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jgh50 Oct 27th, 2009 06:57 PM

England itinerary with the family
I am in the beginning stages of planning a trip to England for my family; myself, my husband and two boys, 12 and 11. We are planning to travel in mid-June. Our interests are very diverse so we are looking for a lot of variety. We want to start in London for 3 days ( and have that pretty well figured out) but I am overwhelmed with choices for the next 8 days. To add to the challange, we don't want to do a lot of driving, at least not in crowded urban areas. We are thinking of the Wessex (Bath and Avebury), and then north to the Lake District. Would love to get some suggestions to combine sightseeing with activities for the boys. Thanks.

janisj Oct 27th, 2009 07:18 PM

Have you been before? I ask because 3 days is awfully short for LOndon.Your first day will be pretty much lost to jet lag for at least some of you.

Also - before we can give you really useful advice, we need to know a bit more. You have mentioned Bath, Avebury and the Lakes. That would indicate to me you want neolithinc, Georgian/Jane Austen-ish, and lake/mountain scenery.

Is this right -- or do you also want to see castles, country villages, thatched cottages, stately homes, or anything other types of places.

For JUST London, Bath, Avebury and the Lakes, I'd suggest flying open jaw into London and out of Manchester.

4 or 5 days in London (still too short but at least that will give you 3 full/awake days :) )

Then pick up a car out at LHR and drive to Avebury and on to Bath (easy to slip Windsor Castle in there since it is only 7 miles from LHR). Stay 2 nights in/near Bath.

Then drive up the west side of England - maybe a night or two near Stratford-upon-Avon for Warwick Castle and the Cotswolds.

Then on up to the Lakes for the last 3 days before flying out of Manchester.

This is just one option -- there are lots of other ways you could go.

justshootme Oct 27th, 2009 07:48 PM

I am hesitant to suggest which areas of England to visit if you only plan on spending 3 days in London. If you haven't visited London, London deserves a lot longer than three days.

I have these suggestions:-

If you'd like to spend the entire time in London, it is easy to make day trips (by train) to various places nearby, like Windsor, Brighton, etc. If you choose this, I'd visit Bath for an overnight trip. You won't be on the go all the time, but your day trips will limit you to places close to London. A caution, check ticket prices for trains, this could be a deal breaker since you will need to purchase 4 tickets.

Another option, which will give you more diversity is to spend a few days in the Lake district, Manchester, Liverpool, Chester, Blackpool, etc. and then travel to London via Bath, Stratford, Oxford, etc. However, you really need more than 11 days to see these places and London.

Alternatively, in 11 days you can travel from the Northwest to London and skip sightseeing in London' ie just fly in/out of London. I would only suggest this if you've already seen London. If you omit London you can travel at a comfortable pace and include alot of diversity in your trip.

jent103 Oct 27th, 2009 07:53 PM

You say your interests are very diverse, but could you be more specific? I love the Lake District and Bath is beautiful, but I'm struggling to picture two preteen boys in Bath, and even in the Lakes unless they really enjoy hiking and outdoorsy things. There are some fun activities around, but it's largely a relaxing spot for beautiful scenery and hiking.

I completely agree with janisj - three days is VERY short for a first visit to London, if it is indeed your first. There is so much to do there, and I wonder if there would be much more there to interest your boys than there would be in the other places you mentioned. Personally I'd be tempted to spend five or six days in London and then hit the road.

jgh50 Oct 28th, 2009 06:36 AM

Thank you everyone for your responses. Both my husband and I have been to London before but we could extend out time there easily. (Thank you for the reminder about jetlag.) I think we would want to extend London 5 days. American vacations being what they are that leaves us with 6 days. My thinking on Bath was; Roman to interest my son and architecture/dining to interest my husband and to give me my Jane Austen fix. We are all interested in Avebury (avoiding the crowds at Stonehenge).

We would still want part of the vacation to be in outside London since my husband and I have never been anywhere else in the UK outside of the Capital. The boys are interested in castles and dungeons, Harry Potter and WWII. My husband and I would like to see some of the countryside, thatched cottages, local pubs, maybe one stately home. We like fine dining and would like to stay in a cottage or B&B at some point. We also want to have some outdoor activity like fishing or hiking or biking in the mix. We thought the Lake District would be good for hiking but we are not married to it if it is too sedate or takes us out of the way.

