Travel advice post Qm2 Southampton

Hello, My adult son and i are stymied and really need advice! We arrive on June 8 from NY to Southampton via a transatlantic crossing with Cunard. We then need accommodations for two nights in some small quaint picturesque town somewhere between Southampton and London. But there are some issues:
1- we have two full days free but on June 10 we have a flight at 10:50 am from Heathrow. Which towns have easy access by car and are no further than 90 minutes away? 2- we found a lovely hotel, the Dorian,in Bath but worry its too far away. How long a drive to London? How long a drive to Heathrow? 3- my son belongs to a private luxury car club in NY which has another location in London. He wants us to get to London, pick up the car, drive to Bath, and the next evening return the car to London, then return to Bath for one more night and leave for Heathrow by taxi the next morning. Is this way too complicated or is this do-able?

Posted by Bob
Bristol, UK
277 posts

Is your flight at 10.50, or do you want to arrive at Heathrow at 10.50? If your flight is at 10.50, and you need to arrive three hours before, then Bath (journey time about 2 hours) is certainly too far for comfort. Any main road leading to Heathrow or London is likely to be busy at that time in the morning, and there is the potential for it to be completely jammed. You don't to miss your flight, or have the worry that you might do so. "Quaint" is not a word the British like to use to describe their towns, but "historic" and "charming" are probably acceptable. Somewhere in the Thames Valley like Windsor, Marlow, Henley or Maidenhead would probably be best. Convenient for Heathrow, but good for wandering around the night before and with several suitable pubs and restaurants. There will also be roads for your son to drive his flash car, and a good train service into London. The Dorian hotel looks nice and has good reviews. It is not in the city centre, and the walk back is up a steepish hill. However, there is a regular bus service up the Wells Road which you could use. You could try one night in Bath, and then spend the second night closer to Heathrow.

Posted by Kevin
near Ringwood, Hampshire, UK
521 posts

Bath is 100 miles west of Heathrow, say 120 miles from central London. How long to drive depends on the time of day and where exactly in London. No less than 2 hours to Heathrow probably. On day 1 you could get a direct train from Southampton Central to Bath, stay there one night and then go by train to somewhere closer to Heathrow, say Windsor or Henley-on-Thames for the second night. If your flight is at 10.50 then you need to be at Heathrow by 07.50 if flying to the US or 08.50 if flying within Europe, and doing that from Bath obviously means an earlier start. Alternatively, ditch Bath and stay in Winchester (20 minutes by train from Southampton) or go to Windsor on day 1. That would be just one change of train at London Waterloo, actually just a platform change.

Posted by Nigel
East Midlands, England
8732 posts

Mimi, That's my point. Driving in the right hand seat, the mirror angles are all different, where you instinctively look one way to check the blind spots you have to look the other way. Everything looks different. And in a pressure cooker like London until you (or the son) are doing all the scanning second nature and understanding what is to be seen, you'll be so busy looking straight ahead it will be hard to look all around. The filter lights on the traffic lights will keep you thinking, too. Cyclists, mopeds, motorcycles, buses (by the dozen at a time), pedestrians who think they are wrapped in cotton wool, taxis and minicabs - to say nothing of the trucks and vans will give you plenty to think about. I assume that most of these machines will be not-automatic shift. That will be done with the left hand. This, BTW, from somebody who learned to drive (from my father) in the 1960's with a supersized 1960's Cadillac Sedan de Ville. In Brooklyn. Near the docks, maneuvering around the trucks. London is another order of magnitude.

Posted by Norma
Montreal, Quebec, Canada
3404 posts

Kevin (above) suggests Winchester and so do I. It is a charming place with a stunning cathedral and enough to see and enjoy for a couple of days. 20 minutes by train from Southaampton and abut 90 minutes from Heathrow by National Express coach.

Posted by Mimi
West Nyack, NY, USA
3 posts

Thank you all for your replies, all of which are helpful. But one of the biggest worries is if it's safe and easy for an American to drive in London. I think it's nuts and dangerous and my son thinks Its no big deal. I just found the Classic Car location, where he would pick up his luxury rental, and it's in the Shoreditch area of London. This appears to be on the far northeastern part of London, meaning we would have to drive through all of London to go to Bath or any other southwestern countryside, and later to Heathrow. If London is anything like Manhattan, it's total misery to cross town.

