Travelling England by bus pass: How OAPs went from Exeter to Carlisle for free
This is the account of a bus trip by Michael and Jacqui Burden, who traveled from Exeter to Carlisle using their seniors' bus passes on local services. The couple planned the trip as a novel way of exploring England, and to prove that bus passes can be used all the way! The journey was made over eight days from July 29 to August 5.
Total distance travelled on the bus routes taken: 511 miles
Total cost of fares without bus passes: £120.85 per person
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Exeter to Tiverton (Stagecoach)
Tiverton to Taunton (First)
Taunton to Wells (First)
Wells to Bristol (First)
Bristol to Yate (First)
Total distance was 106 miles and the fare saved was £29.10 each.
Notable occurrences included:
Nearly missing our first bus at Exeter, as the scheduled stand was changed with no indication until the last minute. Also nearly missing our second bus in Tiverton as the bus stand, the number and departure time had all been changed. In Wells the bus broke down, but was quickly replaced. The passengers included a young lady who was sat at the back of one bus painting her nails; it must have been quite a job as the road was very bumpy! Another passenger was on her mobile phone for an hour, without a break, must have had a good phone contract!
Yate to Old Sodbury (Wessex Red)
Old Sodbury to Tetbury (Cotswold CVS)
Tetbury to Stroud (Cotswold Green)
Stroud to Cheltenham (Stagecoach)
Cheltenham to Bredon (Astons Coaches)
Total distance was 55 miles and the fare saved was £13.15 each.
Not many stops made in rural areas. Route took us through many beautiful Cotswold villages, including Painswick, where there are 99 Yew trees in the churchyard. Buses were generally half-full, including many locals having lots of chats! We could have got to Cheltenham on the first day, which would have enabled a longer stay to explore this interesting spa town, but decided to take our time and ended each day about 4 o’clock.
Bredon to Evesham (Astons Coaches)
Evesham to Stratford upon Avon (Stagecoach)
Stratford to Coventry (Stagecoach)
Coventry to Leicester (Mike de Courcy Coaches)
Total distance 73 miles and the fare saved £17.25 each.
Route initially took us through many villages, including Salford Priors, where there were vast fields of runner beans, all in “wigwam” bamboo frames. Apparently the firm supplies major supermarkets with produce. Stratford-upon-Avon seemed to have many of the 3 million tourists it has each year! There were no public conveniences near our bus stop, so we used the toilets in an adjacent bookmakers, we didn’t place bets on the way!
Leicester to Derby (Kinch Bus - Skylink)
Derby to Buxton (Transpeak Service)
Total distance 72 miles and the fare saved £12.40 each.
Buses were crowded, interesting journey. Lots of day-trippers to Loughborough, also called in at East Midlands Airport, delivering some airline cabin staff and passengers. Went past Donnington Park, the Motorsport circuit. Many passengers bound for Westfield Shopping Mall in Derby. Went through Matlock Bath, a small, but busy village, numerous Fish and Chip shops, one had a sign saying “Fish and Chips £3, with peas!”. A number of the pubs also had patrons tucking into fish and chips at the outside tables, it seemed the whole village was involved in eating this delicacy!
Walked around Buxton and went to the Opera House in the evening.
Buxton to Manchester (Transpeak Service)
Manchester to Nelson (The Witch Way)
Nelson to Keighley (Mainline)
Keighley to Haworth (TransDev)
Total distance 77 miles and the fare saved £18.40 each.
Filled our water bottles with Buxton water at St Anne’s Well. Beautiful countryside, went pass Lyme Park, used as location for Pemberley, (Mr Darcy’s house in the Colin Firth version of Pride and Prejudice!) In Stockport passed massive railway viaduct with 27 arches, still in use after 170 years! Also went past the McVities’s factory and the bus was filled with the delightful aroma of chocolate digestives! Manchester Bus Station has a fee of 30p to use the toilets, heard lots of rumblings about this!
Visited the Bronte Parsonage Museum at Haworth, very interesting and well worth a visit.
Haworth to Keighley (TransDev)
Keighley to Skipton (TransDev)
Total distance 14 miles and the fare saved £6.00 each.
Took a trip on the Keighley and Worth Valley Railway, one station at Oakworth was used as a location for the The Railway Children, filmed in 1970. Buses were very full with locals, who all seemed to know each other from the volume of chatter heard! Stayed in Skipton, went to a local pub, on the menu was fish and “dripping-fried chips”. Landlord said it was the only way to cook chips, as they were crispier! We took his word for it, but went for a “healthier option!”
Skipton to Settle (Malham Tarn Shuttle)
Settle to Ingleton (Malham Tarn Shuttle)
Total distance 27 miles and the fare saved £8.00 each.
As it was a Sunday, Ingleton was as far as we could go, there were no buses till the following day. Lots of walkers took the bus to Malham Tarn, which is a glacier lake, near the village of Malham in the Yorkshire Dales. It is the highest lake in England. Settle was full of bikers, who all seemed to be having cooked breakfasts! Journey from Skipton to Settle was spectacular. Took the Ingleton Waterfalls Trail, a 4.5 mile walk to visit eight waterfalls and scenery, some of the most beautiful in Northern England.
Ingleton to Kirkby Lonsdale (Kirkby Lonsdale Coach Hire)
Kirkby Lonsdale to Kendal (Stagecoach)
Kendal to Penrith (Kirkby Lonsdale Coach Hire)
Penrith to Carlisle (Stagecoach)
Total distance 87 miles and the fare saved £16.55 each.
Rain, rain, rain! Lovely countryside in drive through Cumbria, but difficult to see through the steamed-up bus windows. Few passengers on board, but ladies who liked to chat. At times the journey was like riding a “log-flume” at a theme park, with water spraying up high on both sides as the bus negotiated narrow country roads. At Penrith the lady bus driver very kindly let us on the bus 20 minutes early to save us standing in the rain! Later in the journey we were joined by some wet wedding guests, “fascinator” feathers were failing in the fracas! Carlisle was reached by 15:30hrs and the sun came out, hoorah!
Overall impressions of trip
Best bus companies: Transpeak and Kinch Bus.
Favourite bus journey: Skipton to Malham Tarn.
Best Bus Stations: Bristol, Yate, Coventry, Leicester, Derby, Manchester, Burnley and Keighley.
Five of the 15 bus companies we used had seat belts fitted.
The planning of this trip was helped enormously by contacting the local tourist information offices. Their representatives quickly cut through the myriad of bus company timetables and got us the information we needed.
We found that in general approximately 60% of bus passengers were Seniors Bus Pass holders and that seemed to increase in the Midlands and the North. Clearly this factor is important in sustaining local bus services.
Bus drivers were very helpful and showed excellent customer service, despite the problems of traffic and keeping to schedule, etc. All buses ran on time, without exception. We proved that the format of the journey is possible and that our bus passes were acceptable to all the bus companies used. The journey could have been completed in less than eight days, but our more leisurely progress allowed time to visit attractions at many of the locations we passed. We thoroughly enjoyed the trip; it is a great way to see England, especially with the route we used. Of necessity “Local” buses, at times, have to access places “off the beaten track” and these area are well worth a visit when you have the time to do it!