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Bath or Exeter

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Jul 5th, 2015, 06:02 AM
  #1
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Bath or Exeter

A friend who visited England said Bath was a must-see during our trip to London. I found a day-trip tour that stopped in both Bath as well as Stonehenge, so that seemed like a perfect setup. However, I've been looking at Exeter and Cornwall lately, and between my husband's love for the medieval century and my Mother's pop culture love (obsession really) for the show Merlin, I thought this area would be much more up their alley (Merlin's Cave, Tintagel Castle, Free Medieval tour of Exeter). It is much farther from London though, so I'm not sure if the juice is worth the squeeze. Any recommendations for one or the other? We plan to arrive in London August 7 and leave on the 14th. So I'm not sure how realistic getting to Exeter/Cornwall would be in 2-days, since we want to spend the majority of the time in London.
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Jul 5th, 2015, 06:19 AM
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Well, you could take the night train there and back.

http://www.seat61.com/Cornwall-sleeper.htm

But Cornwall is not a day trip or even two-day trip kind of destination. Have no idea what/where Merlin's Cave is, but it sounds like a stupid tourist trap. Tintagel is at least a real castle, in an atmospheric location, but it is in ruins. It's also 60 miles from Exeter on the north coast and would be a pain to reach by public transport. I'm not sure how much of historic Exeter survived WWII. People generally go to Cornwall for the scenery and either to relax or hike.

Bath is not known for medieval architecture, it is principally Regency. However, the Roman baths are well worth seeing and it makes more sense as a day trip (although I spent several nights there a couple of trips back).

You will find more than enough to do in London, and if you want a castle the Tower is right there, and Windsor reasonably close.
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Jul 5th, 2015, 06:34 AM
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if Tintagel were an absolute must and you wanted to see Exeter as well, and you want to fit it into a week in London, on day 1 you could fly to Newquay on Flybe from Gatwick, rent a car, drive up the coast to Tintagel, then stay somewhere overnight.

The next day drive to Exeter, return the car to the station, tour the city, then get the train back to London.

There is quite a lot of medieval Exeter left, particularly the cathedral and area around it, and the quayside is also worth seeing. more ideas here:

http://www.exeter.gov.uk/index.aspx?articleid=9788

as for Merlin's cave, I'd never heard of it either, but it appears that it does exist, and right under Tintagel Castle too:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Merlin's_Cave
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Jul 5th, 2015, 08:46 AM
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You have 6.5 days in London. Bath/Stonehenge is a long/expensive day trip by coach from London. You may not have time for even that.

Cornwall and Devon are fabulous, but IMO if that is where you wanted to go, that is where you should center you trip -- not London. They are twp different trips really. If it is a 'must' then annhig's suggestion to fly one way/drive/train other way is really the only practical way to fit it in

(I am a bit surprised thursdaysd and annhig hadn't heard of Merlin's cave -- I've been twice but not sure I'd want to do the walk again - slippery steps)
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Jul 5th, 2015, 09:05 AM
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@janisj - I have been to Tintagel, more than once, but it was a while back. Visits to the cave may be a recent addition to the site. I was just reading a TR by someone who found the castle too difficult to reach, never mind the cave.

Also, Mary Stewart's "crystal cave" version of Merlin's cave is in Wales...
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Jul 5th, 2015, 09:09 AM
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jj - you may be surprised but it's true. mind you it's a long time since we went to Tintagel - it may even have been before we moved to Cornwall which was about 18 years ago.

It's certainly not somewhere that is commonly discussed or indeed visited by locals except perhaps those who live in the immediate vicinity. There are lots of such caves of course all round the coast - though admittedly not so many that go all through to create a tunnel.

My concern would be to make sure that I didn't get cut off by the tide - a real hazard this time of year for tourists who may not be as aware as locals of the dangers.
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Jul 5th, 2015, 09:13 AM
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>>Visits to the cave may be a recent addition to the site.<<

I went the first time in the late 70's so not new.

I also agree -- on a lightening trip down and back, being there at the 'right' time for the tides is unlikely.

IMO -- the whole idea is just too far and too little time.
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Jul 5th, 2015, 10:03 AM
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Tintagel is a pain to reach by public transit - infrequent buses and no rail service - I would take the train to say Exeter and rent a car for 2-3 days, driving back to London via Stonhenge - returning your car at Heathrow perhaps.

