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trip report-UK for 2.5 weeks

I just returned from a 3 week trip to the UK-with 2.5 weeks as vacation and the remainder being a professional conference. My husband and I traveled together until the start of my conference when he returned home. I got lots of help from this forum so thought I would try to share our experiences in hopes of assisting others. I had briefly been in England about 10 years ago but this was our first time vacationing in the UK.

First an overview. We spent 6 nights in London, 3 in Bath, 3 in the Cotswolds, 3 in York, and 2 in Edinburgh (I stayed in Edinburgh another 4 nights). We had planned for 5 nights in London but then some friends joined us and I shifted one night so we could have more time together.

We did not drive. We took trains and some small van tours. As it turned out, we found the traffic going the other way rather daunting. I found it disconcerting even when a passenger to go around a round about the “wrong way”. From Bath to the Costwolds we used Lion Tours which took us and five other people to several villages and left us and our luggage in Stow on the Wold. It was 42 pounds a person and I thought a very good value compared to taking the train (multiple connections) or renting a car one way (drop off fees). We went on many roads I would generously classify as 1.5 lanes that I would never had wanted to experience on our own. We then took a taxi to Chipping Campden where we began two days of hiking.

We also took a van tour from Bath to Stonehenge using Scarper tours which I also would highly recommend. It was basically just transportation to Stonehedge and back. It was a bit like you had a friend pick you up in the city center and drive you to Stonehedge. We left at 2 and arrived at 3 pm which was not an overly busy time and had about 2 hours there. We walked from the site back to the museum area and as a result could have used a little more time at the museum but that was a choice we consciously made.

My husband had been very keen on hiking in the Moors and we had originally talked of renting a car to do so. However, he had torn his meniscus after we made plans and I wasn’t sure how we would do walking on level pavement even without hiking. Consequently, I had not reserved a car, taking a let’s wait and see approach. He did extremely well, much better than we had expected, and hiked in the Cotswolds as well as doing lots of city walking. We clocked between 15,000 and 25,000 steps a day. But he wasn’t keen enough to do more hiking to drive in the UK. As it turned out, he was willing to substitute hiking and having to drive for a van tour from York through the moors to Whigby. He was happy with that choice but it was a bit too much driving for me for the amount of time we had in towns. I would not have done it again.

We found London to mainly be crowded around Big Ben and Westminster Abbey. Perhaps because the tourist sites are dispersed, it otherwise was no more crowded than you would expect a city to be. The most crowded place we visited was Whitby. It was a beautiful Saturday and apparently the throngs of people were mostly from the local area. It was wall to wall people. The most crowded site was the castle in Edinburgh. We had bought tickets the day before and arrived when it opened as did it seem everyone else. Colleagues of mine had gone the day before about three and it seemed it was far less crowded for them than us.

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We bought tickets in London ahead of time for Westminster Abbey and the Churchill War Rooms. It was a good idea as lines were long. We found that there was only so much information we could absorb and that we had to intersperse other types of activities like walking through St. James Park with museum visits. We also visited some lesser known sites like the Banqueting Room and the Museum of London which did not have the same crowds.

We did a number of walking tours and all but one were excellent. We found that we much preferred to be shown around to trying to follow a walking tour in a guide book. We did two London walks tours—one on the jet lagged day we arrived which I thought was a very good use of time. The free walking tours in Bath and York were both outstanding as were the two evening tours we took. I was very disappointed in the historical walking tour in Edinburgh. The guide did not do a good job of weaving the historical context and instead told stories that were hard to situate. One of my colleagues did the hop on and off bus tour which was less money and he knew lots of things I had not learned. I generally prefer walking tours to bus tours but Edinburgh may be an exception to that.

Below is a more detailed account of our trip for those who are interested.

Day 1
We arrived in London on a direct flight from Miami at Heathrow and managed to buy Oyster cards and make our way to our hotel (Premier Inn County Line) flawlessly. I credit that to Emma (I think) who provided very detailed directions including which doors to exit. Our hotel was located on the South Bank which was less hectic than much of the city but located near the Waterloo tube and train station and across the Westminster Bridge from Big Ben and many tourist sites. We were almost next to the London Eye which we actually did not ride. It was a good landmark though. We liked the location and would return. The hotel in in the historical County Hall and was more than adequate. We had a very large room with two queen sized beds that made me think I was in the States except for no fridge or ice. Our friends had a perfectly adequate room in the same hotel but with one bed and not nearly as large so there is obviously variation. The hotel had air conditioning but it was cool and often rainy and so it was totally unnecessary.

We were in London the third week of June.

We dropped our bags and headed out for lunch, ending up at a Pret a Manager which turned out to be our back up plan whenever we didn’t know where to go to eat. Their food was tasty, and reasonably priced. They also had seating, although you pay more to eat on site.

We walked across the Westminster bridge and I immediately regretted not bringing a real jacket. It is nippy and all I have is a ¾ length sweater over a short sleeve knit shirt. Out of desperation, I put on the rain jacket I had brought and discover it makes a splendid wind breaker! You can see my inexperience in outer wear. The combination works well and I find that I am toasty. We met up with London Tours in front of Westminster tube station and went for a walking tour of Westminster area. It really was a perfect way to spend the afternoon after a flight. Being out in the fresh air was good without having to figure our way around. It was a splendid introduction to London.

After crashing for a few hours back at our hotel (my husband slept but I did not), we went to Wagamama for dinner. Food was reasonably good but nothing special but fast and easy. We walked along the Thames before calling it a night.

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Day 2

We moved pretty slowly this morning and didn’t get to Westminster Abbey until 10:30 am. Everyone had to go through a rather long security line but then we rather smugly went into the church with our advance tickets (highly recommend) while the line for admission snaked around seemingly forever. We bought vesper tours upon arrival and were directed to an area with seats for the 10 minutes until the next tour began.

