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XULIETTE Dec 19th, 2005 07:42 AM

3 Days outside of London-What to do?
If you had three days to see the countryside outside of London where would you go? We'll be in London on business the beginning of January and have been there many times so we'd love to see the beautiful countryside. Any ideas? I was thinking of Bath but didn't know if 3 days was too long. If we just rented a car and drove around the Cotswalds would we be safe without B&B reservations?

Any input would be greatly appreciated!

SallyCanuck Dec 19th, 2005 07:54 AM

What about Cambridge and/or Canterbury? I think Cambridge is beautiful but don't know about spending 3 days there. Canterbury has a lot to see, too. Not sure how far it is between them.

flanneruk Dec 19th, 2005 07:59 AM

It depends what you mean by the beginning of Jan.

A number of B+Bs don't operate in midwinter. The Jan 1 weekend, many normal hotels will operate on minimum stay packages only. To many from outside the UK (and not a few Britons), these will seem extortionate.

Thereafter, demand drops sharply in Jan. Nonetheless, there are fewer B+Bs around and most hotels are actually rather small. At weekends, one large party of Londoners wanting a rest from the Xmas exertions can swamp a hotel, and it's still getting dark by just after 4. So you might want to keep a day ahead in your reservations.

Midweek, with half the local population in Australia or on safari, virtually everything will be blissfully empty.

XULIETTE Dec 19th, 2005 08:09 AM

Thanks for the quick reply! We're going the weekend of January 6, 2005 to January 10, 2005 so you think we're safe to just play it by ear? Are 3 days in Bath too long? I'll look into Cambridge.

isabel Dec 19th, 2005 08:36 AM

Since it will be getting dark so early I would stay in someplace like Bath or Oxford where there will be a few stores and pubs and buildings lit up after dark. If you stay in a rural B&B and don't want to drive in the dark, your day will be over by 4pm. So I would probably do one or two nights in Bath and the other nights in Oxford and see some of the smaller towns while driving between them. Stratford on Avon and Warwick are in the general vicinity so you might consider a stop in one or both of them as well as some of the tiny Cotswold villages.

flanneruk Dec 19th, 2005 09:00 AM

I'd disagree with Isabel.

The world doesn't divide neatly into medium sized cities and tiny unlit villages. And the whole point of the Cotswolds is the wool towns (Burford, Northleach, Chipping Campden, Cirencester, Stow in the Wold, Moreton in Marsh, Tetbury and so on).

These all feel quite different on a dark night(even though they've had electricity in the streets since about the day after Swann invented the lightbulb) from the drinking adolescent-stuffed streets of Oxford - many of which, after dark, feel and look no different from the streets of Scunthorpe, since Oxford's medieval buildings aren't floodlit. They're all awash with the pubs and hotels out of the picture books - after New Year's Day, mostly empty outside weekemds. They're a great deal more likely to get a smattering of photogenic snow than the larger towns with their warming microclimates(Burford's actually had some snow this year). And you can walk out into open countryside from the middle of them in five minutes.

If you're going to the country, what's the point of staying in a city?

XULIETTE Dec 19th, 2005 09:06 AM

Should we rent a car in London or take the train to Bath and rent a car there? How crazy will it be for us to drive on the opposite side of the street (we're from New York) in the city of London?

Lovejoy Dec 19th, 2005 09:58 AM

Driving on the left is not really all that difficult,once you get used to all the pedals being reversed.
I once had a scarry moment when I accidentally hit the accelerator pedal with my left foot thinking it was the clutch!

KidsToLondon Dec 19th, 2005 10:59 AM

Driving on the "opposite side" (left) is not crazy in the UK. NOT driving on the left in the UK, now that would be crazy. But tourists driving in London could be borderline crazy too, given the congestion and confusing streetscape of the city and surrounding metro area.

Seriously, driving on the left is not that difficult assuming that you are a fairly competent driver. Having a good passenger/navigator is very helpful, as are decent detailed maps. I suggest that first time UK drivers rent a car with automatic transmission. It just simplifies the learning curve not having to deal with shifting opposite-handed in addition to all other driving tasks.

Finally, to avoid driving in central London, consider renting the car at Heathrow (if heading west), Gatwick (if heading east or south) or even taking the train to a smaller city like Bath, exploring the city, and renting a car there.

Dave W.
[email protected]

mclaurie Dec 19th, 2005 11:26 AM

There are endless threads here on driving in the UK. Some find it easy, others find it very stressful. It does determine where you can go. If you think it will be too stressful, there is a co./tour guide who's been mentioned here who will drive you around. Her name is Genny and the co. is

Jan. is not an ideal time for getting the most out of the Cotswolds, but what to do.

janisj Dec 19th, 2005 11:45 AM

First of all -- <b>totally</b> disregard lovejoy's comment. The pedals are NOT reversed. Now, that would be suicide if they were.

