Our Holiday In England
Tim and I just returned from a 13 day adventure in jolly ol' England, KID FREE! Everything about our trip was absolutely magical and because we've received an overwhelming amount of requests for details, I'm sharing our itinerary here so that you can plan your own English Vacation!
We flew into Heathrow International Airport on a red eye flight making sure to take melatonin in order to actually sleep overnight! That helped us feel not quite as terrible when we landed and it was magically 9am.
We have friends that live in Portsmouth, so we were able to adjust to the time change from the comfort of their home and explore the area at a much more relaxed pace for a few days. Portsmouth is a Naval seaside town with lots of culture and high end outlet shopping!
After renting a car in Portsmouth, we said goodbye to our friends and drove north to Oxford. We stayed at the absolutely gorgeous Randolph Graduate Hotel. I literally shed a few tears walking into our hotel room. It felt like we stepped into a quintessential English estate with bold floral wallpaper, marble accents, and antique furniture.
The restaurant on site, The Alice, offered us one of our favorite meals of the trip surrounded by pink leather booths and sparkling crystal chandeliers.
The beauty of traveling in early Summer was that we still had so much daylight even after an 8pm dinner reservation. We explored a lot of Oxford's beautiful architecture on a post-dinner stroll. The streets were empty and it felt like we had the whole of center city to ourselves, which made for beautiful photos and a romantic evening! We actually did this in all of the areas we visited! Late evening walks offered us beautiful views with limited tourists!
We toured Christ Church College the following morning, which was absolutely worth the self guided audio tour, and it one of my favorite tours of the trip!
The Cotswold's is a region of England made up of virtually untouched old villages filled with ancient stone cottages, thatched roofs, and an incredible amount of story book character!
With only a few days to explore this large region, I did a lot of research prior to our trip to determine what towns seemed to be the "cream of the Cotswolds crop." We selected (from north to south) Stow the Wold, Bourton on the Water, Bibury, Castle Combe, and Lacock (not technically in the Cotswolds, but worth it!!!) I spent a lot of time on this website because they offered fantastic tips and advice!
Here are some of our favorite images from the Cotswold's. If I went into detail on each village we explored, we'd be here all day!! Overall, we had an amazing time strolling through the towns sampling local treats and admiring all of the old world charm.
During our first night in the countryside, we stayed at The Swan Hotel in Bibury. The old stone building with trailing ivy was absolutely picturesque, and one of our favorite memories was grabbing a drink at the bar and sitting river side in beach chairs listening to the babbling water.
We had a gorgeous meal at their on-site restaurant, and while our room did not have air conditioning, the space was filled with the most beautiful antique furniture and a giant soaking tub.
Our second night, we stayed at an Air BNB in Kington Langley called "the cow byre." It was literally an old cow barn transformed into a studio suite complete with exposed beams and ancient stone walls - pure magazine worthy magic!
The slipper tub at the foot of our bed was an absolute showstopper! While there, the owner allows you to walk the 8 acres of her farm land and visit all the animals.
After finishing up in our last quaint town, Lacock (where they filmed the town scenes in Downton Abbey!), We drove the 20 minutes into Bath. Bath is an ancient Roman city, and after visiting Rome and Florence several times, Bath very much felt like a smaller version of that.
We had read about the thermal spa waters and that there was a modern spa in town where you could swim in the warm mineral waters on the rooftop overlooking all of the old architecture of the Abbey and Roman Baths! We booked a 2 hour appointment and loved the unique experience of relaxing rooftop and exploring the spa's unique saunas. Phones must be locked up prior to entering, so you'll have to just trust me that Thermae Bath Spa is worth it!
After our much needed spa afternoon, we got dressed and walked to the Royal Crescent where some of the Netflix show, Bridgerton, is filmed. The architecture is beautiful but it was a bit underwhelming compared to the other parts of Bath that we explored.
The next morning we explored Pulteney Bridge, toured the Roman Baths and popped into Sally Lunn's for amazing Bath buns before checking out and heading south!
Weymouth & The Jurassic Coast
We really wanted to drive along the coast line on the way back to Portsmouth to return our rental car. I found a bed and breakfast south of Bath in the seaside town of Weymouth to stay for a night before exploring the cliffs and famous rock arch, Durdle Door.
I did NOT expect to fall head over heels in love with Weymouth! It's colorful row homes, kitschy beach activities and gorgeous blue waters made us swoon.
While our accommodations at the Redcliff B&B were nothing like the fancy rooms at our other hotels, the building is seaside and the owners were absolutely lovely!
The hike to Durdle Door was a bit steep, but the views were breathtaking! I truly wish we could have spent more time there, but we had a bit of a time crunch to return the rental car that day.
After one more night with our friends, we took the train up to London for the remainder of our holiday. London is a massive city with so much to explore and enjoy. Rather than write paragraphs about our stay, I'm going to simplify with the highlights of our trip that I would 100% repeat!
Sunday Roast at Cora Pearl - our favorite meal of the trip!
The Breakfast Club
Afternoon Tea at Sketch
Churchill Arms Pub for English Ales and Authentic Thai food
Seven Dials Market
Things to See/Do
Big Bus Tours Double Decker Bus tour of the city (hop on hop off tour)
Self Guided Tour at The Tower of London
The Italian Gardens in Kensington Garden
The Lego Store
Parliament & Big Ben
5 Ways we saved money on our English Vacation
1. Flexible travel dates
I searched for the best flight prices using kayak.com and selected the option to look at prices within a large amount of time to try and get the best price. We ended up choosing dates from a Friday to Wednesday, (13 days) which saved us $200 per ticket! This hack won't work for everyone, but given we didn't have a specific timeframe in mind, this worked really well for us!
2. Ask Locals for recommendations
When you stick to high-traffic tourist areas, the prices tend to be a bit higher. Asking the locals where they ate and shopped helped us find the local gems or "holes in the wall" so we weren't overcharged.
3. Make sure breakfast is included
Not gonna lie, we splurged and treated ourselves to some really amazing hotels, but making sure we chose hotels that included breakfast eliminated the cost for one meal each day!
4. Book Tours in advance
A lot of the tours we booked had a discounted rate if you purchased online rather than at the door! Having a few scheduled tours helped to build our itinerary in the bigger cities and also made sure we had guaranteed entry that day! Triple win!
5. Price Compare
You may have noticed we stayed almost exclusively in 4 and 5 star hotels - definitely not something we do on the regular! But first of all, this was like a second honey moon for us so we splurged. And second, we made sure we used every discount site imaginable to make sure we were getting the most bang for our buck! I checked Priceline, hotels.com, booking.com, etc... to ensure we could save money when possible.
As ready as we were to get home and be with our son, we are definitely missing England and all of her charm already! Have a question I didn't answer in this post? Leave a comment and let's chat!