I really was glad we had purchased the tour. It was very crowded and being with a small group helped me focus. I also think the guide did a fabulous job of providing overviews and then details in manageable doses. Afterwards, we bought tickets for the Queen’s galleries. I enjoyed some of the exhibits but the experience of being so high in the Abbey was for me the best part. You could see the construction of the Abbey much better from this vantage.

After spending almost three hours at the Abbey, my husband was exhausted and wanted to go back to our hotel to rest. It was a 20 minute walk and I thought we would end up spending most of the afternoon in our room which did not excite me terribly. I suggested we go to the café in the Abbey instead. It was charming, the food was good, and it revived him. But we managed to spend 55 pounds for lunch which was the most we spent for any meal while in the UK!

I had thought we might go to the British Museum in the afternoon but opted instead to walk up to Birmingham Palace through St. James Park. It was sunny and the forecast was not good. We ended up walking all the way to Harrods which I had wanted to see. Once I was there, I wasn’t sure what was the attraction. We did buy a couple of pieces of very good caramel and some fudge. A lot of the building looks like a mall with small shops occupying the space. I wouldn’t go out of my way to visit unless you are into shopping which we are not.

We took the Tube to St. Paul’s for Evensong. The building is beautiful and quite a contrast with Westminster Abbey in style. I had thought that the singing would reverberate through the church but it really did not. We were close to the front but even there the acoustics did not seem to be that great (in contrast, the York Minister was fabulous).

That evening we tried to go to Dishoom restaurant which had been recommended on this board. Well, there was at least an hour wait and we certainly were not going to do that after being on the go all day. The location we visited was in the theater district and when we went back to see a play on Friday the line was just as long. We ended up at an Italian chain restaurant where I probably over tipped because I was so excited to get tap water with ice! As it turns out, you can get tap water simply by asking in the UK while we had not found this to be the case in our travels in continental Europe.

Day 3

The forecast was for rain and we debated about whether we should follow through on our plans to go to Cambridge. Since, there really wasn’t any other day we could go and we had already bought the tickets, we went. But the possibility of poor weather for a day trip should have given us pause before purchasing them in advance.

The train station is a bit away from the city center and university and we walked there. We saw an Indian lunch buffet for 5.99 pounds and having missed Indian food the night before, we stopped. After enjoying the food, we continued towards the campus, eventually ending up at the visitor’s center where the last tour of the day was sold out. My husband asked if we might still join and the person he asked turned out to be the guide and said yes. It would have been a disappointing trip without the tour. The places on the tour were quite spread out and it would have been a challenge to find them all. My favorite places was King’s chapel but the most unique was the grasshopper clock.

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After a snack at a local coffee shop, we made our way down to the river. We had thought of doing a punting boat tour but it began to rain. The boats were still running with people holding large black umbrellas but the idea of paying to sit in a boat in the rain was not too appealing. We watched from under the trees where we were mostly sheltered from the rain, for awhile at least.

Unfortunately, the drizzle turned to downpour and we decided to take the train back to London. As we walked and got increasingly soaked even with rain coats, I questioned not bringing an umbrella as well. To put in perspective though, this was the only time our rain coats were not adequate. Taking the bus back instead of walking would also have helped but we weren’t quite sure how to do it since we had walked from the station. We ended up stopping in a Turkish restaurant that sold sandwiches at the counter. We had visited Greece last year and this restaurant had the best gyro type sandwiches we had since then. For 15 pounds, we had two huge sandwiches and two soft drinks. Revitalized we made our way to the train station in the still pouring rain and went back to London.

In retrospect, I am not sure the trip was a great idea on a less than ideal day weather wise. It took us 45 minutes to get to the train station and then two hours to Cambridge. We left before six because we had tired of the weather.

Day 4

The weather improved over night and we were able to take some pictures of the parliament from the bridge with some sun in them. We started the day by going to the Banqueting House. My brother in law has been to London many times and gave us a list of recommendations. We wanted to see at least one of them. The Banqueting House was walking distance from our hotel so we choose that.
It was a delightful choice. There is a short film and then audio guides. The best part was there were few people and large bean bag chairs from which you can lay and look at the paintings by Rubens on the ceiling. It is quite relaxing and a change from the physical demands of touring.

We exit just as something is starting across the street at the Household Calvary Museum. We follow some people in and find our selves in the front row watching the changing of the guards. I am sure Buckingham Palace is grander but here was a thrill because we just walked in. It turns out this happens every day at 11 am but we didn’t know.

We continue to Trafalgar Square which is under construction and underwhelming. We go into the art gallery for about an hour before we head over to St. Martin in the fields for lunch. We just wander a bit and find some of the rooms explain the historical context which we enjoy. St. Martin in the Fields is a cafeteria in the crypt which led my husband to comment on how unexpectedly fresh the food was. It was good and the crowds only moderate. The church is also known for their music and we listened for awhile to a rehearsal before eating.

We go today instead to the British Museum. Since it is huge we decide to take a London Walks tour to see the highlights. It was a good idea and I would recommend this approach if you are looking to spend a couple hours and not all day. We especially enjoyed seeing the Elgin marbles from the Acropolis as we had been in Athens last summer. We had heard how the Greeks view their presence at the British Museum basically in terms of being stolen. Now we were able to see them rather than a replica. The guide was pretty careful to not say whether or not she thought that they should stay or be returned.

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We meet our friends who have just arrived from Canada for dinner. We walk along the River Thames towards a restaurant they have been at previously. But it starts pouring (again) and we duck into the closest restaurant to escape the weather. Turns out the food is quite good and the prices moderate. We spend 30 pounds a couple for dinner. It is not as expensive in England as I had feared, especially considering we had shared a bottle of wine. Now mind you, we are not foodies and it is possible to spend a lot more. But we found for 30 to 33 pounds the two of us could have a dinner we were very happy with.

Day 5
We start the day by going to the Churchill War Museum. We have tickets for 10 am opening and are in a separate line. But even before 10, am people from the long nonreserved line are let in which I find a bit annoying. Finally a few minutes after 10, we are let in. It is crowded until we research the museum and then the crowd thins considerably. In preparation, we had watched the Darkest Hour which I would highly recommend. It helped us appreciate what we were seeing. We spent about 2 hours in the museum before meeting our friends for lunch.

