Help from people who know stuff about traveling in England

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Help from people who know stuff about traveling in England

Muokkaaja: huhtikuu 10, 11:48 pm

Hello, I know there are a lot of people at this group who either live in England, have lived in England, or know England really well. We have planned a quick trip there, arriving April 25. I need to figure out where to go for 3 adults from April 28 to May 2. We will leave Canterbury on Friday and end near Stansted Airport on Tuesday. This is a last minute trip, so I'm not expecting amazing, but we'd still like to do something new and interesting. My daughter and I are into literature, history and geography and my husband is happy to come along.

April 25 - 27 we will be picking up our 22 yr old daughter in Canterbury, where she is finishing her uni semester abroad. During that time she's in a play, so that will be fun to see. She checks out of uni housing, and we check out of our VRBO April 28 from Canterbury.

My daughter really wants to go to Cornwall, and I'm up for that too. But it's quite far. After 2 driving vacations in England, my husband is not keen on driving, and I'm less inclined to drive than he is. So we'd rather not; however, it's not out of the picture either. I hear rail is quite expensive in England, and I'm paying for 3 adults.

Anyone have any ideas for places to visit starting in Canterbury and ending at Stansted? We'd like to see something new, and have done quite a bit of the south, including most of Kent, East Sussex, Brighton, Bath, Stonehenge, Salisbury, Shaftesbury, Cotswolds (a corner of them, could do more there), Oxford, and lots of London. I've had friends tell me that in the time it takes to get to Cornwall, we could get to York, which does interest me. But it looks really far.

Anyone who knows travel in England - if you were in my position, what would you do for 4 nights?

Muokkaaja: huhtikuu 11, 12:00 am

Something different? Try Wales! I went there on my first trip to britain and fell in love, The city of Cardiff is lovely, Hay on Wye is a must for book lovers, Snowdonia is beautiful. Lots of Castles, lots of green wild spaces. And its very like Cornwall, esp the coasts. Lots of similar history and connections.. Oh another thing about wales are the welsh love spoons. Sailors used to make these intricate designs for their sweethearts back home, all made from one piece of wood We did this trip mostly by train which was a real treat for us. (we were there in the 90s and it was a very cheap way to get around. But after Thatcher had her way, it apparently changed quite a bit so I dont know now)

Your daughter might have ideas of how to spend the time. Regardless you will have a great time!

Muokkaaja: huhtikuu 11, 3:09 am

Wales would be nice, but awkward for travel. And Cornwall is a surprisingly long way away from anywhere.

York is certainly possible, it’s under two hours from London by train (although that’s not cheap), and you could easily fill three or four days, maybe with a trip out to Scarborough and Whitby one day, or to Castle Howard (bus). You might want to see (at least) the Minster, the Castle Museum, the Railway Museum, Fairfax House and the Viking Centre. Beningbrough Hall is just outside York, normally worth seeing, but the house is closed for restoration until July so it’s only the gardens at the moment. York to Stansted by train is a bit of a trek, a slow cross-country connection from Peterborough. There might be a cheaper bus (coach) option, but it won’t be any faster.

Essex, Suffolk and Norfolk would be on the doorstep for ending at Stansted, and there’s plenty to see, especially if you have a car available: lots of coast and attractive if not spectacular rural scenery, hundreds of lovely parish churches, some fine castles and country houses, and a couple of interesting cities (Norwich definitely, which is almost as good as York, but you could even stretch it to include Cambridge and Ely). “Constable country”, “Benjamin Britten country”, “David Copperfield country”, the Norfolk Broads, bird sanctuaries in North Norfolk…

Without a car you could base yourselves in Norwich (about 1.5 hrs from London by train) and have a trip out by train to the Broads and coast one day. Norwich has a superb cathedral and a couple of very good museums as well as being an attractive old city, one of the biggest cities in medieval England after York.

Or how about 2 nights in Norwich, 2 nights in Cambridge? Then you’d only be half an hour from Stansted when you have to leave. I think you can get from Canterbury to Norwich via Stratford (East London), without having to cross London. But your daughter will known more about that.

Muokkaaja: huhtikuu 11, 4:29 am

I agree with Mark that Wales would not be feasible. I love Wales and totally recommend it as a destination, but not for such short amount of time. I traveled in Wales for more than three weeks in total, using public transport, and would not recommend it if you only have a few days because the transport takes much time (at least that was the case in 2012 and 2016).
I also agree that Cornwall is too far and again, you would need a lot of time for public transport.

York is wonderful and I think four days are quite doable, as Mark has written, you could use two or three days to explore the city and make one or even two day trips. Scarborough, Whitby and Castle Howard are all fantastic places that are quite easy to reach on public transport. I spent about three weeks in Yorkshire in total (2012, 2014 and 2018) and did a lot of day trips on public transport, and I have found the train and bus options in Yorkshire to be very good. You could even go to Haworth.

