Comments on England/Scotland Itinerary

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Jan 10th, 2002, 06:25 AM
  #1
Vita
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Comments on England/Scotland Itinerary

This is very tentative, but I've been playing around with the following itinerary. I'll be going for 2 weeks at the end of May and I'll be using public transportation. I'm mostly interested in architecture, sightseeing and aimless walking. I'd also like to do a couple of days in the countryside. Any suggestions would be appreciated.

Day 1 - Leave DC
Day 2-7 - London with day trips to Stonehenge, York and Oxford (was considering Canterbury as an alternative) then overnight train to Inverness
Day 8 - See Loch Ness (worth it?) then bus or train to Fort William
Day 9 - Fort William, hike Ben Nevis
Day 10 - Train to Edinburgh
Day 11-12 - Edinburgh
Day 13 - Fly out of Edinburgh

Questions:
1) Has anyone done the special access/inner circle tours of Stonehenge? Would it be better to just go on my own? That would require taking the train to Salisbury then the bus to Stonhenge from there.

2) If I take the train to Inverness, is there a place where I can leave my bag so I can tour the area? I'll probably have a large size pullman. According to Eurorail.com, it will be more convenient to go to Inverness directly than it would to go to Fort William first.

3) Is spending 2 nights in Fort William a good idea? I basically just wanted to do some hiking and will probably leave early on the last day for Edinburgh.
 
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Jan 10th, 2002, 06:29 AM
  #2
nige
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If doing Canterbury, you could take a side trip to France or Belgium! You can get the eurostar from Ashford [kent] - it's close to canterbury.
Just a thought

Nige
 
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Jan 10th, 2002, 07:16 AM
  #3
Joanne
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Going to Stonehenge on your own, especially without a car, isn't worth the time and trouble. Since it's fenced off, you'll probably spend more time in the gift shop than looking at the stones. Maybe an hour tops, after all that hassle getting there.

A car trip or group tour, on the other hand, can include side trips to Avebury, Salisbury, and other local places of interest, making a very worthwhile day trip.

We took the Inner Circle tour last summer and thoroughly enjoyed the experience. One caveat: Contrary to what their web site now states, English Heritage strictly forbids touching the stones. Our EH guide last summer gave us a very pointed speech to this effect, and after he was done, our tour guide reiterated it, sounding afraid that if he brought too many violators, his company would be banned from giving the tours.
 
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Jan 10th, 2002, 07:54 AM
  #4
Sheila
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mmm Vita; I think the Scottish bit's a bit off. Is Ben Nevis a must? If so, then I suggest
overnight train to Fort William (no sleepers at the weekend, but otherwise OK);hike Ben Nevis

[Loch Ness is NOT worth it. It's pretty enough but it is not the nicest; the trains do not cross Scotland west/east, so you'd have to get a bus, and I can think of better things to do with my time than sit on a rural bus.

Day 9- Train to Mallaig; ferry to Skye, bus to Portree
Day 10 - Bus to Kyle of Lochalsh;Train to Edinburgh via Inverness
Day 11-12 - Edinburgh
Day 13 - Fly out of Edinburgh

However, if you could ditch Ben Nevis altogether, then take the train to Oban,

day 8-take a ferry to Lochboisdale on South Uist; walk, hitch and bus up through the Uists to Lochmaddy

day 9- ferry to Uig on Skye and spend the rest of the day on Skye.

Day 10 - Bus to Kyle of Lochalsh;Train to Edinburgh via Inverness
Day 11-12 - Edinburgh
Day 13 - Fly out of Edinburgh


You'd have to pick the days to fit the ferry timetables tho'
 
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Jan 10th, 2002, 09:00 AM
  #5
Linda
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We were going to school in Canterbury and drove one day down the southern coast and up to the Salisbury plain with Stonehenge over south of London and back. Everything is so close together you could easily do both in one day. Canterbury is a nice small city which is well worth the trip.
 
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Jan 10th, 2002, 09:35 AM
  #6
janis
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A few suggestions/comments. First of all, despite what Linda says, you couldn't do Canterbury, Salisbury and Stonehenge in one day by public transportation from London. If Stonehenge is a "must" for you either take the train to Salisbury and pick up a tour including Stonehenge, Avebury and possibly even Bath from the Tourist Info. office near the Cathedral. OR, take a tour from London that includes Salisbury, Stonehenge and Bath. (Victoria Station has a great Tour. Info. office with many tours on offer)

The Scottish portion of your trip is a little skewed. The best thing about Loch Ness is Urquhart Castle - but otherwise it is not worth that kind of a trek. There are probably 40 more scenic Lochs in Scotland. Also, Fort William is not much. Mainly a small town with about 150 B&Bs. It is in the center of a great area but there is nothing much to see or do there. Ben Nevis is great - but if the weather is foul the day(s) you are there they won't allow you up on it.

