Queen Unveils Plaque for 20th Anniversary of Channel Tunnel Opening

No, not the band – Her Majesty the Queen unveils plaque for 20th Anniversary of Channel Tunnel opening this morning, Thursday 5th June 2014. I am jumping up and down with excitement. I love plaques. And trains. And I don’t know the Queen but after today I might love her too.

Me on the Eurostar

Me on the Eurostar

The Queen, accompanied by His Royal Highness The Duke of Edinburgh, is here to commemorate the launch of international high speed rail services between the UK and mainland Europe, which we take for granted now, but before the tunnel, braving hours at sea was our only option. Now you can go from London to Paris just to have lunch before returning the same day happy as Larry. I know, I’ve done it. The Queen has probably done it too.

Queen Unveils 20th Anniversary of Channel Tunnel Plaque

Photo: Sophie Collard

After all this, she’s off to France from 5th to 7th June with an invite from the President of France, Françoise Hollande in hand. As part of the State Visit, Her Majesty and His Royal Highness will go to events in Paris and Normandy to mark the 70th anniversary of the Normandy landings.

Photo: Solent Pictures

Photo: Solent Pictures

Here today to greet the Royals are Rob Holden, the Chairman of HS1, Jacques Gounon, the Chairman and Chief Executive of Groupe Eurotunnel and Clare Hollingsworth, the Chairwoman of Eurostar. William Hague, the UK Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs and Harlem Désir, France’s Secretary of State for European Affairs and Bernard Emié, French Ambassador to the UK, are here too.

Photo: Solent Pictures

Photo: Solent Pictures

Jacques Gounon said, “Today 65 million vehicles and 330 million people have already travelled through the Tunnel, bringing substantial economic benefits to the UK and Europe.”

Eurostar was formed in 1994 as a partnership between three railway companies: SNCF (French national railways), SNCB (Belgian national railways) and LCR (London and Continental Railways). The same year the current Eurostar train was first introduced into service carrying 750 passengers and operating at speeds of up to 300kph. The fleet of 28 trains has since carried over 145 million passengers between London and mainland Europe. Following their refurbishment these trains will continue to form a core part of the Eurostar fleet. The new Eurostar e320 train will carry more than 900 passengers at speeds of up to 320kph.

Clare Hollingsworth, Chairwoman of Eurostar, said, “The launch of Eurostar services between the UK and mainland Europe represented a historic milestone revolutionising rail travel on both sides of the Channel. Over the last twenty years we have carried over 145 million passengers as high speed rail increasingly becomes the preferred option for short haul journeys. With the advent of a new state-of-the art fleet of trains and a range of new routes, we are looking forward to extending our reach and cementing further the relationship between the UK and continental Europe.”

After today’s ceremony, the commemorative plaque will be displayed in the international services check-in area of St Pancras International station. Winner.

Top Easter 2014 Short Breaks by Train from London

Easter falls on 20th April, with Good Friday 18th April and Bank Holiday Monday 21st. A perfect amount of time to enjoy Easter 2014 short breaks by train. Train travel is (for me at least) far less stressful than flying and, with a bit of a search, cheaper too. Even if it means not going as far. I’ve looked into places in the UK it’s easy and cheap to get to by train from London this Easter weekend…

London to Oxford – from £5 each way


Good Friday fares are as low as £5 London to Oxford and from £6.45 one way Oxford to London at the moment with First Great Western. Great sites in Oxford include (probably) my favourite museum in the UK, the Pitt Rivers Museum, as well as the Ashmolean Museum, which the city-promoting people tend to make more of a fuss about. Also worth a visit is the Museum of the History of Science with it’s ancient globes. There are several wonderfully old pubs you may have to bend your back a little to walk around inside, and the punting scene, if that’s your thing.

London to Cambridge – from £6 one way

Cambridge Rowers 1943

Not so long ago I went to stay in Norfolk for a week, stopping off at Ely on the way up to Kings Lynn and stopping off at Cambridge on the journey back from Kings Lynn to London. Breaking the journey in that way is free if you have a ticket valid for the entire day, however the cheapest tickets mean travelling at a set time on a specific train. I discovered slower trains from London Liverpool Street to Cambridge are cheaper. So ignore anyone at ticket offices who tries to encourage you not to buy them. Vive la révolution! Hooray! This Easter Weekend, you can get a single with Greater Anglia on Easter Friday from £6 one way and the same on Bank Holiday Monday. Cambridge has famous and beautiful colleges, Christ’s Pieces – a stretch of land where goths hang out, and the Fitzwilliam Museum – although that’s closed Good Friday and Mondays generally. Oh and you can go for a punt of course. Or a pint. Or both.

