Train / Bus Stations, London
Charing Cross is a railway station I very rarely have cause to use but there are a couple of interesting pubs in the area.
The station itself serves mostly commuter trains to southeast London and Kent run by the South Eastern Railway Company with an annual passenger throughput of about 40 million (2014 figures). It has all the facilities expected of a major railway station including...TBC...
Liverpool Street Station is one that I use when travelling to Continental Europe via the Stena Line Harwich to Hoek van Holland ferry, much my preferred way to go. I also occasionally use it when flying out of Stansted Airport, which is pretty much at the bottom of my list of preferences.
This is the London terminus for trains to and from East Anglia with the main service provider being Abellio Greater Anglia which runs the commuter lines to Cambridge, Norwich and Southend - the Norwich line connecting at Manningtree for the branch line to Harwich.
The other two main companies which use Liverpool Street are: c2c, which serves Southend, and Stansted Express (a subsidiary of Greater Anglia) with its four times an hour trains to and from Stansted Airport.
As a central London mainline station, with an annual passenger throughput of 60 million people, Liverpool Street has all the expected facilities including ATM's, left luggage (expensive!), toilets, telephones, a barbers and of course loads of shops, food outlets and a couple of bars.
Its central location, to the east of the City of London, is within easy walking distance of St Paul's Cathedral, Tower Bridge and the Tower of London and for getting further afield Liverpool Underground station is on the following lines: Circle, Central, Hammersmith & City and Metropolitan. TfL buses stop, in both directions, in front of the Bishopsgate entrance.
During the morning and evening rush hours this can be quite a chaotic station with departure platforms subject to continual change but everything is well signed with the main electronic noticeboards prominent at either end of the concourse. Most of the downstairs part of the concourse is taken up by the platforms, station facilities and fast food outlets, whilst the balcony is where the retail spaces are located.
The two pubs within the station are The Merchant of Bishopsgate and Hamilton Hall. The Merchant is a fairly recent addition, opened in 2012, and one that I haven't used but it looks more of a restaurant than a pub. It's located on the lower concourse, next to platform 1, and reputedly serves a decent, if slightly pricey, pint.
Hamilton Hall I do use quite regularly, usually for breakfast on my return journeys from the Continent. This is part of the national J D Wetherspoon estate and whilst I'm not a big fan of them as pubs, being a bit of a traditionalist, I do find their outlets invaluable when travelling around the UK. Their breakfasts are especially good value and standards are consistently high no matter where you go, although note that London prices are a bit more expensive than provincial ones. Free Wi-Fi is a major plus too and the unlimited refills of coffee (until 2 pm) means I can spend a couple of hours catching up with internet stuff without it costing me a fortune.
I don't often pass through Liverpool Street in the evenings but on the odd occasion that I do I tend to give Hamilton Hall a miss - it's always claustrophobically busy and getting served at the bar requires all my ex-rugby skills. Instead I usually pop across the road from the Bishopsgate entrance to Dirty Dicks. There's been a pub on this site since the 18th century, when it was known as The Old Jerusalem, and its current name refers to a local businessman, Nathaniel Bentley, who had a warehouse nearby. Following the death of his fiancée he renounced anything to do with cleanliness or tidiness and became "a celebrity of dirt".
The pub purposefully maintained a degree of squalor as a sort of marketing ploy and a late 19th century owner even produced commemorative booklets highlighting its seediness.
Today the pub, which is now owned by Youngs Brewery, has been given a good clean-up but retains many of its interesting features including a selection of "relics" in a glass display. As well as the usual pubby stuff there's normally half-a-dozen beers on tap, an extensive wine list and a modern-ish pub food menu. It's usually quite lively with an egalitarian clientele of locals, travellers and in-no-hurry-to-get-home commuters and on Friday nights especially can have a positive party atmosphere.
The other couple of pubs I've dropped into are Woodin's Shades - a Nicholson's pub whose name is more interesting than the pub itself and The Railway - very much as the name suggests and a good alternative to Hamilton Hall and not so crowded.
Trivia #1 - The original 13th/14th century Bethlehem Hospital was sited where the northeast corner of the present-day station is. This was Europe's first "hospital" to specialise in the "care and treatment" of the insane and the word "Bedlam", used to describe a totally chaotic situation, is a diminutive of Bethlehem. "Bedlam" can also be used to describe the main concourse of the station at 5 pm every Friday.
