Proposed Itinerary - East Midlands/East Anglia

Would someone kindly take peek at this schedule and comment regarding the proposed sights? Our goal was to stay within about an hour's drive of the place we're staying for a week, Barnsdale Country Club. Many of these choices are based on internet research and previous suggestions. Should we try to visit a "fens" (note that we are from the Pacific NW and are able to see nature reserves)? Of course, many of the sights are weather driven and we'll mix the days as needed. (We arrive this coming Saturday, Sept 21). We've joined a National Trust/Royal Oak and purchased a Hidden England (HE) ticket. Thank you! Sat Drive from Heathrow (noon) to Barnsdale Country Club. Pick up supplies, get oriented. Sun Rockingham Castle (HE) Foxton Locks Lyddington Uppingham Mon Cambridge – 11 am walking tour (is there anything else we should try to do, or just focus on Cambridge?) Anglesey Abbey Tue Grimsthorpe Castle (HE) Barnsdale Gardens Wed Doddington Hall (HE) Lincoln cathedral & castle Thu Burghley House (HE) & Stamford Potter around Rutland, Oakham Fri Grantham – Woolsthorpe Manor Belton House (HE) Sat – Head to Cotswolds for 3 nights Mill Garden in front of Warwick Castle (skip Warwick)
Stratford upon Avon

Posted by Christina
New York, NY, 10025
365 posts

Can't comment much, but if that is the Cambridge tourism office's walking tour, it's very good! You could send the whoe day there if you wanted, but the walking tour is a good taste of the place if you prefer to move on to the Abbey after.

Posted by Sharon
Santa Rosa, CA, USA
892 posts

I don't think I'm very helpful either in addressing your questions. I will tell you some of the places we saw that are on your list: Rockingham Castle (loved it!); stayed in Uppingham (farm B&B) and thoroughly enjoyed driving through the countryside; we did not take the formal Cambridge walking tour - walked all over on our own - loved the Fitzwilliam museum and took a boat ride (punting?) - spent a whole day there; Burghley House and Stamford were nice stops, and we were in Rutland (beautiful countryside) and Oakham. We had many comments when we were in Rutland that they were not that used to tourists there from the U.S. That's it from your list. I really like East Anglia and plan to go back to different sites next year.

Posted by Nigel
East Midlands, England
8760 posts

Hi Kay, I think we discussed some of this previously by I forget. What route are you taking from Heathrow? Are you stocking a fridge or just looking for snacks? Rockingham Castle grounds open at noon, the castle at 1pm. The outlier on the Sunday is the Foxton Locks. Do you just want to see them or are you going to go for a walk along the canal? Either way, that might be good to do first thing, and then get back to Rockingham, Lyddington and Uppingham as they are all close together. Will you have lunch and tea at the castle or in the villages? I was just at Rockingham (village not castle) and Lyddington last Tuesday to walk in the countryside. The village of Rockingham is well worth a stroll as it spills down the hillside below the castle. If you have an opportunity for tea, I wasn't impressed by the village tearoom. The pub halfway down the hill also do teas but I haven't been inside. I might be tempted to eat in the castle at their tearoom if it looks good to you. Lyddington has two good looking pubs, and is a very scenic village. Do you have an iPhone? Do you have the Good Pub Guide app? If so, it is an excellent app with very good information. Be careful of using it if you are paying for data. The Old White Hart is a bit upmarket in its decoration and we couldn't get in without booking, even at 2pm. At the other end of the village is the Marquess of Exeter which was really nice looking. We ended up that day at one of our favourite tearooms, Jennifer's Old Post Office in Weekley, just down the street from Geddington - of Eleanor Cross and packhorse bridge fame.

Posted by Nigel
East Midlands, England
8760 posts

Much of Anglesey Abbey is open on Mondays, but on both Mondays and Tuesdays both the house and the mill are both closed. The gardens there look special in all seasons, and there is lots to see. A bit going over because the seasons are changing. The summer colour will have faded and the autumn leaves have not yet begun. The mill is towards the top of the gardens and is a working water mill which grinds flour and gives demonstrations. If that is your thing it would be a shame to miss it. Just a few miles down the road from Anglesey Abbey is Wicken Fen (National Trust). I don't know if it is like what you have back home. It is a proper fen - a peat bog with marsh and reeds, much more water than land - , home to many water birds, and you walk through the fen on raised boardwalks overlaid with chicken wire so you don't loose your footing, right out into the fen. There are a number of hides, and the atmosphere is wonderful. The cottage is closed on Mondays and Tuesdays, and cycle hire is only on the weekends. It is spectacular and you often feel like you are the only person there. Thursday looks like a day made in heaven.

