Great Britain Car Tour Help!

Mar 25th, 2015, 11:44 AM
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Join Date: Mar 2015
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Great Britain Car Tour Help!

Hello, need some advice! Have never been to Great Britain and we are planning a road trip for about 4 weeks which would be in the month of March. Would like to cover England, Wales, Scotland including the Isle of Skye. Have been doing some research and looking at different itineraries on line. Have come up with this itinerary and would like to put it out there for comment. Thanks in advance !
1. Arrive in London - take bus to Bath - 2 nights in Bath - rent car
2. Abergavenny - 1 night
3. Tenby - 2 nights
4. St. Davids - 2 nights
5. Conwy - 2 nights
6. Chester - 1 night (visit Liverpool)?
7. Keswick area - 2 nights
8. Oban - 1 night
9 Isle of Skye - 3 nights
10. Inverness - 1 night
11. Stonehaven - 1 night
12. St. Andrews - 2 nights
13. Edinburgh - 2 nights
14. Durham - 1 night
15. York - 2 nights - return car
15 London - 3 nights
Is this too busy? or are some places not worth the stop?
We are pretty casual people. Like to see the sights, walk, eat pub food
Thank you for reading this.
portcarling is offline  
Mar 25th, 2015, 12:41 PM
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>>Is this too busy? <<

Yes - definitely. But fixable.

For one thing, at your pace the last 1/3 (Edinburgh > London) is faster/easier by train. Now, if you had a week or two after Edinburgh before heading to London - then driving is great. But you don't have enough time to explore places like the Borders, Northumberland/Hadrians Wall, the Dales or Moors . So drop the car when you reach Edinburgh - then take trains to Durham, York and on to London.

Some of your other legs are a bit problematic. For instance Keswick to Oban is about a 5.5 hour drive w/o any stops. W/ stops it is a full day's drive so you won't have time for anything in/around Oban (Kilmartin, Mull/Iona, etc) since you'd leave the next morning for Skye.

I personally don't see the need to stay in both Tenby and St Davids. Instead of 2 + 2 I'd maybe stay 3 nights in ONE of the two and day trip to the other.

From Skye through to Durham is a very fast pace and you'll be packing/moving/driving most of that time.

This itinerary will let you see a lot of gorgeous scenery, but very little time for sightseeing/walking. I'd sit down and have a serious discussion re 1) do you want to see more of Wales or of Scotland and make some adjustments re the answer. and 2) is fast paced and seeing a lot from the car but little or no down time . . . or. . . just a bit slower and have to cut a couple of destinations.
janisj is online now  
Mar 26th, 2015, 04:54 AM
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Hi Janis, thank you for your comments. We would probably be better to slow it down. So I can save a day and combine Tenby/St Davids (which would be more interesting to stay at?)
Should we stop somewhere in between Keswick and Oban for overnight?
After leaving Skye are the overnights good spots to stay and would you recommend 2 night stays?
We could drop the car at Edinburg and take the train from there. It is possible to add another few days to our trip so could make a couple more overnights. We are not big city lovers so don't really want to spend too much time where it's not necessary.
Thank you again.
portcarling is offline  
Mar 26th, 2015, 06:51 AM
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we are planning a road trip for about 4 weeks which would be in the month of March.

Hm. In my view the timing is quite problematic. From (potentially) Bath all the way to Skye and Inverness, you're going to be looking at the scenery through the car's wiper blades, and the farther north you go the scenery will (probably) still be wintry rather than springlike. It's now late March (don't know if you'd be driving in early/mid/late) but the forecast for, say, Oban, is rain and wind for most of the next ten days.

In the UK the weather comes off the Atlantic, so the west side of the country, including most of Wales, gets the brunt of the rain and wind; by comparison eastern parts, such as (on your itinerary) Stonehaven, St Andrews, Edinburgh, Durham et al - have somewhat drier conditions. (Which is not to say strikingly so, just a little less rainfall.)

So assuming your time-of-year decision is fixed, I'd be inclined to modify the route to take these factors into account. For example, while Skye is beautiful, there are plenty of other places in Scotland where you could spend those three days that would offer a marginally better chance of conditions more amenable to your aims. You could, for instance, visit Oban (and I would definitely include the amazing prehistoric sites around Kilmartin just to the south) but then I'd probably head back east through Glen Coe, and pass through the Cairngorms over to the Aberdeenshire highlands, visiting Braemar, Balmoral etc., then out to the coast around Aberdeen, then south.

I'd also give some thought to reversing the route altogether, starting with a train ride to York and collecting the car there, then visiting Durham, the Northumbrian coast (Alnwick, Bamburgh, Lindisfarne) then Edinburgh, possibly staying someplace near the airport (for free car parking) and using the tram to get into and back from the city. From there, over to Fife and a visit of the East Neuk fishing villages before St. Andrews, then up the coast and across the Cairngorms to Glencoe, then back on your originally proposed route.

