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Train crosses the famous Ribblehead Viaduct. The Ribblehead Viaduct or Batty Moss Viaduct carries the Settle–Carlisle Railway across Batty Moss in the valley of the River Ribble at Ribblehead.

The 11 most scenic train journeys in the UK

Want to plan a big railway trip for your next staycation? Here’s our pick of the most beautiful train journeys in the UK

Photograph: Shutterstock

John Bills

Whether you’re keen to admire the stunning vistas of the Scottish countryside, or just after a setting to pretend you’re in a music video, staring longingly out at the mesmerising beaches of Cornwall or the mountains of Wales , these train journeys will make you feel like the main character in the window seat. 

You could be a solo traveller craving some luxury transport, or just looking to take the kids on a wholesome family day out – either way, these railway trips will have you covered. Stretching from the very top of the country in Mallaig to the very bottom down in St Ives – and right across to Coleraine in Northern Ireland – here’s where to get your railway fix on your next UK holiday. All aboard!

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Been there, done that? Think again, my friend.

Best train journeys in the UK

1.  the jacobite steam train.

The Jacobite Steam Train

All aboard the Hogwarts Express! Okay, you don’t have to be a Potterhead to get into the majesty of this stunning route. Scotland’s Jacobite Steam Train traverses the gorgeous landscape between Fort William and Mallaig, offering up a conveyor belt of rugged scenery that belies the comfort and luxury inside the train itself. Booking ahead is an absolute must, but it is 100 percent worth it. Few train journeys on the planet come with the grandeur of the Jacobite Steam Train.

2.  North Norfolk Poppy Line

North Norfolk Poppy Line

We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again, but North Norfolk might just be the most underrated part of England. The entire coast is an absolute delight, filled with gorgeous seaside villages and a very real sense of charm, and the so-called ‘Poppy Line’ is an adorable way to explore it. The heritage steam train runs the short distance between Sheringham and Holt (with options to go further at either end) and is an exercise in beautiful nostalgia that will practically drag serenity into your day. Yes, that is something of a contradiction, but it fits. 

3.  St Ives Bay Line

St Ives Bay Line

Okay, it might only be a ten-minute journey, but that just means that you can go back and forth on the St Ives Bay Line as many times as you like during the day. Why wouldn’t you? This 4.25-mile stretch of seaside sumptuousness was opened in 1877, the last of the new broad gauge railways to be opened in the UK, although standard gauge has since taken over. Of course, you’re not here for gauge history, you are here for impossibly quaint seaside views and that special delight that only Cornwall can provide. 

4.  Snowdonia Mountain Railway

Snowdonia Mountain Railway

Scratching and clawing your way to the top of Mount Snowdon (Yr Wyddfa in Welsh) is one of the most exhilarating experiences in Wales, but all that scratching and clawing does sound sort of tiring, right? If slugging up the mountain isn’t your idea of fun, the Snowdonia Mountain Railway is here to save the day. Trains leave from the gorgeous village of Llanberis and slowly climb the mountain, stopping at the top for incredible views and a real sense of achievement.

5.  The Flying Scotsman

The Flying Scotsman

A real piece of history here, albeit only really in the name. The original Flying Scotsman still takes short, special journeys in the UK (in the south of England, mostly), and tickets sell out quickly, but why not jump on the spiritual successor of the famous train and make the journey between the capitals of Scotland and England instead? London to Edinburgh is a trip from one powerhouse to the other, a route that takes you through the whole of England – a curious look into the North/South divide.

6.  Settle to Carlisle

Settle to Carlisle

The North really is blessed with some beautiful train routes, isn’t it? The beloved Settle to Carlisle line runs across 73 miles of gorgeous countryside, showcasing Yorkshire Dales and the North Pennines at their most rugged and remote. It is stunning stuff and has been a point of pilgrimage for train enthusiasts since passengers first jumped aboard in 1876. The journey takes 90 minutes (delays notwithstanding, this is the UK, after all), and tickets start at £8.50.

7.  Ffestiniog Railway

Ffestiniog Railway

Fancy taking a short trip on the oldest independent railway company in the world? Of course you do, and you’ll find the little train that could waiting in the heart of Wales. The Ffestiniog Railway runs from the harbour of Porthmadog to the mining town of Blaenau Ffestiniog, passing through Snowdonia National Park as it does, ensuring some incredible views and a palpable sense of history within the carriages. The company offers plenty of journeys, but the three-hour charmer between Porth and Blaenau is the one to go for. 

8.  Londonderry to Coleraine

Londonderry to Coleraine

Northern Ireland’s prettiest rail line? While it’s a beautiful place from east to west, the stretch of tracks between Londonderry and Coleraine is right up there. The railway has plenty of history (more than 170 years of the stuff), but passengers can be forgiven for eschewing that in favour of the views waiting outside the window. You simply won’t get better rolling views of the coast than from the comfortable seat of a 3000 class DMU, trundling between the two towns. Michael Palin called it ‘one of the most beautiful rail journeys in the world’, and he wasn’t wrong. 

9.  North Yorkshire Moors Railway

North Yorkshire Moors Railway

North Yorkshire is a treasure trove for railway lovers. As well as being a beautiful city with few equals, York is also home to the National Railway Museum, an absolute must-visit for anyone with even the most rudimentary interest in trains. The North York Moors National Park is truly sumptuous, and no prizes for guessing where the North Yorkshire Moors Railway runs. Yes, that’s right, smack-bang through the aforementioned sumptuous scenery. The journey from Pickering to Whitby takes almost two hours, and tickets start from £45, although members get big discounts.

10.  Inverness to Kyle of Lochalsh

Inverness to Kyle of Lochalsh

Two hours and 45 minutes (give or take a minute or two) of absolute rural bliss. The northern reaches of Scotland are Britain at its most beautiful, and the views afforded to passengers from the cars of the Inverness to Kyle of Lochalsh line are as good as it gets. Ttickets cost £15.90, an absolute bargain considering the beauty outside the window. 

11.  Bluebell Railway

Bluebell Railway

Even the name is all sorts of adorable. The UK offers a fine line of heritage steam railways, and the darling Bluebell Railway down in Sussex is one of the best. Originally opened in 1882, it actually closed in 1958 – sparking a preservation society into action, in the hopes of restoring as much of the original line as possible. They did a darn good job, and today the Bluebell is a time machine, taking you back to the days of steam engines trundling from Sheffield Park to East Grinstead. The journey takes around 40 minutes, and advance tickets cost £25.

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The 13 best train journeys in the UK

The 13 best train journeys in the UK

All products are independently selected by our editors. If you buy something, we may earn an affiliate commission.

From the Scottish Highlands to Cornwall ’s sandy beaches — the following 13 trips showcase Britain’s best train journeys, including quick rail rides, overnight sleeper trains and a brand new Edinburgh route that is the most affordable yet.

Just inside the southernmost rim of Snowdonia National Park this route is blessed by nature from the moment the train...

1. Machynlleth to Pwllheli

Just inside the southernmost rim of Snowdonia National Park , this route is blessed by nature from the moment the train departs. Passengers gaze onto scenes of tall grass smattered with waist-high wildflowers and puffy clouds over peaks fringed with forest. Streams wink and flash in the sunlight, and hikers with sticks wave in the distance. Not long after Dovey Junction station, the ride follows the bends of the River Dyfi until it opens wide onto the Cardigan Bay coast, shaped by fingers of creamy sand and dunes melting into the water. Through the window, glimpse rocky beaches thrashed by teal-green water and campers parked on hills, their tents flapping wildly in the wind. A constant mix of sand and shallow waters overseen by cloud-capped mountains, the journey ends with an urban crawl through the market town of Pwllheli.

Short but so very sweet this 10minute ride between the village of St Erth and the seaside town of St Ives gives...

2. St Ives Bay Line

Short but so very sweet, this 10-minute ride between the village of St Erth and the seaside town of St Ives gives passengers fabulous views of the Cornish coast. Take a seat on the right-hand side of the train as it clatters along the Hayle estuary where birds pick their way through the pools, then take a deep breath as it climbs the dunes and curls around the crescent of Porth Kidney Sands, where the water is inked with blue and striped with green. From an open window, passengers will smell the saltiness in the air as the train winds above Carbis Bay, where sunbathers are dotted on its golden sands. On arrival at St Ives, head straight to the café at Porthminster beach for the crab, chilli and garlic linguine washed down with a lemon-and-thyme G&T.

Opened in May 1876 this segment is one of Englands last great Victorian routes which British Rail wanted to close in the...

3. Settle to Carlisle

Opened in May 1876, this segment is one of England ’s last great Victorian routes, which British Rail wanted to close in the 1980s. But pushback from campaigners, residents and train enthusiasts meant that the 72-mile stretch was saved and continues to seduce both visitors and commuters travelling across the Yorkshire Dales and North Pennines. Boarding at Settle station, with its burgundy trimming and bright flower baskets, passengers are already surrounded by slanting fields of sheep, penned in by the region’s distinctive dry-stone walls. Plunging into tunnels, whizzing across bridges and squeezing through rock cuttings that rise around the carriage, the train negotiates a landscape that often appears to tilt and slide. Crossing rivers, hamlets and miles of peaceful farmland, the journey peaks as the train negotiates the 104ft-high Ribblehead Viaduct where hikers wave from below. For the last half hour look right for views over the Vale of Eden, its hedgerows and farmland spotlit by the sun breaking through low-hanging clouds, before the train terminates in the historic city of Carlisle.

In just under three hours passengers can treat themselves to almost every element one could want on a railway journey...

4. Inverness to Kyle of Lochalsh

In just under three hours, passengers can treat themselves to almost every element one could want on a railway journey through Scotland. Flanked by hot-pink heather, the train canters out of Inverness along the southern bank of the Beauly Firth and soon draws circles around freshwater lochs, clusters of white houses hidden between trees and mottled moors with plenty of deer. Peering between blocks of thick Scots pine, you'll glimpse silver bodies of water, perhaps a single boat tethered to a pier. It’s worth a stopover at the pretty village of Plockton with its palm trees, pocket-size houses and islets dotted around the bay – along with several silky seals. Pick up the journey once more and continue to the Kyle of Lochalsh as the Isle of Skye looms up ahead.

