An elderly couple spent their summer holiday travelling the length of Britain for free – using just their BUS PASSES.
Michael and Jacqui Burden hopped from one local to service to another as they meandered over 500 miles from their Devon home to Carlisle.
The journey involved 28 buses, 15 different bus companies and took seven and a half days – and didn’t cost them a penny.
They had hoped to reach John O’Groats but settled for the far north of England when they found their free passes didn’t cover Scotland.
The thrifty pair, both in their 60s, mapped out a route involving 28 different villages, towns and cities before setting off on July 29.
Their route took them through the West Country and Bristol to Coventry and Leicester in the Midlands and then through Manchester and West Yorkshire to Carlisle in Cumbria.
They also saved more money by staying with friends and relatives across the country and spent the remaining nights in bargain hotels and B&Bs.
Michael, a retired laboratory scientist, said: “I was the damn fool who came up with the idea.
“I’ve only ever used buses occasionally but I just loved the idea of it.
“My wife is a superb organiser so she looked into the accommodation and the routes.
“Then we finished our breakfast on the Monday morning, packed up our luggage and headed to the bus stop.
“We could have planned a shorter route but we enjoyed meandering from place to place – it was more of a quiet adventure than a military campaign.
“Most of the buses were on time and, overall, it was a thoroughly enjoyable experience.
“You see the sorts of places that you would normally miss when you’re shooting past in the car.”
The couple, from Clyst Honiton, just outside of Exeter, Devon, saved a total of £120.85 per person on fares.
However, they spent virtually the nearly same amount travelling home on the train after buying first class tickets at £103 each.
Jacqui, a music teacher, said: “We only saved about £17 each but we felt we deserved a little indulgence on the way back.
“People have said, ‘for goodness sake, why didn’t you take the car?’
“We have two, a Skoda estate and a Peugeot 106 – but where’s the fun in that?
“We had an amazing time, we met lots of different people and we really enjoyed listening to the different dialects as people got on and off the buses.
“We could have done it quicker but we took the scenic route.
“We even had time to stop off for an opera en route – we were hardly slumming it.”
Michael and Jacqui, who have three sons and five grandchildren, kept a diary of their holiday listing the buses they took.
And they loved their free bus trip so much they are already planning another jaunt to Norwich.
Under the government’s free bus pass scheme eligible older people are entitled to free off-peak travel on local buses anywhere in England once they hit pension age.
Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland all have their own separate schemes.
Michael urged other OAPs to take advantage of the perk.
He said: “We’re well-travelled people, having been to Antarctica, South America, Tahiti, the States loads of time, you name it.
“But I can genuinely say this was one of our best ever trips.”
Exeter to Tiverton (Stagecoach)
Tiverton to Taunton (First)
Taunton to Wells (First)
Wells to Bristol (First)
Bristol to Yate (First)
Total distance: 106 miles and the fare saved was £29.10 each
Nearly missed our first bus at Exeter as the scheduled stand was
changed with no indication until the last minute. Also nearly missing
our second bus in Tiverton as the bus stand, the number and departure
time had all been changed. In Wells the bus broke down, but was
quickly replaced. The passengers included a young lady who was sat at
the back of one bus painting her nails; it must have been quite a job
as the road was very bumpy! Another passenger was on her mobile phone
for an hour, without a break, must have had a good phone contract!
Yate to Old Sodbury (Wessex Red)
Old Sodbury to Tetbury (Cotswold CVS)
Tetbury to Stroud (Cotswold Green)
Stroud to Cheltenham (Stagecoach)
Cheltenham to Bredon (Astons Coaches)
Total distance was 55 miles and the fare saved was #13.15 each
Not many stops made in rural areas. Route took us through many
beautiful Cotswold villages, including Painswick, where there are 99
Yew trees in the churchyard. Buses were generally half-full, including
many locals having lots of chats! We could have got to Cheltenham on
the first day, which would have enabled a longer stay to explore this
interesting spa town, but decided to take our time and ended each day
about 4 o’clock.
