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1st time to Great Britain.

Hello all.

New to this website and first time traveling to Great Britain for 14 days (Januaray 2009). <-- I have purchased both R.S.'s 2008 DVD and Guidebook which I've been reviewing religiously.

We'd like to hit Edinburgh, Snowdonia and/or The Lake District, Cardiff (I want to visit Hay-on-Wye), Bath, Canteburry and London.

Your experience, help and recommendation(s) would be MUCH appreciated!

Debating on:
(a) buying separately: Britail Felxi Pass, Airline ticket, b&b's/hotels (Travelodge seems to be a decent chain for us) and the Oyster card.

(b) investing in an airline/hotel combo and base out of London for 13 nights along with the BritRail Flexi Pass and the Oyster card.

I LOVE shopping and plan to bring home a lot of souvenirs - but traveling and stopping a night here and there (and as recommended to bring as little as possible on the Britrail) limits my luggage and thinking it might be tiring (which is why the 'basing out of London' idea sounds tempting).

p.s. I've NEVER been on a train before! :)

I'm so confused but excited about going to Great Britain! :)

Thanks in advance!

Posted by
15506 posts

Basing out of London is not doable for this trip. Nor wise.

I suggest you go to this site and check train schedules and fares:

UK National Rail

Just to give you an idea, London to Edinburgh is about 5 hours by train--each way. The Lake district--depending on where in the Lake District--is even worse.

My suggestion would be to do a circle route from London...London-Edinburgh-Lake District-Cardiff-Bath-London.

Canterbury is an easy day trip south from London. Snowdonia, I believe, is difficult to reach by rail. I've never been but I'm sure others on this board know for sure.

There's no train service to Hay-on-Wye. YOu can get a bus from Heresford.

Posted by
643 posts

I'd fly to Edinburgh if I were you, it is a long train trip (5 hours each way) and you can fly cheaper.

Posted by
3614 posts

I'll add on to what Frank said by suggesting that you eliminate the Lakes and Snowdonia altogether. Both are areas of great natural beauty. In January they will be cold and bleak. Also, the hours of daylight will be extremely short. London is one of the greatest cities in the world. You could easily spend one of your weeks there and only scratch the surface. I lived there for a year and have also visited several times. You can e-mail me if you have specific questions. BTW, Travelodge is a kind of American style chain. It's fun and much more interesting to stay in B&B's; though my experience with these is mostly outside of London. My favorite sources for lodgings are www.specialplacestostay.com and www.karenbrown.com.

Posted by
15506 posts

Rosalyn, thanks for pointing out the daylight issue. I didn't even notice what time of year she was going.

Tina, you'll have about 8 hours of daylight during January. Figure between 8 AM and 4 PM. (The later in the month, of course, the more light.)

As Rosalyn stated, the scenery will be beautiful but bleak. You can fly from London to Edinbrugh and then Edinburgh to Cardiff. Then train to Bath and then to London. This will mean skipping the Lake Country and Snowdonia.

Flying is faster, the train will offer more scenery--if taken during daylight hours.

Posted by
51 posts

EXCELLENT!

We are considering the winter weather and (lol I thought read somewhere there was only 1.5 hours of sunlight (the rest, cloudy)... but 8 hours of sunlight.. I'd think we struck gold! :) that'd be lovely... but I'm anticipating mostly cloudy, wet and cold days in January.

We are nature lovers and that was the only reason we wanted to visit the Lake District/Snowdonia (plus to try out the b&b experience).. but my worry was rail closures/snow problems.. we can skip this :) spend more time elsewhere.

Thanks again for the advice!

I don't think we'll mind the rail ride. I want to do it for the experience and I love scenery (plus it'll give me time to write in my journal :) and catch up on sleep - since I have a feeling we'll be rushing in each place).

Again, thank you everyone for your helpful advice, tips, recommendations!

Posted by
31 posts

Tina, a nice place to stay in London is Cartref House. It's a quaint B&B and the owners are friendly and will go out of their way to assist you. The rooms are small, but clean and affordable and the price of the room includes a full English breakfast each morning. It is centrally located, a 10 minute walk to Buckingham Palace and other attractions. Lots of shopping, theatres, and museums nearby. Victoria station is a 10 minute walk away, also. Hope this helps.

Posted by
1014 posts

We have stayed in Snowdonia area for a week, Lake District and Cardiff for a week each. Both are really beautiful areas, but you must have a car to really appreciate them. Cardiff can be ok without a car. Take bus trips out and back. The circle route suggested above or one similar makes more sense. If you can do an open jaw ticket, fly into Edinburgh or Glasgow area and fly home from London might save a day of backtracking. You could do a car and public transport also. Start in Scotland, work way South to Cardiff, turn car in and bus/train to London for last days and fly home or drive to London and turn car in. By having a car, luggage becomes less of a problem til you leave Cardiff or London. By driving to the London area, you only have to worry about luggage transport to the airport and then home. Remember, most airlines are charging a bundle for luggage now. If you have small, light items, scarves, blouses, jewelry, etc. It might be cheaper the ship them home by surface mail. It takes 4 to 6 weeks to get them, but it is half the price of air freight. You might be able to get stuff down to one backpack and one suitcase each.

