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  1. #1
    Senior Member Winfried's Avatar
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    London to Scotland, and back: A few questions

    Hello

    I'm thinking of bringing a few people and our folding bikes on a train + bicycle trip from London to Scotland this summer.

    The trip will start with a long week-end in London, then taking the train (either day or night) to Glasgow, from which we'll catch the West Highland Line to Mallaig, then go to Edinburgh, and back to London through some East coast towns.

    Here's the map on Google.

    I'd like some feedback:
    • considering this trip, are InterRail or BritRail likely to be cheaper than buying individual tickets, either in advance or when we're there?
    • Edinburgh is only about 50km from Glasgow: Is the area worth riding our bikes, or should we take a train?
    • Are there other cities on the way back that you would recommend?



    Thanks for any help.

  2. #2
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    OK your plan looks good, you are visiting some lovely places.
    If you are sure of your route book tickets in advance (about 6 weeks in advance to get cheaper tickets, but most cheaper tickets are non transferable)
    Buy train tickets in stages you will not be able to use one ticket for the whole trip as there are different companies operating the trains.
    The sleeper services is good and avoids losing a day travelling but more expensive than a normal ticket (but cheaper than a hotel in London),
    In towns cities ride your bikes for sure but not sure you can bike between Edinburgh and Glasgow on a folding bike with small wheels.

    Have fun

    PS I work for one of the train operators so I hope I helped

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    Senior Member Winfried's Avatar
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    Thanks for the infos.

    At this point, I don't know if it'll be cheaper to buy invididual tickets, or get a pass (either Interrail or BritRail.)I'm waiting for a couple of travel guides for England and Scotland so I know what parts to visit.

    Glasgow - Edinburgh is only about 50km. I can do this in about 3h, but I'll check if the area is worth it or better take the train.

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    You don't mention the month,you are going over to the west. In my experience ( although last year was a fluke ) it gets wet and midgey from the end of June,it's often drier in May and June.
    I live in the north east of Scotland, it's an area mostly overlooked by tourists,although a little cooler than the west coast of Scotland ,it's a whole lot drier,it also has a good network of roads heading into the Cairngorm mountains,Balmoral castle,well more castles than you can shake a stick at
    The train also goes south from Inverness to Aviemore,on the west side of the Cairngorms ,loads of mountain bike trails ,and access to the top of Cairngorm.
    Just a few suggestions, there is a whole lot of Scotand away from the usual tourist hotspots ,and most of it uncrowded and just as spectacular.

  5. #5
    Senior Member Winfried's Avatar
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    I haven't set a date yet, but to take advantage of longer daylight, I'd rather go end of june/beginning of july.At this point, I only know I want to ride the West Highland Line and visit Edinburgh before heading back to London through the East coast, but I could also spend a bit more time in Scotland.

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    Travelling hopefully chasm54's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Winfried View Post
    I haven't set a date yet, but to take advantage of longer daylight, I'd rather go end of june/beginning of july.At this point, I only know I want to ride the West Highland Line and visit Edinburgh before heading back to London through the East coast, but I could also spend a bit more time in Scotland.
    OK. Don't know the answer to the rail ticket question, but rail travel here tends to be expensive. Plan your journeys and buy tickets early, especially between London and Scotland, for the cheapest possible deals.

    Don't bother cycling between Edinburgh and Glasgow. It's possible to do it by OK routes, but it is far from the most interesting part of Scotland to cycle in.

    If you are going to ride the West Highland railway, plan on spending a few days in the West Highlands. The weather is often wet, but the scenery and cycling are spectacular. I'd recommend north from Fort William via Invergarry to Loch Carron, and over the bealach na ba to Applecross. The bealach is an iconic climb and the Applecross inn is a great place to stop - and it is difficult to imagine a more scenic route.

    As for cities in England on the way south, there are lots that are worth a look but it depends what you like. If ancient monuments are your style, Durham Cathedral (you'll see it from the train on your way north) is one of the finest Norman Cathedrals (I'd say the finest, but I am a local and therefore biased) anywhere. York is worth a day or two of anyone's time, the mediaeval town wall still intact and the mediaeval street pattern within it is still preserved. It also claims to have more pubs per head of the population than anywhere else in England, and some of them are excellent. Plus, to round it off, it is within sensible cycling distance of the North York Moors, which are nice. Others that spring to mind are Cambridge - everyone cycles there - and Norwich, though that requires a detour into East Anglia.

    I've confined myself to the east of the country. Others may have different ideas.

  7. #7
    Senior Member Winfried's Avatar
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    Thanks for the input.

    I'll definitely spend more time in Scotland before going back south.

    http://active.visitscotland.com/findroute/
    http://www.nationalrail.co.uk/passen...tional_map.pdf

    Maybe we should go north after Mallaig and make a big loop, switching between trains and bikes: Inverness, Aberdeen, Dundeed and Edinburgh.

    I've already been to Cambridge so I'll check if we can hop off at Oxford on our way to Glasgow.

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    Senior Member Winfried's Avatar
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    Incidently, is there a site that lists the most popular cycling routes in Britain?

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    Travelling hopefully chasm54's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Winfried View Post
    Incidently, is there a site that lists the most popular cycling routes in Britain?
    Not of the most popular, but there is the national-cycle-network. There's an app as well as paper maps and on-line mapping.

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    Senior Member Winfried's Avatar
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    Thanks for the link.

    BTW, I was thinking of taking an early train from Newcastle to Haltwhistle, and ride the Hadrian's Cycleway back to Newcastle and take advantage of the usual west-east wind. But I'll bring my Birdy folder so I can grab any train within the UK: If someone knows that cycleway, can it be done with road tires?

