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English countryside help (Cotswolds and Bath?)

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Jun 29th, 2015, 07:39 AM
  #1
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English countryside help (Cotswolds and Bath?)

Just starting the planning stages of a potential trip to the English countryside in spring 2016 (May, probably), and looking for some feedback on driving times and kid activities in particular.

We are myself, my wife, and our son (who will be 4.5 years old). We've traveled extensively before kids, and have taking 3 previous European trips since our son was born (to Paris when he was tiny, Barcelona, and Athens + Greek Islands).

We have 8 to 9 nights and we would like to stay in 2 or maybe 3 places. Key activities are short walks in the countryside, scenic drives, little villages to stroll in, castles (whole or ruined), gardens, farms, plus any kid-oriented special activities. Our son loves castles, dragons, weapons, and knights, so we want to go to a few places where he can run around and pretend. He also loves trains so we'd like to have a few opportunities to get around via train. I love cathedrals but don't think we are likely to drive far for one on this trip.

One idea based on research so far is Bath and the Cotswolds, but I'm looking for feedback and potentially other ideas. We were thinking an itinerary something like:

Fri AM: Arrive LHR from Boston. Train to Bath.
Fri, Sat, Sun: Bath. Ideally we'd take a day trip (to Stonehenge and Salisbury? Or maybe Wells?) one day - but not having to have a car is probably a plus, and might rule out Stonehenge.
Mon morn: Pick up car in Bath, drive Cotswolds.
Mon, Tues, Wed, Thur: Cotswolds. Day trip to Warwick Castle one day. Mostly pottering around.
Sat or Sun: leave LHR back to BOS.

Questions:
1. I assume the drives here are all pretty reasonable, even if we are staying in the northern Cotswolds, i.e. no more than 2 or so hours or so in the car in a day.
2. Kid activities? Anyone know of anything in particular in this area?
3. What should we do Fri/Sat? I'm interesting in seeing Oxford but not sure about car logistics (and would really like to avoid driving in traffic) - and also the connection to LHR - relatively painless? Should we just add a day or two the Cotswolds and drive directly back to LHR on our last day? What about Windsor? Does it make sense to stay overnight there our last night, or would we be better off in London for connections to LHR?

Alternatively, does someone want to suggest a totally different part of England to go to, that combines a nice small city with some countryside and relatively painless logistics from LHR?
msackton is offline  
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Jun 29th, 2015, 07:59 AM
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I'd say the simplest logistics solution is to:
- get the bus from LHR to Oxford, stay there long enough to sightsee,
- train to Bath with one change at Didcot or Reading. Not totally straightforward, but beats all alternatives.
- collect a car, then drive to Cotswolds, potter around then dump the car at LHR.

The central rule in all this is to avoid having a car in Oxford or Bath.

A north Cotswold base (say Burford) probably means a bit more than 2 hrs driving a day - but with one possible exception there shouldn't be any individual drive over 90 minutes.

If you want to see Stonehenge (the son will certainly have more fun at Avebury, though, but the same principle applies), I'd do a Great Circle trip from Bath to whichever, then on to Burford or wherever. This (the "one possible exception") does mean some doubling back on yourself, but it avoids far more horrid alternatives.
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Jun 29th, 2015, 08:02 AM
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>>Fri AM: Arrive LHR from Boston. Train to Bath.<<

There is no train from LHR to Bath. It would either be the Express coach (best option) or a train into London and then another train out to Bath which would be a hassle w/ jetlag.

>>but not having to have a car is probably a plus, and might rule out Stonehenge.<<

If you don't have a car you can still see Stonehenge. Mad Max (don't let the name worry you ) is a terrific local tour company that does day trips to Stonehenge and elsewhere in the area.

You can stay anywhere in the Cotswolds and be w/i reasonable drives through the entire area including Warwick. Chipping Campden or nearby might be a good base.