Second - A lively Cotswold village will be plenty lit up. Burford or Chipping Campden for instance are full of pubs, restaurants, Indian take-aways, hotels, B&amp;Bs, etc. Absolutely no problem walking around at night - and no need to drive at night if you don't want to.

Bath is a very compact city - most of the sites can be seen in a few hours. Whereas the Cotswolds are a pretty large region and you can't see much of them in less than a few days.

How long do you actually have? (Jan 6 - 10 is five days) If you want to stay overnight in Bath, fine. But you'd only need the one night. Then the next morning head up into the Cotswolds for the rest of your time. I might choose Burford - excellent wool church, lots of places to eat/drink, and on a crossroads w/ easy access to other parts of the Cotswolds. But any of a number of other large-ish villages would be just as good.

Or another option - drive to the Cotswolds first and spend 2 or 3 days. Then drive down to Bath and drop off the rental car - you don't need a car w/i Bath. Then take the train back to London (or train/bus to your departure airport)

The Cotswolds are lovely in the winter.

scottvan Dec 19th, 2005 12:01 PM

Another area to consider, depending on your interests, might be around Salisbury: Stonehenge and Avebury (stone circles) are nearby, as is Old Sarum. Salisbury has a wonderful cathedral as well. There are other neolithic sites and sights in the vicinity as well, if that's your thing (Silbury Hill, West Kennet).

Enjoy your trip.

luckykat Dec 19th, 2005 12:19 PM

Salisbury Cathedral is definitely a must see! Do the tower tour for a unique perspective.

XULIETTE Dec 19th, 2005 12:40 PM

Thanks so much for all the great ideas!!! It really helps! We will actually only have 3 full days &amp; 2 nights outside of London. With all these great places to see I think we'll just take our chances with finding a B&amp;B in whichever town we wind up in. It sounds like in January it won't be too crowded.

nona1 Dec 19th, 2005 10:30 PM

All main roads these days have a travel inn/travel lodge/holiday inn Xpress etc etc which will be open and probably fairly easy to get a room in, in January. Like a cross between a hotel and a motel! Most towns have several. Cheap and cheerful, dull but clean, everything works, cost around &pound;50 a night per room. They also run a lot of special offers as well so it might be worth looking on the net just before you come over and booking in advance.

CJS Dec 22nd, 2005 09:45 AM

1. Salisbury and Stonehenge (you can get a cab to Stonehenge from rail station or you can take a bus).
2. Ely--simply marvelous town with exquisite cathedral and nice, though small, museum. Oliver Cromwell house good for kids. Good eats throughout, a terrific day journey.
3. Windsor--it's only 30 minutes by train from London. State Rooms are beyond description--rich, luxurious, thick with history.
4. St. Albans (which used to be &quot;the road&quot; to London for food vendors and other merchants). Again, a wonderful, smaller cathedral, an extremely interesting museum, some Roman ruins, and nice eateries. Best of all, 20 minutes by train (avoid prime times).
5. Winchester--yes, a cathedral, a walk taken by John Keats, a totally satisfying and inexpensive meal at the refectory across from the cathedral. A day well spent.
6. Canterbury--but it's a harder trip because of time. I loved it this past October but then I stayed there and didn't have to travel in.
7. Rye--the most scenic of all small English towns I've visited, but not as close by as the others.
8. Cambridge--fun, funky, and lunch on the Cam is a treat. Beware the bicycles.
9. Oxford--skip it as far as I'm concerned. Lots to see and do but jam-packed with citizenry, students, touristas.
10. In London--visit houses of Keats (odd hours on all of them), Dickens, Bloomsbury folks. See Kenwood House while in the Keats area (there's a Vermeer there). Spend an easy half day at the Courtauld Gallery not too far from St. Paul's. Exceptional choices of Impressionist art in a lovely setting. Right behind The New Globe is a terrific Afghan (I think) restaurant. Not to be missed--a bowl of soup, fresh olives, and decadent bread miraculously appear 60 seconds after you sit down. If short on time, skip National Gallery and go round the corner to the Portrait Gallery. It is great fun to put a &quot;face&quot; to all those interesting Brits you've read and studied.

British Library--excellence all the way. You might luck into a really good exhibit. I saw Lindesfarne Gospels once, Beatles manuscripts another time, and John Keats letters yet another visit. It doesn't get any better than that for me.

Wish you well. Savor every moment.

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