East of the M60‘s most romantic bus routes
Single, 34 M, WLTM 25 – 40 year old F with GSOH and excellent grasp of GM bus network. Interests include photography, non-league football and public transport. Please reply to Box No. FGM343.
If music is the food of love, then the tinny streams of a smartphone wielding passenger aboard the 216, playing Little Mix’s back catalogue’s the indigestion. There are some people who wished Cupid’s last dart was bodied by Plaxton and left Stand A of Hyde bus station.
For the first time in its history, East of the M60 is blatantly cashing in on St. Valentine’s Day. Not by sending all its readers a Valentine’s card or chocolates, but by means of a special Not So Perfect Ten. This time, we dim the lights, play some soppy music and tender our exact fares on the first bus we board.
- 61: Glossop – New Mills – Buxton (High Peak);
- 184: Manchester – Oldham – Uppermill – Huddersfield (First Greater Manchester);
- 231: Huddersfield – Emley Moor – Wakefield (Yorkshire Tiger);
- 350: Ashton-under-Lyne – Mossley – Uppermill – Oldham (First Greater Manchester);
- 394: Stepping Hill – Marple – Charlesworth – Glossop (High Peak);
- 480: Bolton – Affetside – Hawkshaw – Ramsbottom – Bury (Rosso);
- 500: Hebden Bridge – Oxenhope – Haworth – Keighley (Keighley Bus);
- 528: Rochdale – Littleborough – Halifax (Yorkshire Tiger);
- 555: Lancaster – Kendal – Ambleside – Keswick (Stagecoach in Cumbria and North Lancashire);
- 840: Leeds – Malton – Pickering – Thornton-le-Dale – Whitby (Yorkshire Coastliner);
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61: Glossop – Buxton: we have Derbyshire County Council to thank for the restoration of this worthy link in the early noughties. High Peak’s service partially replaced Stagecoach Manchester’s 361 from Glossop to Stockport. Like the defunct 198 Trent Motor Services route, a link from New Mills to Buxton was added.
Its crowning glory is between Glossop and Hayfield, along the A624. The views of Close Wood and the surrounding hillside views are sensational – as is the aspect along the Sett Valley whilst viewed from Little Hayfield. After New Mills, it continues to Buxton via Whaley Bridge and Horwich End. It traverses a former stretch of the A6, now today’s A5004. Another road built by John ‘Blind Jack’ Metcalf of Knaresborough, it takes in the Goyt Valley and Errwood Reservoir.
Highlights: the A5004 towards Errwood Reservoir and the section of the A624 between Whitfield and Little Hayfield.
Frequency: once hourly, Monday – Saturday, Sunday and Bank Holiday daytimes (no evening service).
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184: Manchester – Huddersfield: the cross-boundary service via Oldham and Uppermill at its fullest extent is a real route of contrasts. Along the first six miles northbound, Manchester’s oldest social housing scheme near Ancoats, the ghosts of former nightclubs and terraced house punctuate the route. As soon as we leave Oldham and Lees, we enter Saddleworth proper via Uppermill, Dobcross and Diggle. The terrain changes; apart from being several hundred feet above Manchester, concrete and stone gives way to grass and sheep.
After Diggle and into Marsden, we skirt the moorland and see three hundred years worth of transport modes ahead of us. One being the A62 which our bus traverses, by legendary road builder John ‘Blind Jack’ Metcalf; the other being London and North Western Railway’s Standedge line; and next to it, the Huddersfield Narrow Canal. Though the landscape becomes more urban, the hills still dominate with views of Slaithwaite and Golcar in the distance. Though slower than the Transpennine Express, it is a far more scenic way into Huddersfield. With Enviro400 double deckers standard fare, even better views.
Highlights: the section between Dobcross (Navigation Inn) and Slaithwaite along the A62 across Marsden Moor.
Frequency: full route once hourly, Monday to Saturday, Sunday and Bank Holiday daytimes; three per hour between Uppermill and Manchester, Monday – Saturday daytime; every seven minutes, Monday – Saturday daytime between Grotton and Manchester. Additional Sunday and Bank Holiday services, including evening journeys available from Uppermill to Manchester.
