help with first trip to England

Jan 27th, 2004, 05:00 AM
Original Poster
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help with first trip to England

My husband, myself and our children (16&13) will be traveling to England for the first time. I need help with our itinerary! Are we seeing too many castles/houses/cathedrals,etc. Are we missing something special? Both children love history, literature and family vacations. Here goes, I would appreciate some feedback.
London - 5 days
We have an additional 6 days to see:
Windsor Castle
Blenheim Palace
Warwick Castle
Salisbury (magna carta/cathedral
Winchester (round table/jane austin/cathedral)
Chawton (jane austin)
Leeds Castle
PS. Where to base ourselves to see these sights? We don't think getting up each morning to take a train out of London to visit each of these sights would be much fun.
dfo is offline  
Jan 27th, 2004, 05:51 AM
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My family will be traveling to London the end of May. We have a 19 yr. old son that especially wants to see Stonehenge. We're doing the private access tour through Astral travels. Before and after hours on the private access you can actually go up to the stones. Otherwise I'm told during the regular day tours you see the stones behind a roped off area. Astral will pick up and return us to our hotel.
cheuvront is offline  
Jan 27th, 2004, 06:01 AM
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We did the Astral tour of Stonehenge last summer and it was awesome. There were only a total of 9 of us on the tour and we had about an hour inside the roped off area. Would recommend them highly!!!! Enjoy your trip.

littlehouse is offline  
Jan 27th, 2004, 06:10 AM
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You listed 15 places to see in you 6 non-London days; some of these are entire towns that one could easiy spend a day or two visiting. You will have to shorten your list, and plan on seeing the rest during future visits to England.

You will be able to see MUCH more if you rent a car, rather than relying on public transport. For instance, Stonehenge is accessible only via a bus from Salisbury that runs every half-hour. Further advice on your itinerary really depends on your mode of transport.

With or without a car, yes, it would be better to base yourself outside London, either 2 places for 3 nights each, or 3 places for 2 nights. Places that could easily be combined are Oxford/Stratford/Warwick and Bath/Salisbury/Stonehenge. We spent two nights in Stratford, two nights in Hay-on-Wye, Wales (we're book fiends), and two in Bath, stopping in Salisbury and driving past Stonehenge on the way back to London. We then did Astral's Inner Circle all-day tour that includes Avebury, etc. as well as after-hours access at Stonehenge, and enjoyed it thoroughly.

Don't go to Salisbury just for the Magna Carta, as you can see another copy with exellent supporting documentation right in London, at the British Library's excellent "Treasures" exhibit.
Anonymous is offline  
Jan 27th, 2004, 06:12 AM
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Pretty aggressive schedule for 6 days. Probably impossible without a car. They combine themselves into 3 geographic groups, so I suppose you could take a shot at it staying two nights in 3 different places. Problem is you would lose 3 half days transferring to new locations.

1. Stay someplace around Oxford for two nights, visiting Stratford and Warwick one day, Oxford and Blenhem the other.

2. Stay someplace around Salisbury, visiting Bath and Stonehenge one day, Winchester and Chawton the other. Fit in Salisbury cathedral whenever.

3. Stay someplace around Tonbridge/Tunbridge Wells, see Canterbury and Leeds Castle one day, Hever, Knole and Chartwell the other. Try to make time for Penshurst Place. (I would do Leeds Castle as a drive by, and make sure I give enough time to Knole and Penshurst Place).

I have left out Windsor Castle ? you could do that easily as a day trip from London.
ron is offline  
Jan 27th, 2004, 06:15 AM
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Well that list is very ambitious for 6 days - I think you'll need to rank the ones that are most important to you - and within reasonable distance to each other. All of the things that you list can easily be seen as day trips from London. If you want to base outside London you'll need to group several of the relatively nearby items together (Oxford and Blenheim, Bath, Stonehenge, Salisbury and Winchester, Stratford and Warwick) for a 1 or 2 night stay in a nearby town. We've always done England by car - or as day trips out of London -and I understand that cross-country train travel can be very inconvenient. You'll need to do some detailed work with train lines and schedules to see which locations can be fit into one day. Unles you decide to drive I would think you'd waste a lot of time getting from one place to another rather than seeing sights.
nytraveler is offline  
Jan 27th, 2004, 06:26 AM
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Littlehouse, £79 for the Astral tour? fo a half day?

Keith is offline  
Jan 27th, 2004, 06:32 AM
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Are you getting this quote from the web site? I don't remember for sure what we paid but that sounds right. I goes to other mysterious spots on the way to stonehenge so you get a little extra. Make sure you pack a lunch/dinner. You won't be back until later in the evening.
littlehouse is offline  
Jan 27th, 2004, 06:37 AM
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It does sound like a bit much but I have a feeling you know that. Most of the sights you mention will take a minimum of a half day to get to & see and some will take a full day. What time of year are you going, as that will dramatically affect daylight hours.

