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Thoughts on the pacing/choices for this England trip?

I've got numerous trips planned out due to all my cancellations. And I hope to take them all someday.
But I am going to be one of the earlier travelers and when we get to head out, it's going to be a different kind of trip.
I want it to be more streamlined, less moving, single country.

I'm staking at least partial bets on England. Our plan is to go with about a week's notice if need be. We're open from May until...whenever, but we hope to go before July. I am not looking for any feedback about whether we should travel - we've got a set of parameters we are working with. And likewise, we realize that the trip may not be allowed - but we think there's a chance for a corridor between the US and UK. We are vaccinated.

There's just two of us traveling.

This will be our third London visit - we've seen the standard sites and are branching out to new stuff mostly. We're fast at sites and have omitted most art museums on purpose.

But what do you think of my sites and pacing? This is the slowest I've ever traveled. I took many tips from recent threads about off-the-beaten path London sites - thank you all for them!!

It's 12 nights in London, 4 in York and 3 in Durham

Day 1 Arrival Day
Day 2 Imperial War Museum
Fashion and Textile Museum
Day 3 London Transport Museum
British Museum
Day 4 Wallace Collection
Grant Museum of Zoology
Postal Museum
Day 5 Day trip to Brighton
see Royal Pavilion and The Lanes
Day 6 Leighton House Museum
Museum of Brands
Day 7 Day trip to Canterbury
Day 8 Jewish Museum
(!?!? Female body part Museum)
Day 9 Open to add a site
Day 10 London Canal Museum
Museum of the Home
Day 11 Bletchley Park
Day 12 Train to Durham
London King’s Crossing - 3 hour train
Durham Cathedral and wander
Day 13 Tour with Peter Carey - Hadrian’s Wall and environs
Day 14 Beamish Open Air Museum
Day 15 Train to York
48 minute ride
York Minster
Wander the Shambles
Railway Museum
Day 16 Day trip to Harrowgate Spa Town (30 minute ride) - return by 3
Jorvik Museum
Day 17 Eden Camp Modern History Museum
Day 18 Castle Howard by Castle Bus
Day 19 Train to London 2 hours - sleep at airport
Day 20 Fly Home

Thanks to anyone who weighs in! It's a ton of detail, I know:)

Posted by
6252 posts

Some thoughts:

First, check opening and closing hours for each museum you’ve mentioned. From experience museums are normally open from 10am to 6pm but ALWAYS smart to confirm those hours when following a daily itinerary.

Secondly, are you considering any theatre productions? If yes be sure to leave time to dine before or after the performance.

Day 9 add The Museum of London. Great way to understand how the city you are visiting evolved.

Lastly, been traveling to London since Nixon was President. From my perspective your itinerary seems a bit rushed no matter how fast paced you travel. Would you consider time spent meandering and relaxing in Hyde Park or Richmond Park or at Mud Chute Farm time well spent?

Safe travels if you choose to go.

Posted by
302 posts

I'm guessing you are into history and WW2 - highly recommend this one one of the best museums I've seen on the topic - from memory it takes a good 1/2 day (double check on that). Its very near Westiminster Cathedral and Hyde Park - both worth visiting.

I also really like Greenwich - again check the details- but you can walk under the Thams from Canary Wharf? and catch the Cutty Sark - before visiting the huge park with the prime meridian and the Royal Observatory - gorgeous building. National Maritime Museum is nearby too - you could spend all day in the area.

St Paul's is my favourite church - I'm not much into the religious side of things -but its one of the world's most beatufiful buildings - its worth trying to see it during evening song when the choir sings - normally more late afternoon than evening on a Sunday and maybe a Wednesday.

Posted by
2119 posts

Hi Claudia!
1) A few more details (didn't want to overwhelm everyone). If we get to go, all sites will clearly have to be pre-bought and timed - I've looked at the websites for nearly all the places and they're all planning on starting to sell timed entry tickets for May 17th or so. I assume that will be true if we get to go in June or July. So, yes, all opening times/days and pre-purchase requirements will be sorted out if we really get to go.
2) I have added the Museum of London on that open day! Thank you!
3) We typically do 2 sites a day and wander for the rest of the day. Some days the sites are quick and some days they take longer. For the British Museum, I assume I will leave my partner there to wander for long after I get antsy. I'll try to make that day a late Friday so he has plenty of time.
4) Do we wander parks etc? Well, sort of - generally we do usually find ourselves lost each day and we wander as we argue/look at maps. But I suppose that it might be a good idea to add yet another day to London and keep it totally open for relaxation. We can certainly add days to the trip. I don't tend to do this many day trips - Harrowgate, Canterbury and Brighton - but all three are places I really hope to see and I'm trying to have us move around less often.
5) Thanks for the theatre idea. I hadn't considered it as we are not night people. In fact, dinner is usually something quick and simple (jacket potatoes!!!!!!!! or a takeaway pizza) and then pajamas by 8. But we DO love musicals and wow! seeing one in London would be amazing. I'll look into it - I wonder if any will be running by travel time.
Thanks for your thoughts!

