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Drive or Take Train from York to Edinburgh?

We've planned our own driving tour over several days starting from London, to Bath, Cotswolds, Stratford, Peak District, and then York. I can't decide whether to drop the rent car in York and then continue our journey by train to Edinburgh or whether to drive to Edinburgh from York. Looking at Google maps, it looks like a 4 hour drive compared to a 2.5 train ride. In some ways I would prefer to drive to give us more flexibility, but am not certain of the best scenic route and road/traffic conditions. We would drop the rent car once we reached Edinburgh.

Does anyone have any recommendations for drive vs train? If drive, what is the best route? It wouldn't cost us any additional money to keep the rent car the extra day except for the extra fuel charge to York versus train fare for 2 people. I lived in London 20 years ago and drove around England a bit, but never made it north of York so I'm not familiar with those roads.

Posted by
4682 posts

There are plenty of different driving routes you could take - is there anything in particular you'd want to stop at or are you really looking for a direct ride (albeit maybe on mid-class roads)? There would be more than enough to keep you occupied doing the route in 14 days ....

Posted by
7 posts

I'm looking for the best scenic route with 1 or 2 breaks for a total of about 6 hours duration. That doesn't leave a lot of time for site seeing, so we would need to choose only 1 major attraction along the way and view the rest from the car window. We would leave York after lunch and arrive in Edinburgh after rush hour, but no later than 7 pm while it's still daylight in early June. Both Alniwick and Bamburgh Castles look like great half way stopping points, but we would only have time for one....which is most impressive? I've always wanted to visit Durham, but don't have time to give it justice on this trip.

I'd love to take in part of the Coastal drive with a short break in a coastal village. I guess my hesitation was reading the grumblings on a different blog of the poor country road conditions north of York. I'm traveling with my 84 year old mom and although she's in great health, I have visions of being stranded in the remote country side...but that would be an adventure!

I greatly appreciate your feedback. We fly out May 23rd and this is one of the final details I'm trying to iron out.

Posted by
4682 posts

If you want to head round the Northumbrian coast then you basically need to use the A19 out of York all the way through Newcastle via the Tyne Tunnel. Take the A189 to Ashington then the A1068 to Warkworth and then to Alnwick. From Altwick take the B1340 to Seahouses to Banburgh. Then B1342 to the A1 and then carry on to Edinburgh. This might not allow much time for stopping enroute though.

The alternate scenic route of a cross country kind would be A19 to Thirsk, A168 to Northallerton, A167 to Darlington, the A68 to Edinburgh. Don't get lost in Darlington ...

Neither of these routes are quick, but minimising use of the A1, particularly the single carriageway bits minimises the 40mph grind in a series of lorries.

Posted by
7 posts

Marco, thanks so much for the suggestions, I'm looking at the map now. Yes, I would very much like to avoid grid-lock with the lorries while driving in the UK, I can do that here at home! The traffic was part of the grumblings I read and thought perhaps the train would save me a lot of stress. We're leaving York on a Friday and I was concerned about traffic going into Edinburgh on a Friday evening.

I have even thought about spending the night somewhere between York and Edinburgh and then finishing the drive early Saturday morning. If we did that, do you have any suggestions on where to stay?

Posted by
4682 posts

Sorry I don't have any personal recommendations for accommodation on these routes; hopefully someone else will.

Posted by
2938 posts

"I'm looking for the best scenic route with 1 or 2 breaks for a total of about 6 hours duration. That doesn't leave a lot of time for site seeing, so we would need to choose only 1 major attraction along the way and view the rest from the car window. We would leave York after lunch and arrive in Edinburgh after rush hour, but no later than 7 pm while it's still daylight in early June."

I, myself, would take the train. You say you just don't have all that much time. View the rest of the scenery from the window of the train instead of the car. It's more restful. You are already doing plenty of driving on the first leg of your trip. I am a huge fan of trains, so I would ditch the car at York, provided you don't have so much luggage that you cannot manage to get it all onto the train.

To me, the most interesting sight between York and Edinburgh is Hadrian's Wall, but you would need much more time to see that than you say you have. If you choose to drive the car on to Edinburgh, if you take the coastal route, you would pass through South Shields (a coastal village), where you could stop at the Arbeia Roman Fort (reconstructed) and get a good idea of the history of Hadrian's Wall. Continuing north on the coastal route, you would come to Bamburgh Castle, my choice between the two mentioned. Bamburgh Castle is 70 miles from Edinburgh. It is overlooking the ocean and a pristine sand beach. It's difficult to choose a favorite castle in England, but for me, this might be it. Stay at the Mizen Head Hotel (we loved this hotel), walking distance to Bamburgh Castle.

