Heathrow to Bath for two faster than a speeding bullet (train)?
July 2, 2007 9:41 PM   Subscribe

What's the best (fast, not necessarily cheap) way for two people to get from London/Heathrow to Bath mid-day on a Saturday? Our schedule + National Express train schedule = 7+ hours from touchdown to Bath arrival - too long after 9+ hours on a plane! There seem to be numerous "transfer service" outfits for around 120 pounds/carload, expensive enough to make us think more than twice. Is there any middle ground, something equivalent to Airport express (12 person vans w/reservations) in the US? If not, any recommendations for the above-mentioned transfer services?
posted by skyscraper to Travel & Transportation (17 answers total)
Um, National Express coaches (which are buses, not trains!) run every two hours or so straight from Heathrow to Bath in about 2h45m, for £34 one-way per person. There's one at 11:45 and another at 13:15 on July 7, which is a Saturday. Super-easy to book online; they just send you an e-mail confirmation you show to the driver. Link.
posted by mdonley at 10:35 PM on July 2, 2007

National Express is likely to be your best bet, definitely least hassle - that 7 hrs includes baggage reclaim, immigration and customs clearance, allows you to walk a bit and strech whilst you're waiting for the next departure, get some food if you like etc...

Just in case the word coaches has got you worried - this is not to be confused with your Greyhound service in the US which, according to my recent travel companions, is not a pleasant experience...NE is a perfectly civilised way of travelling!
posted by koahiatamadl at 12:01 AM on July 3, 2007

According to National Rail the train from Heathrow to Bath Spa takes 2h20. You take the Heathrow Express into Paddington and then a high speed train to Bath. A one-way fare is "from" £29.50 per person.
posted by jontyjago at 12:01 AM on July 3, 2007

Just curious, but where did you get the 7 hours thing from anyway?
posted by mdonley at 1:28 AM on July 3, 2007

If you landed at 10 in the morning, I don't see why you wouldn't make the 11:45 bus and be in Bath by 14:30ish. Even with an insane line at immigration (say an hour), "customs" is just walking without stopping through the "green lane" (nothing to declare) and then you're out in the arrivals area, from which you'd head to the central bus terminal, which is located above the Heathrow T123 underground station - distances on a PDF map here; if you land at Terminal 4, take the Heathrow Express or the Underground to the T123 stop - it's free.

I checked the National Rail journey planner but couldn't find anything cheaper than £40, from Heathrow into London and then out to Bath, and it's only 20 minutes faster than the bus. The bus also means no changes and staircases and long walks, which is nice.
posted by mdonley at 1:51 AM on July 3, 2007

Travelling by National Express will also give you many fascinating insights into our culture although it may mislead you into thinking that the english are composed only of students or old ladies. It will certainly make Bath seem delightful when you arrive there.
posted by zemblamatic at 2:33 AM on July 3, 2007 [1 favorite]

"If you landed at 10 in the morning, I don't see why you wouldn't make the 11:45 bus and be in Bath by 14:30ish."

...except that the queues (lines) to collect your previously booked tickets at the station can be quite long and you could easily spend 20+ minutes there. It might be better to plan on catching the 13:15.
posted by ceri richard at 3:33 AM on July 3, 2007

Hm - I seem to remember being able to get on the bus with an e-mail printout of my e-ticket - here's what National Express says about their e-ticket scheme.
posted by mdonley at 4:09 AM on July 3, 2007

Best answer: Easiest: National Express coach from Heathrow Airport to Bath Spa. Direct buses with timings of 2:20-2:45 every 1.5 hours. £17 single/£28 open return.

Fastest mass transport: National Rail: Heathrow Connect from Heathrow Airport to Hayes and Harlington, First Great Western to Reading, First Great Western to Bath Spa. Estimated total time 2:00-2:05 every 30 minutes. Through ticket £45.90 single/£51.80 saver return (return portion not valid on peak weekday morning trains).

Cheapest: committing to an advanced purchase fare (with non-changeable dates and times) for either of the above options.

