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Oh yea! In two weeks the advance train tickets will be released, and a Scrambling will begin.
Apolgies to all of you well-kent Challengers, but a brief word to the rest of our congretation.
When buying tickets, split your journey by operator. So if for example you're travelling from York to Strathcarron, buy one ticket York > Edinburgh, and then two more Edinburgh > Inverness and Inverness > Strathcarron. Monster savings.
Personally I find the East Coast site the best and easiest to use. You can buy tix through this site for any UK journey - doesn't have to be an East Coast segment. Click here for the East Coast website
If you can rustle up another two fiends, then take advantage of the 3+ group rate, which gives all your party a 33% saving. Click here for details
Remember that if you are Very Old that you can get a Senior Railsaver card that will also give you 33% discount.
Not travelling by rail? If you are domiciled in Scotland and are over 59 you can get a card that will give you unlimited free travel on buses and coaches with no time restrictions. This basically means that you can travel anywhere at no cost whatsoever.
Finally, Scotrail has once gain rolled out their Club 55. Alas this finishes well before The Challenge, but if any of you fancy trundling around it's great value. Last ouward date is end March, with final return a month later. Details are here
I agree with Humphrey about East Coast trains. And breaking the journeys is the way to go.
I also suggest looking at Virgin trains (if they operate nearby). They have a bargain fare page which is worth a look.
I've looked at the latest I can book Birmingham to Euston ie 24 April and can get a single fare for £3.95 or £10.55 First Class. But, I am VERY OLD.
This year I'm catching the sleeper to Inverness. Oddly, it may pay to put in that you are not VERY OLD, especially if you want to go First Class! I'm probably going to put in VERY OLD unless I can snap up a FC for under £50 - which I did see for a couple of months ago!
It's worth playing with the fare menu, I found it cheaper to get from Montrose to Tamworth by going to Kings Cross and then from Euston to Birmingham and then to Tamworth.
It is a brain scrambler - I used to go Montrose to York to Tamworth for instance. But, it works out easier to go via Kings Cross!
Even from Dundee to Glasgow you can save over ten quid by splitting at Perth, utter madness !!
I'm currently tearing my hair out trying to work out the best way to get to Scotland!
I'm coming from the South West which always makes travel a nightmare anyway. I have to work until midday on the Thurs, am booked into the Strathcarron hotel for Fri night and start walking Saturday morning.Flying to Edinburgh or Glasgow from Exeter or Bristol would work except that i can't take gas and being neurotic I will panic that I wont be able to buy any in Edinburgh or Inverness or that my rucksack will be put on the wrong plane! (I know it's not sensible but I can't help it).
Inverness sleeper from Euston doesn't leave till 9:15pm. Its fun. You could give that a go if Great Western can get you to London by then
so can i ask, when can i try to get a cheap sleeper to Inverness? Do they go from Euston? I agree going via london is cheaper - last year it was £18 single Montrose to London, then I got a cheap ticket to Gloucester - though only snag I couldn't use it until the 7pm cattle train to Swindon which meant a long wait in paddington.
Sue, I'm pretty sure that a message left on this board would find a kind soul willing to leave a gas canister for you to collect at your sign-in point.
And having flown up several times, the airlines have never lost my rucksack - so I've had to lug the dam n thing right across Scotland. Just a tip - I put mine in a lockable bag (saves ensuring all the straps are tidied away) together with a pre-paid envelope to post the bag back on arrival.
So ... relax ...
If you want to save on postage&faff, there is the Cling Film alternative (very popular in the Middle East). Keeping the haul handle out (so you can pick your sack up) tighten up all your straps and then cocoon your sack over all the straps in wide cling film from the pound shop. It prevents anyone pilfering your kit and protects your bag from abrasions on the carousels etc.
At your destination, unwrap the clingfilm, scrap it into the bin and off you trot (and your rucksack is as fresh as a daisy too)! Easy enough to pick up a roll of clingfilm for the return journey.
Thanks to everyone for their thoughts on me getting to Scotland - and for the couple of private emails I have had.
My preference is actually for the train, not the plane so will try and work something out there first.
