We are traveling for the first time to the Cotswolds and will stay in Chipping Campden after a few days in London. We want to visit Blenheim, Cardiff, and Stratford-upon-Avon from our base at Chipping Campden (on different days). We'd like to take a train from London, then rent a car for our time in the Cotswolds - perhaps in Stratford upon Avon, which we'd like to visit anyway, or Bath? We'd like to avoid having a car in London. It's hard to figure how to make this work without great knowledge of train routes, geography of the area or car rental places within walking distance of train stations. Thanks for any advice!
If you get your car at Heathrow you certainly do not have to drive in downtown London. I always rent there and would never drive in the city... just watch the signage and head right out ...I think its more trouble and way more expense to go someplace else to rent a car. It is not a problem to have your car in Stratford. With a bit of effort I have always found a place to park. A GPS also helps, but I have driven there numerous times without one. I love Chipping Camden and have stayed there at the Volunteer Inn. It was a great home base to visit the Cotswolds.
Just wondering why Cardiff? It is not close to the others. Other than that concern, your other proposed day trips from Chipping Campden are easy to do, reasonably fast so you will have plenty of time for going around your destination or also around things on the way.
Not sure why you wouldn't just rent a car in London. Or at Heathrow. It's a 3 pound trip out to the airport if you go early, and you can pick up a rental car and drive from there without having to negotiate city traffic. Unless you want to see the scenery on the way from the train. In which case, there's plenty of info at http://www.britrail.com/ and http://www.nationalrail.co.uk/ We've also rented a car in London and driven out of town. It's not as hairy-scary as some people make it out to be.
Virginia - My wife and I made a similar trip(minus Cardiff) a few years ago. We rented our car in Oxford.
As far as Cardiff... I did the drive from Chipping Camden.. just wanted to go to Wales, and it was a nice, easy drive. We did hit a bit of fog along the way that slowed us down, but it quickly cleared. We did spend the night once in some little town (can't remember the name)...but one time we drove there, wandered the beach, enjoyed fish and chips and drove back in the same day.
Also recommend renting in Oxford. Recover from jet lag in London, then take the short train ride from Paddington Station.... Avis is just behind the Oxford station (on the west edge of town, so not much traffic to deal with). En route to Chipping Campden you'll go through Woodstock where Blenheim Palace is, so might as well do the visit then.
Cardiff is a long day trip from Chipping Campden (2 hours away), so you might want to stay a couple nights in Bath and do Cardiff from there.