Who has travel advice? London & Scotland

rawknee

Senior Member
#1
We have an opportunity to spend 7 days across the pond and have never been. All we know at this point is that we will fly into Heathrow and fly out from Heathrow (essentially Saturday to Saturday). Our accommodations in St. Andrews are set and we'll dedicate 2-3 days there so my husband can play the Old Course either at the beginning of our trip or at the end. This is a bucket list item for him and tee times are being offered by a member!

We'd be going the last week of October and we'd like to take advantage of our time there and not spend it all in St. Andrews. Having never been, we're wondering how we should make the most of it.

What would you do?
 

rawhide

Diamond Member
#2
We have an opportunity to spend 7 days across the pond and have never been. All we know at this point is that we will fly into Heathrow and fly out from Heathrow (essentially Saturday to Saturday). Our accommodations in St. Andrews are set and we'll dedicate 2-3 days there so my husband can play the Old Course either at the beginning of our trip or at the end. This is a bucket list item for him and tee times are being offered by a member!

We'd be going the last week of October and we'd like to take advantage of our time there and not spend it all in St. Andrews. Having never been, we're wondering how we should make the most of it.

What would you do?

We spent a glorious 10 days in Scotland last year to visit. We rented a car and manual was by far the cheapest. I would read some travel blogs about driving in Scotland before you head over, if you are renting a car. If you are in St. Andrews for a spell, you may want to check out this place and a 4th generation Texan who owns the place with his Scottish wife :http://www.dunvegan-hotel.com/

I highly recommend spending some time in Edinburgh. Plenty of stuff to do. Royal Mile. Edinburgh Castle. Pubs. Sleep at a castle. Great restaurants. Beautiful churches. I absolutely recommend the "Ghost Walking Tour" at night. That was by far the best thing we did.

We also tried haggis and one restaurant ( the name is escaping me at the moment) in particular, it was very good.

We drove through Stirling, did the tour of that castle and then drove over to the Wallace Monument. Very, very cool.

We did not make it to Glasgow or the Highlands, but will on our next trip. We absolutely loved spending time in Scotland.

Congrats to your husband on completing a bucket list item! That is awesome!

Enjoy your trip!
 

van

Diamond Member
#3
I would fly from Heathrow to Glasgow. Driving in the Uk takes 3x long as here, 200 miles can take 10 hours.
my one recommendation, York. It's my favorite city in the world. Visit York Minster cathedral. Walk around the Shambles from the 14th Century. The building are all leaning together. There are hooks under the easels where they used to hang meat in the old days. There is a ditch that runs down the middle of the road where the meat juices ran. The Shambles, were named for the flesh hanging area. Butchers row from 14C. Fascinating. York Minster took 300 years to build. Just so inspiring.
 

joes87

Senior Member
#5
Was in London for four days last month. I am hoping to go back soon and spend more time.

--Do NOT plan on driving around London. Its very congested, they charge a fee for driving in the central part of town and parking is horrible. Plan on using the tube to get everywhere in London. Its very convenient. Get yourself an Oyster card for the tube. You can order them before leaving, or pick up one in the airport. You will need an oyster card or contact credit card that works in Europe to scan in and out of the tube.

--I would suggest looking at a train from London to Scotland. Public transport in Europe is way more efficient then in the US.

--It helps if you have a credit card with a chip and a PIN. Most of the US credit cards do not have this. Our cards are chip and signature. You will ok with the Chip and Sig most everywhere. If you want to use the CC in an unattended fashion (ie purchasing tickets from a ticket machine) you need to have a Chip and PIN card.

--Make sure you let your credit card companies know you are traveling overseas. If you do not do this you may have issues using your CC overseas.

--Make sure you take the Yoman's tour of the Tower of London. There is no fee (other then the normal entry fee) and its well worth it.

--Check out Covent Garden. For some reason its not on a lot of the major attractions list, but its a pretty cool British/European feeling shopping / restaurant district.

--If your into cheese check out Neal's Yard Dairy. Its in the Covent Garden area. Free samples, and they can tell you what cheeses can travel back to the US unrefrigerated (which is most cheeses).

