Imagine being able to design the perfect city almost completely from scratch. This is the premise under which internationally renowned urban planners and architects set out to create Milton Keynes in the 1960s and '70s. Of course, when mentioning Milton Keynes, people will often be met with "Ugh, it’s a soulless new city" or "What, is that the place with the concrete cows?" Most irritating is that often, the people that make those dispassionate comments are those who have neither lived nor indeed spent much time there. Yes, it is a new town and yes, the centre of that town could be described as a little soulless with its chain restaurants and large shopping centre, but it was built on 150 million years of history and dotted around the 22,000 acres of countryside it resides in are many things to do, see and explore. Sites dating back to 2000 BC have been unearthed along with the remains of a major Roman villa, then dispersed amongst the town, itself built amongst many old towns. Also are numerous green spaces, a plethora of indoor and outdoor activities, and fabulous shopping opportunities. The Ministry of Housing and Local Governments brief in 1967 requested a new town that could accommodate an incoming population of 150,000 Londoners over a period of 20 years. Now Milton Keynes is a thriving town of contrasts; from innovative new business and entertainment hubs, to theatre, cinema, walks in natural parkland, pub lunches and peaceful canal trips; it really does have something on offer for everyone--and yes, it really does have concrete cows!
Milton Keynes is conveniently located on both the M1 motorway (at junction 14) and the West Coast Main Line, and as a result there are many ways to both enter and leave the town.
The M1 motorway connects London with Birmingham, before continuing north to Leeds. Milton Keynes is approximately half-way between London and Birmingham. There are also links east and west on the A421 to Bedford, Cambridge and Oxford.
Coach services to many cities (including Oxford and Cambridge) can be taken from the Coachway, which is located near junction 14 of the M1. The Coachway shares the Park and Ride carpark and thus buses to the centre and to Central station.
Rail connections are maintained by Virgin and West Midlands Trains, and frequent trains connect to London, Northampton, Birmingham, Liverpool, Manchester, and farther north.
If driving into the central area, be careful not to get stung by the parking system. Adjacent to the major shopping centres are Red Zones (£1 per 30 mins), but the much less obvious purple zones are often literally just across the street and much cheaper (50p per hour). SatNav has a lot of trouble finding good parking in MK, so be prepared to hunt a bit.
Public transport within Milton Keynes has never been great, but it is getting better all the time. Buses in Milton Keynes are operated by Arriva UK Bus services and are more frequent than in past years. There are regular buses from most places to the city centre, train station, and Bletchley. Travelling by car is usually preferable as one of Milton Keynes's saving graces is its road network, although during rush hour, it can get somewhat congested in some areas.
The dominance of the car is greatly helped by the road layout - the main roads of the city are laid out in a grid system with roundabouts at the intersections, so getting about is quick, although predictably less so in rush hour. The grid is formed of numbered 'H' roads running horizontally on the map and 'V' roads running vertically. Visitors who drive to Milton Keynes often get lost on these roads because they all look the same-- the main roads are in tree-lined linear valleys to reduce road noise so there are few landmarks visible to navigate by. A map or satnav is recommended for people who are new to the town.
Milton Keynes has a huge network of redways, super routes, leisure routes and places to ride. Milton Keynes bills itself as "a cycle friendly city with commuter facilities, secure cycle parking and a lot of cycle shops."
Milton Keynes has over 200 miles of shared-use paths, known as Redways, for cycling and walking. The traffic-free network covers most of the city estates with some Redways extending out to connect to the older towns. A complete map of the Redway network can be found online.
These routes showcase different areas of Milton Keynes and are perfect for a leisurely afternoon walk, run or ride. There are 5 main routes, each around 10 miles long with a 5 mile short cut. The routes encompass points of interest, heritage, public art and cultural venues around Milton Keynes.
Based around a central Grand Tour (blue route) you can branch off onto the other four routes to explore even more. Mix and match the trails you want to do and increase your distance in multiples of 5 miles.
There is a wide range of cycle parking dotted around Milton Keynes and the local area as well as public tool stations and commuter cycle facilities to enable more people to cycle. There are also local bike rental schemes which can be used on an hour-by-hour basis.
There are currently three locations in MK which provide air pumps and tool stations with work stands and basic tools for the public. These are free to use and easy to access at MK Central Station, Bletchley railway station and outside the Get Changed unit in CMK.
