Advice on planning a solo UK trip
April 23, 2013 7:16 AM   Subscribe

I'll be traveling around the UK for the last two weeks of June (Oxford, Bath, Edinburgh, York, London). I've never traveled abroad solo and would appreciate some tips/advice!

I plan to visit Oxford (+Blenheim Palace), Bath (+Glastonbury Tor, Salisbury/Stonehenge), Edinburgh, York, and London. I might make day trips from London to other towns but that's up in the air for now.

- Found places to stay in Oxford and London via friends, but no idea about Bath, Edinburgh, and York. I've been looking up hostels/B&Bs (TripAdvisor, hostelbookers), but the few places my friends recommended are booked at that time already--and frankly, I'm a bit overwhelmed by all the options. Any recommendations for places to stay?

- Tips for efficient travel and cheaper costs. I'm a student, and while I've been saving quite a bit so I'm not restricted by a shoestring budget, any such info would still be helpful to know.

- Would you recommend squeezing in time for the Lake District? I prefer leisurely rather than fast-paced travel, but have heard so many positive comments about the Lake District and its natural beauty that I wonder if I should add another destination to the itinerary.

- What to do! I like: tasty food, museums, historical sites, lovely natural sights, cozy pubs, bookstores, and random unusual shops. I am not curious about: nightclubs, sports. I've already read through these AskMes re: London and Edinburgh but know much less about York and Bath other than the major tourist places. Local food specialty/restaurant recommendations would be fantastic! And regardless, I'd appreciate any suggestions for less-well-known sights that I shouldn't miss, based on people's personal experiences.

Lastly, if you have any tips on traveling solo (re: security; I'm not worried about loneliness), that'd be wonderful. Thank you!
posted by ilicet to Travel & Transportation (29 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
I don't know what your budget is, but we stayed here in Edinburgh and it was incredible. Huge apartments with full kitchens, which was so nice after eating every meal out for days on end, and priced at the same level as a regular hotel. It also has on-site laundry facilities, which were a blessing as we were near the end of a long trip. It was in a great location, too, just across from the Scottish National Portrait Gallery, easy walking to all the major tourist things.
posted by something something at 7:32 AM on April 23, 2013

Tips for efficient travel and cheaper costs.

BritRail pass. It's a fairly high up-front cost, but the important thing it provides is flexibility, because rail fares are expensive unless you book in advance on a specific train, and the BritRail sidesteps that. Want to stay an extra day (or even just an afternoon) in a particular city? You're sorted. The "flexpass" option for non-consecutive days may be a little cheaper than the 15-day consecutive pass.

London-Oxford (or Heathrow/Gatwick-Oxford) is served by coaches, which gives you an alternative to the train there, but for longer distances, it's worth spending the extra to save a little time travelling and avoid chugging along motorways.

The Lake District is lovely, but you really need a car to get into the loveliest bits, and your itinerary seems pretty packed already.
posted by holgate at 7:46 AM on April 23, 2013 [1 favorite]

A couple of years ago I stayed at the Seabreeze B&B in Edinburgh and liked it quite well. It was about 35 pounds a night, and my single room had a nice view of the beach. It's about 15-20 minutes away from Waverley Station, but the buses run often -- she's not lying when she says the bus stop is right in front of the house.

If you think you're going to take multiple day trips from London, I definitely recommend getting the Britrail London Plus pass. It'll get you as far as Oxford/Bath/Bristol to the west, and up to Cambridge -- plus as far south or east as you wish to go. It allowed me to be flexible and decide on a whim to head out in one direction or another, without paying last-minute train fares. If you want to go beyond the included zone, you just have to pay the fare for the extra part -- so, for instance, when I wanted to go to Cardiff I used my London Plus pass to get to Bristol, then bought the ticket for the last little bit.

In Edinburgh I highly recommend taking one of the bus tours to get oriented. I also have to put in a word for my favorite attraction, the Falkirk Wheel. If you want to, you can walk along the canal path to get to it, or take the train and a taxi, but it's a really cool feat of engineering and you get some amazing views of the countryside if you take the boat ride up in the wheel.

