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London and Lake District

Dear Travelers, I am travelling to London with my husband and 13 year old daughter. I have devised an itinerary which is go-go-go but our time is short. Please tell me what I should add or delete! Here goes: Arrival Day (We are staying at St. Ermin's, therefore the first day is spent around Westminster) -Changing of the Guards (11:30) -Buckingham Palace (It's open-we will be there in August) -Churchill War Rooms (on the way back to the hotel) Check-in and freshen-up -Westminster Abbey -London Eye (Fast Track) Day 2: Hop-On, Hop Off Bus St. Paul's Hampton Court Day 3: Victoria and Albert Museum Kensington Palace Hyde Park Harrod's Day 4:Tower of London Shakespeare's Globe Tate Modern? Day 5: Madame Tussaud's British Museum Windsor in the afternoon IF POSSIBLE!! Day 6: Viator-Warwick Castle, Stratford, Oxford and the Cotwolds Day 7: Viator-Leeds Castle, Canterbury, White Cliffs of Dover, Greenwich with Thames Cruise I would like to purchase the London Pass for 6 days (thus the busy London at the beginning) and I am skipping York (although I hate to do that). After such a whirlwind, I would like to chill for 3 nights. I am thinking of the Lake District, but we have luggage and hauling it to the Euston Station and changing trains, etc. sounds like a pain. So does renting a car for such a short time. We could fly to Ireland and stay at Ashford Castle to just relax, but that sounds like a big hassle and should be on a seperate Irish itinerary. What to do? Did I put too much on, and where to go at the end?
Thank you, Tracey

Posted by
2799 posts

It would be a bigger hassle to fly to Ireland than to take the train to the Lake District. Why do you think luggage is a problem? If that is the barrier to doing what you really want to do, bring less.

Posted by
18 posts

Well, I have to agree with you-especially Ireland. By the time we would rent a car from SNN and travel to Ashford it seems like more of a hassle than for what it's worth. (Although Ashford Castle would be lovely!) Viator has a wonderful 2 night excursion in Windermere, but you have to meet the tour at the Windermere rail station at 8:35am. Now I am leaning towards just staying in London for 3 more nights and taking more day excursions. Perhaps the Lake District should be saved for another trip and just concentrate on LON and the outlying areas? (Bath-York-Blenheim?)
(Am I overthinking this or just nuts?)

Posted by
1590 posts

One of your London days should start with Westminster Abbey - the lines there get just as long as the lines for the Tower of London.....It's easy to do a day trip to York. The train takes two hours and leaves from Kings' Cross Station. The train station in York is an easy level walk from the historic district.....We did not enjoy Madame Tussaud's - way too crowded to be enjoyable.....Are you planning on a night or two at the theatre? One of the highlights of a visit to London!

Posted by
18 posts

Thank you for the information regarding Westminster-I will definitely keep that in mind...I have also heard that Madame Tussaud's is a pain, but...I can't persuede a 13 year old! (But we are NOT going to the London Dungeon!) I believe we are just going to stay in London and forget the overnight trip. Just too go-go...I believe I will take a couple more "day trips" (And yes-One to York) and make London our home base. Has anyone been too the south of England? Land's End? Is it worth going to for a day trip? I have Windsor/Stonehenge/Bath Leeds Castle/Canterbury/White cliffs of Dover/Greenwich with Thames River Cruise Cambridge/Warwick/Cotswolds/Shakespeare's Birthplace
York Thank you again for all of the advice! Now-Can anyone find me a cheap plane ticket? (Ha-Ha-Thought that was funny!)

Posted by
1590 posts

This book is worth the twenty bucks if you want to do daytrips from London: "Daytrips London: 55 one day adventures." by Earl Steinbicker. He tells you how to get to most of the locations you mention using trains from London. If Amazon doesn't have any more copies, try Amazon.co.uk.......Lands' End in Cornwall is too far for a day trip. However, Cornwall is a lovely area for a 3 night getaway if you have a car.

