Cotswolds, Blenheim, and Shakespeare withOUT a car

I'm fantasizing about a three-week trip to England next July. I don't want to rent cars because if I'm concentrating on driving correctly (on the "other" right side of the road!) I won't see stuff and vice versa. So I'd prefer using public transportation, trains, buses, etc. I'd like to fit in a day trip to Blenheim, a day walking around at least a couple Cotswold villages, and a day in Stratford, ending with Shakespeare at the RSC. Right now, the pattern I'm trying to make work has us doing these three things Fri-Sun, July 12-14, staying somewhere near Stratford or Oxford. I can see that local buses between Oxford and Blenheim run on Sundays. I see that the Royal Shakespeare Co is doing plays that Friday (Hamlet) and Saturday (As You Like It) but not that Sunday. My problem is: local buses don't run around the Cotswolds on Sundays, so doing the Cotswolds on Sunday won't work. If we stayed in Stratford, that'd be the most convenient for seeing the play on Saturday, which we'd prefer. But if we also took local buses to Broadway or Chipping Camden, etc., on Saturday, the timetables would either leave us too little time or get us back to Stratford almost too late in the afternoon for supper, a rest, and the play. So finally I get to my question: If we decided we'd like to see some of the Cotswolds on Saturday, plus the play Saturday evening in Stratford, is it anywhere near feasible or practical to think about finding taxis that might drive us from Stratford to one of the nearby Cotswold villages if we wanted to do that on Saturday but not by bus?

Posted by Keith
United Kingdom
683 posts

It is feasible, but practical rather depends on what you are willing to pay. Randomly, I found this Stratford-upon-Avon based company ( which seems to specialise in longer distance journeys and had a fare calculator - one way from S-u-A to Lower Slaughter is £53! You might find somewhere nearer in the Cotswolds you want to visit or find a cheaper company, of course. I've a general point - you are cramming quite a lot into three days given this is a three week trip. I don't know where you will be before this segment of your visit, but can I suggest an alternative? - arr in Oxford on 11/July, have a look around - based out of Oxford, use 12/July to visit the Cotswolds, this gives you the advantage of the much better rail links from Oxford compared to S-u-A, plus weekday buses (including the "railbus" at Kingham which is timed to meet trains from/to Oxford)
- stay another night in Oxford and on the morning of 13/July, visit Blenheim. Then, in the afternoon, catch a train to S-u-A in time for the play and stay overnight to spend 14/July in S-u-A before moving on to wherever is next in your itinerary.

Posted by Nigel
East Midlands, England
8755 posts

You could certainly do what you ask and it is unlikely that you would be the first people to do it. You might do better to arrange a "private car", what is referred to in London as a "minicab", rather than trying to find a taxi. A "private car" is a licensed car associated with a company which has many. The car will be a normal saloon with a driver but no meter, and they are only legal when pre-booked by telephone. Prices are generally set and for the sort of thing you are thinking off would be subject to discussion with the minicab company but not the driver. The car should arrive at the agreed meeting point close to the appointed time (but don't bet the house) with some identifying signage on it and a plate by the rear number plate saying who it is driven by, the licence number, the number plate of the car, the type of car and for how many passengers it has been licensed. Minicab licenses are issued by cities or counties. The Cotswolds are a lot of work without a car and fabulous with one, especially in July - the best month of the year if the rain gods relent in 2013. Distances in the Cotswolds are further than they look. Stratford upon Avon is not as close to any of the Cotswold villages like Chipping Campden, Bourton-on-the-Water, Stow-on-the-Wold or Broadway as they may look on a map. Driving on the left hasn't stopped most people, its the roundabouts and the narrow lanes. There aren't too many roundabouts, certainly not big ones, in the Cotswolds, and while there are narrow lanes you will be taking it steadily anyway. Just go slow, work with the people coming the other way and enjoy.

Posted by Robin Z
Troy, Oh, USA
1634 posts

You were given good information above...
not sure where you will be before going to Oxford, but if you are in London way not take an early train Friday morning to Moreton-in-Marsh, take taxi to either Broadway or Chipping Camden, spend the day stay overnight then Saturday go to Blenheim Palace when they open, then you could take bus back to Oxford in the afternoon.

Posted by Katy
London, UK
130 posts

If you are in London during your 3 week trip, London Walks - - do Explorer Days to the Cotswolds on some Sundays in the summer (at least they did this year). I can really recommend their one day trip to the Cotswolds, you train from Paddington and pick up the coach from the Costwold destination station (nor sure of the name). (They also do trips to Blenheim and Stratford but combine these with other destinations.)

Posted by Tom
Easley, SC, USA
268 posts

Good advice, everyone! thank you. Back to the drawing board...

Posted by LELAND
2 posts

We have toured most of the English midlands, the southwest and Wales using the canal system. We have gone on fourteen separate self crewed and guided cruises in narrowboats (7' wide) that ranged from 55' to 70' long. We have also cruised four times in widebeams (ten feet wide)that were 66' long. We have logged over 1,350 miles and passed through over 1,250 locks all in a total of 146 days and nights during the last ten years. It is a wonderful way to see the UK. If you base the boat during the cruise for a few days where you have a rental car that is available, you can make your exploring even more far ranging. We have a few favorite canals.. one is the Stratford, and you can moor the boat in Stratford Basin for free. Taxi fare is high.. it is far cheaper to rent a car or take the public transit. Fear not to drive on the left side, with the steering wheel on the right it feels quite natural. We have had as few as 3 crew aboard and as many as six. Selecting the right hire company is important and we are happy to provide suggestions. We have cruised the canals in every month of the year except January and February. We have cruised on 18 different canals and two rivers. All were a delight and full of adventure. I am 67 and my wife is 62 and we intend to continue for many years.