I have not traveled to Essex, Suffolk, Norfolk or Canterbury and surrounds at all (it is my blank space on the UK map!), so I have read the tips in >3 thorold: with interest! I would probably follow some of these tips to minimize the time of travel, especially if going from York to Stansted is a bit of a hassle (I have never done that).

As >2 cindydavid4: has said: "Regardless you will have a great time!" - there are so many beautiful places and it is just a matter of choice! :-)

huhtikuu 11, 6:50 am

BTW, use to get train times and prices.

huhtikuu 11, 8:26 am

You can also buy BritRail passes outside the country, before you go. They used to be less expensive that way, but it doesn't look like that still applies. They are very flexible, and if you're only travelling in a limited area, can be purchased for an area.

Adding my vote to York and area.

huhtikuu 11, 10:42 am

Thanks! Those are some great ideas and tips

Muokkaaja: huhtikuu 11, 10:53 am

When I was visiting the UK regularly I found the Trainline mobile app to be very helpful in looking up train times and prices, and purchasing tickets, which I could obtain from one of the kiosks in the major train stations in London. It probably goes without saying that you'll need a MasterCard or Visa credit card, as those kiosks don't accept American Express cards.

At least two LTers, SandDune and wandering_star, would be good sources for information about Cambridge, Ely, and the area around Stansted Airport, as would former LTers FlossieT and flissp, who both live in Cambridge.

ETA: In my experience the earlier you purchase your tickets the cheaper they are.

Muokkaaja: huhtikuu 11, 12:35 pm

Yeah I tossed out Wales because the OP said different. Another time perhaps!

Yes to York, and after you finish exploring check out Betty's Cafe Tea Rooms been around forever, Great place for a spot of tea, or a meal and usually someone is playing at the piano. (one of their former employees opened up a tea and garden shop here in the desert, we are so lucky to have that)

Oh Whitby is a great place to explore! Ditto Scarbough.

huhtikuu 11, 2:32 pm

No place nicer than Edinburgh, imo, but too far to go for a short trip.

Muokkaaja: huhtikuu 11, 3:02 pm

I lived in Essex and Herts for a good few years. I think Mark's suggestion is a good one based on where you've been already. Not as far north as York but the Norfolk coast is attractive and Cambridge is nice to visit. Although I lived in Essex I wouldn't recommend anywhere there for a stay (sorry Essex) - there's just not a whole lot to see that's particularly interesting or picturesque.

Bear in mind that Cambridge and Norfolk are still quite a trek from Canterbury. My in-laws used to live in Margate in Kent and it used to take us 2 hours by car to get there from Chelmsford.

Is anyone into planes? If so, Duxford air museum is not far from Cambridge and a good shout.

Eastbourne on the south coast could be another option if you've not been there?

Or hop on a plane at London City and come to Northern Ireland for a few days! It's probably no more expensive than you'd pay on rail fares.

Muokkaaja: huhtikuu 12, 1:49 am

Thank you for more great ideas and now I have some questions on places no one has mentioned. . .

Okay, Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland (and Cornwall) are going to wait for a trip when I have more time to enjoy them (also, daughter is currently in Scotland). York and Norwich are still very much in play. Thank you for the Norwich suggestions as I hadn't thought of that, but I've read many books set there, so it sounds attractive.

Currently I'm exploring the Peaks District. There are the ledges that various actors stand on, in the wind, in various Pride and Prejudice movies, and also Chatsworth House and Lyme House. I think this would involve a car, but maybe we can train or bus close and then rent a car. I think my husband might do that. Also, I'd love to visit the Emma Bridgewater factory in Stoke-On-Trent which is in the same area.

Another place I see that might be interesting is Lincoln, as I've seen pictures of it and it looks like a distinct old city. My heavily annotated AA Great Britain Road Atlas shows that Sherwood Forest is not far away, just off the A614. Is that even a thing?

I looked up the England Rail Pass and the price seems not too bad actually, so I might get that.

ETA: Is Bury St Edmonds worth a visit? I just remember a university history professor talking about it as if it was the best place ever

huhtikuu 12, 2:55 am

>12 Nickelini: I tend to use rail-passes in the UK, it doesn’t always work out cheaper but it does avoid having to commit yourself to specific travel times in advance.

The Peak District used to be quite doable by bus and train, but I haven’t been there for a long time. Sheffield, Stoke or Matlock would probably be the points of entry coming from the south. Chatsworth is very good, Lyme Park is nice too but it’s right over on the Manchester side. You would need to check the websites for days when Colin Firth takes his shirt off. Biddulph Grange is another very good garden. There’s a great tram museum at Crich, if that rocks your boat. The Gladstone Pottery Museum in Stoke is a must-see if you are anywhere near, but Stoke is otherwise a pretty grim sort of city (Arnold Bennett).

Lincoln has another fabulous cathedral and an OK castle, and it’s a very nice setting on a hill in the middle of flat country, but there isn’t much else nearby. The Lincolnshire Wolds are Tennyson country, but that’s only for hardcore fans. Sherwood Forest probably isn’t much, although common sense suggests that by now it will have a slew of tacky Robin Hood themed stuff around it somewhere. I think Cannock Chase might be the best bit of surviving ancient woodland in the centre of England.

