The unthinkable has happened and we have a Brexit, the Sterling Pound has also dropped in value. Many people in Singapore were reported to have rushed down to the money changers to buy Pounds for their next holiday in UK. So if you are like one of the many people eagerly looking at a holiday to UK this year, besides just visiting London, there are more sights to be seen a few hours drive of England’s capital city.
My last blog entry was on London itself. This blog will be on a day tour that we took to see some of the more well known attractions outside London. Instead of spending another day in London, we decided to go visit some of the other attractions that have come to define England. One of the more comprehensive day tours is the ‘England in a Day’ tour that is offered by several tour companies. We decided to go with Premium Tours mainly because of the dates available to us and also their pickup location was near to our hotel. Prices vary depending on how many places the tours visit, but this was one of the more expensive tours (£95/person) due to the distance and time required. The tour itself is more than 12 hours, starting with a 7am pickup and ending back in London after 8pm.
We were picked up at Hilton Doubletree which is just across the street from Novotel Tower Bridge by a small bus. After going round and picking up several other passengers, we got off at Victoria Coach Station where the inter-city buses leave for various cities in UK and mainland Europe. We were met by our guide and got onto a larger coach bus and we were off for our tour. After about a 2.5 hours drive westward, we arrived at our first destination, Stonehenge. Again the English weather was at it’s absolute best; cloudy, windy and drizzling at times.
Stonehenge is one of the most famous prehistoric monuments built by Man and is believed to be constructed around 3,000BC. There are many mysteries and myths to the origin and purpose of Stonehenge, and some people even believe they were built by aliens from space. The Visitor Centre has a good multimedia presentation of Stonehenge and it’s history, as well as,a small museum showcasing the artifacts that have been unearthed here. All visitors have to check in at the Visitors Centre first to get their tickets and can either walk or take the free shuttle bus to Stonehenge itself. The distance from the Visitors Centre is round 3km, so if you want to walk, it’s going to be a long walk. We took the shuttle bus to save time and also to get out of the charming English weather.
I’ve always wanted to visit Stonehenge, although I’ve been told by people that it’s just a pile of rocks in the countryside and they wouldn’t pay or waste time to see it. I guess it all depends on your own expectations and what interests you. If you are thinking of going on your own, tickets have to be purchased in advance and have timings allocated. So you do have to plan your visit and not miss your timing. If you rented a car, parking is at the Visitors Centre and you are not allowed to drive inside Stonehenge. I do wonder if a lot of the people who hike or cycle there actually require tickets. The whole area is quite large and anyone could hike there without passing through the Visitors Centre.
After Stonehenge, we were on our way to Bath, another 2 hours drive away. Bath is a city by the River Avon and is famous for it’s Roman built hot spring baths (that’s how the city got it’s name). It’s also well known for it’s 18th century Georgian architecture and was declared a World Heritage Site in 1987. By the time we reached Bath it was already drizzling again and it was going to be a wet visit.
Since ancient times, Bath has been known as a spa town and you will find many spas and shops here selling spa related items like hair and skin care, facial and health products. If you like old architecture, then Bath is a paradise for architecture photographers. Although we were in Bath for almost 2 hours, it was still a rather hurried visit. Lunch was a quick take away sandwich and milkshake from a café. It would have been nice to be able to spend more time to sit down and watch the city streets. I guess if I wanted to appreciate the city more, I would have to come on my own in future. Bath can be reached by car or public buses and trains from London.
After leaving Bath, we took another 2 hours driving through the Cotswolds countryside of England. This is an area of small villages and farmlands where the houses are made of Cotswold stone. It’s a yellow coloured limestone that give’s the houses here a distinctly medieval look, especially with a thatched roof. The Cotswolds is quite beautiful although it didn’t really seemed that way due to the rainy weather that day. Very soon, we came to our last stop of the day, Stratford upon Avon.
Stratford is the birthplace of William Shakespeare and 2016 being the 400th anniversary of his death, there were quite a few events going on there. However, by the time we arrived, it was already almost 5pm and most of the places were closing. So it was a hurried visit to Shakespeare’s house where he was born before they closed for the day too.
So after visiting Shakespeare’s birthplace, we took a quick walk to the park beside the Avon River before it got dark. Most of the shops were already closed or closing, and that made our walk faster since there were no distractions from shop windows.
By the time we left Stratford, it was already dark. It was another quick takeaway meal from the McDonalds, and another 2 hours drive back to London. It was faster as the bus took the M40 motorway back instead of the smaller roads that we had used in the day. Although I would say this tour is really a touch and go kind of experience, it’s great if you don’t have much time and only have 1 day to visit as many of the well known attractions as possible.