Things to do in England and Scotland
March 2, 2017 2:06 PM   Subscribe

I'm travelling to England and Scotland for 4 weeks in late April/May. Just looking for ideas about things I could see and do outside London. Hiring a car is out unfortunately as I don't drive at home so needs to be public transport accessible. I'm interested in tourist attractions history literature culture good food and drink and maybe shopping.
posted by EatMyHat to Travel & Transportation around Manchester, England (14 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
I haven't done much traveling in England outside of London, but I definitely recommend a trip to Edinburgh and Glasgow. There's a direct train that takes about 5 hours and you don't need a car in Edinburgh or Glasgow, and you can also travel between them on the train.
posted by Automocar at 2:11 PM on March 2, 2017 [3 favorites]

There are lots of previouslies on this. Take the train. Get a BritRail pass, because it'll be a better deal and less hassle than trying to reserve cheap fares when you're in the UK. Think about having a different "home base" location each week and planning trips from there.
posted by holgate at 2:12 PM on March 2, 2017 [1 favorite]

When I lived in the UK my favourite place to go for visits was York, which is glorious.
posted by DarlingBri at 2:13 PM on March 2, 2017 [3 favorites]

And York is a very good base for exploring the north of England, either by train or (for more rural areas) bus.
posted by holgate at 2:15 PM on March 2, 2017

When I was in Scotland I did a 3 day tour of the highlands (mine was with Wild in Scotland, but it was over a decade ago and I don't know if they're even still a thing). I'm not normally a group tour person, and some elements of being around people and sleeping in a dorm etc. bugged me, but I loved the highlands and hearing the stories.

If you want to go to Stonehenge, I believe you can get a train to Salisbury and a local bus from there, but when I looked into it there was no left luggage in Salisbury so I couldn't make it work. We ended up taking a half day tour from Bath (Bath is also recommended!).
posted by Cheese Monster at 2:36 PM on March 2, 2017

The train is great, even for getting to tiny cities that tourists don't go to.

I was coming in to recommend York, which is super touristy, but people visit for a reason - York Minster is amazing.

I also had a great visit to Bath, but did stay with people who had a car, so can't speak to how easy it is to navigate there without one. I can also recommend Manchester with the same caveat.

I'd definitely check out Brighton, which I've always wanted to visit but have never managed to get there.

You could also take the train to Paris for a few days.
posted by snaw at 2:43 PM on March 2, 2017

I also had a great visit to Bath, but did stay with people who had a car, so can't speak to how easy it is to navigate there without one. I can also recommend Manchester with the same caveat.
As an adopted Manc I can say that the important and interesting bits of the city are easy to get to without a car. The bus and tram networks here cover pretty much everything, and the city isn't huge — you can walk across the city centre in under an hour with no trouble.
posted by gmb at 2:47 PM on March 2, 2017

Oxford's great for museums, and the history associated with all the old university buildings.
posted by yesbut at 4:30 PM on March 2, 2017 [1 favorite]

York is great, but go on a weekday. On weekends these days it's wall-to-wall bachelor/bachelorette parties [in British: stag and hen parties].

Places to go from York:
Knaresborough, home to Mother Shipton's Cave and Britain's only petrifying well

, a cute market town near to

The North Yorkshire Moors, a national park with many footpaths

The Hole of Horcum, an unusual valley in the moorlands

Whitby, a lovely seaside town with many tea shops. Jet is often found on the beach; jet carving is a local industry. There's a ruined abbey on the hill where St Hilda was abbess. There's also a museum dedicated to Captain Cook, who was born there. The town is beloved by elegant goths, since Bram Stoker's Dracula is partly set there.

The bus services from York are pretty good; the York-to-Whitby ride on the 840 is exceptionally scenic, and goes through all the places on this list except Knaresborough.

Have fun!
posted by Pallas Athena at 6:04 PM on March 2, 2017 [2 favorites]

I stayed at a place in Windemere and was able to get easily to other Lake District towns by train or bus.
posted by brujita at 6:14 PM on March 2, 2017 [1 favorite]

Consider basing yourself in a few to several locations and making day trips out from each, rather than being on the road every day for 30 days.

Pretty much all of southern England is accessible by rail on day trips from London. York, Cambridge, Oxford, as well. London, of course, is very, very expensive. Staying outside London might save some money. E.g., Reading -- not known as a scenic tourist destination -- is about 30-minute rail ride to the west of London. Windsor is a bit closer in, as is Henley-on-Thame. You'd have to allow for the time to get into London in order to catch the train out to your day trip target.

The Transport for London site is the place to go for info/help getting around London by train, Tube, bus, etc.

Cardiff and other locations in south Wales are on mainline east-west rail routes. Once there, look at the destinations served by the Welsh rail system.

Trains in the Scottish Highlands are popular, for good reason.

Rail stations are often, but not always, located in the center of town. Besides walking, taxis and local buses are typically available. Some stations in small places are not staffed.

Locations not served by rail may be served by bus. National Express is the dominant UK bus line.

The pricing schemes for tickets on UK rail lines are labyrinthine. Tickets bought at the station on the day of travel are very often (usually?) *much more expensive* than tickets purchased online in advance. Different price categories have different conditions and exclusions. E.g., the very cheapest tickets are good on a single specific train at a specific time. Others may not be used during rush hour "Peak Times".

One impact of this is that planning ahead can save a lot of money compared to the spontaneity of just deciding "where should I go today?"

Check out the National Rail site for details and to book tickets.

Suggestions for destinations are always colored by personal preference. I'm partial to towns and cities that encourage hours of walkabout. Others like quaint villages (Cotswolds). Others like hiking over hill and dale (Lake District, Yorkshire Moors).

April/May is not the height of the tourist season. Do check UK "bank holidays" when many folks head out of town on long weekends.

(And, of course, pack as little as possible. Plan to do laundry during your expedition.)
posted by justcorbly at 6:07 AM on March 3, 2017

Just came in to say that everything is public transport accessible. This may be a bit off topic, but you can always take the train to Paris for a day as a vacation respite :-) The commute is like an hour or something by train. London is vast. It's good to look into what's going on at the moment in terms of plays and other arts. Personally, I would catch one of those Shakespeare in the round shows in the original dialect, which is apparently easy to catch on to. Also, get tickets for the Eye now if you can. It's worth it for the view.
posted by xammerboy at 6:58 AM on March 3, 2017

Whoops, I missed that you are only interested in stuff outside London. Sorry.
posted by xammerboy at 7:00 AM on March 3, 2017

Pretty much all of southern England is accessible by rail on day trips from London.

The bits that aren't -- particularly the SW -- are ones where you'd be better off with a local base. Bristol's a decent choice that opens up the west of England, but Exeter would be better if you're thinking of doing any travel out to the furthest parts of Cornwall and places like St Ives. There are more railway stations than you might expect (though mostly local chugga-trains) and bus services into remoter bits.
posted by holgate at 10:29 AM on March 3, 2017

« Older Cutting edge ideas for PR   |   What is this intergalactic communication story? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.