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BritRail and getting my moneys worth

I recently purchased the 15 day (out of 30) BritRail ticket for 2 people.  In hindsight this probably wasn't the best use of my money.  We will be traveling around Scotland (and 4 days in London) using the rail pass.  We plan to spend 2 days in London, then take the train to Edinburgh and spend 6 days there.  We will then fly to Ireland for a few days and then back to Edinburgh overnight.  Then the train down to London again and 2 more days in London.  There are a few places from London that we'd like to see using the train-Stonehedge and Bath, and Dover.  Plus transport trains to and from Gatwick.  So we can probably use 4 days out of the 15 in the london area which leaves 11 days.  So I'd like to use the train as much as possible while touring Scotland.  We will spend 1 day in Montrose (via train) visiting the place my husband's family is from.  So many things to do and see-its a bit overwhelming.  We are from Texas and in our 60's and using the train will be a new experience for us.  I have scheduled a day long tour for Outlander fans (which I am).  We'd also like to see Loch Ness of course.  We love castles and beautiful scenery.  Also love hiking but just a few miles of an easy hike is all we can handle.  I love the idea of seeing the beautiful scenery from a train.  Any help with places to see or things to do which are easily accessible from the train.  Of course we can take a cab or bus as needed from the train stations.  Looking forward to any help offerred.
Teanne
Austin, TX  USA

Comments

  • VisitScotlandLiamVisitScotlandLiam Member, Administrator, Moderator, VisitScotland Staff
    @Horizons Here's another one for you!  Public transport is your thing!! ;) 
    Lead vocalist & rhythm guitarist for The Bright SkiesTwitter, Facebook, SoundCloud, YouTube.
  • HorizonsHorizons Member, VisitScotland Ambassador ✭✭✭✭
    Hey @Teannetx, I have passed through almost all railway stations in Scotland as that's how I've seen the country, I'll be more than happy to put a recommendation for traversing Scotland by rail heavy public transport but I need 2 data points based on your schedule and accommodation 

    1. I need to clarify the number of days you need to fill with rail based sightseeing
    We will be traveling around Scotland (and 4 days in London) using the rail pass.  We plan to spend 2 days in London, then take the train to Edinburgh and spend 6 days there.  We will then fly to Ireland for a few days and then back to Edinburgh overnight.  Then the train down to London again and 2 more days in London.
    Does that mean that you total number of days in the UK is 6 (in London) + 7 (6+1 in Edinburgh) = 13 days total?

    2. Is your accommodation in Edinburgh booked and non-refundable? The best scenery accessible by rail does need an overnight stay away from Edinburgh but that's only possible if you have some flexibility in your stay options. Else, I will try my best to offer different daytrips from Edinburgh. 
    I'm Anirudh, an Indian travel blogger who has explored a lot of Scotland by public transport. My blog. Find me on Facebook | Instagram

    Best of Scotland in 1 week itinerary (fully by public transport)

    My Scotland travels (includes EdinburghSkye, HarrisMullArranOrkneyLoch Lomond, Islay, Oban, Speyside)

  • TeannetxTeannetx Member ✭✭
    Thanks "Horizon"-would love your help with this.  To answer your 2nd question first-we already have a B & B booked in Edinburgh at the Lauderville Guest House from April 6th to the 13th. Its not refundable.  I also have an "Outlander" tour scheduled and paid for, for the 10th.  We arrive on Wednesday April 4 and stay 2 nights in London.  Train to Edinburgh on the 6th.  The 6-13 in Edinburgh.  Fly to Ireland on the 13th and then fly back to Edinburgh on the 18th.  Stay overnight in Edinburgh on the 18th and then the train to London on the 19th.  Fly home out of Gatwick on the morning of the 21st. 

    Oh and we also want to spend some time in Montrose so my husband can check out where his grandfathers family was from.  I believe we can get to Montrose via train too. 

    Hope this makes sense.  This is the first time I've ever planned a trip like this and its been very confusing.  We usually only take cruises and that seems much easier. 
  • HorizonsHorizons Member, VisitScotland Ambassador ✭✭✭✭
    Am clear now. Before I give my recommendations, there's a couple of things things I'll link you to as resources which you'll have to spend some time reading up on or perusing details for. Cruise companies pretty much handle all the logistics but you seem ready for a new adventure at the cost of a little logistics planning.

