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Help Needed Help on itinerary in UK

Meerkat37

New Member
We would be grateful for some help on planning a self drive trip through the UK. Our problem is that there is too much to see and do and only limited time.
We can allocate about 30 days in England, Wales and Scotland and included in that time we want to spend about 5 or 6 day in London (we have been to London before and love it) We are thinking of going in either late May and all June or alternatively in September and early October.

We want to go to the following areas and need to know where we should make our base for day trips and how many days should we devote to each area
Cornwall and Devon and SW England generally
The Cotwolds
The Lake District
Yorkshire Dales area
Towns of York, Bath, Durham
Northern Wales
any other suggestions

We are interested in beautiful scenery, quaint villages, stately homes, short walks of no more than 2 hours. Local culture. We intend to self drive but want to try to avoid busy highways etc. We want to stay in B and B's or small hotels.

We are two seniors in our 70's but are fit. We are from Australia and so speak the language and drive on the "correct side of the road"

Any comments or suggestions would be most welcome.
 

Eleanor

1000+ Posts
That is an ambitious itinerary even for 30 days! You mention Scotland at the top but not in your list. Is this an error? You will be pushing it to do justice to all those places in the time allowed. You could virtually fill the time just in England! Don’t underestimate the time taken to drive between destinations. Distances may not look far on the map compared with Australia, but will take a lot longer to cover than you might expect. Parts of the UK are quite congested and traffic is slow. More rural areas are quieter but roads are slow!

If using Google maps to plan allow AT LEAST 25% to their times PLUS stops. Remember if you are wanting to avoid busy highways these times will increase even more.

It is a good idea to start in London and recover from jet lag there. You don’t want/need a car in London either! London to Cornwall is a full days drive and Devon and Cornwall do deserve a week to explore (especially if investing that amount of time to get there).

You need to decided where you are going to hire and return the car and whether a one way hire makes sense (despite charges for a one way drop off).

One possibility is to take a train to say Oxford and use that as your start/return base. This also avoids any hassel in trying to drive out of London!

From Oxford spend 2-3 days exploring the Cotswolds. There are plenty of ‘quaint’ villages and Blenheim Palace is one of the best stately homes you can visit and takes a full day.

From the Cotswolds head to Bath which deserves AT LEAST a full day to explore .

Then head to the SW - Cornwall and Devon for 5-6 days.

You now have to retrace your steps to head up north. North Wales would fit in here and you need to allocate 3 full days to this (lots of castles, good scenery and preserved steam trains). From North Wales head to the Lake District - again for a minimum of 3 days. Now head to the Yorkshire Dales area and choose a central location - Hawes, Settle, Skipton spring to mind. There are lots of easy walks in this area and again you need to allow at a minimum of 3 days to explore.

Then move to York. The city deserves at least two days and you can do a day trip from Durham from here.

Either drop the car off in York and get the train back to London OR drive back to Oxford to drop it off and then train back to London

I reckon that has easily filled your 30 days.
 

Pauline

Forums Admin
I live in England now but we came here on holiday every summer for 10 years. For one trip we got a car service from the airport to Salisbury, spent a week there, picked up a rental car during the week, then stayed in three other places for a week each - Cotswolds, Somerset and Devon. We concentrated on the South West. On other trips we concentrated on just the Cotswolds - two weeks in Burford, then two weeks near Broadway. We spent our days walking/hiking and exploring the local area.

I agree with Eleanor that you will have to cut back on your destinations. And that it take a lot of time to drive between places here.

You might consider limiting yourself to southern England - Cotswolds, Devon, Cornwall and then to Wales. Eleanor's plan looks good too.

Are you going to book your accommodations ahead or while traveling? Please note that if you want to stay in vacation rentals, many book up well ahead of time. You can book for less than a week now in most places if it is not the high season (July and August).

We are thinking of going in either late May and all June or alternatively in September and early October.
Both of these are good times to be in the UK. Any time from May to October is good.
 

Ian Sutton

500+ Posts
We can allocate about 30 days in England, Wales and Scotland and included in that time we want to spend about 5 or 6 day in London (we have been to London before and love it) We are thinking of going in either late May and all June or alternatively in September and early October.

