The end of August/beginning of September we took a 15 day trip to England. We have been to the UK 25 times (we love it!) but typically get a rental car and go into the countryside. This was a trial trip on taking trains for the entire trip which my husband was resistant to but ended up thinking it worked fine. I will have to say, my husband and I ended up feeling not very good for the entire trip which caused us to abbreviate some of our plans. Yet it was a good trip. Arrived at Heathrow and took a taxi to Premier Inn by Kings Cross station. We have stayed here before and like it. I spent the first 2 days in misery with back spasms from dehydration (not drinking on the flight). After 2 days we walked across the street and got on the train for York which was right on time - 2 hour ride through beautiful country. In York, our hotel was 10 minutes from the train station, 10 minutes from the Roman wall and 20 minutes to the town center - a good location. We stayed at the Ibis which is a budget hotel and maybe a bit too much budget for us. I wanted a trip where we stayed in one place and got to enjoy it. We saw many wonderful sites: York Minster Cathedral, York Castle Museum, Shambles, Railway Museum, Richard III Experience, The Bar Convent, Holy Trinity Church (fantastic!),Castle Howard, walked the Roman wall and had many Costa coffees! After 6 days we took the 2 hour train ride to Liverpool - scenery was gorgeous along the way by many beautiful villages. We had never been to Liverpool before and loved it. We stayed at the Premier Inn on Hanover Street and it was great - 10 minute walk to Albert Dock. It's in a great location with many restaurants and shopping. My husband and I like museums and they have wonderful ones here! The Maritime, the Slavery Museum, the Immigrant Museum, Museum of Liverpool and the Walker Art Museum. We saw a bit of a Beatles show but could have seen much more - there's Beatles music playing all over. It was Heritage Days while we were there and on the Dock there were rides, live music, food booths. It was wonderful. We saw the two large cathedrals and almost got blown over from the wind!! After 4 days we took the 2.5 hours train ride back to London. When we went to check into our last night's hotel (Millenium Gloucester Hotel in Kensington) they had no room for us. They told us Expedia (that I had booked through) had cancelled our room. But, they did give us a room for more. Turns out the hotel had cancelled our room that very day. Our credit card had been stolen and we were coming with our new one, but they cancelled the room with no notice to us. Nevertheless, it was a good trip. We now have to figure out to take trains and incorporate small villages into our train vacation.
Thanks for this report. Sorry your "medical issues" put a damper on the trip, but it sounds like you made the best of it.
Your Expedia experience is why I try to book direct with hotels if at all possible. Glad you weren't left "homeless"!
Yes, Liverpool has lots of great museums, and not just Beatles sights. If you go back, book in advance the tour of John's and Paul's childhood homes. They limit each tour to about 12 people, and only run four tours a day, so they get booked up; the flip side is that it's a very intimate look at not only John's and Paul's childhoods, but how people lived in that time and place. Furthermore, the area with the houses is quite far from Liverpool's center, and even today feels very suburban; I imagine it was much more so 60 years ago, when they were growing up.
If you like small villages, you'll like this; it's like a "small village experience" even though it's in a city. https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/beatles-childhood-homes
Thank you, Harold. I would like to go back to Liverpool and see more!
Many thanks for your interesting account. Car travel wins for getting into the countryside and train travel wins for visiting cities. When considering places to visit using public transport, perhaps the first step should be to be familiar with the rail route network:> http://www.nationalrail.co.uk/static/documents/content/routemaps/nationalrailnetworkmap.pdf
From places served by train, I would then consider checking out how to get to smaller places by bus. This site will tell you how to get around Britain:> www.traveline.info
I would also suggest you visit other countries which have excellent public transport systems. In Europe, Switzerland has fantastic scenery and a wonderful public transport system.https://www.myswitzerland.com/en-gb/home.html
Lucerne (Switzerland) lies on a massive lake with numerous boat connections:> http://www.luzern.com/en/index.cfm
This is an excellent site for advice about European train travel - just click the relevant country:>https://www.seat61.com
Thanks for posting a trip report. Sorry you were in misery for the first two days! I was sick during our last trip to England, and it cuts into your enjoyment somewhat. I enjoyed reading the details of your trip. Glad to read that you enjoyed taking the train; we do too!
As you study the rail map James gave you, you will see that you can go all over England by rail. Some places that will mean rail to a certain station, then taxi or bus to a small town nearby.
During our last trip to England, we stayed a week in London, then headed out by train. We left Waterloo Station, arrived in Salisbury. We stayed in a Tudor-era hotel, walking distance to shops and the cathedral. Salisbury Cathedral was one of the reasons for our trip there. It was magnificent. They have their own copy of the Magna Carta on display there. The second day we were there, we took the Stonehenge bus out of the town center. Lovely ride through countryside out to the stones. The third day we did several walks around Salisbury. Lots of good restaurants, coffee shops and shops around Salisbury.
