England: When and Where?

Feb 10th, 2015, 06:56 PM
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England: When and Where?

Two Seniors (71 and 75 but in excellent health) planning about a month in England. Had planned the Month of May or May/June , but now considering mostly June, if can find affordable fare. Friends and forums have warned not to travel in May when schools are on break or there are "bank holidays" as crowds are terrible. Is this true, and if so, is it mainly in London or also in the countryside? Also, I LOVE gardens and understand that they are especially beautiful in June. Agree or disagree with these thoughts?

Plans include maybe a week at beginning and at end of trip spend in London (our son and wife have just moved there 5 months ago). Would see sights, just enjoy all that's there, maybe side trips. Remainder of trip considering Cotswold area, Bath area (would love to get in on International Music Festival, late May), Exeter/Torquay area to explore the Jurassic Coast, on to Cornwall and especially go to Truro to experience the Minack Theater, the Eden Project, and whatever else presents itself.

I really need to get air soon, so will really appreciate any helpful or critical suggestions. We have never been in England and it is mind boggling to try to make sense of it all. We definitely do plan to go back off and on.

Minor detail! We will be dependent on public transportation, unless someone can give us some very convincing reason to have a car. We are not young anymore, and would be far less stressed using bus and train. The Cotswold area might be and exception.
Many thanks in advance.
makinghay is offline  
Feb 10th, 2015, 09:08 PM
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>>Friends and forums have warned not to travel in May when schools are on break or there are "bank holidays" as crowds are terrible. <<

The holiday weekends are at the beginning and end of the month. In between there are few crowds anywhere. Same in June pretty much.

In London there is basically no difference re crowds any month of the year -- and especially not on the Bank holidays. Individual sites such as the Tower of London will be especially crowded on the actual bank holiday weekend, but otherwise you wouldn't notice any difference mid June, Mid May, Mid July, mid December, mid October -- anytime.

>> Also, I LOVE gardens and understand that they are especially beautiful in June. Agree or disagree with these thoughts?<<

Gardens are great anytime and glorious from March through September -- just different things are in bloom.

For what you want to see/do anytime from the beginning of May through the first week of July would be a great time to visit.

Touring can be done by public transport . . . but in some rural areas such as the Cotswolds and Devon/Cornwall it is easier by car. There is adequate local bus coverage but in some areas it is more geared to the local school run or shopping than what tourists/visitors want/need. Trains don't really serve the Cotswolds well. There are stations sort of on the entire periphery - but none going into/through the Cotswolds.

One option is to either rent cars locally for a few days in The Cotswolds and possibly in Cornwall - or hire a driver for a few days.
janisj is offline  
Feb 10th, 2015, 10:49 PM
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The beauty about going half term time is that any "rush hour" traffic is less pronounced, so am and pm travel should be lighter.
Yes there will be crowds at popular sights, especially on a Bank Holiday weekend.and you do have to keep an extra eye out for travel disruption during this time on public transport, you may find this is noticeably busier. I slightly disagree with Janisj I think crowds are heavier during the half term week in London as many families will visit popular sights in London as well as the regular overseas visitors ( but I am talking places like Madam Taussauds(sp?) but then places like that are always busy anyway...

Driving round the Cotswolds is fine ( again will be busy on the BH weekends) but aside from that it's relatively easy driving . I wouldn't drive into Bath though and public transport is a very easy in London so no need for a car there anyway.
Smeagol is offline  
Feb 10th, 2015, 11:24 PM
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Cornwall is a poverty striken area in a wealthy island and used by the wealthy for their holiday homes. Due to its low population density there is only limited public transport (as Jansj says only a bit worse) and I would look to either a car rental or a driver/car. However, if you want to do some research the tool you need is http://www.traveline.info/ which joins up all the public transport company data.

