London & Area Itinerary Help

Dec 29th, 2014, 10:52 AM
  #1  
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London & Area Itinerary Help

My DH and I will be flying to London in early Sept and have 11 nights/12 days to explore the area. We were thinking of 5 nights in London and 5 nights split between Bath, the Cotswolds and maybe Windsor or Oxford (the last night will be at Heathrow airport). Does this sound like the appropriate amount of time for each area?
We have been to London many years ago for 1.5 days and only saw the Royal London area.

We were thinking of this itinerary:
Arrive London and stay in central London close to restaurants, shopping but not too touristy (still researching areas) and spend 5 days/nights in London. (Any suggestions on best areas to stay)
Leave on day 6 and take train to Bath for 2 nights. Day 1 will be spent in Bath and day 2 we would pick up a car in Bath and tour the towns nearby including Avebury, Wells, Salisbury.
On day 8 leave for the Cotswolds and spend 2 nights in one of the villages, using 2 days to visit the villages.
On day 10 drive to Oxford and Windsor or maybe Newbury if we can get tickets for Highclere Castle and overnight in one of these towns.
On day 11, spend the day touring the castle and then drive to the airport in early evening.

Does this itinerary sound good? What change would you make?
Would it make sense to pick up the car in London instead of Bath and drive to Windsor on the way to Bath?
How easy is it to pick up a car in London (rail statiion or city center location) and drive out of London?
We have driven all over Europe but never in Great Britain so need to get used to driving on the left side of road.
TravelerKaren is online now  
Dec 29th, 2014, 11:05 AM
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Hi Karen,

i think that the basic itinerary looks good but you are forgetting the time that it takes to get from one place to another and confusing your days and nights - you need to remember that 2 nights in a place give you only 1 full day. so in reality you have this:

Day 1 arrive London. stay 5 nights. [gives you 4 days]
Day 6 - take train to Bath for 2 nights. afternoon in Bath
Day 7 - pick up a car in Bath and tour the towns nearby including Avebury, Wells, Salisbury. [try Wells and Glastonbury - the others are too far away]
Day 8 - drive to the Cotswolds arriving lunchtime. 2 nights in one of the villages, using 1 ½ days to visit the villages.
Day 10 - drive to Oxford and Windsor or maybe Newbury if we can get tickets for Highclere Castle and overnight in one of these towns.
Day 11, spend the day touring the castle and then drive to the airport in early evening

I think that particularly in Bath and the Cotswolds you are really trying to cram too much in, and I would pick one or the other and/or drop Oxford/Windsor.
annhig is online now  
Dec 29th, 2014, 11:07 AM
  #3  
 
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Hi Karen,

I can certainly answer some of your questions.

2 nights in Bath is fine and 2 nights in the Cotswolds works well. I like Bourton on the Water as a pretty village to stay in or visit. I'm afraid I can't advise on accommodation here but I'm sure others can.

I'd spend the day in Oxford and stay there on day 10 then drive down to Windsor early the following morning in time to see the castle before the airport trip.

The Vineyard at Stockcross is a lovely hotel near Newbury if you get tickets for Highclere instead of Oxford.

The train ride to Bath from London is very easy - only 1 hr 40 so I"d be tempted to do that and pick up the car in Bath when you need it.

Back to London, I'd stay central - Mayfair / Marylebone / Piccadilly / Covent Garden so you have a base to access everywhere.
If you're in town on a Thurs/Fri/Sat go early to Borough Market in London Bridge - lovely food market you can wander around.
Portobello Market is also a fun one on a Saturday - nice atmosphere if a little busy
Make sure you walk around the parks
Marylebone High St is a lovely shopping street
Walk along the South Bank and stop for a drink in one of the restaurants / bars
Dinner in Soho is always fun
Take a boat down the river
London Eye is a great way to see the city
Walk up to Primrose Hill and wander round the little boutiques there and the view on the top of the hill is fantastic
Big Ben / Houses of Parliament - even just to see outside
Spitalfields Market is another nice place to walk around, especially on a weekend
Restaurants - you should try one 'high rise' restaurant with a view e.g. aqua shard in The Shard, Duck and Waffle in the Heron Tower or City Social in Tower 41 for great views of London. Go for afternoon tea at Claridges or The Langham, IMO they are the best two.
Let me know if you need other restaurant recommendations as that's my area of expertise!

I can't help on car hire I'm afraid but I'm pretty sure there's central locations to pick one up. I'd maybe advise finding one out of the centre that you can get the Tube to so you dont have to drive much in central London - it's quite busy!

