On Friday I celebrated my four year anniversary of living in London. Throughout my time here, I have made an effort to see as much of the country as I can. One way I have gone about it is to take day trips from London to other parts of England. I always do so independently, either by train or car. Until Saturday, that is. On Saturday GetYourGuide invited me to take an organized day trip from London to the Cotswolds, Warwick Castle, Stratford-upon-Avon, and Oxford.

Warwick Castle in England

It was an ambitious itinerary. The 12-hour tour from London left Victoria Coach Station at 8:30am and wasn’t scheduled to return until 8pm. There were three major stops on the trip and a fourth for lunch. I wasn’t sure I was going to survive.

Pub in Stratford upon Avon in England

That was party because I’m not a big fan of organized tours. I find that group travel puts frustrating limits on my freedom and that tour guides put me in a coma of boredom. When several of the 27 other people on the tour held up our departure by making last-nanosecond trips to the bathrooms and coffee shops, I had a feeling I was in for an arduous adventure.

Colorful buildings by Oriel College in Oxford England

However, shortly after we departed, our guide, Alan, welcomed us on board and entertained us with some tantalizing tales about London. Despite my misgivings, I found myself cracking a smile. His style was far from the dry recitation of historical hodgepodge that characterized most tour guides, and I appreciated it.

Bicycle advertising the Vaults and Garden Cafe in Oxford England

Alan’s anecdotes made the two hour drive from London to Warwick Castle pass by quickly. We arrived in Warwick around 10:30am and had the next hour-and-a-half to explore the castle. The best part for me was that we were able to explore it on our own.

Warwick Castle in England

I took off down the path to the fortress, which was conceived in the 10th century and built up over the next few. I stopped at the rose garden and the historic mill, headed across the idyllic River Avon, and visited the birds of prey. Afterwards I entered the castle walls and climbed up to the top of the towers. The views were stunning.

Owl at Warwick Castle in England

From there I walked through an exhibition about castle life. Warwick Castle is owned by the same group that owns London’s most overpriced tourist attraction, Madame Tussauds, so naturally it was heavy on the human replicas and unnecessary glamorization of menial chores like mending underwear.

Warwick Castle in England

Still, the small exhibitions about the involvement of Richard III and other important personages were pleasantly informative for my inner history nerd and Shakespeare fan.

A tower at Warwick Castle in England with church in Warwick in the background

Speaking of whom, we departed Warwick Castle at noon and headed to the birthplace of Shakespeare in Stratford-upon-Avon. It is worth noting that we actually departed on schedule, too, which was the first time in all of my organized day trip experiences that that has happened. I was happy.

Shakespeare's birthplace in Stratford upon Avon England

We arrived in Stratford-upon-Avon after a short drive. Skipping the queue at the entrance to Skakespeare’s birthplace, we filed into the small home on Henley Street to see the bard’s abode. It was crowded, but I slowly made my way through the dining room, living room, bedrooms, kitchen, and other parts of the house. It was large for its time, and there were several exhibitions about Shakespeare and his home along the way.

Gardens at the birthplace of William Shakespeare in Stratford upon Avon England

After the visit, I had about 30 minutes to explore the town. I started by walking down to the river and past the theatre where I had seen my friend in Romeo and Juliet on my last visit to Stratford-upon-Avon.

Historic building with Shakespeare written across it in Stratford upon Avon England

I also walked around the main shopping streets, which were filled with restaurants, pubs, tea rooms, high street shops, and boutiques. I was more interested in the facades of the beautiful historic buildings than their contents, and ran through the rain to see as much of the town as I could before heading back to the bus.

Historic street in Stratford upon Avon England

Once there, we had another on-time departure. Our driver, Keith, drove us into the countryside for lunch at a place called the White Hart pub in the Cotswolds. It was around 2:30pm by the time we got there, and I was famished. I thought it would have made more sense to stop for lunch before traveling to Stratford-upon-Avon, but I enjoyed the mushroom stroganoff and conversation with the others at my table all the same.

Dining room of the White Hart pub in the Cotswolds

After lunch we drove through the idyllic Cotswolds as Alan entertained us with stories about thatched-roof cottages and pointed out everything from deer and llamas to a witch’s house.

Warwick Church in England

An hour later we arrived in Oxford. The bus dropped us off right outside of Christ Church, the college that is famous for its rich history and—let’s be honest—its role as a filming location for the Harry Potter movies.