When the Channel Tunnel was first opened in 1994 the French and Belgian railways had already completed their high-speed tracks from Paris and Brussels to the tunnel entrance, but there were no high-speed tracks on the British side, so the EuroStar trains had to trundle along on traditional tracks from the tunnel exit to their provisional terminus at Waterloo station. I have recently learned from John Gayton’s tip on Waterloo station that the French government “vociferously objected to having their citizens arrive in England at a station named after the famous defeat of Napoleon in 1815.” So presumably they are now relieved that the EuroStar trains no longer end at Waterloo but at St Pancras.
As I have pointed out in one of my Paris reviews, “in Paris there is no street, avenue, square or boulevard named Waterloo. Not even an impasse.”
To accommodate the EuroStar trains from Paris and Brussels, the old St Pancras station from the 19th century was elaborately renovated and modernized between 2004 and 2007. The station had to be doubled in length, and an additional six new platforms were needed to serve both international and domestic trains at the same time. For the international trains, a new high-speed rail line was built from the tunnel exit at Dover to London via Stratford, ending at St Pancras. The new line has been in operation since November 2007.
Second photo: Passengers arriving at St Pancras International, with EuroStar trains on both sides. These platforms are on the upper level of the station. The lower level (which in the 19th century was reserved for the storage of beer that was brought in on three or more beer trains per day from Burton on Trent) is now a shopping center and also houses the arrival and departure lounges for the EuroStar.
Third photo: The traditional red-brick St Pancras station, on the left, was thoroughly restored in the first years of the 21st century. The modern red-brick building on the right is the British Library.
Fourth photo: The front of St Pancras station originally housed the luxurious Midland Grand Hotel, which opened in 1876 and closed, after a long period of decline, in 1935.
Address: Euston Rd, London N1C 4QP
Directions: The nearest cycle station is Belgrove Street, Kings Cross.
Phone: +44 20 7843 7688
Next: The Meeting Place in St Pancras
Depending on timings, fares and onward destinations London Paddington is the railway station I use most frequently, coming and going to/from the West Country via Exeter.
Paddington is the London terminus of Great Western Railway trains (formerly First Great Western) from destinations in Southwest England and Wales. The main towns and cities served include Worcester, Bath, Bristol, Oxford, Cardiff, Exeter, Reading, Taunton, Penzance and Plymouth, all of which are on the high speed lines with mostly direct services. The station is also the terminus for services to Heathrow Airport which comprise the direct (most expensive) Heathrow Express, the slightly slower (by 10 minutes) Heathrow Connect and local connections changing at Hayes and Harlington.
As a mainline station, with around 36 million passengers using it annually (2014 figures), Paddington has all the facilities expected including ATM's, shops, food outlets and restaurants, left luggage (expensive!), toilets and showers, telephones and a trio of bars - though one is currently being redeveloped (Oct 2015).
The original station was a smaller temporary affair, opened in 1838, whilst the permanent building was being constructed. The station as it stands now was designed by the prolific engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel and completed in 1854. It was enlarged in the early 20th century with a fourth arched span built in a similar style to the originals and since then the various modifications have included development of the former sidings, known as The Lawn, into a major retail space on three levels and the opening of the station onto the Grand Union Canal.
The location is fairly central, between Regent's Park and Kensington Gardens, close to Marble Arch and tourist destinations such as Madame Tussuads. The immediate environs are a little bit down-market with mostly fast-food places and cheapish hotels but there are some classy touches such as the Great Western Hotel (now a Hilton) which was built onto the station frontage and completed the same year as the station in 1854. There are, of course, several pubs too!
The main entrance to the station is from Praed Street which leads into the spacious concourse with its various fast-food takeaways. The 14 platforms are to the fore with the lower numbers, 1 to 5, being mostly used for the longer distance high-speed services. Platforms 6 and 7 are exclusively used by the Heathrow Express where you'll find flight information displays and self-check-in facilities for some of the main airlines. The other platforms are mostly used by local services.
To the rear of the concourse is The Lawn where you'll find all sorts of shops and an international set of eateries including the ground floor conveyor-belt Yo! Sushi, the Mexican-inspired Barburrito, Patisserie Valerie and on the top floor my favourite railway station pub, The Mad Bishop and Bear.
