Monday, 16 March 2009

Splendid deviations

When I was working on my route, the main consideration was to find a way from Far North to South Coast, but additionally to keep things reasonably straight forward. Here are a few deviations that could be made along the way for someone with copious amounts of time to spare:

Ring of Brodgar, Orkney


Tantalisingly close to Thurso – a mere 90 minutes ferry ride over the Pentland Firth – Stagecoach operate services on the Orkney mainland from Stromess and Kirkwall which they acquired along with the rest of the Rapsons business purchased last year. Students of neolithic and military history will be equally at home here, with the ceremonial stone rings of one era contrasting sharply with the concrete barriers of another.

Isle of Arran

Connect from the bus service in Adrossan onto the ferry to Brodick on the Isle of Arran, from where there are bus services all the way round the island via the coastal road, or across the mountainous centre of the island. There's even an open-top bus service during the summer to Brodick Castle.


Catch one of the four return trips operated by Stagecoach on service 685 from Carlisle, running parallel to Hadrian's Wall, in order to reach the urban operations in Tyne and Wear. Take a trip on the bright-yellow Quaylink hybrid electric buses serving the Baltic Centre and the rather-more-successful-than-its-London-counterpart Millennium Bridge. Unfortunately there are no valid routes south along the coast to link into the Teeside network, so Middlebrough remains isolated.

Pier Head, Liverpool


The X2 from Preston runs fast to Southport and then further along the sandy stretch of coastline, ideal for a golfing retirement in Formby and Birkdale. Artistic types may be more interested in Antony Gormley's statues on Crosby beach. Liverpool city centre has a range of delights, despite the fact that the year of culture has come to an end.


From the North Lincolnshire towns of Grimsby and Scunthorpe, there are links over the Humber Bridge and into the city of Kingston-upon-Hull. The city is represented by ex-Deputy PM John Prescott and current Health Secretary Alan Johnson, whilst the fishing port of Grimsby is represented by Austin Mitchell – who once changed his name to Austin Haddock by deed-poll in order to promote fish.


There are two ways to get to Warwick. You can sneak in the top way from Northampton via Rugby and Coventry, or up from Oxford via Chipping Norton and Stratford-upon-Avon. A very pretty part of the world, full of quaint villages that you can imagine Shakespeare may have lived in. Even Coventry – beautiful, misunderstood Cov – looks full of promise on a sunny day.

Tewkesbury Abbey, Gloucestershire


Doctor Foster didn't have much fun when he went to Gloucester. In fact, the whole soggy experience put him off a repeat visit. Perhaps he'd have enjoyed himself more if he'd gone to see the gee-gees in Cheltenham. Of course, he'd have got the number 51 bus from Swindon, "way out west where the west is one hell of a lot of fun," as Lorraine Bowen once sang.

South Wales

Heading further west from Gloucester, we can travel via Chepstow to Newport or up to Hereford, where there are connections to literary Hay-on-Wye, Brecon and its Beacons, and down into the Welsh valleys by way of Abergavenny, Ebbw Vale, Merthyr Tydfil and Pontypridd, eventually arriving in Cardiff, unlikely home of intergalatic Time Lords and secret alien investigation units.


An isolated pocket of operations in the far south-west of England – but South West Trains do operate services from Basingstoke to Exeter. Once there, bus services radiate out in all directions. The so-called English Riviera (Torquay and Paignton) lies to the south, and was home to a high-speed Stagecoach catamaran trial last year. Plymouth can be accessed to the south west, with Exmouth and Sidmouth to the east. And to the north, there are links to Barnstaple, Bideford and Bude.


You'll struggle making it to this outpost of the empire – at least since Brighton & Hove took over the routes to Lewes, Uckfield and Eastbourne in 2004. Once you've made that leap there is a decent-sized network, recently expanded to include Eastbourne, that follows the Kent coast round from Hastings to Whitstable and most points in between. Dover may have been the perfect symbolic place to finish my journey, the symbolic last point of Britain before you reach the continent. Ah well.

Image credits: Shadowgate, petecarr and nick.garrod on Flickr


Neil said...

'so called'? It's been known as the English Riviera (for good reason, at least in terms of its balmy weather) for a good long time!

JimmyMac said...

Well, yes, you're quite right. I've holidayed there as a child and it is indeed quite reasonable as far as the climate goes. One of those whacky places where they plant palm trees on roundabouts in order to hammer the point home.

They probably don't have a "Babbacombe" on the Côte d'Azur.