Getting around Scotland

Dec 13th, 2004, 11:44 AM
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Join Date: Oct 2003
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Getting around Scotland

Okay, so I'm going to post a message similar to one a posted more than a month ago, but was shot down by a visitor who told me to check out the archives, which I did, but haven't really found what I'm looking for.
So here goes:
My husband and I have a wedding in Scotland (in Ayr) and would like to spend the rest of the week traveling around the country - def. Edinburgh, Skye, the Highlands.
Is driving really the best way to get around? What about trains in Scotland? I ask because we are both hesitant to drive on the other side of the road.
Suggestions/advice would be most appreciated!
cah2 is offline  
Dec 13th, 2004, 12:03 PM
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I have to say that getting accustomed to driving on the left was more difficult than I anticipated. It wasn't the "what do I do now?" reaction at intersections and merges that were problematic (no problems there at all, in fact). It was simply NOT smacking into the curb while driving that proved a little tough for Mrs. Go and myself.

HOWEVER...From what I observed, I'd still say that driving is the way to go over there. After a shaky first day of driving, we both got the hang of it. And by the end of the trip, I was maneuvering like a local. And I don't think there is any way to really experience the Highlands and know them for what they are unless you can plunge down the open road of your choice, on your own schedule.

Edinburgh is a totally different story. A car is unnecessary there, and would probably just get in the way.

Look up our trip report for more info (search here for "12 days in sometimes sunny Scotland"). We also have 4 albums of Edinburgh, Highlands & Skye photos here:

Enjoy your trip!
mr_go is offline  
Dec 13th, 2004, 12:13 PM
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I will second this. I found the first time driving on the left side (actually first time was in Ireland, downtown Dublin) a bit shaky. However, I quickly got the hang of it. The harder part is getting used to the fact that the roads are TINY compared what Americans are used to.

You will discover this in the highlands. And yes, unless you take a guided tour, you aren't going to get around the highlands without a car. The road size isn't an issue when you're the only one one the road -- it's when a big lorry (Truck) is coming down the other side, at 60mph, and there's noplace for you to go!

The solution is in little side spots that are designed for one person to pull over to let them pass you. They are quite necessary in many places!!

I didn't realize the significant of these until the time I needed one, and NOW

Normally drivers are quite polite about finding a way for two vehicles to pass on a narrow road. Occasionally it means one has to back up a spell, but that is usually done without rancor. And most places, there is enough shoulder to park on while one passes.

The highlands and Skye are gorgeous, rugged, and breathtaking. Enjoy your trip!!!

PS. Skye has two ways to get onto the island by car. Ferry and toll bridge. Both are expensive, but it is definitely worth the trip! And just because something is 5 miles away doesn't mean it takes 5 or even 10 minutes to get there!
GreenDragon is offline  
Dec 13th, 2004, 12:14 PM
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Driving around Scotland is definately the best way to go. My husband drove, and I navigated the Highlands and Skye. We opted for an automatic transmission to make driving on the opposite a bit easier. He adjusted quickly and we enjoy the freedom of having our own car. Enjoy being in the best vacation spot ever.
jenstu13 is offline  
Dec 13th, 2004, 02:28 PM
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OK - I'm curious about that "rest of the week" bit. How long do you actually have free?? Are you spending 2 or 3 days with wedding festivities and then a few days for touring -- or is the wedding just one afternoon and then you have the best part of 6 days to tour. Makes a HUGE difference. Scotland is a big place and you have listed 3 sites (Ednburgh, Skye, and the Highlands) which are far apart.

You can get from Ayr to Edinburgh by train -- BUT you have to walk several blocks to change stations in central Glasgow. You can get from E'burgh to Skye by train -- BUT you have to take a ferry the last bit and then walk or take buses on the Isle. And you can get to a few places in the Highlands by train -- BUT not anywhere off the beaten path.

Driving will give you a lot more flexibility (and driving in Scotland outside of the cities is not difficult at all) - but you don't need a car at all IN Edinburgh. So you might want to driv north from Ayr to Skye/the Highlands and then drop your car in Edinburgh.

But no matter the mode of transport - if you only have a few days, you will want to cut back on your itinerary.
janis is offline  
Dec 13th, 2004, 02:37 PM
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If in fact you decide not to drive, you can get to a number of places by train and bus. You can also get a resonably priced private guide by the hour or day. We have done this on Skye and Orkney. Alas, as other have stated, you cannot get to the out of the spots without a car, but for your first trip, would you need to do so?
Roger is offline  
Dec 13th, 2004, 03:04 PM
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You need a car on Skye. It's not that hard to drive there. Seemed to be more sheep than people. We were there in July. It was our first time left driving too and it was fine - mostly small "single track" back roads. We took the train to Mallaig, then ferry to Ardvasar, a local company picked us up and drove us to Kyle where they had a car rental for us. We kept the car for 3 days to tour Skye then dropped it off at the train station in Kyle and proceeded by train to Inverness. It was great.
LAwoman is offline  
Dec 13th, 2004, 03:20 PM
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If you really want to, you can get to some pretty obscure spots in Scotland by public transportation, even in the Hebrides and the Highlands. Not by train, but by bus and postbus. It's not impossible -- I've done it. However, it requires a fair amount of advance planning and definitely limits the amount of wandering you can do.
KT is offline  
Dec 13th, 2004, 04:50 PM
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As has been said having a car will give you the most flexibility. Driving in rural Scotland is not bad compared to southeast England. This said you should understand that there is quite an adjustment to be made for a North American driving in the UK. It goes beyond driving on the left, there are many different rules and customs that will cause you stress. The only way to find out how you will to is to try it. On the positive side it gets easier the more you do it and it stays with you for the next trip, at least that is my experience after three times driving on the other side.

