Seeing the sites outside of London can be a challenge for Americans. Unused to driving from the right side of the car, or the left side of the road, driving here is less than relaxing. Instead tour the countryside with a group whose size best fits your needs. Our tour with Evan Evans, for $125 each, delivered lots of sites, but was not necessarily for everyone.
Be prepared for a very full day, the typical bus tour begins at 7:30am, and continues into the early evening. The biggest struggle is choosing the best tour; every decision eliminates another must-see option.
Warrick Castle, type cast straight out of a King Arthur novel, is a two-hour drive from London. Completely furnished, with period dressed actors, animatronic waxworks figures, smells and sound effects, you will feel as if you have stepped back in time. Horses hooves pound as the jousting begins, falconry is explained as birds of prey soar overhead, and soldiers boast of battle. Upstairs in the grand chambers, the castles last residents gossip about their life, and party guest, Winston Churchill questions if you have met. Centuries of castle life spread out before you, except you only have 1 1/2 hours to experience it all.
At Shakespeare's birthplace in Stratford on Avon, half-timbered houses, known as wattle and daub, look today as they did in the 1500's. Knowledgeable, period dressed guides share detailed accounts of the cottages history. Graffiti etched into the windowpanes, speaks of tourists visits since the 18th century. "My kingdom for a horse," we would have given our kingdom for a few more minutes to sightsee.
Charming countryside dotted with centuries old limestone structures pass by the windows. Once only the realm of sheep, vast fields are now adorned with yellow flowers, destined to become canola oil, barley and wheat as well. Homes, unchanged for generations, feature picture perfect thatched roofs, and riotous flowers bloom on every windowsill. Sadly with such a tight schedule, there is only time for a brief photo stop from the bus.
In Oxford, expect to see Harry, Ron and Hermione around every corner. The basis for several scenes in the famous Harry Potter series, colleges cover much of Oxford. Inside the dining hall, feel as if you are on the set, missing only the bewitched ceiling. Wonder if the stonemason’s stamp was the inspiration for Harry’s scar. Wander through the individual colleges, as university students have for generations. Visit the pub where famous authors got their inspiration. But time marches on, so back to the bus.
Finally, finish your tour at the tube station, and navigate back to your hotel, tired but satisfied.
While delivering multiple sites, and the best prices, a big bus tour can feel rushed. On mini bus tour can you actually visit local towns in the Cotswolds, traveling on scenic back roads, but these tours operate less frequently, include fewer sights, and cost about $25 more each. On a private tour choose exactly what you see, and how long you remain; groups of 4 pay $250 each. Save time by using an experienced travel agent, to help you determine the perfect tour for you.
Regardless of which type of tour you choose, make the choice to get out of London and discover more of what the United Kingdom has to offer.
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