Help with Itinerary for England?

Jul 26th, 2010, 07:50 AM
  #1  
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Help with Itinerary for England?

Hi all,
I'm planning a trip to England for my husband and I (next year). We've never been so we could use some help from locals or experienced travelers.
Questions:
What is the best time of year to go?
How much time should we allow?
Where should we base ourselves? London seems like a good "home base" but maybe there's a more economical choice? Thought we would stick to trains and buses for transport.
Are there any sites we should (re)consider?

Must-sees (for us) are:
Tower of London
Hampton Court
Roman Baths

Also considering:
The Shambles (York)- I've seen pictures online and this seems like a place we would really love. Are there other older cities/streets that we should look at doing as well, or instead of?
York Minster (not a must-see for us, but if we're in York anyway...)
Stonehenge (used to be on our must-see list, but recently read that you can only view from a distance now?)
Thames river cruise?

We are open to any suggestions/ideas. Thanks in advance!
GuysNS is offline  
Jul 26th, 2010, 08:24 AM
  #2  
 
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I love England in the spring, say, May. The countryside is spring green and blooming. And the days are longer then.

London is a must as is the town of Bath. Bath is a hour and a half by train from London. I think it's better seen by staying there for a few days rather than as a daytrip from London.

You can do a Thames cruise en route to Hampton Court. Or better downstream after your visit to HCP. We cruised upstream as a part of a London Walks tour of Richmond and HCP. (Do look at www.walks.com.)

So maybe some time in London to start, then time in Bath, with maybe a bus tour to Stonehenge, which is in between.

There's lots of see in York, so you could make it your third base.

Oxford or Cambridge make good day trips from London.

It seems like you have no limitations, not time, time of year, nor money. It's hard to narrow down the possibilities.

One thing: buy your train tickets as early as possible. There can be a considerable savings. For example, L32 from York to London instead of the standard rate of ~L130 (2nd class).
Mimar is offline  
Jul 26th, 2010, 08:29 AM
  #3  
 
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Can't answer all your questions.

I'd stay in London for most of the trip, and maybe spend a few days elsewhere (Cotswolds, Yorkshire, Bath, etc). London can be enjoyed year round, but if you plan on getting outside the May and early June would be my choice for the trip.

Chester is an old town, but it is harder to get by train from London than York. York is on the railway line from London to Edinburgh, and trains depart from Kings Cross stn, you can get discounted train tickets if you buy them in advance. I've been to both places I prefer York. The stained glass in York Minister is impressive. You could consider going to York and Edinburgh for a few days.

Consider a Thames River cruise to Greenwich, these cruises depart from Westminister pier and take approximately one hour.
Another Thames river cruise to consider is to Richmond and Hampton Court Palace.
justshootme is offline  
Jul 26th, 2010, 08:32 AM
  #4  
 
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opps, the sentence should read.....London can be enjoyed year round, but if you plan on getting outside the city, May and early June would be my choice for the trip.
justshootme is offline  
Jul 26th, 2010, 08:49 AM
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How long a trip?

are you prepared to hire a car?

do you like [only] cities or do you want some time in the countryside?

For a first time visit, you might like to think about 3 bases within 2 weeks, 4 within 3 weeks, so that you don't spread yourselves too thin. also, if you were prepared to drive, you could even pick and area and not book ahead, maving from B&B to B&B as the mood takes you. [which wouldn't work if you were visiting in school hols].

if you go for May/June, can I put in a bid for Devon/ Cornwall? - IHMO the best time of year to visit us, and they would make an easy destination after Bath.

how about this for a 3 week itinerary?

Fly into London, stay 6 nights.
Day 7, pick up car, drive to Bath via stonehenge. Opening times etc. here:
http://www.english-heritage.org.uk/d...or-information. it used to be possible to pay extra to see the stones up close, but I found no mention of this on the website - you could search this thread and google to see if that's still possible.

Stay 4 nights Bath. explore city and area.

Drive to somewhere in Devon - Exeter if you like cities, Okehampton, Tavistock if you like towns, or a cottage/B&B if you like villages. stay 4 nights.

Drive onto Cornwall. Stop in Falmouth/Penzance/or St. Ives. Stay 4 nights.

Drive to Newquay airport and take plane to Leeds/Bradford. Rent car and drive to ? york. Stay for remainder of stay in/near York.