We want to go to the following areas and need to know where we should make our base for day trips and how many days should we devote to each area
Cornwall and Devon and SW England generally
The Cotwolds
The Lake District
Yorkshire Dales area
Towns of York, Bath, Durham
Northern Wales
any other suggestions

We are interested in beautiful scenery, quaint villages, stately homes, short walks of no more than 2 hours. Local culture. We intend to self drive but want to try to avoid busy highways etc. We want to stay in B and B's or small hotels.
Always the toughest job is to trim back, but trimming back makes you appreciate wha you do see even more.

Suggestions
- try to bundle it up into (say) 6 day chunks, allowing one of those 6 days to be eaten into by transfers etc.
- try then to make those 5 different chunks of 6 days noticeably different experiences, so that segment represents not just that region, but a specific experience yopu can look forward to

e.g.
1. London gives you the big city, the famous sites/sights, the high energy. However also slot into it a walk or two in the great (free) public parks (Regents Park, Hyde Park etc.) to give you some green repite from the hustle and bustle

2. Then take a big change of pace by exploring the countryside. The Cotswolds might be easiest, taking the train from London and picking up a hire car there, rather than suffering the busy traffic around London. Find a nice central base village with an appealing pub/restaurant in it, so if you just want a quiet day on arrival, all is easy. Find some good circular walks and use the car to get to them, plus enjoy the relaxed driving on country roads. Either day trip down to Bath, or

3. Turn it into a road trip 3rd leg as you do a circuit of the South West. Stay in B&Bs, a different one each night and have your bags packed so that most stays in the car, just taking a day bag into each B&B to save lugging heavy bags around.

4. Head straight up to York/Yorkshire. The drive will be on motorways, not lovely quiet roads, but you'll be thankful for that when it takes 4-4.5 hours rather than 6 or 7 hours. If staying in York, then use the excellent rail services to give you a day off from driving to visit Durham. Whilst up there, plenty of other things to see from stately homes to wonderful beach towns to stunning walking/scenery

5. Head across to the Lake district for a rural finish of fine walking (you'll have leg muscles of steel by this point). 4 and 5 could easily be switched in order. Again choose a base with good facilities in walking distance, but ideally get a great view as well.

5.1 Drive back down to the airport (Heathrow?) as you'll be more comfortable with the driving by then, so the busy traffic should't be too stressful.

This suggestion ignores North Wales and Scotland. If you want either of those in, I'd suggest removing one of the other blocks, rather than trying to shoehorn it in alongside. As Pauline suggests, this would be counterproductive.
 

Meerkat37

New Member
Thank you Eleanor, Pauline and Ian for those great suggestions. Much appreciated. We have been rethinking our trip and have come up with the following. Firstly is essential that the trip be slow and relaxed. So we have reluctantly decided to leave out Scotland and London. We have been to London before and feel we will see it again. Wales may possibly be left out but perhaps we can fit in a couple of days in North Wales?
Here is our thinking. We feel we can increase the tour another few days to say 33 days
We hire a car in Heathrow (hope its not too stressful) and drive to Devon and Cornwall stopping for a couple of days in Winchester or Salsbury to ease into things. We make our way to Tavistock for a base in Devon and Cornwall and stay say 6 days.
We make our way to the Cotswolds and stay for 7 days including one full day each for Bath and Oxford. Possibly stay at Bourton on the water or stow on the Wold or Chipping Campden or a combination of several places.
We make our way up to the Lake District (possibly staying for two night in North Wales-depending on time) .At Lake District stay for 7 nights at say Ambleside or Kendal or Windamere or a combination.
Make our way to the coast erea to see Durham, Whitby and York. Give it 6 or 7 days including driving back to Heathrow. Driving across to the coast area could we squeeze in the Yorkshire Dales or is it too much.
We like Ians suggestion of taking a train from York to Durham. We also like his idea of 6 day chunks. Not sure if it is better to based in one place for 6 nights or move every second day to a new place. Pros and Cons!
Thanks again for all your help.
PS We looked at one conducted tour which started in London, then to Oxford along the scenic Great West Road, then on to the Cotswolds, then onto Bath. All in the first day!! Not our kind of trip!
 