London to Bath – from £13.50 one way


Book now with First Great Western and you can get fares from £13.50 each way from London to Bath for the Easter weekend. Bath has the Abbey, Royal Crescent, Pulteney Bridge and Roman Baths, that, last time I went, were accompanied by Bill Bryson’s thoughts in the audio guide. I lived in Bath for a while and learned things like, there was no Sally Lunn and Jane Austen actually disliked – read hated – the city, plus the Bath Chronicle said Queen Victoria looked drab when she visited, so she never returned. As such, Bath is best appreciated for it’s aesthetic beauty, celebration of the elite, and pubs like the Raven, the Royal Oak and the wonderful – co-operatively owned – Bell Inn. Toppings bookshop is lovely too, they’ll make you a cup of tea while you browse. Talking of tea, check out the Tea Emporium rather than taking afternoon tea in the tourist traps if you fancy a bit of peace.

All three cities have some fantastic places to stay from about £30 per person per night sharing on airbnb.co.uk

Letter to an Unknown Soldier, a WWI Project at Paddington Station

Letter to an Unknown Soldier is a new project created by Neil Bartlett, a novelist and theatre director, and Kate Pullinger, a professor of Creative Writing at Bath Spa, with the aim of making a tribute out of words to mark the centenary of the beginning of the First World War. Members of the public are invited to write their own letters to the unknown soldier, forming a collaborative war memorial. The statue the project centres around is on Platform One at Paddington Station in London.

Everyone from the celebrated Stephen Fry to the celebrated poet Andrew Motion has had a go, of the 50 leading writers and artists kicking it all off – but the big reveal will be 28th June 2014, with the project running until 4th August 2014. I’ve had a go at writing one too…

“I wanted to express my gratitude… is what I find myself writing from habit. I’m not sure gratitude is the right word, because I’m not too sure I’m for the war, or any war for that matter. And I’m not sure whether you’re out there by choice or by duty or if the two can ever be intertwined. I could talk about home or ask you what it is like out there, in the mud and the cold and the rain. I could talk about the women down the road sewing as if it will mend everything, or about my widowed neighbour who stares forlornly at the forget-me-nots in her garden and no longer speaks, not even to the milkman. But I don’t think these trivialities will put light in your heart and it is light in your heart that might pull you through the struggles that arrive with each new day. So I will tell you a story, with the aim of spiriting you away to a gentle place…

After a while all the cold mud grows warmer, and the air hot. Rainforest plants appear, thick and moist and green and they open to a lake from which steam rises. All around birds of paradise sing. The butterflies float iridescent in the humidity and the bright tree frogs gaze longingly at the flies. A beautiful person swims there, in the lake, every day, at the foot of a ramshackle jetty which runs from the door of a house made of reeds to the bank. This ethereal being kisses the water as it flows past their nakedness. Time subsides. Reaching the bank they raise their body glistening from the water, drawing their legs up to their chest. And then their eyes, like other fantastical worlds, invite you to join them, as temptation stretches out across the sand waiting.”


© Dom Agius

© Dom Agius

Stephen Fry wrote;

“Beloved brother,

 Enough time has passed now for us to think only one thought:  that we will never see you again. The last I heard you were cheerful and funny, as ever.

Remember when I told you that I was going to declare myself a conscientious objector? I saw a look in your eye. “My brother, a coward?” It nearly killed me. I would give anything to be in your place, a hero respected and at peace — and not just because of the insults, beatings and stones hurled at me from bus conductors, shopkeepers and children in the streets.

Every night Ma and Pa sob as they try to swallow their food. I eat in another room. They cannot look at me. I try not to feel sorry for myself, but I do believe it is wrong to kill. I made my decision. you made yours.

For eternity your image will stand for unquestioning courage. I will die proud of you and ashamed of myself. And that is in spite of me being right.”

