Trains, Tours, or Automobiles?

Feb 15th, 2013, 10:02 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Feb 2013
Posts: 55
Trains, Tours, or Automobiles?

I am going to London for the first (and very possibly only) time this summer for a short study abroad course that will be 10 days in London. I'm planning to fly over 9 days early to gain an extra week of travel and would love some advice about how to best go where I'd like to go.

Basic thoughts on schedule--all time frames very "-ishy"
Gatwick to Winchester (Chawton and Austen museum, W Castle) for day and 1/2
Bath/Sodbury area for 2 days (want to do one of the Cotswold walks in Little Sodbury)
Oxford for a day
Stratford Upon Avon for a day
St. Albans for a day or so (not as certain here but found it in my online research and think it looks really interesting)

I am really flexible and don't want to be frantic, but still experience what I can. Is this way more than can be done in 8 days?

My first thought was trains, but soon became overwhelmed at idea. I am from western US and much more comfortable at the thought of driving, so have been looking into renting a car to take the circuitous route--of course it looks so small and easy, but I gathered quickly from other posts that driving in UK can be problematic. I also looked into day tours basing from London and that looks to have potential, but not much control.

Aack! Any thoughts on any of my rambling? (Please be gentle with me . . . I'm new to all of this ) Thank you!!
gogogriff is offline  
Feb 15th, 2013, 11:30 PM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 19,630
A lot of these can be done as day-trips from London by train or bus without paying a commercial tour company, and without the complications of trying to work out cross-country routes (which can indeed be complicated), and (if you don't leave it till the last minute to buy your tickets) cheaper and less stressful than driving on the "wrong" side of the road.

The one that does seem to require staying out of London would be walking around Little Sodbury, but that's one for the Cotswold experts, I think.
PatrickLondon is online now  
Feb 16th, 2013, 10:33 AM
Join Date: Oct 2005
Posts: 63,239
As Patrick suggests - most of those areas are easy day trips from London. Some are also easy by car, some aren't. A drive across from Oxford to St Albans wouldn't be bad because it is essentially motorway all the way. Driving TO Oxford is easy, driving/parking IN Oxford isn't.

Little Sodbury is in sort of the far SW Cotswolds. I'm personally not sure what sort of bus service is in the area -but the general area would be easier by car. However, driving/parking IN Bath is almost as bad as Oxford. Fortunately both cities have excellent park & Ride lots on the outskirts so one needn't drive into the centers.

If you feel up to driving (I personally enjoy driving in the UK) - I'd take maybe 6 or 7 of your nine days (after acclimating/recovering from jetlag) and do a loop of Chawton > Stonehenge/Avebury > Bath > the Sodbury's > Stratford > Oxford > St Albans.

The main reasons I'd do this instead of as day trips from London are 1) cost, and 2) efficiency/convenience.

Accommodations in London will cost more than out in the countryside. Why pay London prices if you will be out of town every day. Even if your discounted college accommodations are available before the course starts, you can probably find cheaper B&Bs outside of town. And while a car rental is not cheap, it would likely be comparable to all the train travel.

And w/ a car one can dawdle/explore/stop anywhere that interests you, which isn't possible on point to point train or bus trips.

I'd head out to either LGW or LHR on public transport, collect a car there and then drop it at Luton airport (not far from St Albans) and take the train back into London.
janisj is offline  
Feb 16th, 2013, 11:15 AM
Join Date: Oct 2005
Posts: 63,239
Or - another option - do everything except St Albans by car. Drop the rental in Oxford and train or bus back to London. Then do St Albans as an easy day trip by train one of your free London days.

main reason being - for the drive from Oxford to St Albans to make any sense, one would stick to the motorways, so not much scenery/exploring enroute. Everything else on your list is to the south and west side of London while St Albans is due north.
janisj is offline  
Feb 16th, 2013, 02:21 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Feb 2013
Posts: 55
Thank you for your help! I like the idea of dropping the car in Oxford, but having it for the Cotswolds. I forgot Windsor but thought it should fit on the loop before Chawton if I am understanding my directions correctly. As much as the driving might be a bit intimidating, it seems like going back and forth each day from London, to much the same vicinity, is more driving than seeing.

I just happened upon the Little Sodbury area in roaming sites, but wondered if there is a better place to settle for a few days to experience that area?

PatrickLondon, thank you for the rail links.

