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Trip to England in June 2019

My husband and I are in beginning stages of planning a trip to England next June. We plan to stay five nights in London and maybe 3 nights in several other places for a total of 13-14 nights. I have been briefly to England and visited Warwick castle, Stratford-upon-Avon and a bit of London. My husband has never been. I would like to visit different things than I saw before. I had just decided on a tentative itinerary of Bath, Cotswold, London, and York (in that order) when I read the post on going to less trodden places. I am not tied to any of these locations, except, of course, London. So I thought I would ask seasoned UK travelers if they had other places they would recommend instead. We plan to take the train when possible but are not completely opposed to renting a car part of the time. We drove in Greece last year but it did not require driving on a different side of the road!

Our interests are in 1) seeing a variety of types of places in terms of size and architecture and sites. 2) seeing a bit of the country side including doing some hiking. I was attracted to the Cotswolds for that reason, although am concerned it might be wall to wall tourists. We hiked the Path of the Gods on the Amalfi coast of Italy and between the towns of Fira and Oia on Santorini, Greece and really enjoyed both. However, I do not want to go as far as the Lake District.

We are planning to go in June which is well into the tourist season I am aware.

Beth

Posted by
229 posts

My husband and I went to the Cotswolds in late May this year and the Cotswold Way was practically deserted. We stayed in Chipping Campden, Broadway, Stanton, and Painswick. We started the hike at the northern terminus in CC and walked south. You can tailor your own hike as most of the towns are close to public transportation. I made our B&B reservations early to insure that we got exactly what we wanted. I doubt that even in June the hiking on the Cotswold Way or on many of the circular tours will be that crowded.

Posted by
3299 posts

There’s nothing wrong with visiting the more visited places, so if those are the places you want to see, go. For my wife and I, we visit more of the lesser visited places after we’ve already visited the more visited places. Yes, the Cotswolds get busy during the summer months, which is one reason we try not to travel that time of year. Places we’ve enjoyed in southern England during our visits other than those already mentioned, Cornwall, Canterbury, Dover, Wells, Salisbury, and Tewkesbury. We always have a rental car so stop at a lot of other small towns.

Posted by
8387 posts

I'd agree - the reason there are trodden paths to some of the places is that there are very interesting sights at the end of the path!

I love Bath, like York and have been to the Cotswolds. I might be the only person who isn't wow'd by them so don't go on my say-so! Bath does wow me and it's mostly because of the juxtapositon of the Roman Baths and the Georgian buildings. I love Regency era novels and it appeals to my sense of fiction. York is also interesting with it's old Cathedral and Viking heritage. Very different from Bath in my view.

I also enjoy Salisbury (can do Stonehenge easily from here with a local bus that runs a shuttle out to the stones all day long) and Canterbury. Both of those are old cathedral towns and have a very rich and interesting history.

There are some nice walks/hikes in all areas. From Bath you can walk along the Avon River and then the Kennet and Avon Canal. In Salisbury you can walk out to Old Sarum (about 3 miles away). Canterbury is on the Stour River alongside which runs the Great Stour Way path. Very nice!

Decide what appeals to you whether it's someone elses "must do" or not!

Posted by
1130 posts

Congrats on dedicating two weeks to create a great journey.
Keep in mind London is a fantastic city for walking/hiking combined with a huge menu of opportunities to sate your interests. Additionally London offers wonderful public transportation to assist with experiencing some off the beaten path sites found within the "confines" of the city. In short I am encouraging you to add days to being in London (7) and select two destinations where you can spend three days each. Doing so reduces time in transit while increasing time to explore your destinations and surrounding area. We love the train system and have yet to rent a car.
Do take Rick's counsel to buy online tickets in order to skip lines at the events. I cannot overemphasize how much time and hassle we saved via online ticket purchases.
There is a point where we also seek to blend in the less trodden places, but I am wondering if your first time visitor to England would prefer a main stay focus.
BTW, we strive to stay outside of tourist zones and in accommodations offering a kitchen and clothes wash facilities. Having the opportunity to make our own breakfast and evening snack saves money and adds some relaxation to the daily grind. We also value the ease of packing lite by being able to wash clothes while on the trip.
There are plenty of folks who can help craft in the daily points of interest so I will leave the details to them.

