Newcastle Photographer and Content Creator, Mandy Charlton, Always on a quest for adventure, often seen on buses, trains and planes. On a quest to be happier and healthier. Lives in Newcastle with her 3 cats, Iris, Maggie and Arthur. Loves good vibes, musicals and cakes. Full time professional wedding photographer in the north east of england alongside content creator on Tiktok, Instagram and Facebook

Monday, July 17, 2023

Mandy’s Great bus Adventure - The Trial Run, Part 2

Mandy's great bus adventure, public transport holidays using Stagecoach Bus, mandy charlton, photographer

On the 6th of July at 9.45am I boarded the Stagecoach 685 bus service from Newcastle to Carlisle handing over my £2 fare, a bargain for a journey which is just under 60 miles and takes 2 and a half hours.  The Stagecoach local public transport bus had USB chargers and Wi-Fi although my phone signal was just fine on its own.  I settled in with my bottle of water and my book as we passed hills and fields on this rural service via Corbridge, Hexham, Haltwhistle and Brampton. My great bus adventure had begun.

I arrived in Carlisle just after noon where I immediately dived into a coffee shop to find out where my Instagram and Facebook followers had chosen to send me to next.  The choices were Keswick, Annan, Langholm and Cockermouth.  I wished hard for Keswick whilst I imagined a lovely weekend touring the Lake District but no, instead my followers chose to send me to Annan.  I jumped on the 79 to Annan and once again settled in as we crossed the border following a lovely rural route.

Annan, Scotland, Mandy's great bus adventure, public transport holiday, mandy charlton, photographer, writer, blogger


Annan is a small Scottish town right on the border, it was so quiet it was as if it was closed for the day but no, it has its own museum and a harbour although the harbour is currently not all that nice, do not despair though, it has been chosen for a massive regeneration programme and I hope this might bring tourists back to a town which seemed to me like it had seen better times.

The Old Rectory, Annan, Mandy Charlton, Photographer, Newcastle upon Tyne


I stayed at The Old Rectory, paying £55 for a double room including breakfast, and my whole day's travel and accommodation cost only £59, I immediately felt like I was onto something, I love to travel but I’m also forever on a budget so if I can find a hack to let me travel more at a lower cost then I am all over this scheme.

Now unfortunately there was a glitch.  You see, what I didn’t know was that Scotland isn’t participating in the £2 bus scheme so it would cost me £6.80 to get back to England, my followers did not mind and decided to keep me going on public transport in Scotland and I found out that Scotland has lots of day savers which makes travel just as cheap so the next day my travel from Annan - Dumfries - Moffat cost me just £7.30 and I could have travelled as much as I wanted that day for that price.  My B&B in Moffat, Rockhill B&B cost £85 including breakfast and honestly, although it was the most expensive B&B I stayed in, it was also the nicest.

Double Room, Rockhill Bed and Breakfast,Moffat, southwest scotland,  Mandy Charlton, Photographer, a newcastle photographer


Moffat is a charming Scottish town on the border of southwest Scotland and I adored it, there are so many well-sign-posted walks that you can do of varying distances. It’s also famous for its toffee so there are not one but two shops specialising in toffee and fudge, the biggest of which The Moffat Toffee Shop has more traditional sweets than I have ever seen anywhere.  I cannot recommend a trip to Moffat highly enough, it’s a gem of a town and don’t forget to visit the local museum.  Apparently, Merlin might have lived in Moffat for a time but then again he might also have not, I’ll let you make your mind up on that one.

The moffat ram, southwest coast, scotland, mandy charlton, photographer

After Moffat, I was feeling full of bravado and my final destination was chosen as Oban, somewhere I’d only spent 6 hours on a coach trip and wanted to explore more of but at that point, the trip fell apart.  I boarded the X74 to Glasgow and found the bus full of young people travelling to a festival.  The bus was too hot, too full and I’d forgotten to bring a bottle of water.  My anxiety started to flare up and by the time I reached Glasgow, I got off the bus, saw the crowds and decided there was no way I could do 3.5 hours more on a coach to get to Oban, even if it was only £24.

I looked for other options and jumped on the first train to Stirling costing £9.50 and taking just half an hour.  Whilst on the train I booked myself into the uni accommodation for a bargain £45.  most universities will let out space on campus over the summer but not all uni campuses are equal.  Stirling Uni has a loch and a castle and miles of sprawling countryside.  It also sits just below the Wallace monument, making for the prettiest photos.  

The Wallace monument, from Stirling Uni, Scotland, Mandy Charlton, Photographer, writer, blogger

I didn’t get a chance to visit the Wallace monument this time, instead, I opted for Stirling Castle and I am so glad that I did, it’s got the most beautiful gardens for a castle and spending a few hours there really helped to calm me down.  I actually did over 20,000 steps that day and could have done more so just because you’ve had an anxiety attack does not mean you can’t go on to have a brilliant day.  I always carry CBD oil and gummies with me for those exact reasons.  6 months ago I couldn’t have even done the journey but thanks to CBD I’m almost functioning like an average human (in some respects).

On my last day, I opted to get home by the quickest method and as Scotland has highly subsidised train fares I managed to bag myself a first-class ticket for the bargain price of £45.


In August from the 9-16th I will be doing this all again, this time I will be sticking to England and there are some more details I’m looking forward to announcing as soon as the contracts are signed and the details are firmed up and I will write again when I have more details on a very exciting collaboration.


Some things I’ve learnt from my trip


Carry cash

Enjoy the slower pace

Take a phone charger and back up batteries

Travel as lightly as possible as there isn’t as much luggage storage on public transport

Plan your route in advance if you like safe travel, or just decide on the go if you are daring and love adventure.


and with that, there’s just one thing to say… onwards to the next great bus adventure where we’ll find out just how far the £2 bus scheme can take us.


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