My bestie and I are looking to do a 10-day self-drive through England and Scotland. Question #1: can it be done? Question #2: suggestions for mapping this? We both want to see ancestral homes (me in Galashiels, Scotland and Susie in England and Scotland - she's still in the process of defining locales) and of COURSE we want to enjoy the countrysides. A lot of trips I see include Ireland - we did that 10 years ago.
you can drive from the south of Scotland to the London area in a (long, tiring) day which is why so many suggest the East Coast Main Line train from Edinburgh to London in just a few hours.
But it will depend on Where in Susie's Scotland and England. If you are north of the central belt the times will get longer, and if it winds up being Devon or Cornwall in the England end the same problem will pop up....
So let us know where in addition to Galashiels and we can be LOADS more help...
when will you make this trip?
Of course it can be done.
HOWEVER, have either of you driven in the UK before?
You mentioned Ireland ( definitely NOT the UK) but did you drive there?
Besides driving on the LEFT these are other Driving considerations:
1.) Most cars have stick shifts. The driver is seated on the right side of the vehicle so the gear shift will be on your the left.
2.) You can reserve an automatic but will pay more to do so.
3.) Cars will be small unless you opt to pay more for something larger. IMHO wasted money. Smaller autos are the norm, easier to negotiate parking and you’ll be grateful on the narrow backroads.
4.) Never trust GPS. Always carry a paper map.
5.) Road signage is different from what you are used to in the States.
6.) Gas stations are known as petrol stations.
How many nights do you have? Where are you coming from? Even ten full days is not a lot of time to cover a lot of ground. Have you considered traveling by train?
We did a self drive in Ireland. We’ll stay with the smaller car and go automatic. Ava we’ll be flying from the Us (Boston)
Yes it can be done, but without knowing where you want to visit, it’s difficult to give recommendations. A car is easier for seeing the countryside, but trains are good for covering long distances between towns and cities.
Don’t hire a car immediately on arrival with jet lag.
Depending on the locales yet to be defined, you may find it easier to rent a car for the southern parts of England, take a train to Scotland, and rent another car there -- or vice versa. It's hard to help with mapping without knowing more of where you want to go. Via Michelin is a good route planning tool, with the caveat that its time estimates don't include any stops and assume no traffic congestion. They're also indifferent to scenery. So plan on taking longer, and maybe modify routes if you want better scenery (maybe taking longer still). Claudia's driving caveats are also worth remembering.
A lot depends on the locales your bestie identifies. Galashiels isn't too remote, but the overall span of the island of Great Britain is well over 1000 miles, with small (read: slow to travel) roadways in many of the rural areas. Not counting islands, of which Scotland has many. The sooner she's able to pinpoint the places that are important to her family ties, the better for your ability to plan.
My family spent most of the summer of 2019 in the UK and we hired a car and drove quite a bit. Here are some tips for you based on my experience that you may find helpful:
Watch some youtube videos of people driving in the UK. Get on Google Street View and check out some roundabouts and picture yourself going through them. They come up quickly and this will help you visualize what it will be like. Some of them have multiple lanes and traffic lights in the middle. (Reading over the rules for this is also helpful)
Google maps on my iPhone worked perfectly and we went to some pretty remote places. UK cell phone rates are much better than ours in the US, and you will have plenty of data for the whole trip. There are several companies so you just need to pick up a sim card for a UK carrier when you get there. Have your travel companion keep this on at all times because roundabouts can come up with little warning and you will need to know which lane to get in.
It takes longer to get everywhere than what the GPS will tell you. There are speed cameras all over the UK and you are expected to stay UNDER the speed limit. I know most people in the US customarily drive a couple of miles over the limit, but that will get you traffic fines in the UK. Also familiarize yourself with UK road signs. They are different than what you will be used to, but easy to navigate when you know what they mean.
Parking is not guaranteed everywhere you go and can be expensive when found. Some local councils sell parking passes for select parking lots in the area and that can be helpful. Otherwise keep a bag FULL of £1 coins. It will take you at least £5 to park in most lots for longer than a couple of hours. Some lots cap parking at 3-4 hours per car.
I think you are spot on with checking out the countryside and villages, and there are tons of wonderful things to see and do. Personally I think on a 10 day trip less is more. Because of what I mentioned on #3, it takes a long while to get from point A to point B. Also, since you are driving on the other side of the road, an hour drive can feel very taxing. You know that feeling you get when you clutch the wheel hard with both hands as you stressfully drive through 6 lanes of heavy interstate traffic and people are weaving in and out of lanes? That is the level of attention you have to give to your driving in the UK. Not the traffic per se, but the same stressed feeling because there is so much to pay attention to that is different from your norm. (Ex. maintaining speed under limit, all the roundabouts, making right hand turns into the left hand lane, two lane roads turning into one lane roads because people are parked on the side of the street, actual one lane roads, sheep crossings, small size of roads, etc)
M-roads are going to feel very familiar to you. They are basically the same as US interstates. A-roads are more scenic but still easy to navigate. Smaller country roads can be very windy and sometimes they are single lane roads, but traffic moves in both directions. I would personally avoid these if you can because if not someone has to drive in reverse until you find the space to pass by each other.
Some US credit cards will cover your auto insurance. It will save you about $20 per day if you can get one of those.
I want to second the advice to think about two cars and the train up to Scotland particularly if you are looking to visit in the South of England and the Highlands of Scotland. I did do a very nice trip where I took the train to York and picked up a car there to take me though northern England and into the Scottish Borders. I had a bit more time than you but I was wandering a bit with many goals. (York, Howard House, Rivaulx Abby, Hadiran's Wall, family village, a bit of the Lake District, and then the Boarders. I had a full two weeks to do that--all three weekends.
In addition to watching the videos I recommend having a map as well as a GPS. GPS sometimes has you turning into a farmyard! I tended to look at the map and note a list of the towns between my starting point and my destination for the day. It made sign reading so much easier. More often than not UK signs indicate a city more than a directional road. But you may already have experienced that in Ireland. There is a great book by Iain Banks called Raw Spirit. It's about a project he had to taste the whisky in all the distilleries. But the book is also about the travels and the roads he drove on to get there. Super book.