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another base for exploring (besides London)

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Hi folks
This is just a just-in-case scenario ...in case our tour of england falls through because of lack of numbers
We are happy to explore London for seven days on our own (daughter and i are going in late Feb) but as time ticks on we are getting a tad worried that our six day tour from London up to Edinburgh wont go ahead,
So my question is:
Where should we base ourselves in order to explore the centre and north?
We have six days..not a lot but were hoping to see York in which case...where could we stay that would enable us to visit other places within a doable radius?

We love history and scenery.

Im thinking that after our week in London we could catch the train up to York..get up to Edinburgh ( maybe) then head down south again...Chesters looks nice but maybe we need a bigger city from where we could get daily coach tours/train

Alternatively..I am prepared to hire a car ....get back to Heathrow and drive out of London that way? I can drive on the left-side of the road ...will get a gps and am willing to pay extra for a guaranteed automatic transmission

Any thoughts? two good bases perhaps...car vs rail?
thanks so much for any info!

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