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Touring Dr. Who studios from London.

Planning a trip the first of June 2015 with 17 year old grandson. 2 things he wants to do are Dr. Who and Warner brothers studios, he is planning a major in Broadcasting.
1. Best train station to leave from and time of day?
2, Can you get to Warner Brothers on the tube?
3. Any hotel recommendations for 3 people (two adults and 17 year old)?
Would appreciate any information.

Posted by
4528 posts

The actual Roath Lock Studios in Cardiff are only open a few weeks a year - and the only set you can visit there is the TARDIS. The Doctor Who Experience is open nearly all the time. Train from Paddington to Cardiff Central, bus from there to Cardiff Bay.

Posted by
25771 posts

A thread here when the Harry Potter studio opened: https://community.ricksteves.com/travel-forum/to-the-north/leavesden-studios-harry-potter-tour

The thread has closed so no changes can be made to that thread. It isn't as clear as it could be that taking the Tube to Harrow and Wealdstone doesn't continue to Watford Junction; Harrow is the end of the line for the Tube and a change has to be made onto the train.

Also the train times from London Euston are a couple of minutes different now; but the basic advice is sound.

I haven't heard anywhere that reservations at Harry Potter are any easier to get. You can't just turn up, make reservations as soon as you can commit.

Every review I have heard on the train has been overwhelmingly positive both from children and people.

I don't know how much such a tourist and fan oriented studio would help on a college level.
*
It is a very long way to Cardiff. And there be dragons.

Posted by
21 posts

"The actual Roath Lock Studios in Cardiff are only open a few weeks a year - and the only set you can visit there is the TARDIS. The Doctor Who Experience is open nearly all the time."

I will look up Roath Studios and see if they offer tours. Is the Tardis part of the Dr. Who Experience?

Posted by
21 posts

Nigel, I am not sure if it will help him or not. I think just seeing the illusions you can create on film will be beneficial. We live on the east coast and our major studios are in California or smaller ones in New York - it will be much more fun to visit your country, there are many other places we want to take him to in England. The last time we visited was in the late 80's. We are looking forward to seeing all the changes!

Posted by
4528 posts

Roath Lock is the drama production centre for BBC Wales. Apart from Doctor Who its main own ongoing productions include Casualty and Pobol y Cwm. As a working studio casual visitors are not normally permitted. However, for spells when Doctor Who is not in production escorted visits to the TARDIS set are permitted, walking from the Experience a few minutes away. These are advertised in advance, although can be withdrawn at any time should access be needed by the production office.

Posted by
2634 posts

Frank, You have already received good advice about your London trip. You are in good hands with Nigel and Marco advising you. I will stray slightly from the exact question you asked, and mention another studio you may enjoy.

Since you say you are from the east coast, and that most U.S. studios are in California, take a look at the studio tour offered in Wilmington, North Carolina. Screen Gems Studio tours are once again available. They are producing several New Line/Warner Bros. films there. Past TV shows filmed by this studio in Wilmington include "Dawson's Creek" and "One Tree Hill". Movies include "Sleeping With The Enemy" starring Julia Roberts. My sister and I took the tour back when Dawson's Creek was in production.
http://intransit.blogs.nytimes.com/2014/05/08/studio-tours-resume-in-north-carolina/
Thought you and your grandson might be interested in this. Wilmington is also a good location for a vacation. Send me a PM if you want more information about Wilmington, which is on the coast. My family has vacationed in Wilmington for about 40 years.

Posted by
21 posts

Thanks Rebecca, we live in South Carolina and familiar with Wilmington. Did not know they had studio tours there, although we have a friend that goes to NC to film (act), I will see what he knows about it.

Posted by
21 posts

Marco, do they have 2 Tartises? Or if it's not open you don't see it. The web site makes it seem like it is part of the Experience?

Posted by
4528 posts

The experience has a few old TARDIS sets in the exhibition areas, or what is left of them and they are roped off. The one in Roath is the current production set which you can walk round in - but not touch. It is a 360° set so is totally enclosed.

Incidentally it is possibe to tour a number of BBC facilities, including Broadcasting House in London. This includes visiting the studio used by The One Show if you go before 15:30.

Posted by
2634 posts

Another fun thing to do in London after you have done the studios, is one of the London Walks. They have a walk, "Tardis On Thames" of Dr. Who filming locations around London. Click on the first title in red on this page to find out more: http://www.walks.com/index.aspx

Take a look at their website for other walks. They have many walks around London by subjects of interest; a Beatles walk, a Dickens walk, Ghost Walk, architecture walk, Roman London walk, and about 100 others. They do day trips out of town to popular destinations. £7 for adults 65 and over, and full-time students.