Posted by
2119 posts

@Lis - Thank you! We are indeed history- focused in our travels. I'll look into the Cutty Sark idea - looks great. The War Room was done on another trip and I'd love to see it again but, even though I keep adding days to London, I keep getting more ideas and running out of time!

When I started planning this trip, I was going to give London 5 days, then 6, then 7 etc. etc. etc!!!

Posted by
1178 posts

Even for a museum lover like myself, that’s a very heavy museum itinerary, I’d definitely have some other ideas in the back pocket. Perhaps a London Walk or two?

You don’t really have much time to explore Durham, it’s truly wonderful to walk around. The Cafedral (not affiliated with the cathedral) is an excellent place for a coffee and there’s lots of wonderful local places abound. If you have an extra day, nearby Newcastle is definitely worth a trip as well.

Posted by
5221 posts

That looks like a great trip. I generally like museums but I couldn't handle as many as you! That said, I agree with Claudia about the Museum of London -- but you may have seen on one of your previous visits. Have you been to Sir John Soames' Museum? If not, you might consider it.

In York, the Yorkshire Museum was a special one for us. We didn't spend time in the natural history part, but were fascinated by the historical part. It's close to the Minster, in the park where the abbey ruins are. Also I hope you have time to walk up on the city wall -- not the whole thing but at least some of it.

You'll have enough time in London for the park-wandering, pub-sampling, people-watching everyone should do. And for a play or two if you want. Hope the virus and the vaccines allow you to pull it off in your time window. If not, then later.

Posted by
2119 posts

Oh my, you are all awesome!
@Dale - yes, it’s a lot of museums. I assume that we’ll be in and out of some of them in an hour or two, but who knows. I never planned to stay that long in London - I kept expanding the length of time there as the RS posters kept adding museums that interested me. Our best days are two museums/sites and some wandering and that’s my goal for London. We don’t do any fancy eating out - all meals are simple cafes or to go.

I forgot about London Walks - we missed it on our last trip and they have a few that looked good. Thanks!
And thanks for the note on Durham. I hesitated about it - I almost cut it out but I’m just so intrigued by it and I really want to see the Beamish museum. Newcastle - better than Durham? I was torn between the two.

@Dick, yes we did Soames last time:) Loved it.
York is a repeat for us too and we did the walls last time. But I’ll check the Yorkshire Museum - I can’t recall if we were there before.

It will be interesting to see how many days I end up with for this trip!

Posted by
2119 posts

I just showed all of your great tips to Ron and he said that, earlier today, I had told him this was going to be a 17 day trip and now it’s up to 20! It’s a good thing he doesn’t read very closely or he would have noticed I’m headed up towards 21 or 22! :)

Posted by
20838 posts

I spent far longer than I expected in the Imperial War Museum. I think it ended up being five visits totaling 16+ hours. I don't care at all about war materiel (of which there is quite a lot), but I found the posted explanatory material very interesting, and I read every last word. The posted explanations are highly duplicative of the audio guide, so you really should choose to listen or to read, not both. The Holocaust exhibition is very good, and every year there seems to be at least one small but intriguing special exhibit. On my last visit there was an exhibit on the items from the collection that were selected for protection during WWII (some of which choices were a bit odd, a point that was not lost on the folks who set up the exhibit). If you're like me, you'll be glad you have tentatively scheduled the IWM early in the trip so you can return later.

The British Museum could obviously also take a lot of time, but I'm guessing you may already have seen part of it. If not, I suspect you may decide to ditch some of the smaller/lesser museums in exchange for more time at the British Museum.

I haven't been to the Museum of Brands (which I know Harold has recommended), so I can't compare it to the Design Museum, but the latter is super-close to the Leighton House Museum. You might have time to squeeze in all three. The Museum of Brands is very near Fez Mangal, a casual Turkish restaurant I've enjoyed several times. It has fish kebabs as well as the more common chicken and lamb.

