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2019 summer family trip

Hi !
We are family (2 adults and 2 kids of 7 and 11) that like to travel. We have been in Germany, Austria, Catalonia, Potugal and Italy before.
Next summer (we are a techer and a school psychologist so no other option) we have think about Engand and Scotland. We have budget for something like 23-26 days trip. We are from Montreal.

Our idea was something like:
- Filght to London (3-4 nights in london)
- Train To Cotsworld (2-3 nights)
- Train to bath (2-3 nights)
- train to Edinburgh (2-3 nights)
rent a car ...that part is a big question. First time I would drive on the other side of the hard is it ?
for 10 nights drive around Scotland (Skye is a must see), leave the car in Glasgow and fly back to Montreal from there.

How is that plan ?
destinataion are just ideas, not look deep into....

Thanks !

Posted by
1376 posts

Bon jour, bucephale,

Why not hire a car for the entire holiday, other than for your time in London? You'd see a lot more of England and Scotland, and you'd have to capability to go places where the train can't take you, and stop wherever and whenever you like. It also may end up costing you less than train fare for four people. (Although you may be able to get a family combination fare.) Most of the major car hire companies don't charge for a one way drop off, so you could hire your car at Heathrow/Gatwick, and drop it off at Glasgow.

Driving on the left side of the road takes about an hour or so to get used to. You'll be on major highways most of your time in England, so just keep to the left side of road until you get used to driving on the left and shifting gears with your left hand. If you aren't used to driving a manual transmission, it would be best to hire a car with automatic transmission. It will most likely cost a little bit more.

The thing to watch out for is the roundabouts. The larger ones have road markings to direct you as to which lane to take entering the roundabout. The smaller ones are not as obvious. You need to know which route you need to take out of the roundabout, and get in to the appropriate lane. There's no shame in going around twice if you miss your exit on your first go around.

As far as choosing places to go in Scotland, the Lonely Planet guide would be your best bet. It is very comprehensive, and covers all of Scotland, not just selected areas. Additionally, check this forum for places that other posters recommend. You're already going to Skye, but there are so many other beautiful places to visit that you'll need to plan your ten days really well.

Bonnes vacances!

Mike (Auchterless)

Posted by
1110 posts

Hi Bucephale

Some thoughts about your plan.

  1. You will find it difficult to see much of the Cotswolds area by train/public transport. Better to rent a car. Personally I would not have thought children would find the Cotswolds very interesting. It's basically quaint villages with antique shops and tea rooms. There is a wildlife park but little else to interest kids.

  2. There is no direct rail service from Bath to Edinburgh. You can get the train direct from Bristol (not far from Bath) but it is a long journey. You might find it better (and cheaper) to fly from Bristol to Edinburgh on EasyJet. If you do that you could rent a car from Bristol airport and use it to tour the Cotswolds, returning the car to Bristol airport before taking a flight to Edinburgh.

  3. A general point about train journeys in the UK. They are costly if you don't book in advance. Advance tickets that specify a certain train are the cheapest but they have zero flexibility. Open (flexible) tickets are very expensive. There are rail cards that can bring the cost down, and it's possible to 'split' tickets to find cheaper deals (e.g. Bristol to Birmingham and Birmingham to Edinburgh without actually changing trains but using 2 tickets) - however, that's a 'dark art' and could be the subject of an entire book!

  4. If you don't rent a car in Scotland you will be severely restricted as to what you can see, especially on Skye, where the public transport is built around school buses and a Citylink service through to Glasgow. How hard is it to drive on the other side? Well plenty of people manage it perfectly successfully. Have you driven a stick shift/manual before? If not, then specify an automatic and that's one less thing to think about. Have your passengers keep reminding you to drive on the left and you'll soon get the hang of it. If you are coming to Skye, be sure to read up on how to drive on 'single track roads' - these are really just that - single roads where traffic in both directions shares the same stretch of road, with regular passing places. There's a knack to driving on these roads and you need to get your head around it before you try it - trust me!

  5. You say you want to drive around Scotland. I think you need a little more focus. What do you want to see? Castles, mountains, coast and beaches, battlefields? Do you and your family enjoy hiking? If you sketch out a plan we can give feedback on whether it could work. As a guide I would think you'd want 3 days on Skye. Scotland is bigger than many people expect so you certainly can't see everything in 10 days.