The Unknown Soldier © Dom Agius

The Unknown Soldier © Dom Agius

In the 37 days prior to the anniversary of the declaration of war, you’re invited to write your own letter and send it to the site. As the letters are submitted, they will be published for everybody to see. After that they’ll be added to the British Library web archive.

Fifty UK writers have pledged to write letters to the soldier so far. Among them are Benjamin Zephaniah, David Almond, Geoff Dyer, Malorie Blackman, and Birdsong writer Sebastian Faulks.

Prisoners, nurses, senior citizens, local historians, ex-service men and women and lots of secondary school pupils have also pledged to write letters.

The Letter to an Unknown Soldier website goes live 28th June 2014. You can visit now to read more, including a few of the letters at 1418NOW.org.uk/letter.

Behold! The Two Together Railcard – For Cheaper Train Tickets

Attention couples and (very good) friends: Exciting news! For the first time in thirty years the Association of Train Operating Companies (ATOC) is offering a new discount card, saving lucky rail travellers a whopping third off off peak travel on the Nation Rail network. And you don’t have to be under 25 or over 60 – you can be my age! Or whatever age you might be, dear reader, that is between the ages of 25 and 60.

The card’s launch date is 3rd March 2014 and it’s a big hooray for those of us who might have made the switch from rail travel to National Express coach travel much of the time because train travel is just. too. expensive.

The Two Together Railcard March 3rd 2014 - courtesy of ATOC.

The Two Together Railcard March 3rd 2014 – courtesy of ATOC.

The card will cost £30 and save you 1/3 off rail travel – just as the 16-25 and senior rail cards do. The card is for couples and friends travelling together. The only catch, if you want to see it that way, is that you need two named persons on it – which means that as with EE’s ‘Magic Numbers’ you’ll want to agree to get a card with someone you know you travel by train with more than anyone else. This inevitably means the greatest beneficiaries will be happy couples – but pick a good bestie and it’s still a pretty damn good offering.

I’m excited. I don’t know who I will identify as the adult between 25 and 60 I travel with on the network the most, but I am excited.

Good job, ATOC – more of this please.

You will be able to purchase your very own Two Together Railcard online at railcard.co.uk from 3rd March 2014 or at any train station ticket office (that’s big enough) in the UK.

For more on the varying railcards and how they can save you money – check out my post How to Book Trains in the UK and save Money

Avoid the Tube Strike – Buses, Walking, Cycling, Apartments and Hotels

There’s a strike on. London Underground (LU) is run by Transport for London (TfL). Some LU ticket office staff belong to the National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers (RMT), some to the Transport Salaried Staffs’ Association (TSSA). The TSSA claims 953 jobs face being cut if all 278 London Underground ticket offices are closed and machines put in in their place. They also point out that 45% of supervisor jobs face being cut – a move that would see fewer staff ensuring passenger safety, and some stations becoming ‘ghost stations.’ In 2010 Boris Johnson, as part of his election campaign, claimed ticket windows would never be closed. He is now not only backtracking but, the TSSA claims, refusing to meet them to talk about it. Meanwhile, RMT are leading with the slogan ‘Every Job Matters’ claiming 750 jobs are to go, £33m of LU cuts are being made from 2013-2014 and £45m worth of cuts are planned for 2015, despite a 4.2% ticket price increase. Not all workers are on strike, with some stations remaining open, but TfL is under fire today for reporting stations being open when they are not. One transport commentator said,

“Those who are striking can’t do anything but strike, because the unions can’t agree to ticket window closures and getting people out to help customers, otherwise what are their members paying for? So it’s all stupid and futile because soon no-one will buy at ticket windows and they know that.”

For ‘balance,’ here’s what David Cameron had to say on his Facebook page:

David Cameron Tube StrikeThe Guardian have an excellent live blog covering the strike.

My opinion? Well, imbued with a sense of what is right from watching Made in Dagenham on BBC iPlayer last night (an excellent film), I’d say if my job were at risk I’d go on strike too. Also, the idea of cutting staff that help keep people from getting crushed to death at rush hour is more than a little disconcerting. Plus, I was at Victoria on Monday morning and the staff were all being immensely helpful and smiling in the face of adversity. So I like them and want them all to keep their jobs.