Dont be fooled into thinking that a highspeed train between two major cities cant offer a gorgeous view or two. This...

5. Newcastle to Edinburgh

Don’t be fooled into thinking that a high-speed train between two major cities can’t offer a gorgeous view or two. This route follows England’s north-east coastline into southern Scotland , weaving passengers in and out of the patchworked countryside and misty-blue ocean scenes. Although the first few minutes of the ride include the classic sight of low-hanging wires and warehouses, the train soon shakes off the grime and guts of the city and blares its horn alongside meadows of sheep and picket-fenced farms. Given the journey's speed, flashes of canary-yellow rapeseed fields, the shiny black hides of Aberdeen Angus cows and villages vanish as fast as they rise, so sit on the right and face backwards to draw out the views. As you snake through forest and thunder over bridges , you’ll know when the sea is close as the horizon begins to haze and the edge drops away, revealing a blaze of North Sea blue. Plus, as of late 2021,  Lumo  launched new service, offering travellers one-way fares starting from just £14.90. Not only will it make the journey more affordable, the train itself — part of Lumo's brand new, 100 per cent electric-powered fleet — is much more carbon-efficient than most other models. 

Chugging out of Glasgow Queen Street this train tails the River Clyde for some time before tearing away towards raw...

6. Glasgow to Mallaig

Chugging out of Glasgow Queen Street, this train tails the River Clyde for some time before tearing away towards raw Scottish wilderness. Surrounded by glens tinged with the mauve of wild heather, it climbs up and around the bonny banks of Loch Lomond, clinging to hillsides trimmed with birch trees. Not long after Tyndrum, move to the front of the train and look back as it curls around the horseshoe bend at the foot of Beinn Doran before carrying on to Fort William. It’s a jolly summer jaunt – but brave the bite of wind and sleet and a winter journey brings beauty in the form of frozen rivers and daggers of ice dangling from trees. Towards the end of the line, the train runs along the 21 arches of the Glenfinnan Viaduct at the top of Loch Shiel – a sight commonly known to Harry Potter fans as the route of the Hogwarts Express .

One of only two night services left in the UK the Caledonian Sleeper connects London to Edinburgh and Glasgow on the...

7. The Caledonian Sleeper

One of only two night services left in the UK, the Caledonian Sleeper connects London to Edinburgh and Glasgow on the Lowlander route, and Aberdeen, Fort William and Inverness on the Highlander route. A facelift in 2019 means the train now resembles a mobile hotel rather than a mode of transport. With double beds, en-suite bathrooms and dimmable lights, the train provides a fun way to bed down for the night and arrive fresh for the day ahead. Board, stash your bags and hunt down the dining car for smoked salmon followed by a plate of haggis, neeps and tatties served with whisky-cream sauce. Knock back a wee dram, then drift off as London falls away in the dark, raising the blinds at dawn to the morning mist hanging over the moors.

For unsuspecting travellers this 18minute journey might feel like any other urban trip. The rails roll past graffitied...

8. Exeter St Davids to Newton Abbot

For unsuspecting travellers, this 18-minute journey might feel like any other urban trip. The rails roll past graffitied walls, the backs of terraced houses and a strip of factories. But look to the left and watch as the green marshland narrows to a point, the trees drop away and the train seems to hug the majestic, mile-wide river Exe. In warmer months passengers will see a flotilla of sailboats, kayaks and rowers, while in winter the wetlands are teeming with birdlife from curlews, dunlins and teals to bar-tailed godwits and avocets. Around Dawlish Warren the river merges with the English Channel and a perfect sliver of foam rims the edge of the water as walkers stroll along the coastal path, watching gentle waves break and fizz on the sand. Curving down the coast, the train swings inland once more and runs along the river Teign before coming to a stop at Newton Abbot.

The Belmond Royal Scotsman

9. The Belmond Royal Scotsman

Over seven nights with steward service, four-course suppers – and much whisky – travelling on the Belmond Royal Scotsman is a once-in-a-lifetime chance to soak up Scotland in all its glory. Boarding in Edinburgh , passengers are shown to private compartments in what feels like a long and narrow Edwardian country house decorated with rough tartan cushions, lacquer-polished wood and tufts of fresh heather on the bedside table. As the train sets off for Falkirk, it’s tempting to daydream by the window, but head to the dining car for a lavish afternoon tea of salmon sandwiches and slabs of sticky Dundee cake. Over the next few days, the train passes through Fort William with views of Ben Nevis and the Glenfinnan viaduct, then snakes north towards the Arisaig coastline with day tours to Inverlochy Castle and the Isle of Bute. Expect an excess of everything from windy walks and castles to massages and the heady morning scent of fresh coffee and frying bacon.

The Night Riviera

10. The Night Riviera

The only other sleeper service in the UK, the night train from London’s Paddington to Penzance is a thrill of a ride from the moment you line up to board in the eerily quiet station. Passengers travelling in a sleeper compartment get priority boarding. Most families pull on pyjamas, clean their teeth and slide under the silky-smooth duvets before the train sets off. But if you do, you’re missing out on the hubbub of the dining car where night owls and regular commuters shout and wave one another over to catch up over palm-sized bottles of wine and a tube or two of Pringles. Light sleepers might find the jolts and bumps a disturbance, and it makes sense to pack earplugs to block out the sounds of fellow passengers fumbling up the corridors looking for cabins, their voices drifting in and out of your dreams. A bleary-eyed wake-up is soon forgotten when you open the blind at dawn to find purple mists draped over moors, apricot light streaking the skies – and a knock at the door bringing coffee and a hot bacon roll.

Dartmoor National Park

11. The Dartmoor Line

At the end of 2022, one of the West Country’s most treasured railway lines reopened after 50 years, connecting Exeter with the market town of Okehampton. The line – established 150 years ago – became a victim of the notorious Beeching cuts that saw thousands of stations and branch lines put out of service. However, after two decades of campaigning, the train is now up and running again, much to the delight of hikers, rail enthusiasts and campers who can journey up to the northern edge of Dartmoor National Park. Before the train has even reached its destination, the wildness of the moors makes itself known, wind whipping the windows and branches tickling the sides.

Snowdon Mountain Railway

12. Snowdon Mountain Railway

Since the end of the 19th century, a narrow-gauge railway has puffed its way up Mount Snowdon, taking passengers to the top of Wales’s highest peak. Now a favourite of tourists – and hikers looking for a lift halfway – the train departs from jolly Llanberis station at 30-minute intervals, taking around an hour to climb 1,064m to the summit. Within the first few minutes, you’ll be treated to the sight of the Ceunant Mawr waterfall which crashes down over 100 feet into a gorge, along with old farmhouses, crumbling walls and a feral goat or two. As of April 2022, owing to engineering works, the train is running as far as Clogwyn only, from where walkers are welcome to attempt the one-hour walk to the summit. In 2023 the train will resume its usual route to the top of Hafod Eryri where passengers can hop out, stretch their legs and take in the panoramic views that stretch to Ireland. If you’re in luck you might also spot a peregrine falcon or two.

Coleraine to Londonderry

13. Coleraine to Londonderry

A standard commuter line, this route from Coleraine to Londonderry takes just 40 minutes, giving passengers a taster of some of Northern Ireland’s loveliest views. From the moment of departure, fields surround the carriages on one side while the River Bann runs along the other, its body stretching in the sun. On the approach to the seaside village of Castlerock, the train runs along the edge of a caravan site offering passengers a peek into curtained windows with often a wave or two in return, followed by a smattering of churches and houses that close in then swiftly pull back. Plunging into tunnels, the train reappears alongside a blaze of golden sand until the next twist in the track brings the countryside back to heel. Towards the last 10 minutes of the journey, the River Foyle appears and guides the train to its final destination.

Monisha Rajesh is the author of Around the World in 80 Trains (£9.99, Bloomsbury)

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8 of the Most Scenic Train Rides in the U.K.

Crossing through the picture-perfect British countryside and charming seaside towns, these U.K. train journeys offer beautiful views along the way.

great uk train journeys

From adventurous cross-country journeys to luxurious rides in the world's most beautiful destinations, there's something truly romantic about train travel. It transports passengers to a simpler time, highlighting the joys of moving slowly and, of course, showcasing beautiful views along the way. There are some world-class railways that cut across the English countryside, traverse the mountains of Scotland, and skirt the most stunning sites in Northern Ireland and Wales.

These are the best train rides in the U.K., from luxurious Belmond locomotives to a sleeper train that departs from London and goes all the way to the Scottish Highlands. Check out these eight train journeys if you're seeking a memorable getaway with stunning countryside, seaside towns, and city vistas on display.

British Pullman, A Belmond Train, England

The most indulgent way to explore England's quaint countryside is perhaps on Belmond's British Pullman , which transports passengers back to the roaring '20s in its storied art-deco carriages. There are many trips you can take from London Victoria. Maybe you want to go to the historic Chatsworth House , or the Highclere Castle of Downton Abbey fame? The food on board is delicious and includes seasonal ingredients and indulgent desserts. For design fans, the Wes Anderson carriage blends art-nouveau style, symmetrical lines, and pastel and jewel tones.

Coleraine to Londonderry, Northern Ireland

If you're pressed for time, the route from Londonderry to Coleraine (or vice versa) operated by NI Railways takes just 40 minutes. A bog-standard commuter line, the train ride — once dubbed "one of the most beautiful rail journeys in the world" by actor and train lover Michael Palin — showcases some of Northern Ireland's loveliest spots.

On one side, idyllic pastures and the deep blue sea fill nature's canvas, and on the other, the River Bann roars as far as the eye can see alongside emerald mountains. Tunnels are aplenty, as are period homes, churches, and seaside towns.

