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Suggestions or reality check on a UK vacation.

Suggestions or reality check on a UK vacation.

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Old Sep 13, 18, 12:42 pm
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Suggestions or reality check on a UK vacation.

My wife and I haven't had a vacation for a few years and want to take one this fall. She had originally wanted to visit the Jurassic Coast in Devon and the take the ferry to Brittany for a bit but now wants to limit it to England. On our last vacation, in 2014, we called it our 1000 years of warfare tour. We flew to London And spent a few days there looking at some of the exhibits for the World War I Centennial. We then took the train to Brussels and spent a few days in Brussels and Flanders with a guide who drove us around. Next another guide picked us up and drove us to the Somme battlefields and then to Reims where we stayed for a few days visiting things in the Champagne district and Verdun and a few other major battlefields in the area. they then drove us to the coast to see the Normandy battlefields and cemetery as well as the nearby Bayeux tapestry. We then took a ferry back to England and were driven back to London.

A couple things to note. We don't want to spend as much money this time so we won't be taking a guided tour with the driver all over the place. We don't want to rent a car and don't mind hiring a driver for place to place transfer if no train is available (for instance from LHR to Devon) or to take us around a specific area. But on our trip in 2014 we literally had a driver driving us from city to city in France and providing tour guide assistance for days at a time. And that's more money than we want to spend this time. Another thing to note is that both of us have been to London a fair number of times. We want to go again because both of us really love the city and the pound is not as strong as it's been in the past and so we think it's a pretty good vacation bargain. I've probably been to London something like 50-100 times over the last 20-25 years and my wife maybe 10 times. I've also been to Cambridge probably half that many times and my wife and I have been to Devon a few times and Cornwall once. So we're obviously pretty familiar with some parts of England and in my case extremely familiar with London.

In talking to my wife she was interested still in going to the Jurassic Coast and we had some other places as well that I wanted to ask whether they were practical to visit.
The areas we would like to visit are in order of priority:

1) London (enough time to see maybe a play or two or an opera or concert at the Royal Albert)
2) the Jurassic Coast
3) the Lake District
4) Hadrian's Wall
5) Tintern Abbey ( yeah I know, too much Wordsworth and Coleridge when I was younger)

I know we can't do all of these things. So, given our priorities, which ones can we see and in what order would people recommend. Should we fly into London or maybe fly into someplace north of London and work our way down to Devon and then over to London and return to the states from London? The first two items are probably far higher on the priority list than the other ones. We are planning on taking roughly 10 days which I know will limit what we can see. When I was younger I would do day and 1/2 mileage runs from New York to Tokyo and one day runs to London very frequently but now that I'm older I'm not nearly as inclined to do that type of traveling and my wife doesn't deal with traveling well at all so she wants time to settle in once we get to UK. Thanks for any suggestions.
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Old Sep 13, 18, 1:24 pm
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To catch a train to Devon fron LHR you can either get the Heathrow Connect or Heathrow Express to Paddington or the railair coach to reading and pick up a train from there. Though I'd be tempted to spend a night in London to get over jet lag and then travel to Devon a day or two later.

All of those places are practical to visit but I would suggest not trying to do all of them otherwise you spend so much travelling that you don't get to explore so what I would do is come up with a list of pro and cons for each destination to try and cut it down a little. Also the lake district is a huge area and Hadrians Wall is over 70 miles long so you'd need to be a little selective and not all of it is easy access though from my hazy school visit memory Vindolanda is a good site to visit.

You can use the national rail enquires website to plan train trips and national express runs a pretty comprehensive coach network.
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Old Sep 13, 18, 1:34 pm
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I'd suggest going someplace (Devon?) directly by train from LHR upon arrival rather than going to London for a hotel and then leaving the next day. You need to stay in London (or even at an airport hotel the last night) at the end, and train journeys are fine when jetlagged.

