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UK: September Cotswold Walks and London

We traveled to the UK from September 2 to the 18th. This was my first time in England, though not Europe.

General Observations

As far as masking went, very few people were wearing masks. Occasionally, you'd see a security guard at a museum wearing one. We wore them on public transport and crowded enclosed places, mainly museums. Getting sick is one thing; getting sick on vacation is a waste of time.

Except in the Cotswolds, we didn't bother with hotel or museum reservations. It didn't seem to mater.

Trip

Days 1 & 2: Bath

We were following the Rick Steves advice to get over jet lag there, rather than London. It was good advice and if Bath is in your itinerary I would suggest that option. It was a love stop. We stayed at the Hampton. The breakfast was buffet and packed. It was a far cry from our last vacation in 2021 where breakfast was ordered the night before and served in a brown paper bag.

Days 3 - 8: Cotswolds

We opted to do a long hiking trip through the Cotswolds. We find getting out of the big cities is always a good break from the big cities. Walking through the country side and visiting little towns and churches is quite relaxing. We used the tour company Cotswolds Walks (www.cotswoldwalks.com). As of the 2020 edition of the Rick Steves England guide, they were listed. We did a 5 night self guided tour called The Cotswold. They book the accommodations, transport you bag each morning to the next town, and give you a hiking map and a GPS app with the route. It was my first use of a service of this type and we were very happy with it. The hotels and B&Bs were all very good. I would definitely recommend it.

Our route was

Day 1: Morten-in-Marsh to Burton-on-the-Water

Morten-in-Marsh is a nice town, but the main street is a major highway and is less charming. Every other town along the route, was much more quite.

Day 2: Burton-on-the-Water to Winchcombe

Day 3: Winchcombe to Broadway

Day 4: Broadway to Morten-in-Marsh

Total mileage was 52 miles.

The only down side to this kind of hiking is you don't have much time to see some of the sights in the towns. But that just gives one a reason to return. It can also get quite muddy when it's raining, which it did maybe a fifth of the time, which given the British love of carpet isn't the best mix.

Day 8 - 9: Oxford

We opted to stay in Oxford before going into London. Since Morton-in-Marsh is only a 30min train ride from Oxford it made sense to stay there. It was our most expensive hotel of the trip, but it allowed us a day to see Oxford, and a day to see Blenheim Place before heading to London.

One of highlights here was St Barnabas Church, Jericho. It's maybe a 10 min walk from the train station. A beautiful 19th century church, home of the Oxford Movement, and designed and decorated in a Byzantine style. If you have the time, a quick visit is well worth it.

Day 9 - 18: London

The only kink in our trip to London was the passing of the Queen. We had originally planned on visiting St Pauls and Westminster Abbey. They were closed to tourism, and open only for quiet reflection, which was fine. We saved a 100 pounds and were able to add in Kew Gardens. At St. Pauls quite reflection meant only the back quarter of the church was open. We sat there for a few minutes and watched the tourists who hadn't gotten the memo. Church staff were strict in telling people no photos. On the other had, the events leading up to the funeral were once and a life time. We walked down to the queue for viewing several times. It was an impressive sight. The area around Westminster Palace was open for pedestrians, but was completely locked down to all other traffic. The number of visitors was a sight to see.

Posted by
2031 posts

That Cotswold walk sounds fun. Thanks for the report.

Posted by
768 posts

Sounds like a trip that my family would like! Which one of the Cotwolds villages was your favorite?

Posted by
5 posts

The Rick Steve's guide about the villages is right. Stowe in the Wold and Burton on the Water are 2 of the most picturesque. We did like Broadway quite a bit, too. It was a little more relaxed than the other 2. Winchcombe had the best church. Morton-in-Marsh is nice, but the highway runs down the main street, which takes some of the charm.

Posted by
2207 posts

What else did you do in London? Where did you stay, hotel and what part of town?
I’m glad to have the info about Cotswolds Walks as this something I want to do.
Thanks for sharing your experience.

Posted by
5 posts

CaliMom,
We were in Bath on a Friday and Saturday at the beginning of September. The first day we just walked around since were getting over jet lag. We did see the Abbey. The second day we went to the Roman Baths fairly early (I think they'd been open a half hour by then). Although it may appear a steep price, if you get the audio guide you can spend at least an hour there. I think we were 1.5 hrs there. We then went to No 1 Royal Crescent. That was a thoroughly enjoyable look at a Georgian home. That was 30 min to an hour. Then we went to the Holburne Museum, in part because we had run out of things to see. It's an interesting museum and if you are interested in decorative art, it's quite nice.