Janisj, is there anything in this general area of England that you would particularly recommend? As a quick bkgnd--I am married, 40, and used to teach English. This chance just popped up and I am taking my first 'alone' vacation in 15 years. Excited and nervous! So you can see that this input is REALLY helpful
gogogriff is offline  
Feb 16th, 2013, 02:35 PM
Join Date: Oct 2005
Posts: 63,239
It sounded like there was a specific walk you wanted to do around Little Sodbury. If that isn't the case (or even if it is) - you could base yourself anywhere in the Cotswolds. If you want a nice town w/ lots of pubs/restaurants but still a village-y feeling, Burford would be good. But really, with a car anyplace - Chipping Campden, Winchcombe, Stow-on-the-Wold, Tetbury, would be good.
janisj is offline  
Feb 16th, 2013, 06:26 PM
Join Date: Oct 2003
Posts: 57,890
A couple o fthings to note:

Don;t drive more than a limited time - an hour or so - right off the plane - since jetlag can really disorient you

Be aware that in the UK they have lots of roundabouts (traffic circles) versus intersections with traffic light. If you are not used to them (and they are very rare in the US since they are so dangerous - they can be tricky). Do not feel you have to get the right exit on the first cricle - I have seen a ton of accidents caused by this - people pulling from the center to an exit across rows of traffic. Instead, keep circling until you are sure where you want to exit and then make your way there gradually. (There wass a large one I had to use to get to a former client and I would say I saw an accident there about 10% of the time I went through. They changed it to a regular intersection a couple of years later.)
nytraveler is offline  
Feb 16th, 2013, 09:39 PM
Join Date: Oct 2005
Posts: 63,239
>>Don;t drive more than a limited time - an hour or so - right off the plane - since jetlag can really disorient you<<

No - don't drive at all on your arrival day. But since you have 9 days to 'play with' that isn't a problem.

>>and they are very rare in the US since they are so dangerous - they can be tricky<<

>> Do not feel you have to get the right exit on the first cricle - I have seen a ton of accidents caused by this - people pulling from the center to an exit across rows of traffic<<

Come on (!) how many 'tons' of accidents have you seen on UK Roundabouts?? You must be talking about stoopid drivers in NY or MA . . . Not in England.
janisj is offline  
Feb 16th, 2013, 10:38 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Feb 2013
Posts: 55
Thanks for your suggestions and tips. Very helpful!
gogogriff is offline  
Feb 17th, 2013, 12:13 AM
Join Date: Jun 2009
Posts: 1,289
Roundabouts are great once you get the hang of it. It is very difficult to explain them in a few words, however. Even the seemingly simple advice above by nytraveler can cause an accident if followed incorrectly.

If you are "turning" right on a multi-lane roundabout, you'd better be in the inside (right) lane. If you stick to the outside (left) lane to go on your Chevy Chase European vacation tour around the roundabout, that most certainly will cause an accident. [You are supposed to cut across the roundabout when exiting on that "right turn" example above. It works because the folks to your left have already exited to the left or straight.]

In general, get in the appropriate lane on approach and don't change lanes IN the roundabout. The appropriate lane is generally, left for left, right for right, and either for straight unless signage tells you otherwise.

Quick tutorial below; I'm sure other's exist.
indy_dad is offline  
Feb 17th, 2013, 01:34 AM
Join Date: Aug 2012
Posts: 1,313
Ah.. the old roundabout debate.

They are NOT more dangerous than intersections but very much safer, which is why a number of US states are now building them. They are not the same as traffic circles found in the north east US.

And the Chevy Chase scenario simply does not happen as traffic joining the roundabout gives way to traffic already on the roundabout, thereby allowing traffic to exit.
sofarsogood is offline  
Feb 17th, 2013, 08:48 AM
Join Date: Oct 2012
Posts: 246

UK road deaths per million - 31

France - 61

USA -106

Germany 49

Roundabouts are safer, that's why many countries are building them now.

The USA has built 3000 in the last 20 years.

>>and they are very rare in the US since they are so dangerous - they can be tricky<<

This is tosh.
Havana128 is offline  
Feb 17th, 2013, 11:48 AM
Join Date: Apr 2003
Posts: 17,136
" I have seen a ton of accidents caused by this - people pulling from the center to an exit across rows of traffic<<"

In God knows how many decades of driving on roundabout-infested roads (including many in Massachusetts) I've encountered just one case of a car " pulling from the center (sic) to an exit across rows of traffic"

When I, a week or so after passing my test, was sufficiently not in control of my car that I couldn't stop, careered across the roundabout and ended up with a car sort of temporarily impaled on the top of the roundabout itself.

