Southern England end of March

Old Jan 5th, 2010, 05:50 PM
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Southern England end of March

We're going to be in England 3/27 through 4/6 - my husband, me, and our 3 kids who are 17, 15 & 9. We'll be starting in London, staying near Hyde Park, and would like to see southeast England, Bath, Stonehenge, and Cornwall if possible. We plan to spend 4 nights in London (the first night we arrive into Heathrow at 8:30pm) so we'll have 3-4 days in London, and then we have 5-6 days to see other things. We're a pretty low-key family who enjoy just being in a town as well as seeing sights - we're probably not going to spend more than 4-5 hours a day actually "seeing" things, and are just as happy to spend time sitting in restaurants, strolling around parks, taking aimless walks, etc. Also, while the kids like cities, they kind of prefer country areas.

Since this is our first trip to England, advice is welcomed for "bases" in the southeast and Cornwall for 2 nights each; we already plan to stay in Bath for at least 2 nights of our trip (a total of 10 nights).

Is it more advisable to head west first, towards Cornwall, or east, towards Dover or Brighton? Or does it matter?

Is Cornwall too far out of the way and would you recommend visiting the Cotswolds instead? The reason I've picked Cornwall is that our family loved the wildness of the west of Ireland when we visited Ireland in 2008, more than the rolling hills of the midlands.

Any other thoughts/recommendations are welcome. Thanks!

megapax is offline  
Old Jan 5th, 2010, 08:51 PM
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Bit of a reality check in order here.

You have at very most 5 days outside of London and more likely only 4 since the last day will be mostly spent packing and getting to the airport.

Now, look at a map - Southeast England, Bath and Cornwall are all far apart. Kent/East Sussex (SE England) would easily fill 4 or 5 days and only see the highlights. Bath and Cornwall would eat up 4 or 5 days simply because Cornwall/Devon are a long ways SW and a long way back to LHR.

And on top of that you are visiting during Easter week and popular places like Cornwall will be very crowded.

So, no in 4 or 5 days you really can't see Dover, Brighton, Stonehenge, Bath and Cornwall. The driving is slow, the sights are thick on the ground and the moving/packing/checking in/checking out takes its toll.

So what to do - I'd split your time 50/50 London and countryside and cut back on where you go. Stay an additional day in London since your first day will likely be jet lagged and you already have very little time there.

Then take your pick -- spend the time in Kent/East Sussex and hit Stonehenge on your way back to LHR - or - visit Stonehenge, Bath, and a bit of Dorset and the coast.

Another option might be to skip everything but London, Cornwall and Devon. Take the train from London to Exeter, pick up a rental car and tour around the SW for 4 days, drive back to LHR and drop the car before flying out.
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Old Jan 5th, 2010, 09:52 PM
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Good advice from janisj. I know the distances seem minute compared to what you might drive in your own country, but the roads are also busy, tiny, often under construction and except for the M roads and some of the A's, are usually through villages or busy (farm equipment, etc.) countryside. You could probably do a Cotswolds/Bath/Stonehenge visit staying 3 nights at one place and 2 at another, seeing Stonehenge (it's not worth more than an hour) on the way. Is there anything in particular that is a must see for the kids?
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Old Jan 6th, 2010, 02:15 AM
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This loop is doable:

You drive from London to Stonehenge. No need to spend more than 20 minutes there. Continue to Salisbury, visit the Cathedral. Have lunch in Salisbury.

Then drive to North Devon (~3 hours). When you love the Western shore of Ireland, you will love North Devon too - spectacular coastline. The most beautiful section is between Minehead and Woolacombe. We chose Woolacombe as a base and very extremely pleased. Options for daytrips to Clovelly, Lynmouth, Valley of Rocks, Exmoor Natl. Park/Tarr Steps.

Spend two or three days there. Then drive to Bath, with a stop in Wells (cathedral!). Arrive in Bath in the afternoon, get the first impressions. Visit the Roman Baths and the cathedral next morning, then drive back to London.

Read this trip report:
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Old Jan 6th, 2010, 01:49 PM
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Thanks, all. For further clarification, we arrive on Sat 3/27 at 8:30pm, and depart Tue 4/6 at 6:30pm, so we will have 9.5 days for our visit.

An English friend (from Newcastle) suggested we skip the southeast entirely, and head straight from London to Bath, then see Salisbury, Cornwall and Wales or the Cotswolds before going back to Heathrow. That seems to be what others are suggesting too.

JanisJ, we followed your suggestion in 2008 about visiting Windsor Castle during a layover in Heathrow, and it was wondrous.

Rickmav, the things that are must-sees for the teenagers are the Roman Baths and Stonehenge. Other than that, it's pretty much whatever we serve up to them. I did figure the roads in England would be similar to Ireland - what looks close on a map isn't when you allow for driving 25mph and stopping for sheep (or whatever blocks the roads in England).

Echnaton, my friend suggested Devon as well. And thanks for the trip report, it sounds very similar to the attitude we want to take. Might take me a while to get through it!
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Old Jan 19th, 2010, 06:39 AM
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Since you're going at a time of the year when maybe you don't have to book accomodation too far ahead, you might consider checking the long term weather forecasts and being somewhat flexible.

We were in Devon and Cornwall last fall, and I agree, the north coast of Devon is spectacular, assuming you can see it. If it's really misty and rainy it's a lovely "English" experience, but maybe not as much fun for 5 people in a car. Agree with Echnaton that Clovelly, Valley of Rocks, and Exmoor Natl. Park were very cool.

Personally we did not think Cornwall was anywhere near as spectacular as the west coast of Ireland ( sorry, I know I'm stepping on some toes)

We loved visiting Bath, and Hampton Court, I think the kids would really like Hampton Court.

Love the Cotswolds. Fodorites sent us to Minster Lovell, not a town, but a "ruins" just lovely. Bibury, Bourton on the Water and the Slaughters probably our favorites.

I'm hoping too that we can go in mid March, we're going to probably base in the SE for gardens and castles. Can't wait!
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Old Jan 19th, 2010, 07:51 AM
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Since you're going at a time of the year when maybe you don't have to book accomodation too far ahead, you might consider checking the long term weather forecasts and being somewhat flexible.

You're going over Easter...School holidays..and folks taking advantage of the 4 days will be heaving!!
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