Hope that helps,

Anna
Anna2707 is offline  
Dec 29th, 2014, 11:53 AM
  #4  
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Annhig & Anna: Thanks so much for your quick responses.

Annhig: We arrive early Monday morning so have most of the first day available for sightseeing but we definitely have
something to think about in terms of days in London/day trips from London and the number of days in Bath and towns just outside.

Anna: Thanks so much for the recommendations on sites and things to do in London. We will definitely use this when planning our days there.
TravelerKaren is online now  
Dec 29th, 2014, 12:09 PM
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Random thoughts:

one day is about 1.5 days two little for Salisbury/Stonehenge, Wells,Glastonbury.

Your time in London is very short. You would have barely enough time to recover from the jetlag and see maybe 4 or 5 of the major sites.

>>only saw the Royal London area.<< I have no idea what that means. Do you mean you only saw Buckingham Palace?? London is ginormous and if you want to see/do much there you'll probably want to add a day or two. Or -- plan another/future visit where you stay just in London for maybe a week.

Many of the things Anna mentions are on most folks 'secondary' list -- like for a 2nd or 3rd visit to London. Just for a few of the 'biggies' (Tower of London, British Museum, Cabinet War Rooms, V&A, National Gallery, National Portrait Gallery, Westminster Abbey, Imperial War Museum, St Paul's, the Tates, ) - plan on one or at most two major sites a day.

You really don't need to 'eat' a night by staying at LHR before flying home. Either Newbury or Oxford is only about 45 miles from Heathrow and a very easy drive. You could easily stay in the eastern Cotswolds or near Oxford/Newbury and drive to the airport the morning of your flight.

Or - you could visit Highclere (assuming you can get tix) on your last full day, visit Windsor late that same afternoon, and sty the last night in Windsor or at LHR.

Oxford, Windsor and Highclere would take 2 full days by themselves.

A good base for the Cotswolds would be Burford - small enough to have a village-y feeling, but a big enough town to have shops, pubs, restaurants . . . and w/o the masses of day tripper coaches you'd see in Burton on the Water.

You definitely need to build in more travel time.

If you don't mind cutting London VERY short, then 2 nights in Bath, and 3 nights in the Cotswolds would work. If you stay on the eastern side of the Cotswolds it would also be a good base for visiting Oxford.
janisj is online now  
Dec 29th, 2014, 12:15 PM
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Didn't see your second post - I was writing when you were posting.

>>We arrive early Monday morning so have most of the first day available for sightseeing but we definitely have<<

Arriving in the AM doesn't net you a full day. W/ Immigration, transport 9no matter the mode of transport count on approx an hour to get into central London. Even the 'fast' Heathrow Express only gets you to Paddington - not a great area to stay so you'd need to take other transport to your hotel. So even on the HEX - which is a VERY expensive option - still count on an hour (an a schlepp at both the LHR and London ends.

Then the jet lag -- so usually no heavy duty sightseeing is possible on day one.
janisj is online now  
Dec 29th, 2014, 12:42 PM
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(the last night will be at Heathrow airport)

Windsor is 20 minutes by taxi from Heathrow, there's no need to stay at Heathrow
dotheboyshall is offline  
Dec 29th, 2014, 12:56 PM
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janisj:
Thanks for your thoughts. We may need to re-think our priorities. If we were to add some days to London, would you skip Bath or the Cotswolds? How would you spend the 11 days?

On our last trip we saw Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abbey, Big Ben, St. Paul's Cathedral, Trafalgar Sq, & Hyde Park.

We prefer staying at the airport the night before we leave in case of travel problems getting to the airport for early morning flight. I keep reading horror stories about the traffic around London. Would be too stressed driving in to LHR on an early Friday morning.
TravelerKaren is online now  
Dec 29th, 2014, 01:00 PM
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Unless you stay in one of the few airport hotels you will have a bus or taxi ride to Heathrow anyway which could take as long as a taxi ride from Windsor.

If you are that worried then just get up 30 minutes earlier and have breakfast at the airport.
dotheboyshall is offline  
Dec 29th, 2014, 01:21 PM
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>>n case of travel problems getting to the airport for early morning flight.<<

Have you looked at actual flight times? Many flights from the States/Canada arrive at LHR in the early AM . . . but most departures back to NA leave mid morning through mid afternoon.

>>How would you spend the 11 days?<<

If I counted right you have 11 nights - right? (11 days is different)

one option: 6 nights minimum in London.

