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Traveling mid-august in UK and Ireland

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I'm trying to plan a trip mid-august around the UK and to Dublin, maybe northern Ireland as well. I'm a foreign student in Paris, and I've never been to the UK before, and I'm not quite sure how to manage it, since it's multiple cities and sights. I'm taking the train to London for maybe 2 days, then to Edinburgh. From there I want to take the bus to Inverness, and I really want to see the Highlands so I want to spend a few days(3 days max). The problem is that it looks like public transportation is not the best since the area is so sparsely populated, and a lot of the websites I've seen has mentioned that taking a car or tours is the best option. I found that the tours for a few hours cost from 57€-140€ with only touristic sites, and doing that a few days is not possible on my student budget. I also want to be able to see more of the country side, and just not just the popular destinations. I've traveled through a bit of Europe already on my own, and I'm not sure I can handle being on someone else's schedule. I'm trying to decide if I should rent a car, and drive everywhere. I am on my own, and while I've never driven long distance in a foreign country, it seems to be a cheaper option. If anyone has any experience with tours in the areas I'm going in, or has experience driving in Scotland and to Dublin and going by ferry, please let me know. I'm trying to find the most affordable and enjoyable way.

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