I have no idea what the entry-booking situation will be like this summer; I guess it will depend to a considerable degree on the capacity controls in place at the time of your visit. I realize you may feel you have to lock down everything ahead of time. But since several of the museums on your list are free/donation-requested (including the IWM, the British Museum and the Design Museum for sure), you could make extra, just-in-case reservations at the first two for later during your trip and cancel them if it turns out one visit to each of the big museums is sufficient.

With limited time in northern England in 2019, I opted for York, Newcastle and a day-trip to Leeds, postponing Durham until a later trip. But I'm big on late 19th-century architecture. If you're more interested in earlier history, I suspect you'll prefer Durham.

Posted by
6252 posts

Valerie I’m not a night person either but I love seeing theatre in London. Last trip it was Hamilton.

Over the years have been blessed to see Helen Mirren, Judi Dench, Ian McKellen, Charles Dance and Rupert Graves in London stage productions.

One of my favorite theatre remembrances was seeing the quintessential American musical Guys and Dolls there in 1996. The fabulous Clive Rowe as Nicely Nicely brought down the house with his rendition of “ Sit Down You’re Rockin The Boat. “
Fabulous night out!

Posted by
5483 posts

You are spending most of your time indoors at a time of year when the weather should be decent. Many museums aren’t air conditioned.

It’s too museum heavy and all indoors for my tastes, but it’s not my trip. If museums do open in May, numbers are likely to be restricted due to social distancing. You are likely to need a mobile phone that you must scan when entering buildings for Covid track and trace. Masks indoors will remain, we are told. Be prepared for closures at short notice and 10 days quarantine if you are pinged from track and trace. Life will not be back to normal this year.

To experience London life, why not head out of the central zone and visit one of the London “villages” such as Highgate or Hampstead or walk the Thames path at Chiswick or the markets in Walthamstow or the Sunday morning flower market on Colombia Road in the East End followed by a curry on Brick Lane or have lunch at Camden Market? Have you been to Kew Gardens - good for social distancing - if the weather is decent? You need a plan B for if the museums have to close again.

Posted by
2119 posts

Thank you to everyone. We are devoted to our travel method of a two sites or museums a day plus the inevitable wandering but I will think about axing two sites - Fashion and Textile so we have the whole day for the IWM. I'll also take another look at the Zoology Museum. I'll try to add another market wander - Camden looks fun and we haven't been there.

Edit - I've looked at a map - Camden Market is right near the Jewish Museum and so I have added Camden Market to Day 8!

Any other market suggestions? There are so many.

I like the idea of a museum plan for the British Museum. I know it's blasphemous but that's actually the museum I would skip. I don't really like the super big museums. I like the odd ones with a simpler focus - like if someone opened up a museum chronicling the development of the Reese's peanut butter cup, I'd go:) We won't skip it though - I'm still getting complaints from Ron about omitting it last time.

I'll also take another look at both day trips from London - Canterbury and Brighton - and see if I can let one go in favor of a London day with nothing but wandering on the agenda.

Posted by
390 posts

Some random thoughts.

I live in London, but have never been to some of the museums you mention, some are very niche. But, of course, it does depend on your tastes. And to add a one more! The Charterhouse (Farringdon area) - they have (or had, at least) started doing tours. This is one I had been meaning to do, but lockdown happened before I could do anything about it.

I have been to the revamped IWM, which I wouldn't have expected to be interesting (to me), but I found it fascinating and engrossing.

I think, as mentioned, that looking at London Walks to see what's on offer is a great idea. They do actually do a British Museum walk, so two hours of their highlights, which may be enough? Some of their one off walks may include some of the sites you mention. They also do a walk- the old Jewish quarter - which ends at the Bevis Marks synagogue (I have to admit I had never heard of the Jewish Museum, which you mention). Leighton House Museum was included on one of their walks, which was interesting (but, for me, an hour there was plenty). And look at what London Walks offer for their days out of London - I have seen places like Chartwell or Winchester or Constable Country in the past.

Bletchley Park is also a great day out of London, maybe not a full day but its easy to get to.

In York, I think you may be short-changing the City itself, there is a lot to do. I spent a lot of time at the Railway Museum which was terrific, I read recently that they had added to/were upgrading this so may be even better.