    ScotRail timetables are your first resource. Here's a specific example for Edinburgh - Aberdeen. I generally download the ones useful to me handy on my phone in case I lose connectivity, you hopefully won't need these for planning. On average, I think you'll have a service on an hour (some of my suggestions will be more frequent and some lesser). The full list of ALL public transport trips (not necessarily daytrip) that I've done can be found here.

    Both Google Maps public transport and Traveline Scotland make it easy to plan journeys (here's an Edinburgh - Stirling Castle Google Maps example). Get the Google Maps app as well as the Lothian Buses app (the latter for local buses in Edinburgh, the city boasts an excellent bus service). Also, weekdays always have better frequency for public transport than weekend so make sure your longer trips are on weekdays.

    Finally, BritRail passes don't come with reservations and there is a charge attached to any reservations you want to make. Generally, you *should* get a space on most train in Scotland as long as you are not matching commuter schedules (which you shouldn't as you'll be leaving EDI when people come to work and vice versa). For the London - Edinburgh leg, the East coast trains have atleast 1 unreserved coach, get to the station a bit early (say 30 mins before departure), ask the train manager for the unreserved coach number and take a seat.

    Most of my recommendations for daytrips will be similar to what I gave on this thread. I'll still list them out.

    Short(ish) must-do journeys

    1. Edinburgh - Linlithgow - Stirling - Edinburgh: A day of palaces and castle, this will be a good introduction to Scotland's history and famous castles.

    2. Edinburgh - North Berwick: You are unfortunately a bit too early to enjoy a boat trip around the bass rock but nothing the coastal views, seafood, mini golf links and Tantallon Castle can't compensate for. Shortest journey of all recommendations.

    3. Edinburgh - Montrose - Stonehaven - Edinburgh: On your Montrose daytrip day, I highly recommend continuing your journey to the town of Stonehaven, prebook a taxi to take you to the Dunnottar Castle and walk back along the cliff to the town if the weather is nice. Perhaps book a table for two at Tollbooth before taking a taxi back to the station and a train back to Edinburgh. Another option is nearby Arbroath to try the smokies.

    4. Edinburgh - Blair Atholl - Pitlochry - Edinburgh: A few Perthshire favourites, this trip can include a visit to Blair Castle, potentially Falls of Bruar and House of Bruar if you prebook a taxi or time with the bus and the magical town of Pitlochry (take a taxi to Edradour distillery, if you fancy a hike and have good shoes, walk back down Black Spout waterfalls, have some icecream, see the salmon ladder).

    Longer do-able journeys

    Edinburgh - Inverness round trip (maybe stop at Aviemore / Carrbridge for a meal): Start bright and early, get to Inverness, take the bus to the Clansman hotel and do the Jacobite tour, take a stop at Aviemore or Carrbridge for a meal. Alternatively, go up to Aviemore, change to the Strathspey steam railway for a charming journey (perhaps with afternoon tea) in a beautiful location

    Edinburgh - Aberdeen: I generally go up for the beer. Hoping an Aberdonian local can give recommendations for their city.

    Challenge mode insanity daytrips

    Edinburgh - Mallaig round trip (weekday): I would recommend this as a full day long (10+ hours easy) sightseeing picnic (take a lot of food with you) where you'd not really get off the train much but will see the most stunning scenery across all my recommendations given above. This is the only and exact itinerary (with no disruptions)

    Edinburgh - Glasgow Queen Street (7:15 AM - 8:08 AM) : may have to change platforms
    Glasgow Queen Street - Mallaig (8:21 AM - 1:20 PM): Sit on the correct coach that says Mallaig and not Oban as the train physically splits into two at the stunning Crianlarich station (the leg stretch break).

    In 3 hours: Stretch your legs, look at the stunning Isle of Skye across the water if the day is clear, you will have traversed some unbelievable Highland scenery through the journey, this has been rated one of the world's most scenic rail journeys. Have a seafood meal, get some smoked fish from Andy Race fish merchants to snack on for the longg journey back. Or you can do the sensible thing and spend a night at the local hostel or a B&B if too tiring or you fall in love with the town (the latter happens to me)

    4:11 PM: Hop on the train to Glasgow Queen Street, make the quick connection to the Edinburgh service, arrive by 10:25 PM.