Posted by
346 posts

Hi Frank, you can take a tour of the BBC at Broadcasting House, which is in central London (just north of Oxford Circus). www.bbc.co.uk/tours.
I didn't do the tour, but when I went on a London walk about a year ago (www.walks.com) the walk was called I think "Aunties London" or something similar, we ended up at Broadcasting House - we could go into the ground level part of the building. At the entrance there was a very large Dalek and then you had to go through some airport style security and into an area where there was a Tardis, and an open area with a café and small kiosk shop (selling Dr Who and Sherlock merchandise etc) and the whole thing overlooked the news floor with all the news gathering desks. ie we could go into the ground floor part of the building without taking the BBC tour.

Posted by
21 posts

Thanks Katy, that sounds like something easy to fit in. I do hope my wife and I don't get Dr. Who overload, we really want him to enjoy other venues in London.

Posted by
2634 posts

"3. Any hotel recommendations for 3 people (two adults and 17 year old)?"

What price range would you like?
What general location in London would you like?

I recommend the Premier Inn hotels; locations all over London. Two locations which are near tourist attractions are: Premier Inn County Hall (across Westminster Bridge from Westminster Abbey and the Houses of Parliament)
http://www.premierinn.com/en/hotel/LONCOU/london-county-hall
Premier Inn Southwark (on the south bank near the Globe Theatre and Borough Market).
http://www.premierinn.com/en/hotel/SOUANC/london-southwark-borough-market

Posted by
21 posts

Rebecca thank you for the suggestions, will defiantly check them out.
We have been checking on how to get to Cardiff for the Dr Who Experience and looks like the train takes almost 3 hours and have to change twice, that's from Paddington Station. There does not seem to be a direct route. We are open to any other station. Are you familiar with the Cardiff Central Station? Is it close to hotels or restaurants?

Posted by
2634 posts

I am not at all familiar with Cardiff.

If you decide you need a hotel near Paddington Station for your London stay, let us know. There are many good mid-priced hotels in that area. Many of our long-time posters will jump in with suggestions, if that is what you need.

You can get around London easily on the tube or bus, no matter where you stay.

Posted by
4666 posts

You shouldn't have to change twice from London Paddington to Cardiff. I suspect you put in a trial date over the next few days when there is heavy reconstruction work on the line out of Paddington and diversions or bus replacement. Try putting in a date from mid-January on, and you'll probably see better trips.

Posted by
21 posts

Philip you are right about putting in current dates to see time and cost. I will put in later dates. Thank you for letting me know about the diversions!

Rebecca, I think we will have to spend the night in Cardiff. When finding a hotel in London is there a particular tube line that is better or easier to travel to the major attractions. We thought we would figure out the best way to leave the Heathrow Airport and then try and find a hotel that would be easy to get to with our luggage in tow. The Heathrow Express seems to be less time but more expensive and then we would still need to transfer to the tube from Paddington Station. With three of us what mode of transportation from the airport would you recommend?

Posted by
25771 posts

London is a very large place, and the main attractions are spread out all over. No one Tube line is near everything, and certainly no one hotel is. If you are near the Circle Line (the yellow one on the map that looks like a bottle on its side) you will be convenient to many attractions. Hotels around Victoria, Earls Court and Bloomsbury are convenient to that line.

The line from Heathrow (are you in and out of Heathrow, Gatwick, or one of each?) is the Piccadilly Line and hotels around Earls Court, or South Kensington or Bloomsbury are particularly convenient to that line.

It is a balancing act between airport convenience and attraction convenience.

Cardiff is reached from Paddington.

Posted by
346 posts

Frank, I wouldn't base your choice of hotel on what you perceive to be ease of travel from Heathrow. As you're going to be staying in London for some time I would pick a location that you are comfortable with - no location is going to be close to all the sights you want to cover. When you have the location you are staying at, then report back to the board and I'm sure you'll get the best advice of how to get there the easiest way.

Another way to get into London from Heathrow is using a car service and, with three of you, the costs may come in at less than the Heathrow Express and - in any event - after an overnight flight a small splurge is often worth it: the usual car service recommended is www.justairports.com. I think they ask for payment in cash, but from what I understand their charges to be, I've always thought they sound pretty reasonable where there is more than one traveller coming in off a red-eye flight.

Posted by
2634 posts

Frank, Re-read Nigel's latest posting. This is excellent advice. Also look at this tube map from the Transport For London (tfl) website. Click on the tab that says "Large print map":
https://www.tfl.gov.uk/maps/track/tube

You may want to print this map if you have a color printer. At any rate, study the map and tube lines. Follow the Piccadilly Line (dark blue color) that Nigel mentioned around the map. Notice the names of the stops it makes. These are the areas that Nigel mentioned in his last posting. These are all good areas for your hotel.

If you want to stay in Bloomsbury, I can recommend the following hotels.
Hotel Russell; take the tube line Nigel mentioned (Piccadilly) to Russell Square. Exit the tube station, and you are steps away from the hotel:
http://www.hotelrusselllondon.co.uk/
Walking distance from the same tube station is the Radisson Blu Edwardian:
http://www.radissonblu-edwardian.com/london-hotel-gb-wc1b-3qd/gbmarlbo
I have stayed at both of these hotels and liked them. The Radisson Blu is the more modern of the two.