Castlerock is well worth exploring for its pretty village, and if it isn't too windy, picnicking on the beach. As for what to do in Coleraine, the town itself is steeped in history — the Mountsandel Fort is one of the oldest human settlement sites in Northern Ireland — but we recommend hopping on a bus and continuing on to Causeway Coast, a UNESCO World Heritage Site with wonders like the Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge and Game of Thrones- famous Giant's Causeway.

Royal Scotsman, A Belmond Train, Scotland

Scotland's luxury sleeper train, the Royal Scotsman , has space for only 36 passengers, so the vibe on board feels intimate and luxurious. En-suite cabins, tasty food (including lots of Scottish salmon), spa treatments with some of the U.K.'s chicest independent brands, and an observation car with a veranda are just a few standout features. There are several routes you can take, including some that go by landmarks like the Kyle of Lochalsh and beautiful Cairngorms National Park, a favorite of Queen Elizabeth II.

Daydreaming on board once the afternoon tea service hits is mandatory as you snake through the Scottish countryside, potentially taking in spellbinding panoramas of Ben Nevis (the U.K.'s highest mountain) or the Arisaig coastline. Luxurious amenities aside, the itineraries provide opportunities for adventure, too, such as hiking the gorges of Aviemore, canoeing on the famous Loch Ness, and shooting at clay pigeons at the Rothiemurchus estate.

Jacobite Steam Train, Scotland

It's no surprise that this Scottish train, operated by West Coast Railways, has become an Instagram sensation. The route from Fort William to Mallaig , in particular, showcases an otherworldly mix of breathtaking U.K. views including craggy mountains, giant lakes, and the photogenic, 21-arch Glenfinnan Viaduct, famous for appearing in the Harry Potter films. In fact, Potter fans have nicknamed the train the Hogwarts Express.

What you see depends on the time of year. In the summer, expect fields of green and the most luminous of sunsets. In the winter, the rivers are frozen and the giant trees glisten with dagger-like icicles. Pro tip: Book a seat in advance, as they can sell out fast.

Settle-Carlisle Railway, England


Often overlooked by Brits, the Settle-Carlisle Railway in northern England runs 73 miles through glorious countryside, showcasing ruggedly beautiful and remote spots along the way. The highlights come courtesy of the Yorkshire Dales National Park, home to fragrant heather, wildflowers, dry stone walls, and rolling hills. The stations here are just as beautiful (imagine charming pit stops flecked with hanging, posy-stuffed baskets), and the surroundings include green fields dotted with sheep. Another reason to hop aboard? This route, which launched in 1876, is one of England's last great Victorian journeys.

St. Ives Bay Line, England

Rory Fuller/Travel + Leisure

This one might only last 10 minutes, but it's still worth it. Opened in 1877, this stretch of track zooms along the beauteous Cornish coast, a treasure trove of coves, azure seas, white-sand beaches, and beautiful coastal towns once adored by the likes of novelist Virginia Woolf and other celebrities. Tip: sit on the right side of the train for the best views, including a glimpse of the wispy sand dunes that eventually blend into the sparkly waters.

Snowdon Mountain Railway, Wales

Although it's more a tourist attraction and necessity for people who want a little help scaling the beautiful Snowdon mountain, this Victorian narrow-gauge railway is still worth exploring, if just for the breezy views. The ride from Llanberis Station and back takes about two and a half hours, which includes a 30-minute stop at the Hafod Eryri visitor center to take in epic views.

Keep your camera ready along the way to capture centuries-old farmhouses, ancient walls, the odd feral goat, and the towering Ceunant Mawr waterfall, which plunges more than 100 feet into a cavernous gorge. As it's pretty old, part of the way is blocked off, so the train currently only runs as far as Clogwyn, where you can hop off and walk the rest of the way to Hafod Eryri. If you're lucky, a clear day will allow you to see all the way to the coast of Ireland.

Caledonian Sleeper, England and Scotland

This old-school sleeper train connects London to Edinburgh via the scenic Lowlander and Highlander routes that weave through Scotland. Don't let the idea of sleeping on a train scare you — this locomotive is more like a hotel on rails: There are cabins with snuggly double beds, swish en-suite bathrooms, and for a dose of extra atmosphere, dimmable lights. A rather fancy dining cart ensures all bellies are fed for the 500-mile, eight-hour journey. This will give you an opportunity to try Scottish delicacies such as haggis and tatties (potatoes) served with a whiskey cream sauce. It's also worth waking up early to catch dawn breaking over the Northumbria countryside.

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Countryside view with a drystone wall, wooden gate and signpost

Iconic British train journeys

From the earliest steam trains to today’s electric carriages, Britain’s railway has formed a huge part of our culture. With over 150 heritage railways across the nation, it’s no surprise that Britain is steaming ahead with exciting train experiences for you to get stuck into. Whether it’s firing up a steam train for yourself, or dining out in style with iconic scenery aboard the restored 1920s Belmond British Pullman, you’ll find the national full of experiences to get you out onto the tracks. 

A sustainable and exciting way to travel, British trains connect our thriving cities, picturesque villages and some of the country’s most striking and inaccessible autumn and winter scenery. So, what are you waiting for? A journey across British rails will leave you in the midst of adventure.

Enjoy a Great British train journey

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A steam train on North Yorkshire Moors Railway billowing clouds of smoke, Yorkshire, England.

Go full steam ahead!

The iconic sights, sounds and smells of the steam train, like the North Yorkshire Moors Railway , can still be enjoyed across the country today and will charm historians and train lovers alike.

Lucy Knott Photography

Woman smiling sitting on bed and looking out of the window on the Caledonian Sleeper

Wake up somewhere new

Stay up late and set up camp in a cosy cabin as you turn your ride into an adventure on a sleeper train. Take the Caledonian Sleeper , Fall asleep in London and wake up in Scotland!

British Pullman, Marisa Davies @tea.from.above

Belmont British Pullman train

Indulge in fine dining

Whether you’re travelling at lunchtime or fancy an afternoon tea, treat yourself to an on-board fine dining experience. The Belmond British Pullman offers the ultimate dining experience, with a three-course meal and stunning scenery.

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Glenfinnan Viaduct, Highlands, Schottland

View of valley in the Highlands and the Glenfinnan Viaduct, steam train on the tracks, Loch Shiel in the background

Get your film fix

Harry Potter fans will want to board The Jacobite – Scotland’s most famous steam train that crosses the large viaduct believed to lead to Hogwarts.

Britain’s most iconic train journeys

The jacobite.

Cross the Glenfinnan Viaduct on the Hogwart’s Express.

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A steam train on the Glenfinnan viaduct, a historic viaduct crossing over the valley at Glenfinnan.

Snowdon Mountain Railway

Enjoy a relaxing journey up Mount Snowdon (Yr Wyddfa).

VisitBritain/Dave Newbould/Snowdon Mountain Railways

Snowdon Mountain Railway, the final ridge with clouds in the background

Night Riviera sleeper train

Venture from London to Cornwall overnight.

GWR train journey

Caledonian Sleeper

Travel in comfort from London to Scotland overnight.

Caledonian Sleeper

The Belmond British Pullman

Mix luxury and adventure on travels across Britain.

VisitBritain/North York Moors Railway

On board staff serving coffee on the Pullman Dining Train.

Gloucestershire Warwickshire Railway

Experience the Cotswolds aboard a heritage steam railway.

Gloucestershire Warwickshire Steam Railway

Experience the thrill of driving a train for yourself

Great central railway.

Go full steam ahead on the Great Central Railway, driving a steam or diesel train.

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Leicestershire, England

A train crosses a bridge as part of the Great Central Railway

Ecclesbourne Valley Railway

Be in control of a diesel train through the Derbyshire Dales.

Ecclesbourne Valley Railway

Gloucestershire Warwickshire Steam Railway

Hop aboard for a footplate experience at GWR.

Gloucestershire Warwickshire Steam Railway

Talyllyn Railway

Get behind a steam engine at the world’s first preserved railway.

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Train on Talyllyn Railway

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South devon railway.

Take the tracks along Devon’s River Dart on a South Devon Railway Heritage Steam Train Experience day . With both diesel and steam driving experiences on offer, you’ll be leading the way between Buckfastleigh and Totnes, chugging through Devon’s iconic scenery.

North Staffordshire Railway - Foxfield Railway

One of Britain’s oldest heritage steam railways, Foxfield Railway offer steam train driving experiences in North Staffordshire. So, it’s full steam ahead as you fire up the engine and gain insight into how the locomotion operates and how the coal is burnt.

Avon Valley Railway

Opening in 1869, this iconic railway connected Birmingham to the South Coast. Now, experience the railway for yourself as you drive either a steam engine or diesel locomotive and take controls through the countryside.

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Ready for a great British adventure? Welcome to our shores! Find information on accessible transport in Britain and accessible facilities across the UK here.

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How to see things differently in Britain in 2024

Gastronomic adventures to eco-friendly stays, world-class sports, and brand-new cultural hubs, 2024 is packed with opportunities to see things differently in Britain.

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Seven of the best UK train holidays: Scenic journeys for exploring by rail

A trip taken on the railways allows you to see another side of the uk – including some of its most attractive views, article bookmarked.

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The Jacobite Steam Train on one of its runs through Scotland

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Whether it’s the slow chug-chug-chug of a steam train winding along the rails or being able to see familiar towns and cities of the UK from a fresh angle, there’s something special about travelling on the railway.

For those opting for a UK holiday this year, there’s plenty of ways to explore the country without needing to fly or strapping yourself in for a long road trip. Seaside resorts, cities – ones where you’ll find history and modern delights – and National Parks can all be discovered with a train holiday. From arriving at the railway station until you’re safely delivered home, the whole journey you’ll be looked after while getting to see the best each destination can offer.

From the UK capital to the Cornish coast and from a jaunt through Wales to a show-stopping tour of the entire country, here are some of the best train holiday packages you can book. The only difficult part is which one will you choo-choo-choose...

Grand Tour of the UK

Bristol is one of several cities on the UK Tour itinerary

Great Rail Journeys offer a holiday that covers several of the UK’s finest cities over 12 days, soaking up everything from historic castles and Roman baths, buzzing canal districts to world-famous museums.

