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Scotland, Ireland, England

I am in the VERY beginning stages of planning a trip next spring to Scotland, Ireland & England. I was in London, 30 years ago for 2 days and that is the extent of my UK travel. I have up to 2 months to travel, March/April or April/May ?? I love to travel!! I am traveling on an exteme budget, I am a great traveler, a light packer, I am traveling solo, female and early 50's. I'm not into "the nightlife" side of life so to speak. I would like to mix it up between train, bus and rental car and desire to experience the most outlying areas as possible, hence the car. I would like to travel about England, but it is not my main focus, Scotland and Ireland are. Any ideas, itineraries out there? I love history, archeology, hiking, parks and local traditions. Thank you for any ideas or thoughts you may have.

Posted by
767 posts

Hi Jane! I am sure you will have a great trip as the UK has all of the things you are looking for. But you may get more help from the forum users if you give a skeleton outline of some itinerary. There are endless possibilities for 2 months in the UK so this may stop people from commenting. Rick gives sample itineraries in his guidebooks. That is a good starting point to see what interests you the most. Then everyone can tweak the itinerary.

The two things I will say regardless of your itinerary
1. Edinburgh is one of my favorite cities in the world and has everything on your checklist.
2. Car rentals and gas can quickly eat up an extreme budget (how extreme?) especially when you are covering 100% of the cost yourself. Even some of the most remote areas are accessible by public transportation. It might not be the most convenient way to get there but you have some leeway with time.

Posted by
5452 posts

If I were you, I would look into staying in some the self catering options that exist all over the UK. For the Scotland portion check out VisitScotland's section on accommodation to give you an idea of the ranges of places and cost. May is a lovely, although it can be chilly, time to visit Scotland. The prices will be better than later in the summer.

I think that you can see a lot by train, but if you want to explore the Hebrides or the northern Highlands of Scotland a car makes it immensely easier. You certainly don't need one for Edinburgh or Glasgow. One alternative to a car is to take day tours. You can get to some places easily by public transit. For example, it's easy to take the public bus to Culloden and see the Battlefield just outside of Inverness. But if you want to see Cawdor, or Clava Cairns, for the former, it's now a taxi and for the latter, budget time to walk to it and back from the Battlefield.

Posted by
68 posts

Oh boy! Happy to see this post as I was just trying to do some research on exactly those countries. We are looking at a 3 - 4 week itinerary. Probably in the early Fall, though August is a possibility. Last Fall we did Rick Steve's 3 week Kamakazi tour thru France. We added a week and tweaked the itinerary a little, but it was a good guide for our planning. Also love all the same things as Janesplace, except for the hiking part. We always rent a car for our trips and turn it in early, depending on what our last stop is. Any advice is appreciated. I have printed the recommended itineraries on this site, but know I'll have trouble piecing something together. So many beautiful places to visit, but wanna hit the highlights... Thanks in advance!

Posted by
9110 posts

A car isn't that rough to shoulder yourself. I made four Scotland trips of a couple of weeks each last year. The car was under twenty bucks a day. Gas was around eight dollars a gallon, but I'd get forty miles per. What can eat you alive is ferry costs to the western and northern islands.

Don't even think about taking a car from Great Britain over to either Northern Ireland or the RoI. Get another one and start over. That's going to get into your wallet since the credit card won't cover the insurance. Figure close to fifty per day, plus gas at about the same price as above.

I usually stay in small towns with rural hostels for under twenty-five dollars a night. You're a youngster, but old farts are welcome.

I don't see how you can poke into the odd corners without burning a lot of time if you limit yourself to public transportation. Beware of the increased cost of renting a car multiple times for short periods instead of getting it for a longer period. Think ahead, another pitfall is paying for a car and public transportation on the same day.

Eat in small-town and rural pubs. Talk to people.

Archaeology? Take a look at the Megalithic Portal.

Posted by
767 posts

Ed, what rental car company did you use? That is crazy! I clearly have been using the wrong company. We rented a car in Ireland for a week and it was 450, plus gas.

Posted by
9110 posts

The way I do it is use kayak and go with the cheapest.

I have a couple of caveats.

I won't go with a consolidator unless they are by far and beyond the cheapest. The problem is that I want the smallest and cheapest. Cheapest is self-explanatory. Smallest is because I'm mostly out in the far sticks and have to abandon it for hours along a narrow road or jammed up against the gate into a field turn-off - - the small one is all that will fit without blocking traffic . (I leave it unlocked with the keys in it in case the farmer needs to move it to get into the field. ) With a consolidator, you have to pay up front. If they don't have what you anticipated when you show up, they'll give you a stupid upgrade at the same price, but it's going to be larger and burn more gas. If this happens with a consolidator, you've already paid and have no leverage to walk over to the next counter and get them to match the deal.

I will not use Holiday Autos which sometimes shows up in the Kayak matrix since they're screwed up horribly twice in the UK and once in Egypt. They're stinking dead as far as I'm concerned.

I'm in a rental car somewhere in the world about six months out of a year. I don't give the process a lot of thought - - it's something taken care of in a couple of minutes while staring into space at the departure gate. (Travel notifications to credit card companies are done at the same time.) A couple of times I've forgotten and take care of it on the roll with the phone hidden beside my leg. Prices are always what they would have been if I'd reserved ahead of time for the same period.

As far as specific companies go, beats the hell out of me. I have to look at the key fob to see where to turn it in. I can almost picture Europcar and Dollar/Thrifty once each in Scotland. The other two, I've forgotten. There was a London trip in there somewhere last year - - that might have been Avis, but I was hauling a mob for a few days and that cost would have been high, but atypical.

Posted by
5452 posts

If you can drive stick, you'll save on the car. I find that like Ed, I really do get good milage as I get a little wee car to drive on the little wee roads that are Scotland. :) If it's just you, get the smallest car. So much of Scotland is rural. Edinburgh and Glasgow have their challenges, but I think that driving here in NYC would be much more challenging. :)

Pam