Cotswolds ( 2 days), Oxford, Blenheim Palace and Stratford Upon Avon.

Cardiff is worth a couple of days, visiting the castle as well as nearby castles. Also, visit the Museum of Welsh Life. Tenby is a historic town, very scenic port. St. David's is near the SW tip of Wales and loaded with history. Check the internet for castles in Wales, they are everywhere.

Posted by
3 posts

Kim, Laura, Nick, Pam, George: Thanks for your thoughtful replies. Much appreciated. Nick, I fixed the typo (Portsmouth; had been working on family ancestry, hence the slipped synapse!). Great detail, Pam, on RS vs. Road Scholar. George, if you don't mind I'll message your directly on your driving tour into Wales. BTW, I went with our sons when the youngest graduated from college on a "Father & Sons" trip by train from Edinburgh - York - London - Paris - Amsterdam and agree that York is well work the visit!

Posted by
16869 posts

FYI, 2021 Rick Steves Tour itineraries are now online, though not yet with dates.

Posted by
3309 posts

I sent you a PM with our Wales trip driving itinerary. As it was our 2nd time in Wales, some places George mentioned we had already visited. In the Cotswolds (that we had been to a few times previously) we based ourselves in Stratford Upon Avon, but only went to Lower Slaughter and Stow on Wold.

Posted by
6753 posts

Visit the cathedral towns on your own before or after your RS Tour.

Posted by
1915 posts

I just read the itinerary for that RS tour it it looks fantastic. Are you OK with driving? You can rent a car in Bath and hit some of those spots after your tour.