In the meantime, the concern for many Londoners will be how to get to work without using the Tube. There are several suggestions, ranging from using their legs, to cycling, and of course buses, which bizarrely the BBC – quoting the poet Brian Howard who died in the 50s – said jokingly, nobody over 30 would be seen dead on.

But their suggestion of staying with a wealthy centre-dwelling friend was an interesting one. Most people don’t have one of those. But budget accommodation is readily available, and if you think that the average cab fare from home to work is likely around £30, getting a room for the night near work may not actually be such a crazy idea…

Tune Hotels

Tune Hotels very kindly put me up in their King’s Cross hotel at the end of last year. If you book in advance, you can get a room for £45 – £50. As with any budget hotel, it is advisable to bring your own toiletries as comfort packages cost extra, but the rooms are clean and light, with excellent views and comfy beds. They have hotels in Westminster, Liverpool Street, Paddington, and King’s Cross in London.

The view from Tune Hotels King's Cross © Sophie Collard

The view from Tune Hotels King’s Cross © Sophie Collard

Tune Hotels King's Cross © Sophie Collard

Tune Hotels King’s Cross © Sophie Collard

A bathroom at Tune King's Cross. © Sophie Collard

A bathroom at Tune King’s Cross. © Sophie Collard


Understandably, people love to make jokes when you mention the name. That aside, EasyHotels are probably the cheapest ‘know-what-you’re-getting’ hotels in London. I’ve visited quite a few of their hotels, and can confirm that on the whole the rooms are tiny. And windowless rooms may not suit claustrophobics. But at £29 a night at their cheapest, you can’t complain that much. I paid it. Went to Floripa down the road for the night with friends. Although there were a couple of suspicious hairs, and a piece of skin I hoped had fallen off my own foot (sorry) the hotel I stayed in at the Old Street location was clean, and contrary to the norm, it was huge because I’d struck gold with an accessible room on the ground floor. EasyHotels have locations at South Kensington, Luton, Paddington, Earl’s Court, Victoria, Barbican/Old Street and Heathrow.

EasyHotel Old Street

EasyHotel Old Street

EasyHotel Old Street Accessible Bathroom © Sophie Collard

EasyHotel Old Street Accessible Bathroom © Sophie Collard

EasyHotel accessible bathroom. © Sophie Collard

EasyHotel accessible bathroom. © Sophie Collard

CityMarque Apartments

Here’s a fun idea. While the strike’s on – why not have teams from the office staying in centrally located apartments? CityMarque kindly put a group of bloggers, including myself, up in their apartments during World Travel Market 2014. You can see Peter Parkorr’s review here. There was space for six people if four people shared the two double bedrooms, and two people took the double sofa bed in the open plan living room and kitchen area (which was as comfortable as the double beds). The Goodge St location we stayed at has apartments with two double rooms starting at £221 a night that would make a stay £55.25 per person per night with four people staying or £36.80 per person per night with six. Although they have an online chat, it will be far easier for you to book online or call. They are fabulously clean, light, comfortable. If you do have a group, this would definitely be my top choice.

CityMarque Apartments hallway © Sophie Collard

CityMarque Apartments hallway © Sophie Collard

The view from a CityMarque Apartment © Sophie Collard

The view from a CityMarque Apartment © Sophie Collard

Bed in a CityMarque Apartment © Sophie Collard

Bed in a CityMarque Apartment © Sophie Collard

Another view © Sophie Collard

Another view © Sophie Collard

So however you are getting to work if you’re based in London, may your journey be smooth, timely and interesting. I’ll be working from home to avoid the tube strike.

Break your Journey, do some Split Ticketing | Sightseeing for Less

Recently, I decided I was going to go for it. Quite simply, if I wanted to go some places and see some shit, I was going to do it, because, as the kids say, you only live once (or twice, as I heard the other day).

With my wonderful friend and colleague, Katherine Conlon, a historian with a degree in the subject from York and an MA from Bristol, we set up the website www.traveldarkly.com. This gave me a new sense of purpose – a new theme. I would explore the UK, Europe and beyond looking for freaky shit.

