We are an American family coming to Scotland summer of 2007 to visit several universities with our daughter - she is very interested in looking at U of Edinburgh, St Andrews, Glasgow & Aberdeen for her university studies (she'll graduate from high school in the US in summer of 2009)
We were thinking of making Edinburgh our "base" for a week and using ScotRail to go on day trips to each of the universities she'd like to visit.
I'd value any advice anyone can give about whether ScotRail would be the easiest, most cost efficient way for 3 of us to travel (2 adults and a 16 year old). Or should we just rent a car for the week?
We lived in England for several years and travelled a good bit around Scotland while there - so could probably get used to the driving again fairly easily (single track roads, driving on the left, etc)
Also - any advice on cost effective places for 3 of us to stay in Edinburgh for a week in June?
Thanks ever so much!
Melanie in Pennsylvania, USA
Hi, I can't really help you with cheap accommodation in Edinburgh as I live in Glasgow, but in this case I think I'd just rent a car for a couple of reasons. Firstly there are 3 of you travelling so that bumps up the price of rail tickets in comparison to petrol costs, even if you go for the cheapest tickets to Aberdeen for instance it will cost you £60 altogether and petrol costs wouldn't be as much as that. Also the fact that your daughter is 16 means she'd have to get an adult ticket as youth tickets in Scotland are for 15 and under.
Secondly it's going to be a bit of hassle to go by rail to some of the places you want to go to. St Andrews doesn't actually have a station in the town and you have to get off at Leuchars then get a bus. It's not a huge hassle as you can buy a combined ticket from Edinburgh Waverley, but it's something to consider. Also to go to Glasgow University you would have to get a bus from Queen Street station as it's too far to walk. If you're visiting Strathclyde or Glasgow Caledonian University you could walk from the station though as they're right next to Queen Street.
The only downside to getting a car would be that Edinburgh and Glasgow can be a bit of an experience to drive in, if you know where you're going and you avoid rush hour traffic then you'll be ok, but some of the 'drivers' in Glasgow don't take any prisoners! Overall I'd say driving is more convenient though and will probably be around the same cost if not cheaper.
A good link for getting driving directions in the uk is Mapquest -
And for train times/fares/bookings trainline is quite good -
[ Edit: Edited on Dec 30, 2006, at 1:54 PM by BlankFrack ]
Totally agree with above--rent a car, except when in Edinburgh.
I've found the easiest way to do Scotland is to start in Edinburgh. There is a great, and I mean fantastic!, B&B in the eastern part of the city, just along the shore of the Firth of Forth called Str'aven Inn run by Mac and Marian McCool. Their rates are about 30 pounds less per night for three people than the other places I looked (last time I went it was 60 pounds/night). If they are full, though, and book early to make sure you get it, go over to Dunedin Inn, which is also fantastic, but runs the more usual 90 pounds/night for three people. Str'aven Inn is in a very quiet, charming neighborhood right on a busline that goes into the city, about a five-minute ride. The only thing between it and the shore is a church. Mac and Marian are great hosts.
When you leave Edinburgh, that's when I'd get a car. There is a National Rent-a-Car that you can book online before you go, located just across the street from the rugby field. It is really right on the highway that leads out of town heading to Stirling, which means you don't have to drive through the heart of Edinburgh to reach it. It was much easier to find than Avis, and easier to get in and out of. I will never again drive in the center of Edinburgh (!), for which the city thanks me, and if you are along the same lines, I'd go with the National rental place.
I'm not really of much help on Aberdeen and Glasgow, which is sad because I have relatives there, but I've never stopped in - shame on me. You could do St. Andrews as an easy day trip from Edinburgh, but if it is really late (like close to midnight) when you get back, ask yourself how much driving through/around the city after dark.
I'm not much help for Glasgow, because I've only ever driven through, but I think it's a lot easier to drive in than Edinburgh. Get an atlas (the big book kind, not a fold-out map) in the US before you go. They are carried at most large bookstores for about $20. If you do go by train, I would strongly recommend against getting tickets online, because for whatever reason, it has never worked for me, and I've ended up paying for tickets several times over, even when you try to pay for them here and print them out on a kiosk there. Save yourself time, $, and hassels with the customer service reps by just getting your tickets there. That's just my experience--maybe you would have different luck!
For B&Bs in Glasgow, maybe head over to Rick Steves (www.ricksteves.com) to the graffiti wall. Do a CRTL+F to find anything relating to Glasgow or Scotland on one of the B&B-related links (much faster than reading the whole, lengthy page). I've found great places by doing that, including Str'aven. I don't know about B&Bs for the other places, but once you've booked with a place in Edinburgh, consider e-mailing them after you've received your confirmation and asking if they know of places there. They might be able to point you in a good direction. Also, if you pay by cash, you'll usually get a 10% discount.
I hope you have a great trip! My kid brother is considering studying at the U. Stirling this summer.
You might want to try getting in touch with the universities themselves re accommodation. Many rent out halls of residence (where the students stay in term time) for a good rate in summer months when there are no students there and most are self contained flats. I know st andrews and glasgow definately used to do this so may be worth an email.
You can stay on the University campus at Edinburgh. Visit the link to find out more www.edinburghfirst.com. I will be visiting the place over Easter with my wife, so I can give better feedback later.
I could possibly find you a small apartment in the center of the City or just outside it, this would be cheaper than a hotel and you could rent a car , then you are free to explore wherever you wanted to go.
Let me know if you would like any help
Edinburgh also has Heriot Watt University which is on a campus to the West side of the city - on the very edge.
You will almost definately get accom there in June when the uni is finished up for summer. I went to uni there 94-98 and its a decent campus and probably moreso now. From there buses run to the town centre for 1 pound or just under 2 dollars.
Rent a car 100%. It will allow you freedom that a train won't as if you want a good fare on a train you must be specific on times and this doesn't allow for flexibility.
Car rental of 200 per week for a decent sized car is normal I would say. If you want I can search you a company or two. Send a message if you do and I will get you a website/tel number.
However, if you choose to get trains then absolutely use www.gner.com as the rates are very good. I have never experienced ticket issues.
If you travel at times after 9am and before 5pm then fares are ok.
For instance you can quite easily get Edinburgh - Aberdeen for under 10 pounds now. Check yourself on the gner site. You can collect tickets at the station. That journey will be 2.5 hours.
Aberdeen to Glasgow 2.5 hours also
Edinburgh - Glasgow 1-1.5 hours
St.Andrews is in the middle of the 3 if you imagine them as a triangle but I am sure you have seen maps.
As has been mentioned, driving in Edinburgh city centre is not easy but common sense should see you ok. Aberdeen is very easy.
The roads connecting the towns are all very straight forward. You'd have to be quite useless to go far wrong.