First Trip to UK - Help needed!!

Old Jan 10th, 2005, 05:00 PM
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First Trip to UK - Help needed!!

I am planning my first ever trip to the UK with my 13 year old son in August 2005. We are only going to be visiting parts of England this time around and I need some help with getting going on the planning. We are going to be there for 12-14 days with 6-8 of those in London (with some daytrips). The other places I want to visit are: Cotswolds (1-2 nights), Warwick and Kenilworth castles (day trip from ?), and Bakewell as a base for visiting Chatsworth and Hardwick Hall (1-2 nights). I do NOT want to drive this first time - being a woman alone with a teenager - I don't want that added stress. So, here are my
questions:
1. I am having a hard time trying to plan the order in which to do all this. I was thinking about starting out in Bath (only because it's a relatively quick hop from Heathrow) for one night then heading to the Cotswolds, trying to fit in Warwick and Kenilworth while staying in the Cotswolds, head for Bakewell then to London to finish off the trip. Or, should I start out in London, do the other places then spend the night before we leave somewhere around Heathrow? That way seems like a lot more traveling around.
2. I know that getting to Warwick Castle will be pretty easy, but what about visiting the ruins at Kenilworth? Is that possible with public transport? Should those be done as a daytrip from London or can it be done from the Cotswolds (if I stay in a town on a rail line)?
3. I know the limitations for the Cotswolds with not having a car but will we be able to see enough on foot, bike or public transport? It's not that I care so much about seeing "every" town but enough to get the feel of it. Also, any recommendations for a town to stay in as a good base keeping in mind dealing with train/coach transportation?
4. What about getting to Bakewell? Will it be easier from London or can it be done from one of the Cotswold towns? Train or coach? Is there a better town to base for visiting Chatsworth etc?

Please forgive my ignorance if I've left out some vital information in order to help me. I'm really feeling a little overwhelmed with putting this trip together. I want to try and plan this all on my own without using a travel agent, but I'll get one if needed. I have read guidebooks, tried to figure out the train and bus websites and I just keep getting more frustrated on figuring out how to get from point A to B on the trains or coaches. Any help would be much appreciated! (I've already learned so much reading this board!!)
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Old Jan 10th, 2005, 05:52 PM
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Hello, beckb.

I tried planning a 14-day trip to UK in August 2000 too. I took plenty of brochures and maps from the British Tourist Office and studied everything in detail.

That was our first trip to UK. Having gone through all the information, we thought doing it solo may be too stressful for a first time trip, since we wanted to cover quite a few major sightseeing cities in UK.

We took the alternative option by joining a Globus tour and extended on our own, 3 nights in London after the tour.

We chose the "Leisurely Britain" itinerary as we didn't want to rush things through.

We enjoyed very much the company of other tourists in the group, though quite a few are in their 40s to 60s and from different nationalities, but they are fun-loving and jovial. When it was time to say good bye, some of us wished the trip was longer.

If you are keen to do it on your own, perhaps you can approach your local British Tourist Office to plan a detailed itinerary. Have fun!
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Old Jan 10th, 2005, 07:39 PM
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The driving isn't bad at all - I do it solo all the time but if you are dead set against you can do your trip using public transport.

One thing I would do if possible, is fly open jaw - Into London (either Gatwick or Heathrow) and out of Manchester. That way you don't have to back track.

Go to London for the first week - since you are going to spend another week give or take touring around, I don't think you really need to plan any day trips out of London. Go to Hampton Court Palace - but it is really in a suburb of London and really isn't an out of town day trip.

Then take the train to Bath for one day/night. From there I'd go to maybe Evesham or Moreton in Marsh for 3 nights. This would be a base to see the Cotswolds, Warwick and Kenilworth. This would be a lot easier by car but you could use local buses. You could rent a car locally for just 3 days. But if that isn't in the cards, what I recommend is hiring a driver locally. Every Cotswold village has licensed drivers and the local Tourist Information Center can find one for you. It would cost more than trains/buses everywhere, and about the same as renting a car and paying the ins/petrol. having a driver gives you a LOT more flexibility and saves a LOT of time compared w/ depending on the infrequent bus service. You could have the driver take you to Warwick/Kenilworth one day, and around some Cotswold villages the other day.

Same up at Bakewell - you could hire a driver to take you to Chatsworth and Hardwicke Hall.

(But I really DO think you could manage driving at least in the Cotswold and Peak District areas.)

