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Should I Consider Traveling in Ireland (or Scotland, or England) by Public Transportation?

I'm a solo traveler who don't want to drive. I know that, if I drive, I'll get to many cool places otherwise hard to reach by public transportation. But then I'll be looking at the road most of the time and I'll also be tired by the time I reach the sights.

I like to take 3-week trips of a single country, spending 2-4 nights in each stop. Taking short flights and joining local small group tours are options I'd consider.

So, is it a good idea for me to plan a travel in Ireland by public transportation? (And for that matter, Scotland? England?) So far, the Ireland trip reports I've seen in this forum are all for road trips.

Posted by
1128 posts

I can speak mainly to England and yes. Now, you’re going to be spending the bulk of your trip in cute villages that look like they’re still in the 19th century, although there are ways to reach the Ye Old Cute and Quaint in some areas. For England, I’d probably focus on either the North or South of England, I assume you’ll want to include some London days as well. I happen to prefer the North of England myself, others on these boards will prefer the South.

Regardless of where you pick, just assume the occasional sight may not be convenient by public transit and that’s ok. Planning a trip is always full of compromise and you can just as easily finding yourself having to skip places because you’re hitting a big football match or a local festival or convention.

Don’t always assume a rail pass is your best bet.

Posted by
19200 posts

I spent 26 days in Scotland this year without a car. It can be done, but in the western part of the country, weather (specifically wet weather) may be an additional challenge. Neither trains nor buses are very frequent when you get out to the less populated areas, and reservations may be required. Therefore, you can't necessarily wake up in the morning, look at the sky and decide to relocate. Besides which, the weather could change by 10 AM anyway.

You might look at Rabbies tours. They garner positive comments. But of course you'll have even less flexibility on a tour.

Some parts of England are falling-off-a-log easy by comparison, but there are areas that are challenging there as well, in the sense that you won't cover ground very rapidly.

Posted by
224 posts

Of the three countries, England is the easiest to travel using public transportation. From London, you can travel to places such as Oxford and enjoy several days there and take buses (or rent a bike) to visit local areas. If you rent a bike, you can take it on the train to get out into the countryside and bike through villages, then catch the train back to your main base.

It’s also possible to travel by train and bus to Keswick in the Lake District. From there you can use local buses and the boat launch on Derwentwater to travel to trails and enjoy short or long hikes (or just enjoy the scenery).

At times, this will slow you down. For example, I took the train from London to the Lake District, but rented a car there for a few days so I could get to small villages and hiking trails more easily, which gave me more time to enjoy them.

You can travel in Ireland by public transportation, but it can take much longer than driving. For example, you can travel from Dublin to Galway fairly easily, then take bus tours to other attractions. I did a day tour to Inishmore (Aran Islands) that was wonderful.

All the best,


Posted by
3540 posts

I travel by public transport as well. All three locations you mentioned work, but the Republic of Ireland was a bit more challenging. I found Northern Ireland to have better public transport options.

That said, where there is a will, there is a way. You might have to do some research and creative thinking outside the box, but you can get to places without driving. My biggest challenge was Ashford Castle for the Ireland School of Falconry from Galway. “Everyone” said it couldn’t be done. I found a bus to a town on the other side of the lake, and a scenic cruise that dropped us off right at Ashford Castle. I had viewed the cruise as primarily transportation, but found it quite interesting and an added bonus to the day. We had time for a Hawk Walk and lunch in Cong before boarding the cruise to retrace our steps.

Travel by public transport can frequently take a little longer when you get off the beaten track, but it is worth it. You meet and interact with locals. For us, the stress of driving takes away from the vacation rather than adding to it.

Posted by
7 posts

Thank you Inbsig, Dale, acraven, fcraymond76, and Carol, I now have a better picture of what to expect. It might be three 2-3 week trips in this order (beginning with the easiest one): (1) Southern England; (2) Ireland; and (3) Scotland and Northern England.

Posted by
3540 posts

Gumbo, if you go to Northern England (Hadrian's Wall Area) I would like to recommend that you hire Peter Carney for a day. He will pick you up from a convenient Public Transport Location and take you to the key areas of interest along the wall, teaching all the way. We learned so much! We then stayed and walked portions of the wall for the next few days, but having that introduction made all the difference to understanding what we were seeing.

If you only have a day there, consider Peter as your guide and your transportation. We felt we received good value for the money and really enjoyed the Hadrian's wall area. Easy train connections and even a special bus that runs from one wall site to another during the summer.

Posted by
7 posts

Thank you Carol. Yes, Hadrian's Wall is the kind of place I'd love to visit. Having the advice of one who's been there before me is very helpful.

I've already planned a trip to Spain in April 2020 and another one to Switzerland in September. The British Isles will come right up next (May 2021?)