Great Britain Car Tour Help!

Mar 29th, 2015, 09:17 AM
Join Date: Feb 2006
Posts: 52,320
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!>>

I've never driven in or around Port Carling but i have driven in Canada and the US and driving in the UK is nothing like it. I would never contemplate doing an itinerary like yours - the driving is a lot more tiring than [I believe] you are used to, and will take a lot longer than you expect.

So I agree with Morgana - and I would especially rethink those one night stands.
annhig is online now  
Mar 29th, 2015, 10:10 AM
Join Date: May 2003
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Glad annhig agrees - your itinerary as it stands is no kind of fun. Instead it is packing, unpacking, driving and trying to find somewhere to stay.
I too have driven extensively in the US and Canada (my daughter lives in Toronto) so I do know what I am talking about.
I believe you need to cut down your list, and also stay longer at some places. For instance when you stay in York you can easily get on the train and visit Durham, as it's a short journey away. So stay longer in York for a start!
Morgana is offline  
Mar 29th, 2015, 10:39 AM
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Taking up Morgana's theme, I agree to stop longer in York and if you want to, do a day trip on the train to Durham. That's something you can decide on the day depending on the weather etc.

Also I would cut out Tenby, perhaps spend a night on the way to Conwy somewhere like Ludlow or Llandrindod wells [which is slightly longer but may be a more scenic route] and then forget Chester and stay longer in Conwy. After all you will have put some effort in getting there, why leave so soon? [BTW I've managed to live in the UK for 58 years and still not been either to Chester or Durham so you will hardly be deprived if you miss them out this time].

You could always call in a Chester on the way to Keswick, which google maps tells me is just over 3 hours drive from Conwy.
annhig is online now  
Mar 29th, 2015, 10:57 AM
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I do understand what you're saying. Will drop Durham and add a day to York.
I guess you're thinking the longer drive say from Bath to Conwy and then Conwy to Keswick is worth doing rather than splitting the distance with a stop in between.
How about Keswick to Oban? and Skye to Edinburgh - Would you do a longer day of drive time or split it up?
portcarling is offline  
Mar 29th, 2015, 11:11 AM
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Better but still problematic IMO.

>>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! <<

TOTAL Apples and oranges. I live in northern California and drive to LA for a weekend. That is simple and similar to distances one laughs off in Canada. The UK is not at all comparable - I lived there for 5 years so and sort of bi-lingual. I'd never try this sort of road trip as my first taste of the UK.

Some random comment re your new plan:

• IMO Chester doesn't require nearly 3 nights. I'd do 3 in Conwy and just visit Chester enroute to my next stop or stay there one night at most.

• still don't get the 1 night in Oban. That won't give you time to see/do much like a day trip to Mull/Iona, exploring Kilmartin, etc. Either stay 2 nights or skip it IMO. The drive up from Ayr will take 3.5 hours or more.

• Don't waste a night in Ft William. Just drive through from Skye to Callander/Stirling.

I'd personally prefer fewer, slightly longer stop overs w/ the occasional long day's drive in between (like the Skye to Callander leg w/o stopping in Ft William.

And really don't compare driving in the US/Canada w/ the rural/scenic parts of Wales/Scotland you are visiting. If you are looking at any on-line mileage calculators you need to add from 25% up to 75% (sometimes even more) to all the drive times.
janisj is offline  
Mar 29th, 2015, 11:42 AM
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How about this? I think most drive times according to google is about 3 hours between places (so I'm assuming a bit longer) Portree to Stirling looks like at least 5 hours, so I split it.
Bath 3 nights – pick up car
Llandrindod wells 1 night
Conwy 4 nights
Keswick 3 nights
Ayr 1 night
Oban 2 nights
Isle of Skye – Portree 3 nights
Glencoe 1 night
Stirling 3 nights
Edinburgh 3 nights – drop if car
York 3 nights
London 3 nights
portcarling is offline  
Mar 29th, 2015, 12:04 PM
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>> I think most drive times according to google is about 3 hours between places<<

Google is probably the least accurate/most optimistic of all the on-line tools -- at least for the UK IME.

Don't use it. Try the AA site or via michelin.

In this case AA and google both est. 2 hr 48 mins, Via Michelin 3 hr 5 mins . . . and in REAL life it will take nearly 4 hours. 3.5 hours if you are VERY lucky around Glasgow. And this is a pretty fast route w/ dual carriageways/motorways for the first third.

Most of the on-line calculators say Oban to Portree will take a little less than 4 hours. It is really about a 5 hour drive w/o stops. W/ stops/detours like Glecoe, Eilean Donan, etc -- it is an all day drive.
janisj is offline  
Mar 29th, 2015, 12:10 PM
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Meant to add - your new plan looks much nicer.