I'm sure you'll have a great time and the logistics of including just 2 centres/bases on the East Coast Main Line very sensible.

Posted by
1281 posts

Just a query about Harrogate. There's nothing wrong with the town and I'm sure you could have a pleasant part day there. But, personally, it wouldn't be my choice for a day-trip given your limited time in York. The exception might be if you plan to visit the wonderful Harlow Carr gardens just outside Harrogate. Otherwise, I think, there are some more interesting possibilities in the recent thread on York day-trip options. Whilst Harrogate is a spa town, don't think of it as a Yorkshire lookie-likie of Bath.

I also think you have too much time in London, even with the planned day-trips, and should move a day or two to the northern part of your visit, especially since you don't actually have much time scheduled for York itself which has more sights than you include (e.g. the walls/bars and Clifford's Tower).

Posted by
2119 posts

Thank you both!

As to time in York, we were there for 4 days a few years ago and don't plan to repeat some sites - thus the outlying area sites. We've been to everywhere except Jorvik and the railway museum - walked the walls, done the castle museum, strolled the town over our 4 days, Clifford's Tower etc.

Still, though, I will give some thought to Harrowgate. It's only on the list as a pretty place to stroll for a bit. If we're feeling low energy that late in the trip, we could always just do Jorvik and some wandering that day.

And thanks for the Charterhouse tip. I don't know if we'll fit it in but it looks interesting and is right near the Museum of London. I stuck it on a maybe list for that day. Timing sites is the hardest thing I do. Some sites need an hour and some sites need three and I never really know until I get there.

And time in London? Well, I blame everyone on this site for listing so much cool stuff. And moreover, I'm really trying to explore a slower travel theme for us this year and next. Typically we move every 3 or 4 days and we transit between countries without much thought.

If we get to travel in 2021, it's just got to be slower, less moving, more thorough. Thus 12 days in London. It might be a total mis-match for us, but my guess is that we like it. We're planning something similar for Nice, France in October.

Posted by
20838 posts

My recent trips to London have been 10 days, 12 days, and 14 days. I took a total of one out-of-town daytrip. I've still spent only about 90 minutes in the British Museum (on a London Walks tour) and have totally missed quite a few of the other museums mentioned here--plus Westminster Abbey and St. Pauls.

Posted by
2900 posts

To repeat something Emma said, way upthread,
"If you do come at the end of May be prepared for everything to be busy. There is a bank holiday at the end of the month and probably some school holidays."

Apparently not just English bank holidays, but all of Europe has some kind of holiday then. When we were in London at the end of May two years ago, there were busloads of people from Germany, Italy, and France unloading near the British Museum and near the Tower of London. They were tour groups, with clear markings on the sides of the buses indicating the tour group name and country they were from.

When we were in London at the end of May two years ago, every major attraction and museum was jam-packed. We tried to enter the Egyptian rooms at the British Museum, but they were shoulder-to-shoulder crowded. People were plastered up against the large glass cases that held the mummies and funerary objects, with more people jammed against the back of their bodies. There was not enough room to pass between two people to even get into the room. Insanely crowded.

For this reason, it is good that you have a lot of small museums on your list. Many of these are not as popular or crowded as the British Museum.
I second the recommendation of the Museum of London. Excellent.

I noticed you will be going to Greenwich (Cutty Sark and all).
There is a small museum there I think you'll enjoy.

The Fan Museum. Not far from the National Maritime Museum.
They display beautiful antique hand held fans from every country in the world.
The museum owns over 4,000 fans. The oldest fan in the collection dates from the 10th century and the collection of 18th and 19th-century European fans is extensive.
They had a tea room serving afternoon tea when I was there several years ago, but I do not know if they have resumed that after Covid closures.
See the map on their web page, here:

Posted by
2900 posts

"Any other market suggestions? There are so many."

I would suggest Borough Market, on the south side of the Thames River.
Borough Market is located on Southwark Street and Borough High Street just south of Southwark Cathedral on the southern end of London Bridge.
It's one of the largest and oldest food markets in London, with a market on the site dating back to at least the 12th century. The present buildings were built in the 1850s, and give an interesting look to this area.
It operates Monday to Thursday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Fridays from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., and Saturdays from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
The stalls sell ready-to-eat items; sandwiches, bagels, salads, baked goods, plus fresh fruits and vegetables, in case you are staying in an apartment and preparing your own meals. Also a wine shop, flower shop, and several restaurants.
Neal's Yard Dairy sells cheeses. Good for sampling a variety of cheeses or buying a selection to take on a picnic to one of the parks, along with fruit, bread and bottle of wine.

