Driving from London to St. Ives

Nov 9th, 2016, 11:33 AM
  #1  
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Driving from London to St. Ives

Hi - We are planning a trip to London the third week of May. We are staying near Soho in London for 2 nights, then hiring a car to drive to St. Ives. Here are my questions:
1) Should we hire a car on the outskirts of London then hop on M3? We thought it would be more economical to hire a car versus taking the train to Penzance then hiring a car there. If this is a good idea? If you think this is a good idea, please give suggestions on where to hire a car for easy access.
2) Does it really take 5 hours for the drive as Google maps suggest or will it take longer to drive?
3) Is the M3 a divided freeway like we have here in the U.S.?

Thank you in advance!
dkd676 is offline  
Nov 9th, 2016, 11:59 AM
  #2  
 
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If you just want to drive straight thru to Penzance or St Ives then taking the train there may be cheaper if that is your goal - www.nationalrail.co.uk has some ridiculously cheap discounted tickets if you book in stone far enough in advance to get the limited in number discounted ducats - you save a day of car hire and cost of petrol and can relax better than barreling straight thru in a car. For lots on British trains check www.seat61.com- the guru now of discounted train tickets; www.budgeteuropetravel.com and www.ricksteves.com.

Going by car would be nice if you wanted to stop at say Stonehenge or drive thru the Dartmoor, etc. but if just wanting to get there straight away consider the train.

Heathrow Airport is often mentioned as a good place to hire a car- on the outskirts of London the way you're going.
PalenQ is online now  
Nov 9th, 2016, 12:41 PM
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If you plan on driving pick the car up at Heathrow and take the M4 since that is the motorway you need, not the M3, change to the M5, then the A30.
It will take you about 5 hours with no stops, and no traffic problems. It will be a long boring drive.
hetismij2 is offline  
Nov 9th, 2016, 02:05 PM
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"Is the M3 a divided freeway like we have here in the U.S.?"

As said, it's the M4/M5 you need and they are motorways, something like your freeways.
Hooameye is offline  
Nov 9th, 2016, 02:16 PM
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If I'm going to an area with little or no rail service and places I want to see are in the countryside, I get a car. But I take a train to the closest good-sized town where there's a convenient car rental agency and get it there.

If the area is reachable by train, and Cornwall is, and has decent local transport, which I found it does, to get me to most of the places I want to see, I just don't bother with a car.

You don't say the particular reason for going to St. Ives, but if it's just to visit there and maybe Penzance, a car isn't necessary. And as PQ says at top, get yourself some cheap advance rail tickets and save yourself the bother. And, as I see it, the liabilities a car can present.
MmePerdu is offline  
Nov 9th, 2016, 04:07 PM
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>>2) Does it really take 5 hours for the drive as Google maps suggest or will it take longer to drive?<<

The drive will take significantly longer than 5 hours. From central London to St Ives will take 6 to 7 hours if you are very lucky w/ traffic.

If you pick up the car at say LHR the drive will be a little shorter - 5 hours if you are lucky. But then you'll have to figure in the time it takes to get to LHR and the rental agencies.

Take the train, rent locally.


Even IF it was cheaper to drive all the way -- I wouldn't. That is one hellaciously long drive.

Where are you headed after St Ives? If you are just visiting Cornwall you can rent locally and take the train back when you are done. If, on the other hand you are touring to another part(s) of the country -- you'll need to rent in a larger town that has national chains so you can do a one-way hire.
janisj is offline  
Nov 9th, 2016, 10:47 PM
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For most foreigners, the easiest way to drive from London to Cormwall is to go out to Heathrow, hire a car and drive west on the M4. The M3 route is much slower, though if you want to stop at Stonehenge en route, it's the only option: Heathrow is still the only sensible place to start.

But don't underestimate how long it's going to take from a central London hotel room to getting a hired car onto the westbound M4: I'd allow a good two hours.

For those comfortable with driving on the left - like Australians or Japanese - it's usually wisest to hire a car from a depot in west central London (there's a cluster round Marble Arch and the southernmost tip of the Edgware Rd), point the car west and follow the signs for the M4.

Driving ONLY makes sense for either group, though, if you want to do a fair amount of sight-seeing en route, or have tons of baggage.

Note that parking a car in St Ives is usually a nightmare.
flanneruk is offline  
Nov 9th, 2016, 10:59 PM
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If you plan on driving pick the car up at Heathrow and take the M4 since that is the motorway you need, not the M3, change to the M5, then the A30.
It will take you about 5 hours with no stops, and no traffic problems. It will be a long boring drive.>>

I respectfully disagree with Hets - the M3/A303/M5/A30is a much more interesting drive, is nearly all dual carriageway all the way now, [save for a very interesting optional detour you can take via Langport] - and if you go that way you can stop off at Stonehenge en route.

With stops, it will take you at least 6 hours driving to St Ives.

Personally I would take the train as Pal suggests, not least because the section between Exeter and just after Plymouth is one of the classic railway journeys of the world including some wonderful coastal scenery [the train goes right along the edge of the estuary and beach at Dawlish] and crossing the Tamar on Brunel's famous bridge. If you are intent on hiring a car when you get to Cornwall probably the best place to get off would be Truro where there is at least one car hire company at the station; this avoids having to change onto the St Ives line with your luggage at St Erth.