>>2. Kid activities? Anyone know of anything in particular in this area?<<

Warwick Castle for sure. The miniature village, car museum and Birdland all in Bourton-on-the-Water. Cotswold Wildlife Park. There is a steam Railway at Toddington. Just tons of stuff . . .

In fact -- I'd probably divide the time w/ only 2 nights in Bath and the rest in the Cotswolds and do Stonehenge on your way from Bath up into the Cotswolds -- and include Avebury.
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Jun 29th, 2015, 08:05 AM
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Didn't see flanner's post -- we were posting at the same time. if you do the 5 nights in the Cotswolds, you can do Oxford as a day trip from your Cotswolds base.

I'd prefer Burford myself -- I suggested Chipping Campden mostly because it is closer to Warwick. But Burford would be a great base.
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Jun 29th, 2015, 09:06 AM
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Near to Bath. Wells the smallest city in England.
http://www.wellssomerset.com/
Somerset levels.
http://www.visitsomerset.co.uk/explo...vels-and-moors
Near by for your son.
Puxton Park http://www.puxton.co.uk/
Maybe the beach at Weston Super Mare.
Farleigh Hungerford for castle ruins.
East Somerset Railway
http://www.eastsomersetrailway.com/
Haynes International Motor Museum
http://www.haynesmotormuseum.com/
After Somerset head south to Dorset.
Corfe Castle and village http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/corfe-castle/
Dorchester and area.https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dorchester,_Dorset
Tank Museum http://www.tankmuseum.org/home
Winchester http://www.visitwinchester.co.uk/
I am not suggesting you see all of these they are there to give you some idea of what to see which not on a list for foreign visitors to the UK.
Do not forget your child will need a car seat and can only sit in the rear of the car.
Maybe there is something special on at the time you plan your visit. It will be a bit early to say which events at the moment.
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Jun 29th, 2015, 09:26 AM
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Not far from Bath, interesting house and gardens but best known for its Safari Park:

https://www.longleat.co.uk
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Jun 29th, 2015, 09:27 AM
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All of the places ribeirasacra mentions are worth visiting and would be lovely -- but that would be a different trip. To the SW and not up into the Cotswolds. Just depends on where you want to travel.


Fact being -- you could visit just about any region (the Cotswolds, the SW, Kent/Sussex, East Anglia, Yorkshire, etc etc) and find lots of things for families.
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Jun 29th, 2015, 11:06 AM
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Burford is in the north Cotswolds? I thought it was more to the south.

You could take a train from Bath to Salisbury (1 hour) and catch the connecting bus to Stonehenge. But I'm not sure your son would appreciate Stonehenge.

You could drop the car in Oxford on Friday and take a bus back to Heathrow. If your flight is early, you could stay the preceding night at Heathrow.

I think you'll have a good trip no matter what you chose. And the English countryside is beautiful in the spring.
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Jun 29th, 2015, 11:44 AM
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>>Burford is in the north Cotswolds? I thought it was more to the south.<<

Sort of in the middle . . . The area is sort of an obtuse triangle and the far southern point reaches almost down to Bristol. Generally from Chippenham-ish to Evesham-ish to Charlbury-ish - not exactly but semi-close.

So in one way Burford is in the northern bit, in another it is in the middle/eastern bit.
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Jun 29th, 2015, 11:56 AM
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"There is no train from LHR to Bath. It would either be the Express coach (best option) or a train into London and then another train out to Bath which would be a hassle w/ jetlag."

One more option would be getting the rail air link coach to Reading and getting the train to Bath from there.
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Jun 29th, 2015, 01:11 PM
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But that would still require a transfer -- much easier (and generally faster) to step on the coach at LHR and step off in central Bath.
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Jun 29th, 2015, 03:13 PM
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>>Burford is in the north Cotswolds? I thought it was more to the south.<<

Here's the map: http://www.escapetothecotswolds.org.uk/map/

Over 80% of the Cotswolds is south of Burford.
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Jun 29th, 2015, 04:06 PM
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Yep -- the map shows the obtuse triangle I was talking about
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Jun 29th, 2015, 05:37 PM
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Kids activities for your son:

- Cotswolds - Bourton on the Water as Janisj said is great for kids because of the shallow river running through (sometimes they do things like rubber ducky races), the car museum, miniature village, and best of all for my son, the model railway "museum". This last is very small and tucked in the back of a toy shop but my kids could stay in there forever watching the various model train set ups.

