The wife and I are thinking about a vacation in the UK next year. I have airline miles that I need to burn so the airfare is taken care of. We are planning on 2 weeks and hitting Scotland (wife's ancestry) and Wales (my ancestry). I would have to see Stonehenge and Ireland also. This will be mainly a photo trip for me.
So my questions are:
1. When would be the best time of the year?
2. What are the "musts" to see and photograph?
3. Rental Car or other transportation?
4. Hotels or Bed & Breakfasts?
The soul never thinks without an image.
With two weeks, I would spend one in Wales and one in Scotland. I wouldn't bother with Stonehenhge - it is quite dissapointing once you are there.
I Personally wouldn't drive between Wales and Scotland, I would fly or possibly go by train. You will not get anywhere quicker in a car than you can on the train. Just rent a car locally if you need one.
You can get a boat from Wales to Ireland but you may be trying to do too much in little time.
Try http://flybe.com for cheap flights within the UK (Cardiff to Glasgow).
The must see are the people :-) Make that must meet.
Go by train and rent a car locally is my take. yep Stonehenge is a bit dissappointing and there are older stone circles in nicer locations - if you like that sort of thing.
Don't miss the west coast of Scotland and maybe the inner isles
1. Just recall that The British Isles don't have a climate, they have weather...
It is warmer and drier (usually) in summer and colder and wetter (usually) in winter but that's the most you can say. May-June is when spring has really got going so lots of new foliage and flowers and fresh green grass. July-August is peak holiday time & the schools are closed so lots of people rushing about and clogging up the place - avoid! Sept-Nov is late summer leading into autumn - one of my fave times of year thanks to the tree colour (October) and the possibility of sunny, cool weather. Dec-March is the least pleasant unless you like cold and rain - but in the north you may get snow and sun for a week or two...
Bear in mind my 1st point: you can get gloriously sunny (but cold) days in mid-winter and grey, wet and miserable days in mid-summer. Be prepared for anything and you will be fine.As they say: there is no such thing as bad weather, only the wrong clothing... www.metoffice.co.uk
You could take a few days to drive from Scotland to Wales, stopping off on the way. As for what to see, what are your interests? Landscape (Lake District, Yorkshire dales, much of Scotland and the Border country, much of Wales). Prehistoric monuments (Silbury Hill, West Kennet Long Barrow & Avebury all of which are close to each other and nearby Stonehenge; Long Meg & Her Daughters & Castlerigg which are in northern England and countless others (some admittedly now just large stones or little more than humps in a field... http://www.themodernantiquarian.com/googleEarth/ has a Google Earth plug-in - or on the site somewhere, if you can find it, is an interactive map (very slow). For Stately Homes and gardens see http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/main/ and buy a year's family membership as it will pay for itself after 3 or 4 vists due to the absurdly high individual entry cost. It would be interesting to see if you can avoid visiting London - if not, all the usual stuff is here...
3. Remember you are driving on the other side of the road and have some different rules of the road (and the dreaded Roundabout!) so get as much collision damage waver as you can...
If going off the main roads, which you will, get a smaller car rather than larger as the back roads can be narrow and winding with drystone walls or trees or high field hedge boundaries (and possibly all three at the same time) on both sides. Alternately in hilly terrain, a sheer drop (usually with a barrier) on one side and a cliff on the other...
4. All towns of any size will have Tourist Information Centres who will help you book a B&B or hotel if you just turn up on the day (don't try this in summer: you may end up sleeping in the car, a dump, or paying through the nose for the last decent room for 30 miles around). Look for 4-Star or equivalent (4-Crowns etc). You can take pot-luck on 3-star, they are usually good, but I would not recommend going any lower. All hotels and B&Bs should be rated by the local Tourist Board - if not, I'd avoid.
Look at other threads on the same subject here and on other forums to get more ideas...
Have fun, Bob.
Covering 3 and 4
If you are wanting to do a lot of Scotland, rather than just one part, be aware that its bigger than it looks. If you stay in one place and use that as a base, you are going to be doing some serious mileage and frankly it gets a bit stale after a while. Better to stay in a B&B for a couple of days, then move onto the next B&B and so on.
Of the two areas I've stayed in in Scotland, Dumfries and Galloway (This year) is quite flat and rural.
Edinborough is good for old architecture, and make sure you go round he castle at least once. If you go in the late summer when the Fringe Festival is on, You'll see some sights. Very good for people shots.
Northern Scotland and the Highlands, is more the "Traditional" view of Scotland. Loch ness, Pitlochery and the like are all good if you want rugged landscape shots, and places like Speyside are good if you want to take back some duty free Whisky.
Just remember that the roads in Northern Scotland, are shall we say, Narrow and Twisty.
Wales, well there are various textures to there. The North (Rural and Mountains)is very different from the South which is More Industrial (But still has mountains)
One bit of advice. If you are in South Wales and want to go all the way to North Wales. Don't do it within the Welsh Border. Nip across the border get onto the M5/M6, then cut back across the border when needed to. Welsh Roads are good, but they can be slow in the back of beyond
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Scotland - obvious places include: Rannoch Moor, Glencoe, Glen etive, Blackmount (sp?)....
