UK in August? Or UK in September?

Hi all. :slight_smile: My husband and I are going to the UK (and Eire if we get time) this antipodean spring (UK autumn) for 4 weeks. I wonder can either UK dopers, or World dopers who have visited, help with some questions, please?

Emphasis of the time will be on back-roads, and countryside, and scenery, and a bit of history; we are also going to do some day walks. Our intent is train and local buses to get around, and hire a care form time to time if we want to travel a longer distance, or somewhere train/bus is not convenient.

Would people give their opinions or whether August or September is a better idea? I would think the pros for August would be that it would be a bit warmer, and longer days; pros for September would be that it would tend to be a bit quieter in terms of numbers of visitors?

Not intending to spend more than a couple of days in London, or any other big city. What are peoples “must sees”?

Did you have any thing you were really looking forward to that did not live up to expectation?

I will check back as I can, but I am on opposite times to the majority of the board, so please excuse late replies.

U.K. weather can be unpredictable in August or September. Plan on Warm days but be prepared for showers, especially if outdoors.
August is “school holiday time” so everywhere is busy and top price. Schools return the first week in September so while everything is still open it is quieter.
As for where to visit it depends on your interests. Public transport is easy either local by bus or trains and buses for longer distance. Plenty of maps and timetables on-line.
Whatever your interests you will find plenty to do.
Remember it is another country with it’s own ways. Enjoy it for what it is not criticize for what it’s not.

Making decisions based on expected weather in the UK is risky. Yes it is on average warmer in August than September but you can’t rely on it. I recent years we have had a run of rather disappointing summers, dull cool and wet. These have often been followed by periods of more stable and pleasant weather in September and October. That said next year it could very easily be hot and dry from June to August, then rain continuously for the next 4 months.

For my money, if you happen to be lucky, really good September weather is much nicer than the best that August can offer even if you need a jacket in the evenings. With kids back in school accommodation should be easier/cheaper and roads and attractions will be quieter in September also.

I recommend September. The weather is too unpredictable to base any decision, and better to save money and patience by travelling outside of school holiday times. Schools normally go back by the first week of September.

You could split between a bit of August and a bit of September though?

Must sees for walking and countryside: virtually anywhere in Scotland which is beautiful, the Lake District, and Cornwall. That’s pretty much the length of the entire country for you there! :stuck_out_tongue:

In London: perhaps stay somewhere southwest and see Richmond Park for the deer. It’s easy to get by train in to central London from places like Chessington, Chertsey, Surbiton etc, and it’s way prettier there. Depends on your budget of course.

Have fun!

100% september. Theres no difference in the weather and it may be quiter and cheaper.

September is a good choice.
If you are relying on the weather to make or break your trip to the UK then you are coming to the wrong country anyway. The weather in Sep. will not stop any of your activities and the big upside is that things are less busy and accommodation/transport is either cheaper or more readily available.

Some thoughts on things to see? Dover Castle, Leeds Castle (in Kent…not Leeds) The Eden Project, London has lots of things to do for free, York, the lake district…in fact, this will swiftly turn out to be one long list so let me leave it there but mention that you may want to consider an English Heritage pass. It gives you entrance to hundreds of historical sites for 9/16 days at a vastly reduced price. I’m sure the list of attractions on that site will give you some good ideas for locations to visit.

Thank you all so much for taking the time to reply! :slight_smile:

OK, it seems our first thoughts for September were on track - we just looked on line at average temps, and wondered. Very useful to know about the return to school date - that will definitely be factored into our flight dates.

Some great ideas for things to do - thank you. I will most definitely look into the heritage pass, as country houses and other historic things are an interest.

Good to know that it seems as if our thoughts about trains and buses being a viable option were correct.

Thanks! :slight_smile: (keep it coming…)

For planning public transport:

September. As others have said, it’s quieter and cheaper. If you do come to Scotland, the east coast has far fewer midges.

September will be a bit more autumnal. The leaves will be turning, the mornings may be dewy and misty, etc. iMO, that makes it a more interesting time.

Thinking on then if you are interested in historic buildings and houses.
Try the city of Bath, plenty to see and do in the town and close by.
Many famous houses to visit and the best of Georgian architecture to see for free.
Then for a change get up to York (train?) even more history and a contrast to Bath and London.
Wherever you go check out the cathedrals.

From someone who grew up just outside the Lake District; September all the way! Unless you go well off the beaten track, it’s busy. The roads there are not designed for heavy traffic, but in August, they get it.

