Help w/ 8-day UK itinerary

Aug 7th, 2005, 03:45 PM
  #1  
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Help w/ 8-day UK itinerary

My husband and I are traveling with his brother and his wife in September. Based on previous input from this and other boards, we've worked out a tentative itinerary for our 8-day time in the UK. We're hoping for some suggestions/input. We all have 8-day consecutive britrail passes and 7-day GB Heritage Passes. Thanks in advance and sorry for the long post!

Friday - London
Westminster Abbey
London Bus Tour
James Bond Walking Tour
Thames Boat Tour
British Museum (whirlwind tour)

Saturday - London
Tower of London
Changing of the Guard
Greenwich-Royal Observatory
Greenwich-Nat'l Maritime Museum
Tea at Harrod's Café
The Mousetrap

Sunday Day trip to Bath/Cardiff
Roman Baths & Pump Room
Cardiff Castle

Monday Day trip to Paris via Eurostar
Notre Dame
Louvre
Champs-Elysees
Arc de Triomphe (not planning to go inside)
Eiffel Tower

Tuesday Trip to Stonehenge/London leftovers
Stonehenge
St. Paul's Cathedral
Other London leftovers

Wednesday Travel to Edinburgh w/ stop in York
York Minster
National Railway Museum
Clifford's Tower???/Merchant Adventurers' Hall???/Treasurer's House???
Scotch Whisky Heritage Center

Thursday Scotland
Rosslyn Chapel???/Rail trip to Balloch w/ boat cruise on Loch Lomond???
Other suggestions???

Friday - Travel to London w/ stop in Durham
Edinburgh Castle
Palace at Holyrood House
Durham Cathedral


I'm wondering (based on feedback we've gotten) whether it would be worthwhile to consider dropping Cardiff and doing Bath/Stonehenge as a daytrip (I visited them together by rail 4 years ago and don't remember it being a problem) in order to free up an extra day in/around London and lessen our train travel time?

If so, is Windsor or Hampton Court recommended for a daytrip? If so, which one or other suggestions? Or are we better off sticking to our original plan and doing Bath/Cardiff and Stonehenge by itself and skipping Hampton Court/Windsor?

Thanks so much!
britfan is offline  
Aug 7th, 2005, 04:51 PM
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OK - I'll be as gentle as I can be -- much of this itinerary is difficult and parts are nuts.

a few comments:

You won't be able to get to the changing of the guard in time after visiting the tower. Just ain't possible.

Your whole Saturday is pretty fractured what with to-ing anf fro-ing all across London 4 times. from your hotel to east to the Tower, west to the Palace, waaaaay east to Greenwich and then waaaay west to Harrods.

You are leaving London three days in a row -- to Bath/Cardiff, to Paris, to Salisbury/Stonehenge. You really aren't sepnding any time in London - which is OK if that is what you want to do. But realize you are spending several hours every day looking through train windows.

You probably won't be able to get to St Paul's in time after Stonehenge. They close the Cathedral to visitors to prepare for evensong. Do St Pauls the same day you are doing other things in London. It works well w/ the Tower or the British Museum -- but not Stonehenge.

You are also going all the way to Edinburgh but not spending any time there.

I think the 4 of you need to sit down and really think about what you want to see/do and simplify, simplify, simplify . . . . .
janis is offline  
Aug 7th, 2005, 06:06 PM
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I heartily agree with Janis regarding your itinerary and I'm only posting this message to reiterate the difficulties of your current travel plans. Saturday is really impossible and as you have even suggested, Cardiff and Bath in one day is too much!

A day trip to Paris always sounds good but when one includes the actual travel time involved to/from Waterloo to Paris and then getting from the train station to the sights you wish to visit you'll find little time left to do very much. You'll certainly not be able to include all the sights you've planned.

The train from Kings Cross to Edinburgh takes about 4 1/2 hours and while you might well be able to make a stop in York, it's doubtful you'll be able to include all the sights mentioned. The rail station in York is close to the city centre, but you'll still have a 10/15 minute walk to get there. I'd suggest you limit your visit to one sight only if you are are still dtermined to make the stop.

