Traveling to UK

Discussion in 'Travel' started by bruce_margolis, Mar 3, 2009.

  1. Traveling from US, my wife is going to Southampton for six days. I can go with her for just the cost of airfare. Since it looks like Southampton has a train station, I am seriously considering going even though we will be in London a couple weeks later for vacation.
    Unlike our vacation, this would be entirely photo-based for me, go wherever I want each day while she's working. That brings me to my question......
    What would you do if you had six days to photograph the country? I was thinking of taking the train to London but I believe it takes a couple hours. Anyway, it would be a great opportunity to visit Grays of Westminster and take some time photographing the city, something more limited when traveling with my wife.
    But even if I spend a couple days in London, there is so much more to see in this beautiful country. I have seen so many great UK photos here that they inspire me to search for more locations. Where would you go each day?
  2. - Salisbury (50Km northwest) is certainly worth a visit.
    - If you like vintage cars, visit Beaulieu in the New Forrest (about 20Km south west).
    - Corfe Castle (70Km south west) might also be interesting.
    - Bath (100Km north west).
    - Stonehenge (50Km north west).
    ... an a lot more.
  3. The rail fare structure (and buying tickets) in the UK since rail privatisation is a nightmare. If you travel by train, try to book in advance somehow...maybe via the internet, the 'walk on' tickets bought just before you travel at stations are VERY high indeed...scary in fact.
  4. Try durdle door and lulworth cove ( on south coast, west of southampton, further than corfe castle) if you like coastal landscapes .
  5. Rainer, thank you. All the places sound fascinating. Can't believe I forgot about Stonehenge and I would love to visit some castles. Bath sounds really neat, wonder if I can also make a day trip to the Canterbury area.
    And Steven, I am slowly learning about the UK rail system. Found a couple sites online but they are a bit difficult to navigate without understanding the system. I am working on that but already learned you are quite right about advance purchase of tickets. Can make quite a difference in price.
    I know I am a bit limited because of starting out so far south so I am just trying to narrow this down to what looks best for each day. And even then, I have to work around the rain. Thank you very much for your help.
  6. Thank you, James. I love coastal landscapes. As long as the train has a stop along the way to the castle, I will check it out. This train schedule thing takes some serious planning.
  7. david_henderson


    Forgive me if you know this already, but the best landscapes and scenery in the UK is rarely close to or easily accessible from railway stations. Neither, in general will you see the best of what the UK has to offer from a train.
    If you hire a car then you can get to some beautiful locations in and around the New forest, the Dorset Coast, Chichester Harbour, Avebury, Stonehenge etc from a base in Southampton. If you rely on trains then you'll be best I think to stick to cities and towns where the station is reasonably close to the centre and twhere there's a reasonably direct rail link from Southampton. This may not include all the places mentioned above. Access to the station in Southampton itself is also likely to be very important.
  8. Great insight, David. Actually we will have a car but unfortunately my wife will be using it for work. That's why I came up with the train idea but you make some great points. I was thinking that a second car would be too expensive but I really am having trouble working out this train schedule thing. Ah, back to the drawing board to work on this some more......
  9. Take a boat over to the Isle of Wight (where I live).
  10. If you visit Bath, Wells Cathedral is worth seeing! And I second the Isle of Wight.
  11. The rail fare structure (and buying tickets) in the UK since rail privatisation is a nightmare.​

    I agree, actually this (combined with the fact that I don't feel comfortable driving on the wrong side of the road ;-) ) is what makes me afraid of visiting UK, in spite of the fact that I love the British countryside.
  12. I don't feel comfortable driving on the wrong side of the road​
    No. We drive on the right side of the road.... The left.
  13. david_henderson


