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Solo Travel for Women: A Simple Formula

A view of Weymouth, Dorset, in England. A getaway for solo woman travel.
A view of Weymouth, Dorset. A great getaway for the solo woman traveler in England.

While most people believe that a car is essential if you want to leave London and find those off-the-beaten-track treasures of England, I had to develop another method. I’m too chicken to drive in a terrifying network of interchanges and roundabouts while trying to follow a road map that prevents me from enjoying the lovely countryside. Here’s my formula:

1) Choose a town to use as a base that has a station on one of British Rail’s most scenic routes.

2) Find a comfortable B and B within walking distance of the station in a neighborhood you like and wouldn’t be afraid to walk in after dark.

3) Study the timetables for that station’s trains and choose places to visit that look interesting.

It’s as simple as that. Of course it helps if you’ve done a bit of research on the area you’ve chosen. Make sure your B&B has a good reputation by checking the accommodations guidebooks recommended in this magazine’s Overseas Travel Planner or through scanning online reviews.

My choice last summer was the seaside town of Weymouth overlooking the English Channel on Dorset’s southern coast. My B&B was the Channel View on Brunswick Terrace, one of a dozen or so attractive and neat-as-a-pin guest houses standing in a row right on the sea front away from the town’s heavy traffic. I woke to the sound of the sea outside my window. After a busy day exploring I could sit on the beach and watch the sun set or walk around Weymouth’s picturesque harbor.

Weymouth is an ideal choice because it’s at the intersection of two rail lines leading to two entirely different parts of the country: Southampton and Winchester are in one direction, Bath and Bristol in the other. I could reach these places (and numerous smaller towns in between), explore at a leisurely pace, and return to Weymouth well before dark. If I returned too late for the set 6:30 dinner at Channel View I could dine at an excellent restaurant, Hamilton’s, right next door.

My spotlessly clean room with its sea view, private bathroom, color TV, and tea-making facilities was only £40 a night. This included a marvelous English breakfast in the congenial company of my hosts, Ian and Ruth Cowley, and their other guests. (In Weymouth there are few tourists, Americans or otherwise.)

Weymouth is a traditional seaside resort that King George the Third made fashionable when he visited almost every year between 1789 and 1805. Along with many members of his court, he brought his bathing machine and introduced sea bathing. The town has remained popular with British holidaymakers ever since. The harbor is always filled with colorful commercial fishing and crabbing vessels as well as pleasure crafts.

The big cities like Bath and Bournemouth were fun to visit, but I was more intrigued with the smaller towns and villages like Dorchester, Wool, Wareham, Moreton, and one of my favorites: Brockenhurst in the county of Hampshire just east of Dorset, where the descendants of the original ponies freed by William the Conqueror in 1079 still roam freely.

I bought a day return ticket on the 8:53 and arrived in Brockenhurst at 10:01 a.m. I had expected to see the famous ponies but hadn’t expected to them everywhere. They seemed to know that no one would interfere with them.

My train pulled into the Weymouth station at 6:40. After a quick shower and change I went next door to Hamilton’s. As I sipped my gin and tonic and waited for my rack of lamb, I studied my train timetables to decide the next day’s adventure.

To Weymouth from London

The fare on British Rail from Waterloo Station to Weymouth is £63 one way and the trips take about 2 1/2 hours. National Express Coach charges less than half of this amount and the driver loads and unloads your luggage for you. Coaches leave from Victoria Station and can be boarded at the bus station at Heathrow Airport, only a few hundred yards from Terminal 2, around noon. If you miss it, grab a coach going to Bournemouth in Dorset, then board a train for the rest of the way to Weymouth.

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Women Travel

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