Posted by
18 posts

Thank you for the book suggestion. I will go to Amazon and order it-since we are all obviously passionate about travel, it's a good book to 'settle in' with and mull over choices. I have heard that Cornwall is quite beautiful, so I will look in to that as well. Land's End will have to wait for another time...
Tracey

Posted by
837 posts

Several thoughts. Day 3, I found Kensington Palace a complete disappointment and I believe that evaluation has been shared by other posters in other threads. If you like Harrod's, you might want to check out Fortnam and Mason. Day 7, I don't think you will have nearly enough time, particularly if you go to the best attraction in the area: Dover Castle. The Castle itself is very interesting and well presented. Also, the WWII cliff tunnels are interesting, I would say nearly the equal of the War Rooms in London. I haven't been to Leeds Castle so my opinion isn't from experience. However, I think I would see Dover Castle and the cliffs and skip Leeds and Canterbury. York is fine for a day trip. I think I would expand the Warwick, etc. day and stay one night in the area, renting a car. Warwick, Stratford, Oxford, Cotswolds, Blenheim, Kenilworth, and Coventry more than fill two days. Maybe even stay two nights in that general area. Bath, Salisbury, Stonehenge is another good choice, but probably better with a night's stay and car rental. Cornwall, like the Lake District, is wonderful, but a day is not nearly enough.

Posted by
511 posts

We traveled with a rolling suitcase and a small backpack each (books and games and snacks) and found it very manageable on trains. Just make sure you can carry your suitcase up a flight of stairs if need be. Bring only one pair of shoes each to save weight. Your family may have more energy than mine but we really didn't do much the first day but walk around Buckingham Palace and St. James Park, then ride the London Eye. You will probably feel like a zombie after attempting to sleep on the plane. My family spent a day in the Tower (almost) and a day in the British Museum. We tend to "get stuck" in interesting places and do them thoroughly. Try to go with the flow and not stress if you find you can't accomplish all your plans for any given day. As Rick Steves says, assume you'll be back. For a day trip we rode the train to Portsmouth. If you like history or boats the new Mary Rose Museum will be open when you're there and she's amazing! I know you'll have a fabulous time. Try to write back when you get home and let us know how it all worked out!

Posted by
4671 posts

Hampton Court and Windsor are really too long journeys from central London to fit into your itinerary. You could just about do Hampton Court as a half day but I'd combine it with something else in the south-west area like Kew Gardens.

Posted by
179 posts

For me - I would skip the changing of the guard. It is long and frankly, pretty boring.

Posted by
18 posts

Thank you for the suggestions! I have also heard that Kensington Palace isn't as interesting as one would think. And I also agree-"Changing of the Guard" is overated, and I found Stonehenge to be a bore! BUT...I am taking 2 people with me-they haven't seen it, and it's almost like a , "Okay-I've seen this, now I don't have to again." (Yeah-what's up with that? Pretty stupid, I admit!) Currently I am checking out the book, "Daytrips London: 55 one day adventures" and I have scratched the 'Lands End' idea. I like Viator because of its easiness. We are (usually) picked up from the hotel, driven directly to the sights with some interesting commentary a long the way. Yeah-It may not be quite as "adventuresome" as doing it on your own (plus more money, granted) but you also get hassle-free and I don't want to have to "think" a lot on this trip... Plus-You get 'extra' sights, for example, with Warwick Castle, you also get to see the Cotswolds, Cambridge and Shakespeare's birthplace all in the same day. I believe we are going to go to the theatre one night, the kitchy "Medieval Banquet" and the "Behind the scenes, Harry Potter" movie studio tour. I'd also like to go to "Rules" for dinner and check out a walking haunted London at night. So much to do-so little time. How I wish American's got more time off work and airfare wasn't so gosh-darn high!
Tracey

Posted by
2638 posts

I would drop changing of the guards at Buckingham Palace. If you are going to Windsor Castle you can see the changing of the guards there, which is much nicer. It's a 30 minute trip by train from London Paddington Station. Hampton Court is easy to get to from London Waterloo Station, it's a 40 minute train ride.

Posted by
3419 posts

We love to use London as a base for day trips (more than 40 trips to UK in 20+ years). I have posted an article I wrote on Trip Advisor about some of our favorites: http://www.tripadvisor.com/Travel-g186338-c176673/London:United-Kingdom:London.And.Day.Trips.html Windsor is a MUST for us. Great town!!! The castle and grounds will take about 2-3 hours, and you'll love walking around the town, shopping, etc. You can even take a short cruise on the Thames from the Eaton bridge.
You can do Greenwich easily on your own, too. (We find most of the "tour company' tours try to do too much and you really can't enjoy anything. You never get enough time anywhere and spend wayyyyy too long on the buses) The London Pass is not always a good deal. Instead, check out the 2-for-1 deals from Transport for London. You buy 7 day travel cards from a National Rail Station (not a tube station) that are good on all buses, the Tube, and the Docklands Light Rail. The two adults would then be able to use the 2 for the price of 1 deals (entry to places like the Tower and some restaurant deals, too).

