I have a month, probably June, to spend with my five children (ages 16, 13, 11, 8, and 4) somewhere in the UK. We would like to find a town to use as a home base that is on a rail or bus line that we could take to visit other towns - I do not want to rent a car and drive. We would like for the town to have the basics we need for "living" within walking distance and countryside for long rambles. We do want to spend a few days in London to see the sights and go to the museums, but mostly we want the village life with lots of walking, biking, riding, picnicking and occasional day trips to other places by public transport. Can you recommend a place like this anywhere in the UK? Many thanks.
With a month, why not try 2 places? I'd encourage you to pick one in Scotland. I'd go for Aviemore- plenty to do! The Rothmurchie estate has horseback riding, canoeing, walking, hikes, swimming, etc. Then there is Mt. Cairngorm, the highest mountain in Scotland, with hikes, the funicular, etc. There's a restored steam train that does a round trip along the Spey River, and a reindeer preserve and heather center. And Aviemore has good train and bus service- day trips to Inverness, Blair Athol and Blair Castle, Pitlochery, Kingussie, and plenty of other places would be easy. Plenty of homes/cabins to rent, too. We haven't stayed in any 'small' places in England. But I'm certain others will be along to recommend somewhere. Though 2 weeks in London would be really fun, in my opinion- and there's PLENTY of day trips to do by train from there!!!!
Cecily, Check your local Library or larger book stores to see if you can find a copy of the RS Great Britain or England Guidebooks (2014 editions should be released sometime this fall). That may provide some ideas on places you might like to stay. With a month, I'd suggest spending at least five days in London and then split your time between two or three other locations. Your group may get bored staying in the same place for a month. Good luck with your planning!
We have been to the U.K. several times. I would agree you should go with a couple of one week rentals instead of one month in the same location. IMHO, the best choices would be 1. somewhere convenient for Devon and Cornwall 2. Somewhere convenient for Yorkshire and Northumberland 3. Somewhere in the Scottish Highlands, probably around Fort William. With those locations, you could visit the most scenic areas which are also near lots of historic sites. If you want a 4th location, somewhere convenient for Warwick and the Cotswolds.
walking, biking, riding, picnicking and occasional day trips to other places by public transport
I don't often have the opportunity to recommend my own locality, but I can in this case. Take a look at the New Forest, a misleading name because it isn't new and most of it isn't woodland. It's a national park, approximately 150 square miles of open heath, moor and both old forest and conifer plantations, almost all of it unfenced and freely accessible to the public. The area looks the way it does because ponies, cattle, donkeys and even pigs are allowed to roam freely.
The main village in the centre of the forest is Brockenhurst, 90 minutes from London with two fast trains per hour in each direction. Carry on to the west and in 30 minutes you can be in Bournemouth, a large seaside resort. It's not too far from Salisbury and Winchester. Bike hire is available in several places in Brockenhurst, and at least one riding stables is within walking distance of the centre (the one where my daughter learned to ride). The main street has a small supermarket, butcher, baker, bookshop, pharmacy, cafes, an Indian restaurant and a number of gift shops. There are lots of pubs which do food and which welcome children.
You might also consider Winchester, a beautiful small city, not far from the New Forest (see above post),short train journey to Portsmouth & Southampton, and an hour's train ride into London. Apart from the wondrous cathedral in Winchester, there are some lovely riverside rambles, one which will take you to a monastery which, since the Middle Ages, has been offering bread a glass of beer to passing strangers. On the High Street right near Saint Alfred's statue is the Tourist Office, staffed with helpful and courteous folk who will happily advise you. (P.S. There is a nice public toilet there, too.) (Oh, dear, I said "toilet" instead of restroom, washroom, bathroom or ladies'room.)
Thank you for the helpful replies. I am off to research these leads. Best, Cecily
Another area to consider is East Anglia and especially Ely, Cambridgeshire. It has a train station and is only an hour ride to London as well as a beautiful cathederal. Guidebooks are very helpful. Enjoy planning your trip and have a great time.
I would suggest The Cotswolds for half of your visit. Many little villages all linked together with footpaths and buses. Perfect for expereincing village life.
The quaintness, beauty, uniqueness is historical and unsurpassed, there are pubs everywhere if you choose not to cook. Moreton on the Marsh is a gd base for transport. And all close to London.
Then perhaps either Oxford (university & museum)or Hadrian 's Wall area (Base as York and or Lake district all by bus). A bit far though if you need to get to London from here.
Unknown to Americans is the small Suffolk town of Woodbridge. It's about 2.5 hours by train NE of London. I know it because we've visited relatives there. One could easily spend a week or a month there. It has everything one would need. There's an old tide mill and a good walking path along the pretty river. The city of Ipswich isn't far. Norwich is an easy day trip.
Don't overlook the possibility of a few days in North Wales: wonderful Snowdonia National Park with it many hiking trails, castles to explore, scenic mountain railways, slate mine tours. Conwy makes a good home base.
We stayed in Windsor for a week when my boys were 8 and 11. We didn't try to find countryside rambles, though, so I can't speak about that. Windsor Castle and Legoland are nearby, plus easy access to London via train.