For travel further afield Paddington Underground connects to the following lines: Circle, Hammersmith & City, District and Bakerloo. Buses stop at various places around the station with the main stops being on Praed Street and Eastbourne Terrace and if you want to pick up the open-top tour bus there's a stop on London Street immediately opposite the main Praed Street station entrance.
Of the three bars within the station, if one excludes the hotel bar at the Great Western Hilton, one of them, formerly The Reef, is under redevelopment and will be no great loss if it re-opens as something else. The second is The Beer House on the main concourse, which is OK and does serve interesting beer.
The jewel in crown though is The Mad Bishop And Bear run by the independent London brewery Fuller's. This family-run brewery, founded in 1845 at Chiswick, has long been one of my favourites and their ESB a beer that I rate as one of the best in the World. Not only is the beer good but their 400+ pubs, whether owned, managed or tenanted, all have distinct characters and, certainly all the ones I've visited, are that notch above the best that any of their rival "pubco's" offer.
The Mad Bishop And Bear is no exception. Despite being a railway station establishment it manages to have an upscale local pub feel to it with a mix of travellers, commuters and workers from nearby offices. It's the sort of place where I drop in for a between trains beer, getting chatting to someone random at the bar, and then find myself skipping the service I'd intended to catch, sometimes several times, and I've ended catching the overnight Riviera Sleeper on more than one occasion. There's always at least six of the Fuller's beers on offer, plus a couple of guests, and of course all the rest of the usual pubby stuff, including a respectable-looking wine list. Food is served all day up to 9.30 pm with an eggsellent (HA!) breakfast available between 8 am and noon - note though that alcohol is not served before 10 am unless accompanying breakfast - "Two slices of toast and a pint of ESB then, please ;-HIC!"
On the odd occasions when I've got an "advance" ticket for an afternoon/evening train but find myself arriving in the morning I'll escape the immediate environs of the station for a bit of variety.
Just across from the main Praed Street entrance is London Road, where you'll find a bus stop for one of the open-top London tour buses. Handy if you have a couple of hours to hang and want an introduction to the city's main sights, and also handy for a few beers are the trio of pubs - The Sawyers Arms, The Dickens Tavern and The Sussex Arms.
The Sawyers is a Greene King establishment, and very obviously so with its company décor, company furnishings, company menu and Greene King beers; although it does stock one or two guest beers. The outside tables are about the only saving grace for a between trains beer and ciggie.
The Dickens' claim to fame is that it is "London's Longest Pub" but that's not necessarily a good thing when there's only one person serving. Although branded as a "Taylor Walker" pub, implying it's owned by the former brewery of that name, it is in fact just another "pubco" outlet and despite a recent revamp I still find the place somewhat soulless and the beer seriously over-priced.
The Sussex used to be a cracking pub where the beer was the cheapest on the street and no matter what time of day, or night, you dropped in you'd always get drawn into the craic around the bar or out front on the terrace. Alas the beer price has crept up, the craic is no more and the recentish restyling has done the place no favours whatsoever. Last time I dropped in service was totally off-hand and the beer verging on the vinegar side.
Oh well, back to the Mad Bish...
Trivia #1 - The "Bear" part of the name should be obvious, it referring of course to the Peruvian refugee in Michael Bond's well-known series of children's books. Less obvious is the "Mad Bishop". In 1833, when the Great Western Railway was formed, the company required a London terminus. At first they were going to share Euston with the London and Birmingham Railway but as their plans developed decided to seek a site of their own. The area of Paddington was pretty much rural and owned by the Church of England. Negotiations with the Bishop of London, Charles James Blomfield, led to an agreement for the purchase of the land for a "nominal" (and undisclosed) fee. So this huge tract of what is now prime city centre real estate was sold by the Bishop for a song - mad indeed!
Trivia #2 - Brunel, the pioneering engineer behind the design of Paddington, envisaged extending the Great Western Railway all the way westward to North America. Not, one should note, by a transatlantic bridge or tunnel but by steam-powered, iron-hulled ships, complete with train connections. The craft built, the Great Western, Great Britain and Great Eastern successively evolved British ship-building design by three generations in the short space of 14 years but it was to be several decades before the industry as a whole caught up and transatlantic voyaging became a viable commercial reality.
