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Author Topic: England and Scotland, March 2020  (Read 721 times)

cl94

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England and Scotland, March 2020
« on: January 30, 2020, 03:52:36 PM »

While most people my age are heading down to the beach in March, I have a different type of Spring Break trip in mind. I'm heading northeast across the Atlantic to Great Britain and taking a weeklong Great British Roadtrip. My hotel nights are set, but the big thing I need to do is decide on routings.

Day 1: Heathrow Airport (get in a little after 9 AM) - Telford. Don't want to do TOO much driving this day, because I doubt I will sleep on the plane, but I'm definitely seeing Ironbridge
Day 2: Telford - Glasgow. Planning a stop at Hadrian's Wall near Carlisle, possibly with a detour through the Lake District. This will be the biggest driving day of the trip.
Day 3: Glasgow - Inverness. The drive along Loch Ness is a must.
Day 4: Day trip from Inverness. Thinking about heading up to John O' Groats.
Day 5: Inverness - Edinburgh. Probably swinging through Aberdeen to see where the Scottish side of the family is originally from.
Day 6: Edinburgh - Hull. Main activity for the afternoon will be the railway museum in York.
Day 7: Hull - Slough. Yes, I'm crossing the Humber Bridge.
Day 8: Slough - Heathrow. Car is due back in the morning, so driving will be limited.

Does anyone have suggested routes or things to see between these locations? Daily distances are much lower than I'm accustomed to in the US and that's on purpose, because I know I will be driving slower and making random stops.
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1995hoo

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Re: England and Scotland, March 2020
« Reply #1 on: January 30, 2020, 04:46:38 PM »

In case you are not aware, the UK makes wide use of speed cameras, and they also use something called "average speed check," most often in motorway work zones. "Average speed check" is designed to combat the well-known habit of motorists slowing to pass a speed camera and then speeding back up. The system uses two or three cameras spaced some distance apart, all of which read your number plate. The system then calculates how long it took you to pass the cameras. Because they know the distance between cameras and the speed limit, they can determine whether you were speeding.

If you have not previously driven a right-hand-drive car, it's not a bad idea to try to drive on the airport roads a little bit before heading to the motorway. Bear in mind the bulk of the car is on the opposite side than you're used to, so you will be positioned much further to the right in the lane, and bear in mind the rearview mirror is to your left. I found driving on the left easy enough after the first few miles, but the rearview being on the left required overcoming years of muscle memory and parking in indoor car parks with pillars and such was a little tricky. Operating the manual gearbox with my left hand was a non-issue, no difficulty at all.

USE YOUR BLINKERS at roundabouts. This includes indicating a right turn if you're going more than halfway around, then indicating left when you're going to exit. The right indicator tells people waiting to enter that you will remain on the roundabout and they need to give way to you. The left indicator tells them you're exiting.

Currency tip: Note that Scottish pound notes are issued by a number of banks in Scotland and may or may not be accepted in England. Bank of England notes will be universally accepted. If you have more than a small amount of Scottish pound notes when you're preparing to head back south from Edinburgh, it might not be a bad idea to stop at a bank and ask to exchange them for Bank of England notes. I was once at dinner with a group of friends near Bristol and they all put down cash towards the bill. Then I realized since my American Express card gave me miles based on the dollar value, it made more sense for me to charge the whole bill, so I picked up all the cash and charged it. Some of the people I was with were from Scotland and had put down Scottish banknotes. When I tried to use one of those the next day at the Clifton Suspension Bridge gift shop, the shopkeeper wouldn't take it (good thing I had plenty of Bank of England notes). The currency exchange at Heathrow will take the Scottish notes if you still have them at the end of your trip.

With that said....

If you like Scotch whisky, obviously there are lots of distilleries. If you go to John O' Groats, you'll pass right by the Glenmorangie distillery in Tain. That might be the most convenient one to visit. There is also a good whisky shop at Heathrow, Whiskies of the World.

If you're into golf, make the pilgrimage to St. Andrews. It's not too far out of the way on the drive from Aberdeen to Edinburgh.

The Museum of Flight in East Fortune is an interesting stop and you can tour the interior of Concorde G-BOAA.
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Re: England and Scotland, March 2020
« Reply #2 on: January 30, 2020, 06:31:36 PM »

In case you are not aware, the UK makes wide use of speed cameras, and they also use something called "average speed check," most often in motorway work zones. "Average speed check" is designed to combat the well-known habit of motorists slowing to pass a speed camera and then speeding back up. The system uses two or three cameras spaced some distance apart, all of which read your number plate. The system then calculates how long it took you to pass the cameras. Because they know the distance between cameras and the speed limit, they can determine whether you were speeding.

