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To help out some friends, I'm trying to work out where you can get to for a weekend away, starting in either Oxford or Cambridge, travelling only by public transport.

Are there any tools / websites / maps / books / etc that I could use to work out where I can get to in a sensible amount of time by public transport, from starting in those two cities? I would like to be able to work out the regions that can be reached in a sensible amount of travel for a short break, so I can narrow my search. (For example, I might want to overlay this with a list of gardens, castles, national parks etc, to come up with a short list of places for a weekend away)

Note that I am not after recommendations of places to go to by public transport from these cities, nor am I after a list of such places. What I'm after is advice on how to work that out for myself!

(This question was inspired by questions like this, but trying to make something more suitable for our style of Q&A)

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Did you try contacting the local tourist information office? – James Woolfenden Aug 9 '13 at 13:08
Tourist Office is a good suggestion for things nearby! For this question I'm after places to visit that aren't in the immediate area, but aren't too far by public transport either.... – Gagravarr Aug 9 '13 at 13:12
up vote 8 down vote accepted

Everyone's favourite Mapping, Public Transport and Governance geeks MySociety did some some work on this very question a few years ago. As part of this, they handily produced maps showing travel time by public transport from both Cambridge:

Cambridge, From MySociety from CC-By-SA

And from Oxford: Oxford, From MySociety from CC-By-SA

For a weekend away, you probably want to restrict yourself to regions that are at the red end of the spectrum, so you have enough time to enjoy where you're going!

Sadly, producing these maps isn't a 1 minute job, so they're not just available for everywhere. For maps from other starting locations, or for a given ending location, you need to order your custom map from their shop, which are £25 for one. Money raised from it goes to support their other charitable work. As it requires people to manually generate and tweak the map, I'm told it normally takes a day but might be a bit longer if they're all busy...!

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What's the deal with Hawick? – Ben Parsons Aug 14 '13 at 8:53
The map is based on train + taxi of up to 1 hour (see their blog post on it). Hawick has fairly slow roads leading to it, and no train, so can't be reached in an hour from a station by taxi. The map doesn't know about the Hawick-Edinburgh bus – Gagravarr Aug 14 '13 at 9:25

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