Previously I gave an example itinerary of a first visit to England. That itinerary was intended to give you a “first look” at England, and was focused mainly on London with some ventures out to Oxford, Bath and Stonehenge. In other words, from London, looking west. That itinerary was definitely intended to give you a very broad overview.
This itinerary is intended to give you some ideas of more things to do in London, and looking north. There are a few more days in this one as well, and will cover a longer distance.
Days 1 – 3 – London, Dover, Canterbury and Cambridge
On your first day, take it easy, and don’t overschedule. There are two reasons for this. First, you will likely be arriving early in the morning after flying all night, and will probably be jet-lagged. Second, It always helps to get your bearings.
So here are a few things to do:
- Walk through Hyde Park and Green Park. The parks are full of walking paths and and give you some great views of the London Skyline. On the western edge of Hyde Park is Kensington Palace (yes, that Kensington Palace), and on the southern edge is the Albert Memorial, and Royal Albert Hall. On the southern edge of Green Park is Buckingham Palace. Just a few blocks south of Royal Albert Hall is the London Natural History Museum, and the National Art Library. Harrod’s Department Store is just 6 blocks east of the National Art Library.
- Visit the London Eye. I hesitate to call this a “ferris wheel”. The guidebooks may refer to this as an “Observation Wheel”. It measures almost 450 feet at the highest point and can give an excellent panorama of the city.
- Visit an Open Air Market. There are several of them throughout the city.
Canterbury and Dover
Canterbury is historically significant for several reasons. It was a major center for the Romans before the rise of Christianity. It has been a major Christian pilgrimage site for centuries and was the subject of Geoffrey Chaucer’s book The Canterbury Tales about some of those pilgrimages. And it was the location where Thomas Becket, who was the Archbishop of Canterbury and later canonized, was murdered on the orders of King Henry II.
The city is still very much like it was in medieval times with half-timber houses. The town also holds the Canterbury Cathedral, which at one point burned but has been rebuilt, and holds the remains of Becket and the son of King Edward III.
Canterbury is an easy day trip from London, less than two hours away by train, or about 70 miles. Day tours are available from London including a stop at the Cliffs of Dover.
When thinking of Cambridge, the the colleges immediately come to mind. But, like Canterbury, Cambridge was also an important site for early Romans in England, and was on the route from Dover to the northern borders of the Roman Empire. In addition, Cambridge and the surrounding area have now become a major center for biotechnology companies.
Cambridge is also an easy day trip from London, at a distance of only 60 miles, and less than 2 hours by train. There are several day tours available from London to Cambridge.
Day 4 – Transit to York
The train from London to York is very quick, and takes less than 2 hours to get there, so there is plenty of time to get acquainted with the city. The city of York combines Roman, Saxon, Viking and British history all in one place. Known as England’s Second City, its beginning dates back to 71 AD, when it was known as Eboracum.
Days 5 – 7 – York and the Surrounding Areas
The main highlights in the city are Yorkminster, which is regarded as the largest Medieval Gothic Cathedral in Europe and the city walls which still stand. The walls date all the way back to the times of Roman Occupation, but what is still present date back to the 12th century.
There are guided tours available to see the town, but actually most good guide books will contain a comprehensive walking tour of the city.
Other local areas to visit:
- Castle Howard, which was built in the late 1600’s and an example of Baroque architecture. The castle is about 15 miles outside of town.
- Yorkshire Dales National Park. This is a large area about 70 miles from York. The English countryside holds farmlands, castle ruins, and was the setting for the TV series “All Creatures Great and Small”, based on the James Herriot books.
- Fountains Abbey. This is a monastery ruin that dates back to the mid 12th century.
- The Town of Lincoln. Located 75 miles south of York, the castle here contains one of only four remaining copies of the original Magna Carta.
- Alnwick Castle – This is about 120 miles north of York, so it could be a stretch, but on the way you can visit Newcastle Upon Tyne and the Northumberland National Park
Day 8 – Back to London
Returning to London, use this day to catch up on all the things you haven’t had time to do before. London offers plenty of museums, excellent places to eat, plays, and places to shop.