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Stick with driving route only? Or attempt train/drive combo?

Indiana
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Stick with driving route only? Or attempt train/drive combo?

In the early planning stages of a 21-day trip to the UK. Wanting to see as much as we can see, hopefully mixing a few slow days among the packed ones. We rarely return to the same place to travel, as we like exploring new countries. Which means we have to make hard decisions about what to cut ... already off the list include Oxford, Canterbury, Jersey/Guernsey, Liverpool, Glasgow, Stratford, Warwick ... just to name a few! The one must-see that is really killing us is Orkney. We really really want to see Orkney, but realize we would save two days if we skipped it.

THE QUESTION IS ... We're planning to rent a car. Do we just stick to one car rental and accept that fact that will mean a few days spent mostly in the car traveling on to the next location, or do we try to do a combination of train/car? Just attempting to balance motorway congestion with time spent in car rental agencies and train stations.

Here's the rough, rough itinerary as it now stands. I referred to the Rick Steve's 21-day trip as a starting point, but that's my no means our travel bible. Sleeping locale for the night in parentheses, absolute must-sees are starred, and first-to-drops are ?.

Day 1 -- arrive in London, train to Bath* (Bath)

Day 2 -- Bath* (Bath)

Day 3 -- Rent car: Salisbury*, Stonehenge?, Avebury, Lacock, Castle Combe (Bath)

Day 4 -- Wells*, Glastonbury*, Cheddar?, Tintern* (Lydney*)

Day 5 -- Cardiff?, Tredegar House?, Caerphilly Castle, Llanthony Priory* (Llanthony)

Day 6 -- Cotswolds* (possibilities: Bibury, Broadway, Snowshill, Stow-on-the-Wold?, Chipping Campden) (Chipping Campden)

Day 7 -- Coventry*, Holmes Chapel*, Lake District* (Keswick)

Day 8 -- Lake District* (Keswick)

Day 9 -- Drive from Keswick past Glasgow (so sad!) to Kilchurn Castle, Glencoe/Ft William and on to Inverness (Inverness)

Day 10 -- Culloden*, Clava Cairns*, on to Orkney* (Orkney)

Day 11 -- Orkney* (Orkney)

Day 12 -- Drive from Orkney* to Edinburgh* (Edinburgh)

Day 13 -- Edinburgh* (Edinburgh)

Day 14 -- Drive from Edinburgh to Alnwick?, Melrose, Hadrian's Wall, Durham (Durham)

Day 15 -- Durham Evensong* (Durham)

Day 16 -- Thirsk*, York, drop off rental car (York)

Day 17 -- York (York)

Day 18 -- Train to London (London)

Day 19 -- London (London)

Day 20 -- London (London)

Day 21 -- fly home

TA is always so helpful. Appreciate it!

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11. Re: Stick with driving route only? Or attempt train/drive combo?

Actually, if you are travelling from south Wales to Scotland, consider departing from Bristol. There are many more services. As long as you are dropping a car off, Cardiff airport is OK, but getting there by public transport is an awful pain.

Others have already pointed out that some of your driving plans are over-ambitious, but to point out one very specific element. You want to visit Llanthony Priory, and the last thing I would do is to discourage you from that. It's a magical spot. But. It's accessed via a narrow, winding, country road (which only gets narrower as you go further along it) with visibility of only a few yards in many places. Every time I drive along it, it seems even longer than the previous time. It's probably only five miles from Abergavenny, but it takes 20 minutes to get there. If you go that far, it's worth going on up the valley to Capel-y-ffin and on over the pass to Hay.

Just one illustration of how much longer movement can take in the UK once you get off the high-speed network.

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12. Re: Stick with driving route only? Or attempt train/drive combo?

I would skip Coventry (and I speak as someone who comes from there originally). I presume it's the cathedral(s) you want to see but nowadays, thanks to the inner ring road and constant redevelopments of the centre, it's an unattractive city in my opinion.

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13. Re: Stick with driving route only? Or attempt train/drive combo?

Another thought - I would never have hear of Rick Steves were it not for his inaccurate and disparaging remarks about southern Scotland. Most of us suspect he has never been there. That may be why you were planning to go all the way from the Lakes to Inverness in a day.

I assure you that there is plenty in southern Scotland to occupy you very profitably for days! For instance, you could travel west of the M72 to see something of Dumfries, Leadhills, the Galloway Hills, Culzean, Ayr, Great Cumbrae, Largs .. or to the east through wild and unspoiled upland countryside - Hawick, Moffat, the abbey towns of the Tweed valley - to bypass Edinburgh.

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Bucks, UK
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14. Re: Stick with driving route only? Or attempt train/drive combo?

Aim to visit one or two places in one day, not 5, and make sure those places are close together.