    There is a website
    That makes the routing, timing and pricing of fares in the UK somewhat easier. As I say my biggest problem with the rail network is not its manageability, its that it doesn't get you to the right places at the right time for many types of photography. And once you get out of towns, the buses aren't a lot of help either.
    Luca. As someone who drives several thousand miles a year "on the wrong side" since pretty much wherever I go from the uK requires this, let me say this
    Its getting easier. Cars are becoming a lot more similar. Road signs, driving cultures and rules are a lot less idiosyncratic now. After a little while it becomes pretty much natural and not something you even think about. Driving on one side or the other means little to me. My driving concerns are in driving in places like Cuba where they don't bother much with road signs or decent maps, around Mexico City where the road structure is indecipherable and volume of traffic is way beyond my experience, and in the USA when the people that rent you a 4wd vehicle fit it with street tyres. None of these really apply in the UK; sat nav systems make navigation whilst driving solo better than it was, and apart from advice not to drive in central London - which you don't need to do anyway- I wouldn't expect any decent driver to have a really bad time here.
  14. David, I happened to drive in UK, Australia and Japan, to mention places where people drive on the wrong side. I know I can manage, but I am afraid of what can happen because of an action taken on habit. A former colleague of mine some years ago, was going back to the hotel after one day at a customer site. Maybe he was tired, maybe he was lost in his thoughts and he turned left doing what he did a milion time, i.e. keeping the right side of the road. A motorbiker was coming and did not survive the impact with the car. I am afraid that a momentary lapse of thinking and automatic switching to old habits might be an issue.
  15. People drive on the right in some places that are not the UK, because they are following the pattern set by Napoleon, who didn't want to do things the British way when he was conducting a war against them.
    Although Napoleon was beaten and died in ignominy I'm sure he would be pleased to think that there are people who can drive on the right and not think it wrong.
    One place close to Southampton is Portsmouth, it has the historic dockyards although I'm not that fond of the town.
  16. If you are not driving, then stick with London. You could easily spend 6 days photographing the sights around central London. Check out LondonPhotoWorkshops website for some inspiration.
  17. Thank you Phil. What other locations do you suggest in the UK that are somehow "manageable" with public transport?
  18. Luca, you could do any of the cities, but many are not particularly photogenic. London has so much more to offer photographically than the others.
    If you want to photograph countryside and rural locations, then it can probably only be done conveniently with a car, particularly if you want to be out early or late. Another way would be to join a photographic tour/workshop.
  19. Steve, the Isle of Wight is a brilliant idea for a day. Easy to get there and so much to see. My only concern is traveling about if I arrive by ferry. Have to look into this. Thanks.
    Stefan, thanks for the suggestion of Wells Cathedral in Bath. I think I can take a day trip to Bath via the train so it's just a matter of how far everything is from the train station. I don't mind walking all day to see the sites, well I don't mind if it's not raining. The umbrella definitely goes in the bag.
    Phil, I think most people would agree London is one of the world's great photogenic cities. Been there, absolutely love it, and will spend 4 days there when we vacation in Europe next month. If I can work out the train on this trip, my hope is to spend a couple more days there. I would be quite happy spending a month in London.
    For this trip, I also wanted to see places I have never been and the suggestions have been excellent. So much to think about. Thank you.
    As for the driving, thank you Peter for that explanation why you drive on the 'wrong' side of the road. I wondered about that because other EU countries use the same side as us over here on the west side of the Pond. However, I still found it challenging driving in Italy and some parts of Greece. Definitely don't have the traffic controls we are used to here.
    Hadn't thought about a workshop. I will look into that but being based in Southampton, I would think there are very limited opportunities. But it could be fun if I could find a one-day thing in London. I'll check around.
    Thanks for all the great ideas and suggestions.
  20. My only concern is traveling about if I arrive by ferry. Have to look into this. Thanks.​
    You can buy a one day rover ticket and get around most of the island by bus. £10 will get you 24 hours of bus travel.
  21. Awesome! I already checked out the Isle website and there is quite a lot to see and do there. A bus is a perfect way to get around. Definitely setting aside a day to go there. Thanks Steve.
  22. Thanks also from my side!
  23. Bruce, all the rest of Europe drives on the right so most UK travellers have had qite a lot of practice driving on the 'wrong' side of the road. From my own experince and also from everyone I have spoken to all report that it is a pretty easy thing. All the other traffic is also on the 'wrong' side too so you just follow where everyone else is going. When I pick the hire car in France otr wherever I always have a circuit or two of the car park just t oget the feel of the car and driving on the right. So I suggest you might want to give a hire car a try.
    There are good reasons why you would do this. Most of the Enlish countryside you might want to see is not easily accessble by train. If you only have public transport then (a) you are restricted to towns (b) sadly UK trains are very expensive. By the time you have taken all these trips you will have spent almost as much as if you had hired the car.
    The omly exception to using cars would be if you only wanted to visit towns. I would strongly recomend trains and underground trains for London and many UK towns are best got to by train then walk around them. Here are some southern UK towns you might visit :
    London (obviously - but try to select what you want to see before you go)
    Oxford, Cambridge, Bath, Windsor, Canterbury
    There are of course loads of others and some good suggestions above. Do your research before you come.
    Have a good trip!
  24. My only concern is traveling about if I arrive by ferry. Have to look into this.​
    Hi, check your e-mail. I sent you a note yesterday about Wight, explaining the ferry service via Red Funnel and Wight Link.

