I am in the beginning stages of planning a trip to England for June of 2014. It will be with my husband and 2 daughters ages 5 & 9. The first trip overseas for my daughters. We will be spending 5 nights in London and then we want to visit the Cotswolds, Bath, Stonehenge, somewhere along the Southeast coast or Jurassic coast, and then we are either thinking about going up to the Lake District or North Wales. The girls would love to spend a day at the beach and my husband and I would like to either see the white cliffs or Jurassic coast. We like castles (ones that are intact more) and nature (hiking, mountains, ocean, etc). My thought was to spend 3 nights in the Cotswolds, 2 in Bath or nearby, and either 1 or 2 nights along the southern coast. That leaves 2-3 nights in either Lake District or North Wales. We will have a car after we leave London. Would going to North Wales or Lake District be better? Logisticly, would it work? Also any ideas on the best place along the south/southeast coast would be great. Thanks!
Sarah, I have been to most of the places you mentiion, with the exception of Norther Wales and the Jurassic coast. If you are going to spend three nights in the Cotswolds, there are several places nearby that you might consider. Warick Castle is completely restored and has dioramas. There is also a princess dressup section. Kenilworth is a ruin, but a spectacular ruin. Stratford-upon-Avon is a charming town as well as being Shakespeare's home. The Arden farm is very interesting (Shakespeare's mother's home). The Lake district is wonderful and if you take the drive in Rick's book near Keswick, you will get a taste of the Scottish highlands. I have been to the south coast, both sides of the Jurassic coastal region. Cornwall is spectacular and the Channel coast has dramatic cliffs and wonderful coves and villages. There are several castles, including St. Maws, a round castle-fort built by Henry VIII. The southeast coast is also wonderful. I think that the most spectacular chalky cliffs are Beachy Head, east of Brighton. We watch the BBC Merlin series. In the 4th series there were some castle scenes that reminded us of a place we had seen. Turns out it was Dover Castle. The castle is wonderful, and, of course, it is the site of the White Cliffs.
If you like real castles...North Wales is your best bet. Edward's castles are in spectacular locations...either on the water or with great views. While some have lost their roofs...the walls are intact and you can visualize all the knights and ladies. Caernarfon is intact. Anglesey is fabulous. Conwy's wall is fun to walk. I would definitely pick Wales over the Lake District which seems too much like a daytripper tourist location in comparison. Also look at the New Forest area when you are on the south coast. Read Edward Rutherford's book New Forest.
Thanks for the info! Did you stay along the Channel coast. If so, do you have any suggestions on a great place to stay. Thanks!
Sarah, we were in Bath, Cornwall and then London over a 10 day trip in June last year. We also visited the Cotswolds for a day trip from Bath. A few random thougts. Logistically, there's a lot of travel in here but it seems like you're staying put long enough to make that work (changing hotels after only 1 night lends itself to exhaustion). You'll have to get the map out to figure how to do this without backtracking a lot though. Car travel outside of London is managable, but trains work better when traveling in between cities. Note that beach weather in England in June will likely be cooler than you would hope, not great for swimming in my opinion. I would recommend staying in Bath as opposed to nearby - the city is really lively and has so much to offer. Our favorite towns on our short visit to the Cotswolds were Chipping Campden and Stow-on-the-Wold, both of which you'll find well-described in Rick Steves' England guidebook. Have fun!
Having the little ones with you I suggest possibly looping around south and east from Bath and visiting Longleat ( Safari park and attractions) and then down to Bodiam ( you can take a vintage train ride to the castle ) and then on to Dover / Canterbury area along with visiting any beach areas that you choose. While in the Cotswolds you can take a vintage train ride from Cheltenham race course that goes up past Winchombe and back, GWSR.com is the site.
For "Jurassic Coast", consider Lyme Regis. It's about 2 hours drive from Bath. They do fossil hunting walks and it does have beaches (though I think they are more pebbles than sand). There is also the Cobb (as featured in Persuasion and The French Lieutenant's Woman). Dorset doesn't have much in the way of old castles, but one exception is Corfe Castle which although definately not "intact" is very striking.
Sarah, we stayed in Falmouth, a lovely town. If you do stay there, or are nearby at dinnertime, do go to Rick Stein's fish and chips on the water. I misspoke about the coves. They are actually on the St. George's channel (Ireland) side, between St. Ives and Tintagel. If I didn't mention St. Michel's Mount, that is worth a visit.
Hi Sarah, I live on the Jurassic coast, and it's a really interesting place. If your daughters are at all into beach combing, I'd suggest heading for Lyme Regis. Fossils are quite often found on the beach there. And even if the weather isn't great, it's still fun to walk along the beach when you're looking for something, like fossils or Stone age tools (I've got a small collection of flint arrow heads and hand axes).
The area is pretty and Dorset has lots of thatched cottages and, maybe more importantly, pubs!
Thanks for all of the great suggestions! Does the Jurassic Coast have dramatic cliffs like the white cliffs of Beachy Head and Birling Gap? Are there any scenic train rides along the Jurassic Coast?
Bath is an enchanting place with horrific traffic problems and hotels that on average rival the costs of London. You might be better to choose a base in the South Cotswolds and motor over to Bath for a full day, parking on the edge of the city in municipal lots that have a shuttle bus into the centre. I am kid-free myself but noticed this website that might help http://www.cotswolds.info/cotswolds-children.shtml
Englishmen of a certain age are nuts about old machines and factories and your kids might share their fascination with these large toys. Restored steam railways are great fun for anyone, like this one http://www.gwsr.com/
Not exactly a scenic railroad, there is the Seaton Tramway which runs to Colyton/Colyford from the coast just west of Lyme Regis. I read about it when planning our May 2012 trip. My husband did a fossil walk that was a highlight for him, and they accommodate children. There are several different providers along the Jurassic Coast, so check dates with each. We made the jaunt to Lyme Regis as a day trip from Bath, but we also stayed in a B & B in Eastbourne, near Beachy Head. There are hikes/trails along the cliffs. There is a trail from Battle (of Hastings) to Pevensey Castle near the coast as well(website: Walk & Cycle Sussex). We thought Dover too far east for our available time. We highly recommend the castles of North Wales and, if you get to Caernarvon on a Tuesday, you can sit in on rehearsal of the local mens' voice choir. They were practicing a song from The Princess (Tiana) and the Frog/Disney movie last May--quick aside to your 2 little girls! And check your local library. There is a great children's book, Mary Anning and the Sea Dragon, about the Lyme Regis girl who stirred up interest in fossils in the 1840's. As I recall, it won an award, perhaps a Caldecott Honor.