Posted by
389 posts

Seeing as you asked for recommendations I'm going to offer East Anglia. Easy to get to from London (train to Norwich then rent a car) has lovely countryside (Norfolk Broads, coastline, rolling countryside) gets some of our best weather, and has attractive towns/cities to visit like Norwich, Bury St Edmunds, Ely with its wonderful Cathedral, head over to Cambridge, if you want to see Roman sites go to St Albans on your way back to London.

Posted by
1838 posts

You may wish to check for flights into Manchester - as that would land you nearer to York.

Assuming you land at Heathrow - I would go the short distance to Windsor for your first night. (See Windsor Castle while getting over jet lag).

On day 2, I would leave Windsor Central by train for Bath - you must change to a mainline train at Slough.

After your stay in Bath*, consider hiring a car for your drive to the north Cotswolds. (From either Oxford or Cheltenham, direct trains go to York - which saves you the hassle of going back into London). * From Bath, it is possible to take the train (pay on the day return) to Salisbury and then shuttle bus to Stonehenge. Salisbury has a beautiful Cathedral built in the 1200’s. It is also possible to take the train in the other direction to Cardiff - the Capital of Wales.

After York, you could go directly by train back to London (Kings Cross) or change trains at Peterborough and head east. Ely has a wonderful cathedral. From here, railways go east to Norwich or south to Cambridge. See map of network:> http://www.nationalrail.co.uk/static/images/structure/css/nationalrailnetworkmap.pdf

Anyway, end up in London as that will put you on the spot for your flight home. DO NOT try and go from York to London on the final day.

For longer train journeys, pre-book around 11 weeks ahead specific trains in order to get the best prices.
www.nationalrail.co.uk

Posted by
19161 posts

I, too, am a fan of the city of Norwich. It has a very attractive historic center that's amazingly non-touristy and an excellent art museum located on the university campus (city bus goes near it, but electronic map will be helpful in finding tne proper building).

Bury St. Edmunds is charming, and I think the tourist office offers a walking tour. The cathedral at Ely is very impressive, and it houses (upstairs) a stained glass museum that allows you to see a lot of historical church windows at eye level--rarely possible when they're in situ. I didn't think the town of Ely was exceptionally attractive by English standards; I'd go there primarily for the church..

I didn't have a rental car, so I couldn't just travel around willy nilly in tne countryside, but I think this would be a great area for such explorations.

Posted by
89 posts

The well trodden places I suspect aren’t popular because they’re the best places to visit. I imagine it’s because of their relative proximity to London and someone went there once and wrote about them and so others went and so on and so on. Go to them if they appeal to you but there are thousands of other places equally appealing and some would say more so. Don’t feel you’ve missed out on the ‘Jewels of England’ if you choose to go somewhere else. We are a country that has much more to offer besides Bath, Cotswolds, Salisbury, Stonehenge, Oxford and York (even though I live there!). Stick a pin anywhere in a map of England and there will be plenty of historic sites, stately homes, museums, churches, scenery and tourist attractions to occupy you in that area (there’s a challenge!).

Posted by
2834 posts

I like Pam's choices and I am also underwhelmed by the Cotswolds. York is one of my favorites and you would enjoy walking on the old city wall there. I don't know about hiking, but there's a nice walking path along the river in Durham and it has a beautiful cathedral.

Posted by
4934 posts

We did a 28 day drive tour of Wales and England last October (excluding London) and loved it.

Chipping Campden in the Cotswolds is a great place to use as a base.

If you go to Bath, consider a day trip to Wells and Glastonberry.

York is amazing, don't miss it. Whitby is on the North Sea coast and worth a day.

Winchester is another great city in the South of England. Oxford and Cambridge are great day trips from London.

Posted by
1454 posts

Wow! Thanks for all the responses.

So those of you who are underwhelmed by the Cotswolds why? Is it that there is not that much there or too many people there?

morrowbabette--How did you get your luggage from B&B? I have found groups that do that but I don't find the group part that appealing.

jaimeelsabsio-I have thought of going to Wells, and Salisbury as a day trip from Bath. I will investigate some of the others.
Does it matter whether you go to Cotswold in summer during the week or over a weekend in terms of crowds?

