Roots on the Rails Roots on the Rails

Upcoming Trips: Scouting Wales and Scotland 2022



What is a scouting trip? Well, a scouting trip is a new type of ROTR adventure – one in which you get to be part of the initial foray along a route that we’re considering for a larger group trip at a later date. These trips will be limited to 10-12 people, and will not normally feature guest musicians, except where we stumble into them accidentally en route. The goal is to determine the logistical and experiential structure for a future “full” ROTR trip which would include our signature daily guest artist involvement.

For our scouting trips, we will have done a lot of the initial research, carefully plotted the route, arranged accommodations and ground transport, but the fun part happens when we discover together the hidden gems along the way. The “adventure” part of a scouting trip may be that the highly-reviewed hotel referenced in all the guidebooks turns out to be the creepy hoarder’s lair of a Victorian antiques enthusiast, or the train ride that boasts of spectacular mountain vistas actually consists of three hours of blurry views of impenetrable birch forest six feet from the track. We are equally likely to find the motel that has its own drive in movie theater, or the tiny little brewpub in the middle of the woods with lobster traps as tables.

Being a participant in one of our scouting trips may appeal to those who don’t particularly enjoy traveling in large groups. A scouting trip will inevitably have some rough edges – after all, your trip hosts will be seeing and experiencing many of these places for the first time as well. You’ll get to see the “sausage-making” process of a ROTR trip – how we decide what trains are worth riding, what hotels have the right vibe, which pubs stay open late for post-concert libations. We’ll be taking lots of notes, evaluating all the possibilities, and at the end you can claim partial credit for how the subsequent full ROTR trip turns out.

For 2021 we are planning two trips (which can easily be combined into one): one to Wales and one to Scotland.  Our  itineraries  are still somewhat malleable, as much of the UK transportation and tourism infrastructure is still in Covid recovery mode, but we will keep you updated with any major changes as things progress.

Here’s what we have planned...


MAY 2022 with traveling companion JON LANGFORD

DAY 1: London arrival. (For those who might want a day or two to deal with jet lag and do some independent exploring, we can arrange pre-trip hotel nights at our group rate.) We gather for a brief orientation and check-in before heading out to explore dinner options and our local surroundings.

DAY 2: London – Newport, Wales: We board the train at London’s historic Paddington Station and head west, passing through the beautiful North Wessex Downs, then across the Severn Estuary and into the ancestral lands of our good friend Jon Langford (who will be traveling with us and showing us the ropes): Wales!
     We’ll disembark in Newport – historic site of Wales’ coal exporting – and check into our downtown hotel before heading out for a quick explore – if our timing is right we can take the Pontypool and Blaenavon train to visit the Big Pit National Coal Mining Museum. Newport is a city that has re-imagined itself from its days as the center of Wales’ coal exporting industry, and is developing a great downtown scene of independent shops, music venues, pubs – including Le Pub, a community arts and music collective in which Mr. Langford has a stake, so we’ll have a festive evening there. Other possible activities: a ride across the River Usk on the Transporter Bridge (only one of six still in operation worldwide), a visit to the first of many Welsh castles, and a stroll along the Newport Public Art Trail.

DAY 3: Newport – Tenby: We spend the morning on a lovely train journey along the southern coast to the beautiful seaside town of Tenby, where we’ll have a chance to clamber about the ruins of Tenby Castle and explore the southern end of the Pembrokeshire National Park, a spectacular landscape of rugged cliffs, sandy beaches, wooded estuaries and wild hills, and home to the Pembrokeshire Coast Path National Trail, a walking trail traversing 186 miles of the most spectacular coastal scenery in Britain. If timing and weather permit, we may also go out on a seal/porpoise watch and/or visit Caldey Island, a community of Cistercian monks who are continuing a tradition of monastic presence on the island since the 12th century. Fish and Chips and a night in our charming seaside hotel round out the day.

DAY 4: Tenby – Criccieth: A beautiful days drive up the Pembrokeshire Coast and into Snowdonia National Park, with a mid-day stop in Aberystwyth to ride the ridiculously charming Vale of Rheidol narrow gauge train, then on northward, where we will be bedding down in one of the equally unpronounceable towns of Criccieth or Blaenau Ffestiniog (in the heart of Snowdonia), depending on how the train schedules are restored.

DAY 5: The Fffestiniog and Welsh Highland Railways and then on to Llandudno: We start early by boarding the train in Blaenau Ffestiniog and ride what is widely hailed as one of the Uk’s most stunning rail journeys. We’ll stop in Porthmadog, then transfer to the Welsh Highland line and travel to Caernarfon, where we’ll wave at the glorious Caernarfon Castle (don’t worry, we can come back and tour it tomorrow), then we’ll head for the classic seaside resort town of Llandudno for the night.

DAY 6: Explore Llandudno, Caernarfon Castle and Hollyhead: Today we head out for excursions -- the Great Orme Tramway, Caernarfon Castle and Hollyhead and Anglesey, then back to Llandudno for the night.

DAY 7: Llandudno to Glasgow: Today we get to experience the glory and efficiency of a national passenger rail system that operates with efficiency and speed! If we start early enough, we can make a quick stop in the Snowdonia gateway village of Betws-yCoed for a quick visit to the Rhaeadr Ewynnol waterfalls, then we head across the border to the English town of Crewe where we’ll board the train for a magnificent ride northward, skirting the edges of both the Yorkshire Dales National Park, and the Lake District National Park, then we’ll cross the River Esk into Scotland! Our final destination is our comfy hotel and a few well-deserved pints in the heart of Glasgow.