Then you can fly home from Manchester.
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Old Jan 10th, 2005, 11:44 PM
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There are reasonable bus systems in the Cotswolds and in the Peak District. Most of what you want to is doable by public transport, though whether that's less stressful than driving really must be a moot point.

Start with a railway map of England (choose the big one at http://nrekb.nationalrail.co.uk/maps.htm)

The only railway station in the Cotswolds in a town that's pleasant to stay in as a visitor and has any reasonable network of buses is Moreton in Marsh, roughly 90 mins from London with trains more or less hourly. Buses from here to Chipping Campden, Broadway, Bourton on the Water and Stow on the Wold. Also to Stratford. Be aware, though, that they're DIFFERENT buses, and getting to more than one or two places is challenging. Details, allegedly, at http://www.cotswoldsaonb.com/bus_tim.../north_bus.asp. At the time of writing this note, theese timetables are out of date (what do you expect? The organisation is publicly funded, so it's obviously more important for it to spend my money on damnfool boundary stones all over the place telling people they're in the Cotzwolds than helping visitors get here).

The railhead for the Peak District is Chesterfield. Personally, I'd rather stay at Baslow for Chatsworth than Bakewell: it's a pleasant 20 min walk to the house, and Bakewell fills up with day trippers VERY quickly. There is a reasonable bus service from Chesterfield to Baslow or Bakewell(http://ourworld.compuserve.com/homep...t/bus_serv.htm).

It's about 150 mins by train from Moreton to Chesterfield, changing at Worcester and Birmingham.

The complicator in all this is Warwick and Kenilworth. There's a reasonable bus service from Moreton to Stratford, and buses go from Stratford to both Kenilworth and Warwick (http://www.warwickshire.gov.uk/Web/c...256C78003E6BEB). Without trying to plan this in detail, my guess would be that getting to them from Moreton and back in a day would be close to impossible (country buses are there to get children to school and the poor to shops. They rarely run much after 6 pm)

You may well find it's easiest to overnight in Warwick, whose medieval parish church is really worth visiting. From Warwick to Chesterfield, trains changing at Birmingham. However, some scheduled connection involve an 800 yard foot connection between two stations in Birmingham. With luggage you might prefer to get a cab from Warwick to Leamington, or put a bit of energy into researching Warwick-Chesterfield trains that don't use Bham Snow Hill.

Can you do all that in the six days you've left yourself? I doubt it. The problem, BTW, with public transport isn't the time it takes (you'd be pushed to get from Moreton to Baslow much faster by car), but its relative inflexibility. And although Warwick's in the middle of England, its public transport links with the rest of the country are poor (not least because it's at the centre of the road system, and only eccentrics and commuters try to get to it by bus or train).
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Old Jan 11th, 2005, 05:50 AM
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Thank you all for your responses. This definately gives me a good starting point and some ideas to consider. I'll have to really think about the driving thing. I guess I could always map out where I want to go before I even get there which should help. I had considered doing a tour group, but I didn't think my son would enjoy that kind of vacationing. I will for sure look into hiring local drivers... that would be a great way to see what I want to! I'm feeling much better now about planning this, so thank you!!!
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Old Jan 11th, 2005, 06:09 AM
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Don't underestimate yourself. The driving isn't that bad. Seeing your son is 13, he'd be a great help in keeping an eye out for signs, etc and it would really keep him active in the trip.

Another suggestion for some of your sights might be organized one-day bus tours. They would give you a break and allow you to enjoy some of the views on your way.
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Old Jan 12th, 2005, 09:00 PM
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I am a woman who took her 15 year old daughter on an 8 day trip to England as her 50th birthday present a few years ago, and it was wonderful. I highly recommend traveling with a teen. You get to really talk to each other as you travel and you share novel experiences with that will last as wonderful memories.

Be brave and rent a car. I did. Driving on the "wrong" side was a bit rattling at times, I admit, but well worth it as we were free to go where we wanted, when we wanted. We cut through the most beautiful countryside, stopped to look at unexpected things that caught our fancy and saw England at our pace. I planned the trip so that I always drove through populated or built up areas at night. As a result, my daughter thought England was still rural; she never saw the sprawl.

I made a point of staying at fascinating old Bed and Breakfasts, some built in the 1500's that were- to use her terminology- awesome.

We drove back and forth through the Cotswolds and saw far more than you would by public transport. She loved Warwick, the castle is impressive but the darling half-timbered old part of town below its ramparts was truly a step back in time for her. We stopped for lunch in a crooked old tea house there that was full of local people and antiques, not a tourist in sight.