I heard a funny story of two Canadians being pulled over by the police in Scotland because a citizen had reported them as being either drunk or tourists. They eventually parked the rental car and phoned the company to tell them where to retrieve it because they could not figure out how to get back to the agency!

Certainly you can get from Ayr to Glasgow and Edinburgh easily by train and use taxis get to your final destinations. If you are really concerned about the driving thing you could have a great trip without a car but staying in the larger communities.
Gavin is offline  
Dec 13th, 2004, 11:18 PM
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Having just checked out your earlier posting cah2, I'm a wee bit grumpy about that introduction.

You asked
>Message: Hi: I will be attending a >wedding in Ayrshire and plan on >staying in Scotland for 7-10 days. >Definitely want to see the Highlands, >Skye, and Edinburgh. Any suggested >itineraries? What is the best way to >get around? I'm weary of driving on >the other side of the road!

I repliedbr />
>Message: This is not a put down cah, >but if you put the word "Scotland" >into that box at the top right you'll >find literally hundreds of threads >covering your query.

>Or email me and I'll send you some >I've already posted

How that was shooting you down is beyond me, and I'm pretty certain I haven't had an email from you.

There are literally dozens of threads asking and answering your question. I'm sorry you couldn't find any.

sheila is offline  
Dec 14th, 2004, 06:58 AM
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The further north and west you go in Scotland, the more spectacular the scenery, but in places even the main roads can be single-track with passing places. There is no easy way to see some of these beautiful wild places without a car. Traffic is generally light outside the main tourist spots and driving will take longer than the miles alone suggest, as the narrow roads wind round lochs and mountains. Take your time and show courtesy to other road users and you'll be OK. Pull into or opposite passing places on single track roads if you see a car coming the other way (always stay on the left) or to let a faster vehicle behind you pass. Remember you are a tourist and not in a hurry. The highlands and Skye are well worth the effort of driving on the left but as the others have said, a car would be a hinderance in Edinburgh.
Maria_H is offline  
Dec 14th, 2004, 08:02 AM
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There are many beautiful, wild places in Scotland that can be seen from a train or a bus. The rail journeys alone include some of the most spectacular scenery in Europe; one of my favourites is the line to Fort William which crosses Rannoch Moor where you're more likely to see a red deer than a car. Buses will take you to the main villages on Skye and Mull, as well as to many places on the mainland. Tourist offices should have bus timetables which need to be checked carefully as there may be only one or two buses a day. The last time I visited the west of Scotland, I stayed in Fort William and visited Eigg by train and boat, then went to Inverness by train to Mallaig, ferry to Armadale (Skye), bus to Kyleakin, another bus to Kyle of Lochalsh, then train to Inverness (there are, of course, also direct buses from Fort William to Inverness through the Great Glen). You will see a lot more of the scenery and probably get to talk to the local people as well.
GeoffHamer is offline  
Dec 17th, 2004, 08:54 AM
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Thanks for all the suggestions!
I'm actually not sure about the rest of the week - wedding is on a saturday, so we'll be in Ayr before the wedding (probably 2-3 days) and would like to leave the day after to spend the next 5-6 days traveling around. Do you think that's enough time, or should we concentrate our itinerary on major cities (ie: Edinburgh, St. Andrews), Skye, but rule out the HIghlands?
cah2 is offline  
Dec 17th, 2004, 08:55 AM
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Oh, by the way - sorry about the misunderstanding Sheila!
cah2 is offline  
Dec 18th, 2004, 03:18 PM
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I've said it before and I'll say it again, we love taking the bus (coach.) I know, I know, you have more flexibility with a car, but it's much more isolating IMHO. We have fun meeting folks in line for the bus, on the bus and getting to and from the bus. I think trains are nice and fast but more expensive. You don't get the experience of being on a full size vehicle traveling on teeny tiny roads make tight corners. You get to look around, take in the sights. We have taken taxis to places when not on the route. I suggest you do at least one part of your trip by coach. Have a grand time!
Danna is offline  
Oct 16th, 2006, 09:48 AM
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Hi....what coach service have you used/do you recommend? I'm planning a Scotland trip myself and would love to hire a car period...but the other part of my traveling party isn't comfy with hiring a car and wants to do it by coach. I told them I'd look into it but there are so many coach tours out there. What's your preference?

Jaden is offline  
Oct 16th, 2006, 11:59 AM
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I'll anser for her, because I know what she'll say. She uses the public buses, not any coach service. Mainly I think the tours are pants. But if you're minted you could try Prestige- they look pretty top.
sheila is offline  
Oct 16th, 2006, 12:14 PM
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translation if required -- "pants" = a polite way of saying "crap"

What is your travel companion's objection to hiring a car? Where are you wanting to go? Some locales are only practical by car - but others are OK or semi-OK by public transport . . . .
janisj is offline  
Oct 17th, 2006, 08:49 AM
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Thanks, yet again, Sheila. I did wonder what "pants" meant but kinda figured it wasn't pleasant.

My travel buddy is all about routine, plans and the usual. She's not a risk-taker so driving on the opposite side scares the "pants" off of her. Plus, we did a few coach tours in England and she loved the history and personal insight given by our tour guide - she's afraid if we go on our own that we'll miss out on the history of things as we fly down the road past them. We want to see the Highlands (well that narrows it down) We plan on hitting some of the major castles/museums and I want to see Skye and Rob Roy country so I guess we could do a coach tour or public transport...I don't know. We aren't going until August of next year so the planning is still in its infancy.
Jaden is offline  
Oct 17th, 2006, 11:33 AM
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What sort of a budget do you have? Could you run to a private guide?
sheila is offline  

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