Travel aficionados are always searching for the road less travelled, for those unique spots without the crowds. My perspective is perhaps it’s not the road you need to change, but the method of transport you use to view it.
The UK is known for its years of innovation when it comes to transport, so it will be no surprise that some of the most unique ways to get around can be found here. Whether it’s seeing a city from a bird’s eye view, getting around in a vintage vehicle or even traversing a water-filled bridge, these unique modes of transport will be sure to give you a new perspective on the world.
So, get your ticket ready, this journey is about to commence!
- Travelling around Britain: Everything you need to know
- Train travel in Britain and how to make it work for you
- Which London airport should I choose?
- How to get from Heathrow Airport into central London
Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, Wales
The Pontcysyllte Aqueduct in northern Wales is a UNESCO World Heritage site for a reason: this incredible feat of engineering carries the Llangollen Canal 38m above the Dee River valley. Completed in 1805, the historic bridge can be crossed both foot and by water.
Get to the aqueduct via a picturesque 10-minute drive from Llangollen. You’ll wind through the hillside before a sharp right turn leads you to the bridge. Your heart will begin to race as the land slowly drops away and you’re supported by the stone and iron structure alone.
Walking across takes about 45 minutes, or you can traverse the bridge by private boat. Although canoes are popular, we suggest taking a barge (the traditional mode of transport) and riding on the deck. The views are spectacular, and you’ll appreciate just how narrow the steel trough is!
TIP: Travel in the lead up to or over the Christmas period. Your barge journey will be made all that more special with a glass of mulled wine and a mince pie.
Bluebell Railway, Sussex
The Brits are well known for their rail building skills. Unfortunately, many of the historic railways have been developed or turned into walking trails. Luckily for the Bluebell Railway, a group of local enthusiasts rallied together to purchase the heritage line in Sussex and turn it into a pleasure railway that runs over the warmer months.
You’ll step back in time as you enter the steam locomotive and slide along the well-worn leather bench seats. Poke your head out of the window and wave to the station staff, impeccably dressed in their heritage costumes, as you pull out from the station. And be sure to appreciate the vintage touches, such as the engineer disembarking the train to manually close the boom gates before the train can traverse the crossing. Hogwarts, eat your heart out!
The railway is run by an army of dedicated volunteers and is much loved by locals, so be prepared to wave as you wind your way through the lush countryside. The return journey between East Grinstead and Sheffield Park takes around two hours and there are several stops along the way should you wish to get out and explore. On your return, the museum and locomotive sheds are well worth a visit.
The Emirates Air Line, London
Connecting the Greenwich Peninsula to the Royal Docks in east London, this cable car casts a unique silhouette across the London skyline and is a truly novel way to cross the River Thames.
The best time to ride is off-peak, when the journey will take a leisurely 10-minutes. The cabs accommodate 10 passengers, however they are often underutilised, so grab the opportunity to enjoy a cab to yourself and really make the most of the view.
Memorable sights include the 02 building and the historic docks. On a clear day, the view spans for miles and you can enjoy watching the Thames twist its way through the city.
Isle of Wight Hovertravel, Portsmouth
You’ve got a choice to ride a ferry or a hovercraft… what do you pick? The hovercraft of course! Operating between Portsmouth and Ryde, the Isle of Wight hovercraft is the last remaining commercial hovercraft service in the world.
When you ride a hovercraft it’s called a flight, and that is an apt description for how the vessel navigates the waves. Pick a seat by the window to best enjoy the ride: if you look down on the right angle, you’ll be able to see the craft inflate, before your driver reverses and performs a sharp 180-degree turn so you can jet off on your journey.
The short and sweet journey is a speedy 10 minutes. It is perfect for those who suffer from seasickness, and a must for lovers of unique transport.
See the hovercraft route and map
Seaton Tramway, Devon
Us Melburnians would love to claim the tram as our own, but there are amazing examples all over the world. Case in point: The Seaton Tramway in rural Devon, a historic narrow gauge tram railway that takes in the sights of the scenic Axe Valley. What’s especially unique is that the tramcars are replicas of trams that have been in service in the UK throughout the years.
There’s a combination of single- and double-decker vintage trams that are super cute and very Instagrammable. The open-topped trams are the perfect way to enjoy the scenery. The tramway has a midway stop where you can get out for a walk, and if you’re lucky spot some of the local wildlife.
Heading to the UK?
Download the Rome2rio app so you can plan your journey on the go.
About the author
Laura Robinson is a Melbourne-based Aussie who blogs at Passport Collective. She recently returned from two years exploring her heritage in the UK. Unique forms of transport, especially funicular railways, are her favourite way of exploring a new place.