Walking Using Public Transport - Walks Around Britain

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Walking Using Public Transport

With the public transport opening back up for all types of journeys,
we've decided to make an in-depth guide to leaving the car behind
and go walking using Britain's public transport system.

There's lots of options throughout the country to
enjoy a safe and environmental-friendly method of getting outside.

Travelling by Rail

The most popular form of public transport for most walkers is rail - able to take you both to the nearby open space and the landscapes at the other end of the country.  Travelling by train also offers the possiblity of linear walks between stations - getting off at one station and walking to another along the line, without worrying about picking up your car afterwards.

Rail travel in Britain is undergoing a massive transformation, with many brand new fleets such as LNER's new Azumas providing a seachange in the passenger experience.

There are two different types of train operators in Britain...

  • Franchised operators
  • Open Access operators

Franchised trains operators run a specific area under a franchise from the Department for Transport (DfT) which last a set number of years.  These are generally the most well-known companies - like GWR, LNER and ScotRail.

Franchised train operators run under strict commitments as to service levels and ticket pricing, and in return most receive a payment from the DfT in order to maintain services that aren't profit making.

Open Access operators do not have a franchise from the DfT and therefore have to survive on their own.  The most successful have been on the East Coast Main Line, like Grand Central and Hull Trains, providing express services to and from King's Cross, plugging gaps in the services of the franchised operators.

If you have an Open Access operator on the route you want to travel on, then usually they will be cheaper than the Franchised operator - but they will only run a fraction of the services the main franchised operator will run.

For those travelling long distances, worthy of note here are the two Sleeper services still running in Britain - the Caledonian Sleeper - between Scotland and London - and the Night Riviera - between Cornwall and London.  Both offer great comfort and the special feeling of waking up in a completely different place - ready to go walking.  The Caledonian Sleeper has just had a completely new fleet of coaches, and is well worth a journey.

We've got so many tips to get the best value fares on
Britain's Railways that we've made a special page for them all!

Travelling by Bus

Buses are often thought of as the poor relation in Britain's public transport family - yet a large percentage of public transport use in Great Britain is by bus.

In most wider urban areas, there is a comprehensive network of buses, often co-ordinated by a Passenger Transport Executive - or PTE.  The PTE, or in some cases a unitary council, works with the bus operators to agree minimum service levels, to provide quality improvements and to provide funding for a range of early morning, late night and Sunday services.

However, it's in the rural areas of the country which often find themselves with a vastly inferior service, which doesn't help people make the switch to public transport - and these are often the very places we walkers enjoy visiting for a day.

Fortunately, several rural areas do enjoy a better level of bus services during summer times simply because us walkers want to use the bus to get to walks.  The excellent DalesBus initiative in the Yorkshire Dales, for example, provides fantastic access to the Dales from outside of the area.

To help you plan going walking by bus, all the walks on Walks Around Britain have clickable links where possible to the most frequent service for each walk, so looking through the operator's website should help.

Tips for the best fares...
  • Group Tickets
Many operators now have special discount fares for groups - for example Stagecoach Yorkshire has a Five travel for a Fiver ticket, where between 2-5 people can travel on Saturdays, Sundays and Bank Holidays for £5 all day on any Stagecoach bus in South and West Yorkshire and within the Chesterfield megarider Plus zone - perfect for a day out walking.

  • Family Tickets
Many operators also now have special fares for families - or a group who travel together like a family - again, for example Stagecoach Yorkshire has a Family Explorer ticket, where a group of up to 2 adults and 3 children can have unlimited travel on all Stagecoach buses within South and West Yorkshire, Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire, Gainsborough and the Sheffield Supertram for £11.50.

Things to note...
  • When using any public transport to go out walking, make sure you know when the last service is - and aim to get on the one before.  That way, if you don't make it, there's always the one after you can catch.

Travelling by Trams / Light Rail / Tube

From the 60s, when the last tram networks were closed in Sheffield and Glasgow, light rail in Britain was pretty much exclusively the preserve of London - with its famous Tube, or more formally the London Underground.