After a day in York, you’ll move on to Edinburgh before a journey on the Jacobite Express (between Fort William and Mallaig) on day five. Your final night in Scotland is spent in Glasgow, before two nights in Liverpool after you return to England.

Day eight and nine are spent in Bristol and Bath , respectively, before a visit to Stonehenge on day 10. You’ll arrive in London at the end of the day, where you’ll witness the opening ceremony at the Tower of London the next morning. With seven days to explore the cities in between tranquil journeys through the spectacular countryside, this is a tour that showcases the UK at its fascinating best.

How to book

From £2,495pp, including 11 nights of accommodation, all train and coach travel, 11 breakfasts and five dinners. greatrail.com

Read more on UK travel :

  • 10 best city breaks for a weekend trip in 2023
  • The best family holiday destinations in the UK
  • Best UK lodge and chalet holidays for 2023

Grand Tour of Scotland

Edinburgh is the final stop on the Grand Tour of Scotland

This 14-night, self-guided tour of Scotland may seem long, but its leisurely nature means you can fully relax as you enjoy rail and boat trips around the isles and Highlands. It begins in Glasgow , where you’ll travel on the famous West Highland Line to Oban (day one) and eventually to Spean Bridge (day three). After some gentle strolls around the Highlands, you’ll take the Jacobite Express before a short journey over to Skye.

By day eight you’ll arrive in Inverness, where you can travel to the famous loch , before venturing as far north as Orkney by day 11. The next day is a return to the Highlands for the last two nights of the trip, before a final journey Edinburgh to end your two-week Scottish odyssey. With days trips to the isles of Mull, Staffa and Iona, plus visits to small towns such as Portree and Plockton, you’re guaranteed to see towering hills, idyllic countryside, beautiful coast and historic cities.

From £2,750pp. This price includes 11 nights bed and breakfast, three nights of dinner, bed and breakfast, four day trips, a single journey on the Jacobite Express, all train and ferry travel, and most of the station transfers. mckinlaykidd.com

London to Cornwall

St Ives offers some of the best beaches in Cornwall

Byway offer the perfect Cornwall trip, whether you’re a Cornish veteran or you’ve never even visited the county. The journey kicks off in London, where one off the most exciting legs of the trip takes you to Bodmin on the Night Riviera train (with a journey time of eight hours), where you can enjoy the views from your cabin before relaxing into a night’s sleep.

The next day, you’ll travel to Padstow – for an 19th-century experience, you can choose to travel along the Bodmin and Wadebridge Railway via steam train for part of the journey. You’ll stay for two nights of exploring, drinking and Rick Stein-inspired eating before travelling to St Ives (via Bodmin), one of Cornwall’s best seaside towns. After a couple of nights spent wandering its winding streets and golden beaches, you travel to Falmouth (the county’s university town) for the last two nights of your trip.

Accommodation and travel (including the sleeper train) start at £939pp. byway.travel

Grand Tour of Ireland

Dublin is Ireland’s most popular city for tourists

McKinlay Kidd’s second flagship offering is a grand tour of Ireland. Covering both the Republic and Northern over 12 days, it starts in Dublin and ends in Belfast , with stops in popular cities such as Galway and Cork. The route covers a good portion of the Wild Atlantic Way, starting in Westport on day one and progressing to points along the County Mayo and County Galway sections of the route. On day four, you’ll take a crossing to Inis Mor (a rugged island covered with towering cliffs and white sand beaches), while the next day you’ll leave Galway for a short and scenic train ride to Ennis in County Clare.

Days seven to nine are spent in Kerry, Killarney and Kinsale, before you arrive at the route’s second standout destination on day 11. You’ll spend two nights in Belfast, exploring the Cathedral and Titanic Quarters, before bidding farewell to the Emerald Isle.

From £2,935pp, including all travel, 12 nights of accommodation, plus tours of Inis Mor tour, Kinsale and Belfast. mckinlaykidd.com

Lakeland Railways and Cumbria

The Lakeland tour features an afternoon cruise on Lake Windermere

Railtrail offer several shorter trips around regions of the UK, with their Lakeland and Cumbria tour offering spectacular scenery, serene settings and historic Lake District villages. Every day begins at your hotel near Grange-over-Sands, and after a relaxing evening, the next day you’ll journey along the Cumbrian coastline to Carnforth and then Morecambe.

You’ll visit Haverthwaite and Bowness-on-Windermere on day three, where you’ll get the opportunity to go on a lake cruise to the southern tip of Lake Windermere. On your final day there’s a rail trip to the coastal village of Ravenglass, where you can enjoy views on the Ravenglass and Eskdale railway .

From £599pp, including travel, accommodation, dinner, one afternoon tea, all activities and rail travel from your home station to Grange-over-Sands. railtrail.co.uk

Snowdon Mountain Railway and Portmeirion

Portmeirion is a little slice of Italy in northern Wales

This jaunt around Snowdonia and Portmeirion is a good choice for those looking to see some of Wales’ most charming seaside resorts and areas of natural beauty. Your base will be the northern coastal resort of Llandudno. Here, a 19th-century pier and long promenades stand over lovely beaches near the centre of town, while inland rolling hills and cliffs offer great opportunities for walking and hiking.

After a day of relaxation, you’ll venture into Snowdonia National Park, where you’ll take the Snowdon Mountain Railway across the region, passing by dramatic waterfalls and a landscape littered with hills before finishing close to the summit of the mountain.

Your next day can be spent in Llandudno, but there’s the option of a trip to Anglesey before the visiting Portmeirion on day four. This tourist village was built in an Italian style over 50 years, with a long stretch of beach – backed by hills and colourful buildings – providing one of the UK’s most surreal backdrops.

From £399 per person, including accommodation in Llandudno, all travel and activities, plus breakfast and dinner on every day of the trip. shearings.com

Yorkshire and Northumberland

York is the main city on the Yorkshire and Northumberland tour

This seven day tour starts in Harrogate, a picturesque town full of Georgian and Victorian architecture, before moving on to York and arriving in Whitby on day three. After a day spent enjoying this quintessentially English seaside town, you return to Harrogate on the North Yorkshire Moors Railway.

On day four, you leave Harrogate behind to travel on the 72-mile Settle-Carlisle Railway, first to Carlisle and then to Alnwick. While in Northumberland, you’ll spend time in Bamburgh and Lindisfarne before returning to York on day seven.

From £895pp. The package includes all rail and coach travel, accommodation for six nights and 12 meals (breakfast and dinner). greatrail.com

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Britain’s greatest scenic train journeys

The best ways to take in the wonderful landscapes of Britain from the comfort of a rail carriage

Glenfinnan Viaduct

There is no more relaxing form of travel than rail, and no better way to enjoy the beauties and sights of a country than through a carriage window, whatever the season. When it came to seeing landscapes, Robert Louis Stevenson thought “none more vivid... than from a railway train”. 

Britain has hundreds of attractive rural railway lines offering scenic delights, and access to great walks or picturesque villages and towns. It has more tourist railways than any other country per capita, attracting millions of passengers every year. 

Royal Scotsman

This hotel on wheels has become a byword for luxury in train travel. The cabins, all en suite, are generously proportioned for a train carriage, but it is the quality of food and the pitch-perfect friendliness of staff that makes a journey on the Belmond Royal Scotsman such a pleasure.

The small galley kitchen produces refined dishes using the country’s produce wherever possible, and there is a good selection of malts to accompany a chat in the lounge car before or after dinner. The varied tours, from three to eight days, are designed to showcase the finest scenery Scotland has to offer, with some focusing on history, others on food and whisky. An open balcony on the rear coach helps photographers capture the sights; wellness aficionados will appreciate the new on-board Dior Spa, with two tranquil treatment cabins. 2024 will also see the addition of two Grand Suite cabins, featuring Highlands-inspired furniture and design.

The details: From £4,400 per person for its Taste of the Highlands itinerary (0845 077 2222; belmond.com ).

North Yorkshire Moors Railway

Britain’s busiest heritage railway runs through 24 miles of glorious countryside, much of it within the North York Moors National Park. Using a section of Network Rail, trains climb along the Esk Valley from the coast at Whitby to reach the North Yorkshire Moors Railway’s own tracks at the junction of Grosmont.

Engineered by George Stephenson himself, the railway traverses wooded country to the moorland village of Goathland, still remembered as the setting for the TV series Heartbeat. Some passengers break the journey here to walk into the village or explore the famous mile-long stretch of road – Roman or even earlier – across Wheeldale Moor. Leaflets suggest walks from the other intermediate stations before journey’s end at the market town of Pickering and its 13th-century castle.

The details: Daily services return on March 23, and tickets for 2024 will go on sale soon (01751 472508; nymr.co.uk ).

The train at Goathland Station

The Jacobite

The West Highland Railway traverses some of the wildest country crossed by a British railway line, connecting Glasgow with Fort William, though it’s the onward extension to Mallaig that is best known. The famous curving viaduct at Glenfinnan (pictured top) featured in four of the Harry Potter films, and the Jacobite steam trains that run to the fishing port from April to late October draw thousands to the area for its spectacular landscapes.

After a glimpse of the Caledonian Canal at Neptune’s Staircase – a flight of eight locks – the railway skirts Loch Eil and is soon running beside the sea. Cattle can sometimes be seen on the white sands near Morar with views over sea lochs to the Small Isles of Muck, Eigg and Rum. Inland there is a panorama of mountains dotted with the stones of sheep pounds and crofters’ cottages. The Caledonian Sleeper from London, some carriages with en-suite showers and even a double bed, are the most romantic and relaxing way to reach Fort William.

The details:  The Jacobite runs from March 28 to Friday October 25, from £64 return (0844 850 4685; westcoastrailways.co.uk ). Caledonian Sleeper, London to Fort William, from £405 for a double cabin (0330 060 0500; sleeper.scot ).