All those East Anglian wool towns have things worth seeing (Bury-St-Edmunds, Ely, Saffron Walden, Kings Lynn, etc.), lots of fine churches, medieval timber-framed buildings and guildhalls and things, but apart from Ely cathedral there aren’t many very high-density clusters of attractions. They are the sort of places I like to visit with a knowledgeable friend with a Pevsner under his arm, otherwise you miss the good stuff. They might work out for touring round by train from a base somewhere like Cambridge, but the distances are quite big.

Muokkaaja: huhtikuu 12, 12:56 pm

If any one is interested in ecology, nature, bird watching, or the rewilding movement, Knepp estate in West Sussex might be worth a visit. (Biased due to reading their book Wilding right now)

Muokkaaja: huhtikuu 12, 8:01 pm

>13 thorold: You would need to check the websites for days when Colin Firth takes his shirt off.

I'm still laughing over here. That was great. Can you confirm that it's the 30 year old Colin Firth from the time of filming and not the now 60+ Colin Firth?

>14 ELiz_M: That's just the kind thing my daughter would love

huhtikuu 14, 12:26 am

Okay, so after a very stressful few days of exploring options and a long conversation with Canterbury daughter today…I’ve actually booked 5 nights in Kensington, London. There were just way too many variables and limitations to book the trip I wanted only 2 weeks out. It would be easier with only 2 people, for example. Or a limitless budget (one where I could book a private driver).

We do plan on taking one major trip out of London, but otherwise there is lots in the great old city for us to see and revisit

huhtikuu 14, 12:29 am

Also, thank you everyone for all your advice and suggestions. I’ve made notes for future trips! England is a convenient gateway to Europe from western Canada so more stopovers are in our future

huhtikuu 14, 2:35 am

Never mind, sometimes the cop-out is the best option, and it’s better to have something you actually want to do than a half-planned compromise thrown together at the last minute. I’m sure you’ll find plenty to do from a base in London!

huhtikuu 14, 3:28 pm

>16 Nickelini: Kensington is a great location. Five nights in one place also allows for crash days if required - no compulsion to get up and go to X because this is X's day.

huhtikuu 14, 4:56 pm

>18 thorold: Oh my we spent a whole week finding things to do there, and came back severl more times to find more. And it is such a great jumping spot to so much that fascinates me about Britian

huhtikuu 26, 4:10 am

We’ve made it to Canterbury :-)

Does anyone have any bookish must-sees here or in London? We will visit the cathedral later today. Our VRBO has a copy of the Canterbury Tales but my husband declines my challenge to read it. This edition is translated and I had to read the original so I think he’s being a wimp :-D

huhtikuu 26, 3:38 pm

I have not been to London in a long time- but I really liked the Courtauld Institute for the paintings. Oh, the British Library for great manuscripts! And I liked the Wallace Collection for paintings ( small and quiet when I was there) The National Gallery has amazing paintings from every era. How about the National Portrait Gallery for paintings of authors? I also saw many of following in the area- Syon, Chiswick, Osterley.,Kenwood...oops I am giving you a selection of great houses!
enjoy whatever you decide to see!

Muokkaaja: huhtikuu 26, 4:30 pm

>22 torontoc: oh good ideas!

We’ve done the British Library and National Gallery and would do it again in a heartbeat. The Portrait Gallery is on my list but it’s currently closed. The others all intrigue me. The one big London museum none of us have seen is the Tate (not Tate Modern but the other one with lots of Turners) so we might try that

ETA- I’m very interested in visiting a great house … Syon is high on my list because it’s used in several of my favourite movies

toukokuu 13, 5:47 pm

sorry I've missed this - Hope Canterbury was good. Rochester is nearby with some Dickens related things. Hope the rails strikes weren't a factor.

toukokuu 16, 4:26 pm

>21 Nickelini: I'm not sure I'd call it a bookish must-see, but if you have time on your hands in London and are in that area, there's a large open air secondhand book market under Waterloo Bridge every day:

There's a good article here on best bookshops in London:

toukokuu 16, 4:26 pm

Sorry - I just saw the date. I guess your trip is over. Next time!

toukokuu 16, 6:40 pm

>24 tonikat: No problems with the rails at all!

>25 AlisonY: Next trip. I've decided I'd like to go to London for a week off season (November? February?) and just do museums. I could fit book markets in too.

Oh! I just realized I DID go to that book market when we walked the south bank of the river from the Millennium Bridge to the London Eye. I didn't buy anything, but they had interesting items and it was very well organized. I was avoiding buying anything heavy as we were taking all my daughter's winter clothes and uni books home for her while she now goes travelling in Europe. So our luggage was full without buying anything, unfortunately (although I did manage to find some art prints and scarves in Italy)

toukokuu 20, 9:34 am

>27 Nickelini: glad to hear it. A few people here wish they could say the same.

toukokuu 22, 5:05 am

>27 Nickelini: Definitely more luggage space required next time!