How to Travel From London to Plymouth by Train, Bus, and Car

Harbour at Plymouth Barbican
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The name Plymouth may sound familiar to Americans as the location of where the pilgrims on the Mayflower first landed in America, but it's also the name of the city where they came from in England. The original Plymouth is a seaside town near the southwest tip of the U.K. with such charm and scenic landscape that you'll ask yourself why those pilgrims ever left.

It's about 212 miles from London to Plymouth by roads, and renting a vehicle for a road trip is perhaps one of the most fun ways to get there. The train, however, is the fastest method at just three hours from city center to city center. But train tickets can get prohibitively expensive, so choose the bus for the most affordable option of travel.

  Time Cost Best For
Train 3 hours from $22 Arriving on a time crunch
Bus 5 hours, 55 minutes from $9 Traveling on a budget
Car 4 hours 212 miles (341 kilometers) Exploring the local area

What Is the Cheapest Way to Get From London to Plymouth?

For those traveling on a budget, taking the bus is the most affordable way to get to Plymouth. Buses through National Express start at just $9 for a one-way trip when purchased in advance, but even last minute tickets shouldn't rise drastically in price (as train tickets do). The bus ride is almost six hours, so it does take twice as long as the train, but the low prices make it an unbeatable option.

Buses depart from the main Victoria Coach Station in central London, with connections to the Circle, Victoria, and District lines of the Underground. Plymouth is a small and easily walkable city, and the bus station is located right in the heart of it. Just step off the bus and you'll be in the center of all that Plymouth has to offer.

What Is the Fastest Way to Get From London to Plymouth?

The fastest and—many would say—the most comfortable method for travel to Plymouth is via the train. The three-hour journey crosses through nearly all of Southwest England, zigzagging through small villages and national parks until you arrive. Trains for the southwest leave from Paddington Station, with connections to the Bakerloo, Circle, District, and Hammersmith & City lines of the Underground. Once you get to Plymouth, the rail station is just one block north of the city center.

The train is an affordable option if you book in advance, with tickets starting at roughly $22. However, ticket prices fluctuate like flights and quickly get more expensive as seats sell out and the travel date gets closer. For the cheapest tickets, look for the "Advance" tickets, which are released about eight to 10 weeks before you travel.

Tip: Always purchase rail tickets in the U.K. as single journeys, even if you're planning to return to your departure city. The cheapest Advance pricing isn't available on roundtrip tickets, so you'll end up paying more.

How Long Does It Take to Drive?

The drive from London to Plymouth takes about four hours without major traffic delays. The M3 highway out of London is a major commuter route through nearby suburbs and some congestion is likely, but after about 40 miles you'll switch over to the A303 motorway and the roads should clear up. The highway itself is toll-free, but you may have to pay congestion tolls in London before even leaving the city, depending on the time of day you leave.

Plymouth has several parking garages in the town center which aren't unreasonably priced, although you'll find even cheaper options or street parking if you park farther out and walk into the center. Once you're in Plymouth, you won't need a vehicle to get around and can walk anywhere.

When Is the Best Time to Travel to Plymouth?

As a coastal city, Plymouth is a popular summer retreat for U.K. residents and many Londoners escape to the area to enjoy the warm weather. As such, trying to buy train tickets in June, July, and August are when they are at their most expensive. Make your reservations as early as possible if traveling during these months, or consider going to Plymouth in May or September when the weather is still warm but the hoards of summer tourists have yet to arrive.

What's the Most Scenic Route to Plymouth?

If you're driving yourself, take advantage of having a vehicle and explore some of England's most breathtaking sites near the route. The fastest car route drives along the northern border of Dorset County, but if you cut down to the southern part of the county you can drive along the water in an area known as the Jurassic Coast. It's a gorgeous drive along the English Channel with dramatic limestone cliffs and rock formations, and considered to be one of the most beautiful routes in the whole U.K. Driving the route adds about an extra hour to the drive, not including all the extra time for pulling over, taking pictures, and enjoying the scenery.

What Is There to Do in Plymouth?

Plymouth is a town with a lot of history, and the Mayflower Steps—which commemorate the place where the eponymous ship set sail for the future U.S.A.—may be one of the most iconic places in town. But Plymouth is a lot more than just pilgrims, as the city has a long connection with the British Navy as well. Visit naval buildings that were constructed during the English Civil War in the 17th century or the Armada Memorial to recognize the defeat of the Spanish Armada during the Elizabethan Era. Apart from history, Plymouth is perhaps best enjoyed for its sublime natural landscapes. Not only can you enjoy the coast right in the city, but Plymouth is also the gateway for exploring the nearby Cornwall region, with its white-sand beaches, rugged cliffs, and famous Cornish pasties.

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