She really enjoyed the special atmosphere of ancient Stonehenge. It still has a strong spiritual feel inspite of the tourist busses parked down the hill. We stopped at Avebury for its prehistoric stones that encircle the village and at Woodhenge too, among lots of other sights. Couldn't do that on a train.

I picked up the car at the airport then drove out through the counrtyside for the first half of our trip, finishing in London. I think we were able to adjust our body clocks more easily that way, so that when we got to London we were ready for non-stop touring. I packed an enormous amount into our trip. But, the planning was worth it and we got to see and do more than most people. It was a great trip. Now that she is off at college in Europe and travels on her own, I travel with my 13 year old. He loves it.

My long suffering husband hates the way I travel - flat out - and opts to stay home, his loss. Our kids are like me, we can go all day.
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Old Jan 13th, 2005, 08:39 AM
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May I suggest that you give some extra consideration to the question of what your 13 year old son will want to see while on your trip?

My experience as a father who has taken his teens through the UK is that there is a real limit for the amount of beautiful countryside, quaint villages, historic churches, and regal old houses that the typical 13 year old will tolerate. The time to determine this limit is NOT while on your trip...because it won't be a pretty scene.

London is filled with things for kids to do (the Tower, Science Museum, London Eye, etc.). The Roman Baths (at Bath) can be interesting for kids. Warwick Castle will be a big hit since they usually have reinactments or other demonstrations going on.

But you might have to look a bit further in other areas for things that you might not put at the top of your list, but your son may enjoy. These might include amusement parks (yuck), restored steam railways, military museums, boat excursions, beaches...

Regarding driving--its not that driving on the left is that difficult, but you almost need two adults in the front seats: one to drive and one to navigate (and remind the driver to KEEP LEFT!). If your son has good map reading skills, it might work though.

Have a great adventure.

Dave White
[email protected]
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Old Jan 13th, 2005, 09:49 AM
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I still am not too convinced about the driving. I seem to attract trouble when I rent cars... I was at Disneyland for the week between Christmas and New Year's and had a run-in with a curb... the curb won and damaged the hub cap. I'm sure it would be just fine, I'll do some more reading on it!
Dave - the places we are seeing in the countryside my son and I both agreed on. But I agree, there is only so much of the country they can take! The one alteration I think I'm going to do is skip trying to see Warwick while we are out of London and instead, take the train from London one day and just see the castle and the town then - skipping Kenilworth. By doing that, I can add a couple more nights to the London part allowing time to sightsee leisurely.
This is what I think I have decided on for the schedule:
Day 1 - arrive, take the coach from Heathrow to Bath - overnight in Bath
Day 2 - leave Bath for the Cotswolds - overnight there.
Day 3 - overnight in the Cotswolds
Day 4 - leave Cotswolds for Bakewell (or somewhere close to Chatsworth)
Day 5 - Visit Chatsworth (maybe Hardwick Hall?)
Day 6 - Leave for London
Days 7-14 - London (keeping this itinerary pretty open. Will be doing some trips to Hampton Court, sunset viewing of Stonehenge tour, day to Warwick and possibly Windsor if time allows.)
How does that sound?
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Old Jan 13th, 2005, 10:08 AM
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I won't say much else about your itinerary - but a bit more about the driving -- you say "the curb won and damaged the hub cap." What do you think the rental car's insurance is for?

If you drove you would not be so dependent on local buses, and you wouldn't have to skip Kenilworth since it is only a short drive from Warwick.
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Old Jan 13th, 2005, 10:59 AM
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Janis - I am still considering the driving part. I see the wisdom behind it and the freedom it will allow me. I am going to do some research on it. A friend at work suggested that I could do Mapquest before I even leave home and have all my driving directions mapped out ahead of time. If I do rent a car I can skip going to Bath and head straight to my Cotswold destination and it will allow me to definitely see Hardwick Hall (I have a fascination with Bess of Hardwick) and Kenilworth (which was high on my son's list). Once again, thank you everyone for your help and suggestions - it is very much appreciated!
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Old Jan 13th, 2005, 11:11 AM
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After 15 years in California I clearly still have a British sense of distance...I think chasing out to Bath for one night when you've just flown trasatlantically seems like a VERY long way. Also in August Bath will be SWAMPED with tourists.

I'm not sure about the public transportation from Oxford to Moreton in the Marsh but I'd consider Heathrow to Oxford for your first night. Oxford is fascinating and you'll be covering less mileage which may make for a more enjoyable trip.

Hope that helps!
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