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Manchester/York/Wales/Scotland in 2 weeks - Self-drive or Public Transport?

Hi, both my wife and I plan to fly into Manchester and cover mostly Wales and Scotland (2 weeks).

What do you think, shall I self-drive or use public transport? I am afraid having a car in major cities like Edinburg or Glasgow can be a hassle. Is parking a problem? And costs?

Thank you

Posted by
3245 posts

Woa, that is a lot of ground to cover in only 2 weeks. And Manchester sits in the middle with Wales and Scotland in opposite directions.

First, having a car in Edinburgh (and I assume Glasgow but have not been there) would definitely be a detriment to ease of travel. And it is not difficult to train to Edinburgh. A car is useful once you leave the cities. For Wales, you can use public transportation but it is more limiting, so a car seems useful there, if you plan to cover much ground.

If it were me, I would choose one or the other. In fact, I did. I plan to fly into Edinburgh for a couple of weeks worth of travel in Scotland, train back toward Manchester via 5 days in York, then spend several nights near Manchester before flying home from there. In 2020 I planned to continue on to Wales for 2 weeks after that, but didn’t have the time this summer. So Wales has to wait for a future trip.

If you are stuck with round trip Manchester, I would probably choose to see Wales and the Manchester area (including Chester in this) for your 2 weeks. There is plenty!

Posted by
5606 posts

For Wales you really need to rent a car since most rural places are not well serviced by public transportation. In Scotland you could get by using public transportation, but for any place off the beaten path you need a rental car. With only 2 weeks I’d stick to one country or the other, not both.

Posted by
24903 posts

Where exactly do you plan to go? As already pointed out, two weeks is a very, very short time for the ground you propose to cover. Will you really have time for rural areas? You need no car in York; you need no car in Edinburgh; a train will whisk you from York to Edinburgh faster than you can drive, even if you run into no traffic delays and navigate perfectly.

I'd urge you to cut back on your proposed itinerary.

Posted by
6097 posts

It is a lot to cover. We did a similar trip by car in three weeks, but didn't get north of Edinburgh, i.e. saw little of Scotland. Are you looking to see more of Scotland than Edinburgh and Glasgow?

It would help if you could fly into Manchester and out of Glasgow or Edinburgh, or vice versa. I think Icelandair makes that possible from North America. Also, if Glasgow and Edinburgh are your only Scottish goals, there's good train service between them, and between Edinburgh and York, so you could limit your driving to Yorkshire, Wales, and between.

In Edinburgh we stayed at a guest house off Dalkeith Road, a little south of the center, with good bus service into the heart of the city. Parking was not difficult, and we left the car there over four nights and used buses.

Posted by
2624 posts

I would not rent a car the day of arrival after being up all night, you need a good night’s sleep first.
From Manchester’s airport you can take a direct train to Edinburgh (3h 30m). You can also take a direct train from Edinburgh to Glasgow (1h).
It will also take 6+ hours to drive between Edinburgh and Conwy. Public transportation takes 5h 45m but requires two transfers.
From Wales you can take a train from Manchester’s airport to Chester (1h 30m) and transfer there to get to Conwy (1h). The next day take a taxi to Llandudno (5-miles) and rent your car there to explore Wales.

Posted by
7011 posts

You MUST rent a car to see Wales. Also, I do drive the day of arrival from a transatlantic flight, BUT not very far. I suggest no more than two hours.

Also, you we did South Wales and England (not London or east of London) and spend 4 weeks.
Yes, don't keep your car in a major city. You can keep it in York if your hotel or B&B has parking.

Here is my detailed review of our self-driving tour of S. Wales and England.
28 days in Britain and Celebrity Eclipse home

For S. Wales, I recommend Cardiff, Tenby and St. David's (also see in link all the castles we visited).
We did five nights in S. Wales, 6 in the Cotswolds, 3 in York, 2 Durham, 1 Hadrian's Wall, 3 Lake District, 2 Winchester, 1 on our way to Whitby from York.

Edinburgh is better than Glasgow. Also, the area around St. Andrews north of Edinburgh. Inverness is in the far north and a bit of a trip, but great to see it and Loch Ness.

Posted by
13841 posts

I've been everywhere you mention. And then some. And I have never rented a car in the UK. (That's about a year's time in Great Britain over the past six years. )

With a little effort and planning, including the use of trains, buses, one day tours and taxis, you can visit most places.

And sometimes you can luck into great information during the travels. Quite often, some of the buses I take are actually meant for locals. When they see me with my bags, some have enquired as to my travels. (This is not usual in big cities but in more rural locations. ) I have gotten some good tips on local restaurants, sights and even shortcuts on how to get to remote places.

I prefer this as I like to look at scenery and you really can't do a lot of that while trying to keep your eyes on the road.

For Scotland, if you're not familiar with Rabbie's Small Group Tours, you should be. I have taken a few of their one day tours and they were excellent. They also have tours throughout England.