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Small town near London for an overnight stay - suggestions please

Small town near London for an overnight stay - suggestions please

Oct 15th, 2014, 06:47 AM
  #1  
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Small town near London for an overnight stay - suggestions please

DD and I will be in the UK during the first week of November. We will arrive on Friday, and from Tuesday I have to be in London for work. I would love to spend the weekend in a quaint small town on a bus/train route within an hour or two from London. I am dreaming about somewhere with a nice little hotel, good walks, pretty views ... the English village of our dreams (please don't scoff). I realise that I have to share beautiful places with other tourists, but would so much like not to have too many people around (in November this is perhaps a given?) I have been to Oxford earlier this year, and loved it. I know that there is a plethora of choices, and thought I could narrow it down to the Cotswolds or perhaps the Lake District (although that may be too far for a short trip?) If we can catch a bus from Heathrow to where-ever we are going, it would be perfect. Any suggestions?
kovsie is offline  
Oct 15th, 2014, 08:25 AM
  #2  
 
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Windsor would seem to be a perfect choice, bus number 77 leaves Terminal 5 at Heathrow every 30 minutes and takes around 40 minutes to Windsor. Small town feel, even with a Royal Castle in the middle, its free to walk in the Grounds, along the river Thames and walk into the village of Eton, famous for its school which has produced 19 Prime Ministers including our current one and educated Princes Harry and William.

The Cotswolds are a 2-3 hour train journey, the Lake District around 4 hours from a central London station, Cotswolds are a lot closer but still some distance to travel.
alanbowen is offline  
Oct 15th, 2014, 09:02 AM
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York, a couple of hours away, medieval walls, cathedral, shopping area, Betty's, river
bilboburgler is online now  
Oct 15th, 2014, 09:27 AM
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This is trickier than you'd think

There are no direct trains to anywhere but Paddington from Heathrow. The only direct-route, photogenic places within 90 mins bus of Heathrow seem to be Windsor, Eton, Oxford and St Albans: the Heathrow website no longer has a map of non-TfL local buses - though there's a list in the 700 series at http://www.londonbusroutes.net/routes.htm, and all serve only dull suburban places, apart from the four I've listed. Maybe Ware as well.

York's two hours from London - but getting on for four from Heathrow once you've tubed in and faffed about. No coaches (apart from Oxford) anywhere nice within 90 mins, though a few to Bath taking 120. Otherwise: everywhere on a coach line is too far for Friday or (like Banbury) grotty.

The nearest Cotswolds station (bus to Reading station, then change) is 85 mins, plus change time at Reading (say ten mins.) Limited evening dining facilities at Charlbury and Kingham (but at a pinch...), so it's probably Moreton - 70 mins from Reading, or 90 from Paddington on Tuesday morning. Morning commuting trains: every 30-60 mins.
flanneruk is offline  
Oct 15th, 2014, 09:30 AM
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Not the Lake District, it's far too far for what you want to do.

if you are prepared to hire a car, Tunbridge Wells or Sevenoaks would fill the bill. both easily accessible from London by train in an hour or less, but when you are there, you would need a car to make the best of seeing the lovely countryside and those pretty villages you long for.

Brighton is another option, or Hastings.

You would need to get from LHR to a mainline station like London Bridge or Victoria to get to all of these though.
annhig is offline  
Oct 15th, 2014, 09:33 AM
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Winchester?
bilboburgler is online now  
Oct 15th, 2014, 09:34 AM
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While both are nice enough places to visit, I wouldn't call either Windsor or York "small".

My first thought was Bradford-on-Avon, a couple of stops short of Bath on the train from London. I suspect most small towns will require a train or bus from London, rather than Heathrow. In the case of Bradford, train with 1 change from London Paddington station, no changes from Waterloo. But taking either the Heathrow Connect or Express from LHR to Paddington would probably be the easiest way, despite the extra train.

http://www.bradfordonavon.co.uk/

My second thoughts were Thames Valley towns, Henley-on-Thames or nearby Marlow. Both are bigger than Bradford but considerably smaller than the two mentioned above and very pleasant places on the Thames to spend a day or 2. Both also accessible from Paddington.

For trains: http://www.nationalrail.co.uk/
For coach (bus): http://www.nationalexpress.com/home.aspx
MmePerdu is online now  
Oct 15th, 2014, 09:39 AM
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Re-reading the brief:

If it really is a village you want, then Charlbury and Kingham meet the brief perfectly. Check out the (adequate) Bell or Bull at Charlbury for eating and staying: at Kingham, the White Rabbit (if you're exceptionally well heeled, and very lucky: rooms are normally booked solid at weekends), the Plough (again: few bedrooms and some foolishly cavil at the food) or the Mill House (OK, but a bit basic)
flanneruk is offline  
Oct 15th, 2014, 09:43 AM
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Annhig and flanner have spelled out most of the problems. 'Quaint' (problematic word in the UK) villages are 'quaint' mostly because they don't have train stations or convenient bus connections.

Easiest from LHR would be Windsor, Bath or Oxford. York would be an awful slog after an overnight flight. And none of which are villages or small towns.

If you haven't been to Windsor that might be your best option.

Or - maybe coach to Oxford and local bus to Woodstock. Large enough to have several places to eat, Blenheim Palace (sorry flanner ) plus walking opportunities, with a village feel.
janisj is online now  
Oct 15th, 2014, 09:45 AM
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By no stretch of anyone's imagination can Henley or Marlow be "the English village of our dreams."


Apart from Charlbury and Kingham, the only such nomination here is Bradford on Avon.

