Last-minute UK journey HELP!

Aug 9th, 2019, 09:50 AM
  #1  
guy
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Last-minute UK journey HELP!

Dear Experts -- We're zapping to London to drop off our son, who's just been admitted to a college in Shoreditch. After a couple of days there we're thinking of roaming north and west to see some English, Scottish, and Welsh towns and countryside, staying from Sept. 15 till around Oct. 5. Maybe one round of golf. I know it's a lot in a little time and money is definitely not unlimited but any advice would be most welcome. For instance, rent a car or go by train and Uber? Would a river cruise be a good idea? Thanks much.
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Aug 9th, 2019, 10:11 AM
  #2  
 
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Give us a little more to go on, for example how many days will you have after dropping off your son, where are you flying from/to (assume NYC?) With the better part of three weeks, your choices are pretty wide open, so some sense of your priorities or traveling style would be beneficial. Do you like to keep moving around, or are you more inclined to pick a spot and stay for a few days? Hotels, B & Bs, self catering...? Like big cities or prefer villages?

I don't think weather is going to be a major factor (although this year it's been pretty awful, particularly in Scotland) and you'll be in some areas after the peak tourist season is past (but not over altogether by any means.) Personally, it's my preferred time for visiting areas like the Scottish Highlands or the national parks in the north of England, but it can also be quite wonderful in the West country, along the Welsh borders, in East Anglia... pretty much anywhere. If it was me, since you're already going to be in central London, I'd jump on a train to someplace like Inverness, get a car and drive around the Highlands (maybe play a round of golf in Dornoch - google it) and then work my way south.

But that's me. Your priorities might be quite different.
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Aug 9th, 2019, 10:29 AM
  #3  
guy
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Thanks mucho. We'll be helping our son in Shoreditch till Sept. 24, then on the loose until Oct. 5. We're open to almost any kind of lodging, B & Bs, hotels, inns, Love the idea of golf at Dornoch. We'd prefer beautiful villages and traveling around vs. staying in one place too long. Is the river cruise a good/bad idea?
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Aug 9th, 2019, 10:32 AM
  #4  
guy
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Oh, and flying from LA to Heathrow, unless London City is doable. Is there an airline/airport you recommend? This is a crazy lot of stuff to figure out in a short time. Your help is much appreciated.
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Aug 9th, 2019, 01:03 PM
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>>Oh, and flying from LA to Heathrow, unless London City is doable. <<

I'm not aware of any fights from LAX to LCY - though there are some flights into LCY from other places so you could connect somewhere. But Why when there are non-stops LAX>LHR.

>>in Shoreditch till Sept. 24, then on the loose until Oct. 5.<<

Are you flying home Oct 5? If so you actually only have 11 days free to see/do. That is definitely enough time for seeing some things but not nearly enough time for a driving tour of Scotland/Wales/England. You first ned to narrow things down quite a bit. By a round of golf do you just mean any old course any old place (thousands of options) . . . OR do you mean playing one of the biggies like the Old Course, or Carnoustie or ??

Do you have any guidebooks? If it was me (which it isn't) I'd take the train to Edinburgh, explore the city for a couple of days, then pick up a car and drive around for 8 days (where could be anywhere in Scotland -- that is where a guidebook comes in), pick up a golf game, then fly down to LHR the evening before your flight home.
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Aug 10th, 2019, 08:08 AM
  #6  
guy
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LAX to Heathrow -- check. And yes, time is too short. How about the Caledonian Sleeper to Inverness, then we roam around the coast, maybe play a round of golf (doesn't have to be a premier course), then fly or train back to London?
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Aug 10th, 2019, 08:20 AM
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>>How about the Caledonian Sleeper to Inverness<<

I'd just take the regular day time trains. The New Caledonian Sleeper has had HUGE teething problems since it launched in the Spring - late arrivals almost half the time, interrupted journeys (one traveler reported the train operator sending them on a 100+ mile cab trip to get to their station because the train aborted someplace after Edinburgh), the a/c either on all night freezing people or off entirely and roasting them, power outages and running out of hot food. Staff is threatening job action because of the stress of dealing with so many passengers complaining.