On board the Caledonian Sleeper

Ffestiniog and Welsh Highland railways

Both these narrow-gauge railways terminate at a shared station in Porthmadog and thread Snowdonia. The Welsh Highland Railway to within a stone’s throw of the castle at Caernarfon, and the Ffestiniog Railway to the slate-quarrying town of Blaenau Ffestiniog.

The Ffestiniog Railway has numerous claims as to why it should go down in railway history – locomotive trials in 1870 attracted delegations from nine countries, including Russia and India – but it is the spectacular scenery that fills trains. These leave Porthmadog across the narrow Cob with the sea on one side and a mountain-backed polder on the other, before climbing to a unique spiral near the summit.

The scenic highlight of the Welsh Highland Railway is the passage through the Aberglaslyn Pass, though there isn’t a single dull moment in its 25 miles. The steep gradients of both lines call for special steam locomotives. The Ffestiniog Railway offers an observation car while the Welsh Highland Railway has two Pullman cars, one of them with an observation end (a supplement applies to all).

The details:  Welsh Highland Railway from £70 for two, return; Ffestiniog Railway from £50 for two, return. Services restart on March 25 (01766 516000; festrail.co.uk ).

Landscapes near Blaenau Ffestiniog

Dartmouth Steam Railway

West Country resorts were the destination of hundreds of excursion trains during the summer months when everyone went on holiday by rail. The Dartmouth Steam Railway was once the route of the Torbay Express and now makes an end-on connection with Network Rail before continuing south to a terminus at Kingswear.

The line climbs from Paignton to give a panorama over Torbay before crossing a saddle in the hills to descend along the Dart Estuary to Kingswear, passing Agatha Christie’s holiday home at Greenway, now in the care of the National Trust. Various ticket options allow you to take the return journey by river cruise with a bus connection to complete the circuit between train and boat.

The details:  £21 return (01803 555872; dartmouthrailriver.co.uk ).

The Dartmouth Steam Railway

Bluebell Railway

Southern’s trains to East Grinstead provide an easy way for Londoners to reach the Bluebell Railway whose station is a few minutes’ walk from the main-line platform. The 11-mile journey to Sheffield Park weaves through well-wooded Sussex countryside, carpeted with bluebells in spring.

Each of the four stations is restored to evoke a different period in the line’s 137-year history, and the quiet country junction of Horsted Keynes, with its small refreshment room on the island platform, is one of the most atmospheric of all heritage railway stations. Because it was the first standard-gauge heritage railway, opening in 1960, the Bluebell has a fine collection of vintage carriages, adding to the charm of the journey. Take a stroll to the National Trust gardens at Sheffield Park before returning.

The details:  All-day Adult Rover tickets from £25 (01825 720800; bluebell-railway.com ).

The Bluebell Railway

Shrewsbury to Pwllheli/Aberystwyth

The railway serving the resorts of Cardigan Bay between Aberystwyth in the south and Pwllheli in the north meanders through central Wales and landscapes of rolling hills devoted to livestock farming or woodland. The two lines diverge at lonely Cyffordd Dyfi (Dovey Junction), accessible only by footpath. The southern route heads for the university town and a chance to take the Vale of Rheidol narrow-gauge railway to the well-known eponymous falls.

Gingerly edging along the cliffs above the sea, the northern line also provides connections to narrow-gauge railways – the Talyllyn Railway at Tywyn and the Ffestiniog and Welsh Highland railways at Porthmadog. A highlight is the crossing of the Mawddach Estuary by the 1867 timber bridge near Barmouth, shared with cyclists and pedestrians.

The details:  Shrewsbury to Pwllheli, from £27.10 return; Shrewsbury to Aberystwyth, from £24.80 return (0333 3211 202; tfw.wales ).

The bridge over the Mawddach Estuary

Cumbrian Coast (Lancaster to Carlisle)

The fastest way between Lancaster and Carlisle is the West Coast main line over Shap summit, but the slow-travel route via Barrow and Whitehaven provides long stretches of railway beside the treacherous sands of Morecambe Bay and the Irish Sea. The West Coast main line is left at Carnforth Station where Brief Encounter was filmed in 1945. 

Long viaducts carry the railway across estuaries, and the landscapes bear few scars from the mining, steel and shipbuilding industries that once dominated the Furness peninsula. Past the firing range at Eskmeals is Ravenglass and the start of the delightful Ravenglass & Eskdale Railway, a 15-inch gauge line used by many walkers as a way to reach the western fells. Beyond Whitehaven, one of England’s first planned towns, the railway turns inland through pleasant farming country to reach the border city of Carlisle.

The details:  From £26.50 return (0800 200 6060; northernrailway.co.uk ).

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On the Luce travel blog

Britain by train: Five great one-week UK rail trip routes

Posted on Last updated: June 5, 2024

Explore Britain by train with five of the best British rail trip itinerary ideas you can do in just one week, covering historic England, scenic Scotland, the Cornish coast, UK cities, and Wales and the Borders.

* This site contains affiliate links , where I get a small commission from purchases at no extra cost to you.

Britain by train: Five great one-week rail trip routes

I love a good rail trip and have travelled by train across Europe and beyond. But there are plenty of fantastic rail adventures close to home in the UK too – from Cornish coastal trains to the journeys across the wild Scottish highlands. And the country’s relatively small size means you can pack a lot into a short time, with rail passes available to keep costs down.

Whether you’re looking for history and culture, coast and countryside scenery or the UK’s coolest cities, there’s the perfect British rail trip for you. So here are five great itineraries for exploring Britain by train. It’s possible to do each of the routes in a week, but if you’ve got more time you can take it slower and spend more time in each place.

And if you’re ready to go, check out my detailed one-week itinerary posts – linked to after each route description below – for full details of which trains to take, how much they cost, how to book tickets, what to see and where to stay along the way.

Don’t want to organise it yourself? You can also book a custom rail trip based on any of our Britain by train itineraries through our partners Byway ,* the flight-free holiday platform. And you can save £100 off your first booking using the code LUCE100 if you book before the end of June 2024.

5 itineraries for exploring Britain by train

London's St Pancras station

Historic England

London > Salisbury > Bath Spa > Oxford > Stratford-upon-Avon > York

This rail trip takes you across England and back through time, featuring some of the country’s most impressive castles, cathedrals and colleges. Start with a full day in London , choosing from its selection of historic buildings, museums and monuments, including the Tower of London, Westminster Abbey, British Museum and Shakespeare’s Globe.

Then catch a morning train to Salisbury (1.5 hours). This riverside city is known for its 13th-century cathedral, where you can see one of the surviving copies of the Magna Carta and take a tour of the tower. Or travel back 2000 years to Roman times at Old Sarum.

Salisbury cathedral

Next travel to Bath Spa (1 hour). Bath is known for its Roman history, so don’t miss the Roman Baths – and you can soak yourself in the modern version at the Thermae Spa with its rooftop pool. There’s also the beautiful Georgian architecture of the Royal Crescent and Circle, and whole festival dedicated to Jane Austen who lived in the city in the 1800s.

Then take the train to Oxford (1 hour 10 mins), one of the UK’s most famous university cities. Take a tour of the college quads – Harry Potter filming location Christ Church is the star, but Magdalen, New College, Trinity and All Souls are also well worth visiting.

The Radcliffe Camera in Oxford

Call in to the quirky Pitt Rivers Museum to see its anthropology exhibits or explore art and antiquities at the Ashmolean Museum. Then catch a morning train to Stratford-upon-Avon (1.5 hours). Spent the afternoon in Shakespeare’s home town – you can visit his birthplace, school and houses his wife and mother lived in, and see his plays at the RSC theatre.

Then finish your trip by travelling north to York (4 hours), where you’ll have the afternoon and the next morning to walk the Roman city walls, visit the Minster, explore the cobbled lanes and half-timbered buildings of the Shambles and have afternoon tea at Betty’s.

Read the full Historic England by train itinerary

Britain by train: Historic England one-week rail trip route map

Scenic Scotland

Edinburgh > Glasgow > Fort William > Mallaig > Isle of Skye > Inverness

This Scottish rail itinerary takes you from the lowlands to the highlands via rugged coastlines, lakes, moors and castles. Start in Edinburgh and spend the day discovering the city’s highlights, from Edinburgh Castle and the Royal Mile to the Palace of Holyroodhouse and views from Calton Hill. Or discover hidden gems like underground Mary King’s Close .

Then catch the train on to Glasgow (1 hour), where the focus is on art, design and culture – from street art trails and the eye-catching modern Riverside transport museum along the redeveloped waterside to the Art Nouveau buildings of Charles Rennie Mackintosh.

Views of Edinburgh from Calton Hill

Next head north to Fort William (3 hours 45 mins), a lochside town that’s a hub for adventure sports in the nearby Nevis Range. The journey takes you into the Scottish Highlands along the West Highland Line, rated as one of the most scenic rail trips in the world. Go hiking or biking, or taste whisky with a view at the Ben Nevis Distillery.

Rejoin the West Highland Line to travel across the Glenfinnan Viaduct to Mallaig (1.5 hours) – or from April to October you could upgrade to a ride on the Jacobite steam train , also known as the Hogwarts Express from the Harry Potter films. Then leave the train behind and cross over to the Isle of Skye on the ferry from Mallaig to Armadale.

Portree harbour on the Isle of Skye, Scotland

Spend a day exploring the Isle of Skye by bus or tour, with the pretty harbour town of Portree, the waterfalls of the Fairy Pools and the dramatic rock formations of the Quiraing. Then the following morning, cross the bridge to Kyle of Lochalsh by bus (1 hour) where you can catch the train to Inverness (2 hours 40 mins), capital of the highlands.

The Kyle Line is another of the UK’s top scenic train routes, passing lochs, mountains and herds of deer. Spend the evening and next morning in Inverness. Explore the castle and riverside, take a monster-spotting trip on Loch Ness or visit historic Culloden battlefield.

Read the full Scenic Scotland by train itinerary

Britain by train: Scenic Scotland one-week rail trip route map

The Cornish coast

St Ives > Falmouth > St Austell > Newquay > Looe > Plymouth

This UK train trip takes you to the far south-west of England, along some of Cornwall’s most beautiful coastal and countryside railways. Start off in the arty seaside town of St Ives , home to the Tate and Barbara Hepworth galleries along with beaches and coast walks.