A number of your sites (Bath, Stonehenge, Windsor-even Stratford) are doable as day trips from London. I think there's something to be said for breaking up London sightseeing with some day trips (Windsor is very easy, for example). On the other hand, if budget is an issue, maybe staying outside of London & avoiding expensive day trip costs from tour operators will work better (although then you have car rental costs).

Have a look at Astral Tours website & see the daytrips (& prices) they offer. At minimum, it will show you what they group together & what might be possible for you to do on your own. At maximum you might decide to try 1 or more.

Also, since Jane Austen is mentioned a few times, have a look at the website

mclaurie is offline  
Jan 27th, 2004, 06:39 AM
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I agree, this is a very aggressive schedule, is this a holiday?
I also agree with Ron, Windsor can be done easily from London.
You must do this how you like but without a vehicle this will be very difficult, UK public transport is pretty grim at the best of times so please bare that in mind.
But the biggest problem I can see is you have 2 teenagers, even if they love history, there are only so many castles and houses they will want to see before they get bored.
Teenagers need to 'do things'.
If my experience last month in Australia with our 16 & 13 yr old is anything to go by it will be difficult to get them out of bed in the morning especially after a painful itinary on the previous day.
Reconsider, do you really need to do all this stuff?
Take a day or so out for the teenagers, not sure but would they enjoy a theme park? Thorpe park is near Windsor.
Give them 2 days on the trip to do what they want to do, and the family can go along too.
They will want to get as much as possible from the visit so they will no doubt enjoy the research and input to the itinary.
You may be surprised at what they turn up, teenagers can be very resourceful.
If the teenagers are happy then surely so are the parents.

Have fun planning

Mucky is offline  
Jan 27th, 2004, 06:57 AM
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dfo ( the OP) said her teens enjoyed history, and I suspect they're more like my teens than like mucky's -- mine would have enjoyed this itinerary thoroughly and would've been appalled if I'd suggested a theme park.

But do involve them as much as possible in the planning -- they'll be more engaged overall, and will have more appreciation for the sites if they know a bit about them in advance.
Anonymous is offline  
Jan 27th, 2004, 07:14 AM
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Thanks for the replies. I can see that I might have too much planned for this trip, so what should I cut out and save for later??
dfo is offline  
Jan 27th, 2004, 07:19 AM
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Just take your original list and chop it off below Salisbury.
Anonymous is offline  
Jan 27th, 2004, 08:49 AM
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Yes, consider chopping the list below Salisbury--but please, please don't omit Canterbury! The cathedral is right up there historically with Westminster Abbey and the Tower of London.
Underhill is offline  
Jan 27th, 2004, 09:10 AM
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You haven't indicated your planned mode of transportation yet. If you are going to be using public transportation, you are going to have to drop a lot, but I would have to think about it some more. If you will be driving, and you buy into the suggestion of 3 bases, two nights each, it's quite simple. Drop Stratford from the northern base, drop Stonehenge from the western base and drop Leeds Castle from the eastern base.
ron is offline  
Jan 27th, 2004, 10:34 AM
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dfo, I suggest you start your planning by going to and requesting their package.

If you don't already have one, get a map (one may be included with the package) so you can see the locations.
You have too many places listed to visit in 6 days.

If you are flying from Heathrow you might be best to plan staying west in an area defined by Stratford, Bath (Bristol), Glastonbury and Salisbury (Winchester).

If Gatwick, Then the Southeast makes sense defined by Rochester, Canterbury, Brighton, Arundel.

Your car rental can be returned the last day to the departure point. Since you will be four adults in an auto you might consider leaving some of your luggage at the airport when you rent the car for your tour.
jsmith is offline  
Jan 27th, 2004, 10:38 AM
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When I said adults I meant the 13 & 16 year olds will require the room of adults in an auto.
jsmith is offline  
Jan 27th, 2004, 12:38 PM
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I subscribe to International Travel News which prints a lot of recommendations from its readers.
In the Feb 2004 issue, the following was recommended highly:
Village Vacations,
A husband and wife team run what is said to be a lovely B&B in Somerset, and then they also take their guests upon request on daytrips by car all over southwest England, including Salisbury, Stonehenge, etc.
elaine is offline  
Jan 28th, 2004, 05:43 AM
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OR you eliminate the top half of the list and focus on Winchester through Canterbury. Kent and East Sussex are gorgeous. Another poster has nicely grouped some of the sites you're interested in seeing at this thread:

You'll definitely want a rent a car to maximize what you can see in six days.

Sounds like a great trip.
obxgirl is online now  

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