The renaissance of light rail in Britain started with the Tyne & Wear Metro system in the 1980s, taking over some almost abandoned lines from British Rail and turning them into a passenger railway now much loved and used in the region.  The first city to bring trams back in Britain was Manchester - again running largely on former British Rail tracks along with many new city centre sections too.  Sheffield wasn't too far behind, and was unique in having a very large percentage of brand new track, as opposed to re-using former heavy rail lines.

Now, the list of tram, tube and light rail systems in Britain is as follows...

Blackpool was the only first generation tramway system not to be closed in the UK - and was upgraded in 2012 to a second generation system with new track and new trams running the day-to-day service, with the heritage trams still operating at weekends during the holiday season.

Using trams or light rail systems to go walking offers many fantastic opportunities - not least linear walks between stations.

Some networks are obviously more comprehensive than others - the Glasgow Subway, for instance, is only one line with 15 stations - as opposed to the London Underground with 11 lines and 270 stations - but there's some brilliant urban walking between stations on the Glasgow system.

Several of the systems do allow some country walking too - there are some lovely walks from the Manchester Metrolink, the Tyne & Wear Metro and the outlining areas of the London Underground - the "Metroland" areas for example.

Our Top Tip is to look for the unlimited travel tickets - these will allow you to break your journey and get on and off wherever you want.  A "Sheffield Tram Only dayrider" on the Stagecoach Supertram is £4.40, and similarly an "Off-Peak day ticket" on the West Midlands Metro is also £4.40.

Travelling by Coach

Coaches are an excellent cost-effective way to travel around Britain.

The largest operator of scheduled coach services throughout Britain is National Express, who's vehicles will be a familiar sight along the motorways of the country.  With National Express, you should be able to get to most major areas, linking more than 650 destinations in Britain - and from there take local public transport to your ultimate destination.

National Express regularly have offers available for the best tickets online - currently they have a promotion for selected routes from £5 one way - subject to the times you travel.

You might be able to get a Coachcard to cut your journey costs.  These are like a Railcard on the railways and offer a third off selected fares.  The Coachcards costs £14 a year inc P&P.

There are three types available...

  • Senior Coachcard - For those 60 years or over, also allows special Tuesday offers.
  • Young Persons Coachcard - For those who are between 16 and 26 years old.
  • Disabled Coachcard - For anyone who is registered as disabled.

Other tips for the best fares...

  • Book online as early as you can
  • Being more flexible with your dates and times often gets the best fares
  • Avoid travelling at peak times

Things to note...
  • The price you first see is a "From" price for a Restricted ticket - this doesn't allow any any refunds or any changes to your travel plans, so make sure it suits your needs.
  • There's a £1 booking fee to add onto the ticket prices
  • Reserving a seat costs £2 per person per journey

In addition to National Express, there's a low cost coach service, megabus.com.  Their coaches link over 90 locations, including London to Manchester, London to Birmingham and London to Edinburgh and so should be able to get to most major areas - and from there take local public transport to your ultimate destination.

The difference with megabus.com isn't just price, it's also that their tickets are often part Megabus coach and part rail journey.  Initially, this was on Stagecoach-owned rail franchises, because Megabus is owned by Stagecoach - but it seems the deal continues on with the new owners of those former Stagecoach franchises...

So, on a journey between Sheffield and London, the difference between Megabus and National Express is interesting.  With Megabus, the journey is actually on an East Midlands Railway express rail service to London St Pancras International, whereas the National Express coach is direct - but to London's Marble Arch.

Sheffield to London
National Express
   Cost (sample)
  Journey time
4 hours 20 minutes
2 hours 10 minutes
   Journey type
Train from Sheffield
Amazingly, the cheapest fare if you booked the Sheffield to London rail journey direct with East Midlands Railway is £53 - £37 more than the same journey from booking via Megabus.

Other tips for the best fares...
  • Book online as early as you can
  • Use a TOTUM/NUS Extra card if you are lucky enough to have one
  • Use Tesco Clubcard tokens as payment/part payment for your journey

Things to note
  • Seat reservations cost £1 per person per journey - and only apply to the coach part of any journey - not any rail section
  • There's a £1 booking fee to add onto the first cost you see

For travel wholly in Scotland, then Scottish CityLink is another option.  They travel between most of the major towns and cities in the country, and again from there you take local public transport to your ultimate destination.  The Citylink network connects over 200 towns and cities across the country with over 400 services per day.

