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Best way to travel around -- rail or car?

My husband, son and I are planning a visit to England in August. I would love to travel in a (sort of ) loop around London, going to Canterbury, seeing Bodiam, Leeds & Arundel Castles, then on to Portsmouth, Salisbury, Bath and Warwick. I had thought about getting a Britrail pass for the London area which covers all these places, but how does one get from train station to the cathedral, castle or whatever? Surely some will be within walking distance, but otherwise what? For instance Kenilworth Castle near Warwick. With so little time and so much to see, I want to make the best use of time. Renting a car seems a bit daunting though... Getting lost, roundabouts, parking, etc, but maybe it would be the best option. Any suggestions on how to best plan this trip? How do you know if there are buses and when and where they connect?
Also, any suggestions on inexpensive B&Bs and good pubs in the areas mentioned above?

Posted by
10344 posts

It would take a page to fully answer your question, I'll answer part of it. To plan a complicated trip such is this large loop which you are talking about will require more research and planning on your part. You can do it, it will just take more planning if you really want to do a loop instead of passing back thru London. This will make more sense if you're looking at a map. Most travelers go from London to Bath by train. Most travelers also go from London to Canterbury by train but it's in the opposite direction from BAth, so obviously one way to do it would be to go London - Bath - London and then London to Canterbury. If you want to do it as a loop by public transportation it will take a reasonable amount of planning. Or you can drive and then the loop becomes easier to make, but some people find that driving in England does not enhance the quality of their vacation experience.

Posted by
10344 posts

continued:Leeds can be reached from London by train or bus, the Leeds Castle website explains how. Most travelers would go from London to Warwick by train, it is probably doable by train from Bath to Warwick but I don't know that for sure. Here's the best rail travel planning website which will enable you to see how much of this is loop is doable by train in the particular way that you want to do it: click

Posted by
3419 posts

Train travel is so easy in the UK. We have been more than 40 times and have never driven. We take the trains and if needed, a bus. Most sites are within EASY walking distance of stations. On the other hand, the parking we've seen is hard to find, hard to get to and very expensive. Not the mention the price of gas- you don't even want to consider it. And there is a congestion fee for driving in London that makes car rental unrealistic.

Posted by
445 posts

Adrienne: I suggest that you check out the individual web sites of the places you would like to vist. Often they have information on their site about public transportation. Very often, you may have to take a taxi from local train station.

Canterbury, Leeds Castle, Portsmouth (why there?),
Salisbury and Bath are easy train rides. Bodiam you would have to look up...I know it's in the country in Sussex..not sure about trains. I also suggest Rye which is a very quaint town on the coast.

Driving is daunting unless you are fearless. Parking can be impossible in towns.....40 years ago I couldn't find a parking space in Oxford so you can imagine what it is like now.

Get a good map of southern England and look up these places and train availability and then you can make a tentative plan. But you'd better decide soon so you can make reservations. Besides this forum, look at the listings under Rick;s Guidebooks as you might find something there.

Posted by
632 posts

not to pick on Toni, but if it were truly that inconvenient to drive in the UK, don't you think the Brits would be going everywhere by train or coach as well? Guess what, they are Driving! Seriously, you don't want a car in any of the big cities, but you can't beat a car for getting to the out of the way places such as the Cotswolds, the Lake Country and Kent.

Posted by
3419 posts

Bill- some people in the UK do drive- but many, many use public transportation. It is just so easy, relatively inexpensive and allows you to enjoy the sites as you go, too. We've enjoyed our train trips greatly and arrive at our destinations rested and ready to go.

Posted by
2634 posts

Adeinne, I agree with Bill. Having a car in the UK is great. Yes, you might have to look a little for a parking place but, it isn't that hard and not that expensive. I think you would really enjoy having a car, it's fun. The roundabouts are fun, not hard at all.

Posted by
991 posts

If my sister and I can drive in England so can you. If you're agraid of getting lost, and its a valid fear, get a car with GPS. Kent is right..buy a map and start plotting your course. You can always pick up your car in one city and drop it at another. Leeds is a nice day trip from London as is Canterbury. You could easily take the train to Warwick (you'll have to check on this), pick up your car there and work your way to Kenilworth. Kenilworth won't take a long time...it's a great red beautiful ruin on a grassy knoll..that's pretty much it. I'm not putting it down, personally I like ruins.

