Itinerary ideas: England, the second visit.
August 5, 2014 5:37 AM   Subscribe

I'll be in London for a party & wedding over two weekends, and need ideas for domestic travel during the week in between, and the few days after. I've been to UK before, but all i've really seen is central london, Oxford, and Stonehenge. (i'll be clearer about my schedule and needs after the jump!)

I'll be flying in/out of London on August 29th-Sept 10th. I have a bachelorette/hen party on the 30th, and the wedding on the 6th (and so will be spending both saturdays/sundays in London). So, i've got a monday-friday and then a monday-tuesday to play with outside of London.

About me and what i'm interested in: I'm not interested in going to oxford or stonehenge again, but otherwise am very open to suggestion. I tend to take the 'wandering around an interesting city' approach to travel, i like neighbourhoods and coffee shops and restaurants and the occasional museum or good quality tourist thing. I'm open to trains, busses, and affordable flights, but i won't ever rent a car because i don't drive. I'd love to meet fellow travellers, but i'm also okay if i don't. I'd like to keep my accommodation spending low - a single room in a smallish non-'party hostel' would be ideal.

(Since i know people will ask: I'll be a woman travelling alone, but please don't let that limit your advice - i'm in my mid thirties, tend to live/look like i'm in my late twenties, and have done more solo travel than you can shake a stick at.)

So: where should i go? where should i stay? where should i eat? what should i do? Suggestions please!
posted by Kololo to Travel & Transportation around Manchester, England (25 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
Your stated interests actually advocate for just staying in London, but Bath and The Cotswolds are certainly within a train ride in the time you have.
posted by rhizome at 5:56 AM on August 5, 2014

I would also second Bath (you must check out the Roman baths tour) and also think about Brighton.
posted by like_neon at 5:57 AM on August 5, 2014 [2 favorites]

I'd take an overnight trip to Bath. I went on a day-trip and it just wasn't enough time. The Baths are amazing, but I would have liked to have explored the guild-hall and the assembly rooms and basically just pretended I was in a Jane Austen novel for a bit.

According to Trip Advisor, Apsley House is the best place to stay.

Apsley House in London is an amazing tour, so you can do both Apsley Houses and compare!

Another worthwhile overnight trip would be to Stratford Upon Avon. I've never been, but it's on my list.

You really can't go wrong in England.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 5:58 AM on August 5, 2014

If you go to Edinburgh, you'll just about miss the end of the Edinburgh Festival, but there may well still be a fair amount of stuff going on. It's a 4-5 hour train journey from London, and the journey itself is fairly scenic (e.g. the Northumbrian coast). You could maybe also make a stop at York on the way.

If you liked Oxford, Cambridge is a similar sort of place, has some great museums, and is a 50 minute train ride out of London.

I'd also second the ideas above about Bath and/or staying in London.
posted by gnimmel at 6:00 AM on August 5, 2014

Canterbury is an interesting old town with a lot of history, not too far from London.
posted by Segundus at 6:10 AM on August 5, 2014

You could stay in Bath and take in the scene there, and then spend a day walking to Bradford-on-Avon, which is a gorgeous canal walk with lots of pubs to a picture perfect half-timbered town. I'd also spend a day in Bristol, a short train ride from Bath, to see the SS Great Britain. Or you could go to York, which is very pretty and makes a good 3 day trip.

But there's literally hundreds of fascinating ways you could go.. do you have any hobbies or specific interests you could build a little pilgrimage around?
posted by Erasmouse at 6:10 AM on August 5, 2014

I'd go to Bath, because I haven't and people here are mentioning it, but I came in to the thread to suggest Brighton.
posted by pompomtom at 6:11 AM on August 5, 2014

Brighton is a great city for walking around, you can get from the train station to the city center in less than 10 minutes. Lots of silly British seaside touristy things on the seafront (piers, donuts, arcades), lots of quirky/interesting shops & cafes in the Lanes/North Laine, a few museums/galleries, and a good selection of nice places to eat. There are also buses that take you to good spots for walking in the countryside or along the coast (or you can walk somewhere and get the bus back).
posted by EndsOfInvention at 6:15 AM on August 5, 2014

