I am planning about a 12 day trip around England with my teenage daughter (just the two of us), which will begin with a 3-day conference that I will be attending at Oxford. We want to end in London, spending perhaps 3-4 days there before flying back to the States. So we will have approx. 5-6 days to travel elsewhere before ending in London. What are the best ideas for planning those 5-6 days? We are interested in York and Durham, perhaps Bath, and Stonehenge? What should our top priorities be for this rather short time period? Will we need to travel by car or can we make do with a rail pass?
Will you have a car? You'll get all sorts of suggestions with everyone's favorites. I really enjoyed my trip to York. If you have a car I would expand it to explore the Yorkshire Dales. If you remember the Herriot series on TV you'll know a bit what to expect. There are Abbey's--Fountains and Rievaulx--and castles--Bolton and Castle Howard--and lovely walks. I've not been to Whitby, but there are people on this helpline who always chime in at this point and say it's a good place as well.
I did like Durham as well. It's much smaller.
York is fantastic town to visit -- it has a lot of history, a beautiful cathedral and neat medieval streets. I have not been to Durham, but it's on my list.
Since you will be in Oxford, you might want to spend your 5-6 days in that area as there is so much to see. You will be very close to the Cotswold region, which is very picturesqe. You're also near Warwick, which has a wonderful castle. Oxford is also pretty close to Bath, which has the old Roman baths, a neat abbey and beautiful Georgian architecture. From Bath you can take day trips to Wells, Glastonbury, Avebury and Stonehenge. Or you might want to stop at Stonehenge on your way to London. Other nice stops on the way are Salisbury and Winchester.
The trains in Englad are great. They will not take you to Stonehenge and Avebury, and although they will get you to the Cotswolds, you'll need a car to drive around the area.
Have a wonderful trip!
Before you decide on using a car or going by train, do some research and see what locations are reachable directly by train from Oxford. I would want to avoid the need to backtrack into London to catch a train out west to Bath, etc.
The bus is another possibility. Takes longer, but they are comfortable, not expensive, and go places trains don't.
On the other hand, a car would give you the flexibility to do any number of daytrips out of Oxford, or to wander around the Cotswolds and parts of the Southwest for those 6 days. Don't drive into London. Dump the care in Oxford or elsewhere and take the train into the city.
Now, here's a different thought. I really like London and Yorkshire, so I would be inclined to spend all my time in those two places. When you are finished at Oxford, take the train into Paddington. Grab a cab across town to King's Cross for a train up to York. Hire a car. Spend 2-3 days exploring York and Yorkshire. Train back to London. If you get bored with London (impossible), you can use the train to do easy daytrips to places like Cambridge, Brighton, Canterbury, Bath, etc.
If you opt for a visit to York, I would recommend staying in Helmsley and then take a day trip to York. Helmsley is an excellent 3 night base to visit York, the Moors and Whitby. Whitby can include a day trip that includes a visit to Scarborough. The James Herriott Museum in Thirsk is one of the nicest small museums we have visited in 17 trips to GReat Britain.