"We would leave York after lunch and arrive in Edinburgh after rush hour, but no later than 7 pm while it's still daylight in early June." You are going to run out of daylight doing the scenic route by car. Especially if you do a stop at Bamburgh Castle long enough to do it justice. To spend the night here may be wise.

Again, the train is the swiftest way from York to Edinburgh. If you choose to go by train, you'll just have to return to do the other stuff! There's lots to do between York and Edinburgh; at least a week's worth! :)

Posted by
31471 posts

Marianne,

Given the limited time for that trip, the train would be a better option (IMO). As you noted, you won't have a lot of time for sight seeing, and your mother may prefer a nice train ride where she can enjoy the scenery and still get to Edinburgh reasonably early.

Posted by
5669 posts

If you add in the over night stop it opens up a lot for you. You could drive to Hexham from York and spend the night there. I would follow Marc's route that takes you to the A68. Just north of Darlington is a lovely Saxon Church. If you wanted to take a side trip toward the Dales, you could head west on the A684 toward Bedale and visit Bolton Castle. The A6108 will take you East again to the A1. Hexham is an interesting place that gives you easy access to Hadrian's Wall. It has a funny little museum on the Reivers of the Borders and a Abbey church. You can read about them here.

Of course for your next day, can visit Hadrian's Wall. Continuing on Marc's route you go right past Chesters. I enjoyed my visit to Chesters. Continue north and you'll go right through Jedburgh. This is where the ruins of one of the great border abbeys is located. There are other sites. A little bit off your route north of Jedburgh and to the East is Floors Castle. I visited several years ago and enjoyed the castle itself and the grounds.

There are other things to see and do in the Border, but these are the ones on your way to Edinburgh. There's a great book, by Fraser, Steel Bonnets, that will tell you about the Reiver history.

One last thing--your daylight in June should last way beyond 7 PM. Check out the schedule here.

Pam

Posted by
1889 posts

Being as you are short on time, I would take the train. See www.nationalrail.co.uk for schedules & fare - book in advance for the cheapest fares. 2 companies operate the route = Cross Country & East Coast. I would favour EC over CC - all things being equal.http://www.eastcoast.co.uk
Sit on the right for the best views.

If driving, the high cost of Alnwick Castle does not justify a short stay. People have been complaining about even being charged to park.

I would definitely make the detour to Bamburgh. When you arrive in the village - turn left & head for the beach car park. From the beach - you will get fine views of the Castle for free!

Posted by
7 posts

Thank you everyone for your great suggestions! I decided to push our return flight home out of Edinburgh by 3 days to allow more time to travel up from York. There appear to be some very interesting sights along the way that we've never seen and hate to miss. Fortunately, I booked our air with AA miles and it's changeable without a fee.

Now we plan to leave York on Sat morning (5/31) just after breakfast and aim to arrive in Edinburgh Monday afternoon (6/2) where we'll drop the rental car and spend a few days before traveling home. Now the dilemma is to decide exactly what to do and see between York and Edinburgh since it will all be new to me. You all have provided some great ideas and I'd love to hear any additional ones if you have them.

Posted by
4535 posts

Then definitely add in Durham. It can easily be seen in a few hours, since it's not that big and the cathedral is the main attraction. There are car parks outside the city center and you walk across the river and up the hill. Don't miss the walk along the river too for unbelievable views of the cathedral.

A stop along Hadrian's wall is a must. Once you have a route, do some research on wall sites near your route and just make a quick stop there.

I've driven the A-68 from Durham to Edinburgh and loved it. It gets more scenic as you get closer to Scotland and pass through or near some wonderful little towns. There is a Roman fort ruin at Corbridge and the wall is nearby (ask for directions).

Posted by
5261 posts

Well, Marianne, you've got me interested now that you're spending more time enroute. Durham is well worth a stop, the cathedral one of the best examples of Norman architecture, with a great guided tour. We also took a tour of Durham Castle, one of the colleges of Durham University, right across the green from the cathedral. Hexham is a nice town and the old church has a Saxon crypt. Hadrian's Wall is beautiful and evocative. Vindolanda, just south of the wall, is an archeological site where a Roman town stood, with an excellent museum. Housesteads is a fort at the wall with interesting ruins and great views, plus many sheep.

