England - the last time was a disaster!

Old Oct 30th, 2023, 01:09 AM
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England - the last time was a disaster!

The last time I was in London was 1978 and my newly wed husband got the flu - we hardly saw anything!
So now its the latter part of our lives and it is time to return while we are still fit.
We are planning our trip for mid-August and can be a bit flexible with timing. Maybe a fortnight to 3 weeks.
I started planning a trip via the Cotswolds to the Lake District but got a bit nervous when I saw it on the map - it looked like a lot of driving. Mind you, we are Australians so used to long car trips.
We love history, nature, walking, eating, wine, gardens, and lovely architecture. This is my revised version of our trip. Tell me what you think.
Fly in from Australia (economy - roughly 23 hours flight).
Get a car and:
2 nights Windsor
1 night Stratford Upon Avon
3 nights in Cotswolds
2 nights Oxford
2 nights Bath
1 night Winchester
1 night Arundel
6 nights London
After this, we fly out to Crete and our Greek portion of our holiday.
Am I missing any really beautiful spots by following this route? Are there any beautiful gardens that you would recommend that we visit as we travel around the countryside?
Should I include Cambridge in the trip? Are any of the stops too long or too short?
Thanks all- it has been a while since I have planned a trip. COVID acted as a big de-motivator.
Pam
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Old Oct 30th, 2023, 01:42 AM
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To put my comments into context, I am English and split my Tim win the UK between Oxfordshire and London. We have family in Sydney and also spend time visiting them.

Firstly you are correct , it is a lot of driving. You may well be used to long drives in Australia but they are long for a different reason in England. On our last trip to Sydney we did a road trip up to northern NSW. It was a long trip but only in terms of distance. The traffic was negligible. In the UK it is likely to be long purely due to volume of traffic (and the awful state of some of our roads / roadworks. I recently returned from a few days weekend in Cornwall. A journey that, according to the mapping apps, should take 4 hours. It took 7 hours there and 6.5 on the way back. Several times a month drive between London and Oxfordshire, a journey that should take 1.5 hours. It can often take 4hours. My point it that it is bad enough for us but when you only have a day or two in each place, it can really screw up your plans.

I would reduce the number of locations. Spend more time in fewer places and you will get more out of your trip.

My necessarily subjective views, but Cambridge would be a step too far (and in the wrong direction). Bath could be done as a longish day trip from Oxford. A warning re Oxford though - traffic in and around the city is awful. It is an "anti car" city and the situation is made worse by the fact that there are repairs to a major rail bridge which will continue for the next year. It is rare that there are not traffic problems anywhere on the Oxford ring road.

The "Cotswolds is a huge (for England!) area and lends itself to as ingle location with day trips out. Stratford on Avon could easily be one of those places , though , unless you are a huge fan of the Bard, I would skip it. Windsor could be done from London as a day trip or as a last stop before flying out from LHR.

My wife is the garden fanatic so I hesitate to suggest anywhere though she did drag me along to Blenheim Palace recently to explore the grounds an, even I was very impressed, so I would put that on your list. I have been inside a few times but only to attend dinners etc. but an interior visit is also apparently very worthwhile.

I would stress that my comments are from the perspective of a "local" rather than a tourist whose opinions may be very different.
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Old Oct 30th, 2023, 02:15 AM
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I'm going to guess August is when you "have to" come. Climate Change means a lot changes, but generally August can be very wet plus of course all our schools are out so all the places you plan to visit will be chocker.

A fair bit of this tour can be done by trains and buses. This may not be your favoured/habitual form of transport but I suggest you will find that, especially as a lot of your visit is to city centres that having a car for much of this will just be an expensive pain. Since the Cotswolds are more country you should do better picking up a car at Oxford station and driving west out of town for your visit and you could probably drop it back say at Winchester or even Bath (a much over rated tourist attraction in my mind).

seat61.com and https://www.traveline.info/ are a good place to start.