Don't be put off too much by their 1990's-style website - the coaches are modern and comfortable.  Stagecoach is the part owner of CityLink, so you may find some of your Megabus journey in Scotland is actually on a CityLink-operated coach.

Tips for the best fares...
  • Students who register with My Citylink save 20% on online bookings.
  • Try an Explorer Pass, which offers either 3 days travel in any 5, 5 days travel in any 10 or 8 days travel in any 16 - could be perfect for a walking break in Scotland...
  • If you are travelling as a family, look at the Family Day Ticket, which means up to two kids can travel free with one fare paying adult and up to four kids with two fare paying adults

Things to note...
  • You pay £1.70 for postage if you don't select an e-ticket
  • Many of the discount fares are only available from the website

Also, check out whether there are regional coach operators - or indeed bus companies operating long-distance coach-like services.

For example, in Yorkshire the excellent Coastliner runs high quality double-deck coach-like buses between Leeds, York, Malton, Scarborough and Whitby.

A day return costs £12 for an adult, and takes 3 hours to get to the coast from the centre of Leeds, along what was voted officially Britain's Most Scenic Bus Route - and it's easy to see why

Travelling by Ferry

Of course, not everywhere in Britain or the British Isles is connected by land - and if you are lucky enough to live on the islands of the British Isles and fancy walking on mainland Britain, you'll need to get across first too!

The islands of Scotland are connected by a network of regular and reliable ferry services.

Caledonian MacBrayne - or CalMac as it is generally known - operates all main services to the Inner and Outer Hebrides from the Firth of Clyde - sailing to over 20 destinations.  Mainland ports which serve the islands in the west include Oban and Kennacraig in Argyll, and Mallaig and Ullapool in the Highlands.

CalMac's Hopscotch tickets offer a fantastic way to explore the west coast islands of Scotland.  These are island hopping tickets which allow you to plan your own trip and visit as many islands as you wish.  The tickets are valid for 31 days from the date of your first journey and can be used in either direction on your chosen route.  It's best to advance book on the ferry crossing you want to ensure you get on it.

    Top tips for the best fares...
    • Try the Five Ferries Island Hopping Adventure around the Clyde Coast and the Cowal and Kintyre Peninsulas.

    Things to note...
    • The Hopscotch tickets are offered for convenience only and don't offer any discount on the single journey ticket price.
    • There are no discounts for the over 60s unless you live on one of the islands covered by the concessionary SPT ferry fares scheme, or live on the Cowal or Rosneath Peninsulas

      The islands of Orkney and Shetland have their own ferry company - NorthLink Ferries.

      Their ships - MV Hamnavoe, MV Hjaltland and MV Hrossey - were all purpose built for the routes, so are used to the seas around the north east of Scotland.

      Each ship has a selection of cabins, a children's play area, a great variety of bars and restaurants and some shops stocking the best of Shetland and Orkney’s crafts and produce.

      The MV Hjaltland and MV Hrossey also have a cinema so you can watch the latest movies on board too.

      There's complimentary internet access on all three ships too.

      NorthLink Ferries are very dog-friendly, with animals able either to travel in your vehicle or in one of the kennels - which need to be pre-booked.

        The Isle of Wight, on the South coast of England, has two competing ferry companies on several routes - three if you include the amazing hovercraft.

        Wightlink claim to be the leading cross-Solent ferry operator, offering 46,000 sailings a year on nine ferries on three routes.  You can travel between Portsmouth and Ryde Pier Head in 22 minutes via Wightlink’s FastCat, between Lymington and Yarmouth in around  40 minutes by car ferry and  between Portsmouth and Fishbourne in around  45 minutes - again by car ferry.

        The ferries offer comfortable lounges, open decks and refreshment facilities (on the car ferries only).  The Victoria of Wight and St Clare ferries have dedicated children’s play areas too.

        Our Top Tip is the Day Return for foot passengers on the FastCat - only £20.60.  Also Wightlink accept Tesco Clubcard vouchers - so every £2.50 of Tesco vouchers will give you £7.50 to spend with Wightlink.

        The other conventional ferry company between the mainland and the Isle of Wight is Red Funnel.