Posted by
991 posts

cont: Then to Bath, Salisbury, maybe Winchester, Portmouth, Arundel drop your car in Brighton and take the hour long train ride back to London. Remember Adrienne, half the fun in in the planning. All else failing, Arundel ( which by the way was closed the last time I was there and it was a Saturday!),Leeds and Warwich all have huge car parks. Look into car hire first...the longer into the season the more they cost.

Posted by
14 posts

I can see that this "To Drive or Not To Drive" question has taken on a life of it's own. I think it's fairly safe to say that, not just some of, but most of the people who do not live and work in Greater London, drive. It clearly all depends on where you want to go, how much time you have and how dependent you want to be on someone else's schedule.

Posted by
26 posts

Thanks to everyone for all the advice. I have been studing maps, books and online sources, and appreciate all the help from posters on this site. Please continue to add any suggestions that come to mind! Also, any other suggestions for budget-friendly lodging or meals in any of these cities (Warwick, Canterbury, Dover, Bath, Portsmouth, Salisbury, Leeds, London)or in between on route? We don't need frills or new, just clean. Also, any thoughts on Britrail passes? Any advice on car rental companies--to use or to avoid? Thanks!

Posted by
1717 posts

Hello Adrienne. For going to all the places that you mentioned, I recommend use public transportation : mostly railroad passenger trains. One place that can be difficult to go to is Kenilworth castle. I saw it: it is only a broken shell, not beautiful. I do not recommend expending much effort or money for seeing Kenilworth castle. One way of going to Kenilworth castle is to ride in the sightseeing bus from Stratford-upon Avon. (If they still have that. I went on that bus in June of 2003). The first bus leaves Stratford at 10:00 a.m. It goes to Kenilworth, for a quick look at the castle, from a distance of 1/4 mile. That is good enough, there is nothing in the castle, and it looks better from a distance. For me, the impressive aspect of Kenilworth is its color : a yellowish stone. The walls of Warwick castle are gray. The water around Kenilworth castle is long gone : there is a grassy slope there now. The bus goes from there to Warwick castle. And the bus goes to Charlecote Park. .....

Posted by
1717 posts

...Tourists can get off the Bus at Charcote park, and walk there, some days. (it is a private residence). If a person gets off the bus there, the next bus will not come soon. I did not get off the bus there. For me, riding in the sightseeing bus was excessively time consuming. I think it would be better to ride in a bus (the regular long-distance bus) from Stratford to the town Warwick, and walk through an alley there to the Warwick castle entrance. Stratford upon avon has a train station. I do not know the travel time for riding in trains from Bath to Stratford. I do not know anything about trains to Warwick. I guess there are no Taxi cars in Warwick: a person could ride in a Taxi from Stratford to Kenilworth for a quick look at the castle from the parking lot, and continue in the Taxi to Warwick. (And ride in a bus from Warwick to Stratford). ...

Posted by
1717 posts

...In England, tourists typically go on day trips from London to Canterberry cathedral, and Leeds castle. And they travel in a train from London to Bath, have overnight accomodations at Bath, and go on a day trip from Bath to Portsmouth harbor. (I recommend it: visit the three old British Navy ships at Portsmouth harbor. The rebuilt Mary Rose is in a building).
A good way of going from Bath to Stratford (to visit Warwick castle) is to travel in trains from Bath to Moreton-in-Marsh, sleep at Treetops B & B there. The next day : ride in a bus from Morten-in-Marsh north to Stratford-upon Avon (you will see pretty green farm land in Gloucestershire), (leave your baggage in Stratford), and go from Stratford to Warwick Castle. Return to Stratford, pick up your bags, and ride in a train from Stratford to London (Padington station). If you will be in England only a few days, you may decide to not go to Warwick Castle, it is to the north of all the other places that you mentioned.

Posted by
1717 posts

You said you want "budget friendly" lodging in LONDON. Hotels in LONDON are expensive. Try James House Hotel and Cartref House Hotel, both located on Ebury Street, in back of Victoria Station. I was there in June of 2003 : I do not know if both of those hotels are still there.

Posted by
10344 posts

Premier Travel Inns and Travel Lodge are two hoteliers that offer some of the lowest hotel rates in London.