Travel Contest Itenerary – These Shoes Are Made for Walking…in England!

Contest entry #11 was submitted by Hannah Kemp.

While there are many islands that I would love to visit, the British Isles will always be near and dear to my heart. Although as with any country in order to truly appreciate the wonders of England you must stop and stay for a good long while, I shall attempt to whirl you through her sights and sounds in a mere 7-8 days. Before you set out, a most necessary item will be your Britrail Pass. You must purchase this while still in the US, they are not sold in the UK. A 4 day Flexi-pass 2nd Class will cost $275 for adults and $207 for youth. This trip is designed for students or young people, as it includes a lot of walking and attempts to highlight the less expensive side of things. However, it could be easily adapted for a family or older couple. I’ve included the prices for adults, as they are the highest, but your student ID card will prove invaluable on your journey, as almost every place offers a “concession” price for students, seniors, families & children.

Day 1: Arrive in London, at either Heathrow or Gatwick airport. Plan on arriving either late afternoon or in the evening, this helps with jet-lag. Since you’re already exhausted from traveling, go ahead and slip into the train for Oxford. If you’re still awake and its still light out, head to the second level and secure a front seat view as the English countryside passes you by. When you arrive at the Oxford station you’ll be just outside the center of beautiful Oxford, England. Even though it may be late at night, you shouldn’t have a problem getting a cab. Take one of the many black taxi-cabs waiting just outside and direct the driver to your hotel. There are many places to stay in Oxford, but I recommend the Lakeside B&B (http://www.oxfordcity.co.uk/accom/lakeside/). Rooms start at 38 for a single, GBP 50 for a standard double, 68 double with en-suite and 84 for a family en-suite. Right next to a charming little park and a mere 15 minutes walk from the City Centre, the Lakeside is ideally situated. If it is unavailable, there are several other B&B’s on Abingdon Road. Be sure to let your hosts know when your plane gets in, especially if its late, so they can be ready for your arrival.

Day 2:

Depending on your interests, you may decide to spend more or less time at any one of the places on this itinerary. Oxford is highly recommended as a 2 day treat, there’s so much to see and do in this beautiful town! Plus, its nice to take things easy on your first day after a long journey.

Start out from the Lakeside B&B after enjoying a hearty breakfast. When you leave the B&B, turn left and head down the road. If you prefer, you can turn right and walk to the bus stop, where you can catch a bus to the City Centre for 90 pence. This beautiful morning is the reason to come to Oxford straight from London. You’ll see London on your way home and there is nothing like an Oxford morning to refresh and invigorate the weary traveler. By the time you arrive at the City Centre, you’ll be ready for a day full of adventure! Grab a map, and take a look at the city of the dreaming spires.

http://www.dailyinfo.co.uk/sheet/maps/map.htm

http://www.club.ox.ac.uk/images/large-oxford-map.gif

Among the unique gems of Oxford, the Pitt Rivers Museum is one of the most curious. Located inside the Natural History Museum, museum guides are still discovering new pieces in this collection of memorabilia from various private collections which range from carved pipes to shrunken heads to stringed instruments. Be sure to open the drawers, you never know what you’ll find!

Just down the road from the Natural History Museum lies University Park. This is a terrific place to sit under a tree, relax, or even take a nap to get rid of the last remnants of jet lag.

Take lunch at the Eagle & Child, where J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis and other Oxford authors met to discuss their ideas over beer and pipes in a group called “The Inklings.” I highly recommend the Mushroom Pepperpot, a specialty of the pub.

On Broad Street, not too far from the Eagle & Child, lies Blackwells’ Bookstore. Blackwell’s is a haven for booklovers everywhere. Venture to the uppermost level and you’ll find the used book department, where many interesting and unique volumes can be found for 1/2 price.

Directly across from this deceptively small appearing bookstore (the largest in Oxford) is the Museum of the History of Science. http://www.mhs.ox.ac.uk/ This museum often has interesting exhibits, such as Einstein’s Chalkboard – preserved from when he gave a lecture on relativity at the university. The exhibits for this summer are not yet posted, but when they are, you can find them here: http://www.mhs.ox.ac.uk/events/

Depending on your preference, you can see the city in any number of ways. There are guided walking tours, or red bus tours if your feet are tiring. If you’re interested in a walking tour – which is probably the best way to experience Oxford – many of them start at or near to Blackwell’s bookstore.

