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Trip Report 25 Day Journey Through England

L B
Cincinnati, Ohio
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130 posts
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Trip Report 25 Day Journey Through England

I posted this on Fodors a while back.

I want to thank everyone who gave me advice, tips, scenic drives, etc and let you know that I followed many of your suggestions, but still made this my own journey, which won't be to everyone's liking. Most of the vacation was hassle free and with terrific weather, but there were a few minor glitches(a car accident, a fight in Trafalgar Square, accidental stolen key, an unusual incident involving a pheasant and a gravestone, and sad news from home). My travel companion and I both truly loved England, and as you will see we were able to spend a great amount of time in the beautiful countryside. We will be returning in two years! Can't wait. This was mainly a trip of 2 or 3 nights in one area and then moving on. I know that this way of traveling is not everyone's cup of cream tea, but I loved Texasbookworms trip reports and she advised me to do my own thing. I did, and cannot express strongly enough in words how truly wonderful this vacation was for myself and my companion.

Also, I can write fairly well when I take my time, but this trip lasted almost a month and I would rather just get it written down quickly rather than to try and impress, so please forgive my errors.

Quick rundown of where we went:

London

Rye(out of the way but worth the drive)

Bath

Cotswolds

Shrewsbury

North Wales

Lake District

North Yorkshire

London

with lots of charming places in between!

Our Hotels/Bed and Breakfasts(for those who want to read only the part of the trip report to see my opinion about a particular place to stay)

Rubens At The Palace--London

The Mermaid Inn--Rye, East Sussex

3 Abbey Green--Bath, Somerset

Sheepscombe House B and B--Snowshill, Cotswolds

Catherine of Aragon Suite--Shrewsbury, Shropshire

The Waverley--Llandudno, North Wales

The Queen's Head--Hawkshead, Lake District

Bybeck B and B--Grange in Borrowdale, Keswick, Lake District

Stone House Hotel--Hawes, North Yorkshire

Victoria Hotel--Robin Hood's Bay, North Yorkshire

Guy Fawkes Inn, York

Dukes Hotel, London

Reviews for all Hotels/Inns have been posted here on Tripadvisor.

Day 1 LONDON(actually Day 1 was July 1st leaving Cincinnati and flying overnight to London via New York)

Arrived Heathrow at around 10 AM. Customs took literally an entire minute, and we were on our way to find a taxi. Not as tired as I expected we would be. We chose to spend this first day and night in London and then leave for East Sussex the next day and save more of London for the end of our trip.

Taxi took us to Rubens At the Palace and they allowed us to store our luggage but the room wasn't ready(we were too early for check in). The changing of the guard was nearly ready to begin so I grabbed my companion and we walked a good few hundred yards from The Rubens to take a peek(incredibly convenient location). This is my 3rd time in London but my companion's first time out of the US. It was crowded, lots of tourists, and some aggravating pushing and shoving(hope I didn't push anyone TOO hard!), but we were able to see from a good vantage point across the street, slightly elevated.

Back to the Rubens where they showed us our smallish but very nice room. The elevator was tiny and atmospheric, and my friend was like a child with a new toy! The Hotel feels very old world English(though most of the staff were Polish). Happy with The Rubens-gave a review on Tripadvisor.

Rested a bit, and decided to find Fish and Chips for a late lunch, and we sauntered across the street and turned left, and immediately found a pub and went inside. The food was terrible, the service was even worse and I wish I could remember the name--but it's visible from the Rubens across the street and to the left across another street. Also, it was not owned or managed by English speaking people and I'm not sure whether that makes a difference or not, but for the rest of the trip the Fish and Chips were terrific.

We then walked and walked and walked, taking in all of the sights in and around Westminster, and ending up in Trafalgar Square which was enormously crowded, loud, filthy, and violent that particular night(July 2nd) and it looked as though a festival had taken place. We literally observed 3 physical fights in fifteen minutes(I will be involved in one upon our return in 24 days). No one was terribly hurt, but it was the first time we had ever heard the word "Chav" on our trip---and not the last. Still not too sure exactly what that term means? Have an idea.

