Hello! We plan to start our trip with four to six weeks in the UK including Ireland. What do you all think of the Brit rail passes? Has anyone stayed in a college dorm in London? What are some must see places? Also, I am a big fan of the Outlander series and would like to see a good part of Scotland. All help and ideas are appreciated.
You might want to break your post into smaller, more specific bites. I'll just comment on Brit Rail passes. You can probably ride for less buying advance tickets but then you are fixed on specific times/dates. A pass would let you pretty much walk on any train you want. The passes are good for so many travel days which means you need to accurately count the times you intend to use the pass. The more days you buy the cheaper the cost is per train day. Some train tickets will cost less if you buy them on the day of travel than if you pay to add an extra day to your pass. Like any pass, I suggest you do the math based on a solid itinerary. You didn't say how many are in your party or if you were going to rely entirely on public transportation. If you rent a car, I think you will find that it would be cheaper and quicker than a train for most shorter trips. Ireland by train and bus is very limiting (IMHO) and would consume a lot of time getting to many scenic locations. Get the RS Great Britain and Ireland guide books and read them carefully. They will probably give you better insight than whatever short comments you get here.
Definitely do a lot of research. I checked out a big stack of travel books from the library, and found some excellent places I would never have known about otherwise. Also, check out other places on the web other than here. For example, I found Undiscovered Scotland to be the BEST website for suggestions of where to go in that country. For places to stay, Trip Advisor gave me all of the B&Bs/guesthouses we stayed in (I searched for the top accommodations in the places we were staying at in terms of the number and ranking of the reviews). My favorite places in England and Scotland: 1. Rievaulx Abbey, about 60-90 minutes north of York. An amazing ruined abbey with very well-preserved walls, all situated in a quiet, peaceful valley with more sheep than tourists. 2. Glen Coe. We only drove through here but I'd love to go back and walk around. (Walk Highlands is an excellent website for walking/hiking suggestions). 3. Orkney. Spent 4 days here, and could have added at least 2 more. Seeing a village that predates the pyramids just blew my mind! Also, the shopping was terrific, the weather was wonderful, and we stayed at a terrific B&B (it was a converted mill from the early 1800s!).
If anyone in your party is at least 21 you might be able to rent a car...it is well worth it for the freedom it provides. Scotland train transportation is limited. Maybe take the train in England and take train/ferry combo to/from Ireland...then rent car in Ireland. B & Bs are not as expensive as they are in US...most are just extra room in someone's home...they can be really nice and cosy. Just check with local Tourist Information Office before 4 or 5 when you arrive in village or town...unless it is major holiday or festival or very popular tourist area...you should have no trouble getting a decent place to stay...they may also have hostel listings.
Wow these suggestions are all great! We are just two of us and we are kind of anxious about driving on the opposite side of the road.
Driving on the "wrong side" of the road is not that hard. Suggest you get an automatic though, it might be more expensive but less stressful. Double check minimum age for car rental, I could be wrong but some places you have to twenty five but maybe that changed. In Ireland be sure to get extra coverage of insurance. Most B&B's in Ireland are specific run places, not an extra room in someone's house. Look for the shamrock outside the place and I think that means they are approved by the Tourist bureau. Depending on the time of year you go, you should not have any problem finding a place. We always go off season not during major holidays and never had a problem. Suggest you fly into UK, then Scotland by rail, cheap flight to Ireland and home from there or just the opposite so not back tracking. Enjoy.
If you're a fan of the Outlander series you need to head to Inverness. Certainly, you need to go to Culloden Field and see the battlefield that influenced so much of the rest of the book. You can also go to Clava Cairns where you'll see a stone circle with a split stone. ; ) You can also easily take day trips from Inverness, or if you have a car, stay in one of the smaller towns near by. As far as Scotland goes, you should spend a couple of days in Edinburgh. It's the Capital and it has a lot of history. I would strongly recommend visiting Stirling even if all you see is the Castle, which is wonderful. If you have time, also check out Argylle's Lodging. It's only two years away from the 700th anniversary of Bannockburn, the decisive battle of the Wars for Scottish Independence. I'm convinced that Alex Salmond plans on holding the referendum of Scottish Independence on that anniversary. ; ) I love the north as well. Skye, Ullapool, Torridon, Harris, Mull are wonderful. Check them out on Undiscovered Scotland. The best website on Scotland. I also love the Orkney Islands. There is wonderful history from the Neolithich to WWII. And wonderful northern light. One of my favorite places in Scotland is Perthshire. If you find that you can't get north, go to Dunkeld, Aberfeldy or Pitlochry and enjoy the beautiful Perthshire countryside. Pam
Last summer I spent a week in a dorm at the London School of Economics - I would highly recommend it if your travel dates match up to when the dorms are available. I stayed at Holborn; breakfast was included, there was internet you could pay for, and rooms were arranged in groups of six with a full kitchen so you can cook. The price was great for what you got. The only downside was the mattress was about 100 years old - or so it seemed! But if you go expecting a dorm room, you won't be disappointed.