I don't think in the short time you have set aside for Scotland you could practically get to any of the smaller islands. But taking the train to Mallaig (instead of Inverness or Fort William) and the ferry over to Skye would fill both your outsdoorsy scenery and hiking needs. Skye is beautiful and the Cullins are some of the best hiking areas in all of Scotland. There is an Inn/Restaurant/Camp ground at Sligachan (right in the middle of the island that is a hiking center and there are always many people there taking day hikes in all directions.

I would take the overnight train all the way to Mallaig, ferry to Skye, stay there two nights (or 3 nights if you want to do more hiking), then take the train to Edinburgh for the rest of your visit.
 
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Jan 10th, 2002, 09:48 AM
  #7
janis
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OOPS - I forgot to add something about your London plans. You only have 6 days in London - unless you have been there many times, you will find way too much to see and do in London to be able to take 3 day-long trips. The first day will be spent getting thru immigration, checking in to your hotel, getting acclimated, all while jet-lagged. The most you will probably be able to do is one of the open top bus tours. So you actually only have 5 free days in London. If you are leaving the city 3 times for day trips, you are spending nights in the most expensive (by far) accomodations of your trip but not spending any time in London.

While I go to London every time I go to the UK and love it, if you are not a Big City type - consider not staying in London at all. Stay a night in Salisbury, 2 nights in Oxford and a night or 2 in York and then take the train from there to Scotland. That will save you hundreds of $$ in hotel costs.

But if you want to see London - see London - pick the one place you really want to visit (Oxford or York?) and do just the one day trip. You may find you don't want to leave London for even that day.
 
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Jan 10th, 2002, 02:29 PM
  #8
Vita
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Thanks, all this is just the kind of feedback I was hoping for. Joane, do you remember the name of the tour group that you used for Stonehenge?

Janis, While I appreciate the cost-saving advice, I think I'd rather stay in London than jump around a lot. Also, I'd like to take advantage of the nightlife and attend some theatre productions.

However, your advice does make sense and it's always so hard to decide what to cut out. So my next question is, if I wanted to pick one day trip from London to another town to walk around and gawk at architecture, where should I go? Oxford? York? Other?
 
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Jan 10th, 2002, 02:29 PM
  #9
Tony
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A couple of comments:
1. If you are interested in London, you won't see a lot of it in the time you have allowed.
2. Take an organized tour from London that includes, Salisbury, Stonehenge and Bath. It takes all day, but you'll have plenty of time at Stonehenge and get a taste of the others. The Inner Circle Tour is mostly hype. You'll easily see what you want of Stonehenge just walking around the stones.
3. Leave London early in the morning for York. Plan to spend the entire day (and possibly evening there). It is well worth it.
4. Regarding Scotland. Sheila's itineraries are excellent choices. Loch Ness is no big deal. Neither is Inverness. I wouldn't waste your limited time there. Try to allow at least two full day in Edinburgh if not more.
 
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Jan 10th, 2002, 03:01 PM
  #10
janis
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Vita - I wasn't REALLY recommending you jump around like that but was just trying to show you that you wouldn't have much if any time in London the way you were planning it. If it were me and I wanted to take in London's nightlife etc I would do one (and only one) of two day trips. Either a group tour from London taking in Salisbury, Stonehenge and Bath, OR a trip on my own on the fast train to York. It is only a little more than 2 hours from Kings Cross and the entirecity is walking distance from the train station.

Both are wonderful.

Bath is Georgian (plus the Roman Baths of course) and is very pretty with flowers everywhere and a river right through the center.

York is Medieval and Yorkminster is one of the most amazing cathedrals in the world. The shambles, tea at Betty's and the great museums are all an easy walk.

So pick one. If you really want to try to fit both in, think about taking the train to York early in the morning and spend the day and catch an evening train from there up to Scotland.
 
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Jan 10th, 2002, 03:37 PM
  #11
Vita
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It seems that trying to get from London to the Highlands is going to require a lot of travel time. To simplify, I'm considering going straight to Edinburgh and signing up for a day hike through the Highlands. There was one group on the internet called Walkabout Scotland. Has anyone used them or can anyone offer someother suggestions for tour guides?
 
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Jan 10th, 2002, 04:54 PM
  #12
Joanne
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Hi Vita,
Tony may feel that the Stonehenge Inner Circle Tour is mostly hype, but we enjoyed it, especially as the day included lots of other early sites. We would never have seen crop circles (or the pub where they're allegedly planned, LOL) without our tour guide.

Just looking at the stones from outside would be like visiting a museum rather than the real thing.