From Bath to Llandrindod wells I'd count most of a day+ if you stop places like Chepstow and Tintern Abbey (highly recommended)

Then Llandrindod wells to Conwy will take maybe 3.5 hours. You can pretty much drive that straight through since you can day trip out of Conwy to see the sites.
janisj is offline  
Mar 29th, 2015, 12:12 PM
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oops -- missed you are staying a night in Glencoe . . GREAT idea. That really does help you drive to Skye since you won't need to detour. But it will still be at least a 4.5 hour drive.
janisj is offline  
Mar 29th, 2015, 01:23 PM
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It looks a whole load better.
Another suggestion - rather than drop the car in Edinburgh you could maybe keep it and then drive from Edinburgh to York.
Depends what you intend to do in Edinburgh, as it's a very walkable city and the car would only really be needed if you planned to tour the wider area.
If you keep the car it's a straightforward trip down the A1 to York and an easy detour off to Lindisfarne (Holy Island) and/or Bamburgh Castle. Check tide times carefully before you drive across the Causeway to Lindisfarne.
York is also walkable and compact, so you could do without a car there unless you plan to visit the countryside around the city. If you do keep the car in York at all make sure you book somewhere that has a parking space for you.
Morgana is offline  
Mar 29th, 2015, 01:41 PM
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portcarling - I think that you are getting there. i'm sorry I mentioned google-maps - jj is right that they are over-optimistic but I'm not sure that it's much worse than the others. for example, google says that it's 3 hours 10 mins from Conwy to Keswick, whereas Michelin says 3 ½. 4 would be much more like it without stops.

I like Morgana's idea to keep your car from Edinburgh and using it to visit Lindisfarne and Bamburgh.
annhig is online now  
Mar 29th, 2015, 02:44 PM
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It's impossible to generalise about travel on British motorways.

A roads, yes I agree are more predictable.

Lytham to Keswick for us is always 2 hours 20, Conway to Keswick can be easily completed in less than 3 hours. On a clear run!

3 weeks ago, it took me 6 and a half hours to make Manchester airport from Lytham which is a journey of about 60 miles. Traffic was that bad.

Similar to predicting British weather, just look out the window on the day you are travelling.
BritishCaicos is offline  
Mar 29th, 2015, 02:53 PM
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Thanks everyone!
Now to figure out the 'can't be missed' highlights in each area!
All comments welcome!
portcarling is offline  
Mar 29th, 2015, 03:04 PM
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Frankly I'm hesitating to jump back into this, so I'll just limit my points to a (very) opinionated few.

In March, I honestly have no idea what you're going to do with five nights in the western Highlands, three of them on Skye. I think the odds are quite high that you will spend the bulk of your days on Skye hunkered down in some hotel or B & B while the wind and the rain outside turn the world gray and miserable. And if one of those days happens to be a Sunday, you will know the meaning of "ghost town" in its purest sense.

And as for Ayr and Oban, frankly, unless you're dying to see Burns' cottage or a big fan of Victorian folly architecture, give them a pass and go for something more visually interesting. Again, for emphasis - this is just my viewpoint.

Let me offer an alternative version of the Scotland part of your journey, starting in the Lake District.

Day 1 - Keswick - Stirling. This is a quick trip (probably around two hours) and would give you time to visit Stirling castle in the afternoon. Three nights in Stirling is two too many, especially in March.

Day 2 - Stirling - Plockton. Plockton is a very picturesque village (used in the Hamish MacBeth TV series) located a few minutes from the Kyle bridge to Skye. The drive from Stirling is around 4 hours wheels turning, but what a four hours! It will take you through the Rannoch Moor, Glen Coe - - up the Great Glen and out past Eileen Donan Castle - - on Loch Duich just before you get to Plockton - .

Day 3 - do a day tour of Skye, returning that night to Plocton. You can even head out to Uig on the north coast, where you'll get a real sense of the Celtic Fringe and a very traditional Gaelic-speaking area, then complete the loop of the Trotternish peninsula and see the Old Man of Storr. Or if the weather's decent (a gamble) head west on the island to see the Cuillins, the dramatic mini-mountain range in the south-central part of Skye. In any event, end up back in Plockton for the night, rather than having to break camp to stay somewhere on the island proper.

Day 4 - Plockton - Speyside. This would take you east into (hopefully) drier weather, through wonderful Highland scenery, to and through Inverness, then onto the "whisky trail" and the lovely country along the River Spey. You could stay at Grantown-on-Spey, or in nearby Aberlour, Dufftown, wherever. If interested, the distillery visiting rooms are open year-round.

Day 5 - Grantown - Edinburgh. You could visit some of the Aberdeenshire Highland villages like Braemar or Balmoral, then down the A9/M90 to Edinburgh.

Now this consumes four nights between the Lake District and Edinburgh, whereas you have ten in your itinerary. That gives you up to six days to apply wherever you choose - more time in the Highlands, more time in Edinburgh, more time in Northumberland and Durham. I would definitely keep the car until York, and use it to explore the entire coast between Edinburgh and Newcastle - fishing villages like Dunbar and St. Abbs, Lindisfarne, Bamburgh, Alnwick, as well as (awesome) Durham Cathedral, my vote for the most impressive single structure in Britain.

