The Great West Way is a remarkable touring route that stretches across some of England’s most historical and beautiful regions, from London to Bristol, offering travellers a unique opportunity to explore the South-West. Best of all, it’s easy to explore by train, so you can sit back and relax. This itinerary will guide you through the highlights of the Great West Way, ensuring you make the most of your journey.
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This itinerary visits Reading, Newbury, Bath, and Bristol (with day trips to Ascot, the Cotswolds, Bradford-on-Avon, and Salisbury depending on time).
Train from London to Reading: Start your journey in the morning at London Paddington station (don’t forget to snap a selfie with the Paddington Bear statue!) and relax on the 1-hour train ride to the vibrant city of Reading.
Explore the historic town of Reading (pronounced REDding), discover the Museum of English Rural Life, visit the Reading Abbey Ruins (look out for the Banksy on the old Reading Jail walls alongside), and take a stroll along the River Thames or, if its summer, enjoy a leisurely rover cruise along the Thames. Have high tea at The Roseate and marvel at the many fascinating and beautiful artefacts at Reading Museum. The town has lots of excellent shopping and great culinary options too.
Overnight in Reading.
Day trip to Newbury: The charming town of Newbury is just a 25-minute train ride away.
Visit the fascinating West Berkshire Museum, and take a walk along the Kennet and Avon Canal. If you’re a walker, head up to Donnington Castle (45 minutes’ walk from Newbury centre), nestled in lush parkland (or take a taxi). If you’re lucky, you may see some deer and foxes on your way!
Downton Abbey fans visiting in the summer months can take a taxi out to nearby Highclere Castle, which served as the film location for Downton Abbey itself. Enjoy a traditional English afternoon tea in one of the excellent local tea rooms before heading back to bustling Reading.
Overnight in Reading.
Head to Ascot or Bath: In 30 minutes, you can be at Ascot (and perhaps take in a horse race) or take the 1-hour fast train to the Georgian city of Bath, made famous by the Netflix show, Bridgerton.
If you’re a fan of horse racing, you can make a day trip to Ascot – even there are no races scheduled at the racecourse, you can still explore the grounds and visit the Ascot Racecourse Heritage Centre.
Have a picnic lunch in Windsor Park or one of Ascot’s many restaurants, or head back to Reading where you can either overnight or depart for your next destination.
Alternatively, check out of your Reading hotel in the morning and take the train to your next destination: the gorgeous Georgian city of Bath. Explore the Roman Baths, one of the best-preserved ancient Roman spas in the world, visit the stunning Bath Abbey and take a walk along the Pulteney Bridge. Or simply explore the town, enjoying up the charm of this lovely city.
Spa aficionados can enjoy a relaxing afternoon at the Thermae Bath Spa, where you can soak in the natural thermal waters.
Bridgerton and Queen Charlotte fans will love a themed walking tour of the many filming locations, including Royal Crescent, home to the Featheringtons, and the Holburne Museum, which was turned into Lady Danbury’s Residence.
Bath is famous for its The Sally Lunn Buns (a type of soft, light, white, sweet roll), London Bath Buns (another type of bun but smaller and much sweeter), and divinely creamy fudge, so be sure to taste some of those.
Overnight in Bath.
Choose your adventure. Relax in Bath or take a day trip to the Cotswolds.
Spend the day doing some relaxing exploring, eating, and shopping in Bath, or had out for a day tour to the Cotswolds.
You may choose to overnight in Bath and leave for Bristol the next morning, or depart for Bristol this afternoon – it’s only 15 minutes by train, making it within convenient and easy reach.
Overnight in Bath or Bristol.
Next stop: Bristol. trains from Bath to Bristol take between 11 – 20 minutes.
Bristol is a bustling, vibrant city with loads to do. Marvel at the impressive Clifton Suspension Bridge (see featured image), visit the fascinating SS Great Britain, explore the vibrant street art scene, immerse yourself in history at Bristol Cathedral, indulge in shopping at St. Nicholas Market, or enjoy a relaxing boat trip on Bristol’s picturesque harbourside. Bristol has a thriving food scene, from trendy cafes to fine dining restaurants (including several Michelin-starred options). We recommend doing a foodie tour so you can enjoy some of the many diverse options Bristol has to offer.
Every August, Bristol hosts the Bristol Balloon Fiesta, Europe’s largest annual hot air balloon meeting, so, if you’re travelling then, be sure to book well in advance.
Overnight in Bristol.
Back to London: Sit back and relax on the 1.5-hour train journey to London.
Today marks the end of your Great West Way journey. Or does it? You could decide to take a detour or two en route back to London or head off to the Cotswolds, Oxford, Surrey, Kent or a seaside destination. The choice, as always, is yours!
You could start your trip in Windsor before heading to Reading, or, instead of heading right back to London, spend the night in Windsor at the end. Explore the magnificent Windsor Castle, the oldest and largest inhabited castle in the world. Stroll along the Long Walk, a tree-lined avenue that leads to the iconic Copper Horse statue. Enjoy a leisurely boat trip along the River Thames, taking in the scenic views of the surrounding countryside.
Take a short train journey from Bath to Bradford-on-Avon (15 minutes), a picturesque town nestled on the banks of the River Avon. Explore the well-preserved medieval buildings, including the stunning 14th-century Tithe Barn. Visit the Saxon Church of St. Laurence, one of the oldest churches in England, and take a leisurely walk along the Avon Valley. Enjoy the charming atmosphere of this historic town, with its quaint shops and cafes. This can be done as a day trip from Bath.
Salisbury, home to the magnificent Salisbury Cathedral and its iconic spire, is just 1 hour by train from Bath, making it an easy day trip. Marvel at the impressive medieval architecture and explore the beautiful Cathedral Close. You can do a bus tour from Salisbury to Stonehenge.
The Great West Way showcases England’s rich history, stunning landscapes, and charming town and, by traveling by train, you can easily explore the highlights of this route. This itinerary provides a taste of the diverse experiences awaiting you along the Great West Way, and can be customised based on your preferences and the time you have available. It is recommended to check train schedules and book tickets in advance to ensure a smooth journey.
For more ideas and inspiration, please visit the Great West Way tourist website here: DISCOVER THE GREAT WEST WAY®
Please get in touch for your accommodation, rail and sightseeing bookings at email@example.com!