Warning: Don't go on a Saturday at lunchtime. It will be jam-packed. Choose another day to visit.

Here's their website, where you can explore the vendors and plan to hit several stalls with yummy food:

Posted by
2900 posts

I'll comment on one other thing, then I'm done.

You said, "I'll also take another look at both day trips from London - Canterbury and Brighton - and see if I can let one go in favor of a London day with nothing but wandering on the agenda."

I will suggest keeping Canterbury on the list. And I would suggest spending two nights there.
There is a lot to see in Canterbury.
Day 1--(Day of arrival from London)--See the Cathedral and medieval streets and buildings. Spend this night in Canterbury.
Day 2 in Canterbury, I would get up bright and early and take the train to Dover, a short distance away. Dover Castle is spectacular.
It is a defensive fort overlooking the English Channel. From here you can see France. You can explore the World War 2 tunnels underneath the castle where there is a small museum similar to the Churchill War Rooms in London. This was a major communications center during the war.
There is also a Roman lighthouse there. This was one of the first places the Romans came ashore in England.

Then I would take the train back to Canterbury to spend the night. Then early train back to London the next day.

Sometimes it's good to get out of London for a two day trip. Some places are worth more than just a day trip.

Posted by
4636 posts

Personally I prefer small niche museums to the big ones as they don't generally attract major crowds and they don't take too long to take it all in (plus I've done all the big ones in London over the years anyway). For example I went to the Jewish Museum a couple of years ago primarily for the special exhibition they had on at the time ('Jews, Money, Myths') but could browse round it and the general exhibits easily for around 3 hours in total. I haven't been to the Museum of Brands in its current location yet (visited it in other incarnations); my word of caution is that it is very British-orientated as it originates from a personal collection so much of the material may be unfamiliar.

Posted by
5325 posts

You will love York and Durham.

What Brighton?

Consider Bath and Oxford as well as Stratford Upon Avon.

Posted by
2470 posts

We got to the Imperial War Museum shortly after it opened and left at closing time. I had no idea that it would be so compelling but not overwhelming.

Posted by
31 posts

In the post Covid World 'that' itinerary may not possible on the basis that despite it being slated that most restrictions are supposedly being lifted on/by June the 21st. I venture that is a pipedream most of these attractions will have ticketed/timed/numbered managed entry arrangements for the forseeable future. With a strong likelyhood of significantly more home grown tourists the popular days and times will go very quickly and the chances of walk up entry will be extremely limited if offered at all. Just sayin' like.

Its Harrogate BtW ;-)

Posted by
6252 posts

After reading all replies I’d like to add the following:
1.) In Durham enjoy Treats Cafe and Tea Room. Divine cakes.
2.) In London try Maison Assouline Piccadilly
3.) Alexander Fleming Museum
4.) Then if it’s repaired and open it’s a short stroll from the Fleming museum over to the Rolling Bridge which is part of the Paddington Basin redevelopment. Believe it only operates on certain days at certain times. Google.
5.) The gardens and pergola at Hampstead Hill in Golders Hill Park
6.)The Graffiti Tunnel by Waterloo Station
7.) Dine at Mercato Mayfair. A church converted into a food market.
8.) Visit Little Venice and walk along the canal path.
9.) Splurge and enjoy coffee, tea, cocktail or meal at the stunning Booking Office inside St Pancras Station
10.) Enjoy a free concert at St Martins of the Field.

Posted by
296 posts

Having read the litany of replies to your post, there isnt much to disagree with anywhere. I do, however, second Claudia - even if it isnt your "normal thing", do try and take in at least an evening of theater, with dinner either before or after. It is one of the things I've missed from London during the pandemic. It makes for a delightful evening out. For that matter, if you have plans on an evening, take in a matinee performance. As a museum goer myself, it does make for a nice change of pace.

One very minor detail in your post - the train station you are departing from is called King's Cross, not King's Crossing as you have written, and is home to the fictional Platform 9 3/4 of Harry Potter fame. If you wander through, you will undoubtedly see it at the back of the station, along with a queue of folks getting their picture taken.

Posted by
747 posts

If you're going to Camden Market on day 8, consider taking the Narrow Boat ride to Little Venice.