When first arriving in London from the West Country I'll take the train to either Paddington or Waterloo, depending on timings, who's offering the cheapest fare and where I intend travelling onwards from.
Waterloo serves the south west of England, its trains appropriately run by South West Trains, and is Britain's busiest railway station with almost 100 million passengers per year (2014 figure). The station dates from 1848 although most of the present structure is due to a major reconstruction completed in 1922. It has all the facilities a major city rail terminus should have including ATM's, left luggage (expensive!), toilets, telephones, a bureau de change and of course loads of shops, food outlets and a couple of bars.
Its central location is ideal for visiting local sights such as the Houses of Parliament, the London Eye and the South Bank Complex. For getting further afield the Waterloo Underground is on the following lines: Bakerloo, Northern, Jubilee and Waterloo & City.
Although mostly used for commuter services popular destinations for us tourists include Bournemouth, Portsmouth, Salisbury (for Stonehenge), Weymouth and my own Exeter.
There's also the Waterloo East railway station which is run as a separate entity but connected by a raised walkway. From there Southeastern Trains serve south-east London, Kent and East Sussex. London Transport buses have several stops around the main station and there are usually plenty of "Black Cabs" on the taxi rank on the appropriately named Cab Road at Exit 3.
As stations go Waterloo is very easy to navigate with everything well-signed but note that train platforms aren't announced until close to departure.
The bars however are a bit of a disappointment. The two on the main concourse have a 3rd World airport transit lounge feel with indifferent staff and horrendous prices. The new-ish "Sports Bar and Grill" on the balcony though is definitely an improvement on its predecessor. I haven't used it yet but it looks pleasantly canteen-style trendy and the strategically-located plethora of big screens show all the main sporting events.
Escaping the railway station is therefore a must if you want a decent pint of beer in a proper pub and at a reasonable price. This is where the "Hole in the Wall" comes up trumps. Boozers don't get much more basic than this, which is definitely not a criticism. There's usually at least half-a-dozen ales on tap, all less than £4 (Oct 2015), from mostly local-ish breweries with the odd exotic shipped in from places as far afield as Cornwall and even Yorkshire.
The pub itself is on the scruffy side of louche and perhaps isn't kept as shiny as it could be but there's always a buzzy laid-back atmosphere and the smoking area out back is a definite plus. Staff can be a bit off-handish at first but if you stop for a couple you'll find that they soon warm up.
As well as good beer the HITW does cheap eats; all simple, proper-pub stuff such as Bangers and Mash, Burgers, Fish 'n Chips and the like and the (not particularly) big screen TV shows the sporting event of the moment.
The Hole in the Wall is at 5 Mepham Street, literally opposite the main Waterloo entrance.
Another great pub that I discovered during my last visit is the "Walrus Bar and Hostel". It's not a place I would have found had I just been doing my random wandering bit but I'd come across it when searching www.booking.com for a cheap bed for the night in the area. The hostel bit was fine; cheap, clean and convenient and the ground floor bar was particularly impressive.
This is a characterful, almost trendy, little pub which caters for both the hostel guests (it's sort of like the hostel's lounge) and Lambeth locals. It does all the pubby things expected, including a couple of real ales - London Pride and Hogsback TEA being the two on offer during my visit, at amazingly cheap prices considering this is tourist-centre London. The standard price for a pint during my visit (Oct 2015) was £3.50 and being a guest I got a 15% discount - bargain!
Staff are friendly and the place has a comfortable, laid-back, buzzy ambience assisted by the mish-mash of "antique" furnishings including a couple of well-cushioned settees. The free Wi-Fi (no password needed) could be a little patchy, but not disastrously so, and there are plenty of sockets to keep yourself fully-charged.
Outside there are a couple of benches on the pavement for us smokers complete with a retractable awning for when the weather requires it.
The Walrus doesn't do food, apart from the usual crisps and nuts, but customers are more thasn welcome to bring their own and there are some excellent little takeaways down the road on the cosmopolitan Lower Marsh heading back towards the station.
The address is 172 Westminster Bridge Road, on the corner with Lower Marsh, and is about 5 minutes walk at the back of Waterloo station.
Trivia #1 - Between 1994 and 2007 Waterloo was the London terminus for the Eurostar trains to/from Paris and Brussels. When this was first proposed the French government vociferously objected to having their citizens arrive in England at a station named after the famous defeat of Napoleon in 1815. Needless to say us Brits were, "not amused".