Almost all of the train stations in Milton Keynes provide some form of free cycle parking and there are 10 covered cycle stands at MK Coachway. We recommend using good locks to secure your bicycle to the metal stands.
There are 196 secure cycle lockers at MK Central train station, each with room for one standard bicycle. To hire a cycle locker costs £60 per year or £36 per six months with a refundable key deposit of £50. Use the form below to apply for a secure locker.
A shower and changing facility located on Witan Gate/Midsummer Boulevard. The unit has internal lockers for personal belongings, secure cages in a drying room, showers, a changing room and 48 secure cycle lockers. The full facility is available at a charge of £288 per year paid monthly by direct debit and includes the use of a secure cycle locker – that’s around £1 per day! A very small number of secure lockers are also available at a cost of £60 per year.
Access to Bicycles
If you don’t have a bike of your own there are various cycle hire options, including adapted bikes, and ways to buy one.
Bike hire is available across Milton Keynes courtesy of Santander Cycles and Lime Bikes.
Santander Cycles MK Hire Scheme
Santander Cycles MK is a fun, easy and great value way to get around Milton Keynes. The bike hire scheme started in July 2016 and has over 500 bikes at over 50 locations across the city offering short-term use. Residents and visitors can register online, via an app or by phone. The scheme is run independently by Nextbike UK.
Lime Bikes are electric assisted bikes, equipped with a 250-watt motor and a rechargeable lithium battery, the convenient green bicycles help riders climb hills and cover long distances. You can be riding a Lime bike in three easy steps.
Lime are currently running a 20% discount on the minute rate. Every weekday morning between 6.00 am and 9.30am.
There are a number of facilities in Milton Keynes which have adapted bikes for hire including Action4Youth at Caldecotte Lake, MK Motion at Willen Lake and Freewheelers MK. The Caldecotte Xperience has a range of bikes and accept short breaks vouchers. Contact them directly by phone on 01908 232042 or email [email protected]
Cycle to Work Scheme
The government backed scheme allows employees to purchase cycles and accessories via a salary sacrifice through their employer and can reduce the cost of purchases by around 20-40%. To get a bike on the scheme, your employer needs to sign up to a third party provider such as CycleScheme or Cycle Solutions.
Recycled and second-hand cycles
If you can’t afford a new bike or are worried about it being stolen while you’re at work you could buy a second-hand one. Many cycle shops offer part-exchange for customers which means they have old bikes in the store room, pop in and ask. Additionally, there are bicycle recycling schemes where people can donate their old, unused bicycles to cycling charities to be refurbished and sold at affordable prices.
There are lots of places to buy a bike in MK including large national outdoor stores and independent local bike shops. Prices will range from just a few pounds up to the tens of thousands; there’ll be something to suit every age, ability, budget and type of riding.
There are over 40 routes running through Milton Keynes to improve sustainable accessibility around the area. Bus stops are located in all estates and at key destinations including train stations, shopping centres, business and industrial parks. Buses to locations such as Bedford, Luton, Leighton Buzzard, Northampton, Aylesbury and further afield destinations such as Oxford or Cambridge are available from Milton Keynes. The majority of buses in MK now have USB charging for your smart phone or tablet and provide free wi-fi too, so you can stay in touch and catch up with work while you travel.
Milton Keynes Council subsidises a number of services, particularly in the evening and at weekends in order to ensure a good network for most destinations. Most buses in Milton Keynes are low floor and accessible for wheelchair users.
Due to the COVID-19 crisis, bus companies are making temporary changes to their timetables. See the below routes that are currently operating.
Taxi's & Ride Sharing
For many people it is possible to use a combination of buses, trains, cycling and walking to reach most destinations in Milton Keynes. But sometimes that’s just not practical and a taxi will fill the gap. Major train stations and CMK have taxi ranks and there are also a number of reputable private hire/mini cab firms in Milton Keynes.
There are limited Uber, Lyft, Addison Lee & Ola services in Milton Keynes with drivers often not regularly available.
Due to the current coronavirus pandemic, ViaVan have temporarily suspended its pooled ride service in Milton Keynes as of 27 March 2020.
ViaVan are currently operating in the Milton Keynes area and can carry up to 7 passengers in their vehicles. Milton Keynes Council is working with ViaVan on delivery of 30 electric vehicles in the area and looking at solutions for users with wheelchairs and scooters. Download the app via Apple or Play stores for the demand responsive service. No pre -booking available at present.
