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The Roads From Bath to York

We are traveling to England mid October. We have a limited amount of time - 9 days - our plan is to fly into London, pick up our daughter who is in school there, and head to Bath. After spending a few days in Bath we will drive directly to York for another few days. Then on to Cambridge, and finally back to London. There are 4 of us. A few questions:
1 - Should we rent a car in London area and drive to Bath or catch a train from London to Bath and then rent a car in Bath?
2 - We plan on doing the trip from Bath to York in 1 day, and it looks like it is a 5 hour drive. Are the roads we would normally take a picturesque drive? We know going through the Cotswold's will be gorgeous, but how about after that? We are hoping it is not a typical United States Interstate type drive, what are your thoughts?
Thanks for your thoughts and opinions on the road system!

Posted by
359 posts

I would take a train to Bath and then pick up the car. That way you don't have to navigate London driving on the left side if the road! Plus it's easy to get to Bath by rail.

Posted by
10 posts

Another option recommended by Rick is to take the National Express bus from Heathrow to Bath. It worked out fine for us several years ago. You will not need a car in Bath and one is not recommended. Rather than a car in Bath, we took the Mad Max minibus tour which took us to Stonehenge, Lacock, castle Combe and Avebury. The ladies loved the Pump Room and Thermae Bath Spa.

As far as the trip to York, 5 hours has to be on the motorway. I am sure there are more scenic routes but if you want to get to York and enjoy its sights, that's probably the way to do it.

Posted by
4535 posts

We did about the same thing, and rented the car in Bath. Unless you want to make stops along the way to Bath, that makes more sense. We took two days to drive to York, stopping at Stonehenge, Avebury and some Cotswold towns with an overnight in Strafford Upon Avon. That took a full day and was a scenic drive. The next day we got an early-ish start and were in York by lunch, but traveling almost all on the dual carriageway. So you could make the drive all in one day, but won't see much. If possible, consider an overnight in between and take a night from Bath (you can see everything in two days easy).

Posted by
2494 posts

If you enjoy driving on Interstates, do your planned route from Bath to York and then Cambridge because you will basically have the English equivalent. http://www.theaa.com/route-planner/index.jsp (Follow route on Google Earth & you will see what I mean). It seems to me that you are just doing these places because they are known to you. You will not really have time to go wandering around the Cotswolds as a detour from the relatively long route from Bath to York. In fact, you might just as well take the trains between the places mentioned. (If using the trains, choose option via 1 change at Bristol Temple Meads rather than London. A split ticket is cheaper on this route).

A far better idea would be to go by train from London to Bath (book in advance to get cheapest fares on specific trains) - www.nationalrail.co.uk for times & fares - book at www.firstgreatwestern.co.uk http://www.splityourticket.co.uk
Then, having seen Bath for a day or two, rent a car and drive around places that are in the south. You may like to read my response recently to someone else heading for car rental from Bath: https://community.ricksteves.com/travel-forum/england/heathrow-to-bath-71c7e577-3db6-49f1-b5bb-e28afbb1447e
The SE of Wales could easily be combined with the Cotswolds.

Posted by
5384 posts

Look at a map of Roman Britain and you see the Fosse Way from Bath to Lincoln via Cirencester and Leicester joining Ermine Street to York (well if you looked at an actual Roman map it would be Aquae Sulis to Lindum via Corinium and Ratae).

You can still drive this route, and to the southern end it is fairly quiet as it consists of non primary A and B class roads, but they are of a standard somewhat higher than you might expect. Modern roads do deviate a bit, but if you are on a long straight portion you are on the original. From Leicester to York this would be on dual carriageways in the main, but some of these are 50+ years old with a kind of character of their own, to me at least.

Posted by
33336 posts

The stretch of the Fosse Way from Halford, where the road up to Stratford upon Avon branches off, to where it crosses the A45 between Rugby and Coventry is interesting. I was on it 4 times last week, and it hasn't changed. It is pretty slow, with plenty of farm equipment and slow lorries, and there are several interesting offset T-Junctions along that stretch. By that I mean you are zipping merrily along the Fosse Way and you get to a marked dangerous T- Junction. Go 20 yards left or right and cross the cross road and the Fosse Way picks up again....

Posted by
5384 posts

The Fosse Way route is not something that most would pick up from a map (especially google!), particularly the stretch from Halford up to the A5. It is however signed with the name and easy to follow, and with the exception of a couple of bridges not that narrow. Go back a few years and this stretch wasn't even classified as a B class road.

As Nigel points out, you are in the country and have to expect farmers to use the road. Since it is largely straight passing opportunities are frequent, but care is still needed with dips etc. The section from High Cross to the A5 has sunk a little in recent years. Still this is supposed to be an interesting rather than a quick ride and if you don't look at the cars is very much like driving in the 1960s.

Posted by
3 posts

along with Oxford and London, bath and York are the worst places in England to drive (and I an British and have lived in both areas), my advice would be to do the drive in 2 days going North and stop in Warwick. --If you do it in 5 hours the roads wont be scenic, its a route I know very well, I live near York and my parents near Bath) -- On day 2 plot a route through the Derbyshire dales (Bakewell is a good spot to head for) On the way south drive via Beverley (the minster is England finest no-cathedral city) the Humber bridge and Lincoln. then take the A1 (NOT trhe M1) its 2 lanes rather than 3, but you can much more easily stop to have a break and it feels much less pressured to drive on, even though it wont flow much slower (same speed limit. 70, that few will stick to)

Posted by
339 posts

Five hours would be via motorways and it will be very similar to a trip on U.S. interstates. If you are diverting through the Cotswolds, etc it will possibly be more than you can accomplish in a day. If you're looking for a scenic leisurely drive consider doing this over two days. I've driven from Heathrow to Bath each of the last two summers. We had time for a stop in Stonehenge one year and Avebury the other and arrived in Bath in the mid-afternoon. We also spent a full day meandering through the Cotswolds to Stratford-Upon-Avon, a very enjoyable day and I was glad to have the time to stop and divert to anything that struck our fancy or to wait out a huge tour group.

Posted by
5 posts

Many thanks to everyone who gave us advise! We are on our last day of our trip, flying out tomorrow. It was a fantastic trip! Ultimately, after taking a Mad Max tour to Stonehenge and the Cotswolds we decided not to risk our lives on the narrow roads, cancelled our car reservations and took the train to York. It was a perfect decision for us!

Posted by
5 posts

Many thanks to everyone who gave us advise! We are on our last day of our trip, flying out tomorrow. It was a fantastic trip! Ultimately, after taking a Mad Max tour to Stonehenge and the Cotswolds we decided not to risk our lives on the narrow roads, cancelled our car reservations and took the train to York. It was a perfect decision for us!

Posted by
2494 posts

Many thanks for coming back Jean so say how it went. Sounds like it proved useful to be armed with our advice.

Posted by
33336 posts

A perfect decision for you is exactly what you needed. I'm glad that it worked out so well for you.