Great Britain

      The Best of the English Countryside - travel notes

      architecture    art    gardens and parks    golf and tennis    history    performing arts    literature   
      This itinerary originates in London. We recommend that you spend three nights there before beginning your trip. Those who can only stay for two weeks should fly from York back to London for the return home. If you have more time, we recommend that you drive to Edinburgh, spend several days, and then fly home from there.

      Day 1 - Bath
      Britrail offers rail service between London's Paddington Station and Bath approximately every half hour. The trip takes 1 hour and 30 minutes and the fare is from 66 EUR to 90 EUR. Reservations, information, and tickets are available by calling 800.677.8585 or by visiting www.britrail.net.

      The Mayor's Honorary Society offers 1-hour-and-45 minute walking tours of Bath weekdays at 10:30AM and 2PM; Sundays at 2:30PM and from May through September on Tuesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays at 7PM. Tours leave from in front of the Roman Baths.

      The Theatre Royal is one of Britain's most beautiful. It stages a number of interesting performances throughout the year. For a schedule of upcoming productions, visit www.theatreroyal.org.uk.

      Those for whom money is no object will enjoy the prestige of staying at the Royal Crescent Hotel. Occupying two of the 30 townhouses in the famous 18th-century structure, the hotel is first rate in every regard. There's a health club and outstanding restaurant.

      The Bath Priory Hotel is another outstanding choice. Located on two acres of formally landscaped grounds, the hotel is in a Gothic house built in 1835. It has indoor and outdoor pools, a health club, and a Michelin-starred restaurant.

      Almost as nice, but less expensive than Bath's luxury properties, the Queensberry Hotel is in a townhouse built by John Wood in 1772. Walking distance to everything, it's located on a quiet street in the town and very nicely done.

      Within walking distance of town is Apsley House Hotel. In a Georgian country house dating from 1830, the hotel was renovated in 1994. Guests can park free and enjoy cocktails in the drawing room or gardens.

      For a list of our recommended hotels in Bath, click here.

      Day 2: Rental Cars:
      The best deal we found for rental cars in Britain was through Auto Europe. They work with all the rental companies to find the best deals, so their rates are very attractive. Contact them at www.autoeurope.com.

      Day 4: - Cotswolds
      There are basically two choices for lodging in the Costwolds: town or country. There are advantages and disadvantages to either. In most cases the determining factor will be budget. The country house hotels in this area are among the most expensive ? and finest ? in Britain.

      For those who can afford it, staying in a well-managed manor house provides a way to experience the good life, British style, if only for a few nights.

      One of the nicest in the Cotswolds is Charingworth Manor. Just outside Chipping Campden, this 14th-century home has 55 acres of beautiful grounds. Guest T.S. Eliot enjoyed strolling them. The spa includes an indoor heated pool and solarium. There's also tennis on the property.

      Another outstanding manor house is Buckland Manor, near Broadway. The 10 acres of grounds includes a running stream with waterfalls. And the Cotswold Way is just behind the manor. The beautiful gamble mansion dates from the 13th-century and there's tennis and a pool.

      Outside peaceful Upper Slaughter, the Lords of the Manor House is a 17th-century mansion on lovely grounds. The stream here is filled with trout and the restaurant is excellent.

      Because of its location outside Stow-on-the-Wold, Wyck Hill House is perfect for antique lovers. Built during the early 18th century, the house sits on 100 acres. Rooms are available in the manor, in the coach house, or in the orangery.

      Although staying in town is usually less expensive, the legendary Lygon Arms in Broadway can be just as high as a country house. It's hard to imagine a more historic hostelry though. The 16th-century coaching inn has been hosting guests ? among them Oliver Cromwell ? since 1532. There's nothing out of date about the property though. The adjoining state-of-the-art fitness center includes all-weather tennis, an indoor pool and gymnasium.

      A less expensive option in Broadway is the Broadway Hotel, right on the village green. The 15th-century timber framed house has a cozy lounge and a well regarded restaurant.

      Located behind the village church, the Painswick Hotel was once the local vicarage. Today, it's one of the finest inns in the area.