The neighborhood of Bloomsbury is also the location of the excellent British Museum.

If you are wanting to be near Paddington Station, you will have other tube lines accessible from there. There is a Hilton hotel connected to Paddington Station by a footbridge. It offers the convenience of going directly into your hotel if you arrive at Paddington from Heathrow.
http://www3.hilton.com/en/hotels/united-kingdom/hilton-london-paddington-LONPDHI/index.html
When you wrote, "We thought we would figure out the best way to leave the Heathrow Airport and then try and find a hotel that would be easy to get to with our luggage in tow." This hotel fills that requirement. I have stayed at this Hilton twice and liked it very much. It is not "charming", but it is convenient and has comfy beds.

Keep in mind that both the Heathrow Express and Heathrow Connect trains run from Heathrow Airport into Paddington Station. Heathrow Connect is the less expensive option, and the one I would take.
Keep in mind what Nigel said, above, that your train to Cardiff leaves from Paddington Station.

Katy also gave you excellent advice. Her recommendation of the car service is a good one, especially if you eventually choose a hotel that is a pain to get to, and with lots of luggage.

Posted by
10344 posts

OK, I give in, Who is Dr. Who?
And is she/he an actual person, or a construct?

Posted by
346 posts

Nigel, not sure if I would say Dr Who is the last Time Lord anymore - think The Day of The Doctor (50 year anniversary special) set it up that Gallifrey survives somewhere, so there is hope of some more Time Lords in the future. (Very nerdy comment I know from a huge fan of David Tennant's Doctor.)

Kent, Doctor Who started in the early 60s, when it was really terrific TV, but it got stale, the BBC neglected it and it then went through a long period where it was pretty rubbish until it was brought back in 2005 with terrific writers and had a big reboot. It has a cult following worldwide and the 50 year anniversary special was shown simultaneously in cinemas worldwide (I have a friend who went to a NY screening and understand it was really buzzing and a huge event in the cinema.)

Posted by
2634 posts

Rick Steves' London guidebook includes the tube map that I gave you in my last post. Take a look at his full-size London guidebook or Pocket Guide To London. He also includes lots of hotel, B&B, pub and restaurant suggestions in his book. Take a look at his books at your local bookstore.

Posted by
10344 posts

Nigel, thanks for trying to explain it to me. I don't understand it but that's because I'm old.
:-)

Posted by
2634 posts

Kent, It's science fiction. Dr. Who is the guy wearing the tie in this episode. He travels through time and space to fight monsters, aliens and the like.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XkW7S-BNYnI
He travels in this space ship (TARDIS) which looks quite large when you're on the inside, but looks like a police box or crate on the outside. The actors playing the part of Dr. Who have changed over the years.

Posted by
21 posts

Thank all of you for the great advice. We think a car service may be worth it. Will let you all know when plans are firmed up. Nigel that Was the best concise description of Dr. Who I have heard! Dr. Who has good following in the US. Kent watch the Christmas Dr. Who special on BBC Christmas night. Happy holidays to all of you!

Posted by
37 posts

Lots of great advice above, and my daughter and I did the Dr. Who thing last summer. We went to the Dr. Who Experience in Cardiff (which is a really easy train ride away) and stayed at the Travelodge in Cardiff Bay which was excellent and cheap and within walking distance from the Experience. It was wonderful. We also did the Dr. Who Bus Tour through Brit Movie Tours and it was also wonderful and took us all over Cardiff looking at filming locations so for a fan, it rocked. Back in London, we did the BBC tour which was also one of the best parts of the trip for my BBC-loving daughter.

Posted by
1838 posts

Doing Cardiff in a day has already been covered by a previous post. I would not bother hiring a car to reach Cardiff as trains run at least once an hour from Paddington to Cardiff Central. It should take 2 hours but on weekends - especially Sundays, you may find trains are diverted via the southern Cotswolds adding 1 hour to the trip. (They are electrifying the London to south Wales mainline - hence the diversions). If you did hire a car, beware that should you stay in hotels in central Cardiff, parking will be limited or cost a few pounds. Car hire would be useful if you wished to tour Wales - highly recommended & for more on that, I would suggest you go to the Wales forum. www.visitwales.co.uk

Anyway, take a look at my response here about Dr.Who & Cardiff:

https://community.ricksteves.com/travel-forum/england/day-trip-to-cardiff-bay

Posted by
21 posts

Cmontroy Thanks for the info on the Dr, Who tour of filming places. We think the grandson will like that tour.

James the link you gave was very useful in determining the distance to other places in Cardiff. We will probably spend the night there to see more things.

No I have not been vaporized just running from the Daleks this holiday season.

Posted by
1838 posts

Frank, I am so pleased that you have not been exterminated. I was getting really worried!

I think it is a good idea to spend at least one night in Cardiff.