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231: Huddersfield – Wakefield: between the two urban centres, the most scenic way is via Yorkshire Tiger’s route. It takes in the villages of Grange Moor, Overton and Flockton and one of two services which stop at the National Coal Mining Museum. From a distance, the Emley Moor television tower can be seen. It co-works with the 232 service.
Highlights: the rural vista around Emley and Grange Moor. Plus the Emley Moor television tower in the distance.
Frequency: hourly, Monday to Saturdays; every two hours on Sundays and Bank Holidays; co-worked with 232; no evening service – provided by Arriva Yorkshire’s 232 route.
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350: Ashton-under-Lyne – Oldham: the first ten minutes out of Ashton or Oldham is about as romantic as a date with Marvin the Paranoid Android [The Hitchhikers’ Guide to the Galaxy], but once we leave the urban sprawl, we are rewarded with some tremendous views. After The Junction public house and on seeing Ashton Golf Club, Hartshead Pike comes into view and we see Manchester in the distance – sometimes Jodrell Bank on a clear day. Though good, this is trifling compared with the joys of the Saddleworth moors and the views of Top Mossley and Roughtown from Huddersfield Road.
The crowning glory of the full 350 route is an undulating section between Delph and Waterhead, via Scouthead. From a distance, Dobcross and Diggle villages, and Pots and Pans, which looks out to Uppermill and Greenfield, can be seen. Better still is the fact that most journeys along the full 350 route is operated with double decker vehicles. En route, you may choose to break your journey and wander around Uppermill. Or call in Delph or the Albion Farm Shop for some dinner.
Highlights: the whole section between Top Mossley and Waterhead.
Frequency: every 10 minutes from Ashton to Hey Farm or half hourly along full route, Monday to Saturday daytimes; half hourly between Ashton and Uppermill or hourly along full route, Sunday and Bank Holiday daytimes; hourly along full route, all evening journeys.
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394: Stepping Hill Hospital – Glossop: from Stepping Hill up to High Lane, the route takes on a semi urban character as it tries to traverse the often A6 via Hazel Grove. From High Lane, a more rural character is established till reaching the former Manchester Corporation overspill estate of Gamesley. This is interrupted only by Marple, a relatively well-to-do small town with a number of local shops and good eateries. You may choose to break your journey there and call in The Navigation Inn for a pint, or look at its 16 locks and aqueduct along the Peak Forest Canal.
North of Marple after passing Marple Bridge, we get fantastic views of the Etherow Valley, after passing the Windsor Castle public house on Glossop Road. The Glossop Road section affords passengers views of the Etherow Country Park and Ernocroft Wood over in Compstall. This is visible prior to reaching Chisworth and Charlesworth, but Werneth Low and Melandra Castle come into view on reaching Gamesley. Glossop, where the 394 finishes, is well worth a visit for its number of local shops including award-winning butchers, indoor and outdoor markets and a healthy number of national chains to wow the shoppers. It is also a good place for real ale, boosted by the establishment of a new microbrewery and a branch of J.D. Wetherspoon as well as other characterful public houses.
Highlights: the Etherow valley section between Marple Bridge and Charlesworth.
Frequency: once hourly, Monday – Saturday daytimes, plus extra part route journey from Marple to Glossop (weekdays) and High Lane to Glossop (Saturday); no Sunday, Bank Holiday and evening service.
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480: Bolton – Bury: there’s every chance you may be wondering how a simple journey from Bolton to Bury could ever be romantic. You could be right if I’m referring to part of the 471, but I’m referring to a superior rural alternative. The 480 takes in a longer route between the two Lancashire towns. Instead of Breightmet, it takes in Affetside before continuing to Holcombe Brook and Tottington. The view from Watling Street from Affetside to Ramsbottom is stupendous with views of Turton and the Jumbles Country Park in the distance.
There is scope for breaking your journey at Ramsbottom where you could board a steam train to Rawtenstall, Bury or Heywood. Or you could stop for dinner in The First Chop, or sample Irwell Valley Brewery’s ales from their brewery tap nearby.
Highlights: the Watling Street section along Affetside.
Frequency: once hourly, Monday to Saturday daytimes (no Sunday, evening and Bank Holiday service).