      The Grapevine in Stow-on-the-Wold is another good choice for those who love antiques. There are 60 dealers within walking distance of the hotel which is in a 17th-century stone house on Sheep Street.

      One of the best values in the Cotswold is Cardynham House in Painswick. Each of the rooms are individually decorated, and the Pool Room has its own 16-ft swimming pool.

      For a list of our recommended hotels in the Cotswolds, click here.

      Day 5 - Stratford
      Performance schedules and tickets for the Royal Shakespeare Theatre are available through www.rsc.org.uk.

      Day 6 - Peak District
      If you want to tour Chatsworth House and Haddon Hall, you should base yourselves near Bakewell. There are three great country house hotels in the area and prices here are much more affordable than for similar accommodations in the Cotswolds.

      The Cavendish Hotel is on the estate of the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire, so it's a 15-minute walk to Chatsworth House, their ancestral home. Superbly decorated, it's a wonderful place to stay.

      As well known for its dining as for its hospitality, Fischer's Baslow Hall has one of Britain's most celebrated restaurants. The house was built in 1907 but it has all the charm of a Tudor manor.

      Outside the town of Matlock, Riber Hall was called one of England's "most romantic places to stay by the Automobile Association. This one is also noted for its outstanding restaurants.

      If you plan to spend your time outdoors, hiking Peak District National Park or playing golf, you should stay in Buxton. The Lee Wood Hotel is the best choice there. It's a 15-minute walk from town and it's nicely located near the park.

      Day 9 - Lake District
      Perhaps the finest accommodations in the Lakes, Sharrow Bay Country House Hotel is a member of the Relais & Chateau group. Set on 18 acres of gardens fronting Lake Ullswater, the hotel and its restaurant are fantastic.

      A less expensive choice on Lake Ullswater is Rampsbeck Country House Hotel. The lovely 18th-century house has 18 acres of gardens and a well regarded restaurant.

      Swinside Lodge, overlooking Derwentwater at the foot of the Catsbell Fells is a great place for walkers. Several trails leave virtually from the front door of this stylish country house.

      The more expensive of two nice properties on Bassenthwaite Lake in the Northern Lakes, Armathwaite Hall Hotel is in the middle of a 400-acre deer park right on the lake. There's a heated indoor pool on the property, and every imaginable outdoor sport is available.

      The Pheasant is the less expensive choice on Bassenthwaite. This old coaching inn was a popular ale house in the 18th century and its pub is still a popular spot today. The quaint inn is located away from the bustle of the Southern Lakes.

      Although Ambleside gets crowded in summer, Rothay Manor is a lovely place to stay. Many of its rooms have French doors opening onto balconies with wonderful views of Lake Windermere and the restaurant is stellar.

      The Mortal Man in Troutbeck is physically close to Windermere and Ambleside but a million miles away from their bustle. On a quiet lane, this 17th-century inn offers wonderful views.

      The best value in the area is the Kirkstile outside Cockermouth. The location is very pleasant and quiet, accommodations are comfortable and clean and there's a popular pub. The hotel has welcomed guests for 400 years.

      For a list of our recommended hotels in the Peak District, click here.

      For a list of our recommended hotels in the Lake District, click here.

      Day 12 - York
      For those who prefer to stay in the country, Middlethorpe Hall is a lovely spot. The 300-year-old Queen Anne style house sits on 20 beautifully landscaped acres ten minutes from York.

      As the name suggests, the Judge's Lodging Hotel was once the official residence of the local court judges. This Georgian home is walking distance to just about everything, and the service is very good.

      For those who wish to be right in the heart of things, Dean Court Hotel is right next to York Minster. In fact, most of the rooms in this 1850s building have views of the church.

      Set in an ivy-covered Regency townhouse, the Grange Hotel is a ten-minute walk from York Minster. The rooms, many of which feature four-poser beds, are beautifully decorated and there are three great restaurants on the premises.

      Grasmead House is a very reasonable bed and breakfast located a 15-minute walk from town. Most of the rooms in this cute Victorian house have four-poster beds. And there's full bar service in the sitting room.

      For a list of our recommended hotels in York, click here.


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