In Bath I stayed at the Griffin Inn. It wasn't cheap, but I splurged a bit to relax after the rest of my trip (lots of backpacking/walking). It's extremely well located, and was really nice and cozy.
posted by katemonster at 7:46 AM on April 23, 2013 [1 favorite]

Re places to stay: I'm confused about whether the issue is that things are booked up, or the issue is that there is an overwhelming number of options. If the former, try expanding your search to airbnb. If the latter, I usually pick a place based on location, with a high rating based on lots of reviews. You probably want to avoid places that are known as "party hostels", which will be obvious from the reviews. Avoid campsites on the outskirts of town, no matter how attractive they sound and how cheap they are.

Re traveling solo: It would help to know more what your specific safety concerns are? The only time I have been worried about safety while traveling alone is when I'm carrying a lot of luggage and I have to go to the bathroom on a train. And my trick for that situation is to not leave anything valuable in my main pack. You want to steal my dirty laundry? Annoying, but not the end of the world. That's enough for me to be able to pee in relative peace.
posted by Sara C. at 7:48 AM on April 23, 2013

Best answer: All of the places you mention experience peak season around June, and because they are historic, touristy cities attract higher prices for accommodation. Oxford is particularly bad because accommodation is in short supply.

It goes without saying that book ahead to avoid disappointment. Rail travel is fearsomely expensive if you book on the day and much cheaper if you book a week in advance. You will need to book places to stay in advance, the sooner the better. The Trainline is a decent service to use for rail booking. Since deregulation of the train industry train finding the cheapest fares is not simple, even for Brits. Play around with the system and see if shifting routes or buying two singles is cheaper than a return. It may be sometimes. It's a mess.

Travel: the two easiest ways to get around are by coach and by rail. The largest coach operator is National Express, although there are others like Megabus and local ones like the Oxford Tube. If you are under 26 you qualify for a Young Person's Railcard, which you have to buy (£28). It enables you to travel off peak (typically after 9am) on the trains at 1/3 off whatever rate you book. Worth doing if the sums add up. For London, you get much cheaper rates with an Oyster Card. Buy one as soon as you can if you are in London for almost any length of time.

You will get recommendations to use AirBnB and this is a good idea. Traditional B&Bs are not everyone's cup of tea - although the better ones have great rooms, many others feel too much like paying near hotel prices to stay in someone's guest bedroom. TripAdvisor is a good resource. There are lots of other different ratings systems for B&Bs but the most established one is probably the AA's guide. If you're travelling solo and on a budget, you might want to look at joining the YHA so you can use their accommodation, which is good value and often well located. The York one, for example, has rooms from £26 so it's a cheap way to travel.

Many museums are free. Here is a list. The site I've just linked to is the UK's leading site for people who like to save money and if you have a specific question it is a good resource to use.

The best pub guide is The Good Pub Guide. If you want to search for a cosy bolthole with good food or beer or a nice pub garden, this is a great resource. It's available as an app. TimeOut does a good job for cheap eats in London. If you're looking for budget places to eat, "cheap eats" is a good all purpose search term.

Is the Lake District nice? Unquestionably so. Is it a good use of your time? Hard to say. If I was already going to Edinburgh I'd be more inclined to sidetrack to the Highlands (Oban is a pretty journey and 3 hours from Edinburgh - go further up north and you can take the Harry Potter train), personally or head down the Northumberland coast to somewhere like Alnwick and go castle spotting on the wild coast.

Other tips? If you can possibly do it, get to headline attractions like Stonehenge or the Roman Baths at Bath as early as you can. You will thank yourself for being ahead of the coach tours.

