Improving the British Rail Journey

Three alternatives to leaving the UK this Summer

You might not have noticed in the past few weeks, but British Summer Time is now in full effect. Glastonbury has been and gone and Wimbledon is now in full swing. If you haven’t taken the opportunity to explore our wonderful country during the height of summer before, then do so soon, as there has never been a better time to do it! With wonderful offers including the Young Person’s and Couple’s Railcard, taking to the railways is a far more convenient and affordable option than taking a flight. What’s more, there’s no need to lose out exchanging currencies and you’ll never struggle when asking for directions!

Lets assume that your decision has now been swayed. Already, you’re cancelling the flight to Ibiza and scratching back your deposit on your luxury villa. You’ve got a tonne of cash to spend, and the whole of the UK to explore by rail: happy days. If you’re at a loss of what to do now, have no fear; here are three solid, thoroughly British holidays you can enjoy at the same price of one big summer blow-out.

fast train
‘…taking to the railways is a far more convenient and affordable option than taking a flight.’

1) Go to the Seaside

A classic British holiday resort of yore; there was nothing more that Victorian Brits loved than a lovely trip to the seaside. Whilst its fair to argue that a large swathe of British seasides have struggled in the advent of cheap air travel, there are still a handful of charming destinations left here that will have you shelling out a pocketful of ha’pennies for cockles and questioning the alarming amount of ankle on show. With train links to all sections of the coast, there are plenty of viable options.

The top pick from this writer is Llandudno, Wales. Having survived a handful of recessions, as well as few atrocious British Summers, this quaint town captures the very essence of the seaside. Grand, stately hotels line a stunning promenade with a fully functioning tram line, an amusement pier captures the charm of a retro arcade (without the modern-day distractions) and a wealth of Fish and Chip shops serve up the freshest incarnation of one of Britain’s favourite fast foods.

2010-Summer-LLandudno-025
‘… this quaint town captures the very essence of the seaside.’

2) Go for a hike

If you’re not quite enthralled with the idea of taking a dip into our chilly waters, then maybe you should keep your feet on dry land and go for a hike through some of our wonderfully accessible mountain ranges. Thanks to our temperate summers, you won’t need to be a Bear Grylls or Ray Mears to survive the great British wilderness, (although packing a fur gilet or two probably wouldn’t be a bad idea!) all you’ll need is a sturdy pair of boots and a rucksack big enough to carry your picnic.

As far as unique destinations go there are a plethora to choose from, all accessible by rail. The top pick, in terms of sheer beauty and access has to be the Peak District. Just hop on a train to Buxton and within minutes of leaving the station you’re surrounded by some of the best countryside that England has to offer. Just make sure you stick to the paths, pack plenty of food and don’t forget that fur gilet; it may be Summer, but every Brit knows not to trust in England’s weather!

peake
‘ …you won’t need to be a Bear Grylls or Ray Mears to survive the great British wilderness.

3) Take a break in the City

You don’t have to book an easyJet flight to enjoy a metropolitan weekend away. If you’re a country bumpkin in need of a shot of adrenaline or just a city rat looking for change of scenery, Britain’s major cities are packed full of culture, great food and awesome sights. The capital is always the soundest option when consistent weather is being sought after, but for those not wanting to sweat it out on the underground for a weekend, there are other options up North.

You may risk being rained on, but there’s a lot to be said for the big Northern powerhouses of the likes of Manchester, Liverpool and Newcastle. Not only will your money stretch further up there, but thanks to fresh money being pumped into these cities you’ll be able to find art galleries, shopping centres and architecture that really push the boundaries of what is expected in a modern British city. There are plenty of decent accommodation options from Air B&B alternatives to solid two-star hotels in the centre of the action, none of which are liable to break the bank, leaving you with more cash to enjoy the vast range of bars, pubs and restaurants on offer.

liverpool
‘You may risk being rained on, but there’s a lot to be said for the big Northern powerhouses…’

So there you have it, three rock-solid alternatives to leaving the country this Summer. You may not wow your Instagram followers with exotic locales or your hot dog-leg snaps, but you will be able to enjoy three times as much holiday as your jet-setting colleagues at half the price; and who doesn’t love a bargain?…

Top 5 UK Train Stations

Great British architecture comes in all shapes and sizes, from the lowly yet iconic red phone box designed by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott, to great super structures such as Buckingham Palace and the magnificent St. Paul’s Cathedral. However, there is one type of building that millions visit every day yet never linger long enough to appreciate. There’s usually one in every town and, due to their constant use, they are often in need of refurbishment or even demolition and rebuilding. Have you guessed it yet? Nope, its not public lavatories, those are actually the one public structure that local authorities are quite happy to leave derelict for decades. Train stations are, of course, the building’s I’m describing. What follows is a list of, in my honest opinion, the top five Great British Railway Stations.