    Like others, I strongly suggest that you rent a car. Trying to get around by train, bus and on foot is going to be both limiting and frustrating, not to mention damp and chilly this time of year. You could easily spend a couple of days exploring New Forest, which by the way got its name a thousand years ago - there is nothing new about it - but you can't do it by train. While I agree with Steve Smith that it is possible to get around Wight by bus, I wouldn't do it, and I suspect that he wouldn't, unless there was no other choice. As I mentioned in my e-mail, you can rent a car in Southampton and take the ferry from Lymington to Yarmouth, thereby avoiding the slow car ferry from Southampton, or you can take the high speed, 25 minute foot ferry from Southampton to Cowes and rent a car on the island. The Ford dealer in Newport is great to deal with, and they will meet you with a car at the ferry terminal in Cowes.

    I think that you will find that driving on the other side of the road is pretty straightforward - much easier than remembering to look the other way when crossing streets on foot :). The only tricky part is getting used to roundabouts, but it doesn't take long. Also, on Wight some of the rural roads are fairly narrow, but this is an easy adjustment - slow down and enjoy the view.
  25. Ruaidhri, I appreciate that but I didn't see the email so it must have been dumped into my spam by mistake. That's really sad because so much junk mail somehow gets into my inbox while the important email doesn't. Very annoying.
    Colin, I will reconsider hiring a car while I am there. Obviously it has a huge advantage in that I can go wherever I like, much more flexible for those early morning/later day shots. I thought it would be much more expensive than the train but perhaps I am wrong. I'll look into this.
    I'm really not concerned about the driving thing though obviously I would never want to have a car in London any more than I would in cities like New York or Washington where parking is limited and public transportation is so good. BTW, we have many Brits visiting here in Florida so if they can figure it out, I'm sure I can too.
    A side note, I have seen a lot of your photos and they are quite impressive. It helps me to get some ideas of where to go and things to look for. Thank you.
  26. Go to Cornwall, Wales, Devon, Yorkshire, Bath where you will see the the actual UK. It will be much more enriching and better photos, there is so much visual noise in London.
  27. Hi Bruce don't know if you have thought about coach travel but if you are doing the Citys these stop at most easy to book and cheap too. They do a 7 day travel where you want pass for £79.00 you can go anywere in uk wales scotland, although the latter may be to much traveling.
    A car would be best for the freedom it would give you.
  28. acm