After lunch, we went all took the subway to the Museum of London museum which was much bigger and better than I had expected. It is basically the history of England through the eyes of London. In retrospect, we spent way too long on prehistoric England and ran out of time and energy by the time we got to Victorian London which had marvelous displays on which we spent too little time. After two hours, we left and went back to crash before going out to theater that night.

We went to an Italian restaurant nearby the theater that had a waiter from Naples and made me think we were in Italy not England—we were in Naples two years ago! We had pizza and shared an oversized salad, all of which were very good. We went to see The Mousetrap which is of course a London classic which is why I wanted to see it. My parents had seen the same play when they were in London many years ago so it amused them greatly to find out we had seen it too! Even thirty years later my mom remembered the tight leg room which was a bit challenging especially for my husband who is six feet tall. But to compensate, we had rows in the back of the first section which had perfect views.

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Day 6

We went to Kew Gardens today which has been a life long dream of my husband’s who is a horticulturalist. Our friends, who have been to London a number of times, have never been to Kew and want to go with him. We had intended to take the train but find out from this board that there is a strike and elect to take the tube instead. It doesn’t turn out to be quite as easy as we expected as the green line doesn’t go very often to Kew Gardens. It takes us over an hour to get there.

And then there is a long line. We immediately regret not going online and booking tickets the night before as we knew we were going to go the gardens.

It is my husband’s perfect day. I, however, had thought that gardens meant flowers but there are few. I have been many times to the Chicago Botanical Gardens and they had English Gardens and I guess I thought I was going to visit a more impressive version of that. I probably would have preferred to have visited some formal gardens instead and I would say unless it is a particular interest of yours (like my husband) or you have seen many things (like our friends), there might be other sites to see first. It is a lovely day and I do enjoy walking around. At the end of the day, we go to Kew Palace which did have a garden as well as an interesting history.

It is now 5 pm and we are tired and none of us relishes the idea of repeating the tube ride in rush hour. We decide to follow directions down to the boats and much to our delight there is the last one at 5:30 pm. We buy drinks (beer and soft drinks) and snacks and thoroughly enjoy watching London go by for an hour. We are revitalized enough that everyone thinks my idea to go to Brick Lane for Indian food after docking at Westminster is a good one.

We take the tube and then wander down Brick Lane. I had found the name of a well reviewed restaurant that we go searching for. In the end though, we are drawn in by a different restaurant where we are given discount cards. The food is good but I did note that eating at least in this restaurant was a more economical and less luxurious choice than an Indian restaurant in the states. The food was cheaper (about 30 pounds a couple and we had beer and appetizers) but the tables were very close together.

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Wonderful trip report! On my first trip to England, we stayed in Cambridge for two nights in a hotel we found in Rick’s guidebook. I recall walking from the train station to the hotel. No rain our trip in late August.
I know you had a wonderful time.

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I'm surprised that your trip to Cambridge took so long. Did you take the slow train from Liverpool Street (Greater Anglia) rather than the one hour fast train from Kings Cross (Great Northern) or St Pancras (Thameslink)?

Lovely trip report, although I too am puzzled it took two hours to get to Cambridge - were the trains delayed?

Indian food is to the UK what Mexican food is to the US, I think: filling, reliable, not too expensive. There are a few posh Indian restaurants around, but for most of us it’s just an easy choice for an undemanding casual meal.

Can I just stress for anyone reading this and wanting to google places that it is Stonehenge and not Stonehedge please. Nothing to do with hedges.

You mention somewhere called Whigby - do you mean Whitby? Lovely place.

It sounds like you had just the right flexible attitude to any challenges presented by weather etc... and also good to be reminded that there’s always a convenient restaurant. And yes - ask for tap water “a jug of it, with ice please.” You won’t get offered it automatically in many places but it’s very easy to get.

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We did take the train from Liverpool station. I bought those tickets thinking that station was closer to where we were staying (near Waterloo on South Bank) but did not realize slower train. It obviously was not a good choice.

And I have corrected the spelling errors in my original post. Thanks for catching it!

And we love Indian food which is pricey where we live so very much enjoyed how available and reasonable it was.

We did take the train from Liverpool station

Liverpool to Cambridge would have taken many more hours! I think you mean Liverpool Street ;-). But yeah - it’s not difficult to get to Kings Cross from Waterloo for the fast train to Cambridge but the Liverpool Street service is a bit cheaper.

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Here is some more... and so sorry about Liverpool station not Liverpool Street...I knew I was in London!

Day 7
Today we travel from London to Bath via Salisbury. We arrive in plenty of time for our train only to find that it had been cancelled due to a train strike. I had actually stopped by Waterloo station to check on its status after learning on this forum it was a train that had been cancelled. I was reassured it was not but, of course, the forum was right!
We amuse ourselves while waiting by watching all the women with huge hats going to the Royal Ascot. I have never seen such pageantry and try to discretely take a few photos.

Eventually, we board a train and subsequently arrive in Salisbury where we check our luggage in with the pub across the street from the train station (the things you can find on the internet!). We go to see the Salisbury Cathedral which is, frankly, unimaginably huge. If we stood back far enough, we could get the whole thing in a picture but that does not convey how mammoth it is. Inside there is construction going on and a choir rehearsal. We wander a bit and then join the next tour. I am struck most by the quality of the choir. This is a rather small town. There is such a choral tradition in England and the young director suggests that it one being perpetuated in the face of the electronics of the modern age.

After having a quick lunch, we catch the next train to Bath where we struggle a bit to figure out where our apartment is. It turns out it is perfectly located a couple blocks from the Roman Baths and from where walking and bus tours meet. It is a former hospital that is now an apartment complex. The apartments look like they were designed for tourists-there is not a single closet for example. But there is a small living room and a kitchen and downstairs there is a washing machine for the building. We are delighted to have more space and after wandering around a bit, decide to buy as much as we can carry from the grocery store and eat at “home”. The only complicating factor is we had to figure out how to use the oven (to cook the quiche we bought) and the microwave (for the soup). There were directions but the stove in particular was challenging. I am beginning to think my issues with European appliances are not language based!