This would have the benefit of giving the season a little extra time to morph into spring, with a fair chance that the southbound drive along the west side of the island would be in slightly better weather than the current plan.

As for Skye and Inverness, well, Skye is lovely (Inverness, not so much) but the loveliness is easily obscured my rain, mist, and wind that makes the sheep take cover. Come back in September if you want relatively empty roads, purple heather, and still be able to stand upright.
Gardyloo is online now  
Mar 26th, 2015, 08:28 AM
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My first thoughts like Gardy was "in March". The good news is that for most of the trip you will not need to re-book the rooms as people are still a bit hunkered down getting over the damp/winter. I have friends who go to Keswick every January and just take a DVD library with them.

While not a perfect solution you might prefer to focus on the East coast which just might be a little drier.
bilboburgler is online now  
Mar 26th, 2015, 08:55 AM
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I agree with most of the previous two posts. I mainly focused on your itinerary and didn't even notice the March bit.

March can be fine or dreadful (and often a mixture of the two).

The weather won't likely be wintry but will likely be cool to cold and wet. Since you have never been to the Uk before, this is a very ambitious plan and you may not see many of the sites/scenery at their best . . . or even AL ALL. I visited Skye 3 times before I saw a darn thing. It was rainy, overcast and a very low ceiling. None of the mountains, pinnacles, vistas were visible (they don't call it the "Misty Isle" for nothing). But that 3rd trip (and 2 subsequent visits) was glorious w/ brilliant sun every day.

So it is a crap shoot. If it was me I wouldn't plan such an extensive car trip through those regions at that time of year -- but that is just me. You have the advantage that it is low season and you really don't need to pre-book accommodations except in Edinburgh and London. So if the weather is awful you can regroup and change your plans on the fly.

I'd also allot more time for a first visit to London - at least 4 or 5 days minimum.
janisj is online now  
Mar 26th, 2015, 09:09 AM
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should be . . . >> or even AT ALL.<<
janisj is online now  
Mar 26th, 2015, 09:10 AM
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Hub and spoke - pick places to spend 4-5 days and then day trip from there to others.

London is not a 3-night stop unless you just want to see the Tower and ride a bus - it's worth a week at minimum.
BigRuss is offline  
Mar 26th, 2015, 09:22 AM
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It would certainly be too busy for me. If you want to see many destinations, I think the hub and spoke idea is a good one.

I would limit driving time to no more than three hours, if that, especially if you are driving on the left side of the road for the first time. It's tiring, even though you will have a navigator who will gasp whenever you are too close to a rock wall. That was my experience, anyway.
Pegontheroad is offline  
Mar 26th, 2015, 09:59 AM
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Check times and costs, but we prefer the train to Bath over a bus.
Sassafrass is offline  
Mar 26th, 2015, 10:55 AM
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hi portcarling - welcome to Fodors!

Shame that you haven't included Cornwall in your list of places you are visiting on this whistle-stop tour, but perhaps next time.

I'm going to suggest a slightly different approach, which does involve missing out a few of the places you list, but should make for a better tour. in particular, I counsel against doing a lot of 1 and 2 night stops - IME they are very tiring and in the end leave you just wanting to lie down and put your head under the duvet.

So first of all, I suggest 3 nights in Bath. you will have just got off a transatlantic flight, you may be suffering from jet lag, and in March the day length will be relatively short - so give yourselves a day to recover and a day to see Bath.

Then go to Wales and spend 3 nights in Tenby or st, Davids. You can see Abergavenny en route - it's good for ½ a day.

Then back to Bristol [why does no-one ever want to stay in Bristol? it's a great place!] and fly to Edinburgh. Stay 3 nights. Then hire a car and tour - Oban 2 nights, Skye 3 nights, perhaps a night for St Andrews and forget Inverness that time of year.

ok, that's 15 nights so far, you've got another 15 left.

Either - go for the east coast and see Durham, york/yorkshire and lincoln on your way back to London, or do the west coast and see Keswick [the lakes] Chester/north wales and Oxford. up to you. 10 days in all. Then finish off with 5 nights in London. That's only 4 days to see one of the biggest capital cities in the world.

Hope that helps!
annhig is offline  
Mar 26th, 2015, 10:55 AM
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alternatively come to Cornwall - we've had some great weather this March!
annhig is offline  
Mar 26th, 2015, 02:36 PM
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>>Check times and costs, but we prefer the train to Bath over a bus.<<

I assumed you were arriving at LHR. If so, there is no train from LHR to Bath. The express coach is faster and cheaper than taking a train into London and then another train out to Bath. (or a coach to Reading and train to Bath)

But if you are arriving in London by Eurostar - then yes, taking a train makes more sense.
janisj is online now  
Mar 27th, 2015, 05:40 AM
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Thanks everyone for your ideas. We can only get away from November thru March so thought would be the best of the pick with more sun that month showing in the climate charts. There are a lot of new ideas in these posts! I will study the map and will rethink the strategy!
portcarling is offline  
Mar 27th, 2015, 07:38 AM
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You can have a terrific trip in March. I just wouldn't plan on such a long/extensive car trip. Big Russ's hub/spoke suggestion is a good one.

