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Cotswolds - Train from London

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After spending 6 days in London, we will be heading to the Cotswolds where we will tour (in a hire car) for aprox 3 or 4 days, before heading east.

We intend taking the train from London and I am seeking advice as to whether to travel from there to Sailsbury and head "up", or instead to Oxford, and tour from there. Whichever place we choose we will hire the car from there.

Any recomendations as to the most central town to base ourselves for this time, as we would prefer not to pack and unpack each night.

There are so many things we wish to see in this area, and know that we will have to cross many off the "must see" list to fit even 1/2 of them into the time frame.

Many thanks in advance for your assistance.

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    Much easier to hire the car from LHR after you've completed the London leg of your journey. Picking up a car in Oxford or Salisbury is much more hassle as you will either have to transport yourself in a taxi to some outlying industrial estate on the edge of the city, or pick up the car in the middle of a congested car-unfriendly city centre. At LHR you start your journey off on wide, clearly marked motorways.

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    The Salisbury pick would be quiet easy, though the Oxford one would be harder.

    Central town, well not either of the two you mention (well they are cities anyway) but neither are central to the Cotswolds.

    A fodorite Flanneruk normally offers great advice on the area, Burford leaps to mind as a possible base but that might be a bit far north for you.

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    There's no central town in the Cotswolds: depending on what you want to see, either Chipping Camden or Burford in the NE and/or Tetbury in the SW, offer about the best combination of accessibility, prettiness and reasonable range of eating and drinking places. For some itineraries, it might make sense to choose an SW location as well as an NE one.

    Can't understand where you plan "heading east" from from the Cotswolds: or is that irrelevant to your question?

    Oxford can be a terrific place to base yourself in either as a destination in its own right or for train-based touring to places like Stratford, Hereford and Winchester. It's simply dreadful as a base for car-based touring in the immediate vicinty, and has very limited bus-based tours.

    Gordon's suggestion is spot on. Collect your car at Heathrow, drive to a Cotswold microtown (or two) and tour from there.

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    Yep -- Heathrow is the best/easiest place to collect a car for Salisbury, the Cotswolds and anywhere in the area.

    All the companies are there, they have extended hours, and LHR is outside of London on the motorways to everywhere. Much MUCH easier to familiarize yourselves w/ the car/driving on the divided dual carriageways than in the center of any town/city in the country.

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    Thanks for your replies...just have to elaborate more...should have done so in my original post to clear up any "foggy" points.

    We will be heading east from Oxford, towards Cambridge and across to the coast,down to Brighton and maybe to Southhampton and back to London. (is sort of irrelevant but I'll be asking more help for this part of the trip so no issues with that question :))

    We only wanted to take the train as we thought we certainly did not want to have a car in London, and it might be "nice" to look at the scenery during the trip to wherever we had made our destination.

    If we hire at LHR would there be too much "backtracking" to commence our trip in Salisbury? Seems to be closer to drive from there (LHR)to Oxford, if I interpret the map correctly?

    We are from OZ so at least we are driving on the "right" side of the road, and only have to adjust to the signs and freeway etiquette.

    I understand about no real "central point" to stay. We want to go as far west as Bath, north to Stratford, south to Salisbury and east to Oxford (where we will continue our journey east as I mentioned above.)So the area we wish to tour over the days will be somewhat like an "egg" shaped tour.
    Swindon appears to be central, but is this a place that is recomended to stay?

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    We will be heading east from Oxford, towards Cambridge and across to the coast,down to Brighton and maybe to Southhampton and back to London.
    Your routing doesn't make much sense to me. I'm not sure what you expect to see along the coast from east of Cambridge down to Brighton, but that route will take you through some fairly ugly industrial areas and run-down former seaside resorts. Maybe you have some specific interests in this area that you've not revealed yet, otherwise I would edit out this part of your trip.

