2 Great Day Trips from London
1. Full Day Stonehenge Tour from Bath
I was using London as my base for a few days of holiday after completing a work contract. I'd been to the city before, and this during this trip, I was eager to see more of England. I'm usually a fairly independent traveler, and I don't really use guided tours. However, as I wanted to see Stonehenge and I was researching how to get out there on public transportation...it was going to be cheaper and more convenient to take a tour.
And a bonus of the tour...I'd get to see more of the countryside that I wouldn't have done so otherwise! I chose to go with Mad Max Minibus Tours (www.madmaxtours.co.uk) on their Stonehenge, Avebury, and Cotswold Village tour. The tours depart from Bath, so I caught a train at the Paddington station early in the morning (from London to Bath via train = 1 1/2 hours).
The tour bus would pick us up at the Abbey Hotel at 8:45 am. One thing I really loved about Mad Max, is that the tour groups were small. Our guide Charles was also the driver, and besides myself...there 14 people total.
Charles gave us information regarding the historical points of interest as he drove. Our first destination was Stonehenge, about a 45 minute drive from Bath. With your admission price to Stonehenge (which was not included with this tour) you get an audio guide to listen too as you walk around the barricade.
Here's my real thoughts on Stonehenge: You've got to go see it at least once. It's impressive, but would be even more so if you were allowed to get closer. The path to walk around the stones is pretty far away. I understand the reasoning that they want to keep the area intact, and it's easier to spot trespassers if the length of the open field is greater...but it's a little disappointing that you're not closer to comprehend the magnitude of those big rocks. You can take a tour that lets you in and around the stones...but that wasn't on this tour.
After leaving Stonehenge, we started the drive to Avebury with a short pit stop to see a white chalk horse on a hillside. Avebury Stone Circles covers a much larger area than Stonehenge and you can actually walk among these ones. But so can the sheep, so watch what you're stepping in. I may have ruined a pair of shoes. Charles gave us a great guided tour and then we had time to wander.
For lunch, we stopped in the village of Laycock where the BBC does a lot of filming. We ate at the George Inn and it was a lovely, tasty lunch.
For our last stop of the day, we headed to Castle Combe, one of the villages in the Cotswalds. It was a very quaint, charming town. The gardens with each home where well kept.
We got back to Bath at 5:30 pm. The next train to London was at 7pm, so I did my own little walking tour of Bath to see the Royal Crescent and just had time to see the outside of the Roman Baths.
2. Stonehenge from London - Half Day
A few years later I returned to London with friends who wanted to go out to see Stonehenge. Since our time was a little more limited, we chose to get out to the stones via Evan Evans Tours (www.evanevanstours.com). They run a Stonehenge Express tour that includes the transportation and the entrance fee. I'd highly recommend using an option such as this as opposed to the hassle of taking a train and then a bus or taxi to get to Stonehenge on your own. Especially if you are a solo traveler...the price will add up and this is a cheaper route.