        The company operates car ferries between Southampton and East Cowes, Isle of Wight - taking around 1 hour - and Red Jet Hi-Speed catamarans between Southampton & West Cowes - taking around 22 minutes.  Red Funnel's car ferries are the largest ever to serve the Isle of Wight.

        Red Funnel's ferries have comfy seating and on-board ReFuel Café Restaurants.  Kids will be kept entertained by the free WiFi and large 46" touch screens in The North Lounge aboard Red Falcon and Red Osprey.

        Red Funnel are also incredibly dog friendly too - and they welcome accompanied dogs on ALL their ferries, free of charge.  There is no need to pre-book or obtain a ticket.  They also have a designated pet lounge, complete with bowls of water and complimentary dog biscuits, in the North Lounge on board Red Osprey, Red Falcon and Red Eagle.

        Our Top Tip is the Standard Day Return on the slower car ferry to East Cowes - for an amazing £19.  Plenty of walking on either the Isle of Wight or in Hampshire for the day.

        The third way to get to and from the Isle of Wight, is the unique Hovertravel - the only scheduled hovercraft operator in the world.

        The service is between Ryde, Isle of Wight, and Southsea, Portsmouth, and takes under ten minutes running every half an hour between 06:15 and 21:00, and also a 22:00 late crossing during summer months.

        Our Top Tip is to book your Hovertravel journey when you book your train ticket.  Hovertravel fares & timetables are integrated into the UK National Rail network, offering through tickets from all UK destinations to and from the Isle Of Wight stations.  Just make sure you select "Ryde Hoverport" to be travelling via Hovertravel.

        This way, you'll be able to include Railcard discounts on all Hovercraft & Rail through tickets and have free travel on the connecting Hoverbus service between Portsmouth stations & Southsea Hoverport.

        The Isles of Scilly has one ferry company - Isles of Scilly Travel - which travels between Hugh Town on St Mary's (the largest island of the Isles of Scilly) and Penzance.

        The Scillonian III ferry operates between March and October, and it is possible to do a walk on St Mary's for a day!  Much better though to stay on the islands and explore this fantastic archipelago.  On-board facilities include comfy, reclining seats and a café.

        Isles of Scilly Travel also operate the Skybus air service between St Mary's Airport and either Exeter, Newquay or Land's End Airports.

        Our top tip is the Day Trip ticket from £48 per Adult foot passenger.  Or you could fly to St Mary's and sail back - giving you more time on the island, from £92.50

          The Isle of Man also has one ferry company - the Isle of Man Steam Packet Company - which operates ferries between Douglas and Liverpool or Heysham.

          The fast catamaran Manannan operates between Douglas and Liverpool, taking around 2 hours 45 mins to cross the Irish Sea, whereas the conventional ferry Ben-my-Chree (or just Ben to it's friends) takes a more leisurely 3 hrs 45 mins.

          Both have a great level of facilities and comfort on board, but the Ben also has en-suite cabins you can book, with complimentary tea and coffee-making facilities and a TV to keep you entertained throughout the sailing.

            Though they are closer to France than England, it is possible to travel to the Channel Islands from mainland Britain via ferry - and Condor Ferries are your operator here.

            To Guernsey, you can sail from Poole onboard their high-speed ferry, Condor Liberation, in 3 hours - or from Portsmouth on the conventional ferry, Commodore Clipper, in just under 8 hours.

            To Jersey, again you can sail from Poole port onboard Condor Liberation, but this time it takes just over 4 hours, or from Portsmouth onboard Commodore Clipper’s overnight sailing in just over 9 hours.

              Both have Club Class for a bit more luxury and comfort, but for a bit extra per passenger, and the Clipper also has Reclining Seats and Overnight Cabins available - with a choice of either en suite or shared bathroom facilities.  The cabins are a good idea on the overnight sailing to Jersey, and they include a complimentary breakfast.  The more pricer Superior Cabins feature a large forward facing window and a TV/DVD player for entertainment.  There is on-board WiFi too, which is free for 30 mins or upto 100mb, and then charge for after that.

              Our top tip is the Day Trip ticket from Poole to Guernsey, which gives you 4 hours walking time on the island - and a great bargain at only £34 per Adult foot passenger.

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