The apartment faces a court yard and there is no street noise but there are noisy sea gulls. They manage to keep my husband awake at night and he closes the windows which means it is a bit hot. We could have used the air conditioning we never needed in London!

Day 8
It is Sunday and we decide to attend the church service at the Bath Abbey. We are Roman Catholic and the liturgy is surprisingly similar except the music which is much better than at home. Afterwards, we join one of Bath’s free tours with a very zealous guide. At one point, the guide told us about Thomas Gainsborough who had lived at number 17 on The Circus (a complex of townhouses) whose best known work is The Blue Boy. I told the guide later that my grandparents had a copy of the painting in their house when I was growing up. He asked me had I seen the original in California. I told him no. He said he had-he goes all over the world seeing things connected to Bath!

After the tour, we bought some Cornish pastries and returned to our apartment to eat them with fruit we had bought the night before. We really enjoyed being in London but find in Bath we are enthralled with being able to walk everywhere and being able to return to our apartment during the day easily.

We visit the Roman Baths late in the afternoon after more wandering. There is no line at this time, although we are charged more because it is a weekend. It is larger and more sophisticated than I had expected. We had visited the baths in Pompeii but these are much better preserved.

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We decide we want to do the “Bizarre Bath” tour that was listed in the Rick Steves book and to eat a quick dinner before hand. We think we have plenty of time and go to an Indian restaurant we had seen the day before. We end up getting out of the restaurant in time for the tour but I am reminded of the folly of trying to eat dinner on American time where an hour for dinner from start to finish is typical when in Europe. We do not make that mistake again.
The Bizarre Bath tour is a cross between comedy and a magic show and is just plain fun. There are probably 40 people and we laugh the whole way as we traipse through town.

Day 9
It is our last day in Bath and we have a 2 pm tour to Stonehenge reserved. In the morning, we hope to visit a Georgian house in the Royal Crescent and climb the tower in the Bath Abbey. The problem is neither open until 10, although we foolishly did not check the times. After waiting awhile, we are among the first guests at the Georgian house which we both enjoyed. We like to go in period houses and this one did not disappoint. We made our way back to the abbey only to find there is only one opening on the next tour to the tower. The one after that would be too late for our tour to Stonehenge. My husband, who was the one pushing for Stonehenge, graciously suggests that I take the tour while he buys some lunch for us to eat in our apartment.

I am not sure why I wanted to go on the tour so badly but it was wonderful but not in the way I expected. The view actually was not that great—it was fairly obstructed by the stone work. You could only see through some gaps. Instead, it was a tour of the bells. We learned all about them, stopping several times on the way up. We were able to into the eaves and see the bells. It was a very different tower tour than others I have taken.

We meet the van for the bus tour to Stonehenge, along with probably 8 other people, without incident. I wasn’t sure that Stonehenge was worth all the hype but in the end, I was glad we went. You actually get quite close to the stones, even though you can't walk among them. It is rather amazing that Stone Age people constructed this monument beginning 3000 years ago. It took considerable effort and ingenuity and I still find it hard to believe how far the stones traveled to this site.

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Thanks for your report. Sounds like you had a lovely time and glad your hubby was up for the hiking/walking.

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And here is the Cotswolds installment:

Day 10

We take a Lion company van tour today as our transportation to the Cotswolds for two days of hiking along the Cotswold Way. It is raining so not exactly the best day for a sightseeing tour but the forecast is for bright and sunny for the days we are hiking. Probably because of the weather there are only 7 of us in the van. Our driver turns out to be an excellent tour guide, not only telling us about the history of the area as he drives but also guiding us around some of the places we stop. The rain ends by the time we get to Bibury and we eat our lunch purchased in a town earlier sitting on a bench at the edge of the much photographed Arlington Row. It is pleasant and I do wish we had a little more time here which is of course the disadvantage of being on a tour. We spend more time in Bourbon on the Water. The town is picturesque but has been totally been given over to tourism with one shop after another. It seemed like we were at Disney. We do buy a couple of Christmas ornaments in one shop—a replica of the red phone booths for ourselves and a Scottish Santa for our daughter and her husband. We were told that there was no English Santa (all the images of Santa in England had come from Germany) and bought the Scottish one because we were going to Edinburgh later on our trip.

Our favorite stop was our last-Stow on the Wold. It is larger than the others and seems like more of a real town. I could have spent the night here.

At Stow in the Wold, we collect our luggage and say good bye to the tour group. We continued on to Chipping Campden while the tour returns to Bath. We take a taxi to the Volunteer Inn where we are staying in Chipping Campden. The taxi driver, whose name we got from the Volunteer Inn, takes us on a tour of Chipping Campden before depositing us at the hotel. We are staying one night here and have arranged to have our luggage moved in the morning to Broadway while we hike there.

The Volunteer Inn consists of some rooms, a pub, and an Indian restaurant. The pub and the restaurant are connected to each other so I am guessing the restaurant once served pub food. The pub now only has packaged snacks. We have a large room in the back with a patio looking over a large grassy area with picnic tables. Later after dinner a group of people bring their beer to one of the tables which is very close to our room. We shut the curtains and turn the TV on but they are gone before 10 pm and our room is quiet the rest of the night. It is a Tuesday night so I wonder whether all the tables we saw are filled up with patrons on the weekend.

We wander around the town and end up at the church. We go into it and it looks much like the other small town churches we had seen that day. From the ground though there is a beautiful view of the country side, nicer than any we had seen all day.

We return to the Inn expecting to be able to eat at the Indian Restaurant but they are full and we don’t have reservations. We put our name on a list and go out in search of a restaurant recommended by some people we chatted with at the church. It is also full. So we return to the Inn and decide to go to the pub while we wait for a table. At some point, I realize the two spaces are really one and go around to the restaurant and tell them we are in the pub having a beer. It is then only a few minutes until we get a table.

