Easter Weekend, starting in London, going where?
March 19, 2013 3:24 PM   Subscribe

Due to a last-minute work trip and a big difference in plane ticket prices, I have from Thursday evening through to a 2 PM Heathrow departure Monday free to go exploring. Where should I go and what should I do?

Generally speaking, I like good food, local color, places of historical interest, and pretty scenery. I've done most of the major London tourist destinations, so my preference would be to go explore somewhere new. I'll be alone, but I've travelled solo before and enjoyed it, so that's unlikely to be a concern. Planes, trains and busses are all options, though renting a car and trying to drive on the wrong side of the road is something I'd like to avoid. Time is much more a limiting factor on this trip than money, but I'd rather stay in a quirky local bed and breakfast than a bland luxury hotel. There's no reason I have to stay in the UK, though I'd like to be efficient about my travel time.

My one concern is that since it's Easter weekend, will all of the places I want to see either be closed, or booked up weeks in advance? Where would I be most likely to find open restaurants and attractions or, even better, special celebratory activities like festivals, concerts, etc? Anything else I should plan in advance around the holiday?

I'm counting on your suggestions for an awesome, impromptu holiday!
posted by psycheslamp to Travel & Transportation around London, England (7 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Go for lunch at Brixton Village.
posted by mani at 3:31 PM on March 19, 2013 [1 favorite]

Take a train Thursday evening to York, spend two days in the city with a day trip to Scarborough or the North York Moors. Train home early Monday morning.

Train services on Good Friday (29 March) and Easter Monday (1 April) are likely to have fewer trains, but should still run. Shops may not be all open on Good Friday, but a place like York is touristy and so there should still be food and drinks open, and most visitor attractions.
posted by Jehan at 3:50 PM on March 19, 2013

Normally I'd suggest the West Country - but be aware there are very major train works on the line between London, Reading and Bristol that weekend. Don't plan to go that way by train! (Bus will be fine tho...)
posted by prentiz at 3:52 PM on March 19, 2013

Would the west country still be accessible from Waterloo?
posted by biffa at 5:39 PM on March 19, 2013

London will be quieter during Easter, in my experience, so you should find it easier to get dinner reservations and see some of the non-touristy or lesser known things more easily. Big public holidays are a great time to see London generally because there is stuff on, the tube is less busy and it is less hectic.

However, I want to mention Norfolk, which is 2 hours north of London and within easy reach by train. It will still be popular with families over Easter, but it doesn't get anything like the same level of attention as areas like the Lake District, for example. It has a huge coastline, which means you can go for long walks in relative peace. There are the Norfolk Broads. It has lovely coastal towns like Wells-next-the-Sea, and beautiful old houses like Holkham Hall. It is within easy reach of London, but in honesty to get the best out of it you would need a car. Although it is in Suffolk (on the Suffolk/Norfolk border), a lovely boutique place to stay is Stratton's in Swaffham.*

*Swaffham itself is an unremarkable place, but places nearer the coast will be both busier and probably more expensive.

If you absolutely don't want to drive then York is a great option. I'd also give a shout out for the Northumberland coast, i.e. north of Newcastle. You could base yourself around Alnwick and get to see beautiful, windswept coast with places like Lindisfarne, loads of castles, lovely people, great beer or choose to stay in Newcastle and day trip out from there. Newcastle is 3 hours by train from London. Newcastle/Gateshead is a cultural hub so there is a lot to do and see, including the Baltic Mill. By and large, your £ stretches further up north when it comes to food, accommodation and beer.

A note on trains: they will be crazy busy on Thursday night/Friday morning and very expensive if you don't buy in advance. Choose where you want to go asap and book ahead using a service like The Trainline.
posted by MuffinMan at 2:07 AM on March 20, 2013

I second Jehan's suggestion. (I believe we're both a bit biased here, though.) Maybe swap Whitby for Scarborough. It's a bit bigger and has a bit more to see--I think Whitby Abbey beats Scarborough Castle, both in terms of 'interesting to look at' and 'has information for visitors'. Plus there's an arch made out of a whale jaw and a statue of Captain Cook (if that won't convince you, what will). However, it's easier to get to Scarborough. It's less than an hour on the train vs just over two hours by bus to Whitby.

In York, you've got a load of museums, at least some of which should be open. It looks like the Jorvik Viking Centre is, which is well worth a visit. Supposedly the Castle Museum is good, but it's basically the one thing I haven't been to in York, besides the obvious tourist traps. There's the National Railway Museum, though I haven't been since I was a kid. There's a model railway somewhere, too. And the Minster, obviously. (You can climb the central tower, though perhaps not at the end of March. My mother banned me from doing it as a kid and having seen the pictures my dad and brother took, I'm not sure I would ever have the nerve, as you have to walk out across the roof.)
posted by hoyland at 6:12 AM on March 20, 2013

The West Country is accessible from Waterloo. You change at Salisbury. It's about 1h30 to Salisbury and about 1h from Salisbury to Bristol Temple Meads.

However, you can still get from London Paddington to Bristol over the Easter weekend. It will just take longer because the trains will go via Oxford [details here, page 2].
posted by MuffinMan at 9:49 AM on March 20, 2013

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