Wales - Snowdonia area - Blaeneau Ffestiniog is worth making a minor diversion towards. great ruined quarry cottages at Rhosydd (sp?) Seriously hard land which even in the rain is awe inspiring. Huge piles of slate, old machinery and nasty weather (often anyway). To be honest you get a good feel for driving about the Snowdonia roads and looking up! short distances and awsome scenery
Can offer some advice on Scotland.
The whole of the west coast is amazing, from Mallaig right up to Cape Wrath. A huge variety of scenery too, from the terraced sandstone Torridon mountains through to the amazing landscapes of Coigach and Assynt (my favourite area of Scotland). Another bonus is that you're far away from the hordes that overrun Glencoe too, beautiful though it is.
Be aware that our weather is often awful, you really can't rely on settled periods at any time. You might be lucky, you might be unlucky! But the upside of this means you often get amazing shifting light too .
May is probably the best time for a vist - the days are longer, the English schools are not off yet so booking accomodation is a lot easier and, most importantly, the midges will not be out yet (June-Aug!). Do not underestimate these little critters, particularly doing photography in low light and near water...!
The advice to base yourself in an area for a few days is good - a lot of the roads do not make for fast driving.
The most reliable weather forecast is the climbing one, which also gives you useful photo info like cloud level on the hills etc
Feel free to PM me if you want more info.
Last edited by coigach; 10-05-2008 at 06:14 AM. Click to view previous post history.
As an itinerary howabout
Land at London Heathrow, Hire car.
Drive down M4 to get to Swansea - visit the Gower Peninsula and Pembroke.
Com back to Swansea and drive around Brecon Beacons and from there head to 'Heads of the Valleys' Road and drive Monmouth. From there you can divert through the Forest of Dean and head towards M5 at Gloucester. Visit Cheltenham and maybe detour around the Cotswolds or just Head north up M6 as already been described. Cut through Nantwich on way to Chester for a visit and then drive towards North Wales and Snowdonia. From there go to Anglesey and take boat to Dublin - get lost on Dublin Roads and try to get to the Mountains to the South of the city - Maybe take a visit to Kilkenny. From Dublin drive North to get to Belfast and can discover some of the stunning Landscapes up there - detour to Donegal(?). Then take Ferry to Troon from Larne. From there Drive to Glasgow (used to be City of Culture) and from there along to Loch Lomond as to Glen Coe etc. Head back across to Edinburgh and from A1 south through Northumberland (visit Alnwick Gardens and Castle). Go further south and take A69 back across to the Lake District then from there A65 to Harrogate and back to A1. Down A1 / M1 to get to Leicestershire (visit Bradgate Park). From there head south again to get back LHR - maybe get a day in London and fly out.
Or course, 2 weeks will not be enough.
I am on the west coast of Scotland and would say that Argyll(my neck of the woods) is largely overlooked as a destination, everyone goes to Glencoe/Rannoch etc, Great places to visit for sure, but Argyll has much to offer the photographer and has not been shot to death as it were.
Orkney and the Outer Hebrides, Isles of Mull and Skye though they would add some travel time as they are quite remote. Edinburgh for Architecture as the churches and houses/galleries etc are quite breathtaking.
As for Wales there is much to see there also, again depends on what you shoot. Landscapes, architecture? North Wales is great for mountains and slate quarries etc, South Wales for rolling hills/mountains and streams/rivers, Both for coastline. The whole of the UK for coastlines to be honest!
So, 2 weeks you say!! so much to shoot/see, so little time ;-)
If you want some more inside info pm me and I would be happy to point you in a few directions
Link for my website to give you an idea of what Argyll has to offer.
You will need to plan your time wisely. First question I would ask is which parts of Scotland and Wales would you visit as your ancestry trail? Then you plan your route. Best initial round trip route would be:
Start from London (days 1-3). You won't need a car in London.
Drive West (Motorway M4). Start early, stop at Windsor (half day). Down to Stonehenge (if you must, and waste half a day). You won't stay there long. On to Bath (stay overnight). Take some rest after a good deal of driving (day 4).
Explore Bath for half a day. Cross the River Severn into Wales. Begin your ancestry trail (days 5-7).
A lot would depend on where your ancestry trail would take you. Best to work from South Wales to North Wales.
Start going northand reach Cumbria in the late afternoon and enjoy the beautiful English Lake District (day 8).
Drive north pass Carlisle into Scotland. Overnight in Glasgow or, better still, near one of the lowland lochs.
Next day you can go all the way to Inverness (pass Loch to see Nessie, if you are lucky and not got eaten!)
Next day head south to Edinburgh where you would spend the night (days 9-11).
Back into England. Visit a few English towns such as York (too see the Minster), Oxford (to see the Colleges of the University) and finally back to Heathrow to return your car (days 12-14).
If you can cut out Stonehenge and be more specific about your ancestry trails then you may save a bit more time. I am afraid you will have to give Ireland a miss or be extremely tight with your schedule by crossing into Ireland and crossing back to England and forego your stay in Cumbria.
As this is your photo trip, I have allowed sufficient time photogenic places for you to burnt your films and get enough rest as well.
Do give me more details of your ancestry trails and I may assist you further working out your route. I am sure it is going the trip of a lifetime. Best time to visit would be end of May (when the mainstream tourists has not arrived and you get a longer day) or, second best time, September (after schools start and most of the tourists have gone).
Do remember to show us your pics afterwards.