The one thing you’ll kick yourself the most if you miss is an Evensong at Christ Church. Whether or not you tour this beautiful church (Harry Potter fans will consider such a tour a must) take a moment at the end of your day to sit and rest and experience this beautiful and uplifting ceremony. Schedules are posted on the church door on St. Aldate’s street, or can be found here: http://www.chch.ox.ac.uk/modules/standard/viewpage.asp?id=235

After a long day of walking, its good to remember that buses run fairly late into the night, leaving from St. Aldate’s Road, just a little bit closer to city centre from the gates of Christ Church. If, instead, you choose to walk, you can stop in for a pint at the Head of the River pub on your way back to your B&B.

Day 3: Hop aboard an early train and head for York. Ideally, you’ll get there in time for the first free walking tour, which starts at 10:15am and explores the history of York, ending the beautiful York Minster. http://www.btinternet.com/%7Eyork.touristguides/ After the tour, there are lots of different options. The Jorvik Viking Centre is an especially fun place for both the young and the young at heart. http://www.jorvik-viking-centre.co.uk/trialsplash2.htm The York museum offers plenty to see, and you can catch a nap in the gardens. Trains can easily become a mild passion while traveling in Britain, and you can fuel this interest at the National Rail Museum. Be sure to pick up some Yorkshire cheese from a local shop…most days there’s a small local market where you never know what you’ll find – anything from a paper cone of freshly picked strawberries to hand crafted jewelry.

At the end of the day, hop back on the train, this time heading further north to Edinburgh. The journey time should be about 2.5 hours. You have so many options for where to stay in Edinburgh. For the budgeted back-packer, I reccomend the High Street Hostel. The staff are friendly, and the location can’t be beat! If you’re looking for a little more comfort, try the Arbercorn Bed & Breakfast, its outside the city, but well worth the journey. http://www.smoothhound.co.uk/hotels/abercorn.html

Yet another option is the Globetrotter Inn. The Globetrotters in Edinburgh is decidedly off the beaten track, requiring either your own transportation or that you pay a (separate) fee to take their (admittedly frequent, but often crowded) bus to get to the hostel. Once you’re there, its right by the ocean, which has distinct advantages of long, romantic windswept walks by the rocky shore. If you can stand the isolation, and don’t mind the chance of having to wait for the bus a little extra, the Globetrotters in Edinburgh is an excellent place to stay – the staff is courteous and the place is clean and well thought out. I will highly recommend the sister hostel in London, and I recommend the facility in Edinburgh, however, the journey to and from makes the Globetrotters in Edinburgh a little too much of a hassle for the value. If you’re going to go outside Edinburgh, go to the Arbercorn B&B, where you get a lot more privacy for about the same amount of money. The Globetrotter is, however, nice for large groups, or persons traveling together who want to have their own bed.

Day 4: This is your first day in Scotland! Get a map from your hostess as you head out the door, but don’t worry too much about finding your way around town. Edinburgh is built on the “Royal Mile” and just about everything you want to see is close by. The Edinburgh Castle will take you at least 2 or 3 hours to see properly, so either visit there first, or leave plenty of time, because you’ll kick yourself if you don’t. Not to be missed is the exhibit for the blind just before the crown jewels of Scotland – a unique idea that allows those without sight to feel the craftsmanship of the crown, sceptre and sword.

A fun, and free, stop just before the castle, is the The Woolen Mill. Here you can take a brief tour of the history of Scottish dress, see a weaver in action and have a chance to buy a yard of your own tartan.

Turn off the Royal Mile at the Mercat Cross and walk down (literally) a little, and on your right you might very well spot a man in a Frankenstein’s monster costume. He is advertising another of the more unique hidden away places in Edinburgh, Frankenstein’s. This unique little restruant is located in the second story of a club/bar and has been built in what used to be a high Anglican church.

If you’re brave enough, catch one of the evening Ghost Tours. Half the fun of these tours is observing the other party members as they suddenly get “cold on one side” or “feel ghostly hands.” The guides with Mercat Tours are excellent storytellers. And, who knows, maybe you’ll have a ghostly encounter of your own. http://www.mercattours.com/scheduled-tours.asp

Edinburgh is another place you may want to extend your stay in – there’s so much to see and do! Be sure to save some time to browse in the many shops – the Scottish shopkeepers are usually quite jovial, and often wear kilts! Also, take an evening to relax in a local pub and soak up some quality atmosphere. The “story time” at the end of the Ghost Tour is a good way to start this!