Then we took the train to Stratford-Upon-Avon, passing through Oxford. The first day in Stratford-Upon-Avon, we walked around to the Shakespeare houses, the church where he is buried, and went to the Royal Shakespeare Theatre. The second day, we took a tour of the Cotswolds with the company "Go Cotswolds".
The tour started early in the morning and we returned about suppertime that evening. I highly recommend this company. See my review here:https://community.ricksteves.com/travel-forum/day-tours/go-cotswolds-tour-with-tom-the-most-fun-we-had-while-in-england
Easy train return to London. Put us into Marylebone Station.
I think that if you take another England trip, you would enjoy both of these places. Another way to explore outside of London is to settle into a hotel or apartment in London, and take day trips with this company, London Walks. Browse through their day trips and see if any suit you. www.walks.com
Forgot to ask. Since you two are Beatles fans, did you get to walk across the famous zebra crossing outside Abbey Road Studios this time?
London Walks has a Beatles walk for London that is very good ("In My Life"). I think it costs about 12 pounds per person.
Thanks James and Rebecca. Good to know there are ways for us to get to these places when we take the train and then transfer to buses, etc. We have been to the places you recommended, Rebecca, and loved them. Did them all by car so now I know we can go again and do it differently. In Liverpool, because we weren't feeling well, we did not do everything we had planned. We did a very minimal Beatles show - would like to have done more, but that was it for this time. We were also going to take the train to Chester. Had been in Chester 20 years ago and wanted to go back but didn't do that either. I'm sure there will be another trip. Thanks to both of you for taking the time to pass on information!
Hello Sharon! Glad to hear you have been to those two places and enjoyed them as much as we did! Maybe someone else reading the forum, planning a trip, can use the information, so I will leave it up. Next trip to England, we are thinking of doing more train travel, so we will probably purchase a BritRail pass. Happy travels to you!
Rebecca, I'll be anxious to hear where you plan to go with your Rail Pass.
Rebecca: be wary of the Britrail Pass as many think it is expensive. If you are going longer distances, it pays to pre-purchase Advance tickets for specific trains - with the cheapest tickets appearing on the system around 11 weeks out. For shorter trips, the price stays the same for pay on the day. Try and avoid commuting time M>F. Some journeys are cheaper if you ‘split’ the tickets.
Prior to any purchase of a Britrail pass, I would go on the forum and say what your plans are, and hopefully someone will come back with advice on what to do. You can play around with the system and different dates here:> www.nationalrail.co.uk
James, thanks for your most excellent advice! I will use the link you provided to check on tickets for every leg of my journey.
Sharon, the planned route for us will be:
London to Cambridge to Norwich
To Peterborough to York
To Alnmouth to see Alnwick Castle
To Bamburgh Castle
Back down the East Coast Line to Newcastle; head west on the Hadrian's Wall Bus, making stops.
Arrive at Carlisle, then to Chester from there to Oxford.
Then south to Salisbury then Portsmouth to Brighton, then
north up the train line through Gatwick Airport to Redhill, east to Seven Oaks which will be our base for seeing
a couple of sights in that area. Then east to Dover, up to Canterbury, back to London.
We will be staying 2 to 3 nights in most locations.
One location named (Peterborough) is not an overnight stopover, just a place to change trains and see a beautiful cathedral really close to the station.
This will be a 4 to 6 weeks trip. So we will add days to some locations as we get farther along in planning.
Believe me, there will be days built in for resting, such as 3 to 4 days in Salisbury.
We will not be in a rush; we will just put in more time in each place if we feel rushed.
This trip will take place next spring. Could be March/April or April/May.
While you are enjoying Peterborough Cathedral (and the royal graves among others) you could do worse than a lunch or snack at the little coffee shop in the grounds, just inside the gate. Yummy, fast, inexpensive and decidedly good. You might enjoy their ploughmans - one of the best I have seen.
My goodness, Rebecca! That sounds absolutely fantastic. I have been to many of the places you mention and loved them. Really like Norwich and that area. Can't wait to hear about it!
Nigel, thank you for your advice! I will definitely have lunch or a snack there. I want to visit the grave of Queen Katherine. Peterborough Cathedral looks so unusual and beautiful. I read that it is Norman, 12th century and all original. So I must stop there and have a look.
Sharon, thank you! You have really seen a lot of England! I have been to Norwich before and want to return. We should compare notes. I'm sure you have been to many places I have not, because you have had a car on your previous trips. I myself would give the car rental a try sometime, but my husband won't go for it! We both love trains, and he has a small model train layout here at home. So.....as much train riding as possible is a fun part of the trip for us.
Correction to my schedule. I left out a stop in Durham between York and Alnwick.
I would love to compare notes sometime. As I mentioned, this was our 25th trip to England so we have seen a lot but I know there's still more.
Rebecca: When going from Norwich to Peterborough, you may like to stop off en-route and take a look at Ely Cathedral. Go on Google Maps to see the distance from the station.