5) London Victoria

In the heart of our great capital, what is needed more than a coffee chain on every corner is of course transportation. Victoria not only serves as one of the most important transportation hubs for the country, but also doubles as a top-notch shopping destination for those looking to spend that little bit extra on everyday objects such as milk, eggs, paper and staples. Located conveniently close to some of the major London attractions, as well as being just a five minute walk away from the coach station (also called Victoria, to avoid confusion); Victoria boasts stunning, you guessed it, Victorian architecture and easily makes the number five spot for this alone.

4) Birmingham New Street

Another classic Victorian train station that has undergone significant redevelopment and refurbishment; BHM, as its fondly referred to by Network Rail, is almost unrecognisable from its past self. A true train station of the future, New Street offers more than three exits and as many as ten individual urinals grouped into three toilet blocks. If this isn’t quite enough to convince you; there are new_stephenson_street_entrance_weba plethora of well known restaurant and café outlets, all selling slightly drier versions of well known foods such as sandwiches, sushi and spaghetti. With elegantly curved metal and glass combining with a strikingly distant workforce Birmingham New Street is a Great British Train Station well worth passing though.

3) Liverpool Lime Street

An absolute must-see for any train station enthusiast, Liverpool Lime Street combines the grand scale industrial feel of steam-punk Victorian liverpool architecture with the cold, comfort-less charm of modern railway stations. The immense iron structure which dates back to the eighteen-hundreds, has been left to rust and age gracefully whereas new conveniences such as an extortionate Marksindex & Spencer Food outlet softly goads the average consumer. The Liverpudlian traveller, perhaps homeward bound from London, can make their way home with ease thanks to the wonderfully convoluted Merseyrail network or one of Liverpool’s many perfectly safe black cabs.

2) Plymouth

Serving as the terminus to the Tamar Valley Line, Plymouth’s main station (one of six surviving, quality stations in the city) captures the very essence of 1960s architecture. Bold concrete flooring collides, with striking concrete walls, and stunning beige ceramic tiles to wonderful effect. A grand total of 6 platforms adorn this picturesque station, with some lines closing seasonally due to high tides in the Dawlish area. However, it is not simply the conveniences that make this a stand out British train station, it is the people of Plymouth that make it so unique. Rubbing shoulders with the local people eager for the first drag on their rolled up cigarettes, arguments often break out as there is inevitable confusion at the ticket turnstiles. These charming interactions are what singles out this idyllic location.

1) Tiverton Parkway

You’d think that the top spot on this list would be occupied by one of the big city stations, with their grand halls and wide plazas. However, space and luxury are not what makes a Great British Railway Station. Tiverton Parkway (named such as it is located seven miles outside of the town itself) captures the idyllic charm of country living – encapsulated in a transport hub. There are only
two platforms; a fishing lake and driving range border the quaint country lane and, despite the regular buses running through its car park, an air of peace and tranquillity reigns supreme. The public conveniences are squalid, concrete affairs and the vending machines are often broken; but these are minor trifles when compared to Parkway’s superlative charm.

068651_1020d499
Tiverton Parkway

 

 …

Come Fly With Me...

Flying, it is most certainly a popular form of transport. I remember my grandfather saying that when it first came out he would say ‘It’ll never catch on, people hate planes and flying, the sound of planes just brings back the memories of falling bombs, of roofs falling in on your heads, crashing, banging, screaming. A screaming that will forever be ringing in your ears. Planes, they bring nothing but death’ but now look at them! Every Tom, Dick and Harry are constantly flying around in their air planes showing off and doing twirly whirlies and flippy flops and big dippers. The ‘magic’ of flight is now employed so Mr and Mrs Fannyknacker can just run over to Asda in Greece or WHATEVER. All we do is fly now. Did you know that the average person spends 79% of their lives on board an in-flight aeroplane?

Tarom.b737-700.yr-bgg.arp

Yeah. That’s right. But how do we get to these airports that everyone is talking about? Trains are clearly the best option but sometimes some people want to actually park and leave their car sitting around in a bloody car park for two weeks or something! Yeah, you can save a bit of money by pre-booking your parking (https://www.airportparkingmarket.co.uk/) and you can maybe do a couple of other things to lower the price of everything.

car

All these people driving in their little cars and taking them to the airport and parking them up and going in. It’s preposterous, really, truly preposterous. I hate it and I hate you.

 …

5 Step Program
  1. CHANGE EVERY THING This our first step. We need to change the way we eat, change the way we drink, change the way we look at each other. We need to change how we conceive of travel, how we conceive of public. We have no public transport in this country, we only have private transport. And that’s not good enough.
  2. SPEAK UP! When something’s not good enough, speak up! We need to speak up because no one else will ever speak up for us ever.
  3. KNOW YOUR ENEMY Yes, that’s right, you have an enemy. Oh, didn’t you know? Well, that’s because your enemy has paid people to tell you that they are your friend but they are not your friend, not one little bit!
  4. KILL YOUR ENEMY This may be a metaphor. But then again it may not be. How does that make you feel? How far are you willing to go?
  5. ESTABLISH A NEW RULE. There will always be enemies. You must stamp them out.

142f9a0d6c3d5cdd6b4079035f52f26e2a589f63ed5b8b91bc429b054215bc4b

Stamp!…