Take old clothes that are decent but can be parted with on your travels. When packing for home, leave the old stuff for the maid or just throw it away. Use the extra room for "good" stuff you are bringing home. Wife and I do this all the time.

Posted by
49 posts

Tina,
First of all - have a great time in Great Britain. I was just there in May and had a wonderful time. Don't be nervous- the people I encountered were very nice. Two to three people would come up to me at any given time that I had a map out to offer help with directions. The trains are efficnet and easy to use - although expensive. I agree with prevous posts - skip the Lake District. I was there in late May - beautiful, but 60 degree F and rainy half the time. I spoke with a few locals - it's cooler and grey in the winter with no tourists. I highly recommend Bath - great city with lots to do. It is an easy day trip from London, but it is nice at night and might be worth staying over.Brock's Guest house (in Rick Steve's books)was nice, clean and accomadating when I stayed with them in may. You should consider using Priceline for a London hotel- I got the Hilton in the Westminster area for 120$ a night in early June, It was a nice, safe hotel within walking distance of the Tube. Edinburgh is not to be missed, but I would suggest that you stay near the royal mile - the B and B's in Rick's books are a 7-8 minute bus ride of 30 minute walk to the city center and since the weather may not be that great, it might be nice to be close to the action. I did stay AmarAgua in Edinburgh and it was a lovely B and B with a great beakfast - but a little out of the way. As for buying a rail pass - I didn't. My iternery was fixed and I wanted to save money, so I went to www.raileasy.co.uk and bought point to point tickets several weeks before my trip and saved about 70% what I would have paid for a rail pass. The tickets are nonrefundable and not exchangable, so if you want flexability, this would not be the way to go. Regardless of what you do, have a great trip and tell us about it when you return.

Posted by
12 posts

My first train trip was in the UK. One bit of advice, choose your seat carefully we ended up riding facing backwards for three hours, YIKES.

Posted by
8799 posts

I'm still trying to figure out Colin's post and what he was riding backwards. A train I suppose. Oh well, I agree with some other posters save Snowdonia and the Lake District for another trip. I been to London over a half dozen times and it still thrills each time I go. Always something new to explore. I suggest you either get an apartment or stay in B & B's. The latter are enjoyable because of the hosts. Most are wonderful and helpful. Loads of recommends on the Graffiti Wall on this website. If an apartment is something you might like to try I've stayed here 3 times over the years; The Vancouver Studio Apartments in Bayswater. However, I'm looking to book through aplacelikehome or english-manner next year. A change of pace. London has wonderful parks so be certain to stroll through and arround Hyde, St. James and Regents. I personally love the Hampstead Heath and always spend a day there and walking around the surrounding neighborhoods.

Day trips to Salisbury and Stonehenge could be added and always informative and fun, the Original London Walks, is a good way to see London. Trains are easy and a great mode of travel. Enjoy your trip. Don't spend too much shopping!

Posted by
51 posts

Thank you everyone!!!!

We've booked a (2 night) b&b in Betws-y-Coed and are looking to do some horse riding there as well.

As well as a (3 night) b&b in Bath (the Athole Guest House).

I wanted to choose a place where we could relax... spending first two nights in Scotland then with all the jet leg and train travel, a couple nights in Wales would be the perfect time to wind down and re-energize :)

I'm kind of dreading our last 5 nights in London (my friend wants to see a couple musicals, I'm personally not a fan of musicals, but have decided to go since we won't be doing much at night, but I may just go see one musical ;)) it's going to feel like a massive RUSH!!!!!!

But I'm excited. Planning is pretty stressful.. but I'm VERY excited about visiting this country!!!!

Our basic itinerary:
(2 nights) Edinburgh
(2 nights) Betws-y-coed
(3 nights) Bath <-- 1/2 day trip out to Stonehenge
(1 night) Canterbury
(5 nights) London <-- day trips out to Gold Hill, Beachy Head and the Roald Dahl Museum.

Thank you all again for your suggestions!!! It is GREATLY aprpeciated!!!!

Posted by
2783 posts

Hi Tina, one musical that I feel sure you would really enjoy would be The Lion King. The costumes are fantastic as is the music. I have seen it three times in London and loved it every time. A couple other good ones are Grease and Wicked. Theater in London is great fun, during intermission they will go down in front and sell ice cream which is really good. Go and have fun.

Posted by
1826 posts

For you London theatre, you might want to consider The 39 Steps which is playing at the Criterion Theatre. Not a musical, but a very clever murder mystery with many roles all played by just four actors.

Posted by
837 posts

Tina, we spent a bit under 2 weeks in GB in fall 2006. While we generally like trains, I found them terribly expensive in England. Opted for Enterprise care rental. MUCH cheaper and convenient for going where you want. I have been very happy with tripadvisor.com for lodging information. For France, England, and Italy, the recommendations were spot on. As for Brit chains, the Premier Travel Inn was wonderful at Heathrow. I would definitely look at them when you want a hotel rather than b&b.