Posted by Nigel
East Midlands, England
8760 posts

A few miles west of Anglesey Abbey is Houghton Mill (National Trust) near Huntingdon. It is a large water mill on an island in the Great Ouse in a lovely setting. Only closed on Thursdays and Fridays, although next week will be the last week of the season for the tearoom. Very easy parking and just off the main A14 highway, quite close to the A1. Stamford is well worth several hours, just to see all the churches if nothing else. All different, all well worth seeing. Just up from the bridge is a quintessential second hand bookstore on the left just past the clock repairer - if you like looking around some very old books. The owner is very knowledgeable and I think she knows where every book she sells is. The TI in Stamford is at the theatre and they provide a very good service, including several what to see maps. Those maps are often at good pubs, too. I noticed a good choice at the White Hart in Lyddington, for example. Are you aware that Grantham is where the first lady Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher, was from? When you say skip Warwick, you mean the castle not the medieval town, right?

Posted by Marco
Oxford, United Kingdom
783 posts

Going from Rockingham to Foxton, don't bypass Market Harborough, or you will miss the (former) grammar school on stilts. The whole centre has been a conservation area for many years with many Georgian buildings. Go out via Great Bowden rather than the main road. When in Oakham don't miss the great hall of the castle. The Rutland County Museum too is worth a visit IMO but is closed on Thursdays (open Mon, Wed, Fri & Sat). Both are free admission. Try to pull in Lyveden New Bield if you can (nearest place is Oundle but is really in the middle of nowhere!). National Trust property it is not a ruin but a 'never completed'. The Tudor gardens have been recreated, and this time of the year the orchard is full of fruit on trees of that period, no longer available commercially. Would only recommend going there in decent weather though as it is exposed on a hill.

Posted by Tim
Ojai, CA
591 posts

If you have any interest at all in horses, the pretty town of Newmarket is the horse capital of Britain and is surrounded by many beautiful horse farms. The 'National Stud' gives daily tours (it's just 5 or 10 minutes from Anglesey Abbey) and in the town is the Nat'l Horseracing Museum. Also, just north of Newmarket is the little town of Ely which has one of England's greatest cathedrals..... you can see the towers from about 15 miles away. Of other places you've mentioned, Cambridge (Kings College Chapel is amazing), Stamford (beautiful city where the BBC filmed parts of 'Middlemarch') and Burghley House are all great places to visit.

Posted by Kay
Vancouver, WA, USA
216 posts

Thanks so much everyone, for your generous input - exactly what I wanted. 1) Let me start with Nigel's question about the route we're taking from Heathrow. We haven't discussed or mapped it yet. We'll have a GPS, but Nigel, do you have a suggestion for the route? (I've noted the route you provided earlier to get from Barnsdale to Stratford.) 2) As far as food, we plan to buy breakfast supplies and produce. I've learned that there is a Tesco in Oakham. Are there any other suggestions? 3) We definitely plan to stroll around Rockingham (Foxton first), Lyddington, Uppingham, Mkt Hrborough, and Stamford. 4) I will not be using a Pub Guide app unless I'm in a free wi-fi area, but thanks for telling me about it! I put Jennifer's Old Post Office and Geddington on our list. 5) I didn't know Ms. Thatcher was from Grantham. Would you agree that Meryl Streep did an excellent portrayal of the lady? 6) We don't have peat bogs around here and we do love wildlife so the fens need to be added. 6) Yes to skipping Warwick Castle. A stop in Warwick at Mill Garden and Lord Leycester Hospital are on the itinerary. Further guidance please: It seems that there is much enthusiasm for the area around Cambridge (Fens, Ely, Anglesey Abbey, Oundle, Newmarket) and I would dislike missing out on some delightful places. It looks like we need to spend two days in and around Cambridge. Would you agree that this would be a better choice than a day up by Lincoln/cathedral and Doddington Hall? I love cathedrals but we've seen plenty in our travels, and we'll be seeing more palatial homes during our trip. I'm a little concerned about big house burnout. Lastly – could you please talk to the weather spirits and tell them to hold off on the rain? We see enough gray skies and drizzle in our neck of the woods as it is.

Posted by Kay
Vancouver, WA, USA
216 posts

Marco, when do we get onto Great Bowden road to go into Market Harborough? Do we jump off the A6/Harborough onto Langton/Thorpe Langton/Welham Rd and then onto Bowden? Or, do we take the A6 and get off slightly before Market Harborough at Dingley Rd exit? (I'm looking at Google maps for this information.) Thanks!

Posted by Marco
Oxford, United Kingdom
783 posts

Take care! The Langton Road runs under the A6 with no junction! I was thinking more in the other direction, so from Market Harborough take the Great Bowden Road (!), which changes into Station Road. Exit Great Bowden by the Leicester Lane, which becomes Gallow Fields Road, which goes almost all the way to Foxton (and the Locks is signed off it). These aren't narrow roads, even though they are unclassified - but if it sounds too complicated stick to the main ones.