--Make sure you understand the procedures in a Pub if you eat in one. Which I suggest. In many of them you order at the Bar, find a table and then they bring the food. In others you do not do this. Ask at the bar and they will let you know.

--Check into tipping customs in the areas your are traveling to. They are different then in the US.

--Check which attractions are open on the days you are in London and plan a little. I am not a big planner, but certain castles are only open certain times of the year and certain days of the week. In addition things like changing of the guards only happen on certain days at certain castles/palaces.

--If you can spare the 1/2 day head out to Windsor to check out Windsor castle. Try to see the changing of the guard there. Its easier then at Buckingham palace. Lots of pubs and stuff in Windsor to eat lunch at. You will need to take the train from Victoria Station to Slough and then transfer to the train that takes you to Windsor. It only takes about an hour to get out there, even with the transfer.

--Most of the museums are free and well worth checking out. On the other hand they charge fees to visit palaces and castles.




 
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#6
Two of my favorite places. You don't have much time once you account for days in St Andrew. You could easily spend the rest of your time in London. There is just so much to see there. As others have said do not get a car for London. Ride the Tube or take a taxi, So much easier to get around. For your time in London find accommodations in the city center so you don't have to spend time getting back and forth to town. It will cost more but well worth it. Westminster Abbey is a must see. History is all around you and it is really neat even if you are not a history buff.

Edinburgh is well worth the time. We had a car and stayed at B&B just on edge of old part of city and would walk or take quick bus into town. We spend one night/two days there. The Highlands are beautiful and you will need a car to get around. The eastern coastline is amazing. On the way to or from Edinburgh we stopped at Dunnottar Castle which are ruins perched right on the coast. We spent several hours there.


The cathedral in York is just awe inspiring. It amazed me how people built such a building so long ago. It is one of the most impressive churches I have been to in Europe. Easily in top 5 behind St Peters and Westminster Abbey Duomo in Milan.

We have plans to go back and spend 3 weeks in Scotland. It was just such an amazing place.
 
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rawknee

Senior Member
#7
This information is so helpful! Overwhelming but really helpful - thank you!! We are definitely traveling between London and Scotland by train. But, it sounds like having a car while in Scotland might be worthwhile?

I'd like to learn a little more about where to stay in Edinburgh and the ghost walking tour. I'm also really intrigued by Dunnottar Castle. Is there anything else to do in the area or on the way to/from that castle from St. Andrews? Would driving from St. Andrews to Dunnottar be easy enough to do for someone new to the area?

Also, if you only had one full day in London and weren't really a history buff, what would you choose to do?

Really appreciate everyone's thoughts - I suspect if I make this a good enough trip, I can convince my husband to consider going back overseas at some point. The ONLY reason he's agreed to go is so he can play the old course and hang out in a few pubs. :toast:

 

orchid

Senior Member
#8
Brit here!!

Absolutely do not drive anywhere. Use public transport and drink freely!!

To book trains go here

www.thetrainline.com


As others said, London is congested. Don't even bother with the open top bus tours. It's expensive and you'll spend most of the time sitting going nowhere. Get a travelcard for the day instead. Off peak starts at 9.30am. Get yourself a map and just use the tube, buses to get around. YOU CANNOT USE CASH ON BUSES. I did that in caps so you'd notice. All red buses in London are cashless now. You can get a travelcard at any tube station.

If you're going to stay in London I recommend the Paddington area. It's in West London but very well connected and when I've researched for friends it's always one of the places that seems to work and is reasonably priced.

Food. The food is great, contrary to what people might tell you. Highly recommend trying Indian/Middle Eastern cuisine while you're there. And for your Sunday find yourself a nice pub that does a traditional Sunday roast. Lovely!


Do the London Eye. It;s great. You'll need to go online and book reservations so you get a slot.

More as I think of it.

 

joes87

Senior Member
#9
Also, if you only had one full day in London and weren't really a history buff, what would you choose to do?

