Getting from airport to countryside attractions.
With frequent train and bus links running from Britain’s major airports, you can step off the plane and find yourself among amazing natural landscapes within two hours, or even just 20 minutes. Here is a selection of country getaways easily accessible via public transport from airports in England, Scotland and Wales.
To save money on trains, book tickets in advance with National Rail and opt to travel at off-peak times.
1. From London Heathrow or Gatwick
To South Downs National Park, south-east England: journey time: 20 – 90 minutes.
With 1,627 square kilometers of rolling hills and ancient woodlands, South Downs National Park is a world away from the urban buzz of London, but is within easy reach of both Gatwick and Heathrow airports.
There are plenty of entry points into the park by train, including the village of Hassocks – just a 20-minute direct train journey from Gatwick and an idyllic spot for cyclists wanting to explore. There’s a community cycle hire center directly outside the station, and recommended circular cycle routes ranging from eight miles/13 km to 14.5 miles/23 km, so you can pick a route to suit your level.
Another option is the quaint market town of Haslemere, reached via a 40-minute train journey from Gatwick Airport to Guildford, followed by a 20-minute train journey from Guildford to Haslemere.
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (1859–1930), the creator of literary character Sherlock Holmes, lived in a house near Haslemere at the beginning of 1897, where he entertained famous friends including Dracula creator Bram Stoker, who described the view from the house as "a never-ending sea of greenery".
To reach Black Down, the highest point – and one of the best views – in the South Downs, walk directly from Haslemere on the National Trust’s Temple of the Winds walk. At the top, a wild landscape of pine trees, purple heathland, flowering meadows and woodland stretches out before you.
2. From Manchester Airport
To The Lake District, north-west England: journey time: Under two hours.
The Lake District is most definitely possible to do without a car, and you can travel there directly from Manchester Airport with public transport.
To get to Windermere – named after the longest lake in England – take the Transpennine Express from Manchester Airport bound for Glasgow Central and alight at Oxenholme after 90 minutes. Then take the 20-minute Northern train to Windermere, where you can board a lake cruise with Windermere Lake Cruises, or hire your own boat instead! Explore attractions such as Beatrix Potter’s house, Hill Top, and cute villages on a car-free tour with Mountain Goat Tours. Or, if you don’t fancy an organized tour, Go Lakes provides information on exploring the Lakes using local buses.
To The Peak District, northern England: journey time: 70 minutes.
The Peak District is geographically closer to Manchester than the Lake District and, although less well-known to tourists, it’s very popular with walkers and cyclists and has good rail connections on the charmingly-named Hope Valley Line, which stops at various stations in the national park, including pretty villages in the Derwent, Hope and Edale valleys.
Head to Edale to get stuck into some characteristically dramatic Peaks terrain – it’s the starting point for the Pennine Way walking trail, and offers low-level ambles and more challenging hikes. From Manchester Airport, take the Northern train line to Manchester Piccadilly (15 minutes), then the Northern line bound for Sheffield and alight at Edale after a 45-minute journey.
Pride and Prejudice and Colin Firth fans should make a visit to Lyme Park, a short walk from Disley station, which is just 30 minutes from Manchester Airport by train. Lyme Park is the grand stately home and grounds where the famous scene of Mr. Darcy emerging from the lake in his white shirt was filmed in the 1995 BBC adaptation of the book.
The Peak District also has a comprehensive bus network across the national park that links with railway services at major centers including Buxton. Bus tickets often entitle you to reductions across attractions.
3. From Edinburgh or Glasgow Airport, Scotland
To Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park: journey time: 70 minutes from Glasgow, two hours from Edinburgh.
Step off the plane in Glasgow or Edinburgh and escape to Scotland’s famous countryside in two hours or less. The centerpiece of this national park north of Glasgow is Loch Lomond itself, the largest inland stretch of water in Britain by surface area. Edinburgh and Glasgow are connected by an hour’s train journey, so you can reach this beautiful area from either city airport. The southernmost point of the loch is the village of Balloch.
To get there from Glasgow Airport, take the Glasgow Airport Express (15 minutes) from Stance 1 at the airport to George Square near Queen Street train station in the city center. Then take a ScotRail train from Queen Street Station to Balloch (50 minutes).
From Edinburgh Airport, hop on the Citylink Air bus, which gets you to Buchanan Bus Station in Glasgow city center in one hour, then it’s just a few minutes’ walk to Queen Street Station, where you can get the ScotRail train to Balloch as above.
You can hire canoes, pedaloes and bikes in Balloch, but if you prefer to seek a path less travelled, use the village as your starting point to get to the more tranquil eastern side of the loch. Buses depart every two hours from Balloch to Balmaha, a sweet loch-side village 25 minutes’ drive away and an ideal place to appreciate the area’s beauty and tranquility.
4. From Cardiff Airport, Wales
To Brecon Beacons National Park, south Wales: journey time: 40 minutes.
From Cardiff, it’s just 40 minutes on the train to Abergavenny, which lies on the edge of the beautiful Brecon Beacons National Park. If you’re lucky enough to be visiting in autumn, catch the Abergavenny Food Festival, one of the best in Britain, then venture further into the park.
If you’re into cycling, you could take on the Black Mountains and ride from Abergavenny to the book town of Hay-in-Wye at the top of the national park – it’s a 21 mile (just under 40km) route.
Adapted from VisitBritain.