We are flying out of New York.

jent103 Oct 28th, 2009 06:56 AM

The Lakes are great for hiking (I haven't fished or biked there, but I imagine you can at least bike - not sure about the rules on fishing). If your boys are into those things as well, I think you'll all really enjoy it; my concern was if they're not interested in hiking or other outdoors activities for a couple of days, without much else geared to their age available. There are plenty of b&bs in the area.

Since your sons are interested in World War II, I'd definitely recommend the Imperial War Museum in London. There's also the Cabinet War Rooms/Churchill Museum in Westminster (you and your husband may know about those attractions already, but just in case). I think London Walks ( has a Harry Potter tour; you might check that out. They get excellent recommendations on these boards, and I was really pleased with the walks I took in June.

dreamweaver746 Oct 28th, 2009 07:35 AM

We took my boys for their first UK trip when they were 7 and 12. They enjoyed London but their very favorite was the Cotswolds. They loved the quaint villages. We stayed in the village proper of Bourton-on-the-Water. They raced leaves & twigs on the little stream for hours. Altho it sounds very touristy in a bad way, they LOVED Warick Castle. It was really pretty well done. They had falconry demos and a dungeon tour, etc. Blenheim wasn't as much a hit but they did like. They also loved Oxford and the sites featured in HP movies. They were having cricket practice for some boys which mine enjoyed watching for a bit, too. We have been to the Lake district sans kids but I've never felt mine would really love it? Maybe someone who has taken their boys there can speak better? Our experience in England and Ireland with the boys has been to cover all the outdoor plans with indoor backups because it's likely to rain a day or two (or, in Ireland, 12 or 13 days!)

jamikins Oct 28th, 2009 08:09 AM

The Lake District takes a while to get to from London, so with only 6 days you may want to head North and do Yorkshire and the Lakes as they are close and have lots of old Monastaries, Abbeys to explore and lovely villages. Then fly in or out of a Northern airport...potentially Manchester.

Be sure to take the kids to the Tower of London and expect to spend at least half a day is wonderful!

janisj Oct 28th, 2009 08:11 AM

The Lakes are beautiful -- but they don't have any of the >>castles and dungeons, Harry Potter and WWII<< connections.

I have a totally different idea you might want to consider to cover all of your wish list:

6 days in London. During that time you could take a day trip to Bath (this will be relatively expensive for 4 train tix but if it fits in your budget it is a good use of time.)

Then take the train to Gatwick and pick up a rental car there. Spend the rest of your time in Kent/East Sussex. In that area are (among a hundred other things)

• Dover Castle. Roman/Medieval/and WWII all in the same place. Enormous w/ everything from a Roman lighthouse to really fascinating WWII tunnels/communications centers and even a WWII hospital.

• Deal Castle. A really great Henry VIII castle where they give you torches (flashlights) to explore all the dark bits.

• Sissinghurst. Probably the most famous garden in England

• Hever Castle- Anne Boelyn's family's home w/ massive gardens

• Beaches/narrow gauge railways etc etc.

• Chartwell. Winston Churchill's country home

• Bodiam castle - terrififc castle ruin in a moat.

An option if you don't want to do a day trip to Bath -- London for 5 days, Kent/East Sussex for 4 days, then use your last 2 days to travel back west to see Avebury and Bath. You'd collect the rental car at LGW and drop it at LHR.

Or if you are flying into LGW, do it in reverse. Pick up your car at LHR after 5 days in London. Do Avebury and Bath, then Kent/East Sussex and drop the car at LGW and fly home.

BigRuss Oct 28th, 2009 08:37 AM

I like Janis' suggestion and was going to mention Dover/Deal myself. They were built as defensive castles by Henry VIII as part of a greater coastal defense for England and we wanted to go to both but they were too far for a daytrip from London (that will change in about five weeks when the fast train from St. Pancras cuts travel time to the coast by about 45 minutes).

Hever Castle is small but the grounds are nice and have at least three mazes that the boys would like, including a water maze where the little buggers can trip the water traps and end up well drenched. Chartwell is less than 30 minutes' drive from Hever Castle. There are many other castles in the vicinity, you can also go to Canterbury, etc.

jamikins Oct 28th, 2009 09:46 AM

Also check out Hampton Court...its in zome 6 on teh London overland trains. There is a maze there as well and its easy to get to from Central London.

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