Lesser known sights? Avebury Rings is much less busy than Stonehenge and arguably more important historically. Step off the tourist track at Oxford and wander to the Perch or the Trout for a pint by the river. Wander around Jericho in Oxford and the tourists melt away.
posted by MuffinMan at 7:51 AM on April 23, 2013 [3 favorites]

For Bath try the YHA Hostel if you are on a tight budget. It is up the hill, don't walk there but easy to get to by bus, take any bus to the University and ask to get off at the YHA hostel. It is a great walk down to Bath through the fields and you will cross the Bath Skyline Walk. For Stonehenge, do it as a day trip from Bath with these people. In Bath, don't pay for a tour bus, go for the daily free tour provided by the mayor. For lunch, buy a sandwich and walk along Gt. Pulteney St to the park around the Holburne Museum. Find the gate that leads you to the canal: walk left and you will be in the countryside in 10 minutes.
The more of this blog you read the more you will know. You want a drink? The Salamander, and you can eat there as well and it has free fast wifi. If you see a guy with grey hair drinking on his own it is me.
posted by priorpark17 at 8:20 AM on April 23, 2013 [1 favorite]

I visited York very recently (on the recommendation of MeFites!)

I stayed here and it was reasonably cheap, easy walking distance from the city centre, and quiet.

Go on one of the evening ghost walks early on in your visit if you don't mind the bad jokes - they're fun and a good way to orient yourself a little.

And if you go to one pub there, make it this one.
posted by greenish at 8:41 AM on April 23, 2013

Stay in youth hostels, you'll meet other people to do stuff with. Some years ago, I spent some time backpacking around the UK. The best guides then were Lets Go: UK or Let's Go: Europe. If you went where they recommended, you met all the other young people who were using the same book, and you'd make friends to go places with. I had a nice mix of being on my own and doing stuff with interesting people from all over. In cities, it was nice to go out with others, for fun as well as security. You may want to leave some time unplanned, as you'll hear about places you'll want to go.

It's a bit daunting, especially if you don't know anyone who's traveled solo, but once you get there you realize that (not just young) people from all over travel a lot, solo or not, on the cheap, and there are resources for it. You'll have fun and adventures.
posted by theora55 at 9:10 AM on April 23, 2013

Best answer: Oxford will be somewhat of a madhouse as that's the end of term, but look at the examination schedules and see if you'll be there on exam days-- loads of students rushing about in full sub fusc, which is quite fun to see, but it also means the Exam Schools and some other scholastic buildings will be in use and not open for tours. The Encaenia is Wednesday, June 19th, and you should definitely try to see the procession for that! There's also a degree day on Saturday, June 22nd; degree days also have high levels of people dressed for pomp and circumstance. The downside is that all of their family and relatives will there as well, so it's a good time to get food slightly further out.

I would be really remiss if I didn't suggest walks along the canal, particularly a walk ending in a pub. (Especially nice for Sunday lunch.) The Isis, the Perch, and the Trout are all a lot of fun, though I can only vouch for the food at the Trout. They used to have a peacock who ate all the leftover food from pitchers of Pimms, which was very funny. If you go further out from the city centre (ie across the river to Iffley and Cowley), the crowds do thin out and there are a number of really tasty restaurants that are quite cheap. If you enjoy unusual shops, Jericho is definitely the area that you should explore. Oxford also hosts a number of (free!) museums, including the wonderful Museum of the History of Science. There are also a lot of inexpensive classical concerts, and the singing in the college chapels is really incredible. (It's also a good way to see more of the colleges themselves.) Scriptum is a wonderful little shop with expensive stationary and sealing wax; they used to have used books upstairs, but I am not sure if they still offer that. There are many little shops selling estate jewelry and other things around there, which is useful if you've never seen a sterling silver Marmite jar lid before.

If you find a friend, go punting! Bring Pimms! Do not try to stand up in the boat!
posted by jetlagaddict at 9:20 AM on April 23, 2013