And, though it's by far the stupidest thing I've ever encountered on British roads, it was still safe because the roundabout was devoid of any other traffic. Even in my confused state, I'd have slowed down well in time to navigate the roundabout properly if I'd seen any other cars.

Anyone - even in the US - fantasising they've seen "a ton of accidents caused by this" is simply deluded. Or does his driving stoned or pissed. Roundabouts are disconcerting. But they're spectacularly safe, because everyone else is just as petrified.
flanneruk is offline  
Feb 17th, 2013, 11:56 AM
Join Date: Apr 2003
Posts: 17,136

The one HUGE sore thumb in your itinerary is this "want to do one of the Cotswold walks in Little Sodbury" bit.

I spend several hours walking the Cotswolds almost every day of my life (virtually the only exceptions being if I'm somewhere foreign or just doing an hour or so because I've got a meeting somewhere less favoured)

I've yet to find a walk worth going hours out of my for in a part of the world where we've got tens of thousands of open-access footpaths across countryside which fluctuates between very pretty and very, very pretty.

Nowhere here's a "must see" (whatever that's meant to mean): nowhere's worth avoiding.

Honestly: your plans would be a lot easier to manage if you did your walking round Burford or anywhere on the Cotswold Line - or even right outside Bath itself (the walk to Bradford, then back by train, for example).
flanneruk is offline  
Feb 17th, 2013, 10:34 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Feb 2013
Posts: 55
janisj- I think my flight arrives in London about 7am. What would be a good thing to do the first day if I shouldn't drive? I know I will be crashing (traveled to the Philippines before and experienced jetlag) but know that I won't want to just be at a hotel. Any lower-key things in London area (south or south of London) that would be fun?

flanneruk- I appreciate your thoughts on the walk in the Cotswolds. I want to go to Bath and figured since I was there it would be fun to explore the area more on foot and get a feel for the landscape. The walk I found led through an old iron fort that I thought sounded worth seeing, but I am WAY open to suggestions about the area as a whole. I can see I need to do more homework on what is available.

to the round-about issue--my city just put in roundabouts at several crucial traffic areas including highway exits within the last few years. They were griped and groaned about by the locals, but now that we have them under our belt, you'd think we'd thought of them ourselves! They've worked for us
gogogriff is offline  
Feb 17th, 2013, 11:06 PM
Join Date: Oct 2005
Posts: 63,239
>>old iron fort<<

That isn't an iron fort. It is an Iron age hill fort . . . which are 10 a penny in England. Basically just earthworks in a field

Maybe this will give you an idea.

As for what to the first day - a couple of good options would include 1) spend the first day/night in Windsor. It is only 7 miles from LHR. So you have the option booking IN Windsor, or at an inexpensive airport hotel and commuting over to Windsor for the day. Magnificent castle, river, Eton, plenty to keep you busy and awake. Then you could collect a car the next day to start your touring.

or 2) take the express coach to Oxford and spend the day exploring car-less. Collect a car the next day --and do your touring loop in reverse . . . Stratford > the Cotswolds > Bath > Stonehenge/Salisbury > Winchester and drop the car at LHR before heading into London for your course.
janisj is offline  
Feb 18th, 2013, 01:38 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Feb 2013
Posts: 55
Janisj--okay, I am cracking up about my confusion about the forts. I totally misunderstood the website I perused. (in my defense there were no pictures or descriptions of the "forts"!) I appreciated the pictures and have looked around a bit more. Definitely different but even though they are common in England, they still sound really interesting to see.

I think we all get used to the area in which we live and forget how unique our corners of the world actually are--England and its history and timelines blow me away! The land forts were built in the 8th century! The only thing we have to even begin to come close timeline-wise is our Native American history, but it is still not fully understood and certainly not as well preserved or permanent (although, again, I am probably not appreciating the petroglyphs that I have always known).

It is hard to pin down just what to do and see--but that is part of the fun of traveling!
gogogriff is offline  
Feb 18th, 2013, 01:47 PM
Join Date: Nov 2004
Posts: 7,134
Well, the Roman baths in Bath date back to the first century and are much more interesting than a pile of dirt in a field. Actually there are quite a few Roman ruins in England; St. Albans is a great place to see some.
Mimar is offline  

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off
Trackbacks are Off
Pingbacks are Off
Refbacks are On

Thread Tools
Search this Thread

Contact Us - Archive - Advertising - Cookie Policy -


All times are GMT -8. The time now is 04:24 AM.