A note for travel, train tickets (which are generally pretty expensive) can vary dramatically in price, even on the same day. Booking in advance, but being a little flexible on times can make a startling difference; a ticket I bought a few days back for £15 would have been well over £60 on the train an hour earlier. Even if budget is not a big concern, it’s still often worth a quick check.

When I went for my month’s tour, I bought a British Rail Flexible pass, that is only available for tourists. It worked out to be a good bit cheaper than buying individual tickets.

It looks like the NADs board is no more, or I’d suggest posting over there. Quite a few of the Brit Dopers were happy to meet up with me and took me on tours when I was there. <reminisce> My first day in London, I went on a pub crawl. At one point, we went to the George Inn, the oldest pub in the UK. </reminisce>

At the risk of repeating what everyone else has said, September in Europe is always better than August, unless you like dealing with hordes of German (and other) tourists. It seems like everyone in Europe goes on vacation in August, which means a lot of businesses may be closed, transportation and restaurants are packed, and food/lodging is expensive.

The info re public transport planning is very valuable, thank you!! :slight_smile: We are getting very excited about this trip. Thank you all so much for helping out with your experiences, I really appreciate it.

While I agree with the consensus that overall September would be better than August, I think you are right to expect noticeably cooler weather in September, although only by maybe 3 degrees C. You also mention daylight hours, and that could be significant if you’re planning on doing a lot of outdoorsy stuff. Sunset is an hour earlier in September, so over four weeks that adds up to two whole days’ worth of daylight.

Back on the weather, there is significant variation across the country. Obviously it is a few degrees cooler in the northern part of the country. But the areas with the most impressive scenery (Scottish highlands and islands, Lake District, Wales, West Country) also happen to be the rainiest. Partly because they’re mountainous of course, but also because of the prevailing westerly winds. There are 1.5 times as many days with rain in western Scotland as there are in eastern England, and twice as much of it. If you hate rain, Cambridge is about the best place to go in the UK.
(That said, I will personally pay for your trip if at any place in the UK it “rains continuously for four months” :). I realise it was deliberate hyperbole, but even allowing for artistic licence and perhaps tempering it to “some rain on the great majority of days over a four-month period”, you’d have to spend those four months up a mountain over the winter for that to be remotely likely.)

The UK doesn’t quite have the “August shutdown” phenomenon that is said to happen in some continental European countries. Schools will be closed, and it may be more difficult than usual to find a plumber, but everything else will be open.

I like your choices. So much better than renting a car. Sometimes the key is to have a think about the types of people to sit near; invariably people like you is a good option though not the only one (assuming you want to sometimes chat a little).

Schools go back in the first 10 days of Sept, ime, often the first week.

Anything to do with the National Trust is good

Kiwi who has lived in the UK for 10 years here.

You’ve already had some great advice and I can only second the advice that September would be less busy once the kids get back to school.

However, my personal experience has been that trains are a lot more expensive than expected. If you can get some kind of visitor pass that covers a period of time, that would probably be fine. But if you’re planning on booking point to point trips, you might be surprised at the cost.

For example, my parents are coming to stay in August/September and expressed an interest in spending a week in Cornwall. Renting a car for nine days was cheaper than getting four adults “there and back”. And now we’ll have a rental car to get us from place to place whilst we are there.

Whenever we host visitors, we always go to Chatsworth House.

Warwick Castle is a great day out with a mix of history & architecture, and fun activities going on outside.

We never take people to Stonehenge (just a tourist trap). Instead, go for a proper walk and get hands on with the stones at Avebury.

Depending on how far you’re prepared to travel, Chester is a lovely walled city. The main shopping strip is on two levels so you can do ground level first then take some very steep steps to the upper level!

If it’s shopping you want to do, the Trafford Centre outside Manchester is huge and has free parking (and a cinema if you want an excuse to sit down for a few hours!)

Hope some of that is useful to you!

Pondering on the public transport/car rental conundrum.

If you are staying in major city centres then trains and buses are viable.
If you are going to be more out of the way then public transport becomes less accessible and more expensive.
A small rental car will probably be in the region of ÂŁ250-300 for a couple of weeks and, though we like to do ourselves down, the roads and infrastructure over here are pretty good. As are the standards of driving (even if it can get a little crowded)

Now this have to I disagree with, because Stonehenge is gorgeous (even if a bit smaller than you’d expect). There is (or was) a company that runs a sort of Neolithic sites bus tour (Avebury, West Kennet Long Barrow, Stonehenge, and a couple of other places, I think) that will actually get you inside Stonehenge. They do a dawn tour (starting at Stonehenge) or an evening tour (finishing at Stonehenge). The price wasn’t too bad, and the guides are pretty knowledgeable. I think it was this one, but since my trip was 12 years ago, I’m not positive.