Southern England

Feb 6th, 2009, 07:30 PM
Original Poster
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Southern England

I'm helping a friend and husband plan a trip in May which will hopefully include Sissinghurst, Bath, and maybe Stourhead. They have two weeks excluding travel time and plan to spend about 4 days in London. I'm thinking they should do London at the beginning, take the train to Bath, and spend a couple of days there. Renting their car in Bath they should head south. After that I'm not sure what the best route would be or where they should base themselves to explore the area.
My friend has driven in the UK; but doesn't want to drop the car off at Heathrow. I'm trying to persuade her that it's no big deal and would be easier than dropping it off at a city in the south. She'd probably be using AutoEurope. Any ideas?
She and I and another friend traveled to the UK last May and had a wonderful time in Derbyshire. Many UK people expressed surprise that we would travel and stay in Derbyshire. Is this not an area that the English visit? We just loved it. We visited Haddon Hall, Hardwick, Eyam and were enchanted by Chatsworth. With a car and based at a wonderful B&B on the Chatsworth estate we were able to wander the area with happy abandon gasping at the beauty of Monsal Head in early evening. Considering how lovely we found Derbyshire we were surprised at people being surprised. Maybe they didn't expect Americans to visit the area?
rasmesfin is offline  
Feb 6th, 2009, 08:39 PM
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Please remove the "maybe" from Stourhead! If's absolutely beautiful and not to be missed. If your friends are garden-lovers, tell them to pay a visit to Saville Garden, near Eton and Windsor. In May the rhododendrons and azalea bushes should be in bloom, and wandering through the garden--it's more like a park--is magical.

I agree about Derbyshire; we loved the region.
Underhill is online now  
Feb 6th, 2009, 09:42 PM
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just time for a quick note right now -- if it was me I'd probably pick up the car at LGW and drop it at either Bath or LHR. Both airports are very easy for rental drop off w/o the madness of central London traffic.

After 4 days in london, I'd take the train to Gatwick, collect the car there and visit Penshurst Place, Sissinghurst, Scotney Castle, Great Dixter, and other great gardens in the SE then drive west visiting Stourhead etc and ending in Bath. Depending on what they wanted to see after Bath - that would determine whether dropping the car there or at LHR makes most sense. Actually - dropping a car off at LHR would be a bit easier than in Bath.
janisj is online now  
Feb 6th, 2009, 09:54 PM
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I agree that Stourhead is magical, a beautiful example of 18th century landscape art. Here are some images - just scroll about half-way down the page. Another nearby garden, Prior Park in Bath, is on the same page. And here is Sissinghurst, as well as some other gardens in the southeast: Derbyshire is another of my favorite parts of England as well. Here are some images of Chatsworth, Savill Garden and Wisley, as well as other nearby gardens: If they are interested in gardens, they will be spoilt for choice in England, no matter where they roam!
julia1 is offline  
Feb 6th, 2009, 10:14 PM
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It's really difficult to understand any sane person's reluctance to drop a car off at an airport, so it's even more difficult to suggest an alternative for your friend.

If there's a logical reason for not wanting to end the car trip 20 miles west of London, Gatwick and Southampton airports are both adjacent to railway stations and to the motorway system.

But any alternative to an airport dropoff means dealing with urban driving. And janisj's quite wrong to describe traffic at Heathrow as "crazy": it's highly discipined, impeccably signed, dual carriageway practically all the way and there's a bus at the dropoff point to the terminals or railway stations. That's absolutely not the case with any non-airport dropoff point I can think of in Southern England. Dealing with the infinitely more disordered and cyclist-infested traffic of Bath or Oxford, for example, is far more stressful - and you're almost always lumbered with being dumped, with your luggage, a serious hike from anywhere you might want to be.
flanneruk is offline  
Feb 6th, 2009, 10:19 PM
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You on the paint now? JanisJ said no such thing...
nona1 is offline  
Feb 6th, 2009, 10:31 PM
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Good point.

A public apology to janisj.

Blokes don't do multitasking. Simultaneously dealing with a pooch who can't understand why the grass to pooh on's been replaced by white stuff, giving traffic advisories to the flannerclan, getting the VAT return filed and understanding janisj's plain English is obviously one task too multi.

Either than or the Wine Society's started putting claret-coloured emulsion into their bottles of French Red.
flanneruk is offline  
Feb 7th, 2009, 01:22 AM
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Many UK people expressed surprise that we would travel and stay in Derbyshire. Is this not an area that the English visit?