Winchester is the nearest thing to Oxford nominated here: bus to Woking, then 30 mins by train, or intermittent 95 min direct buses
flanneruk is offline  
Oct 15th, 2014, 09:49 AM
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There are no train connections from LHR except schlepping through central London so you need to,take that into account when deciding. I'd only go somewhere w/ a direct coach or bus (Bath, Oxford, Windsor etc) - or - someplace very convenient to one of those cities.
janisj is online now  
Oct 15th, 2014, 10:21 AM
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The main difficulty, getting there aside, as I see it, is the lack of specifics on the actually time that will be spent in this quaint place. The most quaint tend to be the smallest and boredom, despite the beauty, could set in in a hurry if there's no car to go farther afield. And why I included some that are pretty but have resources for a couple of days or more. Having been to all of the above, I'd still say Bradford, walking distance from Bath along the Kennet & Avon Canal (or local bus). It's a beautiful walk I've done several times. You can walk 1 way and bus the other. The beauty of a small place in proximity to a very interesting other.
MmePerdu is online now  
Oct 15th, 2014, 11:29 AM
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Take the number 724 bus from Heathrow to St Albans and stay here

http://www.stmichaelsmanor.com/

There's an abbey, roman ruins and a small lake set in parkland; plus lots of pubs and food choices. Then only 20 minutes to St Pancras on the train.
sofarsogood is offline  
Oct 15th, 2014, 12:52 PM
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How about Royal Tunbridge Wells (OK here comes the nit-picking about that name!) - a nice regional town with relatively few foreign visitors but many Brits - Tunbridge Wells was once a swank watering hole for the rich and famous years ago but now is a park-laced bucolic smallish city - the average nice cozy city you may like and only about an hour or so from central London - several different stations - by train.

https://www.google.com/search?q=roya...=1600&bih=1075
PalenQ is online now  
Oct 15th, 2014, 12:53 PM
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"The most quaint tend to be the smallest and boredom"

So?

The real joy of Bradford-u-A, Charlbury and Woodstock is they've got near-fabulous connections (up to more or less midnight) to and from their friendly regional heritage city.(The last train from Oxford to Kingham leaves about 2250, but buses to Charlbury and Woodstock, and trains from Bath to Bradford, leave later.)

So (as I've done this week), you can attend a live performance by someone of Anne-Sophie Mutter's calibre, have a decent dinner in a proper restaurant and get back to a real English village before bedtime. Without a car.

Kingham has the best restaurants of these four. But Charlbury, Bradford and Woodstock compete for the title of the best place on earth to live (or spend a weekend) - in spite of Woodstock's being lumbered with Bloody Blenheim - because they aren't just idyllic in their own different ways, but are unbelievably handy for the world's soft power capital, the world's major airport and the extraordinary cultural offerings of the honey-coloured city down the road.
flanneruk is offline  
Oct 15th, 2014, 02:05 PM
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"The real joy of Bradford...near-fabulous connections...to and from their friendly regional heritage city."

"So?" yourself. I believe that was my point. "The beauty of a small place in proximity to a very interesting other." Or did I read myself wrong?

I (also) agree on "bloody Blenheim". Sorry.
MmePerdu is online now  
Oct 15th, 2014, 02:10 PM
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I certainly enjoyed Woodstock when I visited the bloody Blenheim, which I also liked but yes it was way over commercialized - train rides, etc. But Woodstock as a smallish cute town can't be beat.

Does Woodstock have train service - if I recall no just buses making it a longer commute to London than a town with direct rail links like some Cotswolds wool towns.
PalenQ is online now  
Oct 15th, 2014, 02:13 PM
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I'd choose Woodstock. You can take the train or bus to Oxford then a taxi or bus to Woodstock.
historytraveler is online now  
Oct 16th, 2014, 05:30 AM
  #19  
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Thanks so much dear Fodorites, for yet again dispensing time and wisdom to help this traveller on her way.
Having read through all of this, I realise that I must limit myself this time to places that can be reached from Heathrow by coach. Thanks for the reality check Flanner, I really do not want to add more hours to the trip just to find the right train ... and especially not for faffing about!
I have now narrowed it down to either Woodstock or a place somewhere near Bath ... or Bath itself (but there goes the idea of a restful weekend in a village).

MmePerdu: the walk you mention sounds interesting. Can you remember +- how long it takes?

About getting bored: I do not easily get bored (except in a plane) and can happily dawdle around in a pretty place. However, DD would appreciate something more.

About Windsor: I have been there for just one day. Would love to return and walk around some more though. I am forever torn between returning to places that I loved (OXFORD) or getting to know a new place.

I will now devote myself to research on Bath and surroundings. Will return with more questions later.
kovsie is offline  
Oct 16th, 2014, 07:53 AM
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Regarding the walk along the Kennet & Avon Canal towpath (not the river), it's about 8 miles of more or less level walking from Bradford, depending on where you get off (or on) in Bath. In Bath, Cleveland House, which is over the canal, is a good exit/entrance point. There's also a nice section with locks and gardens running up Bathwick Hill from the canal, south of Cleveland House.

There are 2 pubs on the canal, one on the edge of Bath and another, The Cross Guns, at Avoncliff, near the aqueduct, which carries the canal and towpath over the River Avon, very fun to walk, even for an acrophobic like myself. The pub at Avoncliff also has rooms where I stayed on one walk. http://www.crossguns.net/ The walk is beautiful and in my experience you'll have the countryside mostly to yourself with very nice destinations at both ends.
MmePerdu is online now  

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