If you’re travelling from London you can get reach St Ives on the Night Riviera overnight sleeper train (8 hours), changing at St Erth onto the St Ives Bay Line which runs past the golden sands of Carbis Bay. Then travel east to Falmouth (1.5 hours), changing in Truro onto the Maritime Line which runs through unspoilt countryside to the coast.

Train views from the St Ives Bay Line in Cornwall, England

Visit Falmouth’s castle and maritime museum, or take a boat ride along the Fal River or across to neighbouring St St Mawes and the Roseland Peninsula. Then take a morning train to St Austell (1.5 hour) where you change onto a bus to reach the Eden Project, whose two giant biomes bring the rainforest and the Mediterranean to Cornwall.

Head back to St Austell to catch the train along the Atlantic Coast Line to Newquay (1 hour 20 mins). Check out some of Newquay’s 11 beaches and watch the surfers in action on Fistral Beach – or give it a try yourself. Grad a traditional Cornish pasty and watch the fishing boats come into Newquay harbour, or head underwater at Blue Reef Aquarium.

Boats in the harbour in Newquay, Cornwall

Then travel on to the pretty fishing village of Looe (3 hours). The Looe Valley scenic train line connects Liskeard and Looe, running along an estuary full of birdlife. Walk a stretch of the South West Coast Path to Polperro or visit the marine nature reserve of Looe Island, and make sure to try some local seafood and wine from Looe Valley Vineyard.

Finally travel on to your final stop in Plymouth (1 hour). Take a walk along the city’s waterfront, climb to the top of Smeaton’s Tower lighthouse and follow the journey of the Pilgrims at the Mayflower Museum before heading home – or exploring more of Devon.

Read the full Coastal Cornwall by train itinerary

Britain by train: Coastal Cornwall one-week rail trip route map

London > Brighton > Bristol > Manchester > Liverpool > Leeds

This city-centric train route takes you to some of the UK’s coolest cities, with coffee shops, vintage shops, street art and quirky bars along the way. Start off in London and the East End’s most hipster neighbourhood – Shoreditch. Visit Brick Lane market, take a graffiti tour and try food from around the world at the Box Park shipping container pop-up market.

Then catch the train south of London to Brighton (1 hour 15 mins) for a day at the seaside. Visit the Brighton Pavilion, browse the indie shops in the narrow streets of the Lanes and play the slot machines on the pier before tucking into fish and chips on the beach.

Cargo at Wapping Wharf, Bristol

The next day travel west to Bristol (1.5 hours). This harbourside city is a centre for independent food, art and craft businesses. Try tasty street food at St Nicholas Market or at Cargo in Wapping Wharf, and go Banksy spotting in Stokes Croft. Visit Brunel’s historic steamship the SS Great Britain or walk over Clifton Suspension Bridge at sunset.

Catch the train north to Manchester (3 hours). This north-west city famous for its football and music is a great place to catch a gig or shop for vinyl and vintage fashion before a night in the Northern Quarter’s bars. Or visit the museums and media hubs of Salford Quays.

MediaCityUK in Salford Quays, Manchester

Then from Manchester, it’s only around an hour by train to local rivals Liverpool. Check out the exhibits at the Tate Liverpool and Merseyside Maritime Museum in the Albert Dock, or take a Beatles themed walking tour and catch the ferry across the Mersey.

Then finally travel north-east to the West Yorkshire city of Leeds (1.5 hours). Discover local artworks on the Leeds Welcome Art Trail, visit the Corn Exchange for boutique shops in a stunning setting, sunbathe in Roundhay Park or take a tour of Leeds’ craft breweries.

Read the full UK cities by train itinerary

Britain by train: UK cities by train itinerary map

Wales and the Borders

Cardiff > Shrewsbury > Aberystwyth > Harlech > Llandudno > Chester > Cardiff

Our final Britain by train itinerary takes you across Wales, travelling from the capital through the unspoilt Welsh Marches to the spectacular coastline and mountains of North Wales. Start in Cardiff and spend the day exploring its historic side at the castle and its modern side among the contemporary buildings of redeveloped Cardiff Bay.

Then catch the train north to Shrewsbury (2 hours), a traditional market town across the border which was home to Charles Darwin. Visit its castle and take a boat trip on the River Severn. Then head back into Wales and the coastal town of Aberystwyth (2 hours) – a seaside holiday favourite with its sandy beach, Victorian promenade and Wales’ oldest pier.

Cardiff Castle keep in Wales

Next catch the Cambrian Coast Line north through Snowdonia (Eryri) National Park to Harlech (3 hours), with scenic views along the way as you cross the estuary at Barmouth. Then explore Harlech’s hilltop castle or take an afternoon trip to the nearby quirky, Italian-style village of Portmeirion (the closest station is at Minffordd, 15 mins from Harlech).

Next head to Porthmadog (25 mins) and change onto the Ffestiniog Railway’s historic steam trains to travel to Blaenau Ffestionig in style (1 hour 20 mins). (Note the Ffestiniog Railway only runs from March–October, so outside of that you’ll need to take a bus.)

The Italian-style village of Portmeirion in North Wales

Then head back into the 21st century as you travel on to Llandudno (1 hour 15 mins). Another of Wales’ Victorian seaside resorts, Llandudno has panoramic views from Great Orme, which you can reach on foot or via the vintage tram or Llandudno Cable Car.

Finally travel across the border to Chester (1 hour 20 mins). Explore the city’s Roman ruins, walk around its city walls, admire the Eastgate Clock and shop the medieval black and white Rows. Then finish off your trip by travelling south back to Cardiff, passing the impressive Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, Herefordshire countryside and Shropshire Hills.

Read the full Borders and Wales by train itinerary

Britain by train: Welsh borders one-week rail trip route map

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Explore Britain by train with five of the best British rail trip itinerary ideas you can do in just one week, covering historic England, scenic Scotland, the Cornish coast, UK cities, and Wales and the Borders | Britain by train | UK train itinerary | Rail travel in the UK | British rail trip

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Gregory Bass

Monday 15th of January 2024

Hey Lucy I enjoy reading about all your travels and Itineraries but feel that it would somewhat overwhelming for me to plan. It has been a dream of mine to travel the UK by car or train. Twenty years ago I traveled Spain and Portugal by train but there was no planning involved. I was younger and just took a train to a city or town and if I liked it I stayed and if I didn't I moved on. I have also planned a year of traveling the west coast of the US for work when I was younger and that was before GPS. I just don't feel I know where to start. We definitely will want London as the starting point and Harry Potter is a must have since my husband is crazy about the series. We plan on spending anywhere from 10 to 15 days and that will all depend on what we try to squeeze into our trip. I was wondering if you had any ideas on how to start and what to do and see that are must dos. I would want to depart from London as well so whatever we do will have to include returning to London. We like nice accommodations but don't want to break the bank. Our travel schedule would be sometime between May thru August of 2025. I do have friends that live there so some downtime to allow visits with them would be needed as well. Any suggestions you can give would be greatly appreciated.

Lucy Dodsworth

Monday 22nd of January 2024

Hi Gregory, if you want to book through a company I would recommend Byway who can organise custom train itineraries and book all the train travel and hotels for you. With 10–15 days you could cover a lot of the UK depending on what your interests are, or add on a trip on the Eurostar to Paris or Amsterdam.

Wednesday 31st of May 2023

Hi Lucy This site is great! My husband and I will be arriving at Southampton after a transatlantic cruise on Sat April 20, 2024. We don't have our return flight plans yet as we are hoping to stay in England for at least a week. In 2012 we spent a month (Sept) traveling and sightseeing the UK by rail and had a great time - carrying only backpacks. We had time to visit the popular spots: London, Bath, York, Chester, Edinburgh, Loch Ness, Penzance, Bournemouth, Aberystwyth and much of Wales. This time (we are older!) and we will have luggage (ugh). We are thinking about exploring some less touristy places and poking around smaller villages, etc. Maybe staying at a B&B or somewhere that is centrally located and near a well connected train station where we can take day trips or short rail excursions in and out. Is that possible or even a good idea? Where would you suggest? Do we need a travel agent? I expect we will depart from Heathrow. Any advice will be appreciated!!

Sunday 25th of June 2023

Hi Martha, one area I'd definitely recommend is the Cotswolds. You can stay in Moreton-in-Marsh which is on a mainline train route from London and get from there via train to Oxford and Stratford-on-Avon, and there is a good Cotswold tour from Moreton as well as buses to places like Broadway, Chipping Campden and Stow-on-the-Wold. I have a whole website about the Cotswolds with lots of info (https://explorethecotswolds.com) and it's easy to explore without needing a travel agent.

Tuesday 23rd of May 2023

Hi Lucy, We are going to be in UK for 14 total days (not including travel to and from the US). We want to do two of these (exactly what I was thinking and perfectly laid out, thank you!). Wondering if you can help me understand the best way to buy the train tickets. We are family of 4 with an 18 yr old and 16 yr old. Starting and ending in London - want to do this: London > Salisbury > Bath Spa > Oxford > Stratford-upon-Avon > York - then from York do this: Glasgow > Fort William > Mallaig > Isle of Skye > Edinburgh to catch the Tattoo then back down to London. Maybe I need a travel agent to help :-)

Friday 26th of May 2023

You can buy tickets for specific trains in advance from the rail companies but it might be worth looking at getting a railpass – either an InterRail One Country Pass for the UK or a Britrail pass – as that means you can be more flexible. You can buy these in advance online and there are good discounts for under 25s.

Thursday 27th of February 2020

This info is amazing, thank you for posting Lucy! I am researching/looking into traveling to the UK (specifically Scotland) for the first time (coming from Toronto, Canada) this year and wasn't really sure where to start in terms of transportation once I arrived. I have bookmarked your page just for future reference. These routes and links will be so helpful, especially for a newbie to the area.