Yes, i know that this is slightly more than 3 weeks, but it give you an idea of what might be possible.

happy planning.
annhig is offline  
Jul 26th, 2010, 08:54 AM
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Only time for a quick comment right now --will come back w/ more later.

But "Stonehenge (used to be on our must-see list, but recently read that you can only view from a distance now?)" isn't true.

If you go during daily opening hours you are behind a rope -- but in places you get quite close to the Stones. And if you book Inner Access through English Heritage you get inside the rope and can even touch the stones. Inner access must be booked ahead and is scheduled in the early AM and early evening (before and after normal opening times)
janisj is online now  
Jul 26th, 2010, 09:37 AM
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janisj - i looked at the english Heritage website and found no mention of the Inner Access tour that uesd to be there.

do you know if it is still available?
annhig is offline  
Jul 26th, 2010, 09:40 AM
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In 2008 we spent 2 weeks in London and took 5 day trips via trains and buses--Oxford, Salisbury/Stonehenge, Dover and 2 other "idiosyncratic" places. You could easily substitue York and Bath. Basing your self in London, despite its cost, has lots of advantages if you are going to use public transport (which also has advantages)--many places give discounts for staying a "long" time (the agency we used athomeinlondon.com has several bedandbreakfasts which offer a discount when stay is "long"); public transport is more easily accessed for those day trips; London itself could use up all your time whatever amount it is!; and if you stay in one place and do day trips, you don't have to pack and move luggage. It worked wonderful for us; if you're interested in how we did it, here's the link to my TripReport http://www.fodors.com/community/euro...-day-trips.cfm
I seem to have posted this link a lot lately; I'm not proporting at all that our way was the best way, but it sure worked for us when we wanted to see lots of London but see more places but not drive a car.

(In 3 days we are returning and this time DH IS driving a car--weee! But the 2008 trip was terrific.)

If you decide to do something like this, check out the Brit or England Rail passes--they afford total flexibility and we loved them. Not cheapest way to go but great for us.

Janisj (as always) is right about Stonehenge--it's worth it! See my trip report for one pretty simple way to get there via public transport.

As for when--between May and September would have longer day light hours and somewhat less cool weather maybe. Depends also if you are trying to avoid the maximum crowds.

It's good to plan this far ahead. Do you have good maps and guide books, even if borrowed, in front of you? I can't imagine planning a trip without this forum but you need maps and your own books/websites too.
texasbookworm is offline  
Jul 26th, 2010, 09:49 AM
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I can tell you about the British rail system - having traveled over it annually now for decades - always with a BritRail Pass - though you have to be traveling a bit for that to pay off for the average tourist - me i just love riding trains, especially in the U.K. - where they go all the time everywhere - even to such remote spots as the Lake District. And if you know your exact times you want to take the train then at www.nationalrail.co.uk you can snag some deep discounted tickets if you act far enough in advance to score the limited in number cheaper tickets, which also are generally non-refundable non-changeable. If going full fare then a BritEngland or BritRail (includes also Scotland and Wales in addtion to Merry Ole England) can pay off in just a few trips - this means if you just want to show up at any station and hop any train - just get on - not ticket windows to deal with, etc - anytime - this is a prerequisite for me but not others. Anyway all the fares - cheap to full fare with several various levels and conditions in between are at www.nationalrail.co.uk - in Pounds.
For loads of great info on British trains i always spotlight these links - www.seat61.com - popular site powered by a Brit himself so esp good info on U.K. trains and special fares; www.ricksteves.com; www.budgeteuropetravel.com - download the latter's Britain chapter of its free European Planning & Rail Guide for suggested rail itineraries, rail map, etc.
Buses run extensive routes in the U.K. as well but i've always found them very crowded and slow - getting stuck in traffic snarls going into and out of large cities - just not as relaxing as the train - where you can get up and walk around - easily reach the toilet, get snacks at the 'beffet car', etc.
PalenQ is offline  
Jul 26th, 2010, 10:54 AM
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'beffet car'. What on earth is that? I've only seen buffet cars on trains!
Hooameye is offline  
Jul 26th, 2010, 10:55 AM
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Try drinking a pint of Dulux and you'd spell it like that too...
Gordon_R is offline  
Jul 26th, 2010, 11:03 AM
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.....Chester is an old town, but it is harder to get by train from London than York....