I think we stayed in Bath the right amount of time. 1 full day could cover it. As far as being crowded, in comparison to some of the things I've seen in Paris and Barcelona, this was fine. There were a lot of wedding showers and other parting like groups going around the town. I have a feeling on weekdays, it's even a bit more quiet. The Baths had a line in the afternoon, but first thing in the morning it was fine.

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5 posts

Judy B,
We stayed at the Royal National Hotel near Russel Square. The price was right and it was clean, but if you can afford just a bit more, I might recommend somewhere else. It's a huge building, which isn't an issue in itself, but it has a large court yard in the center with an outdoor pub. It can get a little noisy until maybe midnight. But as I say, the price is right, so if you are just looking for a place to sleep, it's a good choice. Russell square is near the British Museum and the British Library. I was happy with the location.

As far as what we did,
Day 1: we went to the HMS Belfast, a WWII Cruiser, which if you are interested in ships, is a good experience. They have a good audio guide and you can go to most parts of the ship. After we went to the Borough Market and had Iraqi and Malaysian street food. The place was packed (it was Sunday), but there are lots of good choices. Then we went to the Imperial War Museum. For dinner we had Nigerian food somewhere in the West End.

Day 2: we made a quick stop at Selfridges, then went to the Tate Britain. The Turners, the Vortist, and art from the 20's and 30's were great. Turner was the goal, the rest of it was an unexpected bonus. We walked over to Ottolenghi's Chelsea restaurant. Excellent vegetable centric dishes. Then to the V&A. The collection of Pre-Raphalite, Arts and Crafts, and Aesthete works was very enjoyable. I was surprised how much I liked looking at the iron work collection. The cast room is a lot of fun. We went to Harrods on the way back. The food courts of both department stores are something to see.

Day 3: Took the train to Eltham Palace. Henry the VIII grew up there, but the reason to go is for the Art Deco decor. It's something to marvel at. The audio/video guide made the experience even better. Once back in London we went to the 7 Dials Market. They have a lot of food stalls. After we went up to the British Library. A beautiful collection

Day 4: Went to Sir John Sloane's house. This is a fascinating place that is as much about the architecture as the art. It's both a home and a show room for a Georgian architect. I highly recommend it, if you are looking for something different. (Lucy Worsley's series on the Georgian's has a segment about it). After wards we went to the Tate Modern. Of all the museums on this trip, this was the one I completely disliked. I found myself wishing I was at the V&A looking at artisanal iron work rather than pretentious works. To get over that we went to the Old Mitre, a pub that dates from 1565. If you are looking for an old pub that isn't jam packed like most of them seemed to be around rush hour, this is a good choice. Dinner at Ottolenghi's Rovi.

Day 5; British Museum. We spent 6 hours there. The best latte in a museum we had all trip. The Egyptian room was packed, the Greek and Roman not as much. The Japanese and African rooms were deserted. I especially wanted to see the Benin Bronzes, which for most of the day were inaccessible for some reason. All of the works were great (we saw half the museum). Afterwards went to Foyles Books. My idea of a good day.

Day 6: Went to the National Gallery. Saw a great exposition on Winslow Homer. We were there 6 hours, including a good lunch in the cafe. The Hogarth's were great as were the Flemish and Renaissance works. There was a short line to get in in the morning but it went quick.

Day 7: Kew gardens. A nice change of pace and definitely worth it. I would definitely recommend bringing a sandwich from London or buying something in the little shopping area just outside the train station.

Except for day 7, we walked everywhere. I tried to keep the number of museums to no more than 2 a day.

Posted by
29 posts

After visiting the Cotswolds, could you imagine hiking different routes from one central town location (versus bag transport to a new village each day?) . I’ve seen posts on both approaches and trying to evaluate the pros/cons of each . Thanks!

Posted by
5 posts

mggtravel, I'm no expert on the Cotswolds so I'm not sure what the best approach would be. It does seem to me, though, it depend on the distance you wanted to walk. For example, Stowe on the Wold is roughly 6 miles to Burton on the Water. You would need to get back. So I think you'd want to look for a hub that had some sort of transportation back unless you wanted to walk the same route back. It would conceivably give you more time to explore a town than we had. I would've liked to have taken the Heritage railway. Using that as the return route of a day of hiking sounds like a fun approach.