    If you want to see the south coast from Brighton heading west (why Southampton BTW - just a big city?), then you'd be better off starting off hiring a car at LGW and doing a clockwise route through (let's say) Brighton, Arundel/Chichester, Portsmouth, Salisbury then up to the Cotswolds and Oxford then over to Cambridge.

    If we hire at LHR would there be too much "backtracking" to commence our trip in Salisbury?
    No, not sure why you say that. Salisbury is a straight 1.5 drive SW of LHR on motorway/A roads all the way (if you wanted to start there).

    Swindon appears to be central, but is this a place that is recomended to stay?
    No it's a bit of a dump.

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    Totally agree with Gordon! Swindon is a hole haha...and Southampton is definitely not worth your time. It appears you are focusing on larger places based on a map perhaps?

    We just stayed in Burford a couple of weekends ago and it as lovely. Chipping Camden is another good choice, but I think it's slightly bigger.

    Picking up your car at Heathrow is the best choice, you can then jump right onto the motorway, avoiding traffic in the cities.

    Salisbury is great and definitely worth a stop along the way.

    On the south coast consider Rye and environs. Lovely town! The east coast is not somewhere I would choose, but Lavenham is a cute village in Suffolk.

    Try to find a guidebook on the Cotswolds, AA has one out. It will help focus your time.

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    Last year we spent 3 nights in Ebrington, just outside Chipping Campden.We rented a fabulous thatched cottage called Tythe Barn www.holidaylettings.co.uk/ebrington/
    It was a great experience and the owners very accommodating. The place looks just like the photos.It was very easy to tour the entire Cotswolds from this point.Then we drove on to Bath and spent one night there at Three Abbey Green b & b. You'll love the area.

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    I thought some of this sounded familiar:-

    http://www.fodors.com/community/europe/early-planning-help-for-self-drive-trip-of-england.cfm

    It does come across that you've been looking at a map showing main towns and cities and basically joining the dots, irrespective of whether all these places are actually worthwhile enough destinations to travel from the other side of the world to see (Birmingham, Northampton, Southampton, Swindon etc...)

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    Several considerations to bear in mind:

    1. Almost by definition, the overwhelming majority of self-catering cottages in the English countryside will be too far from pubs and eateries to walk to comfortably or (afer dusk) safely, so you need (usually) to cook for yourselves or have a non-drinking driver. English drink driving laws are lax by Australian standards and unenforcable in the countryside, though.

    2.The basic point you seem confused on is that "backtracking" and centrality aren't particularly important: the extraordinary unsuitability of much of urban England in general, and heritage towns spectacularly in particular, as bases for car-centred touring is the key to travelling in England.

    Of the towns you've mentioned, Oxford and Bath behave as if they'd been specifically designed to be impossible to drive a car into, and Salisbury's not a lot better. Swindon centre's a bit of a dump, but its adequate suburbs are heavily used (like their lookalike outstation of Legoland around Oxford's ring road) as locations for awayday chain hotels, where salespeople or strategists from round the world can get to from anywhere in the world, check in the night before, character assassinate their colleagues in the hotel coffee shop, do a day's input into a five year plan then get to the airport or railway station in time to get home that night. But not a place to spend a holiday. Stratford's OK for cars, though it's bit away from anywhere else.

    3.Heathrow is the most convenient place to collect a car west of London, though in my view for Australians, driving out of central London is fine. Getting out of the centre, especially from hire places near Euston or Kings Cross stations, or around Edgware Rd and Marble Arch, is identical to getting out of Sydney for the Blue Mountains: drive a few hundred yards till you see signs for the M4, then follow them until you hit the pretty countryside you've been heading for about 60-80 miles west. Traffic and signage are generally better organised and disciplined in London than in Sydney. It's a lot trickier trying to return the car to the same depot, which is why you should return it to Heathrow whether you collect it from there or not.