To start this ‘going for it’ business, I got two massive maps of the UK from Stanfords travel bookshop alongside a Lonely Planet Great Britain . I carefully and painstakingly underlined all the places in the UK that related to death, disaster and the macabre throughout history, as well as all the best railway journeys in the UK, and linked the two together. Following the advice of my great friend Kashyap, the Budget Traveller, I also acquired a copy of the Rough Guide to the Best Places to Stay in Britain on a Budget.

The latter was invaluable when, at 6pm on a Sunday, I arrived at King’s Lynn station hoping to hop on the Coast Hopper Bus – only to realise that on a Sunday the last one leaves at 4pm, and that I needed to give a very nice taxi driver the postcode of Deepdale Farm where I was going to be staying, so he could put it into his GPS wotsit-magig and take me there.

A room of one's own for £24 a night in winter at Deepdale Farm Backpackers. © Sophie Collard

A room of one’s own for £24 a night in winter at Deepdale Farm Backpackers. © Sophie Collard

On 10th January, I left home with a suitcase filled with clothes and borrowed ski wear. The plan was a bit of the UK, followed by a ski train trip to the Jungfrau region, followed by more of the UK.

And this is when a revelation hit me. I wanted to see quite a few places, by train, in the UK that related to dark tourism. I had maps and descriptions. I knew how to split train tickets by booking different legs of a journey separately, and I knew that UK train rules from up high dictate that passengers are allowed to break their journey at any given station on any given route they are travelling, provided they do so on the day of travel.

I was headed to Deepdale Farm in Norfolk for a week, because I wanted to do some writing, I’m not wealthy enough right now to be able to afford an Arvon Foundation retreat, and the smell of woodsmoke is my favourite smell in the whole wide world. And it’s really cheap.

I had a train ticket from London to King’s Lynn. There was a replacement rail service from Ely. I had never been to Ely. There was a Cathedral in Ely that not only has a painted ceiling to rival the Sistine Chapel’s but also an architect who fell off the roof of to his death, and Oliver Cromwell’s House, which is ‘haunted,’ and the museum, which is housed in a very old gaol. Perfect. I tweeted the train operator for this route, First Capital Connect, and asked if it was possible to break the journey at Ely. It was, so I did.

Ely Cathedral Ceiling © Sophie Collard

Ely Cathedral Ceiling © Sophie Collard

On the way back from King’s Lynn, a week later, I noted that Cambridge was on the line to London. Lovely, can’t beat a stop in Cambridge. I got to King’s Lynn station and asked how much a train to London was. £33.50. This seemed awfully expensive, when it should have been £22.50 or something.

‘That’s at weekends,’ the man in the ticket office said.

‘What. A. Load. Of. Crap,’ I thought.

So I asked if I could just purchase King’s Lynn to Cambridge for £9.50. I did. I went. I saw. And then when I got to Cambridge station (taking the park and ride into town and back, which is a bitch to walk to with a suitcase otherwise) I checked for the cheapest of the two trains available – one goes to King’s Cross, one goes to Liverpool Street – I saw that the slow one to Liverpool Street, which was the area I wanted to be in anyway, was £15.90. This meant the total fare for that day, on the day, King’s Lynn to Liverpool Street with a long pause in Cambridge, was £25.40.

Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge, Where Oliver Cromwell's head is buried © Sophie Collard

Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge, Where Oliver Cromwell’s head is buried © Sophie Collard

I don’t think the man in the ticket office was altogether impressed when I exclaimed, ‘I WIN!’

Empowered by this cheap train ticket win, I happily opened my Lonely Planet Great Britain and looked for the next trip which would follow after the train to Switzerland and back. Bristol, my hometown, then back to London.

And what’s this? What is on the line to London from Bristol? Well lot’s of places, including Swindon, where the STEAM museum is, but I’ve been to the STEAM museum, and Swindon is boring (sorry Swindon), so the answer is actually Didcot Parkway. And not because I’m looking to hang out in Didcot Parkway, but because Didcot Parkway is the gateway to Oxford.

Here’s how it will work. Following a wonderful excursion to the Jungfrau region by Eurostar, TGV Lyria, SBB and Jungfraubahn, I treated myself to a walk-up open return to Bristol, where I am sitting right here, right now, just like the Fatboy Slim song says.

