Warwick Castle Spire Top View

Welcome to England

How Growing Up in England Became the Greatest Travel Itinerary

When I was just a boy, six years of age, my Father moved our family to England on an overseas assignment from the Air Force.  We lived in a small town outside of Oxfordshire named Woodstock.  At the time I just thought it was pretty and had a bunch of neat things around but as I grew older I realized the experience was extra ordinary and needed to be shared with other people.

My nearly daily activity included walking down the street for about 15 minutes to play in the Blenheim Palace grounds with my sister who was two years older than me.  We would walk through those entrance gates that seemed to be 100 feet tall when I was six and get lost in all the grounds have to offer.

When you approach the Palace entrance there is a mini train that takes you on a fifteen minute slow but steady cruise around a big portion of the grounds.  We would get off the train at the stop and there were amazing things to do.

First, we would hang out in the butterfly house that is very warm and damp from all the humidity in the air.  We would hold our fingers out and wait for them to land on us and gently chase the butterflies around for a while.

Next, we would go to the giant chess board and move the pieces around for fun.  We didn’t know how to play chess so we would just slide the giant pieces around and pretend they would fight.

We would then move on to the colossal playground they had made of big pieces of wood that resembled a massive fort with suspension bridges and things to climb on.

After we finished playing we would go back to the mini train and ride it back to the palace gates and go walking through the grounds for hours before returning home.

We went many places during our time there and I remember them all fondly.  I took my lady friend to England in 2010 and we relived all my glorious memories and decided that I needed to document my inside knowledge so that others could enjoy a trip like no other.

Remember you’re not just going to England you taking a voyage that only people who have lived it could take you on.

1st Stop - London

Spend a couple of days in London getting this major part of the trip done first.  You could spend an entire week here and still not see everything.  Hit all the main attractions such as Buckingham Palace, The London Eye, London Tower with the crown jewels, Big Ben, Westminster Abbey, and many more attractions.  Make sure you go by Abbey Road Studios and have your picture taken crossing Abbey Road as this part is in London and NOT Liverpool like many people think.  

2nd Stop - Oxford

Take a bus 40 minutes due West from london to Oxford and spend the day here.

Oxford is home to the... you guessed it, Oxford University and is a large city.

There is plenty to do here including tons of shopping and fine dining.

Visit the Carfax Tower and gaze across the expanse of the world-famous Oxford University Campus.

Oxford - Oxford Square

Second Stop - Oxford

3rd Stop - Woodstock

Hop on the bus again and head 30 minutes due west to Woodstock, a quiet little town filled with marvelous treasures.

Woodstock is the town I lived in when I was a boy.  It is in an area known as The Cotswolds and is world-renowned for the old cottage style houses with the straw roofs.  It literally looks like you stepped into a 1500's era village.

Stop into a B&B and enjoy yourself in this quaint little town that looks like you somehow went back in time.

Stroll through town and visit all the little english shops.

There is a Cotswolds museum there that is free and fun to browse around.

There is a small pub in town called "The Black Prince"  it has a small gate across the street that will give you free entrance to the Blenheim Palace grounds.  The grounds are free for the citizens of the city but you can enter here to walk the grounds trouble-free.

If you want to go inside the Palace you must go in through the main gate for a 20 pound fee.

In winter I used to sled down the big hill near the main entrance my Father.

Belenheim - Secret Entrance

Blenheim Grounds Gate

Blenheim Palace Gates

Blenheim Palace

4th Stop - Stratford Upon Avon

Once again travel by bus about 30 minutes North to Stratford Upon Avon.

Stratford Upon Avon is the birthplace of Sir William Shakespeare and is absolutely a priceless destination on this trip.

While you are there visit the Shakespeare Museum, Shakespeare Grave, and take in the breath-taking scenery. 

Make sure to take a boat ride on the River Avon and get the guided tour with the rich history of the city.

Stop in for a play at the Royal Shakespeare Theater.


Stratford Upon Avon - House

Stratford Upon Avon

5th Stop - Warwick

The town of Warwick is a short 15 - 20 minute bus ride west from Stratford Upon Avon and is home to England's Premier Castle Warwick.

I went to the castle as a boy on a school field trip and it changed my life forever.  This castle has so many features and attractions that you will never be the same.

We watched the birds of prey show they had and it was AMAZING!  Bald eagles, Golden Eagles, and many other giant birds flying merely a few feet above your head and doing tricks. 

Make sure you go into the castle spires and climb the seemingly endless spiral staircases to get one of the best views that England has to offer.

The sound of peacocks is one that I remember most about Warwick as they traverse the grounds freely.

Make sure to cover the entire castle as there are hidden points of interest all around. Like the trebuchet, stocks, water wheel, torture chambers, cellar, and many other wonderful attractions.

Warwick - Warwick Castle

Warwick Castle(124721)

6th stop Liverpool

We rented a car for this part of the journey but I'm sure there are busses that take you there. 

By car it took about 3.5 hours to travel across england via the motorway to the west coast where liverpool is.

Liverpool is the place where The Beatles got there start and is a very interesting city regardless.  At one time Liverpool was one of England's richest cities due to it being on a very busy port.  This gave birth to many buildings with intricate stone carvings and detail second to none.  If you are an architectural geek this will be right up your alley.

Make sure to take the Fab Four Tour, a Beatles tour like no other.  We stopped by at all of the Beatles houses and heard all the history about each member of the band.  We were shown places mentioned in their songs from Penny Lane to Strawberry Fields.   Interestingly enough Strawberry Fields was an orphanage where John Lennon spent many days hanging out with the orphans. The tour lasted about 4 hours and was one of the best tours I've ever been on.  Please ask for Gareth if you get a chance as he was very knowledgable and quite humorous.

We then made our way to The Cavern, the pub where The Beatles got their start.  The Cavern is a mysterious place down about 3 flights of stairs.  The walls are made of brick and it almost resembles an old subway station with arched ceilings.  We stayed for several hours and watched numerous cover bands perform various Beatles tracks along with other artists.

The picture above was taken while I was at The Cavern and as you can see they have made an effort to maintain the historical design as it was when The Beatles were playing there as young chaps.

Great Beatles Book

The Beatles in Liverpool: The Stories, the Scene, and the Path to Stardom
Amazon Price: $19.95 $11.82 Buy Now
(price as of Feb 2, 2014)

Liverpool - The Cavern

Liverpool - The Cavern

Bonus (Non English) Stop Dublin, Ireland

Yes, from Liverpool you can hop on a ferry and ride directly to Dublin Ireland which I will have to save for the next time I make this trip. 

I was not able to make this leg of the trip as we were flying to Germany to visit where my Mother grew up. 

My family was originally from Ireland and I actually hold dual citizenship with US and Ireland.  While saddened I wasn't able to visit my homeland, I will definitely make it a point to ride that ferry across the pond to Ireland one day.

Rick Steves' Great Britain 2013
Amazon Price: $24.99 $17.00 Buy Now
(price as of Feb 2, 2014)