Rosslyn Chapel and then Loch Lommond seems a bit disjointed. Opt for one or the other. There are several places close to Rosslyn (and Edinburgh if you stya longer) would make for a better choice.

Likewise I would not advise doing Holyrood,Edinburgh Castle and then catching the train for a stop in Durham. Spend more time in Edinburgh and skip Durham.

I would suggest you trim your itinerary. As I've siad before---less is (often) more and trying to do too much leaves one exhausted and with few good memories.
historytraveler is online now  
Aug 7th, 2005, 06:25 PM
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I really do know how to spell. I just can't type and spell at the same time!
historytraveler is online now  
Aug 7th, 2005, 06:52 PM
  #5  
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Thanks so much! Y'all have confirmed some of our suspicions. So we've revised the itinerary...

Fri: London
Hop-on Hop-off bus tour
Imperial War Museum
Thames Cruise
British Museum

Sat: London
Westminster Abbey
Changing of the Guard
St. Paul's
The Globe
Tea at Harrod's
The Mousetrap

Sun: Bath/Stonehenge (4.5 hours on train)
Roman Baths
Stonehenge
Salisbury Cathedral???

Mon: Paris (6 hours on train) - Eurostar tickets are already booked, so I guess we'll have to do the best we can; both me and my brother-in-law's wife have already spent time in Paris, so we'll wing it

Tues: London/Greenwich
Tower of London
Greenwich

Wed: York (4.5 hours on train)
York Minster
Railway Museum
possible other sights
late arrival in Edinburgh

Thurs:
Rosslyn Chapel/Edinburgh museums(for me and my hubbie)/possible trip to a loch/the highlands (for my brother-in-law and his wife)

Fri: (5-5.5 hours on train)
Edinburgh Castle
Holyrood House
Travel to London Gatwick (arrive in time to fall into our airport hotel beds)

Sat:
Depart Gatwick early afternoon

Any better???

Thanks again for taking the time to write such extensive responses. We really appreciate any further input anyone wishes to share.

Cheers!
britfan is offline  
Aug 7th, 2005, 07:38 PM
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You're getting BritRail passes for 8 consecutive days? It seems to me that $299 is a lot to pay for one trip to Scotland and one to Bath, in light of the fact that you can get a 4-day for $209. In fact, single tickets would probably be cheaper than that.

Take the Thames cruise from Tower Pier to Greenwich and the DLR back.

See my Paris tour at

http://www.fodors.com/forums/threads...2&tid=34568214
Robespierre is offline  
Aug 7th, 2005, 08:12 PM
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Well I suppose it might be doable but Friday and Saturday make for a FULL day. I don't see how you can also include Salisbury Cathedral.The train connections alone are complicated.

Regarding Paris the Louvre (90 minutes...at least) Notre Dame (45-60 minutes) plus the Eiffel Tower (assuming you plan to go up) makes for at least 3-4 hours not counting time getting to or from.You now have six hours (in addition to time getting to/from train stations)+ 3-4 hours visiting Paris sights..when do you eat, take comfort stops and catch your breath? Of course you can simply go with the flow and see how much you can do, but I'm not sure how you'll manage all of it.

You should think about the travel time to/from these sights. It's not always straight forward or easy and seldom as quick as one would think.

Is there any chance of skipping Scotland this trip and visiting places closer to London? If you didn't already have your tickets, I'd advise you to skip Paris. I sympathize with the temptation of trying to see it all, but your itinerary of London, Paris and Edinburgh in eight days is a bit overwhelming.

Whatever you decide, best of luck and safe travels.
historytraveler is online now  
Aug 7th, 2005, 08:40 PM
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Your new plan is slightly better but still kind of disjointed.

You say you already have the Eurostar tickets - so that is probably set in stone.