Day 5:

You’ll take the high road and I’ll take the low road

And I’ll be in Scotland afore ye

But me and my true love will never meet again

On the bonny, bonny banks of Loch Lomond.

Hop aboard your favorite train and head for the tiny village of Balloch. Its literally the end of the line, so get off the train before it starts going backwards! Right next to the tracks (there’s no station, just a platform) is a tiny shop with some of the best, and greasiest, fish & chips in all of Great Britain. If you choose to stay a night, there are several lovely B&B’s right across the street. However, the true attraction is a short walk down to the right, where you’ll find Loch Lomond National Park. Be sure to bring your camera, and stay for sunset on the Loch.

http://www.lochlomond-trossachs.org/

Day 6 & 7:

As you hop aboard the train and head all the way down the country, be very glad that there are many express trains direct from Edinburgh to London! Instead of stopping at every little village possible, they pause at 2, or 3 stations and book it to London in a very brief 5 hours.

Alternatively, you can try the overnight train called the Caledonian Sleeper. If you go this option, advance planning is absolutely necessary – the “Bargain Berth” prices of GBP19 one-way disappear quickly. If you forget to plan ahead, your BritRail pass, will give you a more comfortable option, as the difference between a supplement for a 2nd class and a 1st class berth is a mere 4. Check out this website for information on how to book a ticket.

http://www.seat61.com/CaledonianSleepers.htm

Where to stay in London really depends entirely on your taste and budget. Some people will be spending little to no time awake in their rooms, so a reputable hostel is a highly economical and practical option. Others will want a more relaxing and traditional stay, so a B&B would be better. I’ve only personally experienced the hostel option, but I’ve put my researching skills to the test, and have come up with a B&B choice that I would love to try:

The GlobeTrotter Inn is a quality hostel, with above average facilities. There are no rickety metal bunks here – no, you have your own wooden bunk with a curtain, bookshelf and reading light. A personal locker with key is included. The staff are friendly and courteous – and if they can’t find something, they’ll help you find someone who can.

http://www.globetrotterinns.com/

For a good B&B, I suggest the Bay Tree House. http://www.hostels.net/hosteldetails.php

With nice rates and a good location, the thing that really sells this place to me are the various reviews of the B&B on www.tripadvisor.com, a resource I use occasionally to test and see if places I’ve found are too good to be true.

To find your own location, I suggest combining the services of http://www.londonbb.com/

with the reviews on www.tripadvisor.com

Traveling by the London Underground, or Tube, is easy and definitely your best choice. Get an Oyster Card, put GBP 7 on it and you’ll soon be zipping about with ease. The Oyster Card is very nice, as you pay as you go – so if you only travel to Trafalgar square and back, then you’ll only use 1-3 and have the rest for your next day – but if you travel a lot, the price caps at .50 less than a day pass. You can also use the Oyster Card for travel on the red double decker coaches – in fact, if you travel exclusively by coach, the price caps at 3. All in all, the Oyster card is very convenient, worry free and the best value for your money. A tip for the budget conscious, are you tired as can be, but don’t want to sit in your hotel room when you could be out and about? Don’t want to fork over bundles for the hop on, hop off tours? Just use your oyster card to get onto a red double decker bus. Secure the front seat on the top deck and just ride about London. I can tell you from personal experience, its quite nice and relaxing.

If you’re arriving early in the morning via the Caledonian Sleeper, your hotel in London may not yet have your room ready. However, they should be glad to hold your bags while you go sight-seeing. There is so much to see and do in London, its a 2 day-must and you might even extend it to 3. What you attempt is really your choice – don’t try too much or you’ll end up with lots of photographs, but no recollection of your day! For your convenience, I’ve divided the sites up by location.

Leicester & Trafalgar Square

Theatre:

Hop off the tube (please mind the gap between the train and the platform) and take the escalator up to Leicester Square – admiring the various posters for musicals on your way up. Now, there are 2 ways to go about getting tickets to musicals, the sure fire way, and the interesting and less expensive way. If you desire to go to a popular favourite, i.e. Les Miserables, The Phantom of the Opera, all you need to do is arrive at Leicester Square BEFORE 10am. The discount ticket offices open at 10am, and all the wonderfully cheap sounding offers they have are usually gone within the first 30 minutes to an hour. After that, you can still get less expensive tickets, but they’re much harder to come by. If you’re going to a show that is not Les Mis or Phantom, you may want to buy your tickets ahead of time. Find the website for the show and purchase them there, more expensive, but you have your tickets. You can also check and see, many shows offer “stand-by” tickets, where you show up at the theatre itself in the afternoon a few hours before the show, and have a chance to get excellent tickets at very inexpensive rates. The draw back of this plan is that you may find yourself without a show to go to. If you’re a little flexible, you can plan on trying this option your first day, and going for Leicster Square tickets the second day, if you can’t get a stand by ticket.