On the return to London, where I will be taking afternoon tea with the wonderful Laura Porter of about.com fame, I can break my journey at Didcot Parkway, where, get this, a return to Oxford is a mere £6. £6! For all the joys of the Pitt River’s Museum and its shrunken heads, and Oxford Castle and its grizzly history, and all the pubs for gnomes…

Well I don’t mind if I do.

For more information about saving money when booking train tickets by split ticketing, journey breaks or using rail cards, see my post; How to Book Trains in the UK and Save Money

A Room With a View, #WheninParis for Eurostar

I’m a big fan of Eurostar, so it was a pleasure to help them launch their new #WheninParis campaign by taking a mini excursion to the city.

Eurostar sent me to Paris with a mission. To capture stories in Paris. My Paris.

Ten years ago, a coach took me to see the surprisingly tiny Mona Lisa in the Louvre, and Kandinsky in the Pompidou Centre.

Kandinsky at the Pompidou

Kandinsky at the Pompidou

It was a school art trip that saw my friends and I snickering on the Metro to the red light district, visiting sex shops and Le Chat Noir. By day we visited the Notre Dame. We raced each other down the hill from the Sacre Coeur. We ascended the Eiffel Tower and braved the fierce winds that howled at our faces.

And then couple of years ago I went to house sit for a family friend in Noisy-le-Sec, on the outskirts of Paris, which has a large North African and Algerian community. The station was also where many soldiers left from to serve in the Great War from 1914 – 1918 and a plaque there commemorates this.

Great War memorial at Noisy-le-Sec station

Great War memorial at Noisy-le-Sec station

The English friend in Noisy-le-Sec had lived mainly around that area for 30 years. Her flat was up a curling French staircase and was cosy and colourful. This somewhat grittier version of Paris, with many main roads and flyovers to tackle on foot, involved negotiating RER trains to get into the centre, where I visited Père Lachaise Cemetery (Cimetière du Père Lachaise) twice, as well as Montmartre. Friends took me on a film tour of Montmartre, that included the vegetable shop and cafe from the film Amelie.

The vegetable shop from the film Amelie

The vegetable shop from the film Amelie

The following summer I returned again, on my way to Palermo, Sicily, by train from London. I stopped over and stayed at a friend’s apartment in central Paris and visited the Catacombs.

Bone and skulls in the Paris Catacombs

Bones and skulls in the Paris Catacombs

He took me out to Nouille on 1 rue Faidherbe, where they make their own noodles and then to drink margaritas in a Spanish bar called Candelaria.

Candelaria bar, Paris

Candelaria bar, Paris

This time, with Eurostar #WheninParis, I wanted to filter these experiences into what a typical visit might be for me. I was put up at the Mercure Terminus Nord right opposite Gard du Nord. The room was on the fifth floor and had quite simply, the best view I’ve had from a hotel.

Mercure Terminus Nord

Mercure Terminus Nord

Gare du Nord daytime

Gare du Nord by day

Gare du Nord by night

Gare du Nord by night

I arranged to see both friends I had previously stayed with and to revisit the Notre Dame and Père Lachaise.

The first evening, I met the family friend and she took me to La Paella, not far from Gare du Nord, where we ordered tapas.

I found the French Hunter S. Thompson…

Man in La Paella by Gare du Nord

Man in La Paella by Gare du Nord

I went back to the hotel via Gare du Nord…

The lights Gare du Nord

The lights Gare du Nord

And after a good sleep, I was up early to visit Père Lachaise…

Jim Morrison's tree

Jim Morrison’s tree

Afterwards, I met the friend who’d once shown me the noodle bar and we walked beside the Seine, from where the river comes out of the ground, to a wonderful French Bistro called Chez Prune.

A man enjoying lunch at Chez Prune

A man enjoying lunch at Chez Prune

I ordered a steak with potatoes dauphinoise and a glass of organic wine. My friend had the fish parcels. After lunch I took the Metro to the Notre Dame and photographed people on their way to wherever they were going.

The Metro system Paris

The Metro system Paris

One girl posed for me and smiled…

On the Metro

On the Metro

When I arrived at the Notre Dame it was raining and there was a queue. Two elderly tourists had bright umbrellas that blew upwards in the wind. I took their photograph.