Pam & cala -thanks for the information on hikes! And I am trying to figure out what appeals to me....but I can already see if it more than I can do in a two week trip to England!

Is Durham an easy day trip from York?

Marbleskies--you bring up the age old question of depth versus breadth when traveling. We were in Greece last year and stayed in four places in two weeks and it seemed to be the right balance of breadth and depth so that is why I was thinking four places even though I know London could amuse a person for a week easily. Which areas do you like to stay in London? We stayed in apartments or houses in 3/4 places in Greece.

ryan and gill & acraven I had read a bit about East Anglia and the weather too. Would you substitute it for both Bath and Cotswold or for Cotswold? I guess I am asking how much time would you spend there out of a two week trip?

James-We will likely be coming into Gatswick as there are direct flights from our hometown and not to Heathrow. And I will be continuing to Edinburgh for work while my husband likely will spend his last night near the airport. We will not attempt to go from York to the airport the same day! That is why I had us ending in York. But are there trains available from London to Edinburgh that are preferable to those from York?

Are you suggesting hiring someone to drive us or for us to rent a car to north Cotswolds? And if we rent a car in Bath, where would we return it?

I really appreciate knowing that it is 3 months out to buy train tickets. The trains in England are a bit confusing to me.

Thanks so much for all the responses.

Beth

Posted by
2834 posts

Durham would be an easy day trip from York but it's a nice relaxing, small, relatively quiet(university student noise) place to spend the night. We stayed at the Marriott and had the river view and I walked on the easily accessible river path in the early evening. I am underwhelmed by the Cotswolds because there's not much to see except cute thatched roof houses. I like museums and cathedrals and historical sights. Assuming that we have talked you into going to York, you should do the very enjoyable free tour offered by the town, mentioned in Rick's book, that starts in front of the art gallery near the Minster and the one I went on walked the top of the wall. I also loved the night I spent in Salisbury. This summer we went from Edinburgh to Durham to York to Bath to London all on the train. York to Bath required a change in trains in Bristol; the others were all direct. I think both Durham and York are on the train route from Edinburgh to London, but I could be wrong.

Posted by
8387 posts

"So those of you who are underwhelmed by the Cotswolds why? Is it that there is not that much there or too many people there?"

With a couple of exceptions, I wouldn't say I've hit too many people in the Cotswolds. The exceptions were on a Mad Max tour of the Cotswolds from Bath last June when it was pretty crowded in Bibury along Arlington Row and really crowded in Bourton on Water. I'd walked thru Bourton on Water before on a Rick Steves tour and that time it was pleasant and not jammed but it may just depend on how you hit it in relation to the bus tours.

As far as "scenic-ness", it's not that it's unscenic, it's just that to me there are much more interesting places to see. To my eye, the small port towns of Cornwall were more interesting as well as the villages in N. Wales or the Lake District. I enjoy the wilder scenery in Wales or someplace like Dartmoor. I guess it all depends on what you like to look at!

Now, having said I'm not big on the Cotswolds you may wonder why I went on a day tour? Well, I'd finished Rick's Villages of Southern England with family members and we were staying a few days in Bath. One of my group didn't realize that tour didn't go to the Cotswolds and expressed disappointment so I booked us on the Mad Max tour for the day.

I've also been to the Cotswolds on the Rick Steves Best of England tour when we stayed for 2 nights in Stow on the Wold and I've been on a couple of Road Scholar tours as well.

Posted by
1838 posts

If you were to hire a car to drive from Bath to the northern part of The Cotswolds - around Bourton-on-the-Water, Lower Slaughter, Chipping Campden, Broadway, etc. ; you would have to find a hire company that would let you drop of the car in Cheltenham or Oxford in order to proceed by train to York. Look at this map that follows: it shows the area between Bath & the aforementioned places - the colours are live traffic flows. Find the A46 going N form Bath. Zoom down and pull out the yellow man for street view. Do this at the Cotswolds villages mentioned above. Then you can judge for yourself whether or not you think that area is worth visiting. You can also check out the type of roads that you would be driving.
https://www.google.co.uk/maps/@51.6448438,-2.1982885,73715m/data=!3m1!1e3!5m1!1e1

The East Coast Mainline links London (Kings Cross) with Peterborough > York > Durham > Newcastle > Edinburgh. Trains travelling at up to 125mph are on this route roughly every 30 minutes. Some trains go to/from Edinburgh > Newcastle > Durham > York and then head SW via Birmingham to Bristol (change for the short hop to Bath) before going down to Devon & Cornwall (the SW). You may well find fares are cheaper if you split the ticket at any change point. (It is risky have any of the cheaper pre-booked longer distance tickets for any day that you land).