I lived in Oxford and later London for 4 years recently. The Oxford Tube is a great bus service between Gloucester Green in central Oxford and Victoria Station, London and many stops along the way that is amazingly cheap and frequent (like, every 15 minutes). There's not much reason to take the train (to Paddington), apart from time - 45 minutes vs 90 for the bus, and the slightly greater risk of delays on the motorway.
In Oxford, the Natural History/Pitt Rivers Museum is essential to see, the Ashmolean Museum in the centre of town perhaps a bit less os. There's a beautiful park (University Parks) behind the Nat Hist Museum, on the Cherwell where you can rent a punt (punting is harder than it looks!), walk across into meadows that open up into the countryside or just laze under majestic willows and beeches drinking Pimms and cucumber. I didn't see inside too many of the colleges (but walking the old cobbled streets around them is still magical), but if you can get into Worcester College, near the train station you can see where Lewis Carroll hung out and was inspired (lovely gardens), and Christchurch beside the Thames is nice too. The Turf is a famous, old and low-ceilinged pub in the centre of the old college zone that's popular but well worth a visit; the White Horse across from the Bodlean Library on Broad Street is nice too. Jericho, where I lived, is near the centre of town and Worcester and has its own ambience. The Bookbinders on Canal Street is the best pub there, and there's also an amazing restaurant/bar called Freud, in a huge old Greek Temple-like church on Walton Street. A great walk to do is from Jericho, along the canal to where it soon opens up into the huge Port Meadow, from where you can follow the Thames River to the village of Wolvercote and the Trout Pub. The Trout is one of Morse and Lewis's favourite hangouts, and it's really popular with tourists and locals -everyone takes their visiting friends and parents there- and for good reason, it's a lovely place to eat good food and drink good beer by the riverside.
For a bit of the non-cutesy, grittier side of Oxford take a walk out along Cowley Road - where there's a good variety of Middle Eastern restaurants, and the excellent Oxford Thai.
posted by Flashman at 9:34 AM on April 23, 2013

Best answer: Hey there, I've been living in and around Oxford on a student budget for a long time now, so I'll weigh in on what to do there:

Food: Is normally overpriced, and you can get better elsewhere IMO, but there are a few places worth checking out: Edamame is an amazing Japanese restaurant on Holywell St, which is pretty much someone's living room and the couple who live there do all the cooking in their kitchen. You can't book and it's open at odd times, but the food is great. If it's Chinese you're after Shanghai 30's is tasty, authentic, and you can usually get a 2for1 if you book via Top Table. Pierre Victoire is on little Clarendon St. It's quite expensive but they usually have a cheap set menu for lunch and the food is good - sort of what you'd expect from a nice French place. Whilst you're up there, Mumu's has good coffee and great ice cream depending on what you fancy (some people will tell you to go to G&Ds for icecream, but don't be persuaded). If you want something healthy and or veggie/vegan, both the Nosebag and Alpha Bar are good and in the middle of town. And to grab something filling on the go Mission Burrito is a nice local chain.

Museums: First of all Pitt Rivers, without a doubt is amazing. Just go, it's through the back of the natural history museum which is also good. Modern Art Oxford is a bit hit or miss, and it obviously depends on your relationship with contemporary art, but is worth a go if they aren't installing when you're about. And the Botanical Gardens will probably be looking really good at that time of year. And the Ashmoleon is the big Victorian museum where you can spend hours if you want to.

Pubs: There are loads and loads, the famous ones are probably the Turf, the King's Arms, the Lamb and Flag, and the Eagle and Child (by famous I mean they're slightly more expensive, and they have lots of blackboards telling you how Tolkein and C.S Lewis used to be regulars). If you want a proper ale pub, the Blenheim Arms is great, and really central (though Oxford's really small, so most things are). Finally, the Turl Street kitchen is a charitable community project that's full of students meeting for a pint in the evening or a cuppa in the afternoon.

Natural sights: You've already mentioned Blenheim which is good. If you don't fancy paying for admission to the building itself you can get into the grounds for free by using a sneaky footpath (sneaky details). The other place worth going to is Port Meadow. It's only a mile from the train station, and spend an afternoon walking up the canal, past the ruined monastery and stop for a drink in the Perch or Trout (the Perch is more genuine, the Trout has tame peacocks, both are good). Also, loads of colleges have pretty gardens, Worchester's are really nice and should be free to get into. The same is true of Christchurch Meadow.

Historical Stuff: There's far too much to cover. I'd probably recommend is trying to have a look in the Bodlean libraries. And pick a few old colleges to have a wander around. As you're there during exam time, stand on High Street and point and laugh at students dressed up in sub-fusc. If you look like a student yourself (i.e young, not dressed up like a formal nun), try to just walk into a college that takes your fancy, and you can normally just slip in. Oh, and to get into Christchurch without having to pay say you're going to a church service (and the Cathedral is really beautiful, so try out evensong).