It turns out Tuesday night is some sort of special and our full dinner is only 10 pounds each. It is inexpensive but it is less flavorful than the Indian food we had in London and Bath.

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Day 11

After eating a hearty English breakfast at the restaurant which was Indian the night before, we head off on our hike. My husband tried to pay for an online map of the Cotswolds on his new Apple phone the night before but had no success. I figured it would be OK because everyone said it was well marked. We were only hiking a small part of the 100 mile trail and I had not thought it necessary to buy a book. Well, the trail is well marked as long as you do not veer from the trail. There was an obvious trail out of town that was well worn that local people use for exercise as well as tourists. A number of locals were coming back walking dogs as we were leaving. Then the path turned to a walk through a sheep field which meant walking around lots of sheep poo so the photos of walking through fields make it look a lot better than it is! We walk for about 30 minutes before seeing on the edge of a drop off a large rock with a plaque. We walk over to read it and that turns out to be our mistake. We don’t know where to go next.

We go across the field to a gate and there is a map there but it only shows the way back to Chipping Campden. So we go down the steep hill and walk on a path but there are no signs. We see some other people at the rock so we go back up the hill but they are as clueless as we are. We chat with them for awhile before seeing another couple walking towards us who are carrying a map. They point us the right way (out a different gate than we had tried) and from there we were able to follow the trail.
All is good until we reach some planted fields which we have to walk through. It is sunny now but it had been raining the previous two days and the fields are muddy. We walk through three of them being glad we at least had hiking boots on. It really is not very pleasant and I wonder whether this was such a great idea. We run into some people coming the other way and they have gators on—covers for the bottom of their pants. They are obviously more experienced hikers than us and told us that the previous days (they were hiking from Bath to Chipping Campden) had been much worse. We finally get through the fields and onto dry ground and hike to the Broadway Tower. It is a man made structure at the top of the hill and we decide to pay the pounds to go into it. We climb to the top reading about its history along the way. It is clear and you can see for miles from the top.

It is a steep descent into Broadway and my husband, who tore his meniscus last fall, goes very slowly. He is wearing a brace on his knee but has done very well all day. We had not been sure he would be able to hike at all and he had tried to change our itinerary a number of times. I had put quite a bit of work into finding places to stay and having our luggage transported and was resistant to giving up hiking. I had told him I would hike the trail by myself if he was unable. I had thought he could visit the gardens outside of Chipping Campden and take a bus to Broadway. As it turned out to be a bit more challenging to find our way than I anticipated, I certainly was glad to not be by myself.

In Broadway, we found our hotel and our luggage was waiting for us in the lobby. We changed out of our wet shoes and socks before going to find a place for lunch. Across the street was a deli and it was pretty crowded so we decided to go there. We had soup and sandwiches which were good and warmed us up. Our hotel did not include breakfast and instead we found we had a refrigerator which we were very excited about. We bought food for breakfast at a local grocery store in our wanderings that afternoon.

We went out to dinner but it was after 8 pm and I think we were too tired to properly enjoy the meal. The restaurant had more ambiance than others we had visited but it was probably wasted on us.

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After our adventures finding our way, I download the same ap my husband had trouble with the night before. It is obviously his phone which seems to have a number of other kinks like overheating when he takes (too many) pictures.

Day 12

It is sunny and warm today and we do not have to hike through any mud. It is the kind of day I was thinking of when I decided I wanted to hike part of the Cotswold Way. At one point though, there was not a gate but rather a step to go over a fence. I double checked with my app and it said it was the right way. Our hesitation is that the step went right into a farm yard where we heard people and animals. I couldn’t imagine doing this in the U.S. (you might get shot!) but clearly walking through private land is expected in the UK. Finally, after calling out and having no one answer, we take the plunge and go over the fence and on the other side of the farm yard we find a clear sign to continue.

The hike is shorter today and we are in Stanton by noon. We see the place we are to stay at as we come into town. We find the owner in the beautiful gardens which turn out to be developed and maintained just by her. After taking our bags upstairs, we chat for a few minutes and she is rather alarmed that we don’t have reservations at the Mount Inn yet. It is the only restaurant in town. We take her advice and walk up a rather steep hill where my husband saves a table outdoors while I wait in line to order. I get the most splendid mushroom burger. Eavesdropping on the tables around me it seems like most of the people are not tourists but people who live in the area, often with an out of town visitor.

After eating my husband goes inside the restaurant to ask again about reservations for dinner tonight. I had already asked and was told there was no room. He is told the same thing and orders a cheese sandwich to take back to our B & B to have for dinner while I saved half my lunch. We figure we can eat in the beautiful gardens so it is not the worst thing. Still, it is rather unsettling that there is not even a convenience store in town.

Back at our B & B, we set about trying to solve our next problem: how are we going to get to the train station in Cirencester to catch the train the next morning to York. I had thought we could take a taxi when I made the reservations, although there seemed to be a bus as well from my online research. I never considered that Stanton had absolutely no commercial establishments except for the one restaurant. I mean I had read there was only one restaurant but I didn’t think that meant there was absolutely nothing else. My husband had got the name of an app that you could use to schedule a taxi pickup at the restaurant and I set about trying to figure it out. I figured it out only to find that the taxi drivers only took cash and more cash than we had. And of course, the nearest ATM was in Broadway from which we had hiked from that morning. So I decided to try calling the taxi driver who had taken us from Stow on the Wold to Chipping Campden. We thought we could at least call him directly and ask him to take us to an ATM in Cirencester-we were starting to feel desperate. Well, the phone number I had would not go through.

At that point, we decided we would have to figure something out later and would walk to the Stanway House as we had originally planned. There was no point spending a beautiful afternoon indoors when we had run out of options for the moment. We thought we would ask our landlady at least about the phone number we couldn’t get to work when she returned.
It was about a ½ hour walk further along the Cotswold Way and we recognized it from the fountain spraying up (from Rick Steve’s show). Of course, the admission was only in cash so we spent most of the cash we did have which we already knew wasn’t enough for a taxi anyway.