Taking the train to or from Milton Keynes is quick and comfortable and reduces congestion on the roads. Milton Keynes Central railway station is located on the West Coast Main Line. The station was previously served by Virgin Trains intercity services, and by London North Western Railway and Southern services but is now services by Avanti West Coast.
You can catch a direct train all the way to Glasgow, or get into London Euston in just over 30 minutes. Milton Keynes has excellent rail connections to Birmingham and London Euston with frequent trains, along with serving the local area.
Train stations in and around Milton Keynes
Milton Keynes Central railway station serves central Milton Keynes and the surrounding area and is located less than a mile from the city centre.
This station is one of six stations serving the Milton Keynes area. The other train stations in MK are:
The Marston Vale line along the south of the borough provides a direct link from Bletchley to Bedford and will in the future be part of East-West rail linking Oxford, Milton Keynes and Cambridge.
For discounted onward journeys by bus, buy a combined train and bus ticket with PlusBus []. The combined ticket allows you to enjoy unlimited onwards bus travel in the Milton Keynes area.
Milton Keynes has a claim to being the home of the modern computer, as the German Enigma codes were cracked by Alan Turing at Bletchley Park. The historic value of this site and its importance to the development of the computer has now been belatedly recognised in the form of a museum with a significant number of things to do for both adults and children. The site is also home to The National Museum of Computing . Visitors should be aware that as of early 2012 public access is not 7 days per week.
In the UK, the city is famous/notorious for its concrete cows, an art installation created by Liz Leyh (just off the H3, in Bancroft).
Another feature is the giant Xscape dome, home to a sixteen screen cinema and the largest indoor ski slope in the United Kingdom.
The Peace Pagoda at Willen Lake North, the first example in the Western world, is also worth a visit for a more tranquil experience. The nearby temple and labyrinth also provide interesting attractions.
The Centre: MK is the main shopping centre for the surrounding area and is where most of the shopping in Milton Keynes is to be had. It features branches of many high street chains, with over 230 stores. The centre is undercover with good disabled access. The High Street in Stony Stratford offers a pleasant but small alternative. Most residential areas have their own convenience store.
There are various retail parks with the larger DIY, carpet, furniture and warehouse-style clothes shops.
Milton Keynes has a wide variety of restuarants both in the City Centre and in the outlying areas.
In the city centre the restaurants are centred around the the theatre district, Xscape and a new area called "The Hub".
There is a wider range of smaller independent restaurants in outlying areas such as Stony Stratford, Wolverton, and Fenny Stratford. There is also decent pub food (and somewhat better beer) at The Plough in Simpson, and Ye Olde Swan in Woughton on the Green. Pub grub at the Old Beams in Shenley Lodge can not be beaten.
The Salford Swan, while not strictly within Milton Keynes itself, is well worth a look for some excellent pub-restaurant food with a delightful atmosphere.
On a summer evening a trip to the theatre district / Xscape almost transports you to a Spanish holiday resort, such are the number of bars and clubs with people walking between them. Not much for a CAMRA member here though, as its more for the bottle of Bud or Smirnoff Ice crowd..
More traditional pubs can be found along the Stony Stratford high street, popular for pub crawls at weekends. Newport Pagnell, a few miles from the city centre, is also a good option with many good pubs and a good atmosphere
Milton Keynes offers a variety of chain hotels, including Holiday Inn, Hilton, Ramada, Jury's Inn, Travelodge, and Holiday Inn Express. Some are located in the bustling town centre and others in more peaceful spots, including the Holiday Inn Express adjacent to Willen Lake.
Night life Nightlife (pubs and clubs) in Milton Keynes is focused around the theatre district, Snow Dome and The Hub areas.
The Pitz: Woughton Leisure Centre, Rainbow Drive, Leadenhall. A 500 capacity venue catering mainly for rock based acts; large supporter of local music.
The Stables Stockwell Lane, Wavendon. A 450 capacity venue a few miles outside of Milton Keynes. It is focused on Jazz music but attracts many musicians of all genres.
Sabotage Refurb, Margaret Powell Square Theatre District Central Milton Keynes (Friday) & Station Square Elder Gate Milton Keynes (Mondays). City-based alternative promotion with a wide range of music from DJ's to live bands