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Best Way to see British Isles for the 1st Time?

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On 11/14/2019 at 7:17 AM, John Bull said:

 

 

To avoid constant packing, schlepping, and unpacking your luggage choose a base for three or four days of day-tripping.

And buy a "two-together" railcard - the card costs £30 and knocks off about 33% of each rail fare (not during peak time on some routes). 

 

JB :classic_smile: 

 

We have done this, meaning travel out from a handful of select base locations, on other trips in other countries and have enjoyed the heck out of it.  And, we have learned to appreciate the extensive train networks in Europe.   Doing something like this in the UK is appealing.  Time to start doing some research.  Who knows, there may be e a future trip idea here.   

 

But, no rental cars for me.  I'm afraid I have to admit that if I had to react quickly I'm sure my habits would take over and I would be on the wrong side of things.  I think it much better for you and your fellow citizens if I stick to public transportation.  

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17 hours ago, John Bull said:

 

https://www.askthe.police.uk/content/Q367.htm

 

Legal in the UK, SRF. :classic_smile:

It's radar-jamming devices that are illegal.

But detectors are illegal in most of Europe.

 

JB :classic_smile:

 

Thanks.

 

Radar jamming devices tend to be illegal everywhere, as most countries limit RF use for transmitting.

 

Now LIGHT on the other hand is not typically regulated, making LASER type devices legal.  Not that I would know ANYTHING about them., 😄

 

Some info about UK and Europe and these devices - https://www.sixt.co.uk/magazine/travel/speed-camera-detector-laws/

 

Edited by SRF

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4 hours ago, ldubs said:

 

We have done this, meaning travel out from a handful of select base locations, on other trips in other countries and have enjoyed the heck out of it.  And, we have learned to appreciate the extensive train networks in Europe.   Doing something like this in the UK is appealing.  Time to start doing some research.  Who knows, there may be e a future trip idea here.   

 

But, no rental cars for me.  I'm afraid I have to admit that if I had to react quickly I'm sure my habits would take over and I would be on the wrong side of things.  I think it much better for you and your fellow citizens if I stick to public transportation.  

 

 

Right, no problem.

 

Use these network maps 

https://www.nationalrail.co.uk/stations_destinations/maps.aspx

Some are skeletal with significant stations for broad planning, some are more complex & show all stations for  more detailed planning.

 

Many years ago the trains were run by the government, nowadays they're privatised, and different franchisees (train operators) cover different parts of the country, which makes life a little complicated.

Simplest railway timetable to use is https://www.nationalrail.co.uk/

This covers the trains of all the operators on the rail network (including routes which cross different franchises), the fares shown are the same as on the individual franchisees' websites.

 

Fare pricing is also complicated - on many routes the fares are much higher at popular times of the day (for instance trains into London at commuter times) , and there are significant savings by travelling at "off-peak" times rather than "any time". Even greater savings by buying "advance" tickets - these are available from about 8 weeks out but you must travel on the train time that you selected - if you miss that train your tickets are trash.

 

Railcards, which cost £30 and are good for a year, knock a third off most (but not all) of the quoted fares. On that web-page click on "passengers and railcards" and you'll see a plethora of card types.

More detail of the ones which are likely to be of benefit at  https://www.nationalrail.co.uk/times_fares/46540.aspx

The "Two-together" card is likely to be the best one for you - even if you are seniors. The senior railcard is good for seniors travelling alone and has the same benefits as the two-together card - but you'll be travelling together so one two-together card (£30) is better value than two seniors cards (2 x £30)

 

To see as much scenery as possible without a car ................

This website (and others by googling "scenic rail journeys in Britain) suggests the more-scenic routes

https://www.scenicrailbritain.com/

I chose this website because it differentiates between the network routes and the "Heritage Trains".

 

Heritage trains, often pulled by steam engines, are good for day-trips but not for getting from A to B. They are run by local volunteer groups. There are many throughout the UK, some using disused network lines, others - like "the little trains of Wales" - are narrow-gauge lines built for industrial use eg carrying coal or slate from source to port. 

These are attractions, not part of the network. They don't appear on national timetables, Railcards are of no use on these routes and they tend to be expensive. But if your itinerary takes you near one, it will probably be a good day out.

