Walking Using Public Transport - Walks Around Britain

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Walking Using Public Transport

It's very possible to leave the car behind and go walking using
Britain's public transport system - and there's lots of options throughout
the country to enjoy an environmental-friendly method of getting outside.

So here are the ways of getting around by public transport -
and we've found some great ways to bag a bargain in the process!

Travelling by Rail

Dogs are allowed on National Rail services in Britain.  The National Conditions of Carriage states you may take two dogs per passenger free of charge - subject to the conditions below.

  • Dogs must be kept on a lead at all time, unless contained in a basket

  • Dogs must not endanger or inconvenience passengers or staff

  • Dogs and/or their baskets must not occupy seats - or a charge will be made

  • Dogs who are not guide or assistance dogs are not allowed in restaurant cars

  • Dogs who are not guide or assistance dogs are allowed to travel in Sleepers, but bookings must be made at least 48 hours in advance and may be subject to a charge for a heavy duty clean

  • A train company may refuse to take any animal under Bylaw 16.  You may also be asked to remove your dog if it is causing a nuisance or inconvenience to other passengers

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 inititive in the Yorkshire Dales, for example, provides fantastic access to the Dales from outside of the area.

in many areas there are companies doing amazing things to raise the bar for bus passengers.

All the walks on the Walks Around Britain have clickable links when possible to the most frequent service for each walk, so looking through their website should provide the answer.

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, Nottighamshire, 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

Where dogs and public transport gets complicated is with Trams, Light Rail and the Tube.  Unlike trains or buses, there isn't a nationally recognised framework for Light Rail, and so it is down to each individual operator to decide their policy on whether to carry dogs.

In our research, we've found the following...

  • Operators who DO carry dogs:
    London Underground, Tyne & Wear Metro, Edinburgh Trams, Croydon Tramlink,
    Blackpool Trams

On London Underground and the Tyne & Wear Metro, dogs who aren't trained to use escalators must be carried, or you must use a lift - where available.

  • Operators who DON'T carry dogs:
    Nottingham Express Transit, Stagecoach Supertram, Manchester Metrolink, Midlands Metro

However, Nottingham Express Transit & Stagecoach Supertram will allow dogs if they are carried in a suitable container... which is not helpful if you are trying to go to and from a walk!

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.

They have an on-board entertainment service - called Vuer - which offers TV programmes and magazines for free whilst your are travelling via your smartphone - although they don't carry Walks Around Britain...!

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 Doncaster and London, the difference between Megabus and National Express is interesting.  With Megabus, there's a change at East Midlands Parkway to 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.

Doncaster to London
National Express
   Journey time
4 hours 25 minutes
3 hours 10 minutes
   Journey typeDirect
Change to a train at East Midlands Parkway
Amazingly, the cheapest fare if you booked the East Midlands Parkway to London rail journey direct with East Midlands Railway is £30.50 - nearly £18 more than the full journey from Doncaster.

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 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.

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