Pauline

Forums Admin
Much better plan.

Arrival: Salisbury as a first stop would let you easily visit Stonehenge if you haven’t seen it before. Salisbury is also a beautiful town.
Devon: Tavistock is a lovely town but it might be quite a drive into Cornwall.
Cotswolds: Not Bourton on the Water. It is a tour bus town. Stow or CC are nice. Did you read my page about The Cotswolds?
6 nights: Much better to base somewhere for 6 or 7 nights then to change every 2 nights. We recommend slow travel here :)
 

Eleanor

1000+ Posts
That is a much better plan - more relaxed and gives you plenty of time to enjoy each of the different areas.

In the Cotswolds, I've always enjoyed Burford and found it makes a good base. I can recommend Huffkins bakery.

York is a good base. The city has a lot going for it and you could easily spend a couple of days there.

The North York Moors are the equal of the Dales but less busy. Rather than trying to do them from York, think about spending a few days there, to cut down on driving times. Pickering or Helmsley would make a good base. Do go for a ride on the North York Moors Steam Railway.

Whitby with its ruined Abbey makes a great day out and you can always go to Scarborough for a day at the seaside. There are ruined castles at Helmsley and Pickering as well as splendid ruined Abbeys at Rievaulx, Byland and Mount Grace Priory (bit further to drive).
 

artnbarb

1000+ Posts
Just my 2 cents: less is more, and if I had to choose between Whitby and Scarborough I'd choose Whitby. Staying in York is a wonderful idea, but just in case you're wanting a small city experience, we loved our stay in Thirsk at Fern Cottage. (We stayed there for 2 full weeks) We took the train from Pickering to Whitby, but unless you're a real train aficionado, I wouldn't recommend it because there was very little scenery. If you have a car I think you'd have a much more scenic drive.
 

Ian Sutton

500+ Posts
Liking it! It's definitely taking shape.

One idea I often promote, is having defined bases, but maybe only 1 day out of a 6 day stay inked in (e.g. an event or activity that you need to book for or a market day). That doesn't mean having nothing to do on the other 5 days. Instead for each base, have a list of options. Some might be pencilled in, but easily changeable.

The thinking behind this, is being on the ground, and knowing exactly how the energy levels are, and what sort of things are working for you, can make for a much more informed decision over the evening meal the night before, or even the breakfast table.

It isn't pure 'winging it though' as each option has a certain amount of prep, to inform the decision, and to have the basics on hand e.g. address/opening hours of a country house, or places to get good fish and chips at the coast!

For me this prep really helps me get excited in the holiday, plus helps me feel less stressed when I'm there, as if I sort of know the place a little already. Without this prep, the flexibility of just a skeleton schedule wouldn't work for me. I need to prep to wing it :bookworm::writing::D
 

ncp

10+ Posts
Our usual plan is to rent apartments but last time we were in the U.K. 2 years ago we booked ahead our first three nights in a pub with rooms (quit nice) outside of rugby, not a long drive after picking up our car at heathrow. We then booked our next pub stay before we left our current lodgings and that way planned ahead a bit but were able to wing it too. We were very surprised at how pleasant it was to stay in pubs, and quiet too. Very often the rooms are in a separate building, they do breakfast like a b&b, included, and if you’re tired from running around all day you don’t have to decide where to eat and you can grab a quick bite and go to bed. Food was really good too, for the most part. We did that for 2 weeks and it worked beautifully for us. We loved the whole pub culture.
 

Ian Sutton

500+ Posts
We were very surprised at how pleasant it was to stay in pubs, and quiet too. We loved the whole pub culture.
Another cracking idea for one leg of the trip, if it's to be done as a mini road trip. By focusing like this, it gives that leg a genuine identity e.g. it might be the South-West circuit, but it's also the pub exploration leg. Such things last in the memory when all else starts to blend in together.
 

ncp

10+ Posts
Ian, that’s pretty much what we did and it was fantastic! Roman archeological sites and ruined abbeys by day and staying in pubs along the way.
 

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