Ever fancied travelling the UK but been daunted by the distances, the towns with strange names, the innumerable counties, and the vast array of seemingly incomprehensible accents? (Don’t even get us started on the weather).
We can’t do anything to make Mancunians or ‘Brummies’ any easier to understand, but we can give you some good advice about travelling the UK, no matter how you choose to do it!
The UK is not really a big place. From top to bottom it’s about a 12 hour drive, or a two week bike ride! Transport options abound: check our suggestions out below!
The UK has a large network of motorways, most of which are toll free and easy to navigate. Most major cities in the UK can be reached from its capital London in around ten hours or less. Typical drive times in low traffic are as follows:
London to Birmingham: 2 hours
London to Manchester or Liverpool: 4 hours
London to Edinburgh or Glasgow: 6-7 hours
London to Cardiff: 3 hours
Allow extra time in school holidays or during busier peak traffic times like Friday nights, when a journey time can easily double due to congestion.
Bla Bla Car is the UK’s ride sharing website, and is also used in other countries around the world. Connect with other drivers going in a similar direction by typing in where you want to travel to and from, and when, and contribute a nominal fee towards journey costs – far less than what you’d pay travelling by bus or train, or in costs taking your own mode of transport.
The UK has an extensive train network. Travelling by train is faster than by road, and the trains on British tracks are typically comfortable and offer a wonderful view of the UK’s signature rolling green fields, animals and isolated farmhouses when travelling through the open countryside. Typical journey times are as follows:
London to Birmingham: 1-1.5 hours
London to Manchester or Liverpool: 2 hours
London to Edinburgh or Glasgow: 4-5 hours
London to Cardiff: 2 hours
The trains are run by private companies so different destinations will be served by different train operators. For example, London to Manchester is operated by Virgin Trains, while London to Sheffield is East Midlands Trains and the London to Cardiff route is serviced by First Great Western. While this seems like it could get complicated, there is no need to know which company to buy a ticket off- simply head to nationalrail.co.uk and enter your origin and destination, choose your train, and you will be directed to the correct operator’s site with the ticket in your shopping basket. Easy!
Booking in advance will save you a lot of money, especially if you are travelling outside peak times such as after 11am weekdays, and anytime on the weekend. If you’d prefer having extra flexibility or just don’t like booking things in advance, there are generally always tickets available at the station on the day – just make sure you buy them from the train operator’s machine that you are travelling with and not a different one, or the price may be higher.
If you’re going a long distance and fancy the opportunity to have a snooze en route, there are two sleeper services that operate in the UK. – the Caledonian Sleeper from London to Fort William in Scotland, and the Great Western Sleeper from London to Penzance in Cornwall.
Trains are also good for those transporting bicycles. Most long distance trains can take bicycles free of charge as long as they are pre-booked.
I favour train over air travel as by the time you get to and from the airport at each end, clearing security (and making your cheeky airport purchases) you have wasted hours. You might consider a flight from London to the North of Scotland to Inverness, but anywhere else is not really a distance to make a flight a better option. Still, if you prefer to take to the skies as your preferred mode of transport, most cities in the UK are serviced by an airport and flights usually aren’t too expensive.
National Express is the UK’s equivalent to Greyhound, serving towns and cities all over the country for low prices. Save money when booking in advance via their website.
MegaBus is another operator with extensive schedules, and even a ‘sleeper coach’ overnight service between London and Scotland. The sleepers are comfortable, quiet, and somewhat novel, and you can usually pick up a bed for £50 a couple of days in advance of travel.
Check out snap.co.uk for other fares and to find out more about travelling by coach in the UK.
The UK has a LOT of country roads. Sustrans has a multitude of cycle routes mapped out all over the country, so definitely head there to start planning your cycling journey. The UK is highly populated for its size so you won’t have to cycle for more than 10 miles before you come across at least a small town, so you’ll never be stuck in the middle of nowhere!
The Carter Company provide great guided cycle rides in different areas of the UK and can also design custom-made bespoke routes that fit the desired specifications for your journey. London Bicycle will rent you a Touring Hybrid bike, good for multi-day journeys, and to this you can add waterproof Ortlieb panniers to make sure you can carry your luggage around with you safe and sound. Some of the Carter Company’s rides also include luggage transport – enquire beforehand!