- In general the Cotswolds is fun for kids as you tend to stop a lot and kids can run around. We would typically find little playgrounds in most of the villages (the one in Broadway is hidden behind the High Street but is good one).

- Bath - quite a lot of kid friendly activities. Some of the historical sights gave my kids the yawns but they did really like the Roman Baths and also once we went on the Hop On Hop Off bus which in good weather is great fun for the kids to be on the top deck. Also, the BEST playground ever is in Bath Royal Victoria Park (park is just past the Royal Crescent). The park itself is beautiful and the playground is excellent for kids as it is huge.

Other kids stuff just to mention that is not necessarily in Bath or Cotswolds but might be worth a detour given the your son's interests....
- Bekonscot Model Village and Railway - I highly recommend this! It could be a great family outing for just a few hours or even a half day and you could do this as a detour on your way to/from London as it is close to LHR (about 25 minutes from LHR right off of M40 which is one route from the Cotswolds through Oxford) It is a completely charming place popular with locals and my kids loved going there (as did my husband and I). It opened in 1929 and has a wonderful model village and railway in one section plus a little train you can ride. They also have a nice picnic area and playground so you can either buy lunch there or bring your own picnic. See the website at www.bekonscot.co.uk.

- LEGOLAND in Windsor - you may not want to run this gauntlet but since you mentioned Windsor....
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Jul 1st, 2015, 07:39 PM
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Thanks all. Helpful suggestions.

We currently leaning against Oxford and Bath both at the beginning of the trip. Most likely we'll just skip Oxford (or do It as a day trip from the Cotswolds) but if we wanted to spend 2 nights there at the end of the trip, how are the bus/train connections to Heathrow? Google makes it sound like 1.5-2 hours on a bus, is that right?

Also, how long do you think we need from Cotswolds to LHR? Should I just trust Google drive times?

Currently we are leaning towards either:

8 nights
Fri-Sun Bath
Mon-Fri Cotswolds
Late afternoon flight home on Sat

Or

9 nights
Fri-Sat Bath
Sun-Thur Cotswolds
Fri-Sat Oxford
11am flight home Sun
(But I'm worried this will leave us having to get up at the crack of dawn)

Or

9 nights
Fri-Sun Bath
Mon-Fri Cotswolds
Sat Windsor
11am flight home Sunday

Thanks again for the advice so far.
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Jul 1st, 2015, 09:17 PM
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>>how are the bus/train connections to Heathrow? Google makes it sound like 1.5-2 hours on a bus, is that right?<<

The coach could not be easier. There is an express coach that takes 1 hr 40 mins w/ no changes. There is no direct train connection. It would either be train to Paddington and another train to LHR, or train to Reading and a local bus to LHR.
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Jul 1st, 2015, 09:59 PM
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In the Cotswolds we stayed at Rooftrees B&B in Bourton-on-the-Water. We thought this place would delight a child.
First, the location is excellent, a very pleasant straight 10 minute walk to the center of Bourton-on-the –Water. There is ample off the street parking. The B&B is an attractive one that features a sun room and a lovely patio in the back for relaxing. The breakfast was well cooked and a dinner can be ordered for extra charge. What makes this B&B great for kids is the hostess. Silvia is a very talented maker of dolls and teddy bears. She makes every part including the porcelain like heads (I think she uses a resin), clothing etc. The dolls are quite elaborate. The house, including sleeping rooms is full of the teddy bears, no two alike pretty much wherever there is room, there is a teddy bear. Lots of those elaborate dolls as well. There is also a good sized gnome garden (or small gnome city) that you pass as you walk to the house entry.
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