Renting a Car / Cotswolds

Jun 4th, 2006, 10:03 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: Feb 2003
Posts: 57
Renting a Car / Cotswolds

We are taking a 9 day trip to London early July. We are planning to stay in London proper for first 3 nights and thinking about renting a car and going to Bath/Cotswolds for 2-3 days and then back to London for 4 more days.

Is that enough time for Bath/Cotswolds? There seems to be so much to do in London plus we want to do some day trips to Hampton Court and Windsor Castle (and maybe Leeds Castle? Hampstead?) that we don't know how to allocate the days.

Also, what is the best way to rent a car? It seems like some people take a train to Bath and rent a car from there? I priced out Heathrow vs Bath on Autoeurope and it seems to be around the same price. We've never rented a car in Europe so this should be quite interesting.....

Thanks for your input.
pegg is offline  
Jun 4th, 2006, 11:24 AM
Join Date: Sep 2005
Posts: 1,273
Take the tube to Heathrow and rent a car there - they stay open longer and on weekends, and it's a breeze to get onto the expressway heading away from London, and coming back into London, Heathrow is about as far as you want to keep driving before traffic gets impossible. It's also very well signed.

The trip to Bath is easy and pleasant and the expressway gives you a chance to get a feel for the car.

Make sure you rent the smallest possible car, when you get to the Cotswolds you'll be thankful: Hedges and walls on either side of unbelievably narrow country roads are unforgiving, and when a local driver bears down on you, every inch counts! Ditto inside the old little towns where the lanes were built for a single horse it seems...

You must see Bath in the morning light and again late in the day - different parts of the splendid "bowl" where the city sits become lit by the sun, and the distinct color of the stone they use for their buildings has a certain luminescence you don't want to miss.

Get there after lunch on day one, check in, see a bit of the city, spend the night, see more of the city the next morning, head on out after lunch and gallivant to some place of your choosing, spend the night, and circle back to London late on day 3 after driving to a couple more villages of your choosing. Make sure you swing by Stonehenge on the way back, it's only a short detour north of the main expressway and doesn't take all that long to see.

Count on a slow trip for the last stretch into Heathrow if its after, say, 3PM.

If you can, spend one more night in the west and get back around lunchtime.

WallyKringen is offline  
Jun 4th, 2006, 05:00 PM
Join Date: Oct 2005
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Is that enough time - for EITHER the Cotswolds or London? Heck no! For about 5 years I lived outside of Oxford w/ the Cotswolds basically on my doorstep, and still haven't seen everything I want there.

But at least you are planning on 3 days out in the countryside and not just a flying daytrip from London like so many others . . . .

I would make one suggestion though - don't split up your time in London. It will make the trip seem even more rushed and a bit fractured w/ all the to-ing and fro-ing.

Unless your flight home is very early in the a.m. here is how I'd do it: Into London for 6 nights (you started out talking "nights" but changed to "days" so I'm not sure how many days/night you have in total. If I have it wrong you can adjust the days a bit). Early on the 7th morning head out to LHR to pick up your car and then on to Bath for the entire day. In July it will be light very late so you won't have to worry about driving in the dark. Late afternoon or early evening leave Bath and drive to wherever you decide to base in the Cotswolds. (I'd start my search in/near Burford). Spend the next 3 nights/2 days exploring the Cotswolds. On the last morning drive to LHR and fly home.

If your flight is very early morning - then I'd do the same thing except leave the Cotswolds after dinner and stay the last night at a hotel right at LHR.
janisj is offline  
Jun 4th, 2006, 05:42 PM
Join Date: Feb 2004
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Not much to add here, but OH, how I wish there were Fodors folks before my first trip to London: we rented our car in the city and had the most gigantic fight on the way to the highway. DH was trying to drive on a "new" side of the road, and I was trying to read a map... a disaster! We still talk about that fight, years later.

Renting at LHR is brilliant... I never thought of it. We trained to Bath twice and rented there, but I have to say that car rentals in Bath are very inconvenient: they are far from the city center in an industrial park; they keep short business hours; and they aren't very well equipped. LHR sounds like the way to go.
tuscanlifeedit is online now  
Jun 4th, 2006, 05:45 PM
Join Date: Feb 2004
Posts: 14,527
Forgot to add that on that first trip, we spent three nights in Bath. On day one, we arrived and toured the city. On day two, we rented the car and had a marvelous day driving through a part of the Cotswolds. On day three, we went to a large manor house and park, with a wonderfully huge and beautiful park, and for the life of me I can't remember the name of the place.

In any case, it was a lot of activity, but we had a wonderful, wonderful time.
tuscanlifeedit is online now  
Jun 5th, 2006, 06:59 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Feb 2003
Posts: 57
Thanks for all the helpful info! We will definitely rent a car (smallest size) from Heathrow. We have heeded the advice not to break up the trip and will leave the last few days for Bath/Cotswolds/Stonehenge, which will be Thurs through Sunday morning (flight leaves Heathrow Sunday 2:30pm). Now reading the posts I am nervous about the weekend crowds.... but it's too late I've already pricelined the first 6 nights in London.

Should I stay in Bath or in the Cotswolds? I guess if we have a car it won't really matter. But should I just choose one and use it as a base for the whole time?
pegg is offline  
Jun 5th, 2006, 07:47 PM
Join Date: Oct 2005
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OK - w/ an afternoon flight you won't have any problems - except for traffic on the motorways back to LHR. But nothing terrible like a Monday morning or Friday afternoon.

I would head out to LHR early a.m. - no crack of dawn or anything but be to the rental agency by about 8:00 or 8:30. You'll be on the road by about 9:00. First go to Stonehenge. The visit doesn't take very long. Then you could go in to Salisbury - but since you have so little time I'd probably head straight to Bath. You would be in Bath by lunch time or before. Since you only have that 1/2 day in Bath I'd book one night's stay there. 1/2 a day is about long enough to see everything (the only site that takes a lot of time are the Roman Baths) but it would feel rushed so better to stay the night and spend the evening walking around the city.

The next morning after B'fast and some more walking if you wish - head up to the Cotswolds. Again you will be "there" (it is a big place) before lunch time. Find your B&B and leave your bags and then explore til dinner. If you stay in Burford, Stow on the Wold, etc there wil be lots of places to eat w/i walking distance.

Another day/night wandering around the Cotswolds we can give you ideas of what to see/visit if you need . . . .

then the last morning after breakfast either drive along the river (henley on Thames, etc) and on to LHR by noon or a bit before, OR explore whatever village you stayed in some more and then drive directly to LHR. Be sure to allow enough time to return the car since the rental lots are off airport and you take a shuttle bus to the terminals.

janisj is offline  

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