    I think Lake District is one of the best locations in UK and the best I have ever visited.
  29. Bruce
    If you can get a train to Northampton ,Milton Keynes or Wellingborugh give me an email before and I will place one of my Mercedes Lond S Class with chauffeur at your disposal. We could do Althorpe - home of The Spencer family - nice countryside over to Stratford on Avon for The Shakespear tour and Warwick Cattle. Busy day but worth it. Drop you at the Station afterwards. And of course no charge.
    Just let me know.
  30. Yeah...we drive in the right right side here (Australia) too...The Left. We also walk on the left of the sidewalk, and I get SICK of tourists who try to battle their way against this nice logic. (SORRY).
  31. Bruce, train travel is not as difficult as you may think. In fact its easy. Book off-peak fares for cheapest travel. Also, contrary to the advice above, the walk-up fares are not always way more expensive. I live in London. In fact, booking online or at a ticket machine/person at the station is sometimes identical in price, for example London to Brighton, Cambridge, Oxford, Gatwick Airport etc. I have made these trips many times.
    I always use , you pay with your credit card and use the card to collect your tickets at the station. A rather off-beat idea may be to go to Paris for the day, return from the new swish St Pancras station in London. You can easily spend the better part of the day in Paris then return to London.
    Photographically, I would recommend spending time in London, including getting some dusk shots in. Try visiting some of the ancient (yes, hundreds and hundreds of years old) markets such at Spitalfields (Liverpool Street station), Portobello Road on a Saturday (Notting Hill Gate station), Borough Market (London Bridge station), Covent Garden (Coven Garden station), Camden Market (Camden station). Take a walk around the Brick Lane area near Spitalfields. Take in a walk along the South Bank for all the main tourist sites (Westminster, The Eye, etc. down to the Millennium Bridge, Tate Modern Gallery, St Pauls, further down to London and Tower Bridge. Take a boat ride across to Greenwich, very enjoyable. Major, mega tip coming up..... when in London do not buy day tickets or single fares on the busses and tube (subway). A far cheaper way is to purchase an Oyster Card (looks like a blue little credit card) onto which you can load credit. All you do is swipe in and out of the tube stations and swipe in when you board a bus. Far far cheaper than individual tickets. If they want an address just make something up, give them your address you're saying at, no problem. See my portfolio for a few examples (cityscapes).Of course the parks are also fantastic, Hampstead Heath, Regents Park, Hyde Park, Richmond Park which is huge and lots of wild animals inside, etc, etc. Trafalgar Square, the Mall, Buckingham Palace, the West End for theatres, China Town, Soho, Oxford Street, The Getty Image Gallery just off Oxford Street are all good to see. Try walking around instead os using the tube too much, it gives one a much better feeling for the place.
    Oxford, Cambridge and Bath would be some further recommendations from a photogenic perspective. In fact you can get a train from London to Oxford which only takes around an hour or so from Paddington station, or even get a coach from outside Victoria station. Likewise for Cambridge. Bath is a bit further, around 1h45mins away from Paddington. I would also recommend Windsor very close to London, fantastic castle still used by the Queen.
    I have driven in the USA and am okay with it, not absolutely comfortable. I am very comfortable driving in peak hour London traffic, but I certainly wouldn't be comfortable driving in anything beyond medium to heavy traffic in the USA. If you feel comfortable driving, then as many people advised above you can access many areas which you won't see by train. All car hire companies offer sat nav, which would make you navigation a breeze. In fact you could buy one of the excellent Tom Tom sat nav systems from Amazon for not very much these days, especially with your strong dollar.
    Anyway, if you want any more advice don't hesitate to ask.
  32. Bruce, welcome to the UK and I hope you get a great few days with the camera. I second David Bell's comments. Train travel isn't the cheapest, but it is good, (particularly mainline connections) realistically, if you are not comfortable driving on the Left, don't even consider a car. Plus if you want to visit London, a car is the worst way to do it (no-where to park, congestion charge on weekdays, murderous traffic). Simply put, If you haven't been to London before it really is a must do. The buses and tube trains are comprehensive, and a One day travelcard gives you unlimited travel all day.
    Gray's of Westminster is definitely worth a visit! Quaint, but fantastic, and with the exchange rate in your favour at the moment you could spend some serious money! (Worth it for the second hand lenses alone).
    My next choice would be Cambridge. It's a city I love, and the college architecture is fantastic. You probably won't see more bicycles in any other European city outside of Holland! Students are great for candid photography, although please don't assume all us Brits have this dress sense!
    I live just north of London and south of Cambridge on the main railway route between the two. If I can be of any help in planning your trip around those two cities, please mail me via and I'll do my best to help you out. If you want some suggestions I can do just that as I have toured and photographed these cities many times.
    My one word of caution, our weather isn't brilliant at this time of year so plan for lots of damp days, with flat lighting, ISO400 most of the time! This also means that some of the scenic stuff can look pretty miserable (there is nothing more bleak than Stonehenge in the rain - but on a summers day - wow).
    Some of the other suggestions are great, but bear in mind you don't want to be traveling more than picture taking. plan just 5-6 places and spend the whole day there.
    Of course, if you pluck up the courage to drive a car (don't panic - I find when I drive in Europe, the unfamiliarity makes me more alert, not less, and I tend to be a more law abiding driver!) Just explore the south of England, little towns, country pubs, back lanes - always something for your lens, but get a good map or hire a SatNav with the car. Salisbury cathedral is impressive and not a huge distance. Beaulieu Motor Museum - a MUST. Drive to Shaftesbury in Dorset to photograph the ultimate cliched 'chocolate box' english scene - Gold Hill.
    In some ways I envy you having 6 days to just spend on photography!!!!
    All the best and be sure to post you results on, once again any help wanted, just email.