One of the benefits of an August trip is that accomodation in Oxford colleges is open to the paying public https://www.universityrooms.com/ while you may be used to the finer things in life stopping in college offers you things that are very special. An evening service in an ancient chapel (yes you can be non-religious), breakfast in a Hogworts type cafeteria and the opportunity to wonder some lovely grounds in the evening are just some of the benefits. The same can be available back in June/July as well Trinity (end of the summer term) finishes in 15 June 24. Book early

On a slightly different note, you could cancel all these southern things and focus on the east coast looking especially at Cambridge, Ely, York, Leeds, Durham and the Yorkshire Dales. Up to you of course, but less busy and less frantic.

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Old Oct 30th, 2023, 02:59 AM
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Please don't get a car when you first arrive. Not sure if that's your intent but driving tired and jetlagged is not a good idea. You could get public transport from Heathrow to Windsor and maybe get a car later in the trip.

I had a great week this year in the Cotswolds, stayed in Chipping Campden which is lovely. We visited Hidcote Gardens and Kiftsgate Gardens, both beautiful and five minutes from each other. I'm Australian too and was glad not to be driving. Lots of very narrow roads, trying to find parking etc.

Also suggest reducing the number of stops you have. It sounds tiring and as mentioned, traffic can be awful. I'd also suggest using trains where you can. The Seat61 website already mentioned is a fantastic resource. If you do end up using bus or train, make sure to pack lightly. Things you might want to book ahead in London are theatre or a visit to somewhere royal, see the Royal Collection Trust https://www.rct.uk/
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Old Oct 30th, 2023, 03:10 AM
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Two excellent replies above. It seems to me you have a good itinerary, but agree you should try to limit your one night stays and do day trips, using public transport when possible, from a few single bases. Crellston isn’t exaggerating when writing about traffic in the south of England.

Regarding your plan to visit Crete after England, that would work well, especially if the Crete portion is timed for the beginning of September after families return home at the end of their holidays. The middle of August on the Greek Islands is very crowded, at least until the last week of the month. September is one of the best times to be there.
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Old Oct 30th, 2023, 05:08 AM
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Just very quickly: my feeling is you're setting yourself up for an exhausting, unpleasant start to your vacation which will dampen your trip. After a long flight, definitely do NOT rent a car. Your brain will be driving drunk after a flight like that. I only fly from the US, and after a dozen or more flights in, I can tell my brain is sluggish after I land, and the fatigue kicks in hard very quickly. To save you and your husband that terrible stress of getting immediately on the road, which will likely (and should) plague you on your flight, can you explore public transport to ease into your long holiday? Start easy by taking a bus to Oxford or Bath (via Reading), or even the train into London for a night or two to rest/acclimate. No reason you can't start and end in London. It may even help to avoid weekend crowds.

With your long holiday, you may have big suitcases, and a car may seem more attractive. Luggage is always a burden. Hopefully, you can pack light and do laundry on the trip.

As others mention, I would choose 2-3 bases. Quality, not quantity. Maybe check out the National Trust site to find the hikes/walks and houses & gardens you want to visit.

Have fun planning!

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Old Oct 30th, 2023, 06:28 AM
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I'd missed the whole fly from Australia and then drive. My sister comes in from NZ pretty often in Business Class and checks into an airport hotel for two nights (if well she can go to London, if not she just crashes). Equally I was interviewed by a NZ journalist after he flew in from NZ, absolutely stupid (man couldn't stay awake, so I just left him in his suite asleep).

Bring only a little baggage, bus to Windsor or Oxford.

Last edited by bilboburgler; Oct 30th, 2023 at 06:34 AM.
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Old Oct 30th, 2023, 08:43 AM
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You can easily do day trips by train from London to Windsor, to Bath, to Oxford and or Cambridge. You can look into the Two for one Railcard which provides discounts for two people traveling together, not age restricted. You have to upload photos of yourselves and the conductors may very well check to see that the two people traveling are in fact the two whose photos are on the Two for One Railcard.
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Old Oct 30th, 2023, 10:46 AM
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OK -- Don't have time to read all the responses right now but I did read your full OP.