So, Day 4 - leave Bath, visit mabe Berkeley Castle and/or Chepstow castle, Tintern Abbey, drive up Wye valley, maybe tour Forest of Dean if time, overnight in or near Monmouth (bit more civilised than Lydney)

Day 5 - visit cardiff, incl cardiff castle and St.fagans museum of welsh life - overnight in Cardiff

That sort of itinerary is doable.

Like others have suggested - consider flights to save time, and consider whether any of your destinations are a bit "same-y", for example, the Lake District is lovely, but quite similar to the Scottish Highlands (although on a smaller scale) so it may be a waste of precious time to do both.

BTW, Oxford is a great base for visiting the Cotswolds, so it's odd that you're leaving it out.

If I were you, I'd do something like this:

Day1 - arrive at LHR, coach to Oxford, stay overnight in Oxford

Day 2 - pick up hire car in Oxford, visit Woodstock, Blenheim Palace if time, drive to Bath via Burford (pretty Costwold village with important Civil War connections) and Avebury (More impressive than Stonehenge IMHO).

Day 3 - visit Bath

Day 4 - drive to Chepstow Castle and Tintern, drive up Wye Valley to Monmouth, drive to Cardiff, overnight Cardiff (you can always stop in Big Pit on the way if you're feeling short of things to do)

Day 5 - visit Cardiff castle and St.Fagans Museum of Welsh life, drive to Bristol, overnight in Bristol

Day 6 - fly to Inverness from Bristol Airport, visit locally or fly on to Kirkwall (Orkney)

Other days - up to you, but you now have 2 more days to play with and could maybe drive down from Inverness through the Highlands to Edinburgh, then drive to Hadrians Wall country, drop your car in Newcastle and take the train to York.

I don't know what the attraction is about evensong in Durham Cathedral but you would have the same experience in York Minster, or Magdalen College or Christchurch colleges Oxford, which are known for their beautiful chapels and first-rate boys choirs.

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Indiana
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15. Re: Stick with driving route only? Or attempt train/drive combo?

Thank you, PoolLounger, this is very helpful. We are looking at ways to rework things ... and your suggestions offer a lot of ideas on how to rearrange things. We have family to visit in Lydney, hence the overnight there. And I have my heart set on staying one night at the Llanthony Priory ... so I'll take another look and see how I can incorporate some of your routes. Appreciate it!

Bucks, UK
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16. Re: Stick with driving route only? Or attempt train/drive combo?

No problem, my slightly disparaging reference to Lydney was more to the quality of hotels on offer in the town, rather than the place itself. If you're staying with family, you're bound to have a great time, and the countryside around Lydney (Forest of Dean) is very pretty. Llanthony Priory is easily accessible so I'm sure you'll have no trouble re-jigging your itinerary to accomodate it.

For instance, if Day 4 you are overnighting in Lydney, Day 5 you could:

drive through Forest to Symonds Yat Rock, or visit Clearwell Caves, maybe drop in to Monmouth (pretty market town - birthplace of Henry V) and/or drive to the top of the Kymin to visit the naval temple (ask your family in Lydney for their opinions on things to see in their locality) then drive over to the White castle at Llantilio Crossenny, or Raglan Castle at Raglan, or pop over to Blaenavon to visit Big Pit (excellent museum where you visit an old coal mine and do an underground tour with retired miners) and then end up in Llanthony Priory. The drive from Lydney to Llanthony only takes an hour and a quarter so this way you could pootle about quietly, taking small detours as you see fit, and do as much or as little of the above as you choose, without getting in a rush.

Day 6 - visit Cardiff if you feel like it, otherwise catch your flight from Bristol Airport and start enjoying Scotland.

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17. Re: Stick with driving route only? Or attempt train/drive combo?

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Indiana
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18. Re: Stick with driving route only? Or attempt train/drive combo?

Thanks for the feedback, Pat. Yes, Orkney is definitely on our MUST-SEE list. Obviously, we still have a lot of time to work out the details, but right now we are looking at 1 1/2 days in Orkney. Though we may do some additional jostling to get it up to 2 1/2. We're also wanting to take the train from Edinburgh to Inverness, then fly to Orkney from Inverness and fly from Orkney to Edinburgh. As for the hired driver, we'll probably skip that and explore on our own.

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orkney
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19. Re: Stick with driving route only? Or attempt train/drive combo?

Good news! but please be aware that public transport/exploring on your own may be limiting as you have such a short time in the Isles and many of the best places to visit are off the beaten track.

Enjoy yourselves whatever you do.

Indiana
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20. Re: Stick with driving route only? Or attempt train/drive combo?

Sorry if I wasn't clear ... we would definitely rent a car for Orkney. Off the beaten track is exactly where we want to be. Thanks again for the input!