The National Gallery:

The rest of your day in London depends entirely on your tastes. From Leicester Square, you can easily walk to Trafalgar Square. The National Gallery will take up an entire day for the art enthusiast – but the less interested can probably sweep through it in an hour or so. http://www.nationalgallery.org.uk/ There are quite often guided tours which explore various elements of this large and beautiful collection. Like most British museums, all except the occasional special collection is free to view, another bonus for the budget conscious. Through the 25th of June, find a special exhibit titled “Bellini and the East,” admission to which is free. Expect to see masterpieces by many different artists from Monet to da Vinci to Velasquez, dating from 1250AD to 1900AD.

Lunchtime:

After viewing the many masterpieces at the National Gallery, it might very well be about lunchtime. If so, consider yourself fortunate and head to the crypt of St. Martins in the Fields, just across the road from the National Gallery. Here you’ll find a delightful lunch which you can either eat in the crypt itself, or take a sandwich out to Trafalgar Square and enjoy your repast amongst the lions and pigeons by the fountain. However, you should note that the most excellent soup, which is to be had at St. Martins, is difficult take-away food. If you’re there a little later, St. Martin’s is an excellent place to catch a spot of afternoon tea which is served from 2-6pm.

http://www2.stmartin-in-the-fields.org/page/cafe/crypt/crypt.html

Parliament:

Nearby, you’ll also find the offices of parliament. If either of your days in London happens to be a Wednesday, you might consider attempting to attend the Prime Minister’s Question Time which starts at noon every Wednesday when the House of Commons is in session. Space to view the House of Commons is quite limited, so arriving early is absolutely essential. Check out http://www.parliament.uk/works/occasion.cfm and “Prime Minister’s Question Time” for more information.

Westminster Abbey:

Westminster Abbey, where the queens and kings of England are christened, crowned and buried along with many other important poets, artists and historical figures. Come back in the evening to hear a gorgeous sung evensong. http://www.westminster-abbey.org/

National Portrait Gallery:

The National Portrait Gallery – sit and wonder at the stories behind the faces. http://www.npg.org.uk/live/index.asp

Along the Thames:

Tate Modern:

If modern art is more to your liking, you won’t find it at the National Gallery. For that, you must go to the Tate modern. http://www.tate.org.uk/modern/ Southwark and Blackfriars are the closest tube stations both of which are about ten minutes walk from the museum. While at the Tate, another piece of modern art may catch your eye. Situated right on the Thames, the Tate is quite close to the Millenium bridge, a wonderful place to look out at the expanse of the great river of London.

Tower of London:

Also along the Thames, you’ll find the Tower of London. Here you can compare the crown jewels of England with the Scottish jewels you saw in Edinburgh. You’ll also encounter ravens, friendly British yeomen & a variety of interesting stories of imprisonment, torture and murder. The tube stop is, appropriately enough, Tower Hill. For more information about the Tower, I recommend this unofficial site brought to you by the yeomen themselves: http://www.camelotintl.com/tower_site/

St. Paul’s:

The view is magnificent from the top of the famous dome at St. Paul’s Cathedral. www.stpauls.co.uk It costs 9.00 to see the church, with an additional cost if you desire a guided tour. Pictures are prohibited, but the postcards available in the shop are not terribly expensive, and quite gorgeous.

Great Fire Monument:

Another way to catch the view is by climbing the Great Fire Monument. (See http://www.luminarium.org/encyclopedia/greatfire.htm for a brief history of the Great Fire.) After successfully reaching the top, you can take pictures of the London skyline (Placing your camera at a good angle between the spiked bars can be tricky.) When you come back down, they’ll give you a certificate saying that you have successfully climbed the monument.

Globe Theatre:

Those interested in Shakespeare will probably already know that the exhibition at Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre is not to be missed. http://www.shakespeares-globe.org/ Productions this summer are: Coriolanus, Titus Andronicus, Antony and Cleopatra, Under the Black Flag, The Comedy of Errors & In Extremis.