Get a car and:
2 nights Windsor
1 night Stratford Upon Avon
3 nights in Cotswolds
2 nights Oxford
2 nights Bath
1 night Winchester
1 night Arundel
6 nights London


IMO huge chances for improvement. (Don't worry about missing and 'must sees' since no trip can hit more than a few)

Seven hotel changes in 12 days is extremely hectic and totally unnecessary. Especially since Stratford-upon-avon, the Cotswolds, Oxford, and even Bath (more on Bath below) could easily all be accessed from a single well located base in the Cotswolds -- somewhere like Burford, Stow-on-theWold or Chipping Campden. So you could stay in a Cotswolds B&B or rental cottage for a week and tick off all thos places without packing/unpacking/checking in/checking out four times.

Picking up a car after an extremely long flight from OZ is a really bad idea. Go to Windsor by taxi or public transport, stay 2 nights car-less, then collect a car and head out to the Cotswolds. You can rent a car from either Windsor or go back to LHR to get the car)

Likewise you can combine Arundel and Winchester . . . Drive to Winchester and explore all day, drive down to Arundel and stay 2 nights (or vice versa - drive to Arundel, spend the day, then drive up to Winchester and stay two nights. This would be my choice but it would involve a longer drive down from the Cotswolds.)

Then either drop the car in Winchester and take the train to London - OR - drive up to LHR, drop the car and take public transport or a pre-booked car service into town.

This would change your seven hotels to three.. Soooooo much easier.

Now re Bath -- If you just want one day there then easy to do from a Cotswold base. But if you want 1.5 days there you could stay in the Cotswolds 5 nights and add two nights in Bath. You really can see most of Bath in one day so if it was me-- I'd do it as a day trip.

Last edited by janisj; Oct 30th, 2023 at 10:47 AM. Reason: typos
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Old Oct 30th, 2023, 10:54 AM
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Stratford upon avon is frankly a dull place, the muse left about 500 years ago. There is more to see in Burford than the whole of Stratford.
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Old Oct 30th, 2023, 12:08 PM
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Originally Posted by bilboburgler
Stratford upon avon is frankly a dull place, the muse left about 500 years ago. There is more to see in Burford than the whole of Stratford.
I tend to agree . . . but a 'two-fer' of Stratford + Warwick Castle is an easy day trip from most places in the central/northern Cotswolds. Or even better IMO Warwick + Hidcote Manor Garden
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Old Oct 30th, 2023, 03:47 PM
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OMG, I love Fodorites!!! Such great suggestions. I will reduce the number of stays and see how much I can do by train (yes, I am very used to car travel), and come back again. Thank you all so much for your intelligent responses and help.....
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Old Oct 30th, 2023, 03:49 PM
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Love your suggestions. I will consolidate my stays and have a look at where I can pick up a car out of London...thank you!
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Old Oct 30th, 2023, 04:27 PM
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Originally Posted by MYOBlady
Love your suggestions. I will consolidate my stays and have a look at where I can pick up a car out of London...thank you!
Actually -- just about the easiest places in the country to collect rental cars are at either LHR or LGW. Both are outside of cities, are on multiple major motorways to begin the journey, and every major rental agency is co-located so lots of choice. Plus both have very easy public transport in to London for after you drop the car.

Don't worry about one way rental drop off fees -- IME they are either nonexistent or not that expensive. LHR would be the best place to get the car if you did the Cotswolds / western bits first, and LGW would be best if you did Arundel/Winchester/ first. Then you could drop the car at the other airport before heading in to London.
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Old Oct 30th, 2023, 05:28 PM
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Originally Posted by bilboburgler
I'm going to guess August is when you "have to" come. Climate Change means a lot changes, but generally August can be very wet plus of course all our schools are out so all the places you plan to visit will be chocker.

