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possible to see the country without a car?

Phoenix, Arizona
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possible to see the country without a car?

I am coming to Bristol for a conference July 6-7. I am bringing my 13 year old daughter and year old son. We will be flying into London, and I have booked rooms there for the 26-1st July and 7-9 July. I hadn't planned to hire a car, but now I am second guessing myself. We would like to spend the 1st-5th visiting the countryside. Specifically, we would like to visit Bath and see cliffs along the coast, and I think she saw a purported king arthur's castle in one of the travel guides she was reading. It is full of bus and train routes, but I am starting to doubt what we can do in that time frame without private transportation. Nosing around here I saw the canal boats, and that looks fabulous, but not possible with our traveling party! It's rather late dates, but I would love to hear opinions about what a pair of bibliophiles might want to go out of their way to see, especially with a baby on board. Thank you in advance for any suggestions for what we should visit, and how we should get there.

Oh, last note, we are from Phoenix where most people never use public transportation, but we have navigated Chicago and Washington DC, so while I find the schedules intimidating, I am trying to have confidence that we could figure it out (with a little help from our TA friends...)

Budapest, Hungary
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1. Re: possible to see the country without a car?

Do you want to park yourself in one place before moving to Bristol for the conference ? or stay in Bristol the whole time ?

And when you say countrside do you mean the countryside as in fields and hills, or do you mean towns and villages within the countryside ?

Bath can be reached by train from Bristol in 15 minutes. And Wells and Glastonbury can be reached by bus from both Bath and Bristol. That would fill 2 days.

Personally I would suggest staying in Bath beforehand, more to offer a 13yo girl than Brizz, in a much more concentrated area.

It is possible to do minibus trips to places like Stonehenge or the Cotswolds from Bath, though a 1yo might find such trips restrictive.

The nearest cliffs are probably Exmoor way, which is also real countryside, but for that you would need a car.

Can you be more specific re: King Arthur, there is more than one place which clams him....

Edited: 12 June 2013, 07:20
Budapest, Hungary
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2. Re: possible to see the country without a car?

btw if you do hire a car, make sure you specify automatic - Europeans don't like automatics so hire companies don't have many.

Plymouth
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3. Re: possible to see the country without a car?

Hello! Just responding to some of your points.

The 'King Arthur's castle' your daughter has seen is probably Tintagel in Cornwall. This is a beautiful place with fantastic cliffs, but maybe not ideal to fit in with your other plans. It is about a three hour drive from Bristol and very inconvenient and time consuming by public transport.

Looking at your schedule you will need to spend the 1st July travelling out of London and the 5th returning to Bristol. This only gives you three full days of sightseeing. With this little time it might be sensible to minimise travel time.

Bath and Bristol are easy by public transport, places with cliffs less so. For cliffs a good destination would be the Exmoor coast, the starting point of Minehead is about sixty miles from Bristol and the coast and scenery is stunning with very high cliffs. It is doable by public transport, but to get the best views and easiest access a car would be best. You could take a train to Taunton and hire a car there, or drive from Bristol.

Hope this gives you some ideas.

Edited: 12 June 2013, 07:35
Phoenix, Arizona
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4. Re: possible to see the country without a car?

What if we did Glastonbury for King Arthur and made that our home base? Would we be able to get out to Minehead? Wells? Bath? Would we still be wishing for a car? I'm as nervous about driving on the left hand side as I am about navigating public transport. By countryside I meant villages and such. Are there trains that go anywhere besides Bath? I'm still trying to decide what to do about getting from London to Bristol, and if a rail pass would be appropriate or I just need to buy the separate tickets.

Plymouth
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5. Re: possible to see the country without a car?

Hello again! Glastonbury isn't on the rail network, and all the places you are interested in are long and awkward ie need changes bus journeys from Glastonbury. Really for the places you are thinking of seeing Glastonbury or Wells would be a good base, and then go by car. I'ld suggest train London to Taunton, get a car there, then train Tnt to Bristol. Taunton is a smaller town than Bristol if you are unsure of driving on the left

If you prefer public transport my suggestion is you make Taunton your base. Pleasant if not particularly exciting place in itself, but central for public transport. You can do Glastonbury/Wells in a day by bus, then Minehead and the coast by bus another day. You could also go on the West Somerset heritage railway - steam trains. Bath another day - its about an hour by train. Stay in the town centre near the bus and rail station, start early and finish late - days are long in July - and you could see quite a lot.

England
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6. Re: possible to see the country without a car?

If you are nervous about driving on the left, please do not attempt to drive in Bristol - it is not for the feint hearted !

I have to agree that Taunton might be worth investigating as a base but as Bath and Bristol are fairly close together, it might also be worth looking to extend your stay in Bristol by one day so that you can visit Bath from there.

P-t-B

Oakham, United...
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7. Re: possible to see the country without a car?

I don't think you should be too scared of driving, and I think it'd be the best option if you want to get out into the countryside. Most people on these forums come back and say it was easy. We drive on the 'wrong' side in France with no difficulty at all. Roads have sign posts, and frequently arrows painted on them at major junctions to help you. But don't even think about taking a car into London or other major cities.

So, get a train to Bath, adn then find somewhere that you can hire a car for a couple of days from that base would be my suggestions. Make sure it's an automatic and has GPS.

Phoenix, Arizona
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8. Re: possible to see the country without a car?

Will it be easy to find a taxi in Taunton? The B&Bs outside of town look so appealing, but I don't want to ruin my whole transportation plan.

England
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9. Re: possible to see the country without a car?

Yes at the train station but less easy in the town centre.

P-t-B

Somerset
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10. Re: possible to see the country without a car?

The train from Bristol to Taunton is about 1/2hr. The bus to Minehead from the station takes about 1½hrs but it is a lovely scenic drive with the Quantock Hills on the right and Exmoor National Park on the left.

As Minehead is in the National Park it is easy to get out to the villages by bus. They leave from the sea front & town. There is an open top bus goes over the coastal hills to Lynmouth - wonderful ride with views, wildlife and arrives at a seaside town.

You can go to Dunster with it's castle and medieval village with chocolate shop among others.

The steam railway runs between coast & valley. Steam ships run along the coast. Or just sit on the harbour and drink tea and chat.

Have a look at the Traveller Articles for more info.

tripadvisor.co.uk/members-inside/suebovington

There is one hotel I know about £34 bb with excellent resturant - Kildare. Many others on the hill like the Northfield which is Best Western, or on the sea front like the Quay Inn and lots of B&B's depending on your budget.

I would think this preferable to staying in Taunton with the long bus journey to the countryside.

Bath is a lovely city if you haven't been, just a hop from Bristol & you might want to check out day trips into the Cotswolds or maybe there is one to Wells which is well worth seeing.

If you do decide on Minehead as a base just ask and I can provide more info.

Edited: 15 June 2013, 23:08