    Feel free to follow up, hope this helps.

    I'm Anirudh, an Indian travel blogger who has explored a lot of Scotland by public transport. My blog. Find me on Facebook | Instagram

    Best of Scotland in 1 week itinerary (fully by public transport)

    My Scotland travels (includes EdinburghSkye, HarrisMullArranOrkneyLoch Lomond, Islay, Oban, Speyside)

  • TeannetxTeannetx Member ✭✭
    Wow-thank you so very much.  This is exactly what I was hoping to be able to do.  Wonderful plans for the train.  I appreciate your advice so much.  Thank you again.

    Teanne
  • HorizonsHorizons Member, VisitScotland Ambassador ✭✭✭✭
    No problem @Teannetx, I have my own experiences documented for Stonehaven, Pitlochry, Blair Atholl, Aviemore and North Berwick on my blog including my local favourite businesses / food.

    If there is another spot in Scotland that you've wanted to visit and are wondering if a daytrip would be feasible, do let me know. Hope you have a wonderful trip.
    I'm Anirudh, an Indian travel blogger who has explored a lot of Scotland by public transport. My blog. Find me on Facebook | Instagram

    Best of Scotland in 1 week itinerary (fully by public transport)

    My Scotland travels (includes EdinburghSkye, HarrisMullArranOrkneyLoch Lomond, Islay, Oban, Speyside)

  • ParsmanParsman Member ✭✭✭
    SInce you will be based in Edinburgh, could I make a (biased) suggestion that you could spend some time in Fife. (I am a Fifer and I often say to visitors that Fife to the rest of Scotland is like Texas to the rest of the USA - we are a part of the country but we are just that bit different [better? :)]).The Fife circular is a regular service which takes you to places like Dunfermline (Ancient royal capital and birthplace of Andrew Carnegie), Kirkcaldy (famous for Adam Smith the Enlightenment philosopher and linoleum) as well as some beautiful small towns along the way like Aberdour and it's castle, Burntisland where there is a public park that hosts a huge travelling fair in summer and Kinghorn close to which is the memorial for Alexander III who died in a riding accident which kicked off the Wars of Independence. Plus as you are aware I am sure Culross is one of the main filming sites for Outlander and it is not far from Dunfermline by bus. If it is not already part of your tour it would be easy to achieve.
  • TeannetxTeannetx Member ✭✭
    Thank you Parsman for your recommendation.  Loved your analogy about Texas since I'm from Texas.  Will definately work a trip to Fife also.  Sounds wonderful.  Thank you.
  • TeannetxTeannetx Member ✭✭
    Question for @Horizons-Can I squeeze in a trip to the Black Watch Museum in Perth.  My husbands grandfather was a member of the Black Watch and he would really like to go there.  Would it be on the Edinburgh-Blair Atholl-Pitlochry journey?
  • HorizonsHorizons Member, VisitScotland Ambassador ✭✭✭✭
    @Teannetx you are correct. Perth is a major junction and its part of the Highland Line up to Inverness (also a recommendation) contains Pitlochry, etc and the Cairngorms. As the museum hours are 10am - 4pm, my recommendation is to reach Perth by 10 am, see the museum, go to Pitlochry, have lunch and visit the distillery / walk by the river and visit Blair Atholl if time permits. Not all trains on the line stop at Blair Atholl but no such issues with Perth and Pitlochry.

    Would you have 20 minutes to spare for watching a video that first got me excited to see Scotland by rail? This is the Youtube link of a feature shot in 1980 called Confessions of a Trainspotter and while the whole video is worth watching, I skip to 38:50 where the narrator reaches Edinburgh to continues upwards. It gives a great indication of the beauty of Scotland and its scenic railways, they're both timeless.
    I'm Anirudh, an Indian travel blogger who has explored a lot of Scotland by public transport. My blog. Find me on Facebook | Instagram

    Best of Scotland in 1 week itinerary (fully by public transport)

    My Scotland travels (includes EdinburghSkye, HarrisMullArranOrkneyLoch Lomond, Islay, Oban, Speyside)

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