Yes, Brighton! It is so quick to get to from London on the train (<1hr) and then it is such a fantastic city to wander around in, quirky shops, coffee shops and really good restaurants, as the previous commenters have said. I even swam in the sea a couple of weekends ago! Plenty of lovely B&Bs to stay in too.
posted by atlantica at 6:22 AM on August 5, 2014

I came to suggest Edinburgh too. Regardless of the festival, it's a stunningly beautiful, historic city with a compact centre and fabulous views every way you look - perfect for exploring on foot. You can also fly up from all the London airports, takes an hour (and then you can get a brand new tram from the airport into the city centre...).
posted by penguin pie at 6:41 AM on August 5, 2014 [1 favorite]

If I were you, I’d head up to York on the first Monday morning (takes about two hours), spend the rest of the day and a night there, and from there scoot up to Edinburgh for three or four days (they’re on the same train line). I think Edinburgh is the most jaw-droppingly beautiful city in the UK* (but possibly not for much longer!) and even if you arrive at the tail end of the Festival, there’s still so much to see and do. You could also take a day trip to Glasgow while you’re there.

As others have suggested, Bath and Brighton are both definitely worth a visit – you could do both as day trips from London on the final Monday/Tuesday if you’re feeling energetic.

*On preview, what penguin pie says.
posted by HandfulOfDust at 6:46 AM on August 5, 2014 [1 favorite]

Eschew Bath, consider Bristol on its own.

Beyond the SS Great Britain, you can wander around the city and take in the ubiquity of Bansky, if you're into that, as well as a lot of other street artists. Walking across the Clifton Suspension Bridge is a worthy experience and the Clifton Observatory nearby has a camera obscura, which is a neat little experience.

If you found the sterile confines of Stonehenge disappointing and you haven't had enough standing stones, look into visiting Avebury, which you can get to by bus from Swindon. It's a living community in and around a massive henge that's been continuously occupied since before written record.
posted by ursus_comiter at 6:54 AM on August 5, 2014

As befits a city with a famous railway history, York is an excellent travel hub for the north as well as being a great destination in itself: easy to get to the younger cities (Leeds, Manchester, Sheffield), not that far to Durham and Newcastle, fairly easy to get out into the Dales or Moors or up the Pennines or out to the coast for an ice cream.
posted by holgate at 6:56 AM on August 5, 2014

Edinburgh is the most beautiful city in the UK. Highly recommended.
posted by mani at 7:15 AM on August 5, 2014 [1 favorite]

Depending on what 'affordable' is, you might want to consider hopping on the Eurostar from London to Paris, Brussels, or another destination. It's not a long journey over and quite straightforward.
posted by edd at 7:40 AM on August 5, 2014 [1 favorite]

Bath, Brighton, Bristol and Stratford Upon Avon are nice places and all, but honestly, I can't put them in the same league as York and Edinburgh. Well, maybe Bath, but, you can do that in a day from London.

Go to York, and then Edinburgh. That is all.

Both are ideal for exploring on foot and are pretty packed with interesting cafes, restaurants and, of course, quality touristy things. I mean serious quality. And both cities look incredible. And they have incredibly nice people to meet.

In York, beyond winterhill's suggestions, you should walk the city walls, and maybe check out the Castle Museum or the Yorkshire Museum. But honestly, the Minster and the Jorvik will probably suffice.

As for places to eat or drink, here's my top 5 (once you've been to Betty's, of course):

Lamb and Lion Inn
St William's College
The Habit
Coffee Culture

Oh, and one other thing. If you haven't seen a play at the Globe, book a ticket now.
posted by Juso No Thankyou at 8:29 AM on August 5, 2014 [1 favorite]

Nthing Bath. It's easy to get to from London on your own with a combination of public transport options. The Underground Trip Planner will help you find which options are best from your hotel. The train station in Bath is right next to the city center, which is very walkable with a variety of shops, restaurants and cafes. If you are doing a day trip and don't have a lot of time, I recommend prioritizing the Roman Baths.

