|Subject: RE: York, the Lake District, and UK driving|
I flew into Manchester and spent a week in York the end of last summer. I did this without a car. There is a train station at the Manchester airport. It was a simple matter to walk over to the train station and catch a train to York. I think they ran just about hourly and the trip is about 2 hours. I did allow some extra time coming back to the airport, arriving the evening before my flight. At the time, they were having trouble with the rail schedules due to staff shortages and some of the trains were being cancelled -- not many, but I didn't want to find that mine was one!
You can do York in 2-3 days. It was a nice base for the Yorkshire Dells. I took the bus out to Castle Howard (filming location for Brideshead and Brideshead Revisited). I really enjoyed that trip. These are the Howards that date back to Henry VIII. They still have the Castle in the family. It has been mildly commercialized to help with the upkeep. The gardens and lake views are magnificent. The estate encompasses 5 villages. It is easily accessible by car, too.
I also took a bus to Pickering and did a round trip on the North Yorkshire Moors Railway. It is a magnificent old steam train that has been restore to take tourists and school children (they get their own compartment) from Pickering to Grosmont with several stops in between. Basically, it just does through the countryside. It is very scenic. At the time that I was there, hoof and mouth was still a big problem. The James Herriot style day tours of the Yorkshire Dales were not running. This was a great way to make up for it. I haven't ably to confirm it, but I think that this is the train that was used as the Hogwarts Express in the Harry Potter movie.
I can't comment on the Lake District other than to say that I understand a car is pretty much a must there for any kind of real touring. That's why I didn't go there when I went to York. As for driving on the left, I have never driven in England but I have logged over 6000 miles on the left in Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa. First off, I found that traffic was my friend (to a point - we aren't talking rush hour). It helped me stay on the correct side of the road while getting acclimated. I found that I was most vulnerable to drift on country roads with little traffic. Of course, the round-abouts are always fun. The Kiwis and Aussies are fond of them -- fortunately, they post them with BIG blue arrows pointing the right way. I am sure that one of these days I will take on the road in England. I am anxious to see Cornwall and that seems to call for a car. Having been to England on several occasions, I think the roads are more daunting than those in the former colonies that still drive on the left. They are narrower and windier. There is also more traffic.
Hope this has been of some help. Take care and have a good time.