On a slightly different note, you could cancel all these southern things and focus on the east coast looking especially at Cambridge, Ely, York, Leeds, Durham and the Yorkshire Dales. Up to you of course, but less busy and less frantic.
Hi Bilbo Burgler,
Would you feel that spending a couple of weeks staying say at Cambridge, York, Durham and Leyburn would be more pleasant than the same time staying at Bath, Oxford and the Cotswolds? We aren't big city travellers and normally stay out of cities and big towns, opting for more rural locations. But we certainly want to see the beautiful towns, countryside, the gardens and verges. (hence the Cotwolds). I don't mind public transport but have always opted for car as we can wander off the main highways and have flexibility as to where we go I had visions of us going to some of the Downs by car and going for walks. However, I am hearing that car travel in England in August might not be the same experience that we have had in other countries So am definitely looking at train travel now.
I feel very spoilt for choice in England!!
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Old Oct 30th, 2023, 06:47 PM
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OK, how about this itinerary, I had actually planned 18 days in England, arriving 10 August. There is nothing booked so I can change things. The only committed date is 28 August when I have Heraklion in Crete booked. Another option is not to come to England at all in August and come at the end of our Greek trip, which finishes on 18 September, if you think that August is not a good month to travel
Fly in to Heathrow, catch the train to Oxford
3 nights Oxford (inc recuperation night!) pick up car at end
5 nights in Cotswolds - visit Blenheim, Hidcote, Warwick
3 nights in Bath, with trips to Winchester, Stonehenge, drop car back at Bath and train back to London
7 nights London with day trip to Arundel and Deal. Bike hire and ride to Box Hill and train back,


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Old Oct 30th, 2023, 08:27 PM
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Originally Posted by MYOBlady
Fly in to Heathrow, catch the train to Oxford
3 nights Oxford (inc recuperation night!) . . .
5 nights in Cotswolds - visit Blenheim, Hidcote, Warwick
3 nights in Bath, with trips to Winchester, Stonehenge, drop car back at Bath and train back to London
7 nights London with day trip to Arundel and Deal. Bike hire and ride to Box Hill and train back,

• Fly in to Heathrow, catch the train to Oxford. There is no train from LHR to Oxford. It is train in to London Paddington then another train to Oxford (there are other options but more convoluted). But there IS an Express coach fro LHR to central Oxford so a much better idea.

• pick up car at end . . . 5 nights in Cotswolds - visit Blenheim, Hidcote, Warwick. This is fine -- with the onlt real issue being driving out of Oxford is a huge pain. (They REALLY hate cars in Oxford ) Not insurmountable - just something to think about

• 3 nights in Bath, with trips to Winchester, Stonehenge, drop car back at Bath and train back to London. Okay, but a couple of issues. Driving/parking in Bath is also a pain (not as big a pain as Oxford though ). A day trip to Winchester then returning to Bath and returning the car there doesn't make huge sense. It is and almost 4hour drive R-T. What would make much more sense . . . On leaving Bath, drive to Stonehenge/Salisbury, then on to Winchester. Then drive up to LHR, drop the car there and take public transport into London. The total drive would only be about 2,5 hours.

7 nights London with day trip to Arundel and Deal. Bike hire and ride to Box Hill and train back, Arundel and Deal don't work on the same day trip. They are on completely different sections of the south coast and aren't on the same train line. Victoria to Arundel is one day trip. London (from Victoria, St Pancras or London Bridge) to Dover/Deal would have to be on a different day
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Old Oct 30th, 2023, 08:33 PM
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Oh - meant to add -- cycling to Box Hill would have to be on a different day too,
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Old Oct 31st, 2023, 01:04 AM
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Originally Posted by MYOBlady
Hi Bilbo Burgler,
Would you feel that spending a couple of weeks staying say at Cambridge, York, Durham and Leyburn would be more pleasant than the same time staying at Bath, Oxford and the Cotswolds? We aren't big city travellers and normally stay out of cities and big towns, opting for more rural locations. But we certainly want to see the beautiful towns, countryside, the gardens and verges. (hence the Cotwolds). I don't mind public transport but have always opted for car as we can wander off the main highways and have flexibility as to where we go I had visions of us going to some of the Downs by car and going for walks. However, I am hearing that car travel in England in August might not be the same experience that we have had in other countries So am definitely looking at train travel now.
I feel very spoilt for choice in England!!
I've lived in the south and Yorkshire and the Cotswolds are very pretty, but then so are the Dales, perhaps a bit less chocolate boxy. Sheep was the source of money that made the Cotswolds pretty, did the same for parts of East Anglia and also in Yorkshire and each place allowed for beautiful churches, old manor houses and poverty striken outhouses now converted into Bijou B&B ;-)

