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Tour around England & accommodation for 12 days

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After spending a week in London, we have 12 days to see England starting from 1 September ("We" being 3 adults). We want to balance between sight seeing as much as possible, without being rushed.

Our targeted areas are Bath (3 days?), the Lakes District (4 days?), Oxford (3 days?) and Cambridge (2 days?). (1 extra day up our sleeves). We have chosen these areas because we are history buffs and love artifacts, architecture and castles (such as used in Jane Austin films). Oxford and Cambridge are for practical reasons to enquire about Uni admission.

After arriving in Bath by train, I am thinking of hiring a car. Would this be the best way of doing our tour, rather than public transport? Our generic idea is to leave Bath for Oxford, then up around the Lakes District and then down to Cambridge. We would return the hire car in Cambridge, before training or coach back to London. Im terrified at the prospect of driving anywhere near London.

Is this a sensible plan? My other uncertainty is accommodation. Should we simply wing it, or is there a risk everything might be booked out at that time of year ? We don't know how much we should structure this part of our holiday, or risk being spontaneous? I suppose my query is to ask if anyone knows if tourist numbers compete for facilities at that time?

Anyone else done this type of trip and have advice?

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