Ate Dinner at a terrific pub around the corner from Trafalgar Sq. and had Ploughman's Boards. We both loved them, and the beer. Long walk home to bed! Long flight was catching up with us.

Day 2 RYE(East Sussex)

I was kind of nervous about this day as it would be the first time I had ever driven on the left. We took a train from Victoria to Gatwick to pick up the car. It was through AutoEurope. The car was called a Vauxhall. We don't have them here in the states. I got in, sat for a bit, and then connected my Sat Nav that I had brought with me. Now is a good time to introduce you to our third travel partner---Simon--the voice of our Sat Nav. In time he became my best friend! and my worst enemy! A stormy relationship indeed!

Well, I turned the key, started her up, and off we went---right into a roundabout! I learned to love them after a few days, but on day one I dreaded every roundabout we approached. My brain and my actions were like two separate entities, and the 2 lane roundabouts caused some slight confusion. Anyway, we made it to the Motorway and it was a smooth, FAST drive from that point on. Wow, but the English DO drive quickly! I figured "what the hell" and joined in on the rat race. We made it to Rye by 11:30 that morning, and I found myself navigating up a narrow cobbled street(Mermaid St) to the guest parking behind The Mermaid Inn. Unbelievably, this was where I had my minor accident. The turn was very sharp, and a rather portly woman was standing immovably at the entrance leaving me very little room to maneuver. I asked her to move over just a little but was met with resistance, reluctance, and finally--regurgitation. She was either sick, hungover, or had simply eaten too much that particular morning, or year. My attempt to squeeze past her corpulent visage failed, and my car scraped the entrance wall. I continued driving on behind the Mermaid Inn, parked, and took a look at the damage. A dent and a long scrape. I chose not to inform AutoEurope until we dropped the car off in York. The woman then moved across the street.

Rye is an enchanting small town. So very old, with flowers, foliage, extremely tame wild birds everywhere, and very few people. We checked into the Mermaid and it was like stepping back into the 15th century. Creaky floors, secret staircases, wood paneling everywhere, and a labyrinth of corridors and public rooms. We loved the place! Our room was on the second and a half floor(best way to describe it) with high, beamed ceilings, and a view looking down to Mermaid St. We walked the entire town, feeling like we were in a postcard. Visited Lamb House(home of Henry James), Ypres Tower, and the Parish Church of St Mary. Went to the top(belfry) and then outside on a circular widows walk type of balcony which affords a terrific view over the town and landscape. Visually stunning. The cemetery is also one of the most beautiful I've seen, right in the center of town on a hill(as is the church) and clearly a place meant to be visited for reasons other than dead relatives. We met a kind elderly woman sitting on a bench in the cemetery, and she gave us a history of the place. This town had very few tourists while we were there, and it just seemed to be filled with nature. The seagulls, doves, rooks, blackbirds, and some sort of small brown cute bird were so very loud! They seemed to be everywhere, and were completely unafraid of humans. Everything was lush, and this is when my friend and I noticed a kind of mossy fragrance in the air. Clean, earthy, and rich. It never left us the entire trip. What is it? Some Dutch people we met later said they notice it every time they visit England.

The kind old woman(Eddie) instructed us to visit the Rye Pottery shop and purchase something to remember the town. I did, and even though it was expensive pottery, it was exquisite and worth the cost.

Late in the day we drove to Beachy Head and waded into the sea, and climbed the Down towards the lighthouse. A lavender sky was forming above the white, chalk cliffs. This was a truly incredible day filled with so much beauty and history. Weather was sunny all day with a temperature of about 68 degrees fahrenheit. We figured we were just lucky and the rest of the trip would never be able to match this place or this weather. We were wrong. I'm actually worried that I'm going to bore you readers with constant talk about how beautiful this was, or how magical that was, but it was how most of our trip unfolded.