I really did know that I would be able to get gas, I just always have been that worrier - am I really the only one who always has the nagging voice in my head going - "what if the train is delayed?" " What if the airline loses my bag?" "what if there's fog and the plane doesn't fly?" etc etc
Er, no! Most definitely not. I am well known (unfortunately :-( ) for my ability to stress and fret, and not just in the (obsessive) planning stages. Glad I'm not the only one!
The scramble for the cheap train tickets starts next week and as I understand it there are only two through sleeper carriages on the London/ Fort William route. I believe there are more carriages on the Inverness route.
So despite starting from Mallaig I hope to get tickets to Wednesday night service to Inverness and there connect with the scenic train route to Kyle of Lochalsh ( a journey I wanted to take for years ).
From Kyle its easy to get the bus over to Skye and Armadale and thus the ferry to Mallaig, arriving just after 3 o'clock.
It may be an option for those who can't get the space and/or cheap tickets via FW.
We can get a bit hung up on the trains. Unless you're obsessively green, the aeroplane often offers a faster and cheaper alternative.
Easy Jet London Stansted to Glasgow on the Thursday (arr.9.25am) is just £31.99 inc up to 20kg hold luggage. I've used this flight in the past. Always had plenty of time to bus or cab into Glasgow buy gas from Tiso's (other outdoor shops are available) and stroll over to Queen street for the train.
Then the train back from Montrose. Simples (fast, and cheap too)
Oh yea! And if I lived down south of course I'd take that option.
A quick trawl for Thursday May 09 shows, for example:
Luton > Inverness 09:30 > 10:55 Easyjet for £35.
Gatwick > Inverness 11:35 > 13:15 Easyjet for £43.
Both ideal with easy train/bus connections to Strathcarron/Plockton/Dornie/Shiel Bridge out of Inverness.
In another life - in the early '90's - I'd a job that meant that I spent two full years continually travelling and living in hotels throughout Europe. As you can imagine, I soon became The World's Greatest Bore regarding infrastructure. Off-peak travel between Weisbaden and Frankfurt? Sign me up, babes.
Seriously for a moment, one of the secret joys of The Challenge is getting to and from yr start/end-points. Some of us have considered hiring mule trains. Others delve into arcane trans-border concessionary fares - and have been known to take on alternate identies simply to shave off those extra pennies.
All I know is that I favour the multiple split-journeys. It's not bright, it's not clever, but it means that I can reduce Berwick-upon-Tweed to Strathcarron from an initial ask of £70.70 down to £16.80 (clue . . . even with the same operator look to split your journey at logical transit points - in this case Scotrail Edinburgh > Strathcarron breaks at Inverness, and buying two tickets saves you £4.70. And you can travel Beartown > Edinburgh for £2.95.
East Coast - which is the only nationalised line, and is owned by you and me - has a very wonderful ticketing system that, once you dig in, gives you all these options.
This is all very sad. If I knew where to get a life I'd go for it.
Unfortunately Stansted is not an option for a Wiltshire lad, but there are cheap flights from both Bristol and Southampton. However we feel that the plotting journey to and from, with all its permutations is half the fun.
Not having travelled on a Sleeper train before together with the opportunity of a few beers etc in the lounge car was an opportunity not to be missed. Chuck in a few scenic railway miles and it comes together.
Not living near a great metropolis, obviously Swindon fails that particular accolade, means we country folk have travel distances before we even commence our journey 'opp north'
Now if I could only have found a steam train for part of the journey !
Splitting is a good move. As is looking to go via London if you are going from the SW.
e.g. for my 2011 outward to Mallaig, after 2 hours on the Trainline I jiggled times and split my journey from Exeter to Mallaig thus:
1 Exeter Paddington
2 Paddington Euston
3 Euston Glasgow
4 Glasgow Fort William
5 Fort William Mallaig
- compared to choosing just Exeter to Mallaig (to end up on the same final train) I saved just over £100 ! (Had to start 3 hours earlier though)
On the return journey Montrose - London(somehwere!) - walked 1/2mile over to Waterloo - Exeter - saved me £60 compared to a direct ticket to Exeter.