Not so.
Trains go from Euston to Chester every half hour and the journey takes just over two hours.
MissPrism is offline  
Jul 26th, 2010, 11:35 AM
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For my 4pennyworth I'd suggest using London as your base with some side trips by train. Bath is definitely a 'must-see' but I would not rate Stonehenge (underwhelming now that you can no longer wander amongst the stones as I did way back in 1970 with the druids at their Summer Solstice ceremony)! Instead why not take a trip by train to Warwick- lovely old town with the best castle in England and only 1.5 hours from London Marylebone. A 15 minute taxi ride could take you on to Stratford on Avon. I'd suggest May (excluding the last week which is usually school half term holiday and has a bank holiday too). June can often be wet although this year disproved my generalisation
bellini is offline  
Jul 26th, 2010, 12:16 PM
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" Stonehenge (underwhelming now that you can no longer wander amongst the stones "

Balderdash.

" i looked at the english Heritage website and found no mention of the Inner Access tour that uesd to be there. "

It's now been rebranded "Stone Circle Access" and is accessible from http://www.english-heritage.org.uk/d...es/stonehenge/

And I thought Dave'n'Nick were going to stamp this crap out. Anyone counted how often BP's changed its logo compared to Exxon? British Airways compared to Lufthansa? Or have the foggiest what British Gas is called these dsays?
flanneruk is online now  
Jul 26th, 2010, 12:17 PM
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<<< i looked at the english Heritage website and found no mention of the Inner Access tour that uesd to be there. >>>

http://www.english-heritage.org.uk/d...circle-access/
alanRow is offline  
Jul 26th, 2010, 12:42 PM
  #16  
twk
 
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I went to London and Scotland in 2007. You can click on my name and see my trip report.

If you are flexible on dates, one thing that I would highly suggest doing is going to see one of the dress rehearsals for Trooping the Colour in London in late May/June. This is a review of the all the Household units staged annually to clebreate the Queen's official birthday (usually 2nd Saturday in June). Getting tickets to the actual ceremoney that the Queen will attend is a real challenge (particularly for a foreigner), but tickets for the two dress rehearsals (on the preceding two Saturdays) are much eaiser to come by. Even if you don't get tickets to watch the reivew, if you're in London on those dates, you can watch the parade up and down the Mall to and from Horse Guards for free.

If you are interested and want to know more, let me know.
twk is offline  
Jul 26th, 2010, 03:06 PM
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We spent 12 days in England and Wales in May 2007. Here's a link to our trip report:
http://www.fodors.com/community/euro...b-may-2007.cfm

Lee Ann
ElendilPickle is offline  
Jul 26th, 2010, 04:25 PM
  #18  
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Wow, thank you for all the info, links and trip-reports.

Some of you asked about limitations:
1 1/2 - 2 weeks for trip
time of year completely flexible
budget not set, but is somewhat limited- to give an idea, we usually stay in B&Bs or lower-priced hotels, picnic for lunch and pubs for evening meal (husband loves pub atmosphere, so recommendations are welcome!)

Were thinking of Oyster card for travel around London and BritRail pass for rest of trip. We are also fairly young & fit and enjoy some walking. Renting a car isn't out of the question but we thought it might be more leisurely if we didn't drive.

Would like to have no more than 2-3 bases for trip (last two week trip we stayed in a different place each night which was nice to see lots but a bit tiring...

If Stone Circle Access is still available Stonehenge is back on the must-see list!
GuysNS is offline  
Jul 26th, 2010, 05:36 PM
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Trains are fine for getting from point A to point B (and often the best way) But for touring around in the countryside -not so much.

W/ just 10-14 days you need to subtract 2 days for travel to/from the UK, and 1 day to mainly relax/recover from the jetlag. Then another 1/2 day each time you move from point A to point B (checking out/in and travel time)

So w/ 10 you are really looking at London and one other place/base. W/ 14 days (about 10 full days actually free for sightseeing) you could do London and two other locations -- or London and one other area to base in for day trips in a wide area.

annhig's suggestion cut back a bit for the shorter length would be very good. London maybe 5 days (more is better though), pick up a car > Stonehenge and on to Bath 2 nights, somewhere in the southwest 4-6 nights, return to LHR and fly home.

OR - London 6 nights, train to York pick up rental car and spend 4-5 nights in Yorkshire. For this option - flying open jaw into London and home from Manchester works best.
janisj is online now  
Jul 27th, 2010, 03:38 AM
  #20  
 
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inner stones tour or not Stonehenge is worth it IMO - awesome baby - just to see it from any viewpoint.
PalenQ is offline  

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