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Early planning help for self drive trip of England.

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We will be doing a self drive tour in May. At the moment we are in the earliest planning stages and would appreciate some assistance, then we can get into the nitty gritty stage.

We will have 5 days in London and then catch the train to a town where we will pick up a hire car. A friend had done this and found it better than hiring in London and driving through the city and outerskirts. Plus, the train trip (to Axminster in her case) was very pretty, and gave another "depth" to the trip by experiencing train travel as well.

As we will have 10 days, ( not including London) we have decided not to do the width and breadth of the country as it may well be too rushed and miss out on being able to traverse those little laneways and byways that reveal unexpected pleasures and sights!

So we have planned to travel through the South West (not right to Penzance tho) and East, South East and try to get a lot out of these regions. We are primarily interested in historical homes/castles, gardens, coastline and historical markers (such as Stonehenge and the white horse on the hill for examples)

From here my questions begin please:

If we adopt a similar plan to my friend and catch the train to Axminster, then we would drive in a sort of clockwise route to Exeter, up to Bristol and then Gloster. Any comments please?

Do we go up to Birmingham?

From very basic research it does not appear to be a very historic city as far as churches and stately homes/ castles go, nor does it appear to be especially picturesque. Please let me otherwise !!!

Then we plan to drive across the country to Northampton, Cambridge.

We do want to explore the Suffolk region so will we enhance our trip by going across to Norwich and then Ipswich on the coast?

Similarly, is driving north from Cambridge to Kingslynn worthy of the time & distance. From early reading, I believe that this area does hold some interesting history, and Sandringham House! Enough to justify the drive?

From here (depending on where that may be) we would make a line down to the South East through to Colchester then head for Canterbury and across to Dover, Hastings, Brighton and Southhampton.

Do we continue to Bournemouth before heading to return the car at Axminster?

Open widely to suggestion, please no critisims! As I mentioned this is a very early and rough plan. I know the fantastic advice I have received here in the past has only enhanced trips taken and hope that I will be fortunate again to take from the wealth of advice and knowlege that is out there.

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