London, you don't want a car, as a native it is years since I've driven into town.

http://heligan.com/ is a nice garden for a visit
bilboburgler is offline  
Feb 10th, 2015, 11:32 PM
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At the end of May there is a school half term WEEK (not just a long weekend) and in 2015 it will be week commencing 25th May. The Monday of that week is the Bank Holiday.
If I had the choice I'd pick my holiday for after this week, probably because when my children were young I had years of fitting breaks around school holidays! But if you specifically wanted to go somewhere like the Bath Festival in late May that you mention then I wouldn't let the half term week put you off. But I would sort out accommodation as soon as possible for the busier places.
Whilst in London you could easily head 'oop north' for a short break. There's a regular train service that takes you directly from Kings Cross to York, a beautiful, compact city that is easy to explore on foot.
Morgana is offline  
Feb 10th, 2015, 11:48 PM
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The thing about the half term week at the bank holiday . . . It actually makes London less crowded . . . except for specific tourist attractions like the Tower. Many Londoners leave town and there is less business travel so if you can work your schedule so you are in London that week and in the countryside before and/or after then that is the best.

I would definitely avoid Cornwall and someplace like the Lakes around the Bank Holiday because that is where a big % of those Londoners who left town are driving. There can be huge tailbacks in the really popular areas (like Cornwall and the general SW) especially if the weather is nice.
janisj is offline  
Feb 11th, 2015, 12:47 AM
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"Cornwall is a poverty striken area in a wealthy island"

while it may not be as prosperous as parts of the south east I wouldn't describe Cornwall as poverty stricken (the water's safe to drink and the locals have indoor sanitation)

You can check train fares and book tickets via this site http://www.nationalrail.co.uk/

I wouldn't get too hung up about Bank Holidays, trains and motorways can be busy in certain bottle necks but that's to be expected when any country has a public holiday. June has longer hours of daylight so that's a positive reason for travelling then.
sofarsogood is online now  
Feb 11th, 2015, 03:57 AM
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sofar, yes in those terms you are right, but based on local incomes it suffers a fair bit.
bilboburgler is offline  
Feb 11th, 2015, 04:20 AM
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"We are not young anymore, and would be far less stressed using bus and train. The Cotswold area might be and exception."

The Cotswolds actually have quite good public transport (I often go for several weeks without getting into a car): it just isn't very useful for quick tourist trips.

The Cotswolds also isn't, to my mind, an area with a lot to see in the conventional sense. It's terrific, though (but you've got to be fit as well as healthy, and round here, the grownups are usually a lot fitter than indolent, car-bound, brats under 60) for middle-aged pottering about on foot, using public transport only when necessary, through terrific countryside.

If you've got a month to organise yourselves around, a few days in or near a Cotswold railhead like Moreton in Marsh or Charlbury means you can do a couple of days dedicated to little more than gentle, pub-centric, 8-10 mile meandering and a couple of days using it as a base for railway or bus daytrips to Oxford, Winchester, Hereford or Stratford. Or a nice walk to the unspeakable Blenheim (don't get me started) and the bus back.

Anyone blathering on about crowds round here is a fool, or just misanthropic. Even in the few hours a year (summer weekends, 11-4) when the Cotswolds' half dozen honeypots are bursting, the other 99.9% of the area's acreage is blissfully empty.
flanneruk is offline  
Feb 11th, 2015, 10:08 AM
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It is so exciting to get all of these helpful comments and suggestions. I have much food for thought. The holiday issue is a bit clearer, but only if I am assuming corrrectly that "term" means IN school and "half term" means what would be "break" in the US.
I do think that June seems best for our travel, arriving at our son's in London maybe a week before, during break, to do lots of exploring on foot and otherwise. Crowds shouldn't be an issue,as janisj pointed out. Makes sense, thanks.

As for the Cotswolds, I will seriously consider a car, though if all we do is settle into and area and do day walks to various villages, that sounds wonderful too.

Flanneruk, now you MUST go on about Bleinheim! I need to know whatever it is, please!

I know that the Cornwall area will be a challenge, but I will work on those details and get back to the forum as I need more help. I do have a contact or two in that area from a travel club we belong to, so can likely get some practical advice from them as well. Again, what we don't see we won't miss, just so we are enjoying each new day's adventures.

I had not thought of going all the way to York, but the description sounds inviting. Will look into the details. Thank youk Morgana, for the suggestion.

Please do continue any comments...I'll be watching with much appreciation. Now to find an airfare that I can live with. June is not an inexpensive time to travel.

