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Extension of Rick Steves Scotland Tour

My husband and I and another friend are taking Rick's Scotland Tour and would like to stretch it out to at least 15 days. I looked at flying to London and day tripping to the Cotswolds but the tours sound a bit like a cast of thousands (we are not considering driving - did that 20 years ago). We have been to London a couple of times already, so are not looking to repeat that.
Scotland seems a little remote to take a train anywhere other than Glasgow and maybe a ferry to Belfast. But people have told me that one really needs a car in Northern Ireland - don't know if there is enough in Belfast to warrant the excursion. Maybe just more time in Edinburgh and Glasgow. Just fishing for suggestions from people who may have solved this already. Any suggestions are appreciated. Thanks in advance.

Posted by
965 posts

If you like the idea of tours, but not huge groups, have a look at Rabbie's:
https://www.rabbies.com/en
I was happy with the one I did, and others here have had good experiences with them, too. They use 18 person small coaches.

Posted by
3201 posts

Whoever told you you needed a car in Northern Ireland simply didn’t know what they were talking about. I traveled to the Antrim Coast from Belfast with ease. Take the train to Coleraine. Walk to the other side of the station and hop on the waiting bus which will take you to places all along the coast.

People who never do anything but drive always assume that public transport is difficult.........

Posted by
11250 posts

Looking at the Scotland tour, it's ten days, starting and ending in Edinburgh. So, you're looking to add five days or so.

Are you looking for something similar to what you've seen on the tour, or something very different? If the latter, you can fly from Edinburgh to lots of places; here's a list of their nonstop destinations: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edinburgh_Airport#Passenger. Particularly if either Northern Ireland or the Republic of Ireland interests you, there will be flights to lots of airports there; you're not restricted to just Belfast, if you want to focus on another part of the island.

Are you looking for cities, rural areas, castles, gardens, etc? I see your tour only has one full day in Edinburgh; there are several more days of sights there. I spent 4 nights in Glasgow and didn't run out of things to do. Of course, these are urban destinations; if you're not looking for a city, you'll want something else.

In addition to Glasgow, some cities that aren't too far from Edinburgh by train, and that are very different from both London and Edinburgh, include York, Manchester, Liverpool, and/or Chester.

I'm a city person myself, and I haven't been to Ireland or Northern Ireland, so I can't help there. If you want to learn exactly how I spent time in Glasgow, Manchester, Liverpool, and Chester (I had a GREAT time in these places!), here's my trip report: https://community.ricksteves.com/travel-forum/trip-reports/uk-trip-report-glasgow-manchester-liverpool-in-september-2016

Posted by
5 posts

Thanks Harold - Your trip sounded fantastic and I really appreciate all of the useful information. I am thinking that we probably will just spend a couple more days in Edinburgh and a few days in Glasgow. One thing that you recommended was the Tenement Museum. I visited the one in NYC a few years ago (I am from the San Francisco area) and really enjoyed it but was disappointed because, unless you wanted to spend the entire day and quite a bit of money, you only got to see one little section of it. Are you familiar with the NYC museum?
Another question, although we probably won't do this, how long was the train trip from Glasgow to Manchester?
Also, interesting about the bedbugs. Do you just take everything to a commercial laundromat and stick it in the dryer before it comes in the house?

Posted by
5 posts

Also, thanks Carol and Liz - I will keep both of those suggestions on the burner.

Posted by
11250 posts

Thanks Harold - Your trip sounded fantastic and I really appreciate all of the useful information.

You're welcome! It really was a great trip, so I'm always trying to "convert" others to the joys of the cities in the UK outside of London and Edinburgh (not that those aren't great too, of course).

One thing that you recommended was the Tenement Museum. I visited the one in NYC a few years ago (I am from the San Francisco area) and really enjoyed it but was disappointed because, unless you wanted to spend the entire day and quite a bit of money, you only got to see one little section of it. Are you familiar with the NYC museum?

I've never been to the New York Tenement Museum, but am familiar with how it works. It's a whole building, and you see different rooms by guided tours, involving re-enactors who take you through the history of a particular family. Each family's story is a separate paid tour. In Glasgow, it's one "apartment" and you pay one admission. There's no tour, but there are docents all around who know a ton of information about the woman who lived there, and you can ask them questions (in addition to the printed information all around).

So, the two are completely different, and the one in Glasgow is much cheaper (and Glaswegians wouldn't have it any other way!). In fact, at £6.50, it stood out as the most expensive single admission I paid in Glasgow - quite a contrast with most cities, where that would be a very cheap admission. It was still worth every penny. But, for the full experience, you do have to see the People's Palace, with its recreation of one and two room tenement apartments, to appreciate just how fancy this four room apartment is. I understand that the People's Palace may be closed; if it's not, do make sure to go.

Another question, although we probably won't do this, how long was the train trip from Glasgow to Manchester?

From my trip records:

Depart Glasgow Central 9:06
Arrive Manchester Piccadilly 12:27

So, under 3.5 hours. To find schedules and book any UK trains, use http://www.nationalrail.co.uk/

Also, interesting about the bedbugs. Do you just take everything to a commercial laundromat and stick it in the dryer before it comes in the house?

I live in an apartment building with a laundry room, so I used those dryers. But yes, I double-bagged everything before packing it in Europe to come home. On arrival, I then took in the bagged stuff and threw away the suitcases (so they never entered my building). The clothes then went right into the dryers from the bags.

I had read about how to do all this online, and so far (over two years later), it seems to have worked - thank goodness!