Bredon to Evesham (Astons Coaches)
Evesham to Stratford-upon-Avon (Stagecoach)
Stratford to Coventry (Stagecoach)
Coventry to Leicester (Mike de Courcy Coaches)
Total distance 73 miles and the fare saved #17.25 each
Route initially took us through many villages, including Salford
Priors, where there were vast fields of runner beans, all in “wigwam”
bamboo frames. Apparently the firm supplies major supermarkets with
produce. Stratford-upon-Avon seemed to have many of the three million
tourists it has each year! There were no public conveniences near our
bus stop, so we used the toilets in an adjacent bookmakers, we didn’t
place bets on the way!
Leicester to Derby (Kinch Bus – Skylink)
Derby to Buxton (Transpeak Service)
Total distance 72 miles and the fare saved £12.40 each
Buses were crowded, interesting journey. Lots of day-trippers to
Loughborough, also called in at East Midlands Airport, delivering some
airline cabin staff and passengers. Went past Donnington Park, the
motorsport circuit. Many passengers bound for Westfield shopping mall
in Derby. Went through Matlock Bath, a small, but busy village,
numerous fish and chip shops, one had a sign saying “Fish and Chips
£3, with peas!”. A number of the pubs also had patrons tucking into
fish and chips at the outside tables, it seemed the whole village was
involved in eating this delicacy. Walked around Buxton and went to the
opera house in the evening.
Buxton to Manchester (Transpeak Service)
Manchester to Nelson (The Witch Way)
Nelson to Keighley (Mainline)
Keighley to Haworth (TransDev)
Total distance 77 miles and the fare saved £18.40 each
Filled our water bottles with Buxton water at St Anne’s Well.
Beautiful countryside, went pass Lyme Park, used as location for
Pemberley, (Mr Darcy’s house in the Colin Firth version of Pride and
Prejudice!) In Stockport passed massive railway viaduct with 27
arches, still in use after 170 years! Also went past the McVities’s
factory and the bus was filled with the delightful aroma of chocolate
digestives! Manchester bus station has a fee of 30p to use the
toilets, heard lots of rumblings about this! Visited the Bronte
Parsonage Museum at Haworth, very interesting and well worth a visit.
Haworth to Keighley (TransDev)
Keighley to Skipton (TransDev)
Total distance 14 miles and the fare saved £6.00 each.
Took a trip on the Keighley and Worth Valley Railway, one station at
Oakworth was used as a location for the The Railway Children, filmed
in 1970. Buses were very full with locals, who all seemed to know each
other from the volume of chatter heard! Stayed in Skipton, went to a
local pub, on the menu was fish and “dripping-fried chips”. Landlord
said it was the only way to cook chips, as they were crispier! We took
his word for it, but went for a “healthier option!”
Skipton to Settle (Malham Tarn Shuttle)
Settle to Ingleton (Malham Tarn Shuttle)
Total distance 27 miles and the fare saved £8.00 each
As it was a Sunday, Ingleton was as far as we could go, there were no
buses till the following day. Lots of walkers took the bus to Malham
Tarn, which is a glacier lake, near the village of Malham in the
Yorkshire Dales. It is the highest lake in England. Settle was full of
bikers, who all seemed to be having cooked breakfasts! Journey from
Skipton to Settle was spectacular. Took the Ingleton Waterfalls Trail,
a 4.5 mile walk to visit eight waterfalls and scenery, some of the
most beautiful in northern England.
Ingleton to Kirkby Lonsdale (Kirkby Lonsdale Coach Hire)
Kirkby Lonsdale to Kendal (Stagecoach)
Kendal to Penrith (Kirkby Lonsdale Coach Hire)
Penrith to Carlisle (Stagecoach)
Total distance 87 miles and the fare saved £16.55 each.
Rain, rain, rain! Lovely countryside in drive through Cumbria, but
difficult to see through the steamed-up bus windows. Few passengers on
board, but ladies who liked to chat. At times the journey was like
riding a “log-flume” at a theme park, with water spraying up high on
both sides as the bus negotiated narrow country roads. At Penrith the
lady bus driver very kindly let us on the bus 20 minutes early to save
us standing in the rain! Later in the journey we were joined by some
wet wedding guests, “fascinator” feathers were failing in the fracas!
Carlisle was reached by 15:30hrs and the sun came out, hoorah!