The tour group we used was called Astral Tours, but the link I used now takes me to a site with a different name and a slightly different (and shorter, as I recall) itinerary:

http://www.stonehengetours.com/stonehenge.htm
 
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Jan 11th, 2002, 04:23 AM
  #13
Tony Hughes
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Vita, don't bow to peer pressure. I disagree with the other Tony. I'd go to Inverness and Loch Ness.
 
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Jan 11th, 2002, 04:32 AM
  #14
Vita
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Just thought I'd top to see if anyone had any other suggestions. Here's a revised itinerary:

Day 1 - Leave DC
Day 2-7 - London with day trips to Oxford and a day tour (including Stonehenge, Averbury, Salisbury, Old Sarum Castle, and Silbury Hill)
Day 8 - Train to York
Day 9 - Train to Edinburgh
Day 10-12- Edinburgh with one day hiking tour to the Highlands
Day 13 - Fly out of Edinburgh

Also, I've started checking out the airfares. How low should I go for an openjaw into London and out of Edinburgh from Washington at the end of May? The fares I'm seeing right now are $720-760.
 
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Jan 11th, 2002, 05:20 AM
  #15
Sheila
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Sorry Vita, but IMHO you have no chance of a decent walk IN THE HIGHLANDS out of Edinburgh within the bounds of a day.

If you're goind to restrict yourself to a day outside Edinburgh, go and walk the Fife Coastal path or something much closer to Edinburgh than the Highlands.

Or take a day tour in a minibus (van) if you want to se some and are not too fussed about walking. I've have some walking companies bookmarked on my machine at home. If you want I'll post them later. The minibus companies-Haggis, Rabbies etc- have all been mentioned here many times.

And you, Hughes, you need to get your ass out of the central belt and come and see some decent hills. None of this "Inverness and Loch Ness" nonsense!!
 
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Jan 11th, 2002, 06:35 AM
  #16
Vita
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Shiela, Yes, I'd be interested in the names of some walking companies. I mentioned this earlier, but I saw one company called Walkabout Scotland that does day hikes to the Highlands out of Edinburgh. Not sure if they are any good though. Tony H., can you elaborate a little on why you like Inverness/Loch Ness? Thanks again, all.
 
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Jan 11th, 2002, 10:03 AM
  #17
janis
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Your revised itinerary is much more "doable" and much less hectic. You will love the stay in York. I agree w/ Sheila - don't try to do a day trip to the highlands - they are worth an entire trip on their own.

But ther are a LOT of great hiking possibilities within an hour or two of Edinburgh. Fife - the coastal villages and trails or the inland hills.

Falkland is a great choice since there is a wonderful Palace with gorgeous gardens and right outside of the village are the Lomond Hills with lots of hiking possibilities and great views.

The Torssachs/Queen Elizabeth Forest Park near Aberfoyle is another possibility.

My Favorite would be St Abbs Head on the East Coast - fabulous trails along the cliff tops of teh North Sea - wonderful rock formations and sea birds.

All three of these could be reached by public transport without a group tour. Or you could go to the Tourist Information office at Waverly bridge and check out their local offerings.

Wait until you are in Edinburgh so you have an idea what the weather is like. It would be a shame to pre-book a tour that turns out to be a horrid day when the next day turns out clear and beautiful.
 
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Jan 11th, 2002, 10:23 AM
  #18
janis
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oops - That's Trossachs (Not Torssachs)
 
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Jan 11th, 2002, 10:28 AM
  #19
claire
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hi vita
i live in edinburgh - its a beautiful city and you can easily spend alot of time here just wandering about. so much history and things to see. agree with the bit about loch ness, its always raining and dreary when i've been and the visitor centres are cheesy. its just a long lake and you'd be lucky to spot anything more than wet grumpy fishermen who've had too many wee drams, or the lone piper with a draft up his nether regions...how about catching a train to pitlochry and doing your walking around there, its stunning and lovely little town. what do you others think?
you can get very cheap flights from london, luton - edinburgh, for instance £12 one way but they're non refundable or transferable. check out the easyjet.co.uk website, also BA do cheap flights with their "go" airline. this may mean u can get cheaper return flights from london - washington if easier. the flight from edin - london is an hour. edin airport is outside edinburgh - didnt know if you knew that but you can get a bus into waverley bride which is right next to waverley train station right slap bang in the centre of edinburgh. the lone piper is on better form here too...enjoy your trip,
oh by the way if you want accomodation in edinburgh the cheapest by far is the travel inn on morrison link..i think the travel inn has a website, £49 per night per room, no matter how many people. its clean, simple and half the price of the others. walkable in ten mins to centre of edinburgh.
claire
 
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Jan 11th, 2002, 10:32 AM
  #20
claire
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waverley bride which is right next to waverley train station ...........
sorry this bit should say waverley bridge
claire
 
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