Saturday, April 19, 2014

12 Things People Don't Tell You About Visiting Scotland and Ireland

I recently returned from a 2 week visit to Scotland and Ireland. I did enjoy the trip, but discovered some things I did not know before I went, even though I did research travel tips. If you are planning a trip to the UK or Ireland, here are some things to know before you go.

  1. It's damp and windy- All. The. Time. Yes, I knew to expect some rain and rapid weather change, but I was not expecting the reality of the weather. Rapid weather change means that in a 30 minute time span you can have sun, overcast, wind, drizzle, sleet, and violent wind. Yes, I'm talking about you, Cliffs of Moher.

Cliffs of Moher weather
What started as a sunny day soon turned to sleet and wind that almost knocked you down.

  1. Just invest in a cute coat to take on your trip, nobody will ever see what you are wearing under your coat. (see above for the reason)

    How cute I could have been, if only I had known.

How 'cute' I actually was- a London Fog coat for warmth, another jacket for wind and rain.

  1. Apparently, washcloths do not exist there. We stayed 13 nights and never had a washcloth included in the towel set. We stayed in a couple hotels as well as self-catering accommodations and all we received was a bath towel and a hand towel. I suppose if we had stayed in a chain hotel like a Hampton Inn or Marriott, we might have gotten a washcloth. Lesson learned: when travelling to Scotland or Ireland (perhaps all of Europe?), take your own washcloth.

  1. Top sheets are rare, too. Most bedding did not include a top sheet, though a couple places did have them. Comforters with a duvet cover seemed to be the common way to make a bed.

  1. The English they speak is not the English you speak. Well, in general, it is the same, but they speak much faster (unless you are from the northeastern U. S.) and have a different accent. If you are from the southern U. S., expect to listen carefully and ask people to repeat what they just said. Or just smile and nod and pretend you understand.

  1. Except for the major highways, the roads have no shoulder. Not only that, but there is usually a stone wall next to the road, or a stone wall/hedge combination. It is similar to driving next to concrete construction barriers. All. The. Time. I hate those concrete construction barriers.

It is hard to tell from this photo, but this is a major highway in Ireland.

  1. Prices are inclusive of tax and tipping is not expected. Fortunately, I was informed about tipping on the first day of our trip. This is nice, especially considering the exchange rate of the dollar to the pound and the euro.

  1. In Dublin, request a non-smoking rental car – if such a thing exists. Our car smelled like it had been smoked in and an air freshener had been used to try to mask the smell. Yuck. I saw more smokers in Dublin than I have seen in a very long time, so don't forget this tip.

  1. “When visiting Scotland, always bring your hiking boots and dancing shoes,” said the nice female Ranger at the Glencoe Visitor's Center. Alas, I packed neither; maybe next time.
  2. Scotland has 'open access' which means you can walk anywhere, even private property, as long as you don't harass the livestock. It also has many, many trails, so it would be a great choice for a long backpacking trip
    Don't mind us, sheep, we're just walking through your rocks and fields.
  3. If you wash clothes, expect them to take 2 days to dry. If you hang them up outside, I don't know how long it takes for them to dry (see #1), but it is a common practice. (photo) Also, don't get in a hurry and put your expensive 'wool' hiking socks in a warm oven to dry. There is some acrylic in those socks and they will melt!
    This is a common sight.  With it being 'damp' all the time, I don't know how these ever dry!

  1. Learn about traffic signs before you go if you plan to do any driving. The signs can be confusing and/or hard to interpret.

For those of you who want the fun part of the trip and the travel photos, I will post that next time.

Have you ever travelled abroad and discovered things you wish you had known before you went? Share in the comments, please.

**Sorry about the strange spacing and double 4's.  Blogger was doing weird things and I could not figure out how to make it right.  If you know, I would love tips!


Unknown said...

Your tips were very helpful. My 23 y/o daughter and I are going to Scotland in a month and were especially confused about footwear on Mull. Boots it is. Thank you!

karentrina said...

Scotland is a wonderful trip! Don't forget your dancing shoes and cute coat, too. :-) We visited in April and I wore some type of jacket every day.

beehive50 said...

Some great tips, for sure! Thanks! Like "sea quay", my 22-year-old daughter will be studying in Glasgow this coming fall semester and I'll be joining her in December. I know... COLD and rainy! I'm just hoping that I have the right shoes to keep me dry and warm! I think we've got coats and jackets right, but shoes... not sure I'll need dancing ones! LOL

beehive50 said...

These sound like great tips! Like "Sea Quay" above, I'm traveling to Scotland with my 22-year-old daughter in December. Actually, she'll be studying in Glasgow Sept-Dec, then I'll join her. I know it'll be COLD and raining most (all?) of the time and I feel good about the coats we have. For me, my biggest fear is my shoes! Do I need to pack my Wellies? Or will good water-resistant trainers be sufficient? And do I *really* need dancing shoes? ;)

karentrina said...

Since we were there in April, I don't really know if it will rain more in December, or not. It rained some most days, but not downpours. Based on that, water-resistant trainers might be sufficient. Is snow a possibility? If you decide you need Wellies, I suppose you could buy some there instead of packing them. I would think they would take up a lot of room in your suitcase! As for dancing shoes, I'm just passing on advice from a native Scott. :-) If you plan to travel near the Highlands, you might want to pack your dancing shoes, just in case. You never know...;-)

beehive50 said...

Well, all my research indicates that it most likely rain. Potentially a lot. But, maybe not. Ha. I'm thinking positive that we'll see some sun! Cold, but maybe a little sun! I've got the water-resistant trainers covered (they've been ordered!), but as for my Wellies... packing them might be hard, although they'd be perfect to stuff with socks and undies and such! But, those dancing shoes... hmmmm... gotta think on that! LOL Thanks, Karen!

Laura Cruz said...

Thank you for your tips! Especially the wash cloth one! I was counting on having wash cloths at the places we are staying... guess I will reconsider that!

karentrina said...

Yep, better reconsider and take your own.

SolaFaye said...

I've been to Ireland once for a cross country horseriding holiday and to Wales twice and England several times. The best footwear that I've ever found are my Dublin country walking boots. They are knee-high leather walking boots that can double as riding boots. My friend took water resistant hiking boots... they turned out to not be as water resistant as necessary for the climate, nor were they tall enough to keep her ankles from getting soaked. Wet means WET over there. lol. I stood in the ocean with my boots. I wore them while traveling so I didn't need to pack them. I also took my Aussie Outback coat. It is windproof as well as waterproof. A good hat is also a thought or you'll look like you've been in a wind tunnel. I hadn't run into the washcloth issue even though we stayed in bed and breakfast places, but it's good to know it might be a problem.

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