Monorails To Hovercraft: 6 Very Different Modes Of Transport You Can Take In The UK
Monorails To Hovercraft: 6 Very Different Modes Of Transport You Can Take In The UK

Venture outside London, and there are some wild rides to be had, on everything from traction engines to seaplanes.

1. Cable Car, Peak District

Three white cable cars head upwards among green treetops

The Heights of Abraham cable car sweeps you up 169 meters above the Derwent Valley. Image: Oliver Mills via creative commons

Let’s kick off with a mode of transport which London actually has, the cable car. While the IFS Cloud Cable Car (as it’s called now if you’re keeping track) serves up stonking vistas of reclaimed Docklands and spenny North Greenwich condos, other, more bucolic, rides are available elsewhere in the country. Chief among them is the Alpine-style cable car in Derbyshire’s Heights of Abraham, which sweeps you up 169 meters above the Derwent Valley, daring you not to hum the Emmerdale theme tube while gliding over the treetops. Want to see if you can stomach it? Visit the website for a 360 view from one of the pods. Other cable cars can be ridden on the Isle of Wight, Llandudno and the Nevis Range in Scotland.

2. Monorail, Beaulieu

A green monorail bends through idyllic gardens

The DLR but make it bucolic. Image: Oast House Archive via creative commons

Beaulieu’s National Motor Museum is chocka with fascinating vehicles, from quaint Sinclair C5s to vintage London buses to F1 beasts. But perhaps the most riveting vehicle here is one you can actually ride; its mile-long monorail system is the oldest in the UK, and whips you through the idyllic grounds of Beaulieu, and — thrillingly — through the roof of the Motor Museum itself. Fond memories of riding this as a kid, and now the nephews are loving it too. Other, arguably less picturesque, monorails can be ridden at various UK theme parks, and (even less picturesquely), Gatwick Airport. London, though, ain’t getting a monorail anytime soon.

3. Hovercraft, Southsea to the Isle of Wight

A hovercraft mounts a slipway

It might not serve duty free, but it’s still pretty cool. Image: Londonist

Some of us might be old enough to recall the romance of nifty Channel crossings on the Princess Margaret/Anne hovercrafts — and while those particular duty free-wielding behemoths are now retired to the Hovercraft Museum (real place btw), you can still do a much shorter trip between Southsea and the Isle of Wight. The surprisingly regular service whips passengers across the Solent in under 10 minutes, dare we say making all those who’ve chosen to take the ferry look like losers. I was told by one of the hovercraft pilots that certain thrillseekers keep an eye out for a stormy forecast, then rush to catch the next available trip. Not me, thanks.

4. Amphibious vehicle, Windsor

A bright yellow amphibious vehicle driving out of a river

London’s lost ’em, Windsor still has ’em. Image: Shedlum in creative commons

An admission: back in the day, I joined the tourist throngs and went on a Duck Tour of London — it’s not entirely unscary plunging into the murky Thames in a second world war vehicle that’s basically been painted up a bit, spluttering along while actual boats (you know, the ones without wheels) fly past. Amphibious tours of London have now been consigned to the “oh yeah, I remember those” bin, but you can still take an amphibious dip into the Thames at Windsor, where Duck Tours live on, and I’d wager it’s a quainter experience.

5. Traction engine, Exeter

A green traction engine being driven across a field

Right then, who wants to drive this to the pub. Image: public domain

You’d have thought you’d need a special licence to operate a traction engine, but apparently not. For anyone who dreams of channelling their inner Fred Dibnah by piloting one of these steam-driven beauts (but doesn’t happen to have one handy in the garage) Berrybrook Motors on the edge of Exeter, offers traction engine day experiences. You’ll learn to master the basic controls, before heading out on the road… to the local pub! Similar experiences are also available in the New Forest. And if I’ve just given you an idea for a parent’s Christmas present, you are welcome.

6. Seaplane, Loch Lomond

A seaplane parked outside a grand Scottish castle-house

Nothing quite like arriving home to your castle in your seaplane is there. Image: Mark Harkin in creative commons

The golden age of seaplanes is sadly long behind us, but up in Scotland, you can still hop aboard one, provided you’re happy forking out £129-£169 for a brief stint in the heavens. Loch Lomond Seaplanes offer short excursions, dashing over the Highlands and the West Coast of Scotland at speeds of up to 170mph, in a sort of fast-forwarded sightseeing tour. This is the one and only time you’ll be in a plane that lands in the middle of a loch. Hopefully.