Returned to Rye and were too late for Dinner at most places but an Indian restaurant was still open and I hate to confess this on top of the terrific day but it was some of the best Indian food we've ever eaten. I always ask for something as hot and spicy as they can make it and am usually wishing it were spicier, but this place gave exactly what I requested. Wish I could remember the name. I have receipts scattered about from every place we visited so if anyone really wants a name of a place just ask me and I'll look it up. Oh wait, I just remembered that it has the word "Ghandi" in it's name. Something like Ghandi Tandoori.

We seemed to be the last people awake in Rye, so Joey went up to the room and I walked through the town again. Wonderfully alone.

Rye deserved 2 nights, and I will come back again and explore Southeast England, the Downs, Brighton, and the many castles in the area. It was out of our way completely but I am so glad we decided to take the drive and see it anyway. Such a remarkable place and I would strongly recommend that anyone visiting there should stay at The Mermaid Inn.

Next: Bath and The Cotswolds.

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L B
Cincinnati, Ohio
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1. Re: Trip Report 25 Day Journey Through England

Sorry, meant to post this on the England forum rather than the London forum. I have re posted it there and will continue it on that forum.

Lytham St Anne's...
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2. Re: Trip Report 25 Day Journey Through England

It sounds as if you were really enjoying your trip to England.

I look forward to reading further enstalments.

Graham

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3. Re: Trip Report 25 Day Journey Through England

It's possible that fewer people will see it on the England forum. I know that sounds odd, but many on the London forum (by far the biggest) enter straight into the London forum and miss out the England and the UK bit. Those of us in the regions tend to go to the UK forum (which includes all posts on the England forums), because there isn't usually enough to occupy us on our own relatively quiet forums.

Nijmegen...
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4. Re: Trip Report 25 Day Journey Through England

I'd love to read the remainder here, I have to know what happened with the peacock & the graveyard :)

Italy
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5. Re: Trip Report 25 Day Journey Through England

Thanks, great report with loads of info.

London
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6. Re: Trip Report 25 Day Journey Through England

<<an unusual incident involving a pheasant and a gravestone>>

Quite possibly the best intro to a trip report I've seen on this forum.....

Do continue here as well as England forum - as others have said most people do visit here at some point.

L B
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7. Re: Trip Report 25 Day Journey Through England

Day 3 BATH (July 4th)

...so we awoke to an enormous breakfast in the beautiful dining room of The Mermaid Inn. This was the beginning of my observation about the eggs in England. The yolk was the proof of how fresh they were, and of how happy the hens lives must have been. A deep, dark orange rather than the pale yellow that we see here from even our organic eggs(still fed corn rather than being able to rummage about in the grass). A visit to the grocery later in the trip confirmed this. Tasty sausage, England's much better version of bacon), porridge, baked beans, toast, deep yellow butter(another clue), mushrooms, and the token stewed tomato(not a fan). This enormous lot gave us plenty of protein for long, active days. Most of our breakfasts were like this.

Got into the car and prepared Simon for our destination---Bath. This was to be our longest drive(though to American standards, 4 hours isn't really that bad). So, skipping ahead to our afternoon arrival, we thought it was amusing yet charming that a city was to be approached not by taking a simple exit off the motorway, but rather via a long, narrow, rural road where one had to dodge sheep. Truly a delight!

Most of the Hotels in Bath do not have parking(this turned out to be a good thing due to the many car free areas) so we parked in a public carpark and phoned our hotel--Three Abbey Green. The nice lady said she would come immediately to collect us. After a few minutes an extremely attractive woman named Friday came and escorted us(on foot) to the Hotel(or maybe it's a guesthouse--something in between I guess). As we walked(7 minutes) Joey and I were struck as to how incredibly beautiful the city was laid out. Truly breathtaking and even though I had been there once before when I was 19, I remembered nothing. I have never been to Italy or Greece, but have seen a lot of the rest of Europe and I can honestly call Bath the 1st or 2nd most beautiful city I've ever visited(Bruges may be number one but it's been years). Square after square, archways, Completely intact Georgian Architecture, parks galore, a beautiful river, cafes, small alleys with cute shops, many car free zones, Bath Abbey dominating the center, etc. Our Hotel was located in a quiet square about 2 minutes from Bath Abbey. We were on the top floor with a view looking out to the square. The square had a 200+ year old tree right in the middle.

