Critique our 5 week Gr Brit itinerary

We are "youthful" seniors and have 5 weeks in Great Britain next spring. We want to see a wide variety, but do not want to be overly rushed. We have studied guidebooks, these forums and other information and have developed an initial itinerary. Any ideas or critiques would be welcome. Day 1: Arrive AM Days 1-3: Portsmouth& Isle of Wight, rent car; sleep in Portsmouth Days 4-6: Stonhenge, Avebury, Bath, Wells, Glastonbury; sleep in Bath Days 7-8: Dartmoor area; sleep in Dartmoor; Days 9-12: Cornwall; bank holiday weekend; sleep in Penzance Day 13: return car , take train or fly from Newquay?; sleep in London Days 14-20: London, sides to Windsor and Greenwich; sleep in London Days 21-24: take train to Oxford, rent car; Oxford, Cotswolds, Stratford-on Avon; sleep in Chipping Campden Days 25-27: drive to Conwy, N. Wales, Snowdonia; sleep in Conwy Days 28-30: drive to Lake District; sleep in Keswick Days 31-33: drive to Edinburgh via Hadrians Wall; sleep in Edinburgh return car Days 34-35: fly to London; sleep in London
Day 36: Depart

Posted by Cynthia
Gig Harbor, Washington, USA
1202 posts

We (more "youthful seniors") have been to the British Isles several times....I'd rearrange the days, but of course it's your choice. After Isle of Wight (never been there so I can't help with that part), you could head into Cornwall along the south coast. (lots to see on the way). Stay in St. Ives, it's nicer than Penzance...... Then leave Cornwall along the north coast, see Wells-Glastonbury, Bath, Oxford, Cotwolds, etc. (Salisbury, Stonehenge, Avebury can fit in either on the way to Cornwall or the way back).....Around Shrewsbury or Ludlow, detour into Wales. Then Lakes District, maybe Yorkshire Dales and abbeys, Hadrian's Wall, Scottish Border Abbeys, Edinburgh (return car.) Train to York for a full day, then on to London. It's nice to save London for the end - it's like the cherry on the sundae!....You are lucky to have five weeks. We usually only get about three, since we have to kennel two dogs when we travel.

Posted by david
washington
837 posts

Steve, love the trip. I would have only three comments. Two have to do with sleeping choices. I would choose St. Ives or Falmouth over Penzance. I would choose Grasmere, Ambleside, or one of several other places in that area over Keswick. Lastly, I would fly open jaw, utilizing Edinburgh and London. You did not mention it, but from Porsmouth, I would recommend driving to Brighton and touring the pavilion and on to Beachy Head. Actually, scratch the open jaw. I agree with Cynthia that finishing in London would be great.

Posted by david
washington
837 posts

I would follow Cynthia's suggestion of going Portsmouth to Dartmoor, Cornwall, then up to Bath, Cotswolds, N. Wales, Lake District, and Edinburgh. I would then train back to London, considering a stop in York.

Posted by Carroll
Pittsburgh, PA, USA
1349 posts

I haven't been to every place on your itinerary, but based on where I've been and what I've read about the places I haven't been to, I'd say this is a fantastic itinerary. I agree with the suggestion to fly out of Edinburgh so you don't have to backtrack to London. I would add a stop in York with the extra time that gives you. Hope you have a great trip!

Posted by Steve
Villa Park, CA
10 posts

Thanks for the great feedback. I have already booked very favorable saver business class seats with our under-utilized air miles bank, so open jaw won't work. Sleeping places are totally flexible so we will look around.
My biggest concern is too much road travel over bank holidays. We have been warned about that. That is one reason we have camped out in Cornwall for those four nights. Does anyone have experience with the holiday weekends?

Posted by Nigel
East Midlands, England
8761 posts

Good morning, Steve. From your post I can't work out which bank holiday weekend you are speaking about. In the Spring there are really only the Early May Bank Holiday and the Late May Bank Holiday. Both of those will be highly weather dependent for car traffic. If it is like the washouts of this year the traffic will be higher but not ridiculous. On the other hand, if we get a bad and cold winter followed by a lovely Spring everybody and his brother's cousin will head to the beach, with Brighton, Eastbourne, and all of Devon, Dorset and Cornwall inundated. The traffic tends to head to the coast at the beginning of the weekend, starting Thursday night, all through Friday, and into Saturday morning, with everybody piling out back to the cities on Sunday night and all day Monday. Worst hit is likely to be the M5 towards Exeter. On the roads many large construction projects will be put on hold for the bank holiday weekend, speed averaging cameras will remain deployed though, and the trains are likely to have significant engineering work on the lines during the whole of the weekend. But, so far out, who knows? Plans will be published closer to the time, and it all depends on the Great British Summer - the weather. If you leave Cornwall early in the weekend, and if Network Rail leaves the Great Western Railway Main Line into Paddington alone when you are on the train, the trip into London should be easy. Londoners are leaving and going the opposite direction from you. It will likely be busy but nowhere as bad as the other direction.

Posted by Steve
Villa Park, CA
10 posts

Thanks Nigel. It is the first May bank Holiday. I had all of the date information on my first attempt to post, but the "system" said my entry was too long, so I had to shorten it. You're right this is very early, but I thought I would get some of the high level planning completed.
My initial plan is to leave Cornwall via train on the Tuesday after the Monday holiday. I presume that should not offer any peculiar issues.

Posted by Anita
Long Beach, California, USA
575 posts

I would respectfully disagree with a previous comment regarding staying in Ambleside or Grasmere over Keswick. A & G are extremely crowded and touristy and, although Keswick does have tourism, it's much more quiet.
I think that your itinerary looks really good! Days 28 - 33 seem a little quick (there's so much to see and do in these places) but look at it as an overview. If you like the Lakes and Edinburgh you can always go back for more!

Posted by Rose
NYC
922 posts

What Anita said about Keswick... There's a reason why the Rick Steves 'England in 14 Days' tour groups stay in Keswick when they get to the Lakes District.

Posted by Steve
Villa Park, CA
10 posts

Thanks for the additional Lake District input!
Yes, Anita, days 28-33 perhaps not as long as we'd like, however we have a tentative plan to go back to N. Ireland and Scotland on a later trip.

Posted by david
washington
837 posts

Steve, I have been to all the 28-33 places. You have plenty of time. A couple of days in the Lake District and Edinburgh is fine and you will have them. Fairly easy drive from Lake District to Edinburgh, including stop for Hadrian's Wall, and an abbey and a castle on the way: Jedburgh, Floor, etc. The most beautiful drives in Rick's book are around Keswick. HOWEVER, Keswick has none of the charm of the other areas I mentioned above. Hawkshead is another lovely area, not at all crowded.