    Also, at this point, here's my travel plan, and I'm wondering if the time allocated for each location is right, although I might come back to Scotland another time and rent a car this time:

    London : 4 days; I've already been to London, so I'll just use this as homebase for daytrips to Oxford, Bristol + Bath
    Glasgow : 1 day
    Glasgow - Mallaig with the West Highands Line, then take ferry to Isle of Skye : 2 days
    Skye Bridge to get back to mainland and catch the Kyle of Lochalsh Line for Inverness : 1 day
    Inverness, Perth, Edinburgh : 1 day
    Edinburgh : 2 days
    Newcastle, Hadrian's Wall : 2 days
    Durham : 1 day
    York : 1 day
    London, Canterbury, and catch the Eurostar at Ashford to go home : 1 day

    Thank you.

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    Travelling hopefully chasm54's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Winfried View Post
    Thanks for the link.

    BTW, I was thinking of taking an early train from Newcastle to Haltwhistle, and ride the Hadrian's Cycleway back to Newcastle and take advantage of the usual west-east wind. But I'll bring my Birdy folder so I can grab any train within the UK: If someone knows that cycleway, can it be done with road tires?
    Yes. I live quite close to there and have done the route several times on a road bike. Most of it is on-road. The sections that aren't are OK, at worst you might have to slow down to deal with a few stretches where the surface is broken and a bit loose.

    Also, at this point, here's my travel plan, and I'm wondering if the time allocated for each location is right, although I might come back to Scotland another time and rent a car this time:

    London : 4 days; I've already been to London, so I'll just use this as homebase for daytrips to Oxford, Bristol + Bath
    Glasgow : 1 day
    Glasgow - Mallaig with the West Highands Line, then take ferry to Isle of Skye : 2 days
    Skye Bridge to get back to mainland and catch the Kyle of Lochalsh Line for Inverness : 1 day
    Inverness, Perth, Edinburgh : 1 day
    Edinburgh : 2 days
    Newcastle, Hadrian's Wall : 2 days
    Durham : 1 day
    York : 1 day
    London, Canterbury, and catch the Eurostar at Ashford to go home : 1 day

    Thank you.
    I'm not clear hiw much of this travelling is by bike. For example, Inverness to Edinburgh in a single day would be a pretty epic ride. Bt if most of your journeys are by train I'd say this was perfectly feasible. Incidentally, it takes less than two hours to cycle from Newcastle to Durham even if one takes the slightly less than direct off-road route (you'll find this on the sustrans site, too, I think. Again, it is doable on a road bike). Durham to York is about 45 minutes by train but a full day on the bike.

  12. #12
    Senior Member Winfried's Avatar
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    Thanks for the confirmation about riding along Hadrian's Wall by with road tires.

    I'll just use the bike to ride around cities and the Isle of Skye. The intercity trips will be done by train to save time, unless they're close together and the trip is worth it (eg. Newcastle-Durham).

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    Quote Originally Posted by Winfried View Post

    London : 4 days; I've already been to London, so I'll just use this as homebase for daytrips to Oxford, Bristol + Bath
    Glasgow : 1 day
    Glasgow - Mallaig with the West Highands Line, then take ferry to Isle of Skye : 2 days
    Skye Bridge to get back to mainland and catch the Kyle of Lochalsh Line for Inverness : 1 day
    Inverness, Perth, Edinburgh : 1 day
    Edinburgh : 2 days
    Newcastle, Hadrian's Wall : 2 days
    Durham : 1 day
    York : 1 day
    London, Canterbury, and catch the Eurostar at Ashford to go home : 1 day

    Thank you.
    What do you intend to do on the Isle of Skye and do you plan on taking any other forms of transport while on the island? If just on your bike, I guess you'd be able to see quite a lot depending on where you stay, but by no means the whole island, and definitely not if the Glasgow-Mallaig train ride already takes up half your day.

  14. #14
    Senior Member Winfried's Avatar
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    I booked the hotels and will buy advance train tickets this week when they are available.

    I'll just spend a day and a half on Skye. Judging for the size of the island, riding around should be OK.

    I'll also ride in the northern part after getting to Inverness. I might take the bus to Ullapool in the morning and ride back.

  15. #15
    Senior Member Winfried's Avatar
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    Advance tickets are available for just 3 to go from Newcastle to Carlisle, so I could ride back on my folder since Carlisle is about 60km in a straight line from Newcastle.

    The train arrives in Carlisle around 10:30 so that leaves a good 10h of daylight to ride back to Newcastle. At worst, I can always catch a train back to the city if I'm too tired.

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    Travelling hopefully chasm54's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Winfried View Post
    Advance tickets are available for just 3 to go from Newcastle to Carlisle, so I could ride back on my folder since Carlisle is about 60km in a straight line from Newcastle.

    The train arrives in Carlisle around 10:30 so that leaves a good 10h of daylight to ride back to Newcastle. At worst, I can always catch a train back to the city if I'm too tired.
    Choose the road wisely. The A69 is a very busy, fast road. Sustrans route 72 is the way you want to go, you'll find it on their website. it's a nice day on the bike, you'll enjoy it.
    There have been many days when I haven't felt like riding, but there has never been a day when I was sorry I rode.

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    Senior Member Winfried's Avatar
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  18. #18
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    I second the Hadrian's Wall side trip. The western section is mostly flat for biking. Then hike the middle section for the great views. In Scotland, take the tow paths next to the canals. One starts in the center of Edinburgh towards the Falkirk Wheel.

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