IME British trains are serviceable and reasonably efficient ways to get around most of England. The networks and multiplicity of stations in London can seem complicated, but for most places they're a good alternative to driving or being driven.
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Old Sep 13, 18, 2:13 pm
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If you are going to be traveling by train then look at getting a rail card. It's 30 quid and gets you 1/3-/1/2 off travel for two. Well worth it and you can often recoup the 30 quid on your first train trip for the two fo you!
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Old Sep 14, 18, 7:05 am
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If it were my tour, I'd sack Devon off and head to the Lake District for a few days and then head into Scotland. The scenery in Devon is nice but isn't a patch on what's available up North. If you stay in Glasgow you can day trip to Loch Lomond and Edinburgh for example.

The train is the most efficient way to get to places and then you can use local buses or taxis for shorter journeys closer to your destination.
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Old Sep 14, 18, 2:19 pm
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Going by your priorities, and the fact that your wife wants to "settle in" and "doesn't deal well with travelling", I'd just do London and Devon. Let her decide whether she wants to settle down and do some London stuff first, or go straight to Devon then stay in London before going home.

The Jurassic Coast is not well-served by trains, or for that matter by road, but it's easy enough to take a train to somewhere like Poole or Weymouth (by South Western Railway from Waterloo - all electrified so more comfortable IMO, but check potential strike dates) and then continue on by bus - but check the bus timetables first. Google Maps is a good starting point to investigate buses.

Some things are easier with a car but as you say, ordering a local taxi would work too. I particularly enjoyed the Beer Quarry Caves on my recent trip.

You could add Bristol/South Wales as a day trip, but it's a bit costly and on slow, uncomfortable, usually crowded trains from Weymouth.

You can't really "work your way down" to Devon from the Lake District/Hadrian's Wall. Both are around 3 hours by train from London, but even if you avoid going through London it will still take about 6-7 hours to go between them, and you get to experience the awful CrossCountry Trains rather than trying to transfer between Euston and Paddington.

It is possible to fly from Bournemouth or Southampton to Newcastle, but it's probably not worth it based on what you have said, unless you are staying in the UK for quite a long time.

Originally Posted by MoreMilesPlease View Post
If you are going to be traveling by train then look at getting a rail card. It's 30 quid and gets you 1/3-/1/2 off travel for two.
If you want to get the Two Together Railcard, bring a passport-sized photo each, otherwise you'll need to pay someone to get them taken... exact specifications not important, they just get stuck onto a piece of card.
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Old Sep 16, 18, 10:00 am
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Originally Posted by UKtravelbear View Post
To catch a train to Devon fron LHR you can either get the Heathrow Connect or Heathrow Express to Paddington or the railair coach to reading and pick up a train from there. Though I'd be tempted to spend a night in London to get over jet lag and then travel to Devon a day or two later.

All of those places are practical to visit but I would suggest not trying to do all of them otherwise you spend so much travelling that you don't get to explore so what I would do is come up with a list of pro and cons for each destination to try and cut it down a little. Also the lake district is a huge area and Hadrians Wall is over 70 miles long so you'd need to be a little selective and not all of it is easy access though from my hazy school visit memory Vindolanda is a good site to visit.

You can use the national rail enquires website to plan train trips and national express runs a pretty comprehensive coach network.
I have to laugh when English people refer to the Lake District as a "huge area". It's tiny, it's over-crowded and it's so-so scenery. That is in comparison to other places in the world and even in comparison to the Scottish Highlands. The Great Wall of China by the way is 5,500 miles long. Things need to be put in to perspective. Hadrian's Wall in my opinion is simply a 'list tick' kind of thing. Much ado about nothing.

In regards to your original question GadgetFreak, I would go to the Jurassic Coast, stay as long as you want to and then spend any left over time in London where you know what you will want to do given your previous times their.
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Old Sep 16, 18, 11:03 am
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Duplicate

Last edited by MoreMilesPlease; Sep 16, 18 at 12:58 pm
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Old Sep 16, 18, 12:58 pm
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Originally Posted by :D! View Post
If you want to get the Two Together Railcard, bring a passport-sized photo each, otherwise you'll need to pay someone to get them taken... exact specifications not important, they just get stuck onto a piece of card.
I did everything digital. Took our photos with our phones. We have a digital railcard on our phones.
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Old Sep 16, 18, 4:30 pm
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Originally Posted by MoreMilesPlease View Post
I did everything digital. Took our photos with our phones. We have a digital railcard on our phones.
Yeah that would work, but if your phone runs out of battery/breaks/is lost/is stolen then you have to buy new tickets (which can possibly be refunded once per year, after you charge your phone etc. and present the railcard).
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Old Sep 17, 18, 3:13 am
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Tintern Abbey is a pain to get to without a car - you are reliant on buses from towns that are not particularly well served by public transport. I would definitely hire a car if thats your keen desire.