  33. While I agree with Steve Smith that it is possible to get around Wight by bus, I wouldn't do it, and I suspect that he wouldn't, unless there was no other choice.​
    I would actually, and quite often do despite owning a car.
    The island is only 26 miles east to west and about 16 miles north to south. You can get close to most places by bus and a bit of walking gets you just about anywhere else.
    I certainly wouldn't bother hiring a car for a day trip to our little island.
    Bruce, if you want to send me an e-mail just before your visit (if you decide to come here) I can give you some ideas for places to visit. steve.smith.stuff(at) (change the (at) into @)
  34. Bruce, thanks. Another aspect of visiting the UK is the weather. I don't know which part of the US you are coming from and so what you are used to weather-wise. In the UK we can get mos kinds of weather from sunny and hot to cloudy and wet. But usually it is cool and changeable with a fair amount of cloud. The trick, I find, is to see the mood and character of the westher as part of the experience and shoot regardless.
  35. In the UK we can get most kinds of weather from sunny and hot to cloudy and wet.​
    Usually all in the same day.
  36. Just to continue going on about the Isle of Wight, there are a lot of pictures, maps and suggested walks here:
  37. If you head to the Isle Wight, the ferry sets of from Portsmouth, you could kill two birds with one stone. I know many people who think the IoW is idylic.
  38. There is also a passenger ferry and a car ferry from Southampton which is where Bruce says his wife is going. I assume he is staying with her.
    Could be worth looking towards the New Forest area too.
  39. I can't comment on the proximity of the stations in the south to things that you would like to photograph; however a Britrail pass goes a long way toward removing problems with fares and timeing. Just Google Britrail to get the details.
    If not a pass, just go to the local station and book a ticket the day before to get much better pricing than buying your ticket the day of.
    In Southampton consider a day visit to the Hillier Gardens and the Exbury Gardens. Not the wild coastal landscapes but readily manageable from in town.
  40. You've gotten more advice than you probably bargained for. There's not much I can add, except that I'm envious of your wonderful opportunity. I am very fond of the UK, most familiar with London, many friends there, great family memories, and thousands of photos taken there.
    Please post your UK travel portfolio on so we can see what you decided on! Cheers and good luck.
  41. Wow, so many excellent suggestions and I very much appreciate the generous offers of assistance. London will be on the list for a couple days and I did some reading about Bath so I can see why so many suggested it.
    Isle of Wight looks like a winner because it is so easy to get to from Southampton. Even in Southampton, there is a nice harbor area. Much to see in New Forest so maybe I could drop off my wife at her work, then take the car there for a day. I would miss the early/late shots but this might not make much difference with an overcast day.
    I know your weather is somewhat unpredictable this time of year so I just have to work around that. I have a plastic cover for my body/lens but I'll also add an umbrella to the bag, then hope for the best.
    Train vs car? Been to London before and definitely don't want a car there. For the other locations, maybe hire a car for a couple days, take the train a couple days. Still need to look into this more.
    So much to see, way too little time. Thanks again for all your insight.
  42. The Cotswolds. Burton on Water there. Quaint and beautiful country but Spring is not yet here. As I remember I took a bus out of London.
  43. I was surprised that nobody suggested the Ordnance Survey maps ( The Landranger maps have good content (about 1.25 inch to the mile) and show footpaths and points of interest, good for planning the following day. The area around Stonehenge is ancient and riddled with places of interest (Avebury is a favorite), you'll need a map. Local good size newsagents will have them.
    Hope you have a good time.
  44. I hate to bring it up, but you might want to brush up on photography and the law in the UK, too. I recall reading a number of reports in the past year or two of photographers getting hassled by the police for taking pictures in public, especially in cities, and the home secretary has apparently proposed making it a crime to photograph the police. Try Googling "UK photographers rights," for starters.
    All that said, I was in Manchester and environs last spring and had no problems at all. I was, however, careful not to place myself in situations that might cause alarm.
    Anyone from the UK want to chime in on this?
    (For the record, I don't think the US is any better, especially post-9/11.)
  45. Andrew Slayman - its all scaremongering. Just go into central London and see how many people are continuously snapping away, P&S and big SLRs. No problem at all, trust me. If they have reason to question you then you may be stopeed, but they would need a reason. Don't worry.
  46. The proposed UK law about not photographing police etc is a very clumsy attempt to prevent hostile and malicious intelligence gathering. It is another sad example of over reaction by the present UK government in the name of security. In fact of course photographers must outnumber police by a wide margin and police don't have the time or inclination for such stuff. Just don't sit outside police stations taking photos of everyone going in and out.
  47. Hi Bruce, Stonehenge is a must to visit. I was there last December and this is what I got..
  48. Becareful if travelling on a Sunday by train. I find it to be the worse day of the week as that is when they do repairs etc. causes no end of problems.
    Have a great trip here.
    The photo of Stone Hedge is very beautiful
  49. Maybe we are a little cautious.
    Tributes have been paid to two soldiers shot dead by the Real IRA in County Antrim.

    Sappers Mark Quinsey, 23, from Birmingham and Patrick Azimka, 21, from Wood Green, London, died at Massereene Army base in Antrim on Saturday.
    The Army commander in Northern Ireland said the two soldiers had been "magnificent individuals".
    Brigadier George Norton said the men had been killed in a "callous and clinical" attack.
    This week they were due to fly out to Afghanitzhan.
  50. The south west (Devon and Cornwall) are the most picturesque and beautiful areas of the country - all the beaches, countryside and sea etc. Get the train to Plymouth and make your way down that line through Cornwall (by the way i live there i'm not some kind of train spotter!

Share This Page