Please note that Virgin no longer operate the East Coast Mainline. You would simply go on www.nationalrail.co.uk and put in your date and from KGX> YRK and up will come a list of trains and prices. (Click ‘Details’ and it will tell you whose train. Click the train you wish to pre-book and it will ask for your debit card number - having first switched you through to the relevant train company. You will get a Booking Number. Take same debit card to UK and put booking numbers into ticket machine along with SAME debit card and out will come your tickets. (It is also possible to do this at station ticket offices by seeing staff - preferably at off peak time. You can collect all tickets at once).
Video of train from London to Edinburgh:>https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fVoWSTHcnmo

Posted by
4408 posts

So those of you who are underwhelmed by the Cotswolds why? Is it that there is not that much there or too many people there?

It's because it's not unique. There are hundreds of similar places across the UK but most don't feature on many tourist's radar because they don't know about them. People see the Cotswolds mentioned so they decide to go, they in turn recommend it and it's like a domino effect. Sure, the villages are attractive and they are located in an official Area of Outstanding Beauty but there isn't much to do there unless you have a particular obsession with tea rooms and antique shops. I've driven through the area on several occasions and stopped off for something to drink or to get carried away in The Cotswold Cheese Company but I couldn't imagine spending more than a day there unless I was using it as a base to explore the wider area.

I actually prefer nearby Cheltenham and the Wye Valley, Forest of Dean area however much depends on what you're used to and your interests.

Posted by
1130 posts

Beth,
Thanks for sharing your pace utilized during the trip to Greece as it provides a good benchmark for like kind travels.
FYI: we live near Sarasota and track airfares from Tampa, Orlando and Miami for our travels to Europe. Our most recent trip, two weeks in London during July, was on Virgin Atlantic from Orlando and we paid $600 RT each. I add this comment since it appears you are from Florida.
We always choose to stay outside of main tourist zones so target areas enabling ease of flow to a number of destinations relevant to our journey. For our recent journey to London we stayed in Brentford (close to Heathrow) at the Urban Villa hotel/apartments. From the Ealing tube stop to central London is a 45 minute journey, but the location provided the desired accommodations, price $85 night, non-tourist neighborhood to explore and ez access to our trip agenda (Kew, Windsor, Wimbledon, Hampton Court and many Central/West London sites). We did take an ez train trip from Kings Cross to York for an overnight stay which we highly recommend. The RS forum helped with understanding the ease, convenience and relative comfort of mastering the tube and bus system. Buy your Oyster cards and take advantage of a fantastic public transport system which greatly added to our enjoyment of the area.

Posted by
389 posts

Re whether I would substitute East Anglia for Bath and Cotswolds or just Cotswold I would say both simply because they are in opposite directions from London. You can go cross country from the Cotswolds to Norwich missing out the dreaded M25 motorway but it would depend how much time you're comfortable soending travelling from a to b on your hard earned holiday. I have nothing against Bath in fact I'm taking a day trip there tomorrow, I'm also fond of the Cotswolds but like JC I wouldn't have much their to occupy me for a long stay. It's the sort of place British couples go to for a romantic weekend away from the kids! Norfolk just offers you some great alternatives. In addition to the larger places I mentioned there is no end of charming villages to compensate for the Cotswold villages if you were to exclude them.

Posted by
1454 posts

Thanks for all the additional insights. I haven't decided too much but do think I don't want to go to Cotswolds like I was considering for three nights unless we hike between towns, which looks like a great thing to do. I found some sites online that will move your luggage for you. I actually only am amused by quaint towns for a short time and get restless with nothing to do but go into shops. But I alternatively might take a tour for the day like some of you have done from Bath as that would allow me to visit the area without the hassle of trying to get to there on my own. That would give me a couple days to visit some other places. I did look at some of the towns online that were suggested and they too are very attractive as you said.