Durham is a bit special but then so is Ely and Salisbury. I frankly prefer slightly smaller towns than some you have selected. (your selection is straight out of the Ladybird book of best southern visits, which is not to say they would not be lovely holiday, but everyone else will go there) . Similarly York is out of the same playbook as is Cambridge. If you want some alternatives then Ely, Bury St Edmunds, Masham, Ripon, Harrogate, Skipton appear at first to be second tier but no, they just are from a later Ladybird book.

Leyburn is lovely (in the summer, in the winter it is a muddy mess). I'm assuming you understand about the walking opportunities in England. https://footpathmap.co.uk/. The Dales can be done by public transport but it takes a bit of time that you will think you do not have so I might pick up a car in Durham and drive south, dropping it off in York. I'd like to say drop it off in Leeds, but Leeds is a busy city which is designed to keep visitors out of town if driving by car. In fact you'll find a lot of UK cities prefer train based visitors. (to put this in context, in the past 5 years I've probably been to Leeds 12 times, only once by car and it is only 20 minutes away by train, 45 minutes by car)

Gardens, well you would love Fountains Abbey, you might like Bolton Abbey, HarlowCarr is just wonderful, York Gate, Golden Acre https://www.greatbritishgardens.co.u...yorkshire.html are great. And because these places are in the north where foreign visitors come less often they are more low key. Then, you could also visit the home of the Brontes (ok not Shakespeare, but hey) and https://www.nationalparks.uk/park/yorkshire-dales/ https://www.nationalparks.uk/park/north-york-moors/ the Moors park is again one for a car, the coast tends to fill up in what passes for high summer on this wet island but the moors themselves have a desolute beauty all their own.

So yes I think the east and north are good competition for your original southern based tour.

In terms of Cambridge or Oxford, I know them both having studied in Oxford and worked in and around Cambridge. Oxford is a better visit, staying in college rooms is better than a hotel because it allows you to join, if only for a night or two the college environment, while hotels are the same all over.

Last edited by bilboburgler; Oct 31st, 2023 at 01:06 AM.
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Old Oct 31st, 2023, 01:47 AM
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Originally Posted by MYOBlady
OK, how about this itinerary, I had actually planned 18 days in England, arriving 10 August. There is nothing booked so I can change things. The only committed date is 28 August when I have Heraklion in Crete booked. Another option is not to come to England at all in August and come at the end of our Greek trip, which finishes on 18 September, if you think that August is not a good month to travel
Fly in to Heathrow, catch the train to Oxford
3 nights Oxford (inc recuperation night!) pick up car at end
5 nights in Cotswolds - visit Blenheim, Hidcote, Warwick
3 nights in Bath, with trips to Winchester, Stonehenge, drop car back at Bath and train back to London
7 nights London with day trip to Arundel and Deal. Bike hire and ride to Box Hill and train back,
No, I’d leave things as they are, with England first, then Greece. I’m saying that as someone who lives in England and has frequently travelled to the Greek Islands. You are planning Crete at just about the perfect time of year, from the end of August to the middle of September.

As for England, I would much rather visit in August when weather is good and daylight hours long. There is little wrong with travel in August unless you venture toward the coastal resorts where people head for their summer holidays.

Last edited by Heimdall; Oct 31st, 2023 at 01:50 AM.
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