W/ 4 weeks you could spend 4 to 7 days in various areas. Bases in say North or South Wales, central Scotland, east coast/Fife, Edinburgh, York, London. Edinburgh/York/London don't require a car (though to explore other parts of North Yorkshire would)

Then you wouldn't be packing/moving every or every other morning.
janisj is online now  
Mar 28th, 2015, 05:51 AM
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Hi again
If we were to start in Bath rent a car
What would the next 4 stops be?
Wales (Conwy?)
West England?
West Scotland?
If we stayed in each place 4-5 days would we not be spending a lot of time driving back and forth?
Ending in London.
Thanks everyone.
portcarling is offline  
Mar 28th, 2015, 08:39 AM
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>>If we stayed in each place 4-5 days would we not be spending a lot of time driving back and forth?<<

If you choose good locations, a hub/spoke plan lets you see a lot in a few days. You really can't cover long distance per day like say in the States where there are interstates everywhere. There are Motorways in the UK of course, but they don't get you into the scenic bits. On rural roads you will average about 35- 40 mph. So a linear trip (avoiding motorways) will only let you see a few far flung places. Hub/spoke will let you see everything w/i about a 50 mile radius or a bit more. So if you pick well you'll see a lot more when you aren't packing and moving every day or two.

Conwy for instance. From there you can visit everything from Chester to Caernarfon/Anglesey to Chester including Snowdonia, Portmeirion, Llangollen and more. Staying just a night or two wouldn't allow that.

Then is Scotland - say you stayed in/near Callander. You'd be w/i day trips or less of Loch Lomond, Glencoe, Stirling, Inchmahome, Doune, Killin, Invereray, Crieff/Drummond Castle Gardens and lots more.

A good plan is settle in to one place for a few days, explore - then jump on the motorway and move on to your next base, explore - repeat.
janisj is online now  
Mar 28th, 2015, 09:11 AM
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If you can only get away between November and March then you have picked the right month. Although our clocks change in the last week of March and so the last two weeks of March first two of April would make a big difference. You would get an our extra daylight in the evenings in April, so sunset would be around 7pm.

Forget January, on a dull day it can go dark at 3:30pm.

Weather : expect anything, this and last year have been OK in March with around the low teens this year and mid teens last. 2013 was diabolical with snow on the ground until the end of March.

Is the trip too much?

Only you can tell, it is entirely doable and the distances are fairly comfortable. In 4 weeks you will get a very good view of the UK.

Are all the destinations worth visiting?

Yes, it's a good route and all towns are arguably worthy of a stop.

Personally, I would bypass Wales and head from Bath to Chester. Spend more time in the highlands.
BritishCaicos is online now  
Mar 29th, 2015, 05:15 AM
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Hello again,
I really appreciate everyones thoughts and efforts on this trip of ours. Being from Port Carling (Muskoka) Canada we are used to driving long distances to get anywhere, so driving every couple of days is kind of fun for us! We like to see the sights along the way and kind of travel by the seat of our pants so to speak. We have changed the original route in an attempt to make it more direct yet scenic to Edinburgh and skip the north east coast assuming the weather will be more nasty in March. Here is the latest and greatest!
Bath 3 nights – pick up car
Tenby 2 nights
Conwy 2 nights
Chester 3 nights
Keswick 2 nights
Ayr – 1 night
Oban 1 night
Isle of Skye – Portree 3 nights
Fort William 1 night
Stirling 2 nights
Edinburgh 3 nights – drop off car
Durham 2 nights
York 2 nights
London 3 nights
I am interested in knowing BritishCaicos why you would skip Wales?
Regarding hotel accommodation, is it possible and less expensive in March to find small hotels along the way or should we book in advance. I understand London and Edinburgh (possibly Portree too, as that seems a popular spot) should be booked ahead.
Thanks again everyone for your patience and time spent.
portcarling is offline  
Mar 29th, 2015, 05:35 AM
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Far, far too much driving and moving around in my opinion, but there again it's your trip, not mine. It's not the long distances that should concern you as much as the time it will take to get to places. You'll be taking so long in the car to get from place to place that there will be no proper time to visit places on the way, especially if you haven't booked up your night's accommodation.
I'd also give Tenby a swerve.
As far as booking ahead is concerned, York is always busy and if you visit at a weekend you'll need to book well in advance to have a good selection of accommodation.
Keswick has a yearly literary festival every March called Words by the Water. In 2016 it is from the 4th to the 13th March but it will also be very busy before and after the festival. So don't try and wing it if you plan to be in Keswick for this period - everywhere will have been booked up months before.
Morgana is online now  

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