Dropped off our luggage and started a long walk through the city. It was midday, and we walked slowly to allow it all to sink in. We then had a late lunch/early dinner---Dunch--at a nice little place called Riverside Cafe which overlooked the river. Kind of surprised to see seagulls in landlocked Bath. Mean ones. They were killing pigeons(drowning them). Still not sure why they're there...

We then took a riverboat cruise down the River Avon. Nice little sojourn, but nothing to really write home about.

Returned and went out to pubs that evening. Walking through the city late was a treat because there were many street performers, musicians, and even actors which added to the atmosphere.

Went to bed.

Day 4 BATH (July 5th)

Huge breakfast again.

Today we went to the Roman Baths. I just can't describe it to you---so much history all around. The museum was very informative, yet I've never been a big fan of wearing earphones whilst walking through a place such as this. The Baths are everything one would expect them to be.

Bath Abbey was next but we were unable to go inside because there was some sort of graduation ceremony taking place. The bells were ringing constantly. Again, adding to the ambience.

We then walked to the Circus. Joey was non plussed! He couldn't get over this perfect circular formation, especially when you stand with the old trees in the center.

Onto the Royal Crescent. I need to mention right now that photos of any kind do not capture the essence of Bath. York and her Shambles, for instance, can be faithfully captured on film and give you an idea of what to expect. Bath is another story. There is just so much more to it when one is physically present.

There is a park directly below the Royal Crescent which is worth a long walk. Incidentally nothing was really very far from anywhere else. 30 minutes tops. Just the perfect size.

By this time it was evening and honestly I can't remember where we had dinner. This day seems uneventful as I'm writing but perhaps it's because it was full of mainly touristy visits.

I would highly recommend Three Abbey Green as a place to stay during a visit to Bath. Remember that I have left reviews for all our Hotels on Tripadvisor.

In a nutshell, everything was better than we imagined!

Next: The Cotswolds, falcons, lavender fields, and the perfect village...

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L B
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8. Re: Trip Report 25 Day Journey Through England

Day 5 THE COTSWOLDS (July 6th)

We woke up and after breakfast had one last walk through beautiful Bath. Sad to leave, but excited about visiting a region that I knew from years ago and remembered enjoying tremendously.

Our destination was a little village called Snowshill, but after about an hours drive from Bath, there had been an accident on the main road so Simon had to reroute, and we were very close to Bourton on the Water so we decided to have lunch there before going to our B and B in Snowshill. Now here is where I have a gripe!! Why do so many people claim that certain parts of the Cotswolds are full of tourists and should be bypassed in favor of other areas? It's simply not true! Bourton On the Water was perhaps the most visited village in that area(at least during our 3 days) and it was inconsequential. This beautiful village may have had a few tour buses, and some elderly people visiting here and there, but crowded? No! I simply don't want any future American visitors to be fooled into thinking that the area is so touristy as to make it unpleasant. You want touristy? Go to the changing of the guard in London, or York Minster, or any museum in London, or Blenheim Palace, etc. An example of how 'busy" Bourton was is that we went to a restaurant (remember that this is July) at lunchtime, and were seated in 30 seconds. DIrectly in front of the river with a great view. And this is the busy village! If you're an American and want to visit The Cotswolds----I urge you to go. The entire region lives up that romantic notion that we Americans have about the English countryside. And if a few busloads of elderly tourists bother you, then there are many many many villages where you won't see a single visitor. Our village of Snowshill, for instance, seemed almost like a ghost town.