 

Also check on coach or minibus (van) tours offered from big cities and tourist destinations. They'll take you to places impossible to visit by train.

 

Happy hunting

 

JB :classic_smile:

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15 hours ago, clo said:

Love that!

 

Did you ever read Bill Bryson's "Notes from a Small Island." So fun. Especially the gibberish that he attributed to the Glaswegians.  I remember whispering to Bob "is he speaking English?"

Have you been to Glasgow?  Wonderful people, but I only understood every fourth word or so. I had a 15 minute conversation with a really friendly guy in the Necropolis, and I barely understood anything he said. His dog was super friendly, and I was missing my dogs fiercely, so I had to stop and ruffle her ears.

 

Whatever they speak in Aberdeen is even harder to work out. 

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2 hours ago, Bizmark'sMom said:

Have you been to Glasgow?  Wonderful people, but I only understood every fourth word or so. I had a 15 minute conversation with a really friendly guy in the Necropolis, and I barely understood anything he said. His dog was super friendly, and I was missing my dogs fiercely, so I had to stop and ruffle her ears.

 

Whatever they speak in Aberdeen is even harder to work out. 

We were talking about this at breakfast and commented that as close as Glasgow and Edinburgh are to each other they speak SO differently.  Bob wondered if it's because of the university.

 

We went to the Necropolis and I still remember a family tomb stone where the mother and something like nine out of ten of her children has died very young.  Pre-antibiotics and vaccines?

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20 hours ago, clo said:

Love that!

 

Did you ever read Bill Bryson's "Notes from a Small Island." So fun. Especially the gibberish that he attributed to the Glaswegians.  I remember whispering to Bob "is he speaking English?"

Have you seen his 2nd "Notes From...."? It's called "The Road to Little Dribbling", and is as hilarious as his first one.

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1 hour ago, jocap said:

Have you seen his 2nd "Notes From...."? It's called "The Road to Little Dribbling", and is as hilarious as his first one.

I haven't.  I'll have to check it out. Thanks.

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Having read all of the Bryson books, it is always strange to find that what I have always taken for granted  ( eg the number of times you say Thank You when buying a bus ticket) is seen as unusual by a foreigner.

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3 hours ago, wowzz said:

Having read all of the Bryson books, it is always strange to find that what I have always taken for granted  ( eg the number of times you say Thank You when buying a bus ticket) is seen as unusual by a foreigner.

So how many times does one say thank you?  :)

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10 hours ago, clo said:

So how many times does one say thank you?  :)

 

Thank you for your question :classic_wink:

 

Whenever one asks a question one says "please".

Whenever anyone answers, or gives you something (even though you've just paid for it) one says "thank you".

 

If you stop to give way to a driver who doesn't have right-of-way (for instance you let them out of a side road), they wave a hand or flash their lights as a "thank you". If they don't, you are at liberty to gently rear-end them (I think :classic_wink:)

 

But it's not all hard work.

Nobody (even - when I was in business - my employees) calls me  "sir".

And nobody expresses an insincere wish that I "have a good day"

 

JB  :classic_biggrin:

Edited by John Bull

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11 hours ago, clo said:

So how many times does one say thank you?  🙂

Well, you say thank you when you get on the bus, you say thank you when you are pay your fare, you say thank you when you get you change, thank you when you are given your ticket, and thank you when you get off.

So 5 times at least.

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57 minutes ago, wowzz said:

Well, you say thank you when you get on the bus, you say thank you when you are pay your fare, you say thank you when you get you change, thank you when you are given your ticket, and thank you when you get off.

So 5 times at least.

Having grown up in the South, I have a streak of that in me 🙂  I'd say better to say it too often than not enough.

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One Scottish option is a visit to Shetland and Orkney; loads of history (5,000 year old houses etc.).  There are companies that prepare bespoke itineraries for you.  The one I used advertises "Tailor-made services and trips with a difference".  (I don't know if it classes as a travel agent or as a holiday company so I won't give the name.)  But they book all the tickets and hotels for you and the odd excursion thrown in.  There are trains to Thurso and Aberdeen, where the ferries go from, and quiet roads on the islands so driving a foreign car on the wrong side won't be much of an issue.

 

It will take about a week, though, if you want to see things.  How long have you got?

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On 11/17/2019 at 3:26 AM, John Bull said:

 

 

Right, no problem.

