Britain’s most scenic bus journeys

Paul Kirby, founder of ‘Britain’s Most Scenic Bus Routes’, on why he believes buses are the best way to enjoy the scenery of National Parks. #NationalParksforall

To put it simply, buses are the best way to enjoy the great British countryside. I am of course discounting walking, cycling, horse-riding and all the other ways of actually being in the great outdoors. And the train comes a close second when we are talking public transport, but for experiencing the most amount of rural scenery at close quarters at a relaxing pace, often from a high standpoint, the bus cannot be beaten. 

The benefits of using the bus (and train) to society as a whole is well documented – improved mental health, less isolation, improved environment with less congestion (taking cars off road), improved safety and so on. I would like to highlight the benefits of bus use to me personally, which is why I first thought of setting up the ‘Britain’s Most Scenic Bus Route’ survey.

As you may have already guessed the main reason I love buses is the view. Most buses have large windows so you can just sit there from a high position and enjoy the glorious vista of Britain’s hills, mountains, moors, lakes, rivers, valleys and coastline. Winding along country lanes through picture-postcard villages on a sunny day, there is no better escapism from the grind of daily life. Some like to use their cars and find it a relaxing pastime but I prefer to have a chauffeur to shoulder all the responsibility driving entails.

To use the popular Grassington to Buckden route in the Yorkshire Dales as an example, the car driver on a Sunday does not have an easy time of it. To frustrate them and slow their progress on narrow, bendy country roads, there are many other road users to contend with; large 4x4s squeezing past (and buses!), cyclists, walkers and at times the sheep grazing on the moors. So instead of enjoying the scenery, the poor car driver has to concentrate fully on the road ahead. Once at their destination, they may find difficulty in finding a parking space. They can’t even relieve the resultant stress by enjoying alcoholic drinks in a country inn.

Of course, there are many people in our towns and cities who have no access to a car, and therefore a bus or train is their only option to access our National Parks. Sadly, those in authority often forget that fact and take no action either to support bus services or encourage bus use. Sorry to use the Yorkshire Dales as an example yet again, but the Yorkshire Dales National Park spends not one penny on supporting the excellent volunteer-led DalesBus network and barely mentions buses in its annual tourist publication ‘The Visitor’. I find this state of affairs astonishing.

Many rural residents also use the buses coming in from the conurbations to visit family and friends in their local area or travel the other way to the towns and cities. You can often see an interesting character or two on a local bus, and that includes the friendly driver. A good chat is often enjoyed and can be informative but don’t be distracted from the views passing you by outside!

Back to the survey, which I organised because I wanted to know what is the country’s favourite bus route. No one had tried to find this out before. Despite challenges in setting everything up, I was greatly encouraged at how quickly it took off.  Within a week of having an online Twitter presence we had over 1000 votes.  That shows the public do love bus travel and especially appreciate our scenic rural routes.

Voters can tick three of their favourites from a shortlist or nominate their own. The shortlist naturally included many services in the National Parks of England and Wales. Looking at the nominations from the first 1000  voters, I noticed a few other ones were attracting a large number of votes so I added them to the shortlist. Amongst the English additions were five services in the Peak District and others in the North York Moors (Moors bus), Lake District and the Yorkshire Dales. I would be amazed if services in the National Parks did not feature heavily in the top 10. There is also a good chance that one may be the overall winner…only time will tell!

Results should be published in May/June 2018 and a website produced highlighting Britain’s most scenic bus routes not just to the British public but, just as importantly, to the millions of foreign tourists who visit our shores without their car.

We need to take every opportunity to persuade people of the advantages of bus travel, not least of which are the amazing views from a comfortable seat. The success of the National Park services in this survey can be used as clear evidence to show the decision-makers that people need and love their buses, taking them through the spectacular British countryside.

By Paul Kirby

Click here to take part in the survey. The survey runs until May 2018.

Follow the survey's progress on twitter @mostscenicbus