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Help with 12 day UK Itinerary!

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Hello, First, let me apologize for my wordiness! I need some advice for a first time UK trip. My husband and I will be going to the first 2 weeks of June next year - that's 12 on the ground days and 12 nights. While I have a pretty good idea of what we'd like to see and do, I need some help setting up our itinerary to make travel plans make sense without a lot of back tracking or spending too much time crisscrossing around.

The biggest, and first decision I have to make is this - should we start or end our trip with London? On one hand it seems large and overwhelming, so maybe better at the end. On the other hand since we'll be tourists acclimating to our new surroundings perhaps London is a good place to start as we can jump right in with the throngs of other tourists before heading out to explore the countryside. We'll be flying out of Chicago and are thinking it makes more sense flying in and out of Manchester instead of London or possibly doing open jaw - which is why we need to decide where to place London on the itinerary as it will determine our flights as well as which leg of the trip we'll rent a car.

Here are some initial thoughts...

Flying into Manchester we could work our way south with a car visiting Chester, Powis castle, drive along Welsh border (we'd probably plan 2 days and 2 nights for this taking our time and visiting a few National Trust properties and whatever else catches our eye), then into the Cotswolds for 3 days & nights making a home base at a cottage or b&b and doing day trips around the area, after that drive south and visit Castle Combe, Lacock, Stourhead, Wells, Glastonbury and onto Salisbury (breaking this up over 2 days & nights). Then head to London to drop off the car, most likely at Heathrow, and spend last 5 days and nights in London before flying home.

We could also flip this completely around and fly into London and start there and then fly out of Manchester.

The other thing I feel we're really missing out on is York. to work this in we could fly into Manchester, train to York, spend a night there, train to London, do our 5 days, then drive and work our way West and fly back out of Manchester - but then I'm short a day because I've used a night in York and would have to cut out some portion of the Wells, Glastonbury, Salisbury, Stourhead portion of the trip etc. - which is fine - I'm just not sure where to make the cuts.

Also, I am aware that I do not have Stonehenge or Bath on this itinerary, neither are priorities on this trip.

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