  6. You will probably find your flights will be cheaper if you fly in and out of London at the start and end of your trip. You might want to fly Glasgow or Edinburgh to London to pick up your transatlantic flight. There's not much choice in transatlantic flights from Scotland and a quick search on Glasgow to Montreal suggests you're likely to be connecting through Heathrow.

I hope that helps.

Posted by
1110 posts

Some good advice from Mike - especially about roundabouts!

Posted by
357 posts

Thanks a lot Mike and Jacquie !

Of course I will need to read a lot before choosing my final destinations. I was just throwing some ideas around. It would be very helpfull if you can suggest me places to see taht will go weel with what we want to do,.

1) beaches. We are not very mucjh beach fans, but the kids like it, so maybe we can go to some of them 2-3 times in the trip. We have thought that Great Britain is not really a beach destination because the weather is not much hot or tropica, but maybe we are wrong.

2) hiking: we are not big hikers, my girl (the 7 years old one) fatigue easily. We can do some forest walking, but no Big 9-10 hours of straight hiking.

3) big cities; beside London and Edinburgh (and maybe Glasgow) we want to avoid them. Our last summer trip (Rome , Florence and Venice) was a bit exhausting. we want to get a good mix, of cities, villages and nature.

4) Kids activities: we want them to enjoy the trip. they love playground, water slides, theme park, so we want to include those (if avaible)

5) food: We know food is not the main attraction (not like in Italy or France) but we are foodies (kids too) and eating well, drinking good beer (not for the kids !) is very appealing for us.

6) Driving: I've drive manual cars before, but shifting from the left hand and driving from the left could be too much. I would get an automatic car unless price is very much higher. We can have a car for the whole trip but I know sometimes a car is a major hassle (in cities).that why we have put train in the mix.

7: budget: In our past trips (2016-1018) we have manage to eat well, sleep in airbnb, take train or car, go to museum and other attraction for about 260 euros by day. We would like to have a budget in that zone (it's 400 cdn $ by day). Is it possible (airfare are excluded from that amount) ?

thanks once again !

Posted by
503 posts

The areas you've mentioned... Bath, the Cotswolds and Skye don't have much in the way of large playgrounds, theme parks or waterslides. Skye is known for it's exceptional scenery and hiking ... Bath for it's architecture and history and as previously mentioned, the Cotswolds for quaint villages, antiques and tea .Given your children's interests, another itinerary may make more sense. Personally, I'd extend your time in London to a week - there is more than enough there to interest everyone and with a week you could work in a day trip to Windsor as well as the Harry Potter studio tour if your children are fans. After London you could take the train to Bath for a couple of days and do Stonehenge. From there you could head up through York on your way to Edinburgh. This trip is definitely more city oriented but given your children's interests may be a better fit.

Posted by
1110 posts

Hi again

While our beaches might not be great for sunbathing (although they were this summer) there are some beautiful ones for deserted walks or rock pooling.

Britain is increasingly a foodie destination - we have many Michelin starred restaurants and also pubs turning out fantastic food using the best of local produce. Indeed Skye has 1 Michelin starred restaurant and several others hovering just below that level. Don't write us off on the food scene! Edinburgh has some really great places to eat.

I agree that the Harry Potter experience might be fun if your kids are in to that.

It is really very difficult to just recommend places. I agree with Mike that you should get a Lonely Planet guide to the UK - it will include sections on e.g. things for kids, and take it from there. Once you have more of a plan we can help tweak it.

Posted by
1376 posts

Bon jour encore, bucephale,

The kids would love the Museum of Childhood in Edinburgh. It's on the Royal Mile, and it's free. People's Palace in Glasgow would be of interest as well, if you get over that way. It's free as well. The Riverside Museum in Glasgow has a transport section that would be of interest to both kids and adults. The Elgin Museum has some really interesting displays, if you pass through there on the way to Inverness.

The Blair Drummond Safari Park, near Stirling, would be fun for the youngsters, as would the Highland Safari Park, near Kingussie. Both would be on your route from either Glasgow or Edinburgh to Inverness. And of course Nessie hunting on one of the Loch Ness cruises, although very "touristy," may hold their interest.

Unfortunately, many of the best beaches in Scotland are going to be out of your way. The east coast beaches, though not as stunning as their west coast counterparts, would be worth a visit if your itinerary changes. There are excellent beaches at St. Andrews, Lunan Bay, and Arbroath on the way north, and the beach at Aberdeen has one of the best amusement arcades/fun parks in Scotland, with roller coasters, a ferris wheel, and all sorts of rides. Unfortunately, the water is really cold at Aberdeen, so most people don't stay in the sea too long!