Ceiling of the staircase leading to the Great Hall at Christ Church in Oxford

We waited in a long line to get into the Great Hall, a stunning room lined with portraits of famous personages like John Locke and John Wesley. Sadly, I think I was the only person that was more interested in the actual history of the building than the Harry Potter history. One woman had such an encyclopedic knowledge of the films that she pointed out every minor difference between the actual Christ Church Great Hall and the Hogwarts version.

Great Hall at Christ Church in Oxford

Once outside the hall, Alan took us on a short tour of Oxford. Starting on the grounds of Christ Church, we walked by Oriel College, where friends of mine had shown me the world’s largest portrait of the queen on my last trip to Oxford.

Bodleian Library in Oxford England

From there we continued along to Radcliffe Square, past the Bridge of Sighs, and alongside the Sheldonian Theatre, where I had been to my friend’s graduation from Oxford awhile back. The tour ended outside of the Ashmolean Museum, where the bus was scheduled to pick us up 40 minutes later.

Sheldonian Theatre in Oxford England

I spent the remainder of my visit to Oxford walking through the famous Covered Market and along the bustling shopping streets. At the end of the day, I boarded the bus for the hour’s drive back to London.

We arrived in the city at 7:30pm and the bus made several stops to let us all off as close to our hotels and homes as possible. As predicted, I was completely exhausted from the day and ended up getting 12 hours of sleep that night.

Chruch lamps in Stratford upon Avon

When I woke up the next morning, I had time to reflect on my epic tour. I had enjoyed it a lot more than I had anticipated, owing largely to Alan’s ability to mix history and hilarity, traveling with a good group of bus tour companions, and getting a nice balance of guided tours and free time.

Historic street in Warwick England

However, I thought that doing a day trip to so many places in just 12 hours was a bit ambitious. I felt rushed in Stratford-upon-Avon and Oxford, two cities that deserve an entire day just for themselves.

River Avon at Warwick Castle in England

Then again, not everyone on the tour lives in London and has the luxury of being able to take separate day trips to the Cotswolds, Warwick Castle, Stratford-upon-Avon, and Oxford. If I were only traveling in the UK for a week, I would probably want to pack in as much as I could in every tour. To be honest, I live in the UK and I still feel that way sometimes. Maybe that’s the problem. There is entirely too much to see in this country.

12 Comments on Lady on a Day Tour

  1. You said that there is too much to see in this country. I celebrated my second anniversary in London in early October and it never ceases to amaze me how well the elderly age in this country. You do a remarkable job of sharing your experiences in the UK but if I may suggest, try to catch snippets of the tales they tell about these precious places. I’m never leaving because as you implied so eloquently, there is always something else to see.

    QUESTION: Have you ever been to Southend on Sea? I lived there for two months during a project and I will never forget it.

    Happy anniversary Lady.

  2. Thank you for posting. I am meeting my son in England in a few weeks and we are planning on spending a day in each of the locations you visited prior to completing the week in London. Your information will be helpful to us.

  3. Sounds like a great trip. We’re also not fond of tours (never took one) but due to lack of time on this trip we’re thinking of taking a day trip to Oxford and Stratford. Trying to decide which company to use. Could you let us know the name of the company you used? It seems they were reliable. We’ve read some reviews and it seems those companies which have the trip we want have both good and very bad reviews. We’re planning to buy tickets online and are a little concerned about dependability of the tour companies. Appreciate any info. Thanks

    • Hi Carol. I’m glad you found the post helpful. The company I went through was GetYourGuide. You can find a link to their website in the beginning of the post. Have a great trip!

  4. We took a trip to the UK for about 10 days last June, and spent 2 days in Edinburgh, 2 in York, 2 in Warwick and 2 in Bath, then on to London. It was a whirlwind tour, and we at the last minute decided not to go to Stratford upon Avon. I do wish now that we had made the effort to go to Oxford and Stratford. We took the train and dragged suitcases the entire way, but wanted to be our own guides. It is lovely to see your photos and videos.

    • That sounds like a great trip, Joan! You covered a lot of the top places in the UK. If you get a chance to come back, I definitely recommend Oxford and Stratford-upon-Avon.

  5. Really pleased you enjoyed your tour of Warwick and the surrounding area , however I would recommend a visit to Baddesley Clinton house , a NT property as a complement to any tour of the area . For a true feel of the history of the area , with Priest holes and the Gunpowder plot connections .

  6. Am planning my holiday and your experience was really Informative as I am not a fan of organised tours but sometimes a great guide and nice companions make up for its shortcomings.

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