Some of the world’s most iconic and unique railway journeys are found in Britain, setting off from vibrant cities, travelling past peaks, through moorlands, and cruising along the coast.
A train is a great way to travel around Britain more sustainably while relaxing and enjoying the scenery, accompanied by some unique experiences.
Visitors can book their trains individually or choose a BritRail pass for the duration of their stay which will give them flexibility to travel on the National Rail network. Check out a sampling of themed rail experiences and longer rail itineraries to take you outside the cities and explore further across Britain’s nations and regions throughout the year.
Scotland, Skye, Lochs and Lake District
Edinburgh – Glasgow – Fort William – Mallaig – Isle of Skye – Inverness – Glasgow – Windermere
The trip takes in vibrant cities, castles, lochs and lakes, highlands and coastlines. Take the Caledonian Sleeper to Edinburgh and wake up in the city in the morning. Glasgow is just an hour away and is a hotbed of art and culture with street art trails across the city. Heading north to Fort William, a waterside town which is at the foot of the Nevis Range, home to Britain’s highest peak Ben Nevis. The West Highland Line, which is renowned as one of the most stunning trips in the world, takes a short detour on the Jacobite steam train which doubled as the Hogwarts Expressin Harry Potter films across the iconic Glenfinnan Viaduct. From the final stop at Mallaig, the Isle of Skye ferry accesses the magical landscape of the island. Back on the mainland take a train to Inverness, the gateway to Loch Ness. Returning to Glasgow, take the train into the heart of the Lake District to Windermere to explore the lakes and peaks, take a boat trip and enjoy the great local food and drink.
Wales Culture and Castles
Cardiff – Aberystwyth – Harlech – Llandudno – Chester
Take a trip across Wales to take in castles, culture and the coastline. Starting in the fun city of Cardiff take a train to Aberystwythto enjoy this seaside holiday then connect to the Cambrian Coast Line north through Snowdonia National Park to Harlech. Harlech Castle is perched at the top of the hill and a short distance away is the fantastical village of Portmeirion. From Porthmadog connects to the steam trains on the Ffestiniog Railway for those that want to explore the area in style. Llandudnoanother seaside favourite is well worth a visit before ending the trip in the vibrant city of Chester for some great shopping and iconic architecture and roman heritage.
Cornwall Coasts, Eden Centre and Maritime City
St Ives – Falmouth – St Austell – Newquay – Looe – Plymouth
Take a trip out to the Wild West of England on the Night Riviera sleeper train from London to stunning St Ives, via St Erth past golden Carbis Bay to arrive in the early morning. The itinerary takes in some of the most stunning coastline in Britain. Falmouth, via the quintessential market town of Truro and rolling fields of Cornish countryside, is a busy port town with great watersports and boat trip options. The Eden Project is accessible by bus from St Austell station, a must visit attraction located in a valley with enormous glass domes which house plants from different continents. Next stop Newquay on the north Atlantic coast, is a surfer’s mecca and tourism hot spot. The fishing village of Looe has a nearby vineyard and wildlife reserve, and finally Plymouth marks the journey’s end with an iconic lighthouse and plenty of options for award winning food and drink.
City Cultural Tour
London – Brighton – Bristol – Manchester – Liverpool – Leeds
Take in some of the highlights of Britain’s cities travelling to the south coast and on to the cultural hotspots of the West and North of England. Brighton is just an hour away from central London with all its attractions and fun experiences. Travel to Bristol, to take in the sites and cultural hotspots in the footsteps of Banksy. Next stop Manchester, a northern powerhouse packed with cultural hotspots and famous for its football and music scenes and home to the ever-changing Northern Quarter. Liverpool is under an hour from Manchester and is home to a waterfront of museums and attractions. Take in Leeds, just an hour and half away, a hidden gem of a city with an art trail, contemporary and historical museums and galleries, and known to be the foodie capital of the North.
Great West Way and Literary Hotspots
London – Salisbury – Bath Spa – Oxford – Stratford-upon-Avon – York
Take in some of the literary hidden gems starting west and up through central England to York in the East, including cathedrals, castles, culture and cuisine, this itinerary can be used for foodies and culture vultures alike. Salisbury’s cathedral is home to one the surviving copies of the Magna Carta. Head out west to Bath and roam around the Georgian streets which were used as the backdrop for many scenes in Bridgerton and Queen Charlotte. Once home to Jane Austen, there is a cultural centre and walking tour along with an annual festival in her honour. Up to Oxford to survey the literary city, take in a tour of the colleges, explore the museums and see some of the locations featured in Harry Potter. Stratford-upon-Avon is Shakespeare’s hometown where visitors can take in a play from one of the theatres and visit locations including his birthplace, school and houses. Finally travel up to York to ramble through The Shambles, said to have inspired Diagon Alley in the Harry Potter books.
Regional Heritage Lines, New, Themed and Steam Train Experiences
- The Northern Belle has a programme of new themed trips from Northern stations. Trips include: Champagne Lunch, a spectacular steam hauled journey over the Settle to Carlisle, a trip to Blenheim Palace, new Fireworks Dinner trip, Edinburgh day trip and Christmas lunches. Classic and innovative dishes are created from the finest seasonal ingredients from the British Isles and served with the backdrop of stunning scenery along the way.
- The Keighley & Worth Valley Line was used as a filming location for the Railway Children (both original and new films), Brideshead Revisited and most recently Peaky Blinders.
- The North Yorkshire Moors Railway has a dining carriage and serves up seasonal menus of locally sourced food and drinks, as spectacular countryside rolls by the windows of the heritage Pullman carriage. This route travels out from the scenic seaside town of Whitby through the North York Moors.
- The Ravenglass and Eskdale Railway in Cumbria offers new themed trips, amid the spectacular scenery of the Lake District, including Winter Warmer and dining experiences. In addition, there is a carriage at the station that has been converted into a unique place to stay.
- The Settle-Carlisle line is one of the most scenic rail routes in England, cruising through the Yorkshire Dales National Park, over the rolling hills, past waterfalls and lush green valleys of Yorkshire and Cumbria. The Ribblehead viaduct is the track’s most dramatic feature with 24 soaring arches over the valley. Connections are available from Leeds and Lancaster and there is also the option to travel by historic steam train.
- The Hope Valley Line in the Peak District heads out from Sheffield through the stunning valleys onto Edale and the Cowburn Tunnel. The Kinder Scout Plateau Circuit can be accessed along the Pennine Way from Edale station and crosses open moorland for walkers who want to ascend the peak of Kinder Scout.
- Magical Mystery Beatles Tour to Liverpool from London is a great day trip to take in the city sights.
Southeast and East
- From Alton in Hampshire take the Watercress Line which crosses Jane Austen country on a heritage steam train and has new themed trips including illuminations, fine dining, Real Ale and Wizarding experiences.
- The North Norfolk Railway has a Murder Mystery performance & meal on the trail that connects to Bittern Line at Sherringham.
- The Bluebell Railway in East Sussex has newly imagined themed trips including festive feasts, a curry trip and a teddy bears picnic, and connects to National Rail at East Grinstead.
- Take a trip out to Sussex for a wine tour and a trip on a heritage steam train
- A heritage steam train runs from Corfe Castle to the cute seaside town of Swanage with a connection through Wareham in Dorset.
- The South Devon Railway has a fun Drive a train experience that connects to National Rail at Totnes.
- The Riviera Line in Devon traverses one of the most beautiful stretches of coast in England from Exeter city to Paignton, via the Exe Estuary and the coast. Calling at the picturesque villages of Dawlish, Teignmouth, Torre and the resort town of Torquay along the way there is the option to stop at one of the beaches or take the opportunity to hike or bike along the trails of Devon.
- Wales has more than its fair share of stunning scenic rail routes including a whole range of options on the Great little trains of Wales.
- Combine the Welsh Highland Way and Ffestiniog lines to experience over 40 miles of adventure.
- Yr Wyddfa (Snowdon) the highest mountain is accessed by a heritage locomotive to the summit to take in the stunning views of mountains and lakes 1,085 metres above sea level and an opportunity to stop for a brew with a view.
- Take a day trip from London to Edinburgh with breakfast on the way up and dinner on the way down and a chance to take in the city’s highlights.
- The West Highland Line runs from Glasgow up north to Crianlarich, past Loch Awe to Oban or continues north through Rannoch Moor to Fort William and Mallaig. The route passes over the iconic Glenfinnan Viaduct and offers breath-taking views of locations such as Loch Shiel, Loch Eilt and Ben Nevis, many of which can also be seen in Harry Potter films. Journeys can be done on the Jacobite steam train or on national rail services.
- The Kyle Line travels coast to coast across the Highlands from Inverness to the shores of Loch Alsh, taking in spectacular Highland scenery – and finishing with magnificent views of Skye and the Torridon Peaks.
- The Far North Line, voted by Lonely Planet one of the best regions in the world to visit, runs north from Inverness to Thurso, the furthest north train station and a short bus hop from John O’Groats the most northern tip of mainland Britain. Along the way take in the spectacular scenery of moorlands, sea stacks, unspoiled beaches and towering Munros.