We do, but it is off the main foreign tourism track, a bit like East Anglia apart from Cambridge.
It would be a shame if the tourist buses started clogging up the area.
MissPrism is offline  
Feb 7th, 2009, 02:35 AM
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hi, rasmesfin,

another vote for Janisj's plan.

as an alternative to the dreaded LHR drop-off, what about dropping it back at slugh [oops, fraudian typo] Slough, or Reading, or anywhere else along the line that makes getting to LHR relatively easy.

or they could just carry on west and return it to Exeter or even Penzance. or is that taking a dislike of returning the car to the airport a little too far?

regards, ann
annhig is offline  
Feb 7th, 2009, 07:28 AM
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Thanks everyone, I'll certainly pass on info to friend. You have certainly given us some great ideas.
Janisj, when you have more time I'd like your thoughts on where my friend should base herself in the south. We'll do some reading on the Forum about trains to Gatwick. I think I have her almost convinced about dropping off the car at airport. MissPrism, I have a tendency to agree about the buses. I would certainly not want the area spoiled when I visit next.
rasmesfin is offline  
Feb 7th, 2009, 08:41 AM
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We'll make that area sound undesirable when we get home and write our trip report, if that would help.
stokebailey is offline  
Feb 7th, 2009, 08:59 AM
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annhig, freudian typo. Ha!
stokebailey is offline  
Feb 7th, 2009, 10:24 AM
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Derbyshire is indeed beautiful and the only buses I saw in early September '08 were disgorging loads of Brits at Chatsworth, so beware when the heathen hoards of Americans show up. I did try to behave whilst I was there.

We also stayed at a wonderful B&B on the Chatsworth estates but about 15 miles from the house--Dannah Farm Country House, which I never hesitate to recommend, getting like ira and Hotel Bonaparte. Wonderful dogs at Dannah Farm, but outside.

Your friends are making more work for themselves not dropping the car off at a London airport, particularly if they are flying out immediately. The only "first class" service I get anymore is the rental car drop off right outside the terminal! If the final destination is central London, one of the airports still makes the most sense--obviously Gatwick if they are last in Kent and Sussex.
Cathinjoetown is offline  
Feb 8th, 2009, 05:31 AM
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Author: stokebailey
Date: 02/07/2009, 12:59 pm

annhig, freudian typo. Ha!>>

even better - I typed "fraudian typo".

rasmsfin <<Janisj, when you have more time I'd like your thoughts on where my friend should base herself in the south.>>

what does she like? - villages/small towns/coast/?

Tunbridge Wells makes a nice central town - easy to get to all the lovely places jansj has mentioned plus an interesting place in itself, with shops, restaurants etc.

regards, ann

annhig is offline  
Feb 8th, 2009, 07:31 AM
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Here's another suggestion: upon arrival at Heathrow, take the bus directly to Bath, spend a couple days there, then rent a car. After touring around south England, they can drop the car at Gatwick and take the train into London for their 4 days. Then they can get to Heathrow for their return flight by the Paddington Heathrow Express.

We thought dropping a car at Heathrow a little difficult. It required 2 or 3 longish circumferences of the airport, but we did ultimately succeed.
Mimar is offline  
Feb 20th, 2009, 02:22 PM
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Thanks again for suggestions. My friend is going to attend a class at the Royal School of Needlework at Hampton Court which has changed her plans somewhat; but has served to help make her aims clearer, we think. As the class is on May the 16th they will leave London after 6 days in London the 17th for Bath. They will stay in Bath two days, pick up their car the morning they leave and head for Salisbury. They will visit Stourhead on the way or include it from their base in Salisbury. Wilton House and Stonehenge are also to be visited and maybe Winchester. After three days. they will drive east and Ann, at this time they are looking at Tunbridge Wells for a base to visit Sissinghurst and other places of interest.
After four days they will drive their car back to Heathrow and leave the UK. I would appreciate any comments on this itinerary. I've been reading such great trip reports in helping my friends to plan their trip that I feel rather guilty that I've never posted anything about our wonderful trip in May. We had such a great time and wax poetic every time we get together and sigh jealously when we talk about our friend's return visit. I live vicariously. Thanks again.
rasmesfin is offline  
Feb 20th, 2009, 02:39 PM
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Hi rasmesfin,

Sorry don't know the bit around Salisbury very well, but I think that there are a number of Nat Trust places in that area. Also, William Golding wrote a novel about the building of the spire of Salisbury Cathedral [called "The Spire"].

After that, T/Wells as a centre for touring Kent is excellent. the whole area from Tenterden [or even Canterbury] in the east to Lewes in the west is really lovely. A good cross-country route from Winchester to T/wells woudl be Petersfield, Midhurst, Petworth [large country house] Billingshurst, Cowfold, Hayward's Heath, Uckfield, Crowborough, and T/Wells. Realistically, that would take you all day, but you'd have seen a lot of southern England en route.

It sounds like a great trip.

regards, ann
annhig is offline  
Feb 20th, 2009, 02:51 PM
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HI rasmesfin - I haven't replied before because I am not familiar with that part of UK, but your new itin mentioned Bath and Salisbury, which I visited last year. Do pay a visit to Wilton House, as I think it's truly a gem. Quite a number of movies have filmed there too, and after I've been there, it's so easy for me to recognize it due to the famous van Dyck painting that features prominently in every movie that was filmed there.

And of course, the Salisbury Cathedral is a don't-miss. They have very good free guided tours of the cathedral, but also a paid tour of the towers if you're inclined to do that.

There are a couple more museums and historic houses in Salisbury which unfortunately I did not have time for on my visit.

If you're looking for a place to stay in Salisbury, I would not hesitate to recommend 85 Exeter Street B&B. It is a 5-min walk to the Cathedral, and the proprietor, Susan, is a docent at Wilton House, which is such a nice added bonus.
yk is offline  
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