It sort of looks like you have BritRail Passes and are determined to use them even if the itinerary isn't too practical. Do you also already have the BritRail passes? If so, you'll have to make the best of it. If not, I'd consider not buying them.

comments about the new plan:

Your first - jet lagged - day you are spending time in two of most interesting museums in London. But IMHO all that indoors stuff will just knock you out. The bus tour up top on the double deckers is good because you will be outdoors. It is usually better to take it easy and outside to get fresh air and help recover from the over night flight.

On Sat. It is very doubtful you will get to Harrods in time for afternoon tea. I'd skip the Changing of the Guard. But even then Westminster Abbey, St Pauls, and touring the Globe will take you to late afternoon. I personally don't think going to Westminster Abbey and St Pauls on the same day is the best plan.

And you want to tour Edinburgh Castle, the Royal Mile and Holyrood before taking the train to Gatwick? You don't mention how you are getting from Edinburgh to LGW - but since you have the rail passes I assumed that's your plan. If you aren't leaving LGW until Sat afternoon, why are you traveling from Edinburgh to LGW Friday night?

If it were me I'd fly directly from Edinburgh to LGW Sat morning. (in truth I would skip Scotland since you are really only spending a day and a half there.)

I know you are trying to see/do everything. But you only have a short time and are trying to squeeze in 2 major cities, 4 other cities, a trip to the highlands, assorted trips to Roslin, Greenwich, etc. and three countries.

Your itinerary is not impossible - but it certainly won't be easy and a lot of it will probably be a blur.
janis is offline  
Aug 7th, 2005, 08:43 PM
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oops - hit post too soon. Meant to add -- it does sound like we are piling on and just being mean. But we REALLY are trying to help.
janis is offline  
Aug 7th, 2005, 08:46 PM
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another OOPS - just re-read your first post and you do already have the BritRail Passes.

So make the best of it -- that is a very expensive way to get around but what's done is done.
janis is offline  
Aug 8th, 2005, 01:43 AM
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With so little time in Edinburgh I wouldn't recommend the Scotch Whisky Heritage Centre (actually, not sure I'd recommend it however long you were going to be here).

Rosslyn Chapel is OK but it's very small, can be seen in about 15 minutes but it would take quite a chunk out of your day to get there & back (how were you planning to get there ?) : again, IMO not worth it when you'll be here for so short a time.

What I would recommend doing is spending your full day *in* Edinburgh, taking the open top bus tour & getting off to tour the Castle, the Palace & such museums/galleries as interest you. Spend your first evening & last morning just wandering about, exploring the New and Old Towns on foot.

Durham you can see from the train.

Much as I love Cardiff (we visit at least once or twice a year), I also wouldn't recommend trying to shoehorn it into this itinerary. Do you realise Cardiff Castle isn't a 'proper' castle ? It is 19th century as are the rooms you can visit.
caroline_edinburgh is offline  
Aug 8th, 2005, 02:41 AM
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Strongly agree with Caroline about Cardiff. You're eating into your Bath time for really very little return. There's some lovely countryside in Wales, some stunning real castles in the north and Cardiff can be fun - but it's hard to see the point of trekking to Cardiff just for this fake castle.

Durham OTOH is well worth getting off the train for. It's true that the view of its cathedral from the train is one of the finest things you can see from any European train. But it's the inside of the building, and the things round it that really count. You'll appreciate it best if you do a bit of research beforehand into the history of St Bede and St Cuthbert, who are both buried there, as well as Bede's influence on the writing of British history, and the importance of Cuthbert's tomb for several hundred years.

Infinitely more beautiful, interesting and authenticated than the mumbo-jumbo that's grown up around Rosslyn Chapel.
flanneruk is offline  
Aug 8th, 2005, 04:12 AM
  #13  
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Wow! Thanks so much, everybody! Please don't worry about being "mean." We posted this itinerary because we knew we needed help, and we really appreciate all the time you've put in to your candid responses. Again, that's why we posted this question.