Just a bit north of Aberdeen is Balmedie Beach, which is unspoiled and normally very quiet. And just a bit farther up the coast is Newburgh, where there's not only a gorgeous beach, but hundreds of harbour and common seals. They are very curious animals, and will swim up quite close to you. If you get up to the Elgin area, Lossiemouth beach is spectacular as well.

Over on the west coast, the beaches on South Harris are absolutely stunning, especially Luskentyre and Scarista. They're the equivalent of any beach that you'd find on the list of the world's best beaches. They are completely unspoiled, and you could spend hours there, especially at Luskentyre, without encountering another person. But you'd need to get pails and spades for the youngsters, as there's not a whole lot to do there other than beachcombing.

Back on the mainland, Sandwood Bay has a two mile stretch of beach which ranks up there with the finest in Britain. There are also wonderful beaches near Durness and Golspie, and also at the western end of the Ardnamurchan Peninsula. Also, if you're taking the A830 from Fort William to Mallaig on your way to Skye, the beach at Camusdarrach, near Arisaig, is another one of Scotland's hidden treasures. Camusdarrach Beach doubled as Ben Knox's beach in the movie "Local Hero."

As Skyegirl has pointed out, you need to be aware of the protocol for the single track roads which you'll encounter in the Highlands and Islands. The main thing to remember is to be patient, keep to the left, even if the passing space is on your right, and allow yourself to be overtaken if someone is coming up behind you.

Okay, that covers beaches and some things for your children to do. I hope that gives you a start on your planning. Be sure to make your reservations early for Skye, and pretty much anywhere in the west.

Bonnes vacances,

Mike (Auchterless)

p.s.: To answer your last question, yes, it's certainly possible to stay within a budget of around 200 pounds per day for the four of you. Obviously, your main expenses will be lodging and transportation. Expect to pay 80 to 100 pounds per day for lodging, which you can cut down by staying in chain hotels such as Premier Inn or Travelodge. Car hire would average around 30 pounds per day, plus petrol. Food would cost you as much or as little as you'd like to pay. Sometimes there's nothing better than eating a fish supper, while sitting on a pier watching the sunset

Posted by
357 posts

Wow thanks a lot Mike, that's very helpful !

More informations:

1) My kids dont care at all about Harry Potter, they never read it or seen the movies...maybe it could change but for now....
2) I forgot to say that i'm an history teacher, so of course history is something we should put in the mix, this is not a travel only for the kids but a mix of everyone taste !
3) about the budget, can we manage to get it with 250-260 pounds daily ? Like ive said we have made wonderfull trips in Europe with a budget of 275 euros by day.

Posted by
1376 posts

Et encore, bucephale,

If it's any help, my wife and I spent 30 days in Scotland from the end of June to the end of July. We averaged about 130 pounds per day on car hire, petrol, food, and lodging. We ate well, and had excellent accommodation wherever we went, and drove just over 2,100 miles on our holiday, all of it in Scotland.

That 130 pounds per day doesn't include ferries, or all the souvenirs (mainly CDs, DVDs, and books) that we picked up along the way. They know us by now in some of the charity shops! :) But you can keep to a budget, with good accommodation, and eat well in Scotland.

One way that we saved quite a bit of money was by using our Visa card to cover the cost of the car rental insurance. That works for Visa Signature cards issued in the US. You may want to check to find out if your Canadian issued Visa offers the same coverage.

Once again, bonnes vacances!

Mike (Auchterless)

Posted by
9549 posts

Bucephale - I think it's wonderful that you all have so much time and are thinking about your plans so early. That will mean that you will really get to make the most of your trip.
Given some of your responses through this thread about your interests, I would make the following loose recommendations:
1) Up your time in London to a week and include a day-trip to Bath from London. There is SO much to see in London, from so many different historical eras, and this will give you more time there to enjoy.

2) From London, take the train north to York and stay for a night or two. I've never been but it is in the right direction, and from all accounts is a fascinating and enjoyable place. Forget the Cotswolds.

3) From York, take the train up to Edinburgh. Spend at least three nights there. The Castle, the National Museum of Scotland -- history galore, Greyfriars Bobby, and a night haunted walking tour if you dare! You can fit in a day trip to Stirling from Edinburgh to see the castle there if you want.

