Train Travel and Railpasses in England

Figuring out the UK rail system seems really complicated. I'm looking for the best options. There are certain legs of my trip I either should, can or am willing to plan in advance, esp. if there a significant savings associated with doing so. I'm eligible for the senior rail pass card. Here's my itin. so far w/both broad and fine strokes Wed 3/3 - Arrive Dublin: 8:55 am Irish Ferry to Llandudno (Flights From Dub to Leeds-Bradford too late/too expensive) Departs 14:30 Arrive Llandudno 18:54. Spend night. Questions: Recommendations for travel from airport to Ferry? How to fill time? Thur 4/4 Train to Bradford- Depart 12:44/ Arrive:16:53 Fri 4/5- See Cinema Museum in Bradford then train to Harrogate. Early evening we drive to Filey, spend 2 nights. Sun 4/7 Return to spend night in Harrogate. Mon 4/8 Visit Royal Pump House/Turkish Baths. Train to London late in day Mon 4/9 -14 London B&B (Zone 1) Sun 4/14 To Heathfield via train/bus.Spend 2 nights w/friends Tue 4/16 Fly from Gatwick to Dublin Spend night at Bewley's Airport Hotel (free shuttle in both directions) Wed 4/17 Fly home General ?'s What sort of Railpass makes sense for trips outside of London? What sort of tube pass for the 6+ days I'll be in London? Best place/online site to purchase passes? National Rail? RS's website? Create an account? Plug in each leg separately or is there a way to enter all info into an itinerary planner? Are advance fare rates automatically applied when you purchase in advance or is there a special section for advanced booking?
Any glaring omissions? Other rail advice? Thanks so much in advance.

Posted by Adrienne
Vienna, VA
30 posts

I have found this is a great website for train advice: http://www.seat61.com/ I am not familiar with all your destinations, but my sense is you would be better off with point to point tickets rather than a pass. You should price out the point to point tickets to compare.
As for buying the actual tickets, I booked through Virgin trains last year and it worked well.

Posted by Nigel
East Midlands, England
8756 posts

Wow, that's a doozie of a question - actually many questions. We only get a little under 2000 characters, about the size of a dozen tweets to answer. Nevertheless - to plunge in - - - First, you are already in Dublin? You say you arrived on 3/3? Or is this for next year? You are taking a ferry to Llandudno? Which ferry? As far as I know the last passenger ship called there in 2005. Unsolicited comment - seems like a lot of trouble and expense to go to to use Dublin as the airport of choice for England. If you are saving money, does all this still wind up saving money? Don't expect to much at the Turkish Baths. After we saw the approach we didn't continue in. Maybe it is better further inside? If there are any flowers up when you get there in April, Harrogate does gardens really well. Say hello for us to the Red Squirrels when you are in Filey. They are simply wonderful. You could take a train to Filey, it has 2 stations. Yes if you get tickets far enough in advance and Advance tickets are available they will be offered. If you qualify for the Senior Railcard you will have to buy them at £28 each at a rail station.

Posted by Kathleen
Camano Island, WA, usa
331 posts

I reccomend the book "Britain by Britrail" by LaVerne Ferguson-Kosinski. I got the 2012/2013 edition at the Library. It has more than just schedules. It covers crossings and daytrips. And what to see in the towns connected by rail.

Posted by Keith
United Kingdom
683 posts

Janet - my question is do you actually want to use the ferry/see Llandudno or is it just a route to Bradford? Your question implies you were originally looking for a more direct way to get to Bradford. If so then there are other alternatives to flying to Leeds/Bradford to consider: - fly to Manchester, I see a 1410 departure on 3/April with Aer Lingus, costing 54 euro (yes euro), a train from Manchester Airport to Bradford would take two hours (with one change) and cost £11. You should be in Bradford by 1800 hours. - fly to Liverpool - this is more complicated and involves a longer wait, but Ryanair have a 1720 flight that costs 16 euro; at Liverpool airport you need to get a bus into Liverpool and then a train (£25, 2.5 hours) across to Bradford. It would be a long day. Both those airlines charge check-in baggage fees on top of the price, I think. I realise there is some waiting around at the airport (but not as much as the ferry journey), and I don't know how cheap the ferry option is, but if your real intent is to get to Bradford (where I recall you are staying with friends, so on balance perhaps prices are better once you add in the hotel in Llandudno cost?), you might consider these. Sorry if I've missed the point and you specifcally do want to go to Llandudno. If so I'll try and answer the question you actually asked!