 

Use these network maps 

https://www.nationalrail.co.uk/stations_destinations/maps.aspx

Some are skeletal with significant stations for broad planning, some are more complex & show all stations for  more detailed planning.

 

Many years ago the trains were run by the government, nowadays they're privatised, and different franchisees (train operators) cover different parts of the country, which makes life a little complicated.

Simplest railway timetable to use is https://www.nationalrail.co.uk/

This covers the trains of all the operators on the rail network (including routes which cross different franchises), the fares shown are the same as on the individual franchisees' websites.

 

Fare pricing is also complicated - on many routes the fares are much higher at popular times of the day (for instance trains into London at commuter times) , and there are significant savings by travelling at "off-peak" times rather than "any time". Even greater savings by buying "advance" tickets - these are available from about 8 weeks out but you must travel on the train time that you selected - if you miss that train your tickets are trash.

 

Railcards, which cost £30 and are good for a year, knock a third off most (but not all) of the quoted fares. On that web-page click on "passengers and railcards" and you'll see a plethora of card types.

More detail of the ones which are likely to be of benefit at  https://www.nationalrail.co.uk/times_fares/46540.aspx

The "Two-together" card is likely to be the best one for you - even if you are seniors. The senior railcard is good for seniors travelling alone and has the same benefits as the two-together card - but you'll be travelling together so one two-together card (£30) is better value than two seniors cards (2 x £30)

 

To see as much scenery as possible without a car ................

This website (and others by googling "scenic rail journeys in Britain) suggests the more-scenic routes

https://www.scenicrailbritain.com/

I chose this website because it differentiates between the network routes and the "Heritage Trains".

 

Heritage trains, often pulled by steam engines, are good for day-trips but not for getting from A to B. They are run by local volunteer groups. There are many throughout the UK, some using disused network lines, others - like "the little trains of Wales" - are narrow-gauge lines built for industrial use eg carrying coal or slate from source to port. 

These are attractions, not part of the network. They don't appear on national timetables, Railcards are of no use on these routes and they tend to be expensive. But if your itinerary takes you near one, it will probably be a good day out.

 

Also check on coach or minibus (van) tours offered from big cities and tourist destinations. They'll take you to places impossible to visit by train.

 

Happy hunting

 

JB :classic_smile:

 

This is terrific info.  Thanks!!  

 

I once bumped into a group of train buffs from the UK riding our BART (commuter) train.  They said they were on holiday and riding just for the fun of it.  I now wonder if they were involved in the Heritage trains.    

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Despite the relevatively small island that we are, if you really want to see Britain then I suggest you do Ireland in one visit, Scotland in one visit etc.

 

You wont really see that much if you try all 4 countries in one visit. You will probably miss out on the very best bits.

 

very few of you not from the UK will have been told to visit the Lake District, or the Northumberland coast.

 

Yet there is so much to see in these two regions alone, and they are both stunning.

 

And make London look like the fume infested place it is.

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6 hours ago, DarrenM said:

Despite the relevatively small island that we are, if you really want to see Britain then I suggest you do Ireland in one visit, Scotland in one visit etc.

 

I totally agree with you and that's what we've done. And didn't make it to Northern Ireland even. And I agree with you about London. Don't really care if I return. It seemed there weren't that many English there 🙂 But I do love my Harrods green and gold, indestructible tote bag.  Carry the dog's paraphernalia in it on road trips 🙂

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London is great for sightseeing famous sights, but once you have seen them they quickly lose their appeal. Food and drink is ridiculously overpriced and its mentally overcrowded.

 

I was at a CharityQuiz event in London last Thursday night on the top floor of a solicitors. We had a really good view of st Pauls Cathedral but having seen it so many times, its like looking at someones house now.

 

Whereas you could never tire of the beauty of the Lake District nor the Northumberland coast.

 

 

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8 hours ago, DarrenM said:

London is great for sightseeing famous sights,

 

8 hours ago, DarrenM said:

London is great for sightseeing famous sights,

Not a "famous sights," but many years ago we toured the Queen's Gallery next to Buckingham Palace. It filled with all things in trust to the royal family.  Our guide told us that one night Prince Charles came over to look around and commented on a particular painting: "Oh, I wondered what happened to that.  It used to hang outside my bedroom." (Maybe paraphrasing but a cute story for us.)