Tourists by the Notre Dame

Tourists by the Notre Dame

I went inside. Tourists filed around the cathedral rustling and clicking. And I left following an epiphany of sorts. The story was no longer in the landmarks for me, it was in the people. And when I thought about, this was probably true of most places, for me. I vowed to visit the people before the obvious landmarks in future.

I passed a man making Nutella crepes and bought one before scuttling back on to the Metro to take photographs and returning to the Gare du Nord to catch the train back to London.


The Train from London Waterloo – Destinations and Ways to Save Money

A train from London Waterloo will go to destinations in the South West and South Coast of the UK. Waterloo is the busiest station in the UK with more than 90 million entries and exits a year. 90 Million! That’s a lot.

Popular destinations from London Waterloo vary depending on whether you are a commuter or a day tripper/holidaymaker.

The top three destinations out of London Waterloo are:

  • Bournemouth
  • Poole
  • Southampton

Other destinations from Waterloo include:

Salisbury     Windsor     Portsmouth     Ascot     Epsom      Reading

Guildford     Staines     Woking     Basingstoke     Winchester 

Exeter     Yeovil     Shepperton     Kingston     Weymouth

Hampton Court   Chessington     Sunningdale

Teddington     Brookwood     Wimbledon     Byfleet & New Haw

Waterloo to Southampton

Southampton is also a port, and ferries leave Southampton and go to the Isle of Wight with Red Funnel Ferries and the Hythe Pier on the Hythe Ferry. Trains take roughly 1hr 20mins – 1hr 40mins. There is a free shuttle bus  every 15 minutes from the train station that takes 7 mins to get to the ferry terminal.

Book train tickets from Waterloo to Southampton

Waterloo to Poole

I always think of the waterpark when I think of poole. A pool in Poole, imagine that. Very popular with little ones. 2hrs to 3hrs 20 mins from Waterloo.

Book trains from Waterloo to Poole 

Waterloo to Bournemouth

Bournemouth has a lovely long beach and so is a popular UK seaside destination, but is also home to Bournemouth University, which has a varied list of arts courses including Scriptwriting for Film and Television. Many students can also get a third off rail travel by using a Young Persons Railcard. 2hrs from Waterloo. 2hrs – 2hrs 15 mins from Waterloo.

Book trains from Waterloo to Bournemouth

And the rest…

Waterloo to Salisbury

Salisbury has Salisbury Cathedral, which is very grand indeed and has a modern font which behaves like a water feature. It is set in grassy grounds with lots of quaint little cafes nearby. It is 1 hr 30mins from Waterloo.

Waterloo to Windsor

Windsor is home to Windsor Castle and Legoland. It is just under 1 hr to Windsor & Eton Riverside from Waterloo. The castle is not far from the station and Legoland is served by a shuttle bus that picks up from both stations. Shuttle buses cost £4.80 for an adult return and £2.40 for a child return, information can be found here.

Waterloo to Portsmouth

Portsmouth is a port, so lots of ferries leave from Portsmouth and go with Direct Ferries to; St Malo, Caen, Cherbourg and Le Havre in France, Bilbao and Santander in Spain, Fishbourne in the UK and Guernsey and Jersey which are islands off the coast of, and belonging to, the UK. The train from Waterloo to Portsmouth takes 1hr 30mins – 2hrs. Portsmouth & Southsea station is closer to the ferry terminal than Portsmouth Harbour but shuttle buses operate from both. Allow 45 minutes to get from the train station to the ferry terminal to be on the safe side.

Waterloo to Ascot

Ascot has Royal Ascot, the famous annual horse races – where a lot of women wear a lot of hats. (One each for the most part). The racecourse is a seven minute walk from the railway station and trains from Waterloo take just under 1hr.

Waterloo to Epsom

Epsom has the Epsom Derby. The racecourse is usually served by a bus that takes 10 mins from the station, but during the festivals shuttle buses are laid on between the station and the racecourse these cost £3 one way or £5 return, regardless of your age. Otherwise its a 1/2 a mile walk from Tattenham Corner Station or 1 mile walk from Epsom Downs Station. Trains to Epsom take 35-40 mins.

