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