Incidentally, in case you all are not familiar with the term, "makinghay" means doing what one can do while the opportunity exists (good health, funds, time, etc.)
makinghay is offline  
Feb 11th, 2015, 10:29 AM
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Regarding travel in Cornwall, you might want to consider a Rabbies tour. This past summer I did their Devon/ Cornwall 5 day tour departing from London. I had a wonderful time, was able to get to many places I wouldn't have been able to using public transportation and was very impressed with Rabbies. We visited several spots along the Jurassic Coast, a number of Cornish villages such as Boscastle, Port Issac ( Doc Martin fame ) and St. Ives as well as stopping at the Minack Theatre. I'm a solo traveler and with the exception of the Cotswolds and Isle of Skye, which I'm very familiar with, no longer feel comfortable driving. I really enjoyed leaving the driving and all the other hassles involved to someone else. In addition our driver provided excellent commentary and detailed information. On my own I would have been pretty much clueless.

historytraveler is online now  
Feb 11th, 2015, 10:37 AM
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We use the phrase 'make hay whilst the sun shines' in England which goes beyond being an agricultural saying!
You are right about your interpretation of the half term holiday w/c 25th May. It does mean a week's holiday from school although some schools tag on an extra day or two before or after the main week. It can vary from school to school.
York is really beautiful although I am biased of course, being lucky enough to live up here. But it really is very easy to travel to, and there's so much to see. Plus Yorkshire folk are famous for their friendliness and it would be good to see some of Northern England.
Morgana is offline  
Feb 11th, 2015, 10:39 AM
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>>I know that the Cornwall area will be a challenge, but I will work on those details and get back to the forum as I need more help<<

Besides many Fodorites who have visited Cornwall multiple times, one especially helpful member lives there. Hopefully annhig will see your post (or when you start a new thread asking specific questions)

As for Blenheim (fanner is sort of a neighbor, living in a nearby town) it is the stately home of the Duke of Marlborough (and birthplace of Winston Churchill -- he was a cousin). Some think it magnificent . . . some think it is a gaudy over the top pile. You might want to make up your own mind

If you mostly want to do walks and gardens you can manage the Cotswolds w/o a car but getting to places like Hidcote and Snowshill are much easier if one drives. Maybe just rent a car locally for the few days you'll be staying in the area.


http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/hidcote/ ( a definite must IMO )

janisj is offline  
Feb 11th, 2015, 10:43 AM
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We were all posting at the same time . . . ditto to both. York and the surrounding area is fantabulous. And Rabbies would be an easy way to see the SW w/o driving. They are a terrific company and these aren't your mother's coach tours w/ 45 old codgers stuck on a bus all day. They are small groups -- usually 10-14-ish
janisj is offline  
Feb 11th, 2015, 12:19 PM
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I found this for Cornwall
Some of the rails go right beside the sea with splendid views. The site is worth reading through
bilboburgler is offline  
Feb 11th, 2015, 01:46 PM
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"Flanneruk, now you MUST go on about Bleinheim! I need to know whatever it is, please!"

You really don't want to know what Flanner thinks about Blenheim.... You really don't.
Hooameye is offline  
Feb 11th, 2015, 01:56 PM
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Here is our 2013 trip to London, Salisbury, Stonehenge, Bath and the Cotswolds (with photos). Hopefully, it can give you a few ideas. Oh, we enjoyed our few hours at Blenheim.


maitaitom is online now  
Feb 11th, 2015, 03:23 PM
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2 gardens to see in London are Kew -accessible by train and the Physic gardens in Chelsea -accessible by bus or tube.I have seen them both at different times of year and there's always something to see.
northie is offline  
Feb 11th, 2015, 04:20 PM
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Queen Mary's Rose Garden in Regent's Park in London is well worth seeing, especially in June I would think.

We went to Cornwall by train last fall, stayed in Penzance, and took local buses to Marazion to walk across to St. Michael's Mount (check the tide times) and to St. Ives. The Minack Theater was closed, so we didn't get to see that. My daughter, more active that my sister and I, went to Tintagel by herself and said it was a pretty strenuous day. St. MM was one of my favorite sites of our three-week trip.
carolyn is offline  
Feb 11th, 2015, 04:35 PM
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try AerLingus, the Irish airline. I got my ticket to London through them for a great price, also going in June.
sanderskn is offline  

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