Travel SOS: What's the best way to get around the UK?

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The YourLifeChoices (really) Great Britain Holiday Planner was released last week to rave reviews from our members, one of whom, Trevor, has decided to organise his own trip to the UK. So, he’s asked Leon for tips on the best way to get around while he’s there.


Q. Trevor
Your Great Britain guide inspired me to plan a trip to the UK next year, and I’d love to see as much of the nation as I can, but I’m worried about the cost. What’s the best way to get around? Should I book short domestic flights or buy a train ticket?

A. If you ask Kaye and David, who recently returned from that neck of the woods, they’ll tell you that the train is the best way to see the UK. It’s also quite affordable. You’ll be able to sit back, relax and watch the countryside pass you by, maybe even head to the bar carriage (or, if you’re in the right class, someone will be serving you) and have a tipple.

Britain’s rail network covers the whole country, with some 2500 stations serving cities and small villages, and it’s got a reputation as being quite efficient.

According to Visit Britain, you can leave London and be in Scotland in as little as four hours.

Here are some other journey times that may surprise you:

  • London Euston – Birmingham (1hr 20mins), Chester (2hrs), Manchester (2hrs 5mins), Liverpool (2hrs 15mins), Llandudno Junction, North Wales (2hrs 50mins).
  • London King’s Cross – York (1hr 50mins), Lincoln (2hrs 20mins), Newcastle (2hrs 50mins), Durham (2hrs 55mins), Edinburgh, Scotland (4hrs 20mins).
  • London Liverpool Street – Cambridge (1hr 10mins), Norwich (1hr 40mins).
  • London Marylebone – Bicester Village (50mins), Warwick (1hr 25mins), Stratford-Upon-Avon (2hrs), Oxford (1hr 10mins).
  • London Paddington – Oxford (55mins), Windsor (55 mins), Bath (1hr 25mins), Bristol (1hr 40mins), Cardiff (2hrs).
  • London St Pancras – Brighton (1hr 30mins), Paris with Eurostar (2hrs 25mins).
  • London Victoria – Brighton (55mins).
  • London Waterloo – Salisbury for Stonehenge (1hr 20mins), Bournemouth (1hr 55mins).

You an also head to Europe on the Eurostar fast rail link from St Pancras International station in London.

You should look into picking up a BritRail Pass. It’s exclusively for tourists and provides unlimited journeys and discounted travel – and it means you can come and go as you please and have the flexibility to choose your journeys as you see fit. However, you may wish to book your seat in advance, especially during peak times, such as Friday evenings.

David and Kaye used their passes to travel from Fort William in Scotland to Glasgow, to Edinburgh. Once activated, the pass was a no-fuss way of ensuring they received the best value in train travel. And they loved the chance to interact with locals in the dining cars and in the main carriages, to read, chill out with music and watch the amazing Highland scenery outside. Arriving in the centre of town was another great plus, in Glasgow at Queen Street Station and in Edinburgh at Edinburgh Park.

You can buy train tickets from large travel agents and any UK railway station, but the BritRail Pass is easily the best value.

Learn more about train travel at Rail Europe.

If you have a Travel SOS question, email [email protected] and we’ll do our best to answer it, or find someone who can.

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Getting around: How a British rail pass worked for Kaye and David

There are many reasons why rail travel is the best way to see Great Britain.

Riding the rails: First-class through the Scottish Highlands

David recently realised a dream rail tour through the Scottish Highlands.

Are Eurail passes as good a deal as they’re made out to be?

Jeremy has asked if Eurail passes are the cheapest way to travel around Europe.

Written by Leon Della Bosca

Leon Della Bosca is a voracious reader who loves words. You'll often find him spending time in galleries, writing, designing, painting, drawing, or photographing and documenting street art. He has a publishing and graphic design background and loves movies and music, but then, who doesn’t?



Total Comments: 11
  1. 0

    Definitely train. We decided the Pass was too limiting timewise and costly so we booked individual trips online at But book early as you can save hundreds by doing so. We saved over £100 on one ticket alone. When we got to our destination (eg Edinburgh from London) we hired a car so we could easily get to wonderful places not on the tourist track.

  2. 0

    You don’t mention if you drive, I would think hiring a car would be the best way to go, you would have the flexibility of going where you want to when you want to. The more days you hire a car for the cheaper it gets. I visit the UK almost every year, all my family live there, so obviously my circumstances are different, free accomodation and often a loan of a car. One thing that might be worth looking at are a company called National Holidays, they do tours UK wide and also into Europe, they are by far the cheapest way to see Eurpoe travelling from the UK, often their trips are fully inclusive including drinks, if your looking for 1st class then this wouldn’t suit, most of the accomodation is probably 2 star, comfortable and clean but not much more, pick up points are spread across the UK although I think the company is based in the north east of England.

  3. 0

    Instead of doing advertising Leon discuss the COSTS of rail travel. We have just returned from a month touring Italy. Like last year we very quickly realised that rail travel not only prevented us from seeing things which were not accessible by train but also slowed us down and cost many multiples of renting a car.
    We rented a car for a month for under AU$900. It was a diesel vehicle so fuel cost zip. Compare that to train travel for 2 people. WHY WOULD YOU GO BY TRAIN other than being incapable of driving?
    Respectfully Leon train is not the way to travel on a budget as an expensive option.

    • 0

      Dead right Mick. We used to go to UK every couple of years. So many places inaccesible by train. Petrol is expensive, but as you say diesel is not, and so many small cars run on diesel there. Only way to go.

    • 0

      Spot on, there are also many quaint out of the way places you can visit if you have your own transport, and as you mention there are many good deals to be had for longer term car hire and with some of them you can also take the car to Europe at a cost of course.

    • 0

      I hire the car from here, usually through.
      And remember it is always a lot cheaper to hire a manual than an automatic car in the UK.

    • 0

      Good points Mick. But with a RailPass, you can take the train, hire a car to roam around your destination, then drop off the car in the same town and move on. Some people don’t like to drive at night or on foreign roads either.
      Thanks for your comments

  4. 0

    Train for sure. Britains Rail network is great! We were able to travel for really good prices and booked the tickets from here in Oz. There are various deals and you can stop and start as you please. You can get about all over the UK at very reasonable cost. I also love train journeys.

  5. 0

    It might be worth comparing the BritRail pass with buying a seniors/disabled discount railcard, which I use for longer journeys.
    For shorter journeys, I use a seniors coach card from National Express. They have fantastic deals, have comfortable coaches with toilets, seat belts etc. This gives you a better view of places you go through and they have stops where trains don’t go.

  6. 0

    Personally, I wouldn’t even think about hiring a car unless there was somewhere I wanted to go and there wasn’t any other way of getting there.
    Trains are the best option. They are fast and usually frequent. Booking well in advance (12 weeks) will get you the best prices, but these are train specific so judge your stay carefully. Book direct with the train company to avoid booking fees charged by the likes of Trainline. Buy a Senior Railcard (or a Two Together Railcard if a couple) for £30 or less – this will discount the train tickets by 1/3rd. Consider travelling First Class for longer journeys as for the extra you could be using a Lounge before/after your journey, you should get free onboard food and drink (even served at the table) and you will get a better seat – one that reclines – free wifi for the whole of your journey as well as some entertainment.
    As suggested above you could get around by coach – National Express was stated but you could look at the Megabus site who’s coaches are generally cheaper.
    Like all trips, plan carefully and well in advance.



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