4) Then rent your car heading out of Edinburgh and head up north to Aberdeenshire. Stay somewhere small and charming,maybe Banchory or for a little bigger town, Stonehaven. Spend a couple of nights and visit the old craggy and dramatic ruins of Dunnottar Castle at Stonehaven, and go into visit the refined, dressed up castle of Craigievar (this is easily done in the same day, with a visit to the Falls of Feugh at Banchory as well). If it's the right time of year, go to the Fowlsheugh Nature Preserve near Stonehaven to see the puffins!!

5) After Aberdeenshire, you want to go West. This can be a little long and may the time for a one-night stop. for example, drive to Inverness and stay the night, then drive down from Inverness the next day to Kyleakin and on to Skye, where you spend a few nights to enjoy what Skye has to offer.

6) Leaving Skye, take the ferry from Armadale to Mallaig. Then stop at Morar to see the beautiful silver sands beaches. Stop in Glenfinnan for a couple of nights and stay at the wonderful Glenfinnan House hotel. Ride the Jacobite train and walk from the hotel to SEE the Jacobite train when it crosses the mighty viaduct -- one of the first concrete structures of its size. It's really gorgeous to see the old steam train crossing the valley on the tall viaduct. And fun to be on it as well!! Take a boat trip from Loch Shiel Cruises, which leaves from in front of Glenfinnan House. Enjoy the food and atmosphere.

7) Leaving Glenfinnan, drive back via Fort William and Glencoe to Glasgow. Drop the car (perhaps at the airport - there's the Glasgow Express Bus 500 that will take you into town**). Stay a night or two, whatever your schedule allows, and fly back out of Glasgow to go back to Montreal. I can recommend Grasshoppers Hotel, right over Central station, which was recommended to my by Lola, a fellow Travel Forum member.

Some of the things I've mentioned:


Glasgow airport bus - family rates, and RT tix are cheaper than two one-way tickets.

**Edit to add: oops, as a family, you will probably have a taxi just as cheaply and more conveniently than having to take the airport bus. I'll leave the link in for solo travelers such as myself for whom it is more economical!

Posted by
8340 posts

Here are some ideas:
Don’t miss the Hadrian’s Wall area on your way north. It really brings Roman history to life. The family can walk a short section of the wall, visit major sites and museums.
The Himalayas putting course at St Andrews is great for families and super cheap.
The Falkirk Wheel (near Stirling) would also be of high interest to families. They have an interactive playground that combines play with some pretty fun engineering concepts.
Royal Mile in Edinburgh will not interest most children. It did not interest this adult....
Oban is a fun stop. Don’t be fooled by glossy brochures describing “Scotland’s Premeir Aquarium”. The aquarium is a total waste of time and money. I was impressed with their publicist however....
I will say that Premeir Inns are usually a very good value for lodging as mentioned above.

Posted by
2394 posts

My kids were 11 and 9 when we went. It was my first time driving on the left. No problem. The car was an automatic. Have the non driver act as navigator and reminder to stay in the correct side of the road.

Getting list driving in the Cotswolds was a highlight.

Check out a visit to Threave Castle, my favorite

Posted by
4299 posts

I think you will be glad you chose the UK trip. There are so many enjoyable things for children there. Since you're bringing kids, you might want to forget Bath and the Cotswolds and go to Cardiff (easy train ride from London, go late in afternoon so you get another day in London at cheaper Cardiff hotel price) so you can go to the St. Fagan's outdoor history museum and to York (in between London and Edinburgh, lots of things to interest children including a wall to walk, locals give great free walking tour) I think it would be much more interesting to your children and there's plenty of opportunity for them to run around and explore houses, see sheep (but no playground). They would probably enjoy the Museum of London(with you translating) and there is a great Natural History Museum in London as well. Of course the Tower of London.

Posted by
9549 posts

Hmmmm, now I see that the more recent thread in the General Europe is asking about a choice between UK, France, or northern France/northern Spain.

Posted by
8340 posts

How odd to ask people to help plan three different trips for you at the same time and then only plan to take one........

Posted by
357 posts

Once again many thanks for all the help, it really gave us more to think and read about. Yes I,ve ask for 2 others destinations. We are in our first step of planing and we are thorn between many destinations, I dont see any problem with that. Of cours we wont make all three trip this year but the info we get could be usefull for the years to come. If we were not serouin avbout a Uk trip we wouldn't have ask about it.

We appreciate all the answers people here are giving us and help bit time to make choice easier. Thanks a lot !