Who knew calculus had a real world application.

cl94

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Re: England and Scotland, March 2020
« Reply #3 on: January 31, 2020, 01:00:53 PM »

Speed cameras...yeah, well aware. Thankfully, UK speed limits are a bit more reasonable than I'm used to in the Northeast US. 70 on dual carriageways and 60 on two lane roads seems to be the standard. Most jurisdictions have a 10% + 2 MPH tolerance and I will be using Waze constantly like I do in the US, but I don't expect to be going much (if any) above the limit. The hardest thing might be remembering that flashing headlights to warn of a cop/speed camera is punishable with a hefty fine.

The Museum of Flight was indeed something I looked at, but it's only open on weekends this time of year. Since my flights in and out are on Sunday, it's sadly not doable.

I might need to stop by a distillery. I have a checked bag, so as long as I remain within customs limits...
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1995hoo

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Re: England and Scotland, March 2020
« Reply #4 on: January 31, 2020, 02:29:43 PM »

....

I might need to stop by a distillery. I have a checked bag, so as long as I remain within customs limits...

You can also carry on your liquor if you buy it at an airside shop (such as the whisky shop I mentioned), though if you have to connect once you reach the USA the TSA may or may not make you put it in your checked bag then. I know the regulations on whether they'll honor the sealed bags from EU airside shops have changed multiple times over the years and I don't know what the current rule is.

I can tell you from experience that whether CBP will enforce the import limits is highly dependent on the individual inspector. The most important thing is to declare it regardless of whether you think it'll put you over the limit. A lot of the time they don't want to be bothered, but you don't want to risk getting in trouble for submitting a false declaration.
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"You know, you never have a guaranteed spot until you have a spot guaranteed."
—Olaf Kolzig, as quoted in the Washington Times on March 28, 2003,
commenting on the Capitals clinching a playoff spot.

"That sounded stupid, didn't it?"—Kolzig, to the same reporter a few seconds later.

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Re: England and Scotland, March 2020
« Reply #5 on: January 31, 2020, 02:48:11 PM »

It sounds like a fun trip, and I'd say the driving distances each day are doable.  I do think it is significant that Google Maps quotes 2 hours 37 minutes for 120 miles between Inverness and John O'Groats (translation:  the A9, the main trunk road between the two points, is not highly improved).

I concur with 1995hoo's advice.  My own experience has been that the adjustment from LHD/right-driving to RHD/left-driving is pretty quick, especially in an automatic, though when you first start out, you will have to take extra care not to turn into the right-hand lane on single carriageways (the mistake that has resulted in Anne Sacoolas being wanted for causing death by dangerous driving).  It may also take a while before the inside rearview mirror feels like it is correctly adjusted--for most Americans mirror left of the driver means a transition from dominant to non-dominant eye.  Probably the biggest adjustment when driving in the UK is dealing with narrower road widths, which leads to head-to-head traffic having to take turns far more frequently than in most parts of the US.
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cl94

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Re: England and Scotland, March 2020
« Reply #6 on: January 31, 2020, 03:31:23 PM »

Narrower road widths are indeed something I will need to pay attention to. Even with driving in relatively-narrow conditions regularly, New England narrow isn't as narrow as Europe. This becomes more prominent on single-track roads. I was considering taking the A836 northbound from Inverness to make a loop and a decent amount of that is single-track.

Regarding distances, I have heard that Google underestimates driving time by quite a bit on UK surface roads and I expect locals to be flying past me, even though I'm one of the faster drivers in this country. For that reason, I planned overnight stops so that the Google drive time is rarely over 6 hours.
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1995hoo

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Re: England and Scotland, March 2020
« Reply #7 on: January 31, 2020, 03:53:02 PM »

Make sure you read up on the proper etiquette for using the passing places on the single-track roads if you use any of them. (I have not been on them, but I understand there is a right and a wrong way to do it.) The two principles I know of are that you always use the passing places on your left, never on your right, and you give way to traffic coming uphill when possible.
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"You know, you never have a guaranteed spot until you have a spot guaranteed."
—Olaf Kolzig, as quoted in the Washington Times on March 28, 2003,
commenting on the Capitals clinching a playoff spot.