With regard to the BritRail passes, we're using youth passes and were able to get the 8-day consecutive for only $225. We prefer that to single tickets for the ease of last-minute changes to the itinerary or spontaneous stops (both of which I availed myself on a previous 2-week trip). So we hope that those won't prove to be a waste. Also, RailSaver advises that a 4-day Flexi is best (and it's only $25 less and we can use our 8-day pass to get to and fro Gatwick, so...fingers crossed...we didn't waste too much money/effort getting those.)

Robespierre, thanks so much for the link to your Paris tour thread and for the suggestion to cruise to Greenwich by boat! We really appreciate it!

We actually fly out of Gatwick right at noon and figured we needed to be at the airport mid-morning, so we planned to just spend the night near the airport. Depending on flights/trains to get us there by mid-morning made us a little nervous, but maybe we shouldn't be? Any suggestions of better alternatives?

Revised again:
Fri: London
Hop-on Hop-off bus tour
Walking Tour
British Museum

Sat: London
Westminster Abbey
The Globe
Imperial War Museum
Tea at Harrod's (not formal afternoon tea; just tea in the 2nd floor cafe)
The Mousetrap

Sun: Bath/Stonehenge (4.5 hours on train)
Roman Baths
Stonehenge

Mon: Paris (6 hours on train)

Tues: London/Greenwich
Tower of London
Cruise to Greenwich

Wed: York (4.5 hours on train)
York Minster
Railway Museum
late arrival in Edinburgh

Thurs:
Edinburgh sights (for me and my hubbie)/possible trip to a loch/the highlands (for my brother-in-law and his wife)

Fri: (5-5.5 hours on train)
Leftover Edinburgh sights
Travel to London Gatwick (arrive in time to fall into our airport hotel beds)

Thanks again! I can't tell y'all how much we appreciate all your time and input!
britfan is offline  
Aug 8th, 2005, 04:57 AM
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That looks *much* better ! Hope you have a fab time.
caroline_edinburgh is offline  
Aug 8th, 2005, 05:35 AM
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Ditto what Caroline said. MUCH better.

Quick learner
janis is offline  
Aug 8th, 2005, 07:03 AM
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You've done it! Your trip is now much more reasonable. Have a great time.
historytraveler is online now  
Aug 8th, 2005, 07:42 AM
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..re Stonehedge..I really think this would be a miss in my book to be replaced with Salisbury . Agree with comments re Durham..I think one of the most underated spots.
travelbunny is offline  
Aug 8th, 2005, 09:29 AM
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The thing that affects me about Stonehenge is its enigmatic origins. To look at it and consider that it was built between four and five thousand years ago by people having only the crudest machines (lever, inclined plane) puts me in a state of mind I don't experience anywhere else.

I think it's worth an hour or two even if you aren't in the neigborhood. See nearby Avebury Stone Circle, too - in addition to Salisbury. If you don't linger in Bath, it can all be done comfortably on a (long) day trip.

If you change that trip from Sunday to a weekday, plan on waiting until late evening to return to London - the trains are totally jammed during rush hour.
Robespierre is offline  
Aug 8th, 2005, 09:39 AM
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Thanks once again for all the input...what a great board this is!

Re: Durham - we will try to make a stop on the way back down to London, but that will depend entirely on what time we leave Edinburgh...it sounds like a lovely place.

Re: Stonehenge/Salisbury/Avebury - my husband, after watching a Rick Steves travel video and reading Ken Follett's Pillars of the Earth, wants to see Salisbury Cathedral, so we're going to try to squeeze it in. If I remember correctly (and wrote in my journal accurately), the Bath/Stonehenge daytrip was comfortable and unhurried, so I think there's some room to play if we feel like it and the train schedule permits.

Anyway, thanks again for the great input. Once we're back I'll report the success of the trip y'all helped us plan.
britfan is offline  
Aug 8th, 2005, 09:41 AM
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..you actually see Stonehedge from the motorway London to Bath.
travelbunny is offline  

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