We liked Alnwick Castle, and would have more if we were into Harry Potter movies. I'd say Bambergh is better for the spectacular coastal setting.

There's a open-air museum near Newcastle which is supposed to be very interesting, but we missed it. Likewise we missed the early Christian site of Lindisfarne because the tides were wrong for us.

South of Durham you can explore in the Yorkshire Dales. We liked Richmond and Swaledale. The drive between York and Edinburgh is beautiful and full of interesting things to see. Have fun!

Posted by
31471 posts

Marianne,

As you've added some time, that changes things. A few thoughts come to mind......

  • Travel north east from York to the town of Pickering. Park the car and spend the day exploring on the North York Moors Steam Railway. It's a wonderful experience to sit in the old carriages and just watch the scenery pass by, and I'm sure that will bring back some memories for your mother. If you've ever watched the TV show Heartbeat, you might enjoy stopping in the town of Goathland for lunch at the "Aidensfield Arms" (that's where the show was mostly filmed and also parts of the Harry Potter movie were filmed at the station). Have a pint in the bar or just some pub grub. If you're interested in WW-II history, you could stop at the very interesting Eden Camp, which is near Malton (it was voted the top tourist attraction in Britain two years in a row as I recall). It was originally a POW camp for German and Italian prisoners.
  • Continue north west to the small Georgian market town of Richmond. There's an old Castle there with an interesting history, although it's somewhat in ruins. If you want to spend the night in that area, you could always stay in Catterick Village (which is close to Richmond) or at the nearby Scotch Corner - there's a nice pub there called the Shoulder of Mutton).

That's all I can think of at the moment.

Posted by
7 posts

Thanks so much for all of the suggestions. You all are extremely helpful! I’ve decided to book a night in Durham and a night in Bamburgh (thank you Rebecca for the suggestion of Mizen Head Hotel). So the route from York to Edinburgh is shaping up. We have a membership in the HHA (Historical House Assoc), so we're thinking of seeing Castle Howard on our way out of York and I’m looking into other HHA along the way. I need a little help with Monday's drive. Is there somewhere along this drive that we can see a portion of Hadrian's Wall? Does this look reasonable?

Saturday
York to Durham
From York A64 to Castle Howard, A169 to Pickering, A170 to Thirsk, A19 to Wingate, A181 to Durham. Tour Durham, depending upon how much we see will determine how early we leave on Sunday.

Sunday
Durham to Bamburgh
Should we swing east or west of Newcastle. If east, then Marco's directions are A690 to the A19 through Newcastle via the Tyne Tunnel, take the A189 to Ashington then the A1068 to Warkworth and then to visit Alnwick Castle, A1 to B1341 to Bamburgh (should we swing through South Shields near Newcastle?)

Monday
Bamburgh to Edinburgh
Visit Bamburgh Castle, then B1342 to A1. Can we cut over from A1 to A68 using the B6353 and swing through Jedburgh, or should we stay on A1? Or maybe B6353 to A697 to A68? Suggestions appreciated!

Posted by
5261 posts

On Sunday, if you want to see Hadrian's Wall, starting from Durham, take the A691 toward Consett, left on A692 through Consett, right on A68 to Broomhaugh, left on A695 to Hexham. Or you can use motorways A1 and A69 to get to Hexham.

From Hexham we took the AD 322 bus to Housesteads Fort and Vindolana and back to Hexham. With better driving skills than mine and a good map you can do this on your own. I'd recommend those spots on and near the wall, but there are others, see this website for lots of good info.

Back to the A1 gets you up past Alnwick to Bamburgh quickly, and then on to Edinburgh when you're ready to move on.

Posted by
5669 posts

Have you found www.viamichelin yet? It's a great route planner. And it does indeed suggest B6353 to go to Jedburgh. There is another wonderful Abbey just north of Castle Howard, Rievaulx. What's pulling you to Pickering? Durham is lovely. Don't miss the Cathedral! It's a World Heritage site and is indeed one of the world's great buildings. It's in all the architecture history books and it has lovely history about Cuthbert.

Posted by
7 posts

Thank you Pamela for the suggestion of Rievaulx and the Michelin website. I wasn't sure what made the most sense when driving to Castle Howard from York... whether we should make a big loop or back track.

Dick - I'm now convinced we need to go to Hexham for Hadrian's Wall, so we'll stay on the West side of Newcastle as we head up.

5 days from departure and still so much to do! At least I have all of our hotels booked and a general idea of where we're going!