Posted by
389 posts

One agreement and one dissent here. As a palace freak, I think Kensington is eminently skippable. But the grounds are nice, and the Orangery is nice for tea. But when pressed for time, you shouldn't struggle to squeeze it in. I think Harrods is worth a visit.... For the food hall. Amazing. Plus, I always buy tea there, as their English Breafast tea is my favorite. But, as mentioned above, Fortnum and Mason will give you a similar experience, and also sells excellent tea.

Posted by
18 posts

UGH-I believe I sent a reply, but it doesn't look like it went through, so...I will try and remember! I have revised my itinerary and hopefully (Keith-I loved your comments!) this will be a little less go! These are in no particular order-will sort out the days once I know the times and dates they are open! Day 1: (Yes-this is still alot, but we will be excited?) After check-in at St. Ermins (Westminster) we will see London Eye, B'ham Palace, Mews and Churchill War Rooms (which are actually on the way back to the hotel) Day 2: Blenheim Palace and Cotswolds Day 3: Tour of London (by van) and tour inside St. Paul's. Lunch at Ye Olde Cheddar Cheese Tavern and then the Tower. (Yes-it will be crowded) Day 4: Windsor and cruise. Goes past Eton? Day 5: Hampton Court and Kew Gardens. One by train, other by cruise Day 6: Madame Tussaud's, British Museum Day 7: Leed's Castle Day 8: Warwick Castle Day 9: Kensington Palace, Park, Lunch at Harrod's Day 10: Home
I would like to go to the theater (Wicked) and dinner one night, as well as "Harry Potter Movie Set". Also dinner at "Rules" and maybe Gordon Ramsey ($$$) and pubs during the day. (Dickens and 'Numbers?' Used to be a bank?) A scary ghost tour with no 'Jack the Ripper' and not for kids. I know I have given up Canterbury, York, Bath, Stonehenge, Shakespeare's Birthplace and Greenwich,Tate Modern and the Globe but I am trying to scale down and am not certain if I am making the right decision in eliminating these. So much to see, so little time, but so costly airfare that I want to take full advantage...Cheers and thank you again, Tracey P.S. OOPS! I forgot Westminster! Eegads!

Posted by
3319 posts

Hi Tracey! I highly encourage you to go to the Lake District to relax! Our family has been back four or five times and we are returning again this summer. It is stunningly beautiful with lots of walking, quiet, sheep and small towns. It's one of the greenest places I've ever been and the culture there is rural and wonderful. Although it can be rather touristy up through Windermere, Ambleside, Grasmere and Keswick, it's very easy to get off the beaten path to places like Buttermere, Coniston, and out to the beautiful coast. Luggage is really not a huge issue on British trains as long as you don't have too much of it! When you arrive at Oxenholme Station in the lakes you have many options for getting around including taxi and busses. Trains don't go up through the Lake District though so keep this in mind when making your plans. We always stay in Keswick, one of the northermost towns. It isn't quite as touristy as the more southern towns and you can very quickly get away from the crowds by foot or boat across Derwentwater to hike the fells. Enjoy your time in England!

Posted by
991 posts

Your posted schedule of today looks much better than that of 4-28. Takes a village dunnit? As much as I didn't like Mdm. Tussads my daughter did. I'm sure you are aware that they also own Warick Castle. Leeds Castle is lovely but you cannot wander at will and once your guided tour is over, it's outside and to the dog collar museum with you. Tea is by the Stables but everything is done tastefully. I'm glad you're giving York a miss...this time. It really deserves more than a flying visit. RobinZ is right: Changing of the Guard at Windsor is better. Don't miss Queen Mary's doll house or a nice cup of tea at the Crooked Tea Room. There are such mixed reviews of Kensington Palace. It all depends on what's on view when you're there since they do change exhibits. I seem obsessed by where my next cup of tea is coming from..sorry..but the Orangery serves a good one and I think they also still have Eton Mess on the menu. One of my favorite things to do in London is the Tower Bridge Tour. Secondish best view in Town and a very interesting history of the Bridge. Educational without being boring. Whatever you do you will have a wonderful time

Posted by
389 posts

If you are doing the Harry Potter tour, be advised its a short train ride and then bus ride out of town, and all in all will be at least a half a day out of your schedule, if not a bit more. Totally worth it, though!

