London, Cotswolds, Bath and a Car

We are spending 3 full days/4nights in London, followed by 3 nights in the Cotswolds. After our stay in London, we thought we could train from there to Oxford, tour there, pick up a car and then drive on to the Cotswolds where we will explore with our car. We do want to see Windsor, Hampton Court, Blenheim and Bath. All the reading I am doing suggests that Windsor and Hampton Court are best done as day trips from London. Since this is our first time in London I'm concerned that we won't have the time to see everything we want to in London and also take 2 day trips. If we drive to Hampton Court upon leaving London, would it be advisable to scrap our plan to pick up a car in Oxford and pick it up somewhere else instead? Or is it just not feasible to do all of this in the time we have? Please send advice! Thank you!

Posted by Nigel
East Midlands, England
8747 posts

It sounds to me like you have a "kid in a candy store -itis". Everybody is different and what follows is just what I would think - others may differ and you may go slower or faster than I suggest. You will know if you are a drive-by and check the box person or somebody who wants to see and understand. For a first time visit to London, especially if you are just getting off a red-eye from the left coast, 3 full days is enough to just get a flavour of London, just to scratch the surface. But you want, if I read correctly, to sacrifice 2 of those 3 days in day trips? Three nights, two days in the Cotswolds is just enough to just scratch the surface there. But then you want Bath, too, and Oxford and Wellington's big place as well? Its a bit much for me. I don't want you to miss what you have come for, but I do want you to see what places you are in. If it were me giving advice I'd say add more days than just a short week or pull your horns in and focus on one or two places.

Posted by Suz
Denver, USA
223 posts

I agree with Nigel. But it's not clear to me from your description whether you consider Windsor (Palace? or Palace plus exploring the town too?), Hampton Court (I assume you mean HC Palace), Blenheim, and Bath to be included in your 3 nights in the Cotswolds, which will follow your 3 days in London. I can see having 3 full days in London, and then visiting the 4 places you named, which going at a fast clip, could just about be done in 3 days (If you sprint through HC Palace and Windsor Palace on the same day, for instance). It's the "3 nights in the Cotswolds" that I don't understand. Could you clarify that? Do you mean 3 days in London, plus 3 or 4 days visiting those 4 places, and then 3 nights in the Cotswolds? I've been to 3 of those 4 places (still haven't made it to Blenheim Palace), and those 3 are each full days. With the possible exception of Windsor Palace if you aren't interested in seeing anything else at Windsor. I got to Hampton Court Palace at opening time and would have happily stayed till closing but had to get the train back to London for an appointment in the mid/late afternoon. And Bath is a whole fascinating beautiful town where I could happily spend 3 days at least; our one day there was great but just a surface-scratch. BTW, as mentioned I visited HC Palace via rail while based in London and it was very do-able, plus no hassle with driving or parking a car. Have fun - I'm plotting my next trip to Britain and also am at the kid in the candy store stage!

Posted by Robin Z
Troy, Oh, USA
1634 posts

With such a short period of time I feel like you are trying to see too much. I would suggest after London, taking the train from Paddington station to Windsor, it's a 35 minute ride with a change in Slough. You can tour the castle have lunch in a pub then pick up a rental car, there is an Avis rental agency in Windsor. After getting the car drive to Woodstock in the Cotswolds to Blenheim Palace. Bourton-on-the-Water or Broadway would be a lovely villages to spend the nights in. Many people will disagree with me, but I would leave Bath for your next visit, I like Bath, but nothing can't beat the beauty of the Cotswolds. I think seeing the beautiful and quaint villages of the Cotswolds would be much more enjoyabe to you after spending three days in London.

Posted by Susan
Huntington Beach, CA
87 posts

Oh yes, Nigel, I definitely have kid in a candy store-it is ! Thanks for the reality check. We are not really "check the box" people so realistically in order to enjoy our time I need to save some of these places for our next trip, if there ever is one. We are unfortunately limited with our time on this trip, although with a little finagling I could possibly squeeze in one extra night in London or the Cotswolds, making the trip a total of 8 nights instead of 7.
Our current plan is to arrive in London at noon on Monday May 20, and spend four nights. I don't really want to give up any time in London for day trips. I envisioned leaving London on Friday morning, renting a car and staying 3 nights in Chipping Camden, walking/enjoying the Cotswolds and somehow also fitting in Windsor Palace, Hampton Court Palace, Blenheim and Bath. They all look so close together on the map, ha ha !!! I like Robin's suggestion of training to Windsor, touring there and then picking up the car and driving to Cotswolds later on Friday. Beyond that, given our time constraints, in your opinions, what would be most enjoyable/doable in the remaining time we have left without running ourselves ragged. Thank you all for your very useful and realistic advice, I greatly appreciate it !!!

Posted by Brian
Los Angeles, California
1986 posts

If it were me, i would plan on 4 nights in London, see what you want to see, experience what there is. If, and only if, you have seen everything you wish in London, you could take a day trip to Hampton Court - you would be back in London in late afternoon (OR use this to do Windsor, but that would be lowest on my wish list ); do something similar in Cotswolds- once you have experienced it to your hearts content, you have Blenheim or Bath as backups. Although they are very different, I would consider not doing both Blenheim and Hampton Court on such a tight schedule...... If you do Bath, consider swinging by Stonehenge on your way (i dont see it on your list, but it is doable). It is always nice to have something in reserve in case weather changes etc etc

Posted by Robin Z
Troy, Oh, USA
1634 posts

I would suggest dropping Hampton Court, going to Windsor, then out to the Cotswolds then one morning driving to Woodstock to Blenheim Palace. As I said before leave Bath for your next trip.

Posted by Arlene
Highland Park, IL, USA
7 posts

I was lucky enough to spend more time in all the places you mention, so I won't suggest a 'timetable' for you. But I will suggest that you purchase tickets in advance to several places you may want to visit in/around London. I went to "tickets.com" and purchased advance tickets to the Tower of London, Hampton Court, and several others. I was in London 7 years ago in August and it was filled with tourists. When I got to the Tower of London, there must have been 100 people, or more, standing in a long line waiting to purchase their tickets. I had mine already and by-passed the line and went right in. I don't recall how much of a 'service charge' there was (if any) for buying online, but whatever it was, it was well worth it for not standing in line for a long time to purchase the tix. Since you have limited time, this could save you several hours if you visit many of the sights where you can buy in advance. Have a great trip !

Posted by Elaine
Mission Viejo, Calif., USA
773 posts

My husband and I have been to London four years in a row. We have stayed there anywhere from 10 days to two weeks, each visit. We still love everything there is to see. You will not have time to go outside London. There is way too much to see within the city. You can take a Thames River cruise. It is lovely. You catch it over by Westminister pier. We have been to York, Cambridge (twice), Oxford, Wimbeldon,Stonehenge, Bath, two different Costco's, Greenwich, etc. We used the Hop-on, Hop-off buses and also Gray Line Tours. They subcontract the tours out to some other company I can't think of right now. Youc an see a lot by using their Tube (underground subway). Their transportation is super. You can take the Tube almost anywhere. It is extremely fast, convenient and clean.

Posted by Nigel
East Midlands, England
8747 posts

two different Costco's Now that's something you don't see on most peoples' lists. ;->>>>>