"That sounded stupid, didn't it?"—Kolzig, to the same reporter a few seconds later.

J N Winkler

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Re: England and Scotland, March 2020
« Reply #8 on: January 31, 2020, 04:46:42 PM »

I'd certainly access a copy of the Highway Code online (I think it's available as a PDF; Know your traffic signs definitely is).

Roads of low traffic value are often single-track pretty much everywhere in the UK, but the Scottish Highlands are unusual in that a number of the primary routes (green-background directional signs) are single-track.  They are so underpopulated that, back in the days when rate of grant for road improvements was linked to road number, special (more generous) rates applied in what were then called the "crofter counties," including 100% (no local match) for A-roads.
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1995hoo

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Re: England and Scotland, March 2020
« Reply #9 on: January 31, 2020, 04:57:10 PM »

I'd certainly access a copy of the Highway Code online (I think it's available as a PDF; Know your traffic signs definitely is).

....

It is: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/the-highway-code. I remember I found reading a few parts of it to be useful the first time I drove in the UK on a trip to Scotland. I encountered some unfamiliar things like chicanes and I was glad I'd read about them beforehand.

IMO, chained mini-roundabouts are the #1 annoyance. I don't mean cool things like the Magic Roundabout in Swindon, I mean annoying things like this in Bristol. Even my British friends disliked these things.
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"You know, you never have a guaranteed spot until you have a spot guaranteed."
—Olaf Kolzig, as quoted in the Washington Times on March 28, 2003,
commenting on the Capitals clinching a playoff spot.

"That sounded stupid, didn't it?"—Kolzig, to the same reporter a few seconds later.

cl94

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Re: England and Scotland, March 2020
« Reply #10 on: February 06, 2020, 06:08:21 PM »

I'd certainly access a copy of the Highway Code online (I think it's available as a PDF; Know your traffic signs definitely is).

....

It is: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/the-highway-code. I remember I found reading a few parts of it to be useful the first time I drove in the UK on a trip to Scotland. I encountered some unfamiliar things like chicanes and I was glad I'd read about them beforehand.

IMO, chained mini-roundabouts are the #1 annoyance. I don't mean cool things like the Magic Roundabout in Swindon, I mean annoying things like this in Bristol. Even my British friends disliked these things.

Yup, went over that.

And yeah, chained mini-roundabouts...I'm not looking forward to stuff like that, but I guess it's the nature of the beast.
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deathtopumpkins

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Re: England and Scotland, March 2020
« Reply #11 on: February 10, 2020, 01:15:14 PM »

the Scottish Highlands are unusual in that a number of the primary routes (green-background directional signs) are single-track.

While there are A-roads that are still single-track, all of the primary routes are a full 2 lanes. I believe the last single track ones were the A830 and the A887.

My 2016 Collins atlas includes symbology for single-track primary routes, but as far as I can find does not depict any.

There are of course some single-track bridges still, but these can be found all over the UK. And there are still hundreds of miles of non-primary single-track A-roads in Scotland.
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cl94

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Re: England and Scotland, March 2020
« Reply #12 on: February 10, 2020, 01:21:55 PM »

While there are A-roads that are still single-track, all of the primary routes are a full 2 lanes. I believe the last single track ones were the A830 and the A887.

My 2016 Collins atlas includes symbology for single-track primary routes, but as far as I can find does not depict any.

There are of course some single-track bridges still, but these can be found all over the UK. And there are still hundreds of miles of non-primary single-track A-roads in Scotland.

Speaking of maps, does that atlas include tourist sites and other points of interest? I have a smaller Michelin map for quick reference, but I was wondering if there was anything out there that included a large amount of points of interest (museums, ruins, natural sites, etc.) and service areas.
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deathtopumpkins

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Re: England and Scotland, March 2020
« Reply #13 on: February 10, 2020, 01:40:48 PM »

I would absolutely 100% recommend picking up one of these. £12.99 well spent! The one I have is a bit thick (300+ pages), but is only 8.5"x11", and includes maps at various scales, with pretty much any info you could want on them. Yes, this includes points of interest. I can send you a few pictures of mine if you want to see what it looks like.
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cl94

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Re: England and Scotland, March 2020
« Reply #14 on: February 10, 2020, 01:44:33 PM »

Just bought on Amazon. Looking at the pictures there, it is exactly what I wanted. Thanks!
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