Small Group Day Tour Of The Cotswolds, Oxford & Stratford Upon Avon From London
Author: Bob Handford
Although this tour covers Oxford and Stratford Upon Avon and both in a meaningful way, the unique selling point of this tour is its coverage of the Cotswold region.
For the visitor to the UK who wants to sample the best of the famous green English Countryside and idyllic English villages, the Cotswold region is the number one destination to head for from London.
Public transport within the Cotswold region is poor, so for most it’s a choice of hiring a car or taking a tour.
The problem with standard tours of the Cotswolds are the standard large touring buses used are too big to venture down the country lanes and the unspoilt, quiet sleepy villages that are the major reason for visiting the Cotswolds. Such villages can be hostile to the tour bus crowd and there are many restrictions on large tour buses where they can go. As a result the large tour buses are largely restricted to the main highways and larger, commercialised villages along them.
For this reason the small group format using a small 16 seat air conditioned touring bus comes into its own when visiting the Cotswolds.
From London, International Friends are the only scheduled operator running scheduled tours year round several times a week visiting the Cotswold region with small group buses. As such they are your only opportunity to sample the “real” Cotswolds venturing down single track roads and seeing unspoilt villages a world away from the larger commercialised villages.
Well that was the theory, so one Sunday morning in August Bob boarded the tour at Earls Court in London to see for himself what the tour was like.
The bus arrived 5 minutes early just before 8 a.m. at Earls Court, the last pick-up point in London. I was the last passenger to be picked up making a tour group of 11 in the 16 seat bus.
There are only a handful of pick-up points strategically located across the centre of London so the pick-ups only last 30 minutes and at 8 a.m. we were heading out of London to the first stop Oxford.
The group included people from China, Australia, USA and Canada plus the driver-guide.
By 9:15 we were in Oxford and had learnt the basics about Oxford, its history, contemporary status and of course all about the university, driving past many of the famous colleges. The small size of the group meant that as the day progressed you realised that the commentary was being adapted to the individual group.
After a short break, time for me to grab a quick coffee before a local guide from Oxford took the group on a 45 minute walking tour of the “best of Oxford”.
Typical snapshot taken from tour bus driving through Cotswold villages
Afterwards there was again free time to re-visit or follow up things pointed out by the guide.
Unlike some tours there were no souvenir stops or stops in the middle of nowhere at an approved lunch venue. At all stops there was significant free time to explore independently with just guidance from experience from the guide the best places to grab something to eat – the exact choice was yours. Despite driving as well as guiding the commentary was virtually non-stop on the bus and of a high quality.
From mid-morning to mid-afternoon the tour spent its time in the Cotswolds. There was a short 30 minute stop at Burford and a much longer lunch stop at Stow on the Wold. During this time the bus ventured along single track roads for some time driving through some idyllic Cotswold villages and countryside.
Mid afternoon we had left the Cotswolds and were entering Stratford Upon Avon, famous of course for Shakespeare. After an orientation tour of Stratford the tour included entrance into Shakespeare’s Birthplace the main centre for things Shakespeare in the town. We still had an hour’s free time in Stratford.
At 4:30 p.m. we were leaving Stratford for return to London, a journey of around 2 hours along the fast motorway, the longest leg of the day.
If seeing the English countryside and unspoilt villages of the Cotswolds is a priority for you and like most visitors you do not have time to spend 2 or 3 days in the countryside, this tour from London would be the one I think I would choose. Purely because of the small group format enabling the bus to get away from the tourist trail and experience the “real” charm of the Cotswolds.
Below is a video I made of the day that show in pictures much better than my few words above what to expect.
International Friends Small Group Tours From London – An overviewalert-info
Alternative Lunch In The Cotswolds Tour– Large Bus Tour Of The Cotswolds With Lunchalert-info
Oxford – What to expectalert-info
Stratford Upon Avon – What to expectalert-info
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