The London Eye

The London Eye is perhaps the most recognizable piece of modern British architecture. The view from the top is terrific, as long as you’re not afraid of heights! For a 10% discount, reserve your “flight ticket” online at http://www.londoneye.com/ Those interested in a bit of more recent local culture might be interested to know that the London Eye has also been theorized to be an alien transmitter, see Doctor Who for more information. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rose_(Doctor_Who)

Around London:

The British Library:

Not to be missed by the bibliophile or history buff, the British Library holds many priceless treasures. Nestled away here you’ll discover the oldest copy of Beowulf, the Magna Carta, Leonardo da Vinci’s notebooks, and beautiful illuminated manuscripts. To arrive at the British Library, take the tube to the King’s Cross station. You’ll find a helpful map here: http://www.bl.uk/about/stporientation.html

The British Museum:

Not too far from the British Library, the British Museum is full of treasures from near and far. http://www.thebritishmuseum.ac.uk/world/britain/britain.html Check out the Rosetta Stone, Egyptian mummies and money from around the world. Of note are the hands on events, which allow you to experience a wide assortment of artifacts from both ancient and modern cultures.

Shopping/Markets:

Fill in the edges with whatever interests you. Shopping, perhaps. Whether it be Harrod’s: famous for exquisite bathrooms and the ability to get you whatever you want, as long as price is no object, the Portabello Road markets (be sure to go in the early afternoon, many of the shops close sporadically early on different days of the week) or shopping on the famous Oxford Street, London has much to offer for the window shopper, the bargain shopper or the savvy person looking for some designer threads. For information on a variety of markets, check out the London Guide to London’s Markets: http://www.londontourist.org/markets.html

Pub Crawl:

If the thought of shopping makes you want to reach for your favorite brew to numb the pain, London is most definitely the place for you. Interesting even to the teetotaler, some of the oldest buildings in London are pubs – still open for business and a great place to get a bite to eat, sit back, relax and soak in the atmosphere. If you’d like to know more about them, or would rather not have to search for these often hole-in-the-wall places on your own, you might consider a guided tour. Here are a couple options, one self-tour and one with a guide:

http://www.walks.com/Homepage/Tuesday/default.aspx#108

http://www.thisislondon.co.uk/pubsandbars/articles/21805789?source=Evening%20Standard

Day 8: Head for home.

I hope this guide has proven useful to you, or at least a little entertaining. I’ll close with a brief itenerary, for easy reference and sheduling.

Cheers!

Day 1: Arrive in London. Coach to Oxford.

Day 2: Oxford

The Pitt Rivers Museum – Free

The Natural History Museum – Free

University Park – Free

Eagle & Child – Lunch (7-15)

Museum of the History of Science – Free

Evensong at Christ Church – Free

Stay at: B&B – 25 person

Day 3: York.

Walking Tour – Free

The Jorvik Viking Centre – Adult 7.45

National Rail Museum – Free

Local Market

train to Edinburgh

Stay at: B&B or Hostel: 12 – 25 person

Day 4: Edinburgh

The Edinburgh Castle – Adult -10.30

The Woolen Mill. – Free

Ghost Tour – 6.00 adul

Shops

Day 5: Balloch

Loch Lomond National Park – Free

Stay at: B&B: 15-20 per person

Days 6 & 7: London

Catch a Show: Price varies 19 – 40 apx.

The National Gallery – Free

The Crypt Cafe at St. Martins in the Fields

Parliament – Free

Westminster Abbey – Free

National Portrait Gallery – Free

Tate Modern – Free

Tower of London – Adult 15.00

St. Paul’s Cathedral: Adult 9.00

Great Fire Monument: Adult 1.00

Globe Theatre: Adult 9.00

The London Eye: Adult 13.00

The British Library – Free

The British Museum – Free

Shopping

Pub Crawl: no charge for self guided

Stay at: B&B or Hostel: 13-20 per person

Day 8: Leave for Home.

Filed Under: 2006 Summer vacation plan writing contest entries

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Comments (5)

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  1. Scott Kemp says:

    It almost makes me feel that I was there. But where are the pictures?

  2. Linda F. says:

    Can’t wait to pack my bags! Let the tour begin!

  3. Nancy says:

    This sounds really neat, especially the viking museum. I also love that a whole day of your itenerary is spent at a national park. I think at that point in the tour it would be a welcome respite. Now if only I could get a week off from work…

  4. Sharon says:

    Sounds like a great trip..lots of info!

  5. Sharon says:

    Sounds like a great trip..lots of info!

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