Waterloo to Reading

Reading is a commuter city and station at which many journeys are split to save money. It is on the outskirts of the Network Rail area. There are lots of willow trees that hang over the river at Reading and it also has the Reading Festival, which can be seen from the train tracks that run alongside the festival area right by the station. Trains take 1hr 20mins from Waterloo to Reading.

Or you can hop on the Underground at Waterloo and get the train from London Paddington to Reading instead, which is a shorter journey.

Waterloo to Guildford

Guildford is another commuter destination in Surrey and, ‘luxury shopping capital of the UK.’ There is a castle you can visit for £3. Guildford is 40mins from Waterloo. 40mins to 1hr 15mins from Waterloo.

Waterloo to Staines

Staines, also a commuter destination and now actually called Staines-upon-Thames is also the closest train station to Thorpe Park, the fantastic water-based theme park loved by so many brits for so much more than its log flume. 30 – 50 mins from Waterloo and the 950 shuttle bus runs from the station to Thorpe Park every 15 mins.

Waterloo to Woking

Woking is a commuter town. 25-50 mins from Waterloo.

Waterloo to Basingstoke

Basingstoke is also a commuter town. 45 mins – 1 hr 20 mins from Waterloo.

Waterloo to Winchester

Winchester has Winchester Cathedral which costs to get into but is impressive even from the outside. The once capital of England is quite a charming little city with many old Tudor buildings. Ordinary chain shops and restaurants have found homes in these beautiful wooden-beamed buildings. Approximately 1hr from Waterloo.

Waterloo to Exeter

Exeter, gateway to Devon… Exeter is a university town but also has Exeter Cathedral and a 14th century labyrinth of underground passageways and Exeter’s Historic Quayside. 2 hrs 45 mins to 3hrs 25 mins from Waterloo.

Waterloo to Yeovil

Yeovil is not only the gateway railway station for those wanting to visit Glastonbury with its lovely town centre, Abbey and Tor, it also has a Railway Centre with steam trains. Lucky you. 2 hrs 20 mins from Waterloo.

Waterloo to Weymouth

Weymouth – the sea, the sea! 2 hrs 40 mins – 2 hrs 55 mins from Waterloo.

Waterloo to Hampton Court

To me Hampton Court Palace is significant because the ghost of Hernry VIII’s wife is said to haunt it. Catherine Howard purportedly runs screaming yet headless through the halls. Hampton Court is 30 – 36 mins from Waterloo. The palace is 200m across the bridge from the station.

Waterloo to Chessington

Home to Chessington World of Adventures. 10 mins walk from Chessington South rail station. 34 mins from Waterloo.

Waterloo to Kingston

Kingston is served by Shepperton station too. 28 – 43 mins to Kingston from Waterloo.

Waterloo to Sunningdale

Sunningdale is a commuter destination and wealthy residential area. 47 mins from Waterloo.

Waterloo to Teddington

Teddington is a commuter destination which has a lock you can visit. There’s some info here. 33-37 mins from Waterloo.

Waterloo to Brookwood

Brookwood is of particular interest to me because of the Necropolis railway that once ran from central London to the cemetery. A private railway line was used to transport coffins and mourners. Sometimes twice daily. The station was sadly bombed in the war and never rebuilt and so the railway line was ripped up. But you can still go on guided walks of the route for a suggested donation of £3. An in-depth Fortean Times article can be found here. 35-45 mins from Waterloo.

Waterloo to Wimbledon

Wimbledon, tennis dahling. 16 mins from Waterloo.

Waterloo to Byfleet & New Haw

Byfleet & New Haw – Mercedes-Benz World is here, if cars are your thing. There are exhibitions about the history of Mercedes-Benz and they offer guided tours and driving experiences too. 35 – 40 mins from Waterloo.

Waterloo to Strawberry Hill

A commuter town in Twickenham home to  Strawberry Hill, Horace Walpole’s Gothic Castle, a Gothic Revival building commissioned by the son of Britain’s first Prime Minister. It’s five to ten minutes walk from the station and is sign-posted. 35- 45 mins from Waterloo.

So whether you’re a commuter or day-tripper, Waterloo provides a gateway to some excellent cities, towns and attractions. If you think this guide is missing something, do let me know…