1 night in Bath. Take an early morning train to Bath and explore the city that day.

Next morning collect a rental car and head up to the Cotswolds - 3 nights. Visit Oxford one of these days.

Last full day visit Highclere (if you can get tix -- they sell out very quickly) or Windsor Castle. Have dinner in Windsor. Spend the last night in Windsor. It is only 7 miles from LHR so you can keep the car and drop it off at the rental return outside LHR and shuttle bus to the terminal. Or after dinner in Windsor, drop the car off at LHR and take a very short cab ride (like a mile or less) from the rental return and stay in one of the off airport hotels. Hotel Hoppa bus to the terminal the next day.

This is all IF you have 11 nights.

note - if you rent through autoeurope.com (a US based broker that most often has the best rates) there is seldom a drop off fee to collect a car one place and drop it elsewhere.

Another option would be to stay a full 7 nights IN London and do a day trip to Bath or Oxford by train from the city. Doing that will free up a day when you are out in the countryside so it will mean a bit less to-ing and fro-ing over the remaining 4 nights.
janisj is online now  
Dec 29th, 2014, 04:28 PM
  #11  
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Thank you Janis for your suggestions. We arrive London on sept 7 and depart on sept 18. So we have 11 nights. We appreciate your opinion and will work with your suggestions and post a more detailed itinerary later for your review.

Thanks to all Fodorites for input.

Happy New Year!
TravelerKaren is online now  
Dec 29th, 2014, 05:49 PM
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>> So we have 11 nights.<<

OH -- I just saw that in your original post - overlooked it before. Just do factor in that in 'real life' 11 nights will net you 10 useable days or a skosh less.
janisj is online now  
Dec 30th, 2014, 11:47 AM
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Since this is your second time to London, I'd leave it at five nites or even cut a nite. Bath, Cotswolds, Wells, Avebury, Oxford, etc. are all very charming and deserve time to see them. As said above, driving in the UK takes a lot of time.
dwdvagamundo is offline  
Dec 30th, 2014, 12:07 PM
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Highclere opens to visitors for just 60-70 days a year and hasn't announced its summer 2015 (which it defines as mid July to mid Sept) dates yet.

They might coincide with your trip. Or they might not.

But why unless you've got a special interest in Egyptology (for which the British Museum and Oxford's Ashmolean Museum are actually better places to visit), with hundreds of far more interesting, older and better designed British stately homes to visit, and far better presented film set theme parks in LA, Orlando and Watford, waste the inordinate amount of time it takes to get to this one?

Even Blenheim Palace or America's Vanderbilt mansions yield more interest per hour invested to get to them.
flanneruk is offline  
Dec 30th, 2014, 02:44 PM
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>>Since this is your second time to London, I'd leave it at five nites or even cut a nite. <<

That would be fine IF they had actually spent any time in London previously . . . but per the OP they were only there 1.5 days.
janisj is online now  
Apr 23rd, 2015, 01:48 PM
  #16  
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We are planning to book hotels soon for our Sept trip to London, Bath and Cotswolds.

We want to stay at a Radisson Blu in London since we have points we could use. Would you stay in Bloomsbury or Covent Garden?

Also, which town in Cotswolds - Burford or Stow-on-the-Wold? If anyone has suggestions on hotels in either of these towns, would appreciate input.

Thanks again,
Karen
TravelerKaren is online now  
Apr 27th, 2015, 06:03 AM
  #17  
 
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Janis--

We disagree on how much time to allot to cities versus the country. While London has many, many wonderful attractions, so does the English countryside, and in my view, allotting half of a trip to a city is too much city, whatever the city is.
dwdvagamundo is offline  
Apr 27th, 2015, 06:18 AM
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who is to say what is better - things in London or in England - I agree with dwdagamundo heartily - cities like London can be tiring - ALWAYS always something more you have to see - in more 'normal' cities you can leisurely walk around and not have to check off boxes of things you must see.
PalenQ is offline  
Apr 27th, 2015, 10:01 AM
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It's possible to walk around London leisurely (looking both ways before crossing streets of course) ignoring must see lists, and have a wonderful visit.
stokebailey is offline  
Apr 27th, 2015, 11:12 AM
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stoke--

Agree with that, too. Our favorite day in London was spent walking in the City and along the Thames. Same with our recent trips to Paris and Rome.

But no matter how you spend your time, there is much more to Europe than the cities. Particularly in England and France, the cities are NOT the heart of the countries.
dwdvagamundo is offline  

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