I see that you have already been to Oxford & Salisbury and that you wish to return to these places. I would consider visiting new places. If you are going Alnwick, then you might just as well go to Edinburgh - which can be done as a day return by train. Or, you could continue to Edinburgh and then either continue into the highlands - or, head south down to Penrith and take a bus into the Lake District (Keswick)?
Another possibility is after visiting Chester, to head west into Wales - possibly heading for Conwy. From nearby Llandudno Junction, a single track line heads south up a beautiful valley before going through a tunnel to emerge in the former slate mining town of Blaenau Ffestiniog - from where a narrow gauge line (Ffestiniog Railway) goes down to Porthmadog (a good place to stay). From here, the Welsh Highland Railway goes through the Snowdonia National Park to Caernarfon.>http://www.festrail.co.uk
Also in NW Wales:>http://www.snowdonrailway.co.uk
From Porthmadog, a ‘normal’ railway goes down the beautiful Cambrian Coast before turning inland to eventually reach the English border town of Shrewsbury. 'The Marches Line’ - going S reaches Ludlow in about 25 minutes = real Olde England although Shrewsbury is also worth a look and is an excellent rail hub.
Anybody thinking of rail travel, may like to check what trains go where through different locations. You can to this at the following site - click the -hour sign to back track into the British daytime.http://www.realtimetrains.co.uk/search/advanced
Rebecca, I think James has some great ideas. Just to talk about one of his points: on one of our trips we started at Hatfield House and then went north to Ely. It is a wonderful little town with a great cathedral. From there we went north to Kings Lynn. The Royal family (I'm told) always came into Kings Lynn on the train before heading to Sandringham. After Sandringham, we then headed east and along the north coast and then down to Norwich. Beautiful country in these areas. I also think the Welsh border towns are also wonderful. Since I'm inexperienced with train travel, I don't know routes, but I do know the train goes from London to Ely and Kings Lynn.
James, wow! Thank you for all of your excellent suggestions! I am looking at maps now to check out all the places you mentioned. You know how it is, trip planning, maps of all different regions spread out on the tabletop.
I am looking at the FestRail site for Welsh Highland Railway. They have a great relief map (shows mountains) of Wales showing the route of the train line.
Thank you for your Real Time Trains link. I am also using this rail map (to plan) that you gave way up this thread:
I will be adding the places you mentioned to my itinerary.
Sharon, thank you for your excellent suggestions as well! On that trip, I assume you drove a car from Hatfield House to Ely. I will have to go see Ely Cathedral. I have always been curious about King's Lynn, too. Did you get to go inside Sandringham House? I assume it is open for visitors when the Royal Family is not in residence. Ah, yes, found it! http://www.sandringhamestate.co.uk/visiting-sandringham/
Many thanks to you both for your comments!
Rebecca, The trains from London to Ely runs from Kings Cross and goes past Hatfield House. The station is right outside the entrance. Although the trains to Ely don't stop at Hatfield (only short-distance commuter trains stop there), it is easy to get from Hatfield to Ely with one change.
That map is good ( http://www.nationalrail.co.uk/static/documents/content/routemaps/nationalrailnetworkmap.pdf ), it shows all the lines outside the big cities. It cannot show all the lines around for example London, there are too many.
It does not show all the stops, it shows less than 50% of them. For example Hatfield is north of London Kings Cross, between Potters Bar and Welwyn.
This is a diagram-map of London showing all routes and stations: http://www.nationalrail.co.uk/London_Rail_Tube0517.pdf
This is a diagram-map of the area around London showing all routes and stations, as far out as Ely, but ommitting those inside London shown on the previous map: http://www.nationalrail.co.uk/London_South_East0517.pdf
Chris F, thank you!
Hi again Rebecca. Yes, we did visit Sandringham and had a car. It is really worth a visit! But, when we were in Kings Lynn, transportation was going to Sandringham and I'll bet Ubers now too. It's not that far.
Sharon, nice trip report!!!
I agree with the recommendation to stop in Ely. Very pleasant town and wonderful cathedral. We enjoyed Cromwell's house as well.
If you look at the rail map I gave earlier, you will see that several routes cross at Ely. From memory, it has trains going from London (King’s Cross) to Cambridge > Ely & Kings Lynn; others go from Norwich to Liverpool and another service runs from Stansted Airport > Cambridge > Ely > Peterborough and across to Birmingham.
When I wandered around Kings Lynn, I came to Captain Vancouver’s statue on the quay - as this was his place of birth:> https://www.visitwestnorfolk.com/places/kings-lynn/history-of-kings-lynn/maritime-kings-lynn/
I also drove a few miles north to Hunstanton on the coast - which has amazingly coloured layers of red marl and chalk on the cliffs - best photographed in afternoon or evening. I also went to nearby Sandringham. (I had a car). (Great Yarmouth - is awful)!