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500: Hebden Bridge – Keighley: the 500 service must rank highly on the romance stakes. After leaving Hebden Bridge railway station, it takes in breathtaking views of Hebden Beck as it negotiates the A6033. It is also an all-year-round alternative to the Keighley and Worth Valley Railway, though you may prefer to alight at Oxenhope and go to Keighley on the KWVR. North of Oxenhope, you are whisked to Haworth – famed for its connections with the Bronte Sisters. Within twenty minutes, the 500 arrives at Keighley.
Highlights: the climb from Hebden Bridge up to Oxenhope.
Frequency: hourly along full route, daily; evening journeys between Keighley and Oxenhope, again once hourly.
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528: Rochdale – Halifax: the quickest way from Rochdale into Halifax, by bus is along Yorkshire Tiger’s route. Once past the urban landscape of Hamer, Smallbridge and Wardle, the grey gives way to greens, browns and on some occasions, purples on leaving Littleborough. The most stunning views are between Littleborough and Ripponden, along the A58. Far and away, the most romantic and undulating part of which is between The Moorcock Inn and Blackstone Edge reservoir along the horseshoe bend. Urbanity returns on reaching Ripponden and Sowerby Bridge, though any of the two places could be good stopping points for a meal or drink.
Highlights: the climb from Littleborough to Ripponden – especially the horseshoe bend on Halifax Road.
Frequency: once hourly, daily.
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555: Lancaster – Kendal – Keswick: with the Lake District coming top in a poll of the UK’s most romantic places, it seemed fitting enough to include a former Ribble Motor Services route. The 555 takes in the northern part of Lancashire via Carnforth and Levens Hall before stopping at Kendal. Two minutes after, the most picturesque section of the route starts with Windermere and Bowness-on-Windermere half an hour away. It is worth breaking your journey there for a ride along a steamer on Lake Windermere or a visit to the Beatrix Potter Museum.
North of Bowness, we see the top part of Lake Windermere and reach Ambleside. We then take in mountainous views of Helvellyn and Skiddaw then within minutes see Thirlmere – the lake where Manchester’s drinking water comes from. In just under three hours, from Lancaster, we reach Keswick – well worth visiting for shoppers and pencil fanatics (the Cumberland Pencil Museum is an absolute must in my book!). In summer months, open-top double deckers can be seen on the 555.
Highlights: the section between Ambleside and Keswick.
Frequency: hourly on Monday to Saturdays, every two hours on Sundays and Bank Holidays. Frequency may be subject to change in summer months.
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840: Leeds – Whitby: fans of the Constable books by Nicholas Rhea, and its better known televisual adaptation would be foolish to ignore this service. From Leeds to York and Malton, it is a cheaper alternative to the rail service. By Malton, it offers guaranteed connections with other Yorkshire Coastliner services to Scarborough and (summer only) Filey and Bridlington. It also serves Eden Camp, Flamingoland, the North Yorkshire Moors Railway and Pickering Castle. North of Pickering, we are right in the heart of the Yorkshire Moors. At that point, you could half expect to hear Vernon Scripps or Claude Greengrass tearing down the A169.
On reaching Goathland, you can see how Heartbeat had had created a cottage industry for the village. Each little shop is not without its souvenirs associated with the Yorkshire Television series, years after the series finished. From there, the charms of Whitby are just half an hour away. The seaside town and fishing port of Whitby – especially its atmospheric old town and the 199 steps to the ruined Fountains Abbey is unmissable.
Highlights: splendid views between Pickering and Whitby.
Frequency: ten return journeys between Leeds and Malton, nine return journeys between Leeds and Thornton-le-Dale, three return journeys along full route, Monday to Saturday; two return journeys between Thornton-le-Dale and Malton all year round, plus a further two return journeys along full route, Sundays and Bank Holidays from 20 April 2014. Frequencies may be subject to change in summer months.
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If you wish to elaborate on the above services’ romanticism, or wish to suggest other dreamy destinations, feel free to comment in the usual fashion. Perhaps true love came to you on the 330 or the 409. If your most romantic journey was in a less romantic area (say for example a wholly urban route or short distance town service), we particularly welcome your comments.
S.V., 13 February 2014.
P.S. I would be surprised if anyone – female especially – would reply to my spoof dating agency advertisement (well, if you really want to, send me a message via the East of the M60 Facebook page).
P.P.S There isn’t a box number known as FGM343 as the advert isn’t real (bus enthusiasts may be able to understand the cryptic box number anyway).