It’s more iconic than the Bullring Bull. Bigger than the Library of Birmingham. And a better way to travel around than our historic canals. Yes, we could only be talking about the No. 11 bus route, otherwise known as the Birmingham Outer Circle. And if you ask us, should be held aloft alongside all of these as part of Birmingham’s brilliance! This 27-mile route connects Birmingham’s outer suburbs and makes the entire city a small reach away.
Since 2016, it has been Europe’s longest urban bus route after the closure of the 360 route in Coventry. (It was temporarily split in 2021 due to roadworks in Perry Barr, but we hold out some hope for its reformed return soon.) Going both clockwise and anti-clockwise around Birmingham, it has the potential to take you anywhere from Acocks Green to Selly Oak, Yardley to Bearwood.
It will even take you to Dudley Road Hospital (or Birmingham City Hospital if you prefer) if you have an accident. Hop on and ride it all the way to Sarehole Mill to enjoy this Tolkien Tour exploring the landscape that inspired Lord of the Rings. Chill out in Stirchley’s craft breweries, taste chocolate in Bournville’s Cadbury World, find unbelievable pastries in King’s Heath, or relax by Edgbaston Reservoir.
Just think for a second: all the laughs, the tears, the loves lost and the happiness made in Brum, it was all likely contained within this bus route. Where would Birmingham be without the No. 11 bus route? Back in Stone Age probably. Okay, maybe that’s a bit of an exaggeration, but there’s no denying that it was responsible for bringing communities across Birmingham together. Giving us access to all the cities far off delights.
But how did this strange bus route get going? It started as two routes initially in 1923, but was combined by 1926 – the aim being to link up the suburbs of Birmingham. Most bus routes at the time just went in and out of the City Centre. There were even guides to the ‘Outer Circle’ route, which encouraged people to “See Birmingham’s charming suburbs by bus”.
We’re not the only ones who love it either. The Birmingham band Woodbine’s 1999 album features a track called Outer Circle as a tribute to the No.11 bus route, while a bunch of Birmingham-based writers published a collection of short stories about it, called the Outer Circle Project. Wherever you’re from in Birmingham, the lover for the No.11 bus route is unwavering.