Does anyone have any suggestions for good small towns/villages to stop in inbetween or near these destinations? I'm hoping some of you locals can market your place to us, so we have some ideas. We were told we must see "real" England (and Scotland), not just the big cities and tourist places. I agree, but the "real" stuff isn't in my guidebooks!
May 16th: We arrive in London (LGW) 8 am, we plan to rent a car, and drive directly to a B&B in Bath. Nap and then see the city.
May17th: Bath during day, Stonehenge audio tour and then Private Access tour in the evening.
May 18th: Leave Bath for Lancaster or Manchester or other small (coastal?) town. Lunch in said place, then drive to Bardon Mills.
May 19th: See Hadrian's Wall and Housestead's on Saturday, drive Sat noon to St. Andrews.
May 20th: We need a good church to attend in St. Andrews, then we have a drive tour planned, possibly some time on the coast.
May 21st: Drive to Stirling, tour the castle, Drive tour around Scottish historical sights.
May 22nd: Drive to Edinburgh, tour castle, and walk the Royal Mile.
May 23rd: Drive back down south, ponytrekking on Lindesfarne Wed AM. Early dinner in York, see Yorkminster? Sleep in Lincoln. (this all depends on how long our "trekk" takes)
May 24th: Tour Lincoln castle, cathedral, see the Magna Carta, etc. Drive to Oxford in eve.
May 25th: Take 10 AM CS Lewis tour, Blenheim palace in afternoon, gardens or museum in Oxford in evening, tour colleges?
May 26th: Drive to London, tour Tower of London, ride the London Eye.
May 27th: Need a good church in London for Sunday (We are Reformed Evangelical Christians), then either go to museums, or "Bomb" to Dover and see the Cliffs!!
May 28th: Westminster Abbey AM, suggestions for noon? Then Les Miserables in evening.
May 29th: Depart LGW 10:30AM
Dear Miss Helen,
You are really determined to get the most out of things but, I beg you , be less ambitious. You have no conception, I think, of the state of the UK infrastructure. Driving here is NOT like America. The road system, especially in the vicinity of large conurbations is a nightmare at certaiin times of day and you may find yourself spending a great deal of your holiday in the car, not seeing anything much. Your tour is feasible, but boy, is it exhausting. I shall trace your route and think things out. Meanwhile, I am puzzled by the idea of Manchester as a "small coastal town". Shurely shome mishtake there? It is a major city, not near the coast, and between Bath and Manchester you are missing out a very large slab of England. I have never heard of Bardon Mills but will look it up. Near Hadrian's Wall the roads are rural and map reading needs to be of a high order. You would be best going to Edinburgh before St Andrews.
What I suggest is to obtain a very detailed road atlas of the UK, noting motorways, A and B roads. You cannot zig zag from East to West (and vice versa) of England without encountering difficulties as all main arteries run from north to south and vice versa, converging mainly on London. Motorways are faster, but congested with large trucks and terrifying to drive on till you get used to them. That said, they have a nominal speed limit of 70 miles an hour, but many drivers exceed that routinely.
There are numerous traffic hazards like complex roundabouts, road repairs causing bottlenecks and also frequent traffic accidents which can close off roads for hours. And all this is on the left. If your Dad is driving on his own, I pity him. If you are all taking turns then you will all have to get used to it. On rural roads you may average around thirty miles an hour, and on motorways maybe forty. Look out for the dreaded speed camers. These are big yellow boxes on poles and they flash if you exceed the speed limit. Fines follow, sometimes a long time after you passed that way. Speed limits vary a lot but you will see warnings. In built up areas the speed limit is thirty or even twenty.
I'd also suggest staying out of town centres for the night as they are hell to get in
and out of and accommodation is much more expensive, especially in cities. A city means populations of 250.000 and upwards. The most pleasant places are small, market towns, though these, too, now suffer from congestion and parking problems.
Visit tourist information offices in towns,as you go, or sometimes there are offices at motorway stops. There you will find a wealth of information, including
accommodation lists to book ahead for the night. Also, every area has extensive online lists as long as you know where you are heading for. If you concentrate on
boring, impersonal, chain hotels like Days' Inn, or worse, Travelodges, you will never get a flavour of Britain, and I beg you to stay in country hotels or bed and
breakdfasts, all conveniently graded for you by the English and Scottish tourist boards. There you will be able to chat with fellow guests, question the proprietors
and so forth. If your Dad wants a modest drink at the end of the day, the most typically British thing is to visit a nice pub, especially a village one decked out with real beams and brass nick nacks. You won't find these in city centres, where public drunkeness is rife at night especially on Saturdays. I'm not kidding.
I could work out an outline route for you following your plan, if you wish.
Agree with Alison, there is much to see between BAth and Lancaster and MAnchester.
Lancaster is not too far from Manchester and it is a historical city whereas Manchester is much more modern and is a major UK city, second city of England ! I would recommend both. Chester, which is not too far from MAncehster is also definitely worth visiting...
Wow Helen, nobody can fault your ambition, but I have to agree with Alison. I think you should approximately double the travel times you've worked on here. Although the distances in the UK are small by US standards, population density is far, far higher, resulting in extreme congestion on the roads. (I've driven a 32 foot RV on LA's Interstates and it was a breeze compared to the M62 into Manchester in a morning!)
Personally I think you should create a 'skeleton', 4-centre itinerary based on your preferences for London, Bath, Edinburgh and Oxford (or Lincoln). Also bear in mind that, while Oxford may be fractionally more famous, Cambridge is a far prettier city - and nearer to Lincoln.
Starting from this 'framework', you can then look at towns in between or nearby these centres - that you can 'drop-in' on IF you get the chance. Everybody in the UK knows that a 3-hour drive down a motorway has the potential to turn into a 6-hour drive. You must take this into account or you will overstretch yourself and maybe end up arriving at hotels in the early hours of the morning!
Work out your definite MUST-SEEs first and go from there.
I was a tour operator for a few years and I'd never heard of Bardon Mill! Having now found it, I'd say forget it. It's nowhere near anywhere else you want to go to. Just because Tyneside looks like it's near Edinburgh doesn't mean it's an hour away - it could be four!
Also, even though I was born in Lancashire and Live in the Lake District, I would urge you to forget Lancaster. The traffic is horrendous and there simply isn't enough to warrant the diversion with the time you've got.
Manchester is a great city - but I'd go there for shopping if you feel like it, or a visit to one of the many galleries. It's also probably the best theatre-city outside of London (or Stratford).
And please, please forget Dover! Sure, the cliffs are great, but again, it's several hours from London in reality.