Wonder around and enjoy the culture. Hit up Covent Gardens during the day. Eat lunch at a Pub. Wonder by some of the sights, Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abby, Tower of London, Big Ben, and Tower Bridge (often called London Bridge). Head to Piccadilly Circus at night. Eat dinner in that area. I would suggest Yauatcha for Dim Sum in SoHo. A moderately priced Michelin Star Dim Sum restaurant a few blocks form Piccadilly Circus. I would suggest looking at a map seeing what is by each other and planning your day out. Many things are bunched together, but you will need to use the Tube to move from one group of attractions to the other.

I know you said your not into history, but I would highly suggest the Tower of London and the Yeomen tour. It will cover history but its well worth it. The tower of London also contains the crown jewels which are worth seeing. Though depending on time of year, day of week, exact time their can be a significant wait to see them.
 

rawhide

Diamond Member
#10
This information is so helpful! Overwhelming but really helpful - thank you!! We are definitely traveling between London and Scotland by train. But, it sounds like having a car while in Scotland might be worthwhile?

I'd like to learn a little more about where to stay in Edinburgh and the ghost walking tour. I'm also really intrigued by Dunnottar Castle. Is there anything else to do in the area or on the way to/from that castle from St. Andrews? Would driving from St. Andrews to Dunnottar be easy enough to do for someone new to the area?

Also, if you only had one full day in London and weren't really a history buff, what would you choose to do?

Really appreciate everyone's thoughts - I suspect if I make this a good enough trip, I can convince my husband to consider going back overseas at some point. The ONLY reason he's agreed to go is so he can play the old course and hang out in a few pubs. :toast:
Are you taking a train into St. Andrews? If so, I would look into a taxi cab ride from St. Andrews to Dunnottar and then Dunnottar to Edinburgh.

We rented a car for Scotland because my spouse was the driver and my techno-google map savvy daughter was the navigator. The roundabouts can be tricky. Also, we did a basic calculation of the cost of taxi cabs rides for us all, and renting a car was cheaper. Taxi cabs may be the way to go if it is just the 2 of you. We drove over a good portion of Scotland and once you leave Edinburgh, it is much easier.

We stayed here while in Edinburgh: http://waldorfastoriaedinburgh.com/ We would definitely stay there again. Just about any hotel near the Royal Mile should be good. Trip Advisor can help you narrow it down.

Pubs- oh, these were great. My favorite one is this: https://www.facebook.com/blueblazeredin/.

The ghost walking tour had booths set up along the Royal Mile to sign up. The tour takes you through the streets of Edinburgh, a historical cemetery, and finally, into the old building underground where the ghosts are claimed to have been spotted. The tour guide added a great deal of humor and wit to the tour and it is sobering to be standing on a street with a heart marker that was placed there 500 years ago. The shopping along the Royal Mile was great.

Plan on doing alot, alot of walking. Comfortable shoes, and carry a rain jacket on you at all times.

It has been awhile since we were in London, but London can be overwhelming in terms of there are so many wonderful choices. For one day in London, I would pick one excursion. My pick would be a tour of Buckingham Palace or the London Eye.

Hope this helps.
 

leppy

Senior Member
#13
Another great day out in London. Get a boat from the Houses of Parliament (Big Ben area) to Greenwich. Great info on all the buildings and things along the Thames. When you get to Greenwich, go to see the Observatory. Have something to eat in Greenwich, do some shopping. Then take the train (links in with the Tube) back to central London.
 

rawknee

Senior Member
#14
Thanks again all! Any guidance on where NOT to stay in London? We don't need anything 5 star but want clean and safe for walking, pubs and local feel. Thought about trying Airbnb but I think that may be adding too many "new" experiences into one week. 😆
 

joes87

Senior Member
#15
We stayed at the Millennium Gloucester Hotel - London Kensington. It was in a safe area, right across the street from the Gloucester Road Tube stop on the Piccadilly/Circle/District line. Its in walking distance of many museums and Kensington Palace. You can get to pretty much everything you need to see from this Tube stop so its pretty convenient for moving around London. Its in a very upscale area that contains many of the embassies from around the world.

I would rate the hotel a 3 out of 5. It was clean and the service was good. The room was a little bigger then most European hotels I have stayed in. On the down side, it felt a little dated. I would stay there again, mostly for the location. I travel a lot for work. I have stayed in some pretty bad hotels and some really nice resort hotels (Ritz, Mandarin, etc). This was pretty much middle of the road, but I did get a good price on the hotel.

