We don’t rent a car in the UK, but instead rely on mass transportation. Figuring out the buses took me some time and even after many years, I still find myself double and triple checking the schedules. In addition, although all the schedules are online, along with every other piece of knowledge in the universe, I still take the paper booklet with me. It just feels safer.
Of course we have to “take tea” at least once, preferably twice, and often even thrice whenever we’re in England. In the west country (Cornwall, Devon, and Dorset), “taking tea” means a Cream Tea, which consists of scones, clotted cream, strawberry jam, and of course, tea.
As is typical of any grand British occasion, there are some serious debates about the proper way one “takes tea”. So here’s a primer:
I love taking trains in the UK. It feels so luxurious and cosmopolitan and who wants to drive on the wrong side of the road when you can sit lazily by the window and watch the English countryside glide by? We always try to snag a table for longer trips so we can spread out, eat a packed snack (which we always have, of course), and maybe do some work as we sail across the country.
It would be nice if there was one train company and one ticket price, but alas, like air travel, there are dozens of train operators and multiple pricing options, including railcards that cost money but offer discounts. Then there’s the platform issue. When you change trains, you most likely have to switch to a different platform, which could be up the stairs and across the bridge or way down on the other side.
It can all be a bit complicated at first.
There are different ticket prices for the same seat, depending on when you travel, how far you book in advance, and whether you have a railcard. There are also some secret sauce ingredients that I don’t completely understand. Here are the basics:
Anytime Tickets: valid any time, any day, any train, any operator. An Anytime Single allows you to travel within 2 days of the date shown on your ticket. With Anytime Returns the outward part is valid for 5 days from the date on your ticket, and the return for 1 month. Anytime Day tickets are only valid on the date shown. Anytime tickets are the most expensive way to travel but also the most convenient if you don’t/can’t have a set schedule.
There are dozens of private train companies in the UK, although they work together as National Rail to coordinate fares & ticketing. To check train times & fares, use the National Rail website. This site shows train times & fares for all routes and all operators.
Below are price comparisons from the National Rail Travel Planner for Advance, Off-Peak, and Anytime tickets for the same day and time.
What to expect: The possibility of rain. Toting luggage on trains and buses. Changing temperatures. Working up a sweat while hiking. Tired feet.
What you need are clothes to layer so you can add or subtract easily and shoes that can get wet as well as soothe and protect while walking 4-8 hours a day. All in one bag that isn't too big to carry on as who wants to be slowed down at baggage claims. We finetune things each year as needed because we're smart like that.
If you go to England and miss a Sunday carvery, you will have missed an epicurean delight. Every visit, a carvery is at the top on our do-not-miss list. Roast beef and Yorkshire Pudding, an assortment of veggies, and a gin & tonic: what more could you desire on a lazy Sunday afternoon?
I've tried to make this at home with limited success. Luckily, we ran into a friendly bloke on the bus who explained the process in detail. Read the story here.