We visited Bourton on the Water, Broadway, Snowshill, Stanton, Stanway, Upper and Lower Slaughter, and Chipping Campden during our 3 day ramble through the area. Bourton on The Water was Joey's favorite village, with Broadway a close second. I preferred Snowshill(the perfect village!) but we both enjoyed them all!

After lunch and a stroll through the village, it was time to see what our 3 nights were going to be like in the area, so we drove to Snowshill, and our B and B --Sheepscombe House--was just outside of the village(a 5 minute walk). What a dream! It was basically a sheep farm, and our sleeping quarters were the top floor of a second building on the property, with a view across the pasture and down into Snowshill. Our rooms were a small sitting room, kitchen, and huge bedroom and bathroom. This was exactly what I had hoped for--3 nights of pastoral bliss. The proprietors were Tim and Jackie Harrison, and Tim grew up at Sheepscombe so he knew the Cotswolds like the back of his hand. Wonderful people, and Tim gives car tours for a fee(the other American guests used this service because they were afraid to drive).

We dumped our luggage, played with the dog, and then set out on our first footpath of the trip. It starts directly behind Sheepscombe, leads through pasture, wood, field, brook, and then ends in the village. A nice easy first footpath to take. Incidentally, the weather was perfect up to this point. Snowshill itself is a little untouched paradise, cascading down a hill with views all around and as quiet as a mouse. We saw absolutely no one in the village. We strolled the church yard, and entered the church which was still, and silent, with the sound of wind outside. The scent of this lovely old church gave me chills--simply.....old.

We then decided to drive to Broadway that evening. Got there in about 7 minutes. Snowshill is an incredibly convenient location for the north Cotswolds. Broadway was quiet, much larger than Snowshill, with more choices of restaurants and pubs. We settled in a terrific pub called The Crown and Trumpet. Joey ordered something called "Faggots" and I hate to admit that we were amused by the name of that entree(he had spotted dick for dessert). Everything was tasty and the pub was starting to fill up with people and dogs(and a cat). This is another thing we loved about England was that dogs are allowed in the pubs which allows them to be socialized early on with people and other dogs. I wish America could be the same. After dinner we tried something called Scrumpy which I wish I could get here. Joey became addicted to it(though the next morning was a bit head achey). We met a number of people that evening--Malcolm and June, and Bob and Betty(she was Scottish), and Lorraine, and spent the rest of the evening with them. What absolute fun we had!

I am a pianist by profession, and had not played in 6 days which made me want to pound something, and in The Crown and Trumpet was an old upright piano. Malcolm asked me to play something so I started with one of my own compositions(well received but who knows, really, considering how polite everyone is). Then they asked for Billy Joel--so I played Piano Man. FInally they asked if I knew Elgar. Elgar!? He is only my favorite composer of all time and part of my reason for seeing the Malverns later in the trip. They asked me to play "Land of Hope and Glory" which is the tune that Americans use for Graduation ceremonies(Pomp and Circumstance). I happily obliged, and they sang with the music. Terrific night all around. Friendly and interesting people like this were encountered throughout our journey.

Went back to Sheepscombe and slumberland.

Next: more COTSWOLDS, and lavender fields...

East Sussex, United...
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9. Re: Trip Report 25 Day Journey Through England

Im really enjoying this trip report and will be following it. Thanks for postings. The gulls are not just restricted to seaside locations by the way, there are plenty to be seen in some parts of london as well....usually around landfill sites.

L B
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10. Re: Trip Report 25 Day Journey Through England

Day 6 THE COTSWOLDS continued

Awoke and went to the main house for yet another enormous breakfast. We decided today would be a great day to visit the Lavender fields, so off we went in the car and we were there in no more than 10 minutes.