On several of my trips to London, including my most recent, I have taken a bus from Glasgow which arrives into London at Victoria Coach Station - the main hub for coaches to & from destinations all over the UK as well as from all over Europe. There are two separate areas for arrivals and departures with the departure building also containing the ticket office (where you can also purchase oyster cards) and the left luggage which came in very handy for me. It was £4 per item for 2-24 hours which was cheaper than Victoria Station. Prices obviously increase for a longer period & less if it was for 2 hours and under.
St Pancras International station is the new home of Eurostar in London. International trains go to Paris and Brussels direct.. Occasionaly direct trains go to Avignan in summer. In winter trains go to ski resorts. The famous statue in photo is called The Embrace, [ for arriving or departing.] The ordinary part of the station is where trains go to the Midlands and North of England
The Euston Bus station is in front of the Euston Train station.
The following buses have a stop here:
- 10 - Hammersmith Bus Station - King's Cross Station / York Way
- 18 - Sudbury And Harrow Road Station
- 91 - Tottenham Lane Ymca - Whitehall / Trafalgar Square
- 168 - Royal Free Hospital - Dunton Road
- 253 - Hackney Central Station
- 390 - Archway Station - Palace Garden Terrace / Notting Hill Gate
and the following Night buses:
- N5 - Paddington Station / Eastbourne Terrace - Bow Bus Garage
- N20 - Edgware Station - Whitehall / Trafalgar Square
- N91 - Cockfosters Station - Whitehall / Trafalgar Square
- N253 - Aldgate Bus Station - Tottenham Court Road Station
The Euston Underground station has a main entry in the Euston train station.
The Victoria and Northern lines have stops here.
Why Canada Water? First, because the nearby lake is called Canada Water. The lake is a freshwater lake and wildlife refuge in Rotherhithe. Secondly, that lake got its name from the Canada Dock, which was mainly used by ships from Canada (hence the name). When the Docklands were re-developed in the 1980s, the lake became a leftover body of water.
I saw the station first while travelling by bus to the O2 dome in North Greenwich. It was a unique experience to get off the main road and circle around the station. Besides the London buses on street level, the station is an stop on the Jubilee underground line and a stop for the East London Line.
I made a second stop here in 2014, only to find that the area went through development even more with high risers and new apartment buildings along the road.
Green Line Coach Station is London's second major long-distance bus station, located in Bulleid Way, just the other side of Buckingham Palace Road, from Victoria Coach Station...
In many ways it is the 'plain Jane' sister of the much promoted VCS - only ever receiving a fraction of the publicity of the giant coach terminal, now almost entirely taken over by the monopoly that is; NATIONAL EXPRESS
(In April 2012 - London Green Line at last made the news, when sensation-seeking reporters intercepted the first arrival of the Balkan Horn coach from Varna, expecting to find it full of hopeful migrant worker Bulgarians, coming to UK to live on welfare payments as a result of Bulgaria becoming a full EU member state - they were to be disappointed - all those on board were on holiday, or had already settled in UK...)
The Green Line terminal also receives overspill services by NATIONAL EXPRESS (& EUROLINES - their business partner) but is otherwise a much more varied centre of choice for travel...
As well as Green Line Coaches, from which the terminal takes its name, there are stops for MEGABUS, & GREYHOUND, who provide a regular service to 0xford...
Green Line Coach Station is probably better known to foreign tourists than English travellers, because of the international coaches which arrive & depart from here, many of whose services are unavailable to UK citizens, because the companies involved do not have a ebsite, or ticket agents here...
Those that are represented online &/or in a combined ticket agency on Colonnade Walk, & who I have travelled abroad with, include;
SINBAD (Poland - daily)
STUDENT BUS AGENCY (Czech Republic - daily)
SOPHIA AGENCY (Bulgaria - weekly)
BALKAN HORN (Bulgaria - weekly)
EASTERN EUROPEAN TRAVEL (Ukraine - fortnightly)
With these services it is possible to travelas far as; London > Kiev (EET) or London > Varna (BH) without changing coaches, (surely a better option than spending several hours stranded at a mid-European airport, waiting for the connection for the supposedly 'fast' flight ?!)