Also, love your blog & will definitely check out more of your recommendations .

Monday 9th of March 2020

Thanks Amy, great to hear it was useful! And have a wonderful trip.

Ellen D Leeper

Wednesday 25th of September 2019

Hi Lucy, What a comprehensive and great resource! I heard dogs are allowed on trains in the UK? Any feedback on that? I have a small guy but we are doing a couple months in the UK and Scotland so thinking trains vs. driving are the way to go. Thanks for such a great website! I'll watch this one!

Thursday 26th of September 2019

Hi, yes you can take dogs on trains in the UK so you should be fine with that!

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8 Luxury Train Journeys In The UK For Your Bucket List

Looking for a unique travel experience to celebrate a special occasion? Did you know that luxury train journeys in the UK offer an unmatched blend of comfort and breathtaking scenery? This article guides you through choosing and booking unforgettable luxury rail adventures.

Get ready for an enchanting ride.

Why Choose Luxury Train Travel in the UK?

Transitioning from the introduction to exploring why luxury train travel in the UK stands out, it’s clear that this mode of exploration offers an unmatched experience. Luxury trains like the Belmond British Pullman and The Royal Scotsman serve as your gateway to experiencing the British countryside through a lens of elegance and comfort.

Passengers enjoy unique experiences and scenic routes that are often inaccessible by other modes of transport, capturing the essence of luxury rail travel.

These luxurious train journeys aren’t just about getting from point A to B; they redefine what travel means. Onboard, guests are treated to exceptional service, fine dining and Champagne afternoon tea, making every trip memorable.

These trains whisk you away on excursions filled with splendor – think steam-powered voyages aboard Steam Dreams or a day trip on the Midland Pullman where every detail is catered for utmost satisfaction.

This combination of luxurious amenities onboard and captivating scenic views outside make each journey more than just a ride but an unforgettable adventure across the UK’s most beautiful landscapes.

Unique experiences and scenic routes

Luxury train journeys across the UK offer an exclusive window to breathtaking landscapes and hidden gems. Travelers enjoy a luxury ride through rolling hills, picturesque villages, and rugged coastlines unmatched by any other mode of travel.

Each route curated for luxurious trains in the UK charts a course through some of England’s most stunning scenery, promising snapshots that linger long after the journey ends.

Onboard these opulent locomotives like the Northern Belle or the Shakespeare Express , passengers are not just moving from one place to another; they’re immersing themselves in a golden age of travel.

They witness history and nature intertwine as they glide past castles steeped in lore and forests brimming with wildlife. These experiences elevate a simple day trip in the UK to an unforgettable adventure, making every mile traveled a moment to cherish.

Exceptional service and onboard dining

Luxury train journeys in the UK redefine exceptional service, setting a new benchmark for travel. Guests aboard these lavish trains are greeted with warm welcomes by attentive staff members dedicated to making every moment unforgettable.

Each carriage is designed for comfort and elegance, where passengers can relax in plush seats surrounded by exquisite decor reminiscent of a bygone era.

Onboard dining turns each meal into a culinary celebration. Chefs onboard use fresh, local ingredients to prepare dishes that delight the senses, served on fine china accompanied by silverware and crystal glasses.

Whether enjoying a leisurely breakfast as picturesque landscapes glide by or savouring a gourmet dinner under the stars, dining on luxury trains offers an unmatched experience.

Top Luxury Train Journeys in the UK

Embark on an unforgettable railway adventure and explore the top luxury train journeys in the UK. Experience unparalleled comfort, exquisite dining, and breathtaking views as you travel in style aboard these prestigious trains.

Discover the epitome of luxury travel as you venture into these distinctively tailored experiences that offer unparalleled levels of indulgence and sophistication.

1. The Belmond British Pullman

The Belmond British Pullman offers some of the most luxurious train journeys in the UK. Step aboard this iconic train, known as the sister train to the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express , to experience opulent carriages, fine cuisine, and captivating day trips.

With its iconic 1920s and 1930s carriages meticulously restored to their former glory, passengers are treated to an opulent experience evoking the golden age of travel. Popular destinations include Gusbourne Winery , Broadstairs on the Kent coast, Bath in Wiltshire, Chatsworth House and Blenheim Palace.

Renowned for its exceptional service and scenic routes, this luxury train journey is tailored towards offering an unforgettable day trip or overnight escape. The onboard dining showcases the best of British cuisine, with seasonal produce and fine wines for a truly indulgent experience.

A Belmond British Pullman dining carriage

2. Steam Dreams

Specializing in steam train journeys as you might guess from their name, Steam Dreams have quickly made a name for themselves in the world of luxury train rides. They have a great collection of historic locomotives which have been brought back to life.

We were fortunate to experience a trip on board 7000 Britannia to Kent, the Garden of England . This daytime trip takes you through some beautiful countryside to the impressive White Cliffs of Dover.

The company’s commitment to providing a first-class experience is evident in its attention to detail and exceptional service, making it a top choice for those seeking an unforgettable luxury train ride. Our journey from London Victoria started at 10am precisely – as one of the other passengers said, why can’t all trains be as punctual as this vintage one!

There are three classes available: Pullman Dining , First Class (without dining, includes access to the exclusive Hippocrene Bar) and Premium Standard . We loved the Pullman Dining service, with its seasonal, locally sourced dishes and attentive, friendly service.

Steam Dreams offer several other tempting journeys such as the  Sunset Steam Express Evening Tour  through the Surrey Hills and the London to Goodwood Revival & Chichester .

Steam Dreams 7000 Britannia steam train

3. The Northern Belle

Immerse yourself in luxury with sumptuous surroundings, gastronomic delights, and captivating day excursions to iconic destinations across Britain.

With seven individually designed and carefully restored carriages adorned with intricate marquetry and plush upholstery, The Northern Belle is renowned for providing an unparalleled level of service and comfort. Equally impressive is the onboard dining, featuring seasonal menus prepared by skilled chefs, creating an unforgettable culinary experience for passengers on their journey.

A standout feature of The Northern Belle is its themed excursions such as Dunrobin Castle, Weymouth Harbour or the Royal Yacht Britannia in Edinburgh . Each journey is meticulously crafted to provide not only a picturesque trip but also an immersive exploration of different regions within the UK.

Passengers are treated to live entertainment during their travels, adding further delight to the overall experience aboard The Northern Belle. Whether it’s a special occasion or simply a desire for luxurious travel, embarking on The Northern Belle ensures an indulgent escape into British elegance.

4. The Royal Scotsman

Delight in elegant interiors, gourmet dining experiences, and personalized service while traversing Scotland’s stunning landscapes on this exclusive sleeper train.

The Royal Scotsman offers one of the most luxurious train journeys in the UK. With its vintage carriages and exquisite interiors, this train journey is a must for those seeking an upscale travel experience.

The sleeper train accommodates only 40 passengers, ensuring an intimate and exclusive atmosphere. Book a Grand Suite, Double, Twin or Single Cabin and relax in style! The journey takes guests through breathtaking Scottish scenery, including castles, the Highlands , and lochs, providing a truly immersive experience.

Passengers are treated to exceptional service and gourmet dining featuring locally sourced ingredients. The train offers various itineraries ranging from two to seven nights, allowing travelers to tailor their journey according to their preferences.

From the on board Dior Spa to the ceilidh dancing and panoramic Observation Car , The Royal Scotsman promises an unforgettable luxury travel adventure.

A Grand Suite on the Royal Scotsman sleeper train

5. West Coast Railways

Billing themselves as “the greatest railway journey in the world”, this company offer several unforgettable experiences, including the iconic Jacobite steam train. Boasting a fleet of meticulously restored vintage carriages, West Coast Railways provides an exceptional service that combines old-world charm with modern comfort.

Passengers can immerse themselves in the breathtaking landscapes of Scotland as they journey across the famous Glenfinnan Viaduct, featured in the Harry Potter films.

The company also operates trips and dining experiences on board The Dalesman to Carlisle from Chester and York. The Scarborough Spa Express travels to York or Scarborough from Leeds or Skipton, while The Pendle Dalesman journeys from Lancaster to Carlisle.

West Coast Railways promises an exciting adventure for those seeking a touch of elegance during their UK travels.

Glenfinnan Viaduct Scotland features in the Harry Potter films

6. Midland Pullman

The first luxury high speed diesel electric train, the Midland Pullman operated in the 1960s between Manchester Central and London St Pancras. It has been lovingly restored, with leather cushioned seats and spacious tables.

The Midland Pullman promises a luxurious experience, with a choice of Pullman Dining or First Class service. Renowned for offering day trips and short breaks across central England, this luxury train journey is equipped with elegant dining cars and comfortable seating, providing travelers an exquisite taste of British luxury.

This unique train offers a selection of day trips to choose from such as the Cornish Riviera Pullman and weekend breaks such as the West Highlands Pullman where you have the freedom to book your own hotels. These journeys immerse passengers in an opulent setting while gliding through captivating landscapes.

7. The Railway Touring Company

The Railway Touring Company offers unforgettable luxury train journeys in the UK and worldwide, including day trips and longer excursions. With a variety of routes to choose from, such as the Scottish Highlands and the picturesque Lake District , passengers can experience breathtaking landscapes from the comfort of their plush carriages.

The company prides itself on providing exceptional service and attention to detail, ensuring that travelers have a memorable and relaxing experience onboard.

Passengers embarking on a journey with The Railway Touring Company can expect top-notch dining experiences featuring locally sourced ingredients and expertly prepared meals. From steam-hauled trains to vintage carriages, each journey is meticulously designed to showcase the best of British railway history while offering modern comforts.

8. Vintage Trains Company

Currently the only charitably-controlled train operating company in the UK, Vintage Trains offer a great selection of steam train journeys. Choose from the delightful Shakespeare Express which journeys to Stratford-upon-Avon and a range of express steam rides such as The Melton Pieman, The Cathedrals Express to Lincoln and The Christmas White Rose to York Christmas Market.

One of their most enchanting train journeys is The Polar Express™ . Departing from Birmingham Moor Street Station, it features a reenactment of the classic children’s tale.

