Go Back  Fodor's Travel Talk Forums > Destinations > Europe
Reload this Page >

Scotland or Ireland Driving Tours Where I Don't Drive?

Scotland or Ireland Driving Tours Where I Don't Drive?

Nov 4th, 2019, 01:50 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Aug 2003
Posts: 5,142
Scotland or Ireland Driving Tours Where I Don't Drive?

We are considering going to either Scotland or Ireland, neither of which we have been to before. In addition to cities, a good part of the attraction of these places is in the countryside. If I were to try driving on the left, I know the stress of reversing all my reflexes will mean I will see nothing except the road until I trash the car. So, are there any feasible options that do not involve trying to see scenery that speeds by a tour bus or a train? I expect using a private driver will be expensive. Maybe there are slowpoke minibus tours with only a few people and frequent stops? Maybe only daytrips? Any experience and/or advice? We aim to go sometime late spring to early fall.

Last edited by AJPeabody; Nov 4th, 2019 at 01:59 PM.
AJPeabody is online now  
Nov 4th, 2019, 02:01 PM
Join Date: Jun 2016
Posts: 3,019
My friends just did this with Timberbush in Scotland. They picked their own accommodations though. They loved their guide and that helped with the long rides. Rabbies is similar.
Macross is offline  
Nov 4th, 2019, 02:06 PM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 19,970
Hopefully, janisj and others will chime in on the guided tour question. Rabbies is recommended frequently, but I have no experience on their tours.

But I have to say, as long as you have GPS, the driving is very easy, at least outside of Edinburgh and Glasgow (which we haven't attempted). GPS has only steered us wrong twice, and once was probably our fault with the destination input. The other time, we were directed to a street with a no-entry sign, but we just turned and the GPS recalculated. As I'm sure you know, you'd see a lot more if you were driving and not a part of a tour group on a fixed itinerary.

I'll admit, though, that we live in a driving-centric, high traffic area, so we don't find most foreign driving situations very daunting.
Jean is online now  
Nov 4th, 2019, 02:21 PM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 6,478
I've done a Rabbies tour, and was happy with it. Max 16 people in a minibus, and you can choose your level of accommodation.
elberko is offline  
Nov 4th, 2019, 02:24 PM
Join Date: Jan 2012
Posts: 9,135
I agree that the thought of driving on the left can seem impossible or, at very least, make it no fun for the driver. I think it may depend on your age to a certain extent and the kinds of accommodation you're willing to make. For instance, after a scare one evening, I made 2 rules for myself. 1. No driving after dark, and 2. No wine with dinner if I'd be driving home. For me, in my 50s when I first began driving in the UK, it wasn't as bad as I thought it would be and was certainly worth it to get to the places I otherwise couldn't have gone, the sole reason I do it. Interestingly, after the concentration of learning the left-side habit I found reverting to the right side when I got home was occasionally tricky, too. In any case, if you decide to drive you will, no doubt, get the hang of it pretty quickly and, 1-lane roads aside, the countryside is a good place to start.
MmePerdu is online now  
Nov 4th, 2019, 02:29 PM
Join Date: Jun 2016
Posts: 3,019
My friends picked their own hotel, just made sure it was in the town for drop off and pick up.
Macross is offline  
Nov 4th, 2019, 02:53 PM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 19,970
"1. No driving after dark, and 2. No wine with dinner if I'd be driving home."

Same for me.
Jean is online now  
Nov 4th, 2019, 05:21 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Aug 2003
Posts: 5,142
Driving through Brittany in September ( The Peabody Papers 2019, Paris and Brittany, Unmapped ), watching the road, other cars, the GPS, road signs, speed limits, implied speed limits, roundabouts, and so on left me little ability to take in the scenery unless I found a place to park. The driving was not enjoyable, although it did rise to the level of boring on highways. I have reached the age of wisdom, so, although I am sure that I could eventually drive reasonably safely on the left, I don't want my vacation to be a learning curve. Hence my inquiry.
AJPeabody is online now  
Nov 4th, 2019, 05:23 PM
Join Date: Oct 2003
Posts: 3,368
I have done just about every Rabbies 3-5 day tour they have from Edinburgh. I have also done Timberbush and Heart of Scotland. The day tours were perfectly fine and I do enjoy the Rabbies 3-4 day tours. If there is one you are looking at let me know and I can tell you more about if I took it. All were small bus tours.

Rabbies is also in Ireland but I haven't used them there. I used day tours my two times to Dublin. I liked Irish day tours the best but they were big bus tours.
sassy27 is online now  
Nov 4th, 2019, 05:27 PM
Join Date: Oct 2005
Posts: 65,986
Sitting on a coach with crap wifi so this will be short. The driving is flat easy in the rural bits. But if you really don't want to drive - absolutely look over Rabbies offerings.
janisj is online now  
Nov 4th, 2019, 06:01 PM
Join Date: Jun 2016
Posts: 3,019
Ireland even has Rabbie's tours but you can train or bus to Belfast, Dublin, Galway or Killarney and do so many nice day tours. Irish Rovers is good from Dublin, Mary Gibbons does great tours to Newgrange, there are small or big buses. Galway tours are good from Galway. I don't blame you one bit. Enjoy the ride and the liquid offerings with lunch.
Macross is offline  
Nov 4th, 2019, 06:40 PM
Join Date: Feb 2004
Posts: 5,546
One more note about Rabbies. The driver/ guides are excellent. Extremely knowledgeable and the tours do allow for a high degree of independence.
historytraveler is online now  
Nov 4th, 2019, 06:42 PM
Join Date: Feb 2004
Posts: 5,546
For those interested, Rabbies now offer trips to Spain, Portugal, France, Switzerland and Italy..
historytraveler is online now  
Nov 5th, 2019, 07:33 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 17,578
Of course this boils down to questions of personal comfort, and people are different. But I'll just say this: the joy that comes from the freedom of being able to go where you want, stop where you want and for as long as you want, take the road less traveled, change your plans on the fly because you happen across something that sounds better than you'd expected... The anxiety that comes from having to endure a few minutes of behind-the-wheel learning is VERY quickly outmatched by the positives.

There are some fairly easy ways to anticipate and minimize your concerns. The first is to watch a lot of Youtube videos dealing with this subject, like this one -

and just watch various related "driver's-eye" videos, like this -

Or more general ones, like this -

Rent a car with an automatic transmission, and pick it up someplace like an airport that has ready access to a motorway. Before you start the car, practice looking to your left for the rear-view mirror. Get a GPS and use it. Look at your route using Google Maps' "street view" option so you can see which exit to take from some roundabouts between the rental car station and the highway. https://goo.gl/maps/bc7kFrGiMupuyt3H9

And above all, don't panic! With all the millions of annual visitors from the continent and North America, you never hear about some flaming crash caused by a jetlagged Yank driving on the wrong side of the M90 motorway.

By the time you're out of the main towns and in the countryside, you're going to feel more confident. Don't push yourself, don't get too distracted by things, and you're going to be fine. By the second day you're going to feel like an old hand it, and from then on the enjoyment will be significant.

Last edited by Gardyloo; Nov 5th, 2019 at 07:41 AM.
Gardyloo is offline  
Nov 5th, 2019, 08:00 AM
Join Date: Sep 2011
Posts: 13,633
It really depends on what you are hoping to see. If you are happy taking a tour and stopping where the tour stops and going where the tour goes, regardless of weather, more interesting stops/sideroads/serendipity then do a tour. If the weather is rubbish and you feel like hinkering down for a day you are stuck if you are taking a tour.
We drove a huge area of Scotland in a LHD 6m campervan in June. Apart from the rental motorhomes driven by inexperienced idiots we had no problems, and both were able to drive and enjoy the scenery. We have rented a car in Ireland and driven there too with neither of us stressing out or feeling we were missing out when driving, but we both like driving.
If you really hate driving anyway there are tours, trains and buses and boats you can use to get around and see quite a bit of the country. A bit of research will tell you about both tours and public transport.
hetismij2 is offline  
Nov 5th, 2019, 08:17 AM
Join Date: Mar 2004
Posts: 2,627
I just returned a couple of weeks ago from a couple of back to back Rabbie's tours. I've been on several tours with them - I prefer the longer 7-10 day tour options (which are sometimes a couple of shorter tours linked together). I did the 8 day London to Scotland tour and then the 4 day Skye tour on this trip.

I really hate to drive while on vacation and avoid it unless absolutely necessary. That being said, I couldn't do a big bus tour either. While Rabbie's maximum group size is 16, I've only been on one of their tours that was completely full. On this trip one of the tours had only 3 people.

We made stops every 1.5 hrs at most, usually more frequently. I found the times given at each stop more than adequate and you were given the independence to do what you wanted to do at each stop. And as mentioned, their driver guides are excellent.

Obviously with a tour you're not going to have the degree of independence you will have on your own driving a car but if you're satisfied with the itinerary given, I would absolutely not hesitate to recommend Rabbie's.
chepar is offline  
Nov 5th, 2019, 08:49 AM
Join Date: Feb 2003
Posts: 608
We have been pleased with the Rabbie’s tours we did in Scotland and in England. We, too, prefer not to drive and have found that the small group works well for us. Frankly, I find the small bus is not so comfortable as the large ones but the trade-offs work for us. Small group, easier logistics, independence vs. larger, padded seats and a lavatory on the bus—easy choice here!

As historytraveler mentions, Rabbie’s tours allow for a great deal of independence. Stopping in a village, the guide would explain and point out places of interest or shops or museums or restaurants, then designate a meeting place and time to resume the group travel for the day. The guide was not holding high an umbrella and leading a group of 15 tourists through town.

When we registered for the tours, we indicated the type of accommodation we prefer. We were dropped off at our place before dinner time and picked up after breakfast. There were, of course, several drop-off points. We’ve always done B and B type with en suite facilities but in the future we may opt for a hotel so that we won’t have to venture out to find dinner after a long day (unless we want to).
k_marie is offline  
Nov 5th, 2019, 09:16 AM
Join Date: Feb 2004
Posts: 5,546
I would add that I have been on several Rabbies tours when we have taken detours, the road less traveled and single track lanes. Drivers do not always stick to the main roads. On a couple of occasions we have been offered alternatives to routes and venues suggested by the driver who are familiar with the area and keep abreast of changes that can affect travel plans.

I have driven in the UK but in the past few years I usually take trains or travel with Rabbies. I find I have not lost any sense of independence. In fact, I find it more relaxing not having to study maps, check GPS and hoping it works and not figuring out where to park or how to avoid traffic jams. In addition I can sit back enjoy the scenery and learn a great deal of the area’s history, geography and culture by listening to the driver/guide. Difficult to obtain that same degree of knowledge if you are doing the driving. Driving was okay in my younger years, but at this point in time, I prefer to let someone else do it. I only drive on the Isle of Skye which I know as well as my own neighborhood.
historytraveler is online now  
Nov 6th, 2019, 05:31 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: Aug 2003
Posts: 5,142
Nice responses.

I checked a bit on the Rabbies website looking at a few one and two day tours out of Edinburgh and Glasgow. It looks like some one day tour itineraries overlap with two day tours, indicating that the one day tours are more look out the window while the two day tours covering essentially the same places must have more time for visiting actual places. I was also a bit curious as to the advice to bring my "waterproof clothing" that is included in the descriptions. They obviously tour rain or shine while their cancellation policy suggests that any flexibility in choosing dates for tours based on the weather is not practical. Finally, although the small buses are said to have large windows so that everyone can see out, why are there no pictures of the actual buses and seating arrangements?

Any first-hand knowledge would be appreciated, as my reluctance to driving myself is being challenged by a growing fear of sitting on a bus in the rain.


AJPeabody is online now  
Nov 6th, 2019, 05:55 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 6,478
There are a few bus photos here:

Suggesting you be prepared for rain doesn't mean it will always be raining, of course. I've spent about 20 days in Scotland over 2 trips, one included a Rabbies tour, and I don't remember more than 1 day that was a near washout.
elberko is offline  

Thread Tools
Search this Thread

Contact Us - Archive - Advertising - Cookie Policy -


All times are GMT -8. The time now is 04:14 PM.