There is a 3rd option which is to fly to Newquay from LGW on Flybe - it takes under an hour and you can hire car at Newquay airport. It's then about an hour's drive to St Ives.
annhig is offline  
Nov 9th, 2016, 11:42 PM
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I didn't say it was a interesting drive, but from west London, Heathrow it is the most logical route. You can get straight on the M4.
The M3 is another miserable motorway as are the M4/M5,and it is harder to get to a car rental place near the start of the M3. OP could of course pick up at Heathrow and add the M25 to his miserable motorway list to get to the M3, since I doubt navigating through from Heathrow to Sunbury would be any more enjoyable.

The train is really the answer, and probably even the answer once in Cornwall, depending on where OP wants to visit.
hetismij2 is offline  
Nov 10th, 2016, 06:46 AM
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Thank you all for the replies so far. We plan on staying in Carbis Bay and taking day trips to various cities around that area of Cornwall. I think we will fly into Newquay, hire a car there and make our way. However, here is our next issue; car rental companies are closed on Sundays! We ideally would like to fly back to London on Sunday evening. Any thoughts there?
dkd676 is offline  
Nov 10th, 2016, 07:08 AM
  #11  
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Disregard my last comment. I am now finding some rental car agencies that are open on Sundays. However, the fees are quite high for a automatic transmission. ($85/day) Will have to rethink this.
dkd676 is offline  
Nov 10th, 2016, 07:38 AM
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If you can drive a standard in a pinch, you may find upgrading to an automatic on arrival, if they have one there, much less expensive than reserving one. That was my experience in Oxford earlier this year with Avis. They'd been the least expensive option, £109 for a week, and charged me something like £10 a day when I opted for an automatic on site. Something to consider.

I don't recall you saying how many days you'll be in Cornwall but I think the car rental rates for a week are a much better deal per day than less than a week. If saving some money is a concern as it seems to be, you may want to adjust to that fact, if indeed it is the case for your dates & destination. You might try pricing the car in various places where you could get to by train, too. Being flexible with one or more of your criteria can be useful that way.
MmePerdu is offline  
Nov 10th, 2016, 07:39 AM
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I'll also mention that the automatic I drove for the week was a MUCH nicer car than the one I'd reserved.
MmePerdu is offline  
Nov 10th, 2016, 09:48 AM
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However, here is our next issue; car rental companies are closed on Sundays! We ideally would like to fly back to London on Sunday evening. Any thoughts there?>>

you are not the only one to have that problem.

some friends with the same dilemma solved the problem simply by returning to London on a Saturday; another idea might be to return the car on Saturday and plan to spend the rest of the day round and about in St Ives/Carbis Bay, using the trains to get around, and a cab to the airport the following morning, though cabs are not cheap in Cornwall.

I'm sorry that i haven't got any better ideas.

Where are you planning to stay in Carbis Bay?
annhig is offline  
Nov 10th, 2016, 09:54 AM
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I'd just return the car on Saturday (the rental agency probably closes early on Saturdays too BTW) and either explore locally on foot or by bus, or take a cab.

If you can drive a stick -- don't worry about shifting with your left hand. It becomes second nature in about 5 or 10 miles. Now, IF you can't drive a stick, not such a great idea
janisj is offline  
Nov 10th, 2016, 02:01 PM
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Now, IF you can't drive a stick, not such a great idea >

Yes if you can't drive a stick and get one you're stuck!
PalenQ is online now  
Nov 10th, 2016, 02:42 PM
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Sounds like you will drive quite a bit locally. We have memories of white-knuckle moments when avoiding oncoming traffic, with nowhere to go to make room, due to the unyielding tall hedges or stonewalls that flank many country roads. Hire the narrowest car you can get, even our little Golf seemed too wide in many places. A good (but rather generous, many are narrower still) example can be seen here:
http://www.alamy.com/stock-photo-lea...-13086976.html
michelhuebeli is offline  
Nov 11th, 2016, 01:10 AM
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Sounds like you will drive quite a bit locally. We have memories of white-knuckle moments when avoiding oncoming traffic, with nowhere to go to make room, due to the unyielding tall hedges or stonewalls that flank many country roads>>

michel - there is a knack to this which is to adjust your speed so that you and the other vehicle pass at the widest part of the road; if that's not possible, one party just has to hang back at a wider part of the road while the other proceeds. Most locals can manage this and they will acknowledge each other with a wave [by convention the one who benefitted from the other's politeness will wave first and the hanger-back will wave back,] though the "waves" may only be a lifting of a finger off the steering wheel. It becomes second nature after a while, though it made driving in Sicily [where the attitude to driving seemed to be the exact opposite to driving in Cornwall] a bit of a culture shock.

I can report that this method doesn't always work - on more than one occasion I have found myself waiting for another car to drive past me from the other direction only for some idiot to overtake me from behind and block the person I was trying to help. And there are other times when however slowly you have driven, one of you is just going to have to reverse.

I'm sure that you were doing your best to drive according to the conditions but as with so much in life, it takes two to tango!
annhig is offline  
Nov 11th, 2016, 07:19 AM
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A good practice is -- when you are on a really narrow road and see a car coming the other direction, pull over at the widest sliver of road right there and then and flash your lights to tell the other driver you are giving way. That will save a lot of time in the long run eliminating having to jockey around/back up if you meet at a too narrow bit.
janisj is offline  
Nov 11th, 2016, 08:14 AM
  #20  
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Hi all! We are staying at the Lamorna Lodge in Carbis Bay. Staying in Cornwall for 4 nights. After extensive research, I believe that we can rent a car at the Newquay airport and they are open on Sunday for a drop-off (Hertz). We will have to pay extra for a automatic since we are not comfortable with shifting with our left hand. It will be hard enough maneuvering in the narrow streets to worry about shifting! Our flight back to London is not until Sunday evening which is wonderful since we want to spend as much time in Cornwall as possible.
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