The big bookshop in Oxford is called Blackwell's, and it's massive, I think the largest in the world. There's also a good Oxfam bookshop on St Giles. For odd little shops have a walk around the covered market or up the High Street.

I haven't bothered finding links to any of those things, I guess your googling is as good as mine, but feel free to memail me if you cant track anything down (or if you want to know anything else). Enjoy your trip!
posted by Ned G at 9:37 AM on April 23, 2013 [2 favorites]

The big bookshop in Oxford is called Blackwell's, and it's massive

And hilariously tardis-like. It is a hidden highlight of Oxford. Marvel at the quaint, narrow frontage, walk straight through the main part of the shop and head for the Norrington Room.

Quaint shop frontage. Norrington Room.
posted by MuffinMan at 9:45 AM on April 23, 2013

Response by poster: Thanks to everyone for the recs and links so far! I probably won't visit the Lake District then, and will see if the BritRail pass is worth it vs. single-time tickets. Trying to figure out how I can do overnight from Bath to Edinburgh... (According to my googling, there is a 6am direct train, but I can find no mention of it on the rail timetables. Another option would be to take the train from Bath to London and then the Caledonian Sleeper via ScotRail to Edinburgh.)

Sara C.: The places I looked up per friends' recommendations were all booked, and the (number of websites)*(number of hostels/B&Bs listed per site) was innumerable, plus cross-referencing reviews for the same places over different webpages was getting time-consuming... so I flung up my hands and decided to trust the opinion of MeFites. Re: solo, I was just curious about security tips particularly applicable to solo travelers, since this is my first time doing so. Luggage-wise, I'm hoping to fit everything into a backpack and large duffel bag, so it shouldn't be too unwieldy.

jetlagaddict: !!! I'll be in Oxford for the Encaenia! sweet. I'll be sure to check out punting, and Scriptum is exactly the kind of fun odds-and-ends shop I'm interested in.

Blackwell's looks so enticing. /stifles book-buying urge
posted by ilicet at 10:53 AM on April 23, 2013

Trying to figure out how I can do overnight from Bath to Edinburgh

You go via London if you have to do it overnight. Although putting the numbers in for a random Tuesday in June if you catch the train at 4pm from Bath you still can get to Edinburgh by 22.22 (changing at Bristol Templemeads and Birmingham New St - a 6h22 journey. Not a bad option.
posted by MuffinMan at 11:05 AM on April 23, 2013

Best answer: The Caledonian Sleeper is great -- worth doing the Bath-London-Edinburgh trip. Saves you a night in a hotel, and you wake up in Edinburgh fresh and ready to go in the morning, rather than having to find your way to a hotel at night. If you pay attention to the website, you may be able to catch Bargain Berth for as little as 19 pounds (I think I paid 39).

Biggest problem is the train doesn't depart til near midnight, so you can end up with a little dead time between dinner and departure.
posted by katemonster at 11:18 AM on April 23, 2013 [1 favorite]

According to my googling, there is a 6am direct train, but I can find no mention of it on the rail timetables

Yeah, there's a direct train at 6:09am from Bath that gets you into Edinburgh at 1:05pm. Not bad, really. It's the CrossCountry service from Bath to Glasgow.
posted by vacapinta at 11:31 AM on April 23, 2013

Best answer: Also, if you're traveling by rail, please do not discount what was said above about getting creative with rail fares and schedules.

If I want to take that train from Bath to Edinburgh tomorrow morning it will cost me £166 and arrive at 1:05pm, as I said.

But, if I take that SAME TRAIN, get off at Birmingham New St, wait for a later but faster train, which arrives in Edinburgh at 12:21 pm, I only pay £119.

Finally, if I want to shave off a little more, get off at Preston, Lancashire instead. Still arrive at 12:21pm and pay £110.

Makes no sense to us either.
posted by vacapinta at 11:42 AM on April 23, 2013

Luggage wise you're planning on a backpack AND a large duffel bag? That sounds like an awful lot to me given how much you'll be moving around. You will be taking that on the tube where you will be walking up and down hundreds and hundreds of steps, and trying to fit it into the luggage spaces on trains. My 65L backpack is a little big for trains but I just about manage. It's a pain on the tube and I wouldn't take it on at all at rush hour. I wouldn't suggest anything bigger.

