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London to and through Scotland round trip with a car


My family and I are coming to the UK end of July. We arrive and depart from London and have 9 days in between. We aren't planning on spending any days in London, but rather just see it as our starting point.

We were hoping to rent a car and drive up north to Scotland, focusing most of our time there, but still spending a day or two in the English country side (my mom's obsessed with The Vicar of Dibley and really wants to see some proper picturesque English country side).

We were initially planning on renting a car in London and making our way to Edinburgh, but as I read more forums I see that people are advising against such a choice - do you think that would be a bad idea?

Any advice on what route to take/where to stop would be greatly appreciated as we are not at all familiar with the UK.

For Scotland we were planning on doing Edinburg and Glasgow apart from that we would really love any suggestion you could give. We aren't really the "spend all day in a museum" kind, but we love history, nature and culture.

P. S. I posted this in the England section and only then realized that England does not equal UK so I'm reposting here as Scotland is our priority - I apologise and hope that's alright.

Thank you!

Posted by
3893 posts

Not certain which reason was given for recommending against driving, but where you’re going to spend the majority of your time might help decide. Since the Vicar of Dibley was filmed in Turville, west northwest of London, (probably less than a hour drive) I vote for renting the vehicle at the airport in London. When reserving, ensure you state automatic unless you’re fine with shifting on the left. You’ll adjust to driving on the left fairly quickly. If that’s the only place in the countryside you want to see, you could return the car to the airport and take the train to Edinburgh. Nine days isn’t a lot of time and it’s 332 miles between London and Edinburgh, mostly interstate driving. If you do decide to drive, Keswick and lake Derwentwater was a nice place to spend a night. You can walk around the lake, or walk partway and take a water taxi back. You don’t need a car in Edinburgh or Glasgow, so if those are the only places in Scotland you’re visiting, then public transportation may better suit your needs. Renting a vehicle is good for when you’re driving the countryside and visiting small towns or places not regularly served by public transportation.

Posted by
4596 posts

The general advice is to avoid driving in London however if you're intending on driving straight from your arrival airport (presumably Heathrow or Gatwick) then you won't be driving in London if you have no intention of going there. There is also a general school of thought that it's not advisable to drive straight after a transatlantic flight especially if you're not used to driving on the other side of the road. However it is entirely a personal decision dependant on many factors. I always fly at least business class when flying long haul so invariably I'll have slept for a portion of the journey which would mean I would be more comfortable with a drive however I usually take full advantage of the free bar so it's either a taxi or an overnight stay nearby before driving the following day and no-body wants to be stuck in a car for 2 to 3 hours (when travelling to the US it's typically a long drive to where we're staying) after flying for 10-12 hours. The choice to drive or not is entirely down to the driver however if they're flying economy with little or no sleep and have little or no experience of driving in the UK then I would not recommend driving straight away.

Renting a car from Heathrow or Gatwick will mean that you'll have the greatest selection of cars including the rarer and more expensive automatic models.

Be mindful that fuel is very expensive in the UK so choose your vehicle wisely although European vehicles tend to be more fuel efficient than American ones.

As for places to stop at on your way to Edinburgh it is almost impossible to highlight any as there are so many to choose from. Nine days is no time at all and if you're focusing on Edinburgh, Glasgow and other parts of Scotland then those days are easily used up. Two of the most direct routes are the Eastern route which could encompass York as a good stop off point or the Westerly route that would allow easy access to the Lake District or the Yorkshire Dales. Either route has hundreds upon hundreds of villages that would satiate your mum's obsession with Vicar of Dibley-esque villages but it would mean having to come off the motorways to explore them.