If interested in trains check these sites for lots of great info: www.seat61.com - great advice on discounted tickets; www.budgeteuropetravel.com and www.ricksteves.com.
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Jul 5th, 2015, 11:23 AM
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>>- I would take the train to say Exeter and rent a car for 2-3 days, driving back to London via Stonhenge - <<

The OP specifically says >>since we want to spend the majority of the time in London.<< - spending nearly half their time for this excursion leaves very little time for London. Really a different trip.

Plus the train to Exeter takes 2 to 3 hours (depending on station) and the drive back from Cornwall is 6+ hours. So even on a 3 day excursion there wouldn't be much time free to see/do.
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Jul 5th, 2015, 01:55 PM
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Train to Bath take only 90 minutes and Bath is IMO one of the finest cities in the U.K. - much more sweet than a nice Exeter - Bath is special and an easier day trip by train - practical one. Book advance tickets for deep discounts - www.nationalrail.co.uk.
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Jul 5th, 2015, 02:01 PM
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Plus the train to Exeter takes 2 to 3 hours (depending on station) and the drive back from Cornwall is 6+ hours. So even on a 3 day excursion there wouldn't be much time free to see/do.>>

which is why I made the fly-drive-train suggestion. Doable in 2 days if the OP really wants to. there is a 9.30 am flight leaving LGW at 9.30 arriving Newquay at 10.40 am; it's an internal flight with hand luggage only [I hope] so it would take no time at all to exit and pick up the hire car. The rest of the day could be spent on the north coast with an overnight there or in Exeter about 90 mins drive away. [or somewhere like Tavistock which is a lovely little Devon market town]

Next morning in Exeter then back to London on the fast train - about 2 ½ hours.
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Jul 5th, 2015, 02:18 PM
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I agree -- >>If it is a 'must' then annhig's suggestion to fly one way/drive/train other way is really the only practical way to fit it in<<

If they want to try this, train one way and flying the other is about the only way to make it work.

My last post was to knock down the suggestion they could train down/drive back.
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Jul 5th, 2015, 02:43 PM
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My last post was to knock down the suggestion they could train down/drive back.>

OP said they may have 2 days - with 2 days it is practical if unpractical in some ways. I did not mean it as a day trip for sure.
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Jul 5th, 2015, 02:43 PM
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Rather than overnighting, if they insist on doing the Cornish trip, they can take the night train.
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Jul 5th, 2015, 02:59 PM
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>>. . . with 2 days it is practical<< . . . not really.

>>Rather than overnighting, if they insist on doing the Cornish trip, they can take the night train.<<

The problem w/ the night train is it arrives in Plymouth around 4AM and they'd have no place to go/nothing to do until the rental agencies open probably at 9 or 10AM. If they take it farther SW -- they'll still arrive long before any rental agencies are open. Plus this train stops many times (unlike the sleepers to Scotland) so harder to get a reasonable night's sleep.
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Jul 5th, 2015, 03:13 PM
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Janis have you taken the night train - Penzance would be a nice place to pick up a car and head thru Devon and or Cornwall - why get off at Plymouth - why not Penzance?
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Jul 5th, 2015, 04:14 PM
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I was thinking of flying down and taking the train back, but it doesn't leave Exeter until one in the morning.

When I was looking at taking it I was going to go all the way to Penzance.
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Jul 6th, 2015, 06:20 AM
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I agree about taking the overnight train all the way to PZ if you were going to do it at all; i can't imagine that Plymouth station would be any fun at all at 4am [it isn't much fun at midday!].

Still not much to do in PZ at 8am, which is when the overnight train gets in though I note that the Europcar office opens at 8am, so it's certainly an option.

if the OP really wants to do this, flying in at least one direction looks the best option to me. Both the 16.04 and 17.03 take just over 2 hours to get back to London from Exeter which would be the best option after spending a day in Exeter.
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Jul 6th, 2015, 06:26 AM
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The OP seems to have abandoned us.
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Jul 6th, 2015, 08:30 AM
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Bath is so lovely and there is enough to see to make a very full day, so I would not push Stonehenge into that day.

In Bath, the Roman baths are beautiful and extremely interesting.
If you or your Mom are Jane Austen fans, you get a real sense of life in that time in Bath.
The Abby is gorgeous.
The architecture is impressive
The free history walk is very good and informative.

While it is a bit far for me for a day trip, if I really wanted only one day out of London, and could not do an overnight, it would be Bath.
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