Bath is lovely. We recently went to the Roman Baths - allow a good couple of hours or more. We tried to go to the Thermae Spa on the same day but the queues were an hour and a half or more every time we looked - might be best to do mid-week or early in the morning. I have spent a lot of time at both Avebury and Stonehenge. I would much rather visit Avebury. Neither are particularly easy to get to as you'll have to take buses. Salisbury is pretty but nothing like as interesting as the other locations on your list. If you don't go to Stonehenge, don't bother with it.

If you do decide to buy individual train tickets, I like but sometimes it's worth looking the times up on there and then looking on the website of the individual train operator - sometimes you'll find special offers or cheaper advance tickets. Unless you've already costed it all out and checked the prices don't rely on buying on the day - it can be horrendously expensive and on some trains you may end up standing for your full journey. The London - Bath line in particular is a commuter line that is very expensive and usually over-crowded.
posted by kadia_a at 11:47 AM on April 23, 2013

plus cross-referencing reviews for the same places over different webpages was getting time-consuming...

Never do this if you are trying to book an actual trip (as opposed to armchair travel geekery) to a heavily touristed part of a developed country. Read a review or two, but once you get to cross-referencing between different sites you've officially hit overkill. I promise that lodgings in places like Bath and Edinburgh actually exist and you probably won't die from spending one or two nights there, even if you get a crappy one.

Agreed that if you plan to pack two large bags, you are bringing too much stuff for a two week trip to the UK in the summer.
posted by Sara C. at 12:15 PM on April 23, 2013

Oh, and re "security tips" - you'll be traveling in a part of the world that is at least as safe, if not safer, than home. Behave as you would out and about alone in any major city.

Really the only thing I tend to worry about (as an experienced solo traveler in much more questionable places than heavily touristed Britain at the height of the high season) is dealing with your belongings. Because as I said, you won't have someone else to keep an eye on your things. For me, this means being extra vigilant while moving from place to place and being sure to secure my things before heading out to see the sights. If you stay in a hostel dorm, choose a place with lockers and bring your own lock. Don't go schlepping around town with a bunch of bulky luggage. Be mindful of your things on trains and buses. Never leave your luggage unattended "just for a second" to do something like buy a ticket, go to the bathroom, or get a coffee.

I can't really think of anything else you need to think of as a solo traveler in the UK that wouldn't apply to ANY traveler in the UK.
posted by Sara C. at 12:24 PM on April 23, 2013

If you want to go Bath -Edinburgh, why not fly EasyJet Bristol-Glasgow. You can get 15 min train Bath to Bristol, and a 30 min bus to the airport. Flight time is about 45 mins and the cost is around £45. Then it is bus into Glasgow and a train across to Edinburgh. That is my route. My wife likes the via London on the sleeper.
posted by priorpark17 at 2:34 PM on April 23, 2013

Just reinforcing good advice already given:

Look into the Young Person's railcard if you're the right age, and the Britrail London Plus card.

Don't go to the Lake District, it's packed in summer, traffic hardly moves.

Think about joining the Youth Hostel Association and make sure you have a padlock for your locker. You can sometimes get single rooms at YHA these days, still very cheap.

If you go to Avebury don't miss Silbury Hill nor the East Kennet Longbarrow.

Glastonbury....interesting low-key post-industrial hippy town. Of course the festival is on from the 26th to 30th - persons younger than I may know how that will impact on transport in the area.
posted by glasseyes at 2:50 PM on April 23, 2013

Response by poster: I think I'll do the Bath-London + Caledonian Sleeper to save on the overnight stay. Also, might swap out Salisbury/Stonehenge for Avebury.

vacapinta: wow, your example is hilariously nonsensical (the rail fare discrepancy, that is, not your explanation).

Oh, the backpack I have in mind is the regular-sized Jansport one that I use for school, not something as large as 65L. I mistyped re: the duffel, since it would be much more accurate to call it small than large. I wanted to split luggage in two so it'd be easier for me to shift the weight around and reduce muscle strain.