DAY 8: The trip officially ends. Flights back to the US can be booked from either Glasgow or Edinburgh, which is a short hour and a half train ride from Glasgow. Those continuing on to the Scotland Scouting trip will have a moment to catch their breath, explore this fascinating city on their own, before meeting up with their next round of fellow travelers in Edinburgh.


MAY 2022

DAY 1: Arrival in Edinburgh: We arrive in Edinburgh and check into our downtown hotel. Depending on everyone’s arrival plans, we’ll head out to take in some of the city’s legendary museums and historical sites before heading out for dinner and a wee bit of pub crawling.

DAY 2: Edinburgh to Perth: After some more Edinburgh exploring, we’ll board the afternoon train for a short trip to the lovely town of Perth, on the banks of the River Tay. Perth is a great walking town, with a public art trail along the river. Perhaps we’ll get in a visit to Greyfriars Burial Ground – home to some of the oldest monuments and headstones to be found anywhere in Scotland, such as the 'Weeping Woman' and the 'Adam and Eve' stones.  Other options include exploring Balhousie Castle for a glimpse into the region’s rich history, or a tipple at the Dewar’s Distillery. Perth is also home to Scotland’s oldest family-owned record store, with tens of thousands of pieces of vinyl to peruse. We’ll overnight in Perth at a charming town-center hotel, and with a few really iconic music venues in town, we may stumble into some great live entertainment as well.

DAY 3: Perth to Pitlochry to Inverness: After a morning in Perth. we’ll hop on the train for a short ride to the utterly charming town of Pitlochry for a lunch stop – perhaps at the café at the Pitlochry Dam, which is reported to have the best views over the river Tummel and Loch Faskally and a potter around. Shockingly, there is a distillery in town we may need to visit as well! We re-board the train and head up to Inverness, our home for the night, and a city perfect for exploring on foot – we can explore the historic Inverness Castle and St. Andrews Cathedral, and pop in to the Scottish Kiltmakers Visitors Center.

DAY 4: Inverness to Kyle to Portree: Today we board the train and head for the legendary Isle of Skye, winding past lochs and moors as we make our way through the Highlands, past one of the most distinctive mountain ranges in Scotland, the Torridon Peaks, looming out of the north. We’ll disembark for a brief stop in Kyle, and time permitting we’ll backtrack a few miles for a visit to the Eilean Donan Castle  before continuing on to Skye. Our home for the next two nights is the picture postcard harbor town of Portree, where we’ll settle in to our town-center hotel and have a wander about.

DAY 5: Isle of Skye:
Time to explore! Skye, while not a large island, is jam-packed with history and magnificent scenery, so we’re going to see as much of it as we possibly can. We launch our day of adventure with a drive up the Trotternish Peninsula to the northernmost tip of the island, past the massive pinnacle formation of the Old Man of Storr for a stop at the Skye Museum of Island Life, then it’s off to the stunning Dunvegan Castle and Gardens, and then perhaps a late fireside lunch at the Old Inn in Carbost, and a tasting at the nearby Talisker Distillery (it’s right there, so how could we not?), before heading back for another night in Portree.

DAY 6: Portree to Mallaig: This morning we pack up and head south for a stop at the Armadale Castle and Gardens and lunch at their inventive restaurant (vegan haggis anyone?), then we hop the ferry for the short 45 minute ride across Loch Horn to Mallaig. Time permitting we may squeeze in a visit to the Mallaig Heritage Center to visit their exhibition on the history of the West Highland Railway – the highlight of our next day’s journey! We overnight in this charming port town in a hotel with views of the busy harbor.

DAY 7: Mallaig to Glasgow: Today we board the legendary Jacobite Steam Train for what has been called the greatest railway journey in the world (we’ll let them know if we think this is true) this forty-mile trip from Loch Nevis to Ben Nevis, takes us past the deepest freshwater loch in Britain, Loch Morar and the shortest river in Britain, River Morar, all behind a magnificicent steam locomotive, 'Black 5' No 45407, 'The Lancashire Fusilier'. We cross the twenty-one-arched Glenfinnan viaduct (a location made famous in the Harry Potter films) which overlooks Loch Shiel and the Jacobite monument. After a brief stop in Fort William, at the foot of Ben Nevis, we transfer to ScotRail’s West Highland Line for the final push to Glasgow, Scotland’s largest city, where we’ll collapse into our comfy hotel beds.

DAY 8: Glasgow to home: Sadly, this is the end of our journey together, although should you wish to extend your stay in Glasgow, we’ll be happy to get you our group rate at our host hotel. For those wishing to fly home out of Edinburgh, it’s a short one hour train ride between Glasgow and Edinburgh, and we can help you make those arrangements.



Two Trip Discount: We've got a special discount for those who want to do both trips, and as always we are happy to take a deposit, then set up an interest free monthly credit card payment schedule for you. Both trips combined: $6750 per person (a savings of $250.00 - more if you pay in full at time of sign-up). Includes 14 nights hotel accommodation (single occupancy for solo travelers), rail and motor coach ground transportation, admission to all scheduled attractions. Please note that the hotel on 7/10 is not included in the two-trip pricing, however we are happy to arrange that night at our group rate at either our Glasgow or Edinburgh hotel -- depending on where you'd like to spend your time.

Wales: Includes 7 nights hotel accommodation (single occupancy for solo travelers), rail and motor coach ground transportation, admission to all scheduled attractions. $3500.00 per person.

Scotland: Includes 7 nights hotel accommodation (single occupancy for solo travelers) rail and motor coach ground transportation, admission to all scheduled attractions. $3500 per person.


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