Posted by Kay
Vancouver, WA, USA
216 posts

Thanks, Marco, I see how that route works!

Posted by Nigel
East Midlands, England
8760 posts

2) As far as food, we plan to buy breakfast supplies and produce. I've learned that there is a Tesco in Oakham. Are there any other suggestions? Yes, there is that Tescos. There is also a Coop in both Oakham and Uppingham. They tend to be more expensive with less quality produce. In Stamford is an excellent quality Waitrose. 4) I will not be using a Pub Guide app unless I'm in a free wi-fi area, but thanks for telling me about it! If you do get the app, it is The Good Pub Guide 2103 that you want. Full of information and either free or very cheap. We don't drink but use the app a lot when we are heading to a new area. 5) I didn't know Ms. Thatcher was from Grantham. Would you agree that Meryl Streep did an excellent portrayal of the lady? Easily answered, we don't often watch movies. Certainly haven't seen that one. Sorry. 7) I love cathedrals but we've seen plenty in our travels, and we'll be seeing more palatial homes during our trip. I'm a little concerned about big house burnout. Peterborough Cathedral is not far away and very impressive as is the area immediately around it. Burghley House on your Thursday will be very enjoyable. 8) – could you please talk to the weather spirits and tell them to hold off on the rain? I'm just looking at this weekend on my BBC weather app for Oakham:: you may like to see high 17, low 13 white cloud on Saturday; high 20, low 13 white cloud on Sunday. Pretty good at this time of year. ... more

Posted by Nigel
East Midlands, England
8760 posts

... more - = - now to go off piste: you are better off with a diesel car even though the fuel is more expensive because of the higher mileage. When refueling remember that in the UK green hoses mean unleaded petrol, black hoses mean diesel. Don't mix 'em up!! There are disposable plastic gloves next to most pumps, for diesel filling. Pump first then go inside to pay. Supermarkets are almost always cheaper, but not always. I got the cheapest Shell today at a used car lot, a penny cheaper than at the nearby Waitrose. Have a look at http://www.petrolprices.com/ You have to register but is you do you can find the cheapest fuel around a postcode for free, and you get up to 20 searches a week. They have an app too, but it is expensive and I just use the website. When you register you can have them send you by email up to 3 locations every day. It saves me tons of money.... happy travels

Posted by Kay
Vancouver, WA, USA
216 posts

I always enjoy your helpful tips, Nigel. Tesco or Waitrose, here we come. I wish I could get that "good" pub app but it is only programmed for Apple, not my Android. Might have to resort to the second-best one. And speaking of apps, I won't be able to download the BBC weather app until we land on your side of the pond. I thought our respective weather might be similar but we are about five degrees lower in latitude; hence, the 10-15 degree difference in temperature (warmer here). I can deal with the gray but wet stuff would put a damper on things. We're bringing rain gear, and if we need any more, we'll head to the Lands End Outlet Store you had mentioned earlier this year. I like the suggestion about seeing the Peterborough Cathedral. It would be a good addition to the Burghley House day for sure. We appreciate the advice to get diesel and that the black handle means diesel. As long as the pump doesn't gobble our card (like it did at the unstaffed pump in Italy), we'll be happy travelers! I've signed onto the recommended gas price website and I'll see if it works for us. We'd love to save tons of money! You make the most insightful and valuable suggestions for travel apps and tips. We sure appreciate your taking the time to do so.

Posted by Kay
Vancouver, WA, USA
216 posts

WE MADE IT!
Just wanted to give a little update to this post with the hope that Nigel and Marco will see it. We made it to Barnsdale/Oakham with little trouble and only a couple of kisses on the left curb. Bob (the husband) did remarkably well driving on the left although I gave a few reminders to hug the center a bit more. He negotiated all the roundabouts like a pro (not quite like a native). We followed Nigel's directions but were terribly glad we had a GPS. We knew were on the right track when we zipped past Lumbertubs Road (pronounced LubDub by the GPS). Hit the TESCO in Oakham and then got to the room. Sunday, we decided to go to Burghley House. On the night before we left, I discovered that a Historic Houses membership would be quite advantageous. I was too late to get it by mail but were able to get one at Burghley, get a 2-week temporary pass and have the permanent cards overnighted to Barnsdale (we need the cards to cover 3 weeks here). We spent most of the day enjoying Burghley and grounds, and then decided to traipse around Stamford. After a short visit, we felt we could make it to Petersborough to see the cathedral. Unfortunately, it closed at 5 pm so we were too late. Instead, we got to see a lively Italian marching band perform in the square with a dynamic Italian singer; people danced in and out of the band and it was quite fun. For dinner, we went for pizza and beer at The Fox and Hounds in Exton. Ah, yes indeed, Nigel. It is a lovely part of the world and we are SO glad to in this special part of England. Lucky us!