If you have a couple of unscheduled hours in London and don't want to do the usual overcrowded, touristy sights, the Museum of London is well worth a trip. If you are in to history, this is a hidden gem. I especially liked the exhibits devoted to artifacts found at Roman excavations in London.

The area around the Tower Bridge and Tower of London is really breathtaking at night.
posted by jazzbaby at 8:34 AM on August 5, 2014

About Bath, if you go you should certainly prioritise the Roman Baths; but if after all the other touristy Bath things you have half a day free and you want some R & R or even TLC, visit the Spa, it's smashing.
posted by glasseyes at 8:45 AM on August 5, 2014

Response by poster: Okay! Sounds like the consensus is: Bath, York, Edinburgh. Consider them to be on the itinerary! (I'm thinking: hen party weekend in london, then two days york, three days edinburgh, then wedding weekend in london, then two days bath. Does that make sense? Too much or too little time anywhere? )

Keep it coming for see/do/stay for each place (as well any non-obvious see/do suggestions for London)!!

(When i say non-obvious, i mean: like i'm aware of Buckingham palace and the London Eye and shopping in Oxford Circus.)
posted by Kololo at 9:01 AM on August 5, 2014 [2 favorites]

Choose places that you can connect to.

I love literature, so I made sure to visit Bath, and also the Reading Room of the British Museum. When I went as a kid, I made sure to visit the Tower of London and see the Crown Jewels and all the arms & armor. I like WWII, so the Imperial War Rooms lit up my eyes. The Kew Gardens were a nice break from central London.

That connection will get you to pay closer attention while you are there, and to do a little preparatory reading before you go so you can really engage with the place.
posted by wenestvedt at 9:13 AM on August 5, 2014

then two days york, three days edinburgh, then wedding weekend in london, then two days bath

That's a lot of travelling. It's doable but keep in mind you probably need to budget half a day (slightly more for Edinburgh-London, train journey is around 5 hrs) for getting between the cities once you factor in getting to the train station and the actual train travel time.

The National Rail website is the one to use to check train times (you can't buy tickets directly via that site but it will direct to sites you can use). Play around a LOT with times and connections, the prices can vary wildly for e.g. two singles vs a return, or different times of day, or splitting tickets vs a single direct ticket.

"Advance" tickets will generally be best value but you're restricted to a single specific train (and if you miss that one you're stuck buying brand new full price tickets at the station).
posted by EndsOfInvention at 9:26 AM on August 5, 2014 [1 favorite]

Your itinerary sounds epic, especially if you like trains! You would definitely want to get a Britrail pass. That would give you a lot of flexibility.

(if you ARE really into trains, do the York train museum which is fantastic and maybe take the sleeper back from Edinburgh.)
posted by Erasmouse at 10:45 AM on August 5, 2014

Hooray for your Edinburgh visit! On the way from York to Edinburgh on the train, try and make sure to sit on the right-hand side of the train so you get full benefit of the stunning coastal views.

Happy to make some what-to-do suggestions if you want to tell us what kind of things you like (eg. this previous request had some great detail in and it was a real pleasure to point them to specific places I knew they'd like - and then to hear how much they had indeed loved them. Much more fun than giving generic "everyone who goes to Edinburgh must do this" suggestions!)
posted by penguin pie at 4:01 PM on August 5, 2014

See for split tickets (the parent site is accessible and even if you don't need the accessibility is way better by being so lightweight with easily crafted search URLs)
posted by edd at 6:36 AM on August 6, 2014

Consider taking the sleeper train back from Edinburgh, that will give you a bit more useful time (and save a night in a hotel). Plus it's fun.
posted by tinkletown at 7:18 AM on August 6, 2014

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