    4. For most Australians, it's more trouble hoiking your luggage to a railway station, Heathrow or provincial town then on to a hire place than just collecting the car in central London. The scenery is marginally better from a car than from a train: the basic train route west goes through more postindustrial sprawl than the road, though there's not a lot in it either way. It's also easier for most Australians to collect a car from central London (which really is no trickier to deal with than any Australian city) than from central Oxford (where the traffic is just as bad, the navigation worse and pedestrians and kamikaze cyclists constitute a nuisance unknown in Australia)

    5. Gordon drastically understates the horror and ugliness of driving from Oxfordshire "towards Cambridge and across to the coast,down to Brighton and maybe to Southhampton (sic) and back to London." Quite seriously: spending the same amount of time driving round New York's nastiest New Jersey suburbs is more gratifying and less stressful.

    The area bounded by Southampton, Oxford, Cambridge, London and Brighton isn't much bigger than some Australian conurbations' widest limits. But it houses substantially more people than your entire country, receives twice as many foreign visitors every year on top of that, and is the commercial capital of over 20% of the world's economy.

    The "egg" of Areas of Outstanding National Beauty, Green Belts and conservation areas created between Stratford and Salisbury has been carved out of all that activity to provide somewhere the population of England's SE can get away from one of the world's most densely developed areas. There's no point in visiting Cambridge after visiting Oxford (or vv), less point in visiting Southampton under any circumstances, point in driving along the coast from Brighton to Southampton only as penance for the most grievous of sins and point in driving from Oxford to Cambridge only if that sin involves underage animals of the same sex as you and more than once.

    I'd suggest you devote all your time to London and that egg, possibly doing a day trip to Rye or Brighton by train from London if there's somewhere specific you want to visit.

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    You've received just TONS of great advice/info here. I really think you want to sit down w/ a good map (better than the one you seem to be using since it must only show large population centers) and totally re-think your plans/ideas.

    As mentioned - if you are visiting Oxford there is no reason at all to drive across country to visit Cambridge. If you still want to visit Cambridge anyway, then do it as a day trip by train from London, don't drive across the whole country to get there.

    Driving from Cambridge to Brighton - that's nuts.

    One option to think about . . . The only equally easy place to collect a car than LHR is LGW. If you want to see the south coast and then Salisbury/the Cotswolds/etc, you can take the train to LGW and get the car there. Head to Brighton and the south coast, then up to Salisbury, then on to the Cotswolds/Stratford/etc. and then drop the car at LHR.

    You could do this loop clockwise or anti-clockwise - LGW > LHR or LHR > LGW.

    I didn't realize you were Aussies. Collecting a car in London wouldn't be as bad as for North Americans since you already drive 'on the wrong side of the road' :) But I still think you'd have a bit easier time of it hiring from LHR or lGW.

    And definitely don't choose the train for scenery reasons.

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    Several considerations to bear in mind:

    1. Almost by definition, the overwhelming majority of self-catering cottages in the English countryside will be too far from pubs and eateries to walk to comfortably or (afer dusk) safely, so you need (usually) to cook for yourselves or have a non-drinking driver. English drink driving laws are lax by Australian standards and unenforcable in the countryside, though.

    .....We intend to stay in B&B's so we can perhaps catch a "glimpse" of everyday life in the small towns.


    2.The basic point you seem confused on is that "backtracking" and centrality aren't particularly important: the extraordinary unsuitability of much of urban England in general, and heritage towns spectacularly in particular, as bases for car-centred touring is the key to travelling in England.

    Of the towns you've mentioned, Oxford and Bath behave as if they'd been specifically designed to be impossible to drive a car into, and Salisbury's not a lot better. Swindon centre's a bit of a dump, but its adequate suburbs are heavily used (like their lookalike outstation of Legoland around Oxford's ring road) as locations for awayday chain hotels, where salespeople or strategists from round the world can get to from anywhere in the world, check in the night before, character assassinate their colleagues in the hotel coffee shop, do a day's input into a five year plan then get to the airport or railway station in time to get home that night. But not a place to spend a holiday. Stratford's OK for cars, though it's bit away from anywhere else.