Posted by
18 posts

Dearest Travelers, Laurel is right-it DOES take a village! Thank you for all of your comments and I believe I am on a 'much better track'... I am thinking that perhaps Leeds Castle may be a better fit at a later time as well-perhaps I should eliminate that day altogether and save a one-night hotel room and just fly home? I would love the Lake District, but that simply has to wait! Kensington, oh Kensington...Not sure if you are worthy! Can anyone give a suggestion on "Rules" and if I should go there? Any real gosh-darn scary Ghost Haunting Walk Tours from Central London without the stupid theatrics? Any suggestions on British Museum, lunch at Harrods, skipping Kensington and going to the Harry Potter tour instead? The movie set? I believe this tour is approx. 7 hours long... Is Premium Economy REALLY worth it? Thank you again-I'm just about ready to 'make the plunge' and purchase! EEK!
Tracey

Posted by
1590 posts

Can anyone give a suggestion on "Rules" and if I should go there? We haven't been there, but....
The Criterion restaurant is a beautiful setting with excellent food. You might consider it as an alternative. It's in the theatre district - the Criterion Theatre is below it. Any suggestions on British Museum - it's our favorite museum - you could spend the day there, but far from Harrods which is very close to the Victoria and Albert, our other favorite museum. If you want a special lunch to go with the British Museum, you might enjoy the restaurant on top of the National Portrait Gallery, less than a mile from the British Museum. Is Premium Economy REALLY worth it? For us, absolutely. I feel very cramped in regular economy seats and really need that extra space. (and I am only 5 foot 2 tall.) Also, if you purchase tickets enough in advance you can usually get two on the side - no middle seat! Another perk for us last flight (out of SFO with Virgin Atlantic) was that premium economy got to use priority TSA security lines. Thank you again-I'm just about ready to 'make the plunge' and purchase! EEK! - go for it and have a wonderful trip!

Posted by
18 posts

Dear Cynthia from Gig Harbor,et al... Your suggestions are fabulous and yes-I completely forgot about the V&A museum, and still no place to put Westminster, although something will surely 'crop-up'...I have placed the British Museum with Madame Tussaud's, and have moved the V&A with Kensington Palace and lunch at Harrod's. I'm a tad unhappy with the Tower and how it will be pushed until after 2pm-I am desperately afraid of the crowds, however, I suppose I could use 'Fast Track', but them am wondering if my London Pass will work. (I will research that on the London Pass website. I know that some attractions will use the London Pass in coordinance with Fast Track) I will look at the Criterion and perhaps go there before we see a show. (Thinking Wicked) I have given much thought to high tea (Orangery) but my daughter doesn't like hot tea, so I am thinking, "Hey-Why bother", although I would like to. Perhaps we will take another trip to London when she is older.
Leeds or Blenheim...Any suggestions? And yes-if I purchase my airfare next week, I will upgrade to Premium Economy. Flying out of a non-gateway city, such as Columbus has it's challenges, but then again-it's not nearly as expensive as-let's say-Cincinnati or Indianapolis. Thank you everyone and I wish all great travels!

Posted by
26374 posts

Before you count on running up the Shard, check with your banker. It was even supposed to be free to the local displaced residents - never happened. It is seriously over priced. There was an article in the Evening Standard last week about stuck elevators too.

Posted by
1590 posts

Since the subject of "high-up viewpoints" has appeared, has anyone ever done the tower at Westminster CATHEDRAL (not abbey). We have never been there, but I wonder if it is worthwhile for the view?

