Recommendations for 2 Week Trip to England in April

I'm teetering on the edge of senior citizenship and planning a solo trip to England on a shoestring budget. I can stay with friends in Heathfield (East Sussex), Bradford, and probably Harrogatetoo bad they're so close. Looking into couchsurfing and airbnb for reasonable accommodations in London where I hope to spend at least a few days. I won't have a car and am looking forward to train travel. My interests are people-watching, photography, flea markets, quilts/fabric, dogs, art museums, spirituality, off the beaten path pursuits, artsy stuff. I do love beachcombing. I live in a rural area and so while I appreciate gorgeous scenery, I don't pine for it. One or two castles and cathedrals will be more than enough for me. I'm a fan of Downton Abby, Ruth Rendell, PD James, The Beatles, etc. I adored the pubs of Ireland and connecting with locals. I'm friendly and consider myself adventurous. I've considered 1)taking the train thru part of Wales (+ferry) & flying either into or out of Dublin. 2) Ditto the Caledonian (overnight train) from London to Scotland but where to disembark? And for how many nights? I'd welcome all suggestions re: itinerary and ways to save $$$. Thanks for taking the time to read this & respond.

Posted by j.c.
Cary, NC, United States
842 posts

This site is a great resource, so my prime recommendation is to exploit it thoroughly. Look at the train travel that's accessible from your friends' locations. With some luck, you might be able to use those locations as hubs for more travel. Prices for rail tickets usually increase as your day of travel approaches, so buying early saves money. You can buy the tickets online and they will be mailed to you or held for pickup on the day of travel. The UK's rail pricing scheme is voluminous and arcane; bear that in mind when looking for good ticket prices. Buses go many places that trains do not, and there are local and regional firms, and national lines, of course. So, with research and planning, you can get around surprisingly well without a car. The overnight train to Edinburgh saves time, but it does take less than 8 hours and you won't see anything. York is on the line up to Edinburgh and one of my favorite places. Very accessible on foot with more than enough to keep you busy for a day or two. Edinburgh is also a favorite. The primary station, Waverly, is in the town center and within walking distance of several hotels and the main shopping area along Princes Street. The B&B's in Rick's books will need a taxi ride, or bus. Edinburgh needs two days, at least.

Posted by Harold
New York, NY, USA
2826 posts

If you mention "Bradford" to people in England, you will get the kind of reaction that mentioning "Cleveland" used to get, before they built the Rock and Roll Museum. But Bradford has a very good National Media Museum: http://www.nationalmediamuseum.org.uk/. Their unique offering is that they are one of 3 places in the world where you can see This Is Cinerama in its 3 screen glory. Here's their description: "What is Cinerama?
Cinerama was an ultra-wide film format created in 1952 to be the ultimate in immersive cinema. It used three 35mm film strips to gather a huge quantity of information, to create a sharp, finely detailed image. These three films would then be projected onto a 146° curved screen to fill people's field of vision. The aim was to immerse the audience in their film experience, in much the same way as modern IMAX or 3D cinema. The National Media Museum is one of only three public venues in the world that can show Cinerama. Our monthly screenings of This is Cinerama are a proud tradition. An early '50s response to the popularity of television, Cinerama's enormous screen and 7-track surround sound practically lifted the audience out of their seats. In 1993 this Museum opened Pictureville – an exact reproduction of a Cinerama theatre. This is Cinerama was the first 3-strip film ever made and is about as fun a piece of Americana as you are ever likely to see."

Posted by Harold
New York, NY, USA
2826 posts

Now a more general response: while you should certainly look at Rick's Great Britain book, he only covers part of the country, and it clearly isn't his favorite place. So, get at least one other guidebook to learn more about your sightseeing options. for places he does cover, Rick usually has the best information about how to get there and around. He will also have money-saving tips. If his recommended places to stay and eat are above your budget, look at Lonely Planet or Lets Go (written for students, but they do find some good bargains suitable for everyone).

Posted by Keith
United Kingdom
679 posts

I've some suggestions re Bradford which I'll try and write up this weekend. In the meantime, so I don't forget, since you "love beachcombing", look into mudlarking beside the Thames when you are in London. There are various official guides/tours.

Posted by Ron
southwest, Missouri, U.S.A.
1359 posts

Hello Janet. Given your interests and the reality that you will be on a shoestring budget, I recommend that you go to England and Wales, only. Railroad train travel in England is expensive. Traveling in buses ("coaches") costs less money. I think the best Medieval castle in England is Warwick castle. Do you want to walk through a mansion (stately home) ? England has very many of them, open to the public. I think England is not a good country for beachcombing. I like the travel guide book : "England" by David Else, Oliver Berry, Fionn Davenport, Belinda Dixon, ... from Lonely Planet.

Posted by JANET
Westford, VT, us
27 posts

Thanks to all. I so appreciate the time and thought folks have put into their responses. As hours spent in research increase, my lists of things to do and places to go become more refined. I hope to leave time for serendipity along the way. I'm a girl who sometimes misses the forest for the trees but I learn to know and appreciate each beautiful tree in a few special forests so well..... In London, I'm contemplating using airbnb to find a room in Southwark or Notting Hill. I think I'd enjoy staying in someone's home, esp. folks who welcome out of town visitors and are sociably inclined. Altho I'll be paying for my room, new friendships are welcome as well. I would like to catch evensong somewhere, probably London, since I know I'll be spending overnights there. Maybe I'll pair it with a cathedral tour. I don't yet have a detailed map of London. Do they make those laminated fold-up ones and where to purchase? I am interested in seeing the streets from neighborhoods mentioned in some of the mystery novels I've read by Ruth Rendell, Jacqueline Winspear and PD James Marylebone, Belgravia, and Queenhithe in the City of London, respectively. Any pub recommendations or cozy spots for a cup of tea in these locations? Other points of interest in these neighborhoods? Thrift shops in London? Bradford? York? Areas easy to access known for boot sales?Great places to by fabric? Vintage fabric?Lesser known but wonderful street markets?Are there deals to be had at the Bermondsey Market?Street markets to avoid with predominantly new items (like tube sox in bulk, toiletry items, toys) and such? Finally, I don't want to pack and carry wellies but know I'll mudlarksuggestions for getting used/cheap suitable footwear for beachcombing? Thanks, again.

Posted by Swan
Napa, CA
2858 posts

Thrift stores abound in London, sometimes several in a block. I sometimes augment my wardrobe or buy a used book there.