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17 hours ago, DarrenM said:

 

very few of you not from the UK will have been told to visit the Lake District, or the Northumberland coast.

 

Yet there is so much to see in these two regions alone, and they are both stunning.

 

 

Thanks for posting.  

 

Are you talking about the national parks, or are there specific towns that would be visit highlights in those areas?   

 

BTW, my last name is a place name in Northumberland. I would like an excuse to go there.   

 

 

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8 hours ago, ldubs said:

 

Thanks for posting.  

 

Are you talking about the national parks, or are there specific towns that would be visit highlights in those areas?   

 

BTW, my last name is a place name in Northumberland. I would like an excuse to go there.   

 

 

 

There are centres in both areas, but both are really for the scenery.

And that's where train travel has its limitations.

 

In the Lake District you can the train to Windermere, one of the region's centres. Plenty of accommodation, pubs, restaurants etc here, plus a selection of cruises on Lake Windermere on modern or traditional tour boats. But to get up in the hills & the twisty passes you need a car or a van tour. There will be van tours from Windermere. And from centres like Amblemere and Keswick, but they can't be accessed by train.

There are several heritage railways in the area, but as per my earlier post they're for the experience rather than for travel, and not all easily accessible from the national rail network..

But it's worth considering the normal National Rail train service along the coast around the Lake District between Barrow-in-Furness and Carlisle, called the Cumbrian Coast Line 

https://www.communityrailcumbria.co.uk/lines/cumbrian-coast-line/?Travel_Information

Apparently scenic, certainly coastal, but I'm not sure how much you'd see of the Lake District.

Perhaps a local (Jocap?) can chip in.

 

Northumberland, on the opposite coast , is an area I don't know.

Part of the London to Edinburgh mainline rail route follows the coast near Berwick-on-Tweed but I don't know whether the National Parks can be reached by train.

Can any Geordies help?

 

JB :classic_smile:

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The Lake District is both a National Park and a World Heritage Site... I live inside the park, and our only means of transport, other than driving, is the Barrow to Carlisle railway. It's slow- not electrified- and stops at every village, sometimes only two minutes apart. There are sea views much of the way, looking across to the Isle of Man and across the Border into Scotland. Once in the ancient city of Carlisle, built on Hadrian's wall, it's very simple to cross to a train on the opposite platform and continue the journey along the wall into Northumberland.

We're at the wrong side-west- of the main attractions of the L D-  it's much wilder and mainly populated by sheep. Many of our roads are single track, or over high passes.

There is an excellent coach company called The Mountain Goat, based in Keswick and Windermere, which takes tiny buses into our region, stopping at many places of interest such as Roman or Viking monuments.

Our main tourists are walkers and climbers- or people who really, really want to get away from it all! ☺️ 

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John Bull and Jocap -- thank you very much for the information.  

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I would do a good land tour with a tour company.  First, you really don't want to drive on "the wrong side of the road", especially in Ireland etc.  And many of the cities are not on the coastline.  

A decent tour company will make sure you get to the main sites, will provide guides and get you to and from the sites. 

Are they perfect? No. For me, I never get enough time in museums. For my husband, not enough time to walk around,  Maybe not enough choice in restaurants.

Look at several companies, see if you can find one that gives you some free afternoons, etc.  Guided tours are a great way to see a country the first time.  You can always go back.

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On 11/21/2019 at 3:11 AM, ldubs said:

 

Thanks for posting.  

 

Are you talking about the national parks, or are there specific towns that would be visit highlights in those areas?   

 

BTW, my last name is a place name in Northumberland. I would like an excuse to go there.   

 

 

Take a look at Alnwick.  Lovely place.

 

(pronounced Annick.)

Edited by dsrdsrdsr

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1 hour ago, dsrdsrdsr said:

Take a look at Alnwick.  Lovely place.

 

(pronounced Annick.)

There is also berwick pronounced berrick.

 

Seahouses where you can get a small boat to the farne islands.

 

Holy island real name lindisfarne 

 

The east coast mainline train from london kings cross stops at almouth near alnwick and berwick on it's way to Edinburgh.

 

You wont see as many stunning castles anywhere ad you can see in Northumberland.

 

Harry Potter was filmed at alnwick castle.

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