BTW, I never felt unsafe anywhere in London. Im sure there are areas. I live in Chicago now, and travel frequently to NY, Boston, Philly, DC, Vegas, Orlando, etc. I felt safer in London then any of these places.
 

joes87

Senior Member
#16
We stayed at the Millennium Gloucester Hotel - London Kensington. It was in a safe area, right across the street from the Gloucester Road Tube stop on the Piccadilly/Circle/District line. Its in walking distance of many museums and Kensington Palace. You can get to pretty much everything you need to see from this Tube stop so its pretty convenient for moving around London. Its in a very upscale area that contains many of the embassies from around the world.

I would rate the hotel a 3 out of 5. It was clean and the service was good. The room was a little bigger then most European hotels I have stayed in. On the down side, it felt a little dated. I would stay there again, mostly for the location. I travel a lot for work. I have stayed in some pretty bad hotels and some really nice resort hotels (Ritz, Mandarin, etc). This was pretty much middle of the road, but I did get a good price on the hotel.

BTW, I never felt unsafe anywhere in London. Im sure there are areas. I live in Chicago now, and travel frequently to NY, Boston, Philly, DC, Vegas, Orlando, etc. I felt safer in London then any of these places.
 

Geck

Platinum Member
#17
It has been a while since we have been to London. When we were there last we stayed at Victoria Park Plaza hotel which was steps away from Victoria Park station. seemed like it was somewhat centrally located and easy on an off the tube ( train). It was a really nice hotel with a bar and a restaurant in the lobby which sort of looked like a westin here in the states. We bought a room online at hotels.com and it was pretty reasonable. London is a pretty cool city. A major business center in Europe so you will have all of the trappings of any major city. Highlights for us were taking i a show. You can get half priced tickets at the TKTS in Leicester Square. Westminster Abbey is a must see. AMAZING who is buried there. Sir Issac Newton, Chaucer just to name a few. pretty cool place. The British war museum which i think is just outside of London was supposed to be spectacular but we didn't get to see it. Tower of London and the crown jewels were also pretty cool to see. I agree with others. Find a hotel , grab a map and start exploring. GREAT GREAT city and the people are very friendly. Be careful stepping off a curb as they drive on the other side of the road over there ( although they will see we drive on the wrong side) took a while to get used to that. have fun.
 
#18
Just got back yesterday having done 16 days.
As a Brit I found driving easy but was tiring at 1200 miles. Drove London-blackpool-manchester-lake district-manchester-london-dover-london
If you are confident in driving you can drive. We got an exceptional deal from Enterprise at LHR
However the M6 is a nightmare of a drive from London up to West Scotland and as you are there for a short period, I would advise against

If London is not a must, Lake District is awesome. We had a night there and took a boat ride.
I truly believe Lake District is one of the nicest places on this planet

Anyway we purchased the London Pass which had ad on for Oyster Card ( Public transport card )
Our pass we did
Windsor Castle
Hampton Court

We purchased additional London Eye ticket
Changing of the guard at Buck Palace ( check for days )
Then Tower of London
London Dungeon scare tour
Then covent garden in evening

Friday AM did a boat ride to Greenwich from London Eye
Cutty Sark
GMT line
Greenwich has awesome pubs for lunch

Monday we went to Harrods for brief shopping including picking up my Christmas pudding
Then British Museum ( easily a two day visit )
Then went to Camden Town ( visit Amy Winehouse home ) as sons GF is a fan

Also went to Dover for 2 days for Castle and had high speed boat trip by white cliffs

Also did 30 hours in Paris

Try and get in an afternoon tea. You can get expensive or just tea and scone with jam and clotted cream...so good

We mainly stayed with Family

Oh and not a fosters or coors or bud was consumed, just local beers at the 20+pubs we visited

 
#19
Oh and Richmond in West London is a good place to stay. Loads of pubs and easy access into London and likely only 30 mins. We stayed in Richmond area when in London
Also forget the cost of the Shard and go to the Sky Garden instead, its free, but I think you need to book a time
Fitbit said I was doing 20,000+ steps a day, so yes good shoes are a must
 
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