Posted by Kevin
near Ringwood, Hampshire, UK
521 posts

But one of the biggest worries is if it's safe and easy for an American to drive in London. I think it's nuts and dangerous and my son thinks Its no big deal. I just found the Classic Car location, where he would pick up his luxury rental, and it's in the Shoreditch area of London. This appears to be on the far northeastern part of London, meaning we would have to drive through all of London to go to Bath or any other southwestern countryside, and later to Heathrow. If London is anything like Manhattan, it's total misery to cross town. Safe? I wouldn't describe it as dangerous. Easy? Depends on what he is used to, bearing in mind that London isn't laid out on a grid, we drive on the wrong side of the road and we have roundabouts. But we aren't talking about driving through downtown Mumbai or even Mexico City here. The chances are the worst that would happen is you would get lost and add some time to your journey. Satnav would be advisable. Really the question I would ask is whether you want to spend so much time in a car. You are here for 2 nights. The car club location in Shoreditch to the Dorian House in Bath is 120 miles, which is going to take two and a half to three hours, depending on the time of day. And your son wants to do that twice in a classic car and the 100 miles from Bath to Heathrow in a cab. About that part I agree, it's nuts.

Posted by Nigel
East Midlands, England
8732 posts

if it's safe and easy for an American to drive in London. I don't see a lot of differences between Americans and others driving in London. Safe? What's safe? Once or twice a week a cyclist is killed - usually by a bus or truck - in London at the moment. Sometimes they tangle with cars, too, as they sometimes illegally pass on the wrong side or between lanes to reach the starting area ahead of traffic, sometimes (frequently) they run red lights, and bop off pavements. There are very few car-jackings. There are some key steal car thefts. ... more

Posted by Nigel
East Midlands, England
8732 posts

... more Easy? What's easy? There are many road works scattered around and sometimes holes appear overnight. Taxis do u-turns in the middle of the block to collect or fares. Traffic can be rough. It can be expensive to drive or park in London if you don't know the rules. The Congestion Charge has to be paid if you drive in or through Central London during the week - the fine for failure to pay on the day has just risen to £130. Bus/taxi/cycle lanes are all over the place with cameras patrolling and dishing out large fines for violations. Many traffic lights have red-light cameras, there is a liberal sprinkling of speed cameras, some bitter identified than others. Average traffic speed in London is now slower than it was in Victorian days, when I looked some time ago I noticed that it was either 14 mph or 9 mph but I don't remember which. But - for me - I know the rules and the shortcuts and painted line code and CPZ - Controlled Parking Zones - laws well, I enjoy driving in London (but not South of the River) and have never earned a fine or had damage to my car, and I drive in London frequently. For a casual visitor you might want to do plenty research and think twice. But taking a Classic Car, say a 1904 De-Dion Bouton to Bath at 20 mph for a couple of days of B- and A- roads might be wonderful.

Posted by Rose
NYC
922 posts

But taking a Classic Car, say a 1904 De-Dion Bouton to Bath at 20 mph for a couple of days of B- and A- roads might be wonderful. A person choosing and driving such a car may not care about speed or quickly reaching a destination. It could be about being seen and admired behind the wheel and enjoying the experience.

Posted by Mimi
West Nyack, NY, USA
3 posts

I need to clarify:
Yes the name Classic Car Club does imply 1904 regal old cars going 20 mph. Not the case here. These are 5-30 year old fine cars such as Mazarattis, Jaguars, 911 Porsches, etc. that are carefully refurbished and many can go very fast. Their London shop is in the Shoreditch area; my son uses the one in Manhattan. As for easy and safe driving, I was only questioning about the difficulty of Americans driving on the left side of the road while on vacation in England. This is very counter-intuitive for us, and seems dangerous for a newcomer. I did not mean to question the driving safety in London for native Brits. Sorry about the confusion.

Posted by Ed
Pensacola
7967 posts

I ain't a native Brit and I agree with Nigel.

Posted by Rose
NYC
922 posts

These are 5-30 year old fine cars such as Mazarattis, Jaguars, 911 Porsches, etc. that are carefully refurbished and many can go very fast. Well, one thing's probably for sure - he won't be doing much of the latter in or around London. :) (A person who can afford to rent a luxury classic car isn't going to even blink at paying the London congestion fee. Different mindset, different motivation.)

Posted by Maggie
Boscombe, Dorset, UK
960 posts

I have been driving for over 30 years, and owing to the work I do, have driven many more miles than most. So I've lots of experience. I've driven through most major US and Canadian cities, including Manhattan.
But I wouldn't want to drive in London.

Posted by Lee
Dallas
898 posts

If you can drive in any big city's traffic, you can drive in London. Of course it's easier if you're experienced at driving on the left. I agree that SatNav is advisable. But the plan to spend so much time on the road after a relaxing cruise on the QM2 doesn't make sense to me. Maybe pick some place close to Heathrow like Henley for a night and spend the night before the flight at a Heathrow hotel.