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The house was large and grand but very worn in places. It would take a huge infusion of cash to fix it up properly. It turns out the Earl had been opening his home to visitors for 20 years. Apparently, the taxes are very high so the admission fees provide a way for him to keep the home in his family. There were lots of volunteers working at different places on the property which I thought was interesting because the home was privately owned as opposed to being part of a Trust.

We learn upon our return at 6 pm from our landlady that we could buy dinner by standing in line and eating outside just like we did for lunch. We had asked twice about reservations at the Inn and no one had taken the time to tell us this. She told us to put our “dinner” in her fridge and just go. So we did. There was a line of people waiting to get into the restaurant. I kept thinking someone should open another restaurant here! However, we easily got a table and ordered (my husband got that mushroom burger I enjoyed at lunch while I do not remember what I ate)

When we got back from dinner, our landlady volunteered to drive us to the next town where we could catch a bus to Cirencester. She said taxis were notoriously unreliable in Stanton. We were more than relieved since we had not yet come up with a fool proof plan for meeting our train.

My husband started talking to our landlady about the gardens—he is a horticulturalist and gave her the names of some natural substances to solve some of her pest problems. They really hit it off and she invited us to have wine in the garden with her.

It was an interesting story of how she ended up running a B & B. She and her husband had a vacation house in the area and decided to move permanently to the area from London. She said she knew she could get guests because the Cotswold Way goes right by the house. She runs a lovely B & B and is a fabulous cook as we learned the next morning. She does most of the work herself and I am struck again by how much of running such a business involves housework, a point I have always reminded my husband of every time he starts to romanticize owning a B & B (which he does every time we stay in one).

Day 13
We have a wonderful breakfast with the two other couples staying at the B & B. Both were walking the entire 100 miles of the Cotswold Way. One couple is in their 40s but the other is older than us (we just turned 60). Both couples seem to routinely walk such routes. The older couple is from England while the younger one is from Ireland. We feel rather wimpy next to both of them. They had or were going to walk in one day what we had done in two!

Eventually, we make our train. We found a grocery store with an ATM before catching the bus to Circencester where we had to take a second bus from down town to the train station. It was all a bit more adventure than we had counted on.
Once in York, the GPS says a 20 minute walk to our B & B so off we go. We have trouble following the GPS and ask for directions a couple times. It takes us a lot longer than 20 minutes to get there. The house is charming. We are on the third floor in the eaves of house now run as a B & B by a family from Nepal. The wife makes the guests a traditional English breakfast.

We figure out that we are not on the side of the walled city that would be optimal. had said how far the B& B was from the city centre and while that yielded a perfectly located accommodation in Bath, it did not in York. What I did not consider was that the minister was located on the other side of the old walled city, which was about 25 minutes from where we were staying. All tours also left from near the minister.

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We went to Evensong. I found it much more impressive than at St. Paul's. The singers were stronger and their voices and the organ just reverberated through out the church. As we were leaving, the pastor shook our hands and we told him how much we enjoyed the service. He told us that they sing for God, so it does not matter if there are 100 people who attend or none. I was thinking of the young boys who obviously have rehearsed long hours and how such an attitude would help starve off disappointment if noone came.

Afterwards, we walked part of the wall before deciding to try to find the pub where one of the ghost tours left from. The medieval streets are confusing and we go around in circles without much help from the GPS. A good paper map would have helped. Eventually, the time for the beginning of the tour comes and goes and we gave up finding the pub. Ironically, we walk by it later that night. In the mean time, we buy some pork sandwiches nearby for dinner. There is a strong accent in York and I have a hard time understanding the clerk. I am not quite sure what I just agreed to have on my sandwich!

Our hesitation is that the step went right into a farm yard where we
heard people and animals. I couldn’t imagine doing this in the U.S.
(you might get shot!) but clearly walking through private land is
expected in the UK. Finally, after calling out and having no one
answer, we take the plunge and go over the fence and on the other side
of the farm yard we find a clear sign to continue.

In the UK there is a network of public footpaths where the public has a right of way, even if they sometimes go through private land. That right of way is usually restricted to walking straight through, and as you discovered the footpath might go along the edge of a field or through a farmyard. You can’t just walk through any private land but if it’s designated and signed as a public footpath then you can.

Some visitors might expect from the word “footpath” that they will be paved in some way, but it is simply just a network of generations-old paths that people have long used between villages and across countryside and farmland.

Hence the mud, the fields, the farmyard and occasionally the tricky signage.

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If you go to

search for somewhere in Great Britain;

change the view option on the right from Road to Ordnance Survey and zoom in;

you can see marked footpaths (green dashes) across the countryside.

Ordnance Survey maps are so helpful when exploring the countryside (and make great souvenirs).

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We were told that there was no English Santa (all the images of Santa in England had come from Germany)

Amazing what sales people will say 😁

What they mean is that England doesn't have a real national dress archetype, and/or there is no market for Santas in pinstripes and bowler, or as a Morris dancer.

Santa in England is a blend of the American Santa and the older English Father Christmas, which some still prefer as the name of the character.

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I'm really enjoying your trip report! Myself, husband & our friend will be in Bath, Oxford & London in early September, so reading reports like yours helps to pass the time & get ready for our trip. I'm interested in your take on Kew Gardens. I had planned this as a day trip for us. We love gardens, but after reading your thoughts on Kew, I'm not sure if that would be the best use of one of our days in London. I think we are like you, expecting to see lots of flowers. We will be seeing Blenheim Palace while in Oxford & going to Hampton Court Palace while in London. I may now plan something else for that day instead of Kew Gardens.

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This Person Who Writes Stuff--I knew the paths were not paved in any way but still I was surprised to be walking through planted fields. Even though I knew these are generations-old footpaths, I still felt a bit bad about all the people trekking through someone's fields. I guess it is just my point of reference. And honestly, perhaps foolishly, I had not thought of all the mud we might encounter. I had hiking boots on not because I thought about mud but because I have a weak ankle and find I do better with extra support.