Posted by
18 posts

My Dearest Travelers, (And thanks, Elle for commenting!) Here is my "ultimate-revised-and hopefully set-in-stone" itinerary. If there are no real objections-I am sticking with it! Day 1 (Fri.Arrival Day) Westminster Abbey Cabinet War Rooms Lunch at, "Inn at the Park" Buckingham Palace and Mews Day 2 (Sat) City riding tour in morning-end at tour in St. Pauls Lunch at "The Crypt" Pre-booked ticket for London Eye Sea Life London Aquarium Theater, "Wicked" with dinner at Da Scalzo Day 3 (Sun) Tower of London Cross over Tower Bridge to Borough Market. Get lunch Shakespeare's Globe Tate Modern Eat dinner at "Swan at the Globe" or Ye Old Cheddar Inn" Day 4 (Mon) Leeds Castle (Private Tour), Canterbury, Greenwich and Thankes River Cruise via Viator Day 5 (Tue) V&A Museum Natural History Museum Harrods for Lunch Kensington Palace Hyde Park Tonight is "Ghost Walk of the Old City" at 7:30pm Day 6 (Wed) Hampton Court (train) Kew Gardens (boat return to London) Medieval Banquet 7:15pm. (Kitschy but fun-hopefully!) Day 7 (Thurs) Windsor Castle OR Warwick Castle Eat at "the Crooked House" (If Windsor) Harry Potter Tour Day 8 (Fri) Madame Tussaud's (Skip the Line) British Museum British Library Eat Dinner at, "Queen's Larder" Day 9(Sat) Blenheim Palace Tour and Cotswolds Custom Day Trip Day 10 (Sun)
Home! This is subject to change due to weather and exhaustion! Any ideas regarding Windsor or Warwick? Which one????? Thank you again and Cheers!

Posted by
26374 posts

new day 7. Don't see how you can do it. Harry Potter takes a chunk of time; the train to and from Warwick takes a chunk of time, and for the high price to visit Warwick Castle you will want most of a day there. Unless you are possessed of a time-turner or can disapparate.

Posted by
179 posts

You have a very ambitious schedule! You have Borough Market for your first Sunday - Borough Market is open Thurs - Sat. I checked their website and don't see where they are planning to change those hours during the summer. I, for one, would love it if they did!

Posted by
26374 posts

Picking up from Nancy's comment, be aware that Borough Market (not open Sunday) is south of London Bridge not Tower Bridge. It is a about a mile to walk.

Posted by
18 posts

Alas-You are right. I am (once again) attempting to fit too much in to too tight a schedule. I'm disappointed about the Borough's Market-thank you for the information, and I am leaning toward Warwick but am loathe to give up Harry Potter, which I heard was fascinating...
Okay-I will revisit. Thank you-I believe reminders of how industrious I THINK I am (including my family) vs reality are a must! Tracey

Posted by
1590 posts

I wouldn't schedule a special dinner and the theatre on the same night. You will have to rush your dinner to get to the theatre. Several restaurants in the theatre district offer after theatre suppers - probably a better way to schedule your time.....One day when we were in London we walked the south bank starting at the London Eye, took a quick tour of the Globe, walked through Borough Market, then crossed the bridge and visited the Tower in the afternoon, so you can visit that much in one day.

Posted by
389 posts

I would block off about 6 hours for Potter, which includes travel time from London. Don't see how either case could be done in the same day at all.

Posted by
18 posts

Thank you Elle, for your suggestion. The Shard is definitely appealing and am checking that out! I have (once-again) revised my itinerary and have omitted (sadly) The Borough Market (closed on Sundays)-will go to "Ye Olde Cheddar" in lieu of as well as (sniff) Windsor and or Warwick. I have replaced that full day with Madame Tussaud's in the morning followed by a good 7 hours visiting Harry Potter. I sure hope he's worth it! Therefore, I will have more time, on Day 8 to visit British Museum, lunch at Portrait Gallery and the British Library. Then perhaps dinner at "Rules" or the "Queen's Larder"...Can't decide! I believe all will be happy with my "slowing down a bit"-especially my 13 year old who would much rather catch a show of "One Direction" than go to a boring-snooze-Churchill War Room, but hey-it's all a compromise and I am paying for it! Once again a question...Has anyone ever purchased a "name your price" on Priceline? It sounds a tad iffy-you really don't know what you are getting, but...if I can reduce the price from 1200 to hmmm...let's say...800 per person for a RT from CMH to LHR it may be worth the extra dreary hours in the airport? AND...has anyone traveled to Europe in the morning/afternoon with arrival into London in the evening? For instance, there is a 8:00 something AM flight leaving DC and arriving at about 9:30pm in London. Wonder how the jetlag would be? Thanks again and Cheerio,
Tracey

Posted by
26374 posts

Make sure that once you have locked down your itinerary hard you don't dawdle getting your Harry Potter tickets because you need to get them for a specific time slot - none are available at the Studios.