Touring the UK

Old May 14th, 2010, 06:28 AM
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Touring the UK

Hi- My wife and I and our two kids (10 and 13) are touring Britain. We are arriving in London for 4-5 days stay and then on to York, Scotland, and around again to the South of England. OK- the best way to this: by rail or by car rental? Any other suggestions?
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Old May 14th, 2010, 07:20 AM
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Hi OldTrout,

It really depends on where you are going. You wont need a car for London and you can take the train to York and wouldnt need a car there, but you would likely need a car to see rural Scotland and rural England. Can you give us an idea of where you want to go?
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Old May 14th, 2010, 07:20 AM
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Are your tickets set? This seems a daft way to work. A better way to go would be to fly in to Edinburgh or Glasgow, do your touring of Scotland (need car), train/car to York (check into dropoff policies, but this is a relatively short run from Edinburgh/Glasgow through the Lowlands), train to London, train to South of England and rent car there if needed, fly home from LHR or LGW. If you're just doing a day trip or overnight in South of England, you'll get there faster with the high-speed train from St. Pancras to Dover (85 minutes) than any other way.

Others can help with the costs of train v. car (passes for the train, etc.). Cars aren't cheap, especially for a family of four that needs trunk space for four. Petrol prices are about $8.00/gallon after converting GBP to $ -- see
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Old May 14th, 2010, 07:22 AM
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If going mainly to large cities like London, York, Edinburgh then the train IMO is the way to go - cars and cities are not a good mix as wide swathes of towns like York are pedestrianized and off-limits to private vehicles.
But if you want to tour the Cotswolds or Scottish Highlands then a car is better since there are few trains there.
If doing this all by train you should strongly consider the BritRail Pass and especially the bargain Family Pass where each kid under 16 gets a free railpass to match what the two adults buy - passes allow you to hop any train anytime in all of the U.K. And with a party of four you may want to look at a first-class pass as you will always IME be able to find four seats together or near each other - that is problematic in second class (called Standard Class in the U.K.) unless you make advance seat reservations. Anyways first class seats are much much bigger and more comfy and since there are IME of decades of using BritRail Passes always ample empty seats - kids can move around without bothering other passengers. On main lines in first class you also get complimentary 'tea or coffee' or pop and snacks. On some lines like Virgin Trains you could take from Edinburgh back south you get veritable free meals the whole way.
But trains are a great way to get around to the main sights most tourists wish to see and there is a mind-boggling number of departures - like twice hourly on the London-Kings Cross to York to Edinburgh line.
For loads on British rail travel here are some fantastic sights -; and - download the latter's free and superb IMO European Planning & Rail Guide's detailed chapter on Britain to see sample itineraries, travel times, etc.
Now the alternative to railpasses is to go to sites like where if you book far enough in advance - many weeks sometimes needed to nail down deep discounted point to point tickets - like London to York and York to Edinburgh and Edinburgh to the Lake District (Windermere), etc. But these tickets are non-refundable - non-changeable so you are locked into a specific train so be sure of your travel dates and time - i like a pass because i can hop on any train anytime and these types of tickets often cost an arm and a leg - a railpass for your types of travels should be WAY cheaper than buying full-fare and fully flexible tickets at stations as you go. But if the deep discounted tickets are cheaper than the pass and you do not require or wish flexibility to hop on any train anytime then that may be the best way -it's all at
And finally there is also a BritRail-Drive pass ideal for those wanting to go mainly to the Uber famous large cities like Edinburgh and York but also like to drive through the Scottish Highlands, Cotswolds, etc. It gives you X rail days of your chosing and X car rental days of your chosing - you take the train to say Edinburgh and when ready to leave pick up a car at the station there and drive around Scottish Highlands and down to say Carlise or some train station on the mainline south and get on the train. You can later pick up another car for a few days, etc.
I am partial to trains, having railed around the U.K. for eons - i have also driven all over and biked all over - the train to me is more relaxing than a car and cars i find isolating - not meeting the 'locals' like you do on trains. But others will present the case for cars.
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Old May 14th, 2010, 08:17 AM
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OldTrout - I'm guessing you are planning way ahead. Maybe for 2011? Anyway, we did the entire UK in 2 weeks this way - and had a really marvellous time:
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