Tough choices

On our trip of a lifetime to England, there is so much to see, yet we do not want to feel rushed. It would be helpful for fellow travelers to share itinerary choices that they would make and why. We are landing at Heathrow on a Saturday morning and going directly to Oxford to spend the rest of the day. My husband studied there years ago so this is a definite. A private guide will pick us up and drive us around for the next 2 days. Because it is a Sunday, Blenheim Palace will not be offering tours plus we cannot enter until 10:30 a.m. Even though we enjoy history, I am tempted to skip Blenheim Palace and go directly to the Cotswolds for a day and a half of leisurely touring including Hidcote Gardens and a short hike. Our guide would us off in Bath in the middle of the afternoon and we would take a train to York early afternoon on the next day. We will spend a day in York and then take an express train to London for 3 days before heading home. So . . . Do we skip Blenheim or include it with less time in the Cotswolds? York sounds wonderful but do we skip it and spend more time in Bath ( for some reason I'm not too excited about Roman baths, but . . . it appears that many are with rave reviews)? I look forward to your thoughts/opinions!

Posted by gone
2081 posts

hi, in the UK ive only been to London and Southampton. for me, when i go some place i see it as only a start and not the end. If you dont want to be rushed, do some planning upfront and search what theres to do/see in the places you want to go. then you can make an informed decision on what is more important. until then, its just guessing and going by other peoples opinion (opo). one last comment, london and europe is only a plane flight away. If you want to come back bad enough, you will make it happen. it took me 10 years to get to see Paris and now i have the travel bug bad. all of my other hobbies are 2nd now and all i do is save $$$ and plan for my next trip. when i get back from my trip this sept, it will start over. I will attempt to do this until my job goes away or my body gives out. Either way, I WILL BE BACK! Happy trails.

Posted by Harold
New York, NY, USA
4737 posts

Unfortunately, the title of your post is most accurate. Blenheim, York, and Bath are all popular, so many do feel they are worthwhile. Whether you should see all of them, none of them (and see other things instead) or some of them, is something that only you can decide. The city of Bath has more to see than just the Roman baths. And, the Roman baths audioguide was excellent (at least in 1993, when I was there) and really explained what I was seeing, so they really "came alive" in a way that other Roman baths have not. But, if Bath (for any reason) doesn't draw you, don't hesitate to skip it and see something else. As you say, you can't see everything, so the first places to cut are places that are on your personal B list. Read and research as much as you can, then choose your priorities. For research, in addition to guidebooks, Rick's videos are available on YouTube and Hulu; these can be very useful in seeing if a place "calls" to you or not. And, as Rick says and Ray (above) echoes, "assume you will return."

Posted by Darren
Galt, Calif., UK
178 posts

Blenheim is still worth visiting without a tour, it is on the way to the North Cotswolds with a little detour......its about 40 minutes or so from Stow on the Wold to give you a little reference. Have a great time.

Posted by Nicole P
Truro, NS, Canada
1241 posts

My husband and I really enjoyed Bath...we arrived early afternoon by train and had a Stonehenge tour booked. We stayed the next day until about 3pm when we had to head for London...I really wish we'd had 2-3 days there...really nice city, and we'll def be returning...the Roman Baths were interesting...Bath Abbey was amazing, Royal Crescent, the 'Circle', Putney Bridge, we squeezed a lot into our 24hrs...

Posted by david
837 posts

Patti, I am having a bit of difficulty following the time frame. It sounds like you have something approaching one week. I have visited all the areas you mention and many more. The places you mention are all attractive. However, your time is extremely short. While Bath is nice, and if you do go, I highly recommend the free walking tour described in Rick's book, I think I would skip Bath given the time frame. Given that Oxford is a must, that eliminates Cambridge and gives you one great old college town. The Cotswolds are wonderful and I would spend several days. In fact, I would include Stratford-upon-Avon, a charming town aside from its Shakespeareian connections. I would skip Bath and York and probably Blenheim, choosing Stratford and Windsor Castle and perhaps Hampton Court as well. I would want a minimum of three days in London, preferably four. All of this, of course, assumes that your husband saw little aside from Oxford when he was there. I make that assumption as had he traveled during his studies, he would likely have answers to all the questions you have posed.

Posted by Cynthia
Gig Harbor, Washington, USA
1260 posts

We have visited most of England's regions on various trips. Here are my suggestions: skip Bath unless you are a major fan of Jane Austen and Georgian England. There's plenty to see in the area roughly bordered by Oxford, Wells / Glastonbury, Salisbury, and Winchester. Loads of pretty scenery, ruined abbeys, castles, gardens, and stone circles.....If you add one more day to London, you could easily do York (which is fascinating) as a day trip from London. Trains leave Kings' Cross station frequently, it's two hours each way. From the train station it is an easy level walk into the historic center. You can get your "Roman fix," if desired, by checking out the museum under the Minster. Don't bother climbing the tower with such a short amount of time - the view is underwhelming, considering how many steps one needs to climb to get there.