And the farm--well it was the fact that there was no a gate to enter like we had encountered previously. Instead, there was a step over the fence. Also, we heard voices so we were a little more reluctant to incorrectly walk on to the property.

ramblin'on--obviously I should have asked about maps before we went but the Cotswold one I downloaded from the Cotswold Way website for 4 pounds worked like a charm. I had tried downloading some maps the night before but that didn't prove very useful but it might have been my lack of skill.

Marco--I did wonder about the claims of no English Santa but I think it was, as you suggest, an explanation for why they had none for sale.

Tina--there were some flowers planted that even in June were just starting out so maybe September would be better. My husband was happy as a clam fulfilling a long desire to see Kew Gardens but it really is more trees than flower gardens. He had his picture taken next to each big tree! I had thought I would have preferred Hampton Court Palace but it seems that is already on your list.

Here is the rest of my trip report!

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Day 14

Today we take a small van tour with BOBH to the North York Moors & Whitby. It is a beautiful sunny day and we set off in good spirits. The first stop is the market town of Helmsley which is just as picturesque as any of the Cotswolds towns we visited. We only have a half hour here which is not long enough.

We make other even quicker stops along the way for pictures and I am impressed by all the roaming sheep. Unlike in the Cotswolds where there were fences, the sheep here just wander, even across roads.
Around noon we arrive in Whitby which is just jam packed with tourists. On the way to the Whitby Abbey the van gets stuck in traffic and I find myself impatient as our limited time is fast evaporating. Once we finally arrive, my husband and I eat the sandwiches we had smartly bought that morning before the tour on a park bench. Then we tour the museum and the Abbey. The museum is very interesting, telling the story of the area and its hard scrapping past. The Abbey is just ruins, having been destroyed by Henry VIII when he seized the property of the Catholic Church. Even in ruins the Abbey is stunning and its position on top of the hill affords beautiful views and interesting pictures through the remaining stones.

We had decided to take the optional steam engine train ride on the North Yorkshire Moors Railroad so that meant we had to be at the train station a little over an hour after we arrived at the Abbey. We walked down the hill through the town weaving our way through the throngs of people; the Abbey itself was not that crowded.

The train is an old fashioned steam train which, of course, is not air conditioned and it is quite toasty in the car. Riding it did not seem otherwise much different than the trains we had been taking around England and perhaps we would have been better off staying the extra time in Whitby and skipping it. I learn at breakfast the next morning from one of the other guests who lives in the region (and was meeting her daughter from London in York) that Whitby is a big local tourist attraction and she was not surprised that it was jam packed on a sunny Saturday in summer.

I liked Whitby a lot—the little I saw of it that is. I think it would be far preferable to spend the night there and have time to explore without the hordes of day trippers. Having a car in this area it seems to me would be ideal but there is a bus that goes to Whitby and with some planning it could work. It just didn’t seem like we could get it to work for a day trip. Frankly, I think it is too far for a day trip. We spent far more time driving than touring. I think we spent about three hours in towns or villages and about five hours driving. Now it is light very late in summer and if we had a car we could have done the same trip and returned much later, changing the ratio of touring to driving. This would have been much more pleasant, at least for the passenger who would not have to dodge sheep while driving on a different side of the road.

When we returned to York, I wanted to return to our B & B but my husband wisely pointed out that it was still hot (80s in F) and that our room had no air conditioning. He said that two of the other women on our tour to Whitby had spoken highly of the Shakespearean theater so we make our way towards there.

It is partially an outdoor theater and there are picnic tables and walk up places to order food on the grounds. It looks like a lot of fun and we decide to join. We buy tickets to the Tempest, paying more for the covered seats than the open ground in front of the stage. The young man at the ticket office told us there was no guarantee we could sit in the grass and showed us pictures of wall to wall people. Well, it turned out there was plenty of room and people were sitting on blankets even. But our seats I am sure were more comfortable, although that did not help us follow the Tempest.

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Neither of us were familiar with the plot and had trouble following it. We started out reading it before each new scene on my phone which was plugged into the battery charger we had wisely brought. But then the charger died too—you have to “turn on” the plugs in the UK and apparently we had not. As a consequence, the battery charger had not actually recharged over night. We then settled in to enjoy the play the best we could with the idea that we could figure out what we had seen later.
It was a quick walk back to our B & B after the play let out. Our location is better for the theater than for the minister. We climb to the top of the house and are delighted to find a floor fan has been brought to our room and is running. It is still hot but once we turn on the ceiling fan as well it starts to get bearable. By midnight it is very comfortable and I even shut the window to sleep because we face a busy street. I figure I can open the window if it gets too hot but we both sleep without any problem.

Day 15

It is our last day in York and we start by taking the free walking tour of York which was simply outstanding-the best tour we took while in the UK. There were two guides and the group was being divided and I deliberately picked the group with the retired English teacher. We were not disappointed. Despite having wandered around for parts of two days we had not gone half the places the tour went. York has a very layered history, far more complex than Bath.

After the tour and some lunch, we go back to the minister. It is Sunday and there are no tours but we pay the admission fee to enter the church and the museum underground as well as to climb the tower. The windows in the church are stunning and I read the guidebook to get some background but frankly am regretting not having been so agreeable to going to the North York Moors yesterday. I really would have liked to have had the tour of the church which is included in admission every other day. The tower tour is basically climbing to the top of the tower which provides a very good view of York, much better than the tower provided in Bath.