Posted by JANET
Westford, VT, us
27 posts

Thanks, for all the responses. I made a dumb mistake booking to Dublin and now have to make the best of it. Both time and cost are considerations, as is jet lag. After I saw my options for getting to Bradford on the day of Wed. 3 April, I thought the ferry and overnight Llandudno option would be more relaxing. I'm a knitter and a quilter and would have music and recorded books close at hand. And I actually think it might end up costing less. I believe (unless I've miscalculated) that I can get the ferry + train to Lland. + overnight accom. + train to Brad. for under 100 LGB. (Hope I got my keyboard to reflect that properly!) The visit to Bradford would be to visit a niece. A brief overnight is fine on Thur 4 Apr. I will need to go to Harrogate on Fri. Keith, does that alter your thinking about my situation? I also think, now, I'll be throwing another train trip into the mix between London and Guildford/Chilworth. Not sure if that counts as tube or regional travel...I'm still not sure if I have enough regional legs to in my trip to warrant a senior card, advance plan purchases or railpass of some sort. It does seem like one question always lead to another.....I will save my ?'s re: Ryan Air carry-on for another post. Thanks again, everyone.

Posted by Katy
London, UK
130 posts

When you say you're taking the ferry to Llandudno do you mean the ferry to Holyhead (and then from there a train? to Llandudno). I've done the ferry to Holyhead and then a train back to London, not sure how easy it is to get to Llandudno from Holyhead.
I think you're making the journey from Dublin to Bradford very hard work. I am assuming you have no particular reason for a stop in Llandudno and I would follow the suggestion above and go by air to Manchester and then get a train to Bradford on the day you arrive.

Posted by Keith
United Kingdom
683 posts

a) there is a train from Holyhead to Llandudno - there is one 30 mins after your ferry docks, but I've no idea how close the port is to the station. If you missed that there is one more train that evening. b) only you can decide which route, it looks like you can fly via Manchester for under £100 (Aer Lingus flight in the "Plus" category which inlcudes a check-in bag is 75 euro or about £65 pounds, then add the train ticket of £11 - some trains are even cheaper). I suppose it all comes down to whether you can stay the extra night with your niece. If that is OK, I really would take this option - but move quickly, when I checked there were only two tickets left and prices can go up). Or to really save money, use the Ryanair route but it will be a long day as I said before. c) if you don't think there is enough to fill an extra day in Bradford, then there is. For instance, gven your interest in fabrics you might walk around Saltaire, a "model" village built by Titus Salt for his mill workers. The wool mill itself no longer operates, but is now a gallery/museum. And/or you could go to Haworth and see the Bronte's parsonage.

Posted by Keith
United Kingdom
683 posts

Regarding buying the Britrail pass, I looked up the advance purchase (i.e. committing to using a particular train) prices available to buy now for travel in April on your dates (not all routes always have a discount, sometimes it is the same price on the day - if your timings are uncertain it makes sense to wait in those cases - I suspect Brad-Harr is an example of this, you can always check by making dummy bookings for different dates - or there might be a simpler way?). Note, I only used nationalrail.co.uk; I didn't check if there are better deals currently at any of individual rail operators or the so called discounters (e.g. redspottedhanky, trainline or megatrain). Holy - Lllan: £13.50 (£8.90 with Senior Railcard) Llan - Brad: £23.00 (£15.20) Brad - Harr: £8.20 (£5.40) Harr - Lon: £23.90 (£15.80) if going in the evening Lon - Guild: assumed day return: £15.30 (£10.10)
Lon - Heathfield: no station so I used Buxted: £15.90 (£10.50), note advance warning of engineering works on 14/April, might be a replacement bus service, you need to check nearer the time. So total saving with Senior Railcard is a little over £30 - meaning it is just worth the cost. Total cost of tickets, with railcard is about £70, plus £28 for the railcard. Does that make the Britrail pass a good deal or not, I don't know how much they cost. Your London tube/bus transport is extra - does the Britrail pass cover that, if so that needs to be factored into the calculation too.

Posted by Nigel
East Midlands, England
8756 posts

You can buy tickets ahead even before you have received your Senior Railcard if you decide to get one, you just must not attempt to use a ticket with the Senior Railcard discount unless you have a valid one in your possession. When the train conductor checks your ticket they will want to see the Railcard too.

Posted by JANET
Westford, VT, us
27 posts

Okay, I'm convinced. Booked myself on Aer Lingus to Manchester, as you suggested, Keith. Since I've been incredibly lucky in booking wonderfully inexpensive rooms through airbnb in amazing locales in the homes of people with whom I have lots in common, I'm also willing to pay the additional checked-baggage costs rather than torment myself with ridiculously light weight and small size carry-on luggage restrictions. I'm not moving around that much so it's not like I'll be dragging my suitcase around with me very often. Not sure how quickly I'll be able to collect my luggage and walk to the Manch Airport rail station so what train I will actually catch to Bradford remains an unknown. Still chewing on the train fare/rail pass options as my itinerary continues to flesh out. This helpline and the folks who are kind enough to offer their wisdom and time are nothing short of fabulous. More from me later, no doubt.