Last Updated on December 1, 2018 by Fiona Maclean
Stonehenge, Bath and More – A Day Trip to the West Country:
I’ve lived in London for most of my adult life. Brief excursions to the country, with an idea of making some attempt at rural living failed dismally. Yet, I love the countryside, in particular, the West Country around Cheddar in Somerset where my mother grew up. We lived near Stonehenge for a few years when I was a child, but it was in the days when there was little or no security – we could and did climb on the stones.
Almost on principle, I’ve avoided visiting ever since the area was cordoned off; even when I lived in Wiltshire I’d head for Avebury. I just thought I’d be disappointed. Bath, by comparison, has always been a favourite of mine. Romantic aspirations to be a modern-day Jane Austin or, better still Emma Woodhouse or Elinor Dashwood, come to life for me wandering around the Georgian terraces of Bath.
Nevertheless, if I had to pick places in the West Country that anyone visiting the UK should see, both Bath and Stonehenge would be right at the top of the list. So, I had no hesitation in accepting an invitation to travel to Stonehenge, Bath and a ‘Secret Location’ with The English Bus Company and through Viator. We’d be travelling in a smallish bus – no more than 16 passengers and our driver guide. We set off from a location not far from the London Eye to make our way across London. Traffic was bad, but our driver managed to combine navigating through a route aimed at minimising the delays with a potted London tour.
Stonehenge doesn’t have its own train station, so visitors need to drive, take a coach trip from London or Bath, or travel by train to Salisbury and then take the special Stonehenge tour bus. The English Bus Company option had the advantage of providing a knowledgeable guide/driver to get us to our destination, a small and friendly group of visitors to London and to the UK and of course, an itinerary that included Bath and a secret destination too. The Visitor Centre at Stonehenge has recently been redeveloped and there’s now an excellent cafe (I recommend the homemade soup), a museum and a reconstruction of a Neolithic village, together with the ubiquitous souvenir shop. And, it’s a well managed, popular UNESCO site that seems to manage a large number of visitors in a way that means everyone can see the stone circle without feeling pressured.
From the Visitors Centre, there’s a free shuttle service out to the stones and you can also pick up an audio guide (available in 10 languages). If you prefer, the guide can be downloaded onto your own device too.
It’s a VERY long time since I was last at Stonehenge and I left reassured that new visitors wouldn’t be disappointed. While you can’t walk into the stone circle any more, or climb up on the stones themselves, it’s such a magnificent construction that it still manages to be overwhelming.
On to Bath, where my own visit was cut short by a need to get back to London for a meeting. But those who were staying on and travelling back with the English Bus Company were treated to a walking tour with our guide/driver.
I just had a chance to walk around Bath Abbey (rebuilt on the site of an earlier church in 1616), peer enviously in at the diners enjoying afternoon tea in the Pump Room and skirt around the edges of the Roman Baths. I’ve been to Bath on a separate trip to see the Roman Baths and you can find more detail about what you’ll find inside in that feature.
I spotted the relatively new Thermae Bath Spa too, somewhere to enjoy as a day spa and spend some time relaxing in the stunning rooftop pool. I’ll just have to come back won’t I?
Those staying on were taken home via a secret location. I still don’t know where! But, I suspect I wouldn’t have been allowed to share even if I had been able to stay.
I was a guest of Viator, who offer various trips, excursions and handpicked activities around the world. Our particular trip gets five stars on their site and costs from £79 per person. But there are plenty of alternatives and I know that I will be checking out the Viator site when I travel in the future because they do seem to offer great insider insights to destinations around the world.
Meanwhile, if you have children (or have never quite stopped believing in Father Christmas) and you are looking for something special how about a visit to Lapland UK – which is on the way from London to the West Country, just outside Ascot!