Save the ££ and take a day time train. At least until the CS gets its act together.
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Aug 10th, 2019, 10:28 AM
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Agree about the CS, unfortunately. I took it right before the upgrade, and it was one of the worst night train rides I've done, and I've done a lot. Just a really, really rough ride, and freezing cold.
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Aug 11th, 2019, 09:08 AM
  #9  
guy
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Yikes. Thanks for the clues re the CS. So I guess we’ll train to Scotland and the maybe train around from there. Rail pass definitely a good idea, yes?
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Aug 11th, 2019, 09:23 AM
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>>Rail pass definitely a good idea, yes?<<

Hardly ever -- but depends on exactly what train journeys you take. Re 'training' around Scotland -- not the best way to see the countryside. Trains go relatively few places and if you want to get out into the countryside the local buses aren't very practical. Renting a car is the easiest and most efficient way to get around (outside the cities -- you don't need nor want a car in Glasgow or Edinburgh). If you simply cannot drive for some reason -- then take a look at Rabbies offerings -- they do small group (max 16) 1-day and multi day tours to every corner of the country.

Here are just their tours out of Edinburgh. https://www.rabbies.com/en/scotland-...from-edinburgh
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Aug 11th, 2019, 10:29 AM
  #11  
 
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Rail passes are rarely cost effective. You need to compare the price of point to point tickets for the routes in question. Scotland is not well served by railways north of the Lowlands, see: https://www.nationalrail.co.uk/css/N...tional_map.pdf

I used trains for my trips to Scotland, and can recommend the routes from Glasgow to Mallaig and Kyle of Lochalsh to Edinburgh in addition the routes around Edinburgh and Glasgow, but it depends on where you want to go.

See this site for info on train travel: https://www.seat61.com/
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Aug 12th, 2019, 02:14 AM
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What I like to do when I don't know exactly what I want - is to look at some trip planners and see what they suggest. This https://triptile.com/, in particular, I like coz it shows best transport options between cities, and you can also try and look for some day trip or activity inspiration there too
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Aug 12th, 2019, 05:12 AM
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By the way, if I had to recommend a few places for UK visitors here's my shortlist:

1. YORK - the coziest cobbled-street British town I ever visited
2. BATH - home to roman baths that are a must-visit
3. EDINBURGH - gorgeous all around, would never get tired of visiting this city. Already planned my trip for September.

I will also be looking to take this amazing steam train ride. Thought that maybe you would be interested in it too. It's called Jacobite Steam Train ride, look it up

The UK is filled with amazing cities, I'm sure you won't be lacking ideas on what to visit and see.
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Aug 13th, 2019, 04:07 PM
  #14  
guy
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Now leaning toward renting a car and touring, as per the suggestions above. But the Jacobite train looks great. Maybe train to Scottish Highlands and rent a car there? And is there any enthusiasm for a riverboat?
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Aug 13th, 2019, 05:50 PM
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>>Now leaning toward renting a car and touring, as per the suggestions above. But the Jacobite train looks great. Maybe train to Scottish Highlands and rent a car there? And is there any enthusiasm for a riverboat?<<

Now you are complicating things quite a bit. Other than Inverness there really is no place in the Highlands one can rent a car - other than local taxi companies/small garages that might have a car one can rent. And the Jacobite is not in any way practical for transportation - One would take it from Ft William out to Mallaig, hang around there 90 minute, then take the train back to Ft William - so it is an ALL day excursion. But even more than that it would eat up a night and full day (you'd have to stay in/near Ft William the night before). Or if you take the afternoon service but it would mean staying in Ft William that night since it doesn't pull in to the station ti' nearly 9PM.

People are ALWAYS recommending the Jacobite - but the logistics are really difficult unless one is simply a train/Harry Potter nut and are wiling to devote the best part of two full days with the travel time there and back.
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Aug 13th, 2019, 06:00 PM
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Oh - and which river boat are you talking about?
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Aug 13th, 2019, 06:18 PM
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Another possible negative regarding the Jacobite train is that the weather in Scotland is often dreary or as the Scots say ’ dreich’ which translate miserable, wet, gloomy, so your views may well be limited by the clouds and fog outside and fogged up windows inside. A real disappointment for the time and money. One thing many don’t know is that the train from Glasgow to Mallaig covers the same tracks for considerably less money . Again if a steam train enthusiast, it’s fine for those with the time but otherwise no. BTW you really don’t have the time.