In my view travel is about tradeoffs, and because of the time of year of your trip, I feel that you could take advantage of the regional diversity and the climate diversity available in Scotland and be none the worse for it; indeed, you'd see a broader sampling of what's available and not necessarily get locked into an itinerary that's sub-par if the weather's terrible.

Map -
Gardyloo is online now  
Mar 30th, 2015, 12:46 AM
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Alnwick Castle tends to open late March - so check opening times carefully before planning a trip there. Alnwick Gardens stay open all year.
Some castles, stately homes etc stay open all year, others open weekends out of season, and some get 'put to bed' as it is called in October and open around Easter time.
I wouldn't get TOO hung up about the weather - do what us British do and have an itinerary for a decent day but plan some alternatives if it does rain! Having lived in the North East of England for over 25 years I can assure you that we don't all gather round the fireside for months on end, and especially not in March.
We have a touring caravan and have often taken it up to Scotland in March with no problems whatsoever.
As the saying goes, there's no such thing as the wrong weather, just the wrong clothes.
Morgana is offline  
Mar 30th, 2015, 02:23 AM
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Much better plan
As Morgana says, bring the right clothes and have a plan B for each day.
bilboburgler is online now  
Mar 30th, 2015, 03:06 AM
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Keswick :

Food :
Are as English as it gets

Walks : the circuit of Derwentwater is flat and stunning, its around 15 miles but really easy to cut parts off by using the boat launch which has various landing stations around the lake.
Red Pike and Haystacks in Buttermere have great views over to Scotland on a clear day.
Striding Edge is a short drive and has about the best walk in England, just don't attempt it in adverse weather or snow. It can be dangerous. Best idea is to but Wainwright books which cover the area and are quirky but very detailed in their explanation of the walks. They also are a handy size and make a nice souvenir. Personally, I loathe them as many people seem to live their walking lives by them and lose any sense of adventure.

Places to visit :

The Tullie museum in Carlisle has one of the best displays of Roman artefacts in the North of England. It's a half hour drive from here to Hadrian's wall.

Castelrigg stone circle is very dramatic.

Booths supermarket in Keswick is a regional chain (bit like Whole Foods) , huge range of higher end local food products.

The Rheged Centre at the junction of the M6 and A66 offers really good food as well.

Great pub offering good food is the George and Dragon near Penrith which is owned by the Lowther Family who still own half of Cumbria.
BritishCaicos is offline  
Mar 30th, 2015, 03:19 AM
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Wales : have two choices.

From Bath head through Wales and use 5 days to make it up to Chester.

Or from Bath spend about 3 hours going right up the M6 to Chester and go for a day trip from Chester to Conway.

The Gower, Tenby and part of South Wales are lovely but it isn't the West coast of Scotland.

From Oban I would try to fit in an extra day to take a coach trip to Iona. Not sure about the pricing for the coach but taking the car over to Mull is very expensive (around £120). Iona is stunning in any weather, as is Mull.

Personally, I would stay in Oban, I love it but it is a ferry town and in March may not be at its best. Lots of small lovely hotels closeby. Some great seafood restaurants in the centre of Oban.

Personally, I would drop a night in Durham and drive from Edinburgh to York via Northumbria. Spend maybe at least on night here. The coast is very quiet, very unspoilt and has some of the most stunning castle locations in the UK. Sunrise rise on Bamburgh beach on a clear day is eerie.
BritishCaicos is offline  
Mar 30th, 2015, 03:56 AM
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York -

In the city itself there's the Minster, one of the largest and most wonderful Gothic buildings in Northern Europe.

Tea at Bettys (6 branches in Yorkshire, 2 in York). This is a Yorkshire tradition and despite being locals we often visit for breakfast, brunch or lunch as well as afternoon tea. Always feels like a treat. You can also 'take out' from their range of cakes, breads, sandwiches, chocolates etc

The National Railway Museum (free entry unless for special events). Excellent place, even if you think you don't much like trains.

York Castle Museum - always interesting, especially the Victorian street, the prison cells (surprisingly moving) and the Sixties exhibition.

The Shambles - network of ancient streets.

Walking the old city walls.

Outside York (if you have your car)

Two National Parks, the Dales and the Moors.

Fountains Abbey - World Heritage Site, open all year but can close on a Friday in winter.

North York Moors Steam Railway which would take you out to the coast at Whitby.

Castle Howard (you'd need to check opening times for 2016).

Rievaulx Abbey (check opening times again).

The above is merely scratching at the surface of all there is to see and do in York and the surrounds. Hope it kicks off some research!
Morgana is offline  
Mar 30th, 2015, 05:51 AM
Join Date: Mar 2015
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With an indication of a budget, we could suggest hotels or B & B s.
BritishCaicos is offline  

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