My husband is feeling a bit bad about our limited time and tells me I should pick whatever else we do in while in York. I chose to go to the Jorvik Museum even though Rick Steves pans it as a bit too Disneyesque. Usually I would avoid such sites but we have been touring for awhile now and a presentation requiring less work from us is appealing. It is very Disney like—you get in a moving boat that reminds me of the Pirates of the Caribbean ride and are told in various stops about the Vikings. It is extremely well done though and I certainly can see how children would enjoy it. The one thing that did impress me about the museum was how knowledgeable and willing to talk the costumed guides standing around were. I had interesting conversations with several of them, finding out how the Vikings integrated much more into English society than the Romans ever did. This may explain why my father who had his DNA analyzed with and found out he was mostly English also Scandinavian. Later in the castle in Edinburgh there is a registry of names from the UK and according to it, my father’s family is actually from the York area.
That evening we take the original Ghost Walk which meets later than the ghost walk we had attempted to go on when we first arrived, allowing us to eat dinner first. The Rick Steves book says it is more classic spooky story telling than comedy but what I was struck by was how the stories were at least based in fact. I had learned parts of the stories from touring the town, although the guide put a different spin on them. It was extremely well done, although I did wonder about its appropriateness for the children in the group.

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Day 16

Today we go from York to Edinburgh, our last city on our tour.

We walk back to the train station which takes less time than arriving since we know where we are going. The GPS still takes us around the walled part of the city and we are never sure why it would not have been quicker to cut through. Once we are almost at the train station, we see a place we had been on our historical tour the day before, making it clear that walking through would have worked. But we were afraid to take any risks as we didn’t want to make a mistake and miss our train.

We easily find our air bnb in Edinburgh from the train station and are delighted to see it is only a few buildings from the Royal Mile. It is up four flights of stair but we are rewarded with the loveliest place we stayed while in the UK. It is a one bedroom apartment and it is much larger and luxurious than the one we stayed in Bath. This one is a place someone could live in as opposed to one converted to short term rentals. In looking for a hotel in Edinburgh, I was surprised that the prices were higher than even London. The apartment I found as an alternative turned out to be simply splendid; there even was a roof top deck where we drank some wine and enjoyed the view, although while wearing jackets. Edinburgh was definitely cool, even in July.

After depositing our luggage, we wandered down the Royal Mile. It reminded us a bit of Bourbon on the Water in that everything was dedicated to tourists. We had tried to buy tickets for the castle online without any luck so we walk to the castle to buy them for first thing tomorrow. It doesn’t seem to be that crowded at 3 pm but we aren’t quite up to visiting now. Instead, we walk back down the Royal Mile stopping to buy some souvenirs along the way, including tee shirts for my husband and our two sons and a Christmas ornament for ourselves. We did not realize it at the time but we managed to buy ourselves the exact same Santa ornament we bought our daughter and her husband in Bourbon on the Water, except we paid 1/3 more for it!

We meet three of my colleagues who are in Edinburgh early for our conference for dinner at a pub on the Royal Mile that does not take reservations. I had attempted to make reservations at several other places but the only time available was 5:30 pm. It seems that the European style of long dinners means that multiple sittings end up being at rather awkward times. We are seated at a table for four with an extra chair but being a bit cozy works fine. It is a lively dinner of everyone telling their tales while eating quite decent food.

Day 17

It is our last day being tourists as I have meetings tomorrow and my husband leaves for home.

I am sitting on the stairs in the hall putting on my hiking boots which still have some Cotswold dirt on them (that I don’t want to deposit in our apartment) when a couple comes down the stairs all dressed up—they look like the people we saw in London going to the Ascot races. I make a side comment that they are certainly better dressed than me. I learn that her brother is getting some kind of award from the Queen and they are going to a garden party where he will be among those honored. I became aware that the Queen was in town when I tried to buy tickets for Holyrood Palace which is only closed during the one week she is in residence (which of course was the same week I was there). So while I did not see the Queen, I did see some people who were going to see the Queen!

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Hiking boots on, we arrive at the castle, tickets in hand, before it even opens. It doesn’t open until 9:30 a.m. and unfortunately that is too late to prevent the busloads of tourists from descending. We take the first tour of the day and then rather quickly are able to get through the line to see the crown jewels. The crowds only intensify the longer we stay, which definitely diminishes our enjoyment. I talk later to a colleague who had gone towards the end of the day which is what we did in Bath to see the Roman Baths and had far fewer crowds. I am not sure that first thing in the day is any longer a food proof strategy. The castle is the most crowded site we visit in the UK.

Afterwards, we buy some sandwiches and return to our apartment. We decide to take a 2 pm historical tour that we had collected information on the day before. HOHO tours are big business in Edinburgh and I am thinking that only the die hard history fans will take the walking tour, since the brochure claimed it was led by someone with a PhD in history. Well, the tour turned out to be long and pretty weak. The guide mostly told stories (and was earning a PhD but not in history) but without any context and thus hard to situate. The stories I understood were those that I already knew the historical context for from visiting the castle that morning. The guide assumes we are experts on Scottish history which I am not. I am ready for the tour to be over an hour before it was. I would have made up an excuse and left but my husband thought we had paid for it and so should get what we could out of it.

Afterwards, we went to Holyrood Park which used to part of the palace estate and hike to the summit of Arthur’s Seat. We have plenty of company. It is a sunny day though and the views are marvelous. It is more challenging for my husband than what we did in the Cotswolds (it was his idea so I didn’t feel too bad) because part of it have loose rock and thus hard to get your footing. We see some people running to the top which is more than I would have ever wanted to do even in my younger running days.
Our last meal of our trip is at a Nepalese restaurant we had seen earlier when locating the bridge from which buses to the airport departed. It was one of our best meals in the UK. The food is somewhat different than traditional Indian, although I would be challenged to explain how.

The only other tourist thing I do after my husband leaves is visit Holyrood after my conference ends. As it worked out, the Queen had departed the day before, although a guard had told me when I inquired that the palace would not be opened until after I left. Turned out he was wrong and I was able to visit. I enjoyed visiting here far more than the castle. It was more intimate and had fewer people. I also loved walking through the formal gardens where there still was a white tent standing from one of the Queen’s garden parties.

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I enjoyed reading your report very much - great details! I did have to chuckle at how auto correct undoubtedly changed Bourton on the Water to Bourbon on the Water. :) I like how you included your challenges, right along with all the things that went perfectly - and how you handled them!