    3.Heathrow is the most convenient place to collect a car west of London, though in my view for Australians, driving out of central London is fine. Getting out of the centre, especially from hire places near Euston or Kings Cross stations, or around Edgware Rd and Marble Arch, is identical to getting out of Sydney for the Blue Mountains: drive a few hundred yards till you see signs for the M4, then follow them until you hit the pretty countryside you've been heading for about 60-80 miles west. Traffic and signage are generally better organised and disciplined in London than in Sydney. It's a lot trickier trying to return the car to the same depot, which is why you should return it to Heathrow whether you collect it from there or not.

    .....We are staying fairly close to Kings Cross in Bloomsbury so will check out what may be available re hire cars in that area.

    4. For most Australians, it's more trouble hoiking your luggage to a railway station, Heathrow or provincial town then on to a hire place than just collecting the car in central London. The scenery is marginally better from a car than from a train: the basic train route west goes through more postindustrial sprawl than the road, though there's not a lot in it either way. It's also easier for most Australians to collect a car from central London (which really is no trickier to deal with than any Australian city) than from central Oxford (where the traffic is just as bad, the navigation worse and pedestrians and kamikaze cyclists constitute a nuisance unknown in Australia)

    .....You must not have driven in Melbourne with all the courier cyclists who flaut total disregard for any semblance of the road laws.

    5. Gordon drastically understates the horror and ugliness of driving from Oxfordshire "towards Cambridge and across to the coast,down to Brighton and maybe to Southhampton (sic) and back to London." Quite seriously: spending the same amount of time driving round New York's nastiest New Jersey suburbs is more gratifying and less stressful.

    .....In a previous post you mentioned that Kings Lyn was an area worth looking at, so are you now advising that this is not so?

    The area bounded by Southampton, Oxford, Cambridge, London and Brighton isn't much bigger than some Australian conurbations' widest limits. But it houses substantially more people than your entire country, receives twice as many foreign visitors every year on top of that, and is the commercial capital of over 20% of the world's economy.

    .....Impressive stats, and I do understand the difference in population between our two nations, and have spent time in NY, LA,and several other cities with populations that would almost total our entire state. However, I do not understand that relevance to my planning requests.

    The "egg" of Areas of Outstanding National Beauty, Green Belts and conservation areas created between Stratford and Salisbury has been carved out of all that activity to provide somewhere the population of England's SE can get away from one of the world's most densely developed areas. There's no point in visiting Cambridge after visiting Oxford (or vv), less point in visiting Southampton under any circumstances, point in driving along the coast from Brighton to Southampton only as penance for the most grievous of sins and point in driving from Oxford to Cambridge only if that sin involves underage animals of the same sex as you and more than once.

    .....Ok, now that's going a bit below the belt, and if your intention was to belittle me, well, you have certainly made me rethink about using Fodors for any further travel "assistance". I may not have go the planning right, but that is why I am asking for help, not sarcasm!

    I'd suggest you devote all your time to London and that egg, possibly doing a day trip to Rye or Brighton by train from London if there's somewhere specific you want to visit.

    ....Thanks again for those who have made an input to my queries, and provided food for thought and "indigestion" in some cases.

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    You've received just TONS of great advice/info here. I really think you want to sit down w/ a good map (better than the one you seem to be using since it must only show large population centers) and totally re-think your plans/ideas.

    ...Yes, lots of "advice", some will be useful!

    ....When I mentioned the "large towns", I was using that as a pinpoint on the map, not that we would be staying in any one of them. There are so many lovely little towns around these larger places that I mentioned, that it was just easier to use them as a point of reference. We are not booking our accomodation, so we could stay in any one of those "small towns" in the general area of the those I mentioned.

    As mentioned - if you are visiting Oxford there is no reason at all to drive across country to visit Cambridge. If you still want to visit Cambridge anyway, then do it as a day trip by train from London, don't drive across the whole country to get there.

    Driving from Cambridge to Brighton - that's nuts.