Sara C.: heh, thanks for being realistic. Despite my initial tendencies, it's not always optimal to try and absorb info like a sponge...
posted by ilicet at 2:53 PM on April 23, 2013

wow, your example is hilariously nonsensical (the rail fare discrepancy, that is, not your explanation).

It's called ticket-splitting, and here's a webapp that does it. (It's all to do with the overlap of regional fare zones.)

I will probably be part of the 9th week madness in Oxford, along with other old(ish) farts of my generation. The sun doesn't set until 9:30pm, and the twilight lasts a while after that, and while Port Meadow's open spaces might be a little unnerving for a solo traveller, it's extremely pretty around solstice time, and there'll be others out there late.

If you want to break your trip down from Edinburgh a little more, then Durham is a good place to for a half-day stop before York. Or I'll second the recommendation of Alnwick up in the far corner of England.
posted by holgate at 3:40 PM on April 23, 2013 [1 favorite]

Also, might swap out Salisbury/Stonehenge for Avebury.

Stonehenge is basically between Avebury and Salisbury. You can drive Avebury to Salisbury in just over 30 minutes. Unless time is really tight you should be able to see them all. If you have to drop one, Salisbury is nice enough but is nowhere near as pretty or important historically as Bath or, say, York.
posted by MuffinMan at 5:12 AM on April 24, 2013

If you're up for some countryside, even without visiting the Lake District, then from York you can easily get to the Yorkshire Dales and the North Yorks Moors. Both have train links, and lovely countryside.

If you're still stuck for accommodation in York it might be worth looking at They're part of the University, and are just outside the city. Looks like they have availability for June. (Although these are basically student rooms, so it's definitely not hotel level accommodation, but it might work for you). (Disclaimer: I work at the Uni, but not for York Conferences).
posted by SuckPoppet at 5:23 AM on April 24, 2013

Avebury is a short public bus ride from Swindon rail station. And Swindon is on your way from London to Bath (or Bath to London) So you could see it on your way from London to Bath, like so:

From Swindon rail station, take the 49 bus. Travel time is about half an hour. See Avebury, come back to Swindon and continue your journey. So you can skip Salisbury and have more time for other things in your journey.

Seconding that while at Avebury, you should walk out to Silbury Hill and West Kennet Long Barrow. They're right nearby.
posted by vacapinta at 6:29 AM on April 24, 2013 [1 favorite]

West Kennet, huh, vacapinta? I got confused by David Inshaw's paintings.
posted by glasseyes at 7:08 PM on April 24, 2013

This isn't as classy an update as some of the others, but a tremendously Oxford thing to do would be to grab a (cheap) bite to eat from the kebab trucks late at night! Actually some of them are pretty good, and they do solid renditions of beans-on-things and chips and falafel-- cheap, extremely filling, and useful as most of the restaurants/pubs stop serving food after 10. I also can't believe I forgot to include the legion of fun places to get tea. The Vaults and Garden cafe is really charming and they have nice light lunches as well, the News Cafe is also good for cake and tea (and food though it's not super inexpensive), and my beloved Greens Cafe, which sold me liters of mochas and little chocolate things. The Grand Cafe is wonderful as an institution, but it is pricey and it will probably be packed given the exams and degree days. Queen's Lane is much larger but still offers an excellent viewing point of last minute revision and sub fusc.

Avebury is really great and it's a lovely place to take walks. To be honest we stayed overnight in Avebury and merely drove past Stonehenge and I was okay with that-- Avebury gives you a much better sense of the scale and skill in a monument, and you can really walk through the entire thing at your own pace, which is not possible at Stonehenge. It's also substantially less crowded.

I really can't give specifics for Bath except to say that the museum of the Roman baths is 100% worth it. Bath has produced fascinating architecture, curse tablets, carved gems, and there's still a substantial amount that has yet to be unearthed. The Pump House Restaurant does a nice tea and it's a lovely setting but it's probably not worth the price, as Bath has many other charming opportunities for tea.
posted by jetlagaddict at 4:51 AM on April 25, 2013

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