2002 - The UK Countryside Revisited
|Introduction Places to Visit Timeframe Transportation Planning Itinerary Lodging|
A circular drive of the backroads of England and Wales. 17 marvelous days filled with friends, hiking and walking, sight-seeing, relaxing, pubbing, country driving and meeting people.
Newton-Harcourt (Leicester), Dovedale (Peak District, Derbyshire), Hawes (Yorkshire Dales), Brecon Beacons (Wales), Hay-on-Wye (Wales), Lacock (Wiltshire), Exmoor, and Burford (the Cotswolds).
Timeframe and Weather
We went in late June through mid-July, 17 days total plus two travel days. The weather was lovely the first four days (sunny, mid-70's), then mostly cool (or cold) and wet with intermittent sun, which gradually increased to mostly sunny and a bit warmer the last few days.
We flew non-stop from San Francisco to London where we rented a car (at Heathrow) for the duration. Everything went smoothly and we never had to wait for anything except a little for the car because they hadn't recorded our Hertz #1 Club Gold number on the reservation.
Again, the best part was flying first class. We saved up to have enough frequent flyer miles to "purchase" first class tickets on United once again and it was worth it. We used to use whatever miles we had accumulated and go coach as often as possible, but now when we go somewhere in economy class we purchase the tickets in order to accumualte the miles for a first-class ticket to Europe. We also use our Mileage Plus credit card for everything we possibly can (and pay it off every month of course) in order to rack up the miles.
We flew on a 777 which has little seat "pods" in the first-class section. You have your own little compartment that is a seat, footrest, and desk combination with personal video player. The whole thing converts into a bed when you press a button. We found this to be a very nice arrangement for the flight home when sleeping wasn't the priority, but I actually prefered the old seats for the flight over. They were wider and it was easier to sleep because you had more room to curl up. But we're not complaining! It was heaven compared to coach.
We had tried Business Class on our previous trip, using our miles to upgrade from purchased coach, but didn't find it worth the added mileage expense. We'd rather save up our miles for the occasional first class and go coach the rest of the time on cheap tickets. Part of what makes First Class so nice is the extra amenities, like the First Class lounge at the airport, being escorted to the gate and waltzing right through without waiting in line, and getting the "fast path" stickers on our boarding cards to go through security and immigration without waiting in line. Plus, your bags are the first off the belt so you breeze through customs as well. I think all these short-cut lines only apply to international travel because I've never noticed them in the domestic terminals.
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Knowing that First-Class Mileage Plus award seats book up quickly, we called in January to make our reservations for late May through early June, but even that was too late. We had to postpone our trip to late June through mid-July and we had to extend it by three or four days to find available space. The next time we have enough miles to go First Class we'll have to book ever further ahead of time.
We made our car reservations over the phone through Hertz. We've always had good luck with them - no surprises - and their advance pay price was very competitive. We choose to pay in advance because that way the price can't go up at the time of rental due to dollar/pound fluctuations. The Hertz service at Heathrow is also generally very good.
Lodging reservations were made by a combination of telephone and e-mail. Our first destination was with friends - a phone call "booked" our room and their time. The next place we stayed, Hawes, was a repeat of a place we'd stayed before. We called them to book and then sent them a follow-up letter of confirmation. It didn't occur to me to ask if they had e-mail, but it turns out that they do. Our third stay was at a B&B we found on the Internet and we booked via e-mail, also sending them a credit card number via e-mail to hold the reservation, and our last place was a B&B we found in the Best B&Bs in Britain book. We booked over the phone, then sent a confirmation via e-mail.
The only place we didn't get our first choice of accomodation was in Hay-on-Wye, but our second choice proved to be really great so we have no complaints there.
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This is a brief listing of where we went and when. For a description of how we spent our days, read the trip journal.
Day 1 Thursday: Arrived in London, drove to our friends in Newton-Harcourt.
Day 2 Friday: An outing to Dovedale in the Peaks District National Park.
Day 3 Saturday: A walk along the canal at the Foxton Locks, and a local men's choral concert, ending in a last-night-of-the-Proms style sing-along.
Day 4 Sunday: Day trip to Stratfod-Upon-Avon, stopping at Warwick Castle on the way.
Day 5 Monday: Drive to Hawes in the Yorkshire Dales, stopping at a pub in Ripley on the way.
Day 6 Tuesday: Market day in Hawes, followed by a hike to Hardraw and Sedbusk via the Pennine Way.
Day 7 Wednesday: Drive over the Buttertubs Pass to Thirsk, then through Swaledale to Leyburn, stopping at Aysgarth Falls on the way back.
Day 8 Thursday: Visit to the Bolton Priory and the Wensleydale Creamery, then a walk to Gayle and back through the fields.
Day 9 Friday: Drive to Hay-on-Wye in Wales, the second-hand book capital of the world.
Day 10 Saturday: The Hike from Hell through the countryside around Hay.
Day 11 Sunday: Drive through the Brecon Beacons National Park, stopping for lunch in Talybont-on-Usk, then visit a garden open for charity through the National Garden Scheme.
Day 12 Monday: Shopping in Hay, then a hike up the Cusop Dingle.
Day 13 Tuesday: Drive to Lacock, explore the village, and relax in our room.
Day 14 Wednesday: Sightseeing in Wiltshire - Visit Salisbury, Old Sarum, Stonehenge, and Avebury.
Day 15 Thursday: Visit Exmoor National Park, stopping in Minehead, Lynmouth and Lynton, and hiking around County Gate and the Valley of Rocks.
Day 16 Friday: Head for Bath and decide NOT to go - too many people, so instead visit Bradford-on-Avon, Corsham, and Lacock Abbey.
Day 17 Saturday: Drive to Cheddar Gorge, decide NOT to hike it (the path was overgrown), then drive up to Burford in the Cotswolds and take a short hike through the fields. Pack while listening to the Proms concert at Lacock Abbey and watching the fireworks display from our open bedroom window.
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Brandymires Guest House
|A mid-19th century stone house in a tranquil setting with splendid views over the fells.|
Would we stay here again? Definitely
Muker Road, Hawes DL8 3PR
Tel: +44 1969 667-482
York House B&B
|A lovely house with a beautiful garden in Cusup, a 2-minute walk from Hay-on-Wye.|
Would we stay here again? Definitely
|Cusop HR3 5QX|
Tel: +44 01497 820-705
The Old Rectory
|Beautiful stone mansion with a nice garden, minutes from Lacock in the heart of Wiltshire.|
Would we stay here again? Yes
|Wiltshire, SN15 2JZ|
Tel: +44 01249 730-335
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Last modified: 05/12/2006 02:38:17 PM
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