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Rental Car - Scotland/England

My daughter and I are getting excited about our February trip to Scotland / England. From my research I think we are ok with bus/train for England (last half of Feb) and the larger centres of Scotland. However, we do want to explore the Cairngorm area, and it looks like a rental car there might be the best bet for a couple of days. Yes or no on this? Or do you think still relying on bus/train will be ok? If we do rent a car in Scotland - suggestions? thanks! Christine
Nanaimo, BC, Cda.

Posted by
9110 posts

What's a couple of days? If you stick with rail only for the Cairngorms, you're stuck with dumb, dull Aviemore which is in the least scenic part of the park. If you stay on the north side, it doesn't even get good until you're almost into Perthshire. The rugged part is on the higher elevations, essentially on the roads that run from Pitlochry though Braemar and Ballater thence either east to Aboyne or north to Grantown on Spey. You can go in one side and out the other in a day with a lunch stop and a couple of short walks. Toss in scooping out a couple of stone circles and you can use up two days. Go nuts on circles and you can burn up a lifetime. Glasgow and Edinburgh are about equidistant from the park and the best choice and cheapest places to get cars. In fact, I've never even noticed rental places in the smaller towns in the area. The problem being that both are about a half day from the edgess of the park. I'd get the car in one and drop it in the other just to catch the places along the way. If it's going to be a loop, working out of Edinburg is much easier.

Posted by
970 posts

Yes, get a car to see the Cairngorms. You can look online for rental shops. You'll see many familiar names. Picking up a rental in a town smaller than Edinburgh or Glasgow will save you the hassle of driving in a large city, something not to be discounted if it's your first exposure to UK driving. If you plan to use a credit card to cover the insurance requirement, the rental company may well require you to present written confirmation of that coverage when you sign for the car. Contact them to make sure even if they don't mention it on their site or on the phone. I get the necessary paperwork sent to me from my credit card company and arrive with it in hand. The cheapest advertised rates will be for the smallest cars with standard transmissions. The thing to watch for on these cars is luggage space. If you're hauling around more than, say, a carryon apiece, double check things. Since it will be February, keep an eye on the weather. If you want an automatic transmission, you will need to specify/request one.

Posted by
5563 posts

Yes, do get a car. You'll be fine. Do realize that there is the potential for bad weather, but it melts fast there! In the Cairngorms, watch to see which roads are open. There's a great site for checking out road-- Traffic Cameras!

Posted by
9110 posts

My experience differs vastly from jc's: I don't care what kind of transmission I have, but I often see people weeping in line ahead of me who'd 'reserved' an automatic but one wasn't available. I rent maybe a dozen cars internationally in the course of a year and have been doing it for decades. I've never been asked for cc insurance verification and have no idea what such a thing would look like. Initial the boxes, sign the bottom, and you're out of there. There are plenty of perfectly fine rental outfits that you've probably never heard of: Sixt, Europcar, etc. I doubt there are any places except Edinburgh and Glasgow where you could find a major agency in the area except Inverness or Aberdeen and they're a bit out of the way. Both Glasgow International and Turnhouse are remote from their city centers and provide easy initial driving. I took Edinburgh Waverly into consideration vs the Glasgow station when I gave Edinburgh the edge earlier. As an inconsequential point of reference, I'm slurping coffee within spitting distance of the park, cut through the north side yesterday, and will probably be heading back in shortly if I can figure out what the rain is doing. This isn't exactly my first time in the area. When this trip is done, it'll make eight weeks in four trips into the highland this year alone. Being of feeble mind, previous years tend to get fuzzy.

Posted by
9110 posts

Regarding luggage. Unless you're a clothes horse, you won't have a problem with luggage. I'm using a Fiat Panda right now. It's got a carry-on, a camera pack that's almost as big, some loose jackets, a grocery sack, a a bunch of sodas in it. I bet I could fit in at least half that much again and still close the hider shelf. Last trip it was the same junk in a Fiat 500, and it seems there was only a bit less space. These are the smallest, cheapest cars I can get get and fit into the twenty buck a day category. They're the same thing we use when I'm traveling with my adult leader and we've never have a problem. It doesn't even matter what you think ahead of time. All you're reserving is a class, not a make or model. You live with the keys they toss at you. A Seat will probably have less room, something else maybe more. Measured volume doesn't matter either since it's configuration that makes the difference. Weather's what you make of it. I've had a half day of bright sunshine so far. There've been a few periods where the wipers had to be kicked above intermittent, and a few times I had to reach for the rain jacket, but Scotland's mostly drizzle that runs off of even a fleece. My only concession is boots, but I spend my days out in the weeds - - others might have a different idea.

Posted by
5563 posts

The major car rental companies are in Inverness--at the airport an downtown. Local companies are available in other areas. For example, we rented locally when we went to Orkney. We then took a ferry and bus to Inverness and picked up another car. I usually pay the extra for insurance. I find that I don't have problems driving in the UK except that the roads are wee and you will likely damage the wheels by rubbing against curbs and possible do some paint damage by brushing against hedges. This happens in one's eagerness to STAY LEFT. :) Pam