Carrying a bunch of bags up and down stairs through two train transfers doesn't sound like much fun so I'd take the coach if possible. But in the worst case scenario, if you arrive at the coach station right after the last coach left, then your total time from there can be up to 4:15, which doesn't sound fun either.

Take both schedules with you and decide at the time whether you want to wait for the next coach or not.

If money (and extra pollution) is truly no object, then you can get a car service. I've never heard of a shared ride service in the UK.

mdonley: When getting a National Express e-ticket, you must book a particular date and time. In practice, they may let you take other coaches, but I've never depended on the kindness or generosity of National Express staff.
posted by grouse at 4:19 AM on July 3, 2007

Response by poster: If I had listened a little more closely to my wife, I would have known that National Express was a bus. She had found their site and we've looked at the schedules/fares.

We land at 11:45 at Terminal 4 on a Saturday. There do not appear to be any direct coaches to Bath from here, so we'd have to get to the main bus terminal after clearing customs - (via Heathrow Express I assume - free and appears to need no reservations). Direct coaches to Bath are at 13:15 and 15:15. The earlier one only leaves 1-1/2 hours from touchdown which seems too tight. Bath arrival time for the latter is 17:50, so more like 6 hours touchdown to Bath arrival - but cheap!

National Rail tickets with some time flexiblity would be more expensive than having somebody drive us - go figure.

Still thinking, thanks for the advice.
posted by skyscraper at 6:40 AM on July 3, 2007

National Rail tickets with some time flexiblity would be more expensive than having somebody drive us

It'll cost £103.60 to get two of you from Heathrow-Bath-Heathrow. (I presume you want to return to the airport at some point?) You can really get a car from the airport to Bath for £51.80 each way? If so, I think that is an incredible deal and you should take it.
posted by grouse at 6:54 AM on July 3, 2007

An advantage of Heathrow Connect is that it departs from the same Heathrow T123 railway station that Heathrow Express does, so you won't have to walk to the bus station, but you'll still have to change trains.

Also, another option if you miss the coach but you don't want to deal with an extra change at Hayes and Harlington is to get the RailAir coach from the bus station to Reading (0:43 every 30 min, £13 single/£21 return) and take the very comfy high speed service from there (1:00 every 30 min, £33 single/£34 return).
posted by grouse at 7:05 AM on July 3, 2007

Have you considered renting a car? You don't say how many people you're traveling with, but maybe that would be most cost effective if you've got the whole family...
posted by the christopher hundreds at 9:29 AM on July 3, 2007

Response by poster: grouse:

Thanks for the continued interest.

We are actually only going one way (not returning via the same route). I'm at work and can't lay my hands on the exact numbers, but a National Rail single with any flexibility was around £60 x 2 (two of us) = £120 which is getting in to taxi-to-Bath territory.

We're leaning towards the bus, despite the time involved. I'll take a look at the RailAir to Reading to bath option - we're travelling light, so transfers aren't too bad if it'll save us time.

zemblamatic: If students and old ladies are the worst your bus system can do, bring 'em on - as koahiatamadl notes buses here are pretty grim.

Thanks, everybody.
posted by skyscraper at 9:34 AM on July 3, 2007

Response by poster: the christopher hundreds:

We're thinking about it, but were hoping not to have to deal with a) driving on the wrong side of the road while exhausted (and it is the wrong side - it's not right, is it?) and b) parking the damn thing during the three days we'll be in Bath. We will be renting a car on leaving Bath, so we may just give up and let our all-American car-driving freak flag fly and rent at Heathrow.

thanks again
posted by skyscraper at 9:40 AM on July 3, 2007

Response by poster: Ahh, you meant rent the car just to get us to Bath then turn it in. We'll give it a thought, rental's only £15/day or so.
posted by skyscraper at 9:43 AM on July 3, 2007

That's a horse of a different color. Long distance one-way trips on National Rail are usually a pretty poor deal. Although a saver single Heathrow Connect-Bath Spa is only £45.90, not £60. There are a number of tickets around £60, but those aren't the tickets you want.

Be sure to also consider the cost of petrol, which is far more expensive here than in the U.S.
posted by grouse at 10:06 AM on July 3, 2007

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