In the spirit of Getting Lost on Purpose, why not take a more structured route somewhere and nowhere? Forget the car and hop on a little less used mode of transport, for the novelty and to save the planet. See the UK from a new perspective.
Slo Mo Journey on a Bus
Buses aren’t just for A to B. Those big windows let you take in the vista as you dawdle along at a pace that would usually frustrate you. Today you’ll be glad of the unrushed pace as you absorb the world on the other side of the glass. Never mind the rumours of day long waits before three come along at once, that just gives you chance to explore. Besides, a double-decker is worth the wait for the kind of views you won’t get anywhere else, peering over high hedges to the hidden flora and fauna beyond. Buses go everywhere; from the fraught missing of wing mirrors down country lanes to potential clifftop blow-overs, you never knew a bus ride could get the pulse racing till now. Just avoid school home time…
Great British Journeys
A few years back, Andrew Gilligan of The Telegraph, took a three-day bus ride along the South West coast of England – yes, three days riding buses to explore the scenery this part of the world is known for. He described it as ‘one of the greatest British journeys I have ever done’, which sounds worth a second glance if you ask me. Bus on ferries, the Purbeck Breezer, ‘Famous Five’ country, tight corner squeezes, lots of hens, long bridges, steep inclines, views like you’ve never seen, the exact routes may not exist any longer, but be inspired by UK holidays: A busman’s holiday and try it yourself one day. The Jurassic Coaster is the closest match we’ve found, with a quick description of which buses to get where.
England’s most scenic bus routes
Four of England’s six most scenic bus routes are in the south, but with the overall winner being the northern 840 Coastliner from Leeds & York to Whitby. Two of the winners are mentioned in the Great British Journeys above, the Purbeck Breezer routes 40 and 50. Another two are over on the Isle of Wight (a great place for Houseboat Glamping, by the way), with the Needles Breezer climbing you higher than you thought a bus could go and The Island Coaster doing exactly what it says on the side of the bus.
Slo Mo Boat Trip
Want to go slower?
How about a slow float?
Let’s talk about boats.
It’s an alien feeling, floating on an unimaginably deep mass of water when you’re that used to being inland. It’s hard to wrap your head around the world beneath the boat, cold and dark and brooding in its depths but sparkly and dynamic on the surface, teaming with creatures and plant life that survive where you cannot.
But when the sun is shining, a float on a boat can be magical, definitely a relaxation mode of transport that just happens to be able to take you from A to an otherwise inaccessible B. But what is it that’s so nice about being on a boat?
It kind of forces you to disconnect – buoyed against gravity you’re physically cut off from your life on land. You have to accept that you’re at sea and it’ll take time to get back to terra firma so you may as well lie back and enjoy it. Think of it as the closest you can get to being in the womb without having to get wet. Relax into being adrift, let the motion of the ocean take control, feel the freedom of the possibility to escape over the horizon to lands new. (but feel safe that your Captain will take you back to reality when you’ve had enough.)
Wherever you find yourself at the land’s edge, there’ll be a boat floating nearby with an eager master ready to take you on a trip in return for your hard-earned money. Catching fish, spotting seals or viewing the coast from another perspective, it’ll be worth it. But what of other watery ways?
Ferry yourself around
Whet your water whistle with a journey with a purpose – ferries are there to ferry you from one place to another, but whenever you’re on water there’s bound to be a sparkly sight to behold. So don’t stay in the car. Most car ferries have passenger points for you to convene and feel the damp breeze in your hair. It may be a short ride, but it’s a chance to stretch your legs and breathe in the sights and sounds of a river journey. Binoculars will help you see the wildlife that’s hidden away from roadside sojourns. But maybe ferry journeys don’t have to be so practical. The Telegraph has put together The most beautiful ferry journeys in the British Isles that you should definitely consider if you’re close by.
Canal routes of the UK
Canals are man-made channels to ferry water and allow watercraft to carry goods further inland – important in the days before HGVs. Now they have a much more leisurely existence, letting you glide around the countryside in your downtime. Instead of getting across a waterway as quickly as you can, as is the purpose of a ferry, a canal boat lets you glide along the waterway and enjoy the ride. Which is the purpose of this writing – the epitome of slo mo travel with as many stops as you like along the way. Sidle up to open fields, rope up at an urban mooring, work your way through the locks. The crawling-along speed limits of the UK’s waterways (2-4mph, depending on depth of water!) mean it’s all about moving so slowly you’re able to have conversations with strangers as you pass (hopefully not about bumping each other’s boats). If you’re wanting a little more thrill with your slow motion, find routes that take you over viaducts on The prettiest journeys on UK waterways.
Slo Mo Route on a Train
Most railways were built a long time ago to facilitate transportation of goods across the county – and through the country, connecting settlements along the way. This means they’re not only convenient for day trips of urban explorations, but they tend to take very scenic routes to connect up more remote stops.
Trains get a bad rap. They’re relied on by commuters and scolded for not being in the right place at the right time. But what if there wasn’t a right time or place? You just simply wanted to enjoy the ride? Then these sleek metal beasts shake off their reputation and come into their own. To ensure a direct route, the landscape was tunnelled and traversed by track, resulting in a plateaued rollercoaster of a ride. From the West highland Line in Scotland with its mountainous terrain and crossing of the Glenfinnan viaduct made famous in the Harry Potter movies, to the Flying Scotsman flitting you down to London town in a few short hours, there’s even a train to take you to the top of Snowdonia for a cup of tea – Britain certainly has some scenic rail journeys.
Scenic sea view trains
It was the subject of many a news story back in 2014 when storms washed half the railway away in south Devon, but the Dawlish line is back up and running and delivering unparalleled access to the English Channel. So close you’ll see the spray on the windows, in fact. This part of the London to Penzance line is less than half an hour long but every minute is filled with outstanding sea views. Definitely one to consider getting to your next West Country staycation.
The Harry Potter train gets a lot of features in Top Rail Journey articles, but Sky Scanner has picked up on one of our favourite routes (that happens to be down the road from WOW HQ), the St Erth to St Ives scenic rail route. Ok, so they’ve extended the journey all the way up to Exeter, but even if the rest of the journey had no views to ponder (which it does), this final stretch would be worth the wait. It turns the window into a TV screen, except it’s not a fictional picture, it’s the actual view of white sand meeting blue sky. It’s a great one for those head-on-window-with-reflection photos. The train is called the Cornish Riviera Express – which sounds speedy and not appropriate for this piece, but oh will you enjoy the ride. Just be sure to get there early for a seat on the right-hand side…
Get some visual inspiration of Britain’s 10 Best Rail Journeys, as put together by The Guardian in 2013
For more ideas on transport trips, The Guardian wrote this piece in 2019