And I am amazed by a $600 flight from Florida in July!

This board is a great resource!

Beth

Posted by
5689 posts

I agree about Durham. Enjoyed a 2 night stay there a few years ago. Trained from London. It was in late November so they were just putting up the Christmas tree in the town square. Students were gone.

My highlights were a private pre arranged tour of the gorgeous Cathderal, walks along the river path, coffees and lunches at Flat White near the river and a few pints and stew at the Ye Olde Elm Tree pub.

Last November spent two glorious days in Lyme Regis on the Jurassic Coast. Throughly enjoyed the town, the Cobb, beach combing for fossils, and the Pug and Puffin pet store. Also drove to West Bay where Broadchurch was filmed in order to walk along Harbor Cliff Beach.

Plan to return and stay longer next UK visit. I drove there from Heathrow after I'd overnighted from LAX. About a 4 hour drive. You can also train from London to Axminister ( from Waterloo Station) about 3 hours, then another 30 minutes by bus to Lyme Regis.

I've also enjoyed a respite in the Cotswolds by staying in the not over run Winchcombe. Again another November excursion to enjoy the Sudeley Castle and Gardens Christmas Show. Also hiked from Winchcombe to Broadway. Glorious hike highlighted by the discovery of Hailes Abbey.

I always leave time for London spending nearly a week finding new things to do and see each visit.

Somewhere in the Trip Reports on this website is my UK meanderings. It's titled Claudia's UK Adventures. Might be helpful.

Enjoy.

Posted by
1454 posts

I just saw another thread about staying in Durham! I don't want to move too much so would either be staying in York or Durham and day tripping to the other. I was thinking York was the better base.

I will look up your and others trip reports. That is a good idea. I am interested in some of your logistics.

Thanks.

Beth

Posted by
80 posts

I am so pleased to see so many people mention the East Anglia area of England. I stayed 10 days there in 2004 staying in the area that included a day trip into London (train from Ely a little over an hour.) There is so much to see and do in this area as some have already stated. I hoisted a half pint with the locals at the Nutshell the smallest pub in England (a local speaking to me and I think to myself, okay he is speaking English try to understand a few of the words.) Some sites we went to not already mentioned were Gooderstone Water Garden, Cockley Cley and Thetford Priory. Bury St Edmunds was my favorite village, so lovely with the ruins and the cathedral. Much more than we have all stated to seek out and explore. Enjoy planning your trip. Pam

Posted by
12344 posts

If you enjoy walking I highly recommend a 3-night stay with HF Holidays at one of their country houses. They have these large estate homes all over the U.K, including near York, in the Cotswolds, and southern England ( Devon, Exmoor, South Downs, etc.).

https://www.hfholidays.co.uk/media/brochure_files/2019_Preview_Brochure.pdf?utm_campaign=9816761_AP%20050918%202019%20LA%20and%20Preview%20brochure%20non%20members&utm_medium=dotmailer&utm_source=HFHolidaysLimited

They offer all- inclusive holidays with room, meals ( excellent quality in our experience) and guided walking at levels from easy to moderate to strenuous. Some programs also include cultural evenings, sightseeing by van, or other activities. Most of the guests are British and the camaraderie on the hikes and at dinner is a great experience.

We have been to their Lake District site and are going to Cornwall next May.

Posted by
1130 posts

Beth,
It costs zilch to set up multiple flight searches on skyscanner and the app will commence sending you updates on opportunities. We set searches on a multiple of destinations "just in case" a bit of low cost flight magic occurs. We booked the flights in March with a direct from Orlando to Gatwick on VA and returned on VA from Heathrow to JFK connecting on Delta back to Orlando. Per person the RT ticket was $635. I would pay extra to avoid JFK on future trips!
Good luck!

Posted by
652 posts

Just a point, Bury St Edmunds isnt a village its a city! The defination of a city in england is weither or not it has a cathedral, nothing to do with population size.