(...London > Varna was in fact the original route of the first running of the long-distance train - 0rient Express - the remainder of the journey being by ferry to Turkey...)
Long-distance coach touring might not be the most comfortable, or fastest way to travel, but it is a way to see the scenic changes between here & mainland Europe, & in itself might be regarded as THE experience that is at the heart of true travel...
Both STUDENT BUS AGENCY & BALKAN HORN offer totally professional services which I personally recommend to anybody who wishes to discover continental scenery from a comfortable seat...
It still excites me to take the NATIONAL EXPRESS to VCS, in order to carry my luggage through Colonnade Walk, to London Green Line, in order to be on my way to eastern Europe...
To reduce queuing & enable travellers to buy travel tokens when the ticket office is closed, London Victoria Coach Station has installed self-service machines near the main entrance at Buckingham Palace Road...
When I was last there (December 2012) I attempted to buy a ticket using these machines with my debit card, but in all 3 automated dispensers , my card was rejected with the on-screen message; 'problem with card'...
But, there was no problem with my card & it worked successfully first time in an ordinary ATM!
The problem then, is with the coach stations machines - they cannot read ordinary debit cards properly...
You can use cash, but unless you have freshly minted notes, these will also be rejected...
So, if you need to buy a ticket to ride on the day with NATIONAL EXPRESS - don't waste time with dysfunctional technology - better to take your place in the queue for the ticket booths, at the opposite end of the building...
This large station in The Strand and close to Trafalgar Square is Londons terminus for trains to and from England's south east and main destinations are Hastings, Tunbridge Wells, the Thanet towns and Canterbury.
The sole train operator using the station is South Eastern trains - their website has details of services etc.
Good bus and tube connections. When Cannon Street is closed use services from Charing Cross.
If you are over 55 then Club 55 can offer reduced travel on First trains. This is a great offer where you must register on line and costs are a fixed price.
The offer is not available at all times and the website gives the dates available. Prices are £15 to buy a return ticket in the zone London falls in to and for each additional zone you pay an additional £10. So for example you take a London to Cambridge train and the return fare will be £15. If you want to travel further up to say Kings Lynn the return fare will be £25 (£15 for the first zone with an add on of £10 for the second zone).
Not available on all lines out of London as First trains only operate First Great Western, First Capital Connect and First Hull Trains.
Excellent reductions especially if you travel some distance from London.
The Euston Train station is the southern terminus of the West Coast Main Line managed by Netwerk Rail. Its most important long-distance destinations are Birmingham, Manchester, Liverpool and Glasgow.
Euston was the first inter-city railway station to be built in London. On July 20, 1837 the original station was opened as the terminus of the London and Birmingham Railway constructed by William Cubitt.
In the 1840s the station was greatly expanded.
In the 1960s the old buildings were demolished and the new Euston station opened in 1968.
Nowadays four train operating companies use the Euston station:
-Virgin Trains from platforms 1-7, 12-14 and 16-18.
-London Midland from platforms 8 to 11, 12-15 and 17.
-London Overground from platforms 9 and 10
-First ScotRail from platforms 1, 2 or 16.
St Pancras is in full train operation again from November 14, 2007. From that date the Eurostar trains have their own tracks in the UK leading to St Pancras.
The hisory of the building goes back to 1868 when it became the London station for the Midland Railway, that wanted her own station in stead of leasing a part of next door's King Cross, owned by the Great Northern Railway.
The station with the widest roof at that time was designed by William Barlow and the building got the popular name Barlow Shed. The front building and the Midland Grand Hotel (1873 - 1935) were designed by Gilbert Scott.
The Railways Act of 1921 forced the merger of the Midland with the London and North Western Railway (LNWR) into the London, Midland and Scottish Railway (LMS). The new Railway Company Euston as its main station, so St Pancras business went down.
The glass roof was damaged by bombing in World War II and after Britsh Rail started in 1948 the tracks were under construction once more.
In the 1960 there were plans to redevelop the whole area, but due to Sir John Betjeman, the station building survived.
From 2000 the station was renovated and opened again late 2007.
International train service:
Eurostar (High Speed One), with trains through the Channel tunnel
Domestic train service:
East Midlands Trains (Midland Main Line)
First Capital Connect (Thameslink route)
Southeastern (High Speed 1 and Kent Coast)