Personally if you want hills and remoteness, then Tintern Abbey followed by a trip into the Brecon Beacons and Llanthony Priory is well worth considering. Hadrians Wall is brilliant and the Northumbrian coastline beats anything on the Jurrasic Coast IMHO.

With 10 days, I'd perhaps look at flying to EDI then take a train to Newcastle and then work my way along the wall using bus routes / driver (or ideally hire car), or local trains. There is a small cross country railway line from Newcastle to Carlisle that stops in a variety of small towns close to the Wall where you can easily get cab to the main sites (Housesteads, Vindolanda and Roman Army Musem are main ones I'd do for a first time visit). The rest of it is spectacular but also by UK standards remote and boggy - I've walked it a lot over the years and would suggest to do anything other than main tourist sites requires decent walking boots / gear as the weather is very changeable.

If you allowed two nights on the Wall, then get to Carlisle and get a hire car or train into the Lake District - you could then do 2-3 nights there. Lots of nice places to stay, but very poorly served by public transport and I would very strongly urge you to get a hire car if possible.

From the Lake District it is possible to get a direct train to London Euston in about 2 1/2 hours, and from there you can either go to the Jurrasic Coast or elsewhere. I should stress though that its not that specatcular, and the public transport is VERY poor - you will spend a lot of your trip waiting for buses/trains or paying a lot for a cab. If you really want to do this, then hire a car!

Last edited by jimlad48; Sep 17, 18 at 3:26 am
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Old Sep 17, 18, 7:14 am
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York, Whitby then work your way up to Edinburgh. Durham, Lindisfarne, the gorgeous Northumberland coast. Find the bits most tourists from the US don't see
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Old Sep 17, 18, 2:31 pm
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Thanks, this is been extremely enlightening. We are clearly now not going to try both northern and southern England as well as London on this trip. So now we're trying to decide between southern England and possibly Wales versus northern England.

If we went in the South we would do the Jurassic Coast and then possibly up to Bath and hire a car to go to Tintern Abbey from there. And then we would go back to London for a few days.

If we went to the North we would see the Lake District and parts of Hadrian's Wall and possibly visit Castle Howard since were both big Brideshead revisited fans. I've been to Edinburgh a few times and would love to go back but my wife thinks it's too far from the Lake District. I remember the scenery on the train ride north of Newcastle was extremely beautiful but perhaps another trip. As with the possible southern itinerary we would then spend a few days in London.

Keep the suggestions coming, it's been incredibly helpful.
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Old Sep 17, 18, 4:20 pm
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If you do hire a car for Tintern Abbey and you like ruins, consider also visiting Chepstow Castle nearby. Extensive and impressive ruins with a great setting high above the Wye. It's worth doing some reading beforehand to understand how the castle was built in stages.

Of course, if you like castles, Wales has plenty of them, but that could be a whole other trip!
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Old Sep 18, 18, 1:51 am
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If you want to go to tintern abbey by car, then your flexibility improves. I'd suggest looking at potentially staying 1 - 2 nights in either Abergavenny or Monmouth - two small market towns with significant history and attractions, plus fine eating nearby. The whole area is full of ruins and castles, and in particular I recommend Llanthony Priory as a remote but lovely ruin (arguably far nicer than Tintern) in the depths of the Black Mountains. From there you have the Brecon Beacons (hilly moorland) close to Cardiff.

It is roughly 90 minutes drive from Bath to Abergavenny on good roads, so its a lovely trip.
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