Posted by Carroll
Pittsburgh, PA, USA
1456 posts

You really nee to think about what YOU enjoy doing and seeing and choose accordingly. I would take a small village over a fancy manor house any day, so I would (and did) skip Blenheim in order to see the Cotswolds. I loved Bath - in addition to the Roman Baths, which I thought were fabulous, I loved the Georgian architecture. It's a very pretty town and fun to walk around. There's lots to see nearby, but you probably don't have time for that, particularly if you are going to York. I loved York too, but I would prefer to have another day in London. Also, the shorter the time frame, the less time I want to spend in transit. Oxford, the Cotwolds and Bath are all in the same area and not that far from London, so that works well. But if Bath doesn't sound like someplace you would like, don't go there just because other people like it. While you could do York as a day trip from London, I wouldn't. Do you really want to spend 4 hours plus (you have to allow time to get to and from the train stations too) in transit on one day when you have so few days to work with? Only you can decide.

Posted by Dick
Olympia, WA, USA
1185 posts

I think Carroll hit on a key point: minimize time in transit. That probably means postpone York till next time. Blenheim is a good place and close to your route, but maybe not worth the extra time given the tough choices you have to make. Maybe it should just be LHR-Oxford-Cotswolds-Bath-London. Your husband must have spent some time in London when he was at Oxford, maybe you have too. Three days is a mighty short time for London unless you've already seen a lot and have some definite priorities. You're calling this the "trip of a lifetime" and I don't know your circumstances, but if at all possible, as RS advises, "assume you will return." This is really advice to pace yourself so the trip doesn't become a blur of rushing from place to place. Hopefully you will return, and if not your memories are likely to be better if you don't try to see too much. Hope it's a great experience.

Posted by Swan
Napa, CA
3082 posts

Your itinerary would fit into a two week vacation better. I agree with the suggestion to skip York until next time.

Posted by Ken
Spring, Texas
599 posts

For a trip of a lifetime, I'm surprised you are only spending a week. Stay longer and get your money's worth out of the plane tickets. You don't mention a car so I'm assuming you are not going to rent one. A rental car would give you a lot of freedom to control your itinerary and cut tranportation time. It's cost effective and not that hard to get used to driving on the left side of the road. I can't see how you'll be getting around the Cotswolds without a car. I'm in the group that is encouraging you to not go to York on this trip. If you do, the train to York would almost certainly take you through London. You could see York after London and possibly fly out of Manchester or Edinburgh. A trip of a lifetime should definitely include Edinburgh. My wife and I loved Blenheim Palace and I would only encourage you to skip it if you have no interest in seeing the best English home tour. It's worth a solid 4 to 6 hours and makes a lot of sense into or out of the Cotswolds. Bath is Georgian heaven and there is the Roman Bath. I'll commit heresy and say it's only worth a day; and if possible, don't spend the night. Bath is very congested,unbelieveably expensive and rooms can frequently be hard to find close in. There are nice places just outside of town but they can be a chore hiking to and from. I was personally not reall impressed with Bath other than the Roman Bath.

Posted by Laurel
Arlington, WA
871 posts

I've been to a lot of places in England over the years and have a looong list of those I'd like to go back to. Sadly, Blenheim is not one of them. I'd give it a miss and spend more time in Bath or London. Yes, there is a lot more to Bath than the Roman Baths, but tea in the Pump Room was nice. The Abbey is durn near perfect and I know where to find the best pasties in town not far from there. Take a walking tour and visit the museum at #1 Royal Crescent. Skip the Jane Austin Centre alltogether but if you have time the Costume museum (I think it's called) was worth some me. There is also a shoe museum..Oh My!! I love York and have been there several times (I once thought I could happily end my days there), so is with regret that I also suggest you save it for your next trip unless you actually have more time than it appears you do. I love Oxford..afternoon tea at The mind is never far from tea.. Is there as Morse Tour? I'm sure your husband has your time in Oxford pretty well covered. I love the private guide part of your itinerary.

Posted by Amy
Fishers, IN, USA
25 posts

We just returned from England. We had two nights in Bath and a week in London. We spent a full day in Bath. Take the free walking tour that meets outside the Roman baths/Pump Room daily. It was really, really good (my 16 year old boys thought it one of the best parts of our entire trip)! You get a good feel for the town & its history. Also spent time at the Roman bath and fashion museum. The following day we had a private driver/tour guide pick us up from Bath. He took us to Lacock Abbey that day with its ties to Jane Austen movies and other films (Harry Potter). Then on to Blenheim, which was nice...but not sure I'd do it again, especially pricey. I guess if you want to see one "grand" English mansion it fits in the trip from Bath to London. But not sure I'd go out of my way to go there. Definitely liked the tour guide, he gave us tons of background information, took us to little out of the way places which we would not have been able to do on our own (Nunney Castle) which our family really appreciated. Good luck, have a great trip!