    ....We would not be driving directly from C to B, rather across to Ipswich and down the coast to Dover, Hastings, Rye etc. Still not tourist worthy??

    One option to think about . . . The only equally easy place to collect a car than LHR is LGW. If you want to see the south coast and then Salisbury/the Cotswolds/etc, you can take the train to LGW and get the car there. Head to Brighton and the south coast, then up to Salisbury, then on to the Cotswolds/Stratford/etc. and then drop the car at LHR.

    You could do this loop clockwise or anti-clockwise - LGW > LHR or LHR > LGW.

    I didn't realize you were Aussies. Collecting a car in London wouldn't be as bad as for North Americans since you already drive 'on the wrong side of the road' But I still think you'd have a bit easier time of it hiring from LHR or lGW.

    And definitely don't choose the train for scenery reasons

    ....Thanks!

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    Oh dear. One thing you'll need to learn to at least tolerate if you come to visit the UK is our British sense of humour (taking the p#%s is a national trait, we can't help it). You can hardly blame Flanner for teasing you for structuring your itinerary around such gems as Swindon and (now) Ipswich - both regular contenders in the UK's Crap Towns charts.

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    >>1. Almost by definition, the overwhelming majority of self-catering cottages in the English countryside will be too far from pubs and eateries to walk to comfortably or (afer dusk) safely, so you need (usually) to cook for yourselves or have a non-drinking driver.<<

    I disagreed a bit w/ this when I first read flanner's post. I've rented MANY cottages in the UK and 80% of them were IN villages/towns and w/i walking distance of more than one pub or restaurant.

    >>.....We intend to stay in B&B's so we can perhaps catch a "glimpse" of everyday life in the small towns.<<

    IME it is just the opposite. Staying in a cottage has you shopping in the local shops, and meeting more local people than staying in B&Bs. In a B&B the only people one usually interacts w/ are the landlady (and s/he'll be busy and won't likely have time to chat/share his/her 'everyday life) and other visitors like yourselves. In fact most B&B owners stay in their private quarters and you won't see much of them til breakfast. And then only serving/clearing up.

    >>.....In a previous post you mentioned that Kings Lyn was an area worth looking at, so are you now advising that this is not so?<<

    Sure it is, but not IMO driving over from Oxford.

    >>you have certainly made me rethink about using Fodors for any further travel "assistance". I may not have go the planning right, but that is why I am asking for help, not sarcasm!<<

    Wow - I'm a but surprised. IME most Fodorites from Oz have a bit thicker skins and usually give as good as they get. Don't take the information personally - every word is accurate and we really are trying to help you avoid some nasty bits in your trip.

    >>...We would not be driving directly from C to B, rather across to Ipswich and down the coast to Dover, Hastings, Rye etc. Still not tourist worthy??<<

    That entirely depends on how many days you have for that leg. You've not mentioned any of those place previously. We can only look at the itinerary you post. But it now looks like you are planning a circular drive around the whole of southern England. That is pretty ambitious - how many days/weeks are you planning?

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    I sometimes wish Fodors offered a map function or a white board function so we could sketch our ideas of where the OP is going to, using words to describe physical actions feels so primitive.

    Like all info. on the web the truth of what is written is in the eye of the writer not that of the reader, however, the writers above are some of the best operating in the UK section on a regular basis and while we all have their own quirks there is a lot of good info here.

    I for one think that following the coast from Ipswich south and round to Dover as one of the least attractive coasts in the country, I've sailed a fair bit of it and driven over whole chunks of it (for work thank goodness) and while there are little lost creeks, full of wading birds and surrounded by ancient man-made bars to the sea a fair bit is ex-industrial or on going industrial units with access to salt water. To really enjoy it you will need a very good guide book (sorry no advice here) but it would be worth doing some work with the various tourist websites for each town along the coast.

    Starter for ten
    http://www.harwich-essex.co.uk/
    http://www.allaboutipswich.com/visiting-shopping/what-to-see-do.aspx

    If your research looks good please let us know how you got on

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