It's more than one would think. The fields seemed to go on forever. We walked into them, going deeper and deeper, and the scent was overpowering. Joey didn't like the smell, too intense. There are many insects that seem to source the fields also, but I kind of liked that. Not really a whole lot to tell about them except I would urge anyone who's in the area to see them. I certainly haven't seen anything like that here in the US, though I'm sure it must exist somewhere. When I say there isn't a lot to write about them I do not mean it's a waste of time. I would go again and again. Stunning. There is a gift shop nearby that sells everything lavender.(and I thought I saw something orange as well).

Next we happened upon a falconry center. What I liked about it was that the demonstrator would describe how all of the birds differed in their flight methods. It seemed to me that it should be called a Bird of Prey center because there were certainly more than just falcons and the sport of falconry really wasn't touched upon that much. He would release the birds and let them fly high high into the sky and we were able to get a sense of how keen their vision was based on what he would lure them back with. This was really something to see in person.

Back to Bourton on the Water for tea this time(breakfast is so filling that lunch wasn't always desired). Can't remember the name, honestly, but Joey wanted to walk around that village a little more. Again, not very busy.

Then we drove to Stanton and took a rather long, circular walk to Stanway and back(the return was a different route). I really enjoyed this walk. It was uphill for awhile(this section was part of the Cotswold Way) then woods and cute cottages before reaching Stanway. Stanway house was closed when we arrived. Would have liked to step inside. Finally the walk circled back around to Stanton. We could easily have detoured on another path to Snowshill(our village) but our car was in Stanton. Probably took around 2 hours but I would not be able to tell you how many miles---maybe 3 or 4. I would absolutely recommend this walk to anyone staying in the area. Tim Harrison(sheepscombe proprietor) told us about it.

Next, we went back to Sheepscombe to make calls, check emails, etc. All was well at home.

By now it was evening and we decided to simply walk to Snowshill Arms for dinner. Lovely old place, good food, that same wonderful scrumpy, but there really weren't many people there so we didn't have the terrific fun pub night that we had had the previous evening. No complaints, though.

Back to sheepscombe to fall asleep at the sound of bleating sheep...

Next: Slaughters and Blenheim Palace

Day 7 THE COTSWOLDS

We needed to decide between Blenheim Palace and Sudeley Castle. I had been to Blenheim once before, but Joey really wanted to see it, so that's where we went. It was very crowded, massive, palatial, and impressive. The gardens alone could take hours to visit. Joey loved it. I prefer more intimate attractions. We spent a great deal of time there and I was getting anxious about having time to see The Slaughters.

Joey had his fill, and we drove back to fairy tale land to begin a Slaughter to Slaughter walk. Lower Slaughter is a dreamy village(but aren't they all?)--and we passed a water mill and ventured out towards Upper Slaughter. Beautiful walk, beautiful day, beautiful scents, and lots of slugs. It was as if they were going somewhere important. I have never seen so many of them in my life, and was hoping to catch them mating(I realize this sounds strange--will explain). I once saw a nature program that showed the mating ritual of slugs, and I can honestly say that it was the most passionate lovemaking I have ever witnessed(not that I've seen a lot of lovemaking in person! ha). Twisting and turning and enveloping each other, with fluid oozing every which way, it makes all other animals seem boring by comparison.

No such event happened in that Slaughter pasture, at least for my eyes to see.

After The Slaughters, we decided to go to Chipping Campden for Dinner. Can't remember a thing about where we ate except for an EXTREMELY loud American man desperately seeking attention. His children were also quite vocal, and his wife was certainly not a demure woman. Their whining and complaining embarrassed me, as a fellow American, but the other patrons(mostly English) remained quiet and polite. It made me wonder what they said when they returned home. Chipping Campden was a larger version of all the Cotswolds villages we had seen before. Visually quite stunning, and the buildings seemed to be the most golden.

Back to Sheepscombe for our last night. I was sad that we were leaving the area the next day, so walked alone in our pasture taking photos of the lavender sky, and then strolled through Snowshill one last time. I was convinced the best part of our trip was ending. This timeless area may very well be my favorite part of England.

Next: Elgar, Malverns, Shrewsbury