Your time would be better spent in keeping closer to Edinburgh. Plenty of wonderful places to visit without heading too far into the Highlands.
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Aug 14th, 2019, 06:02 AM
  #18  
guy
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Such good help, and much appreciated. Would it be smarter, more efficient, more weather-wise, to rent a car and roam the Cotswolds? Devon?
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Aug 14th, 2019, 07:45 AM
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Originally Posted by guy View Post
Such good help, and much appreciated. Would it be smarter, more efficient, more weather-wise, to rent a car and roam the Cotswolds? Devon?
Maybe, maybe not, but you're going to have to sort the apples and oranges questions. Trying to guess the weather and plan a road trip accordingly can be a bit of a gamble; for example the central belt of Scotland has seen terrible flooding conditions over the past few weeks - extremely unusual. Before that, they had record heat on a few days. Flooding is also occurring in other parts of the UK... who would have thought?

So my recommendation would be to suck it up, pick a region (or a linear road trip) and take your chances. Keep abreast of the forecast and, maybe in the evenings over a pint, draw up contingency plans for "what if" scenarios.

With twelve days or so (or eleven nights, whatever) here's what I'd do. Note this is just me, and reflects my priorities, which might be quite different from yours.

Take the train to Edinburgh and spend four days in Scotland's capital. On one of them take a tour with Rabbie's out to Glen Coe. https://www.rabbies.com/en/scotland-...urgh/day-tours . Then get a car and follow this route (or something like it) south - https://goo.gl/maps/oxtYM33zuhYoLVN27 . Google the places shown.

What this does:

You can golf along the "golf coast" in East Lothian, home to numerous world-class courses including Muirfield. (Alternatively you could golf at one of the many courses in or around Edinburgh such as Duddingston or Bruntsfield.) Regardless, the coastal road through Gullane, North Berwick and Dunbar is very scenic and worthwhile.

You'd then travel south along the Northumberland coast, with stops at places like the Holy Island (birthplace of Christianity in the north of England) and the lovely village of Bamburgh, which, like Alnwick down the road, is home to a stunning castle.

You'd stop in the city of Durham; Durham Cathedral is a world heritage site and (IMO) one of the most spectacular buildings in Europe. The town is home to a leading university, and is a very picturesque and historic place.

You'd continue south into Yorkshire, with visits to the stunning coastal towns of Staithes and Whitby, then through North York Moors National Park to Rievaulx Abbey, and finally to York. Drop the car and train back to London, badda bing.

In late September into October, staying on the east side of the island gives you a (slightly) better chance of dry weather than on the Atlantic side, and this route will offer a tremendous variety of landscapes and village types, pretty much all of them terrific.

It is, of course, only one of an infinity of options, but one that I'd highly recommend.

Some pictures (not mine)

Tantallon Castle and Bass Rock, near Dunbar



Bamburgh Castle



Durham Cathedral



Staithes



North York Moors



Rievaulx Abbey



York







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Aug 14th, 2019, 07:51 AM
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>>Would it be smarter, more efficient, more weather-wise, to rent a car and roam the Cotswolds? Devon?<<

Absolutley NO way to tell which would be better weather-wise. Could be awful in Scotland and gorgeous in the SW -- or vice versa. Or some of both in both areas.

But for easy access to London the cotswolds are by far the nearest/most convenient. Plus Oxford is a good two-fer with the Cotswolds. One could collect a car at LHR (easiest place to pick up a car near London) - drive to Windsor for the Castle/town, then to the Cotswolds for a few days, then drive into Oxford and drop the car, stay in Oxford a night or two and take the express coach to LHR for your flight home.

But you have 11-ish days so you could do quite a nice loop drive/tour LHR > Salisbury (1 night) > Stonehenge > Wells/Glastonbury (1 night) > Bath (2 nights), the Cotswolds (check maybe burford as a base) 4 or 5 nights, > Oxford 2 nights - Windsor or LHR 1 night - fly home.

Your base in the Cotswolds (I'd rent a cottage) would let you day trip from to Stratford-upon-Avon/Warwick/Kenilworth, to Blenheim, to Hidcote, to Snowshill, to Hailles Abbey, to Sudeley Castle to countless Cotswold villages and scenic areas,

Or in 11 days you could do Bath, Somerset, Dorset, Devon and back to LHR.

OR you could do a lovely tour around Kent and East Sussex.

OR you could do York/North Yorkshire/Durham

OR a bit of Scotland

OR lots of other choices . . . confused much?

Question? How long is our son going to be in London -- is this a long term plan or just a semester overseas? If he'll be there a while you are likely going to visit him more than once -- you could pick something easy and relaxing this time (like the Cotswolds) and plan a more ambitious itinerary later on.
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