Practical Rail Transport
My journey this season is going to have me traveling both Ireland and Scotland mostly by rail, maybe some buses. I had considered driving, I mean who doesn’t want to try the other side of the road. However looking at all the expenses of driving a rental in another country, insurance included and the cost of petrol, doesn’t make much sense when every bit counts for the cost of staying in a place. However, the cost of some basic railway journeys even if they seem straight forward, I can guarantee you aren’t. Not all countries have rail lines going in a way that makes sense, and then there are those mountains. For example a very lengthy journey for me is going to be Glasgow to Isle of Skye. Now, there are three ways to go with this, bus and ferry, train and ferry, train and train. The costs were getting rather high for that leg of the journey, close to £ 75.00 for the first leg, then a bus to get on the island. But I did say I will get to Skye this year.
Best bets for planning your travel budget are to join up with rail companies online and in your profile look at some of the journeys you are planning, store them if you can. Irish Rail has a great breakdown where you can plonk in your route and get a cost for the total journey. I found this useful as I had to plan the out to Galway trip, then the back through Dublin and up to Belfast trip. Sadly the trains don’t have a west coast loop that was convenient for Ireland. Sigh.
To plan for a budget, I set up a Google Doc with planned journeys and got some estimates as to travel totals. This gave me a good idea on how to budget. Some railways have discount cards if you pay a set fee, you get several journeys. I tried this last year but found it difficult to book online travel with it for seat reservations. If it’s festival season, which is most of the summer, it’s a good idea to book your seats in advance. The journey between Glasgow and Edinburgh got packed every weekend due to this and it was a fight to get seats. So if you can, book in advance and print tickets out online, claim them at the station machines. The best time for travel is after 8:00 am as commuter travel has eased up a bit.
Traveling by train is very romantic and can be loads of fun. Train enthusiasts around the world travel just to get on historic train rides. Ride like they did in the old days, but maybe with some WiFi. It’s a great friend and family outing, if you chose the right trains. The prices are a bit steep, but there are full dining cars and first class comfort. It’s not just getting on a train, it’s getting spoiled. If you have it in your budget, you may want to center your travel around one of the historic journeys. They have limited runs and sell out months in advance, so you will want to book before you buy plane tickets or see if they dates match any of your stay.
This historic train has been rebuilt and relaunched in the UK. During the Summer of 2016 when I was touring Scotland, this famous steam train returned to the tracks. There was such a fervor to experience it, I could not even get tickets for when I was in Edinburgh area. This year I hope to squeeze in a day for this train if I can get the chance and a ticket. This beauty was rebuilt over 10 years time to restore it to it’s fleeting speed. It is part of the working National Railway Museum’s collection. Sadly, none of the dates are near where I will be in Scotland this year, so if you want to catch your train, see if you will be near any of the cities on dates. This train has a special schedule and you need to see where you can board from:
There are quite a few historic train runs during the March through October season in Ireland. There are websites dedicated to railway museums and you can see the schedules. Great fun and if you can bring the family it’s a treat.
Railway hotels are not a thing of the past. In the past, every mail railway station in the world had some grand hotel right next to it. Today we may think of this being like the airport hotels, and it’s true that it is the same idea and convenience as it was in the past, but of course the noise will be that of train tracks. And in the days of old, the hotels would be quite opulent, depending on the station placement. Many railways built more serviceable hotels . But over time these disappeared as we became more dependent on motorways and the hotels shifted to highway and motorway junctions. Today, some of the newer railway hotels are restored beauties in places like Morcambe’s Midland Hotel, is a grand Art Deco lady and many notable people stayed in her rooms. This lady is fully restored and waiting for your travels. When in Edinburgh, check out the Caledonian Hotel, restored and not too modernized and overdone.
Railway Hotels around the World
To see the scheduled runs for the season, check out: