Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Conclusion: "Frae Orkney Down to Dover"

But give me a ramblin' rover, 
Frae Orkney down to Dover. 
We will roam the country over 
And together we'll face the world. 
- "The Ramblin' Rover" by Silly Wizard

When I returned from my trip, I watched an episode of Time Team that showed them digging at Caerleon. I felt a twinge of smugness - I had been there, I had roamed that Roman amphitheatre and I had seen it with my own eyes before the TV ever brought it to me.

This was the best decision ever. So now I will list some of the Very Important Things that might help you on your own trip to Britain.

1) International Driving Permit - Australians, pick one of these up from NRMA for $39. If you have your driver's licence, you're good to go - you will not have to pass any tests. You will need a passport photo that they literally glue onto your permit. It does seem a bit cheap and nasty but it gets the job done.

2) Overseas Visitor Pass - a really cheap way to get into most of the properties governed by English Heritage (details here). You can get into a range of places from Dover Castle to Stonehenge to Lindisfarne Priory. Parking is free or discounted at some of these places if you have an OVP. You can pick up your pass from a staffed site.

3) Historic Scotland Explorer Pass - similar to the above but fewer places are included in it (check it out at this link). However, it will see you into select places from the border all the way to Orkney! It's a cheaper option and quite good for queue jumping - it also gets you a discount on audio tours at Edinburgh Castle. Be warned though that your printout IS your ticket so you will need to keep it in a plastic sleeve.

"Frae Orkney…"

4) Book tickets online whenever you can. You can often get tickets cheaper if you purchase beforehand (eg. the Tower of London). It is very handy to have tickets ready because you can get in quickly without wasting time on paying.

4) Buy an Oyster card online and have it sent to you before you leave home (we used this site). When you get it pre-loaded you can just zap it the first time you enter the London underground. Fares are much cheaper on the Oyster card.

5) If you intend to see a lot of Britain, get a hire car. Public transport is not at all kind to places like Arbor Low. I advise that either you be over the age of 25 or have a handy brother named Cazy who is over 25 to avoid the ridiculous price hike on insurance. Do NOT upgrade to a giant car because quaint little towns are not the place for those. However, a four-wheel drive is not a bad idea for more…adventurous locations.

6) Be prepared to do a lot of walking. Get decent shoes if you intend to slosh through the mud at Stonehenge or dodge sheep shit near Hadrian's Wall. Or even just for traipsing around Edinburgh - don't waste money on bus tickets.

"…down to Dover."

7) Occasionally book a serviced apartment instead of a hotel. Sometimes the slightly extra price is worth it - especially if you get your own kitchen and that sacred item, the washer/dryer. We subsidised these visits by staying in a few dives.

8) Making your own meals will save you a lot of money. If you can, pinch some croissants and packets of spreads from your hotel's breakfast buffet. Bread, spreads and driving snacks can be bought from supermarkets. I travelled with plastic cutlery, bowls and plates which helped a lot! On some nights we were too tired to go out so we had cheap instant noodles instead (most, if not all, hotels come with a kettle).

9) Movie tickets are cheaper in Torquay than in Edinburgh. Just saying.

10) Be careful. You might catch the travelling bug. This is incurable. And already this roving rambler is dreaming of another trip, another adventure...

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