You can also charter The Shakespeare Express as a private train via this company, with space for up to 100 in Pullman Dining Class or up to 320 in Tourist Class seats. In addition, Vintage Trains can arrange a special train to other destinations with three months notice.

Planning Your Luxury Train Journey

Best times to travel.

The best times to travel on luxury train journeys in the UK are during Spring, Summer and Autumn months. These seasons offer pleasant weather, beautiful landscapes, and more daylight hours for enjoying the scenery.

Consider traveling during the off-peak season, typically in Spring or Autumn, to avoid crowds. Booking your trip during off-peak times can sometimes lead to cost savings and a more relaxed experience onboard.

Traveling between April and June or from September to October allows you to witness the vibrant colors of blooming flowers in spring or enjoy the stunning foliage of autumn. Consider these periods when planning your luxurious train adventure through the picturesque British countryside.

Luxurious British train journeys

Booking tips and considerations

When booking a luxury train journey in the UK, it’s advisable to plan well in advance. Popular journeys often sell out quickly, particularly during peak seasons such as summer and special events like holidays or festivals.

Flexible travel dates can increase the chances of securing tickets for your preferred route and time. Check for special themed journeys or seasonal events that align with your interests and preferences.

Research the various cabin options available on the train to find the best fit for your travel needs and budget. Explore package deals that may include accommodation, meals, and off-train excursions for a comprehensive experience.

Consider joining loyalty programs or newsletters offered by luxury train companies. This not only provides access to exclusive deals and early booking opportunities but also keeps you informed about upcoming experiences and promotions.

Furthermore, be sure to review cancellation policies and any additional fees related to rebooking or changing travel dates.

Luxury train journeys in the UK offer unique experiences and exceptional service. The Belmond British Pullman, Steam Dreams, and The Northern Belle are top choices for travelers looking to embark on a memorable adventure.

Planning your luxury train journey involves considering the best times to travel and booking tips. With scenic routes and outstanding onboard dining, these luxurious trips promise an unforgettable experience for those seeking more than just transportation.

  • The Bluebell Railway in Sussex

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UK Travel Planning

See the best of Britain by train (2 week itinerary + maps & tips)

By: Author Tracy Collins

Posted on Last updated: April 19, 2024

Follow our 14-day itinerary to see the best of Britain by train including top destinations in England, Wales and Scotland. We’ve done all the planning so you don’t have to!

Do you have 14 days to explore Britain but are struggling to put together an itinerary? Not sure what places to include or how to get around? You will find everything you need to know to see the best of Britain by train in this article.

We have included 5 of Britain’s most popular destinations in 3 countries – London, Bath, Cardiff, Edinburgh, and York with the option of choosing between 2 others -the Lake District and Liverpool – on days 7 and 8.

For each destination included in the itinerary, you will find recommendations of what to do and see, accommodation suggestions, and logistics plus practical details and tips to ensure your 14-day train trip around England, Wales and Scotland is everything you dream of.

I have also included a map illustrating the points of travel, the distance between destinations, and the estimated travel time for each leg of the journey.

Good to know! For non-UK citizens we recommend purchasing a BritRail Pass or the Eurail Global Rail Pass for this 2-week itinerary – click to find out more about BritRail passes & Eurail Global Rail Passes or here to read our comparison guide.

Britain by train - 14 day itinerary map.

Days 1 – 3 London

Day 4 london – bath, day 5 bath (day trip – cotswolds or stonehenge), day 6 bath – cardiff, day 7 cardiff – liverpool or lake district, day 8 – liverpool or lake district, day 9 liverpool or lake district to edinburgh, day 10 edinburgh, day 11 edinburgh (or day trip), scotland by rail itinerary, day 12 edinburgh to york, day 13 – york, day 14 – york to london, listen to our introduction to uk train travel podcast, what train cards or passes are recommended for this uk train travel itinerary, where can i buy train tickets, what do i need to know about travelling the uk by train, can i take luggage on uk trains.

  • Are any of the UK's scenic train routes included in this itinerary?

Enjoy your UK train travel adventure

See britain by train with our 14 day itinerary.

A minimum of 3 days in London is recommended especially if it is your first visit to the city . This will give you enough time to see the main London landmarks and tick some attractions off your London bucket list.

This 14-day Best of Britain by train itinerary begins with Days 1/2 and 3 in London and ends on Day 14 back in the capital. Depending on your flight or onward travel itinerary, you may have some flexibility to add a few more sights in London .

London Day 1

I recommend spending your first day visiting some of the most popular London attractions, landmarks, and sights.

If you are feeling energetic a self-directed walking tour of the main sights located in central London is one option.

Alternatively, consider booking a guided tour. We recommend the London In a Day: Tower of London, Westminster Abbey & Changing of the Guard tour from Take Walks . This comprehensive tour is dedicated to the quintessential sights of the city: Westminster Abbey, Tower Bridge, Changing of the Guard, a Thames river cruise, and a full Tower of London tour with access to the Crown Jewels.

If you prefer to take it easy on your first day (don’t discount the effects of jetlag), a hop-on hop-off bus tour is another option and a great way to orient yourself with the city.

London Day 2

If you did not visit the Tower of London on Day 1 I would recommend starting your morning by exploring this ancient and historic landmark.

Afterwards, walk to the 43rd floor of the Walkie-Talkie building for lunch at the Sky Garden (London’s highest public garden). Entry to the Sky Garden is free but it is essential to book tickets ahead of your visit.

In the vicinity of the Sky Garden are 4 other landmarks and buildings worth visiting – St Dunstan in the East Church Garden, Pudding Lane, St Paul’s Cathedral, and Leadenhall Market.

After exploring the area jump on the Central Line at St Paul’s changing at Holborn for the Piccadilly Line to Covent Garden. Enjoy the street entertainment, shops, and attractions around Covent Garden before dinner and a show.

London Day 3

Today I recommend visiting the British Museum in the morning. The museum is always busy so try to arrive as early in the day as possible. I recommend purchasing a ticket that enables you to skip the line so you don’t waste precious vacation time in a queue.

If you are visiting with children we recommend this private customised family-friendly tour of the museum with a special children’s guide. During the 2 hour tour, you will enjoy favourite displays such as the Egyptian mummies and the Rosetta Stone with your guide.

For your final afternoon in the city, I have a few alternatives depending on your interests.

If you enjoy shopping head to Harrods. If you enjoy history a trip to Churchill’s War Rooms is a great option. If you have young kids head to London Zoo or – if they are up for another museum – the Natural History Museum in South Kensington. If you have visited London previously and are seeking something different I highly recommend jumping on the Thames Clipper to Greenwich.

For those of you with specific interests, this may also be a great time to do a themed tour – Harry Potter, James Bond, Jack the Ripper are some examples of the themed walking tours available in London .

These are just a few ideas for your first 3 days in London – please see our detailed itinerary posts for more.

View of 2 people standing with umbrellas opposite the Houses of Parliament in London.

On Day 4 depart London for the South West of England and one of England’s most beautiful and oldest cities – Bath!

For centuries Bath’s naturally warm and mineral-rich waters attracted those who sought its curative powers and potential for rejuvenation.

Roman Baths constructed nearly 2000 years ago, stunning Georgian architecture, a museum dedicated to Jane Austen and numerous boutiques, independent shops and tea houses are just some of the attractions of the city.

Tip – Take an early train from London and you will have most of the day to explore.

🌟 Highlights of Bath

  • Roman Baths
  • Royal Crescent
  • Jane Austen Centre

Read more – One day Bath Itinerary – follow our one day in Bath itinerary to see the cities sights, attractions and landmarks.

Read more – Bath Travel Guide – our complete guide to visiting Bath including accommodation suggestions, where to eat, and what to read before you visit.

🗺 Logistics London – Bath

  • London to Bath travel time by train is approximately 1 hour 20 minutes  
  • Depart London Paddington (Platform 5 typically) arrives Bath Spa (Platform 1 typically)
  • This is a direct train service with Great Western Railways

🏨 Accommodation options in Bath

  • Best luxury spa hotel in Bath –  The Gainsborough Bath Spa  is a luxury 5* hotel and the only UK hotel to have access to naturally heated thermal waters within its Spa Village.
  • Best mid-range hotel in Bath –  Eight  is a small independent boutique hotel in the centre of Bath.
  • Best budget option in Bath –  Grays  is a boutique B&B situated in an imposing semi-detached Victorian villa located 15 minutes from the centre of Bath.
  • Find more options in my guide to the best places to stay in Bath

Roman Baths in Bath.

On day 5 you have a few options. Bath is close to two of England’s most popular destinations and I highly recommend including at least one of them in your itinerary.

Your options are

Spend another day exploring Bath OR

  • Take a day tour from Bath and explore the beautiful Cotswold villages and/or Stonehenge OR
  • Travel independently taking the train from Bath to Salisbury and catch the Stonehenge tour bus from there.

We will explore these options in more detail so you can decide which you prefer.

A row of cottages in Bibury UK.

☂️ Day tour options from Bath

I have picked the best day tour options to the Cotswolds available from Bath. Stonehenge is also included in some of these tours.

If you decide to include both destinations (Cotswolds & Stonehenge) in one tour bear in mind that you will have less tim e to explore the Cotswolds but this may be the best option if you really want to see both.

It is possible to travel to Stonehenge independently using public transport from Bath to Salisbury (and onto Stonehenge) but I have included some day tours too so you can choose the best option for your needs.

Day tours from Bath to the Cotswolds

  • ‘Stonehenge & Secret England’ Private Full-Day Tour from Bath – Private tour to Stonehenge then personalize your sightseeing to visit castles or gardens, or take a film location tour of medieval villages featured in ‘Harry Potter,’ ‘Downton Abbey,’ and other hits.
  • Full-day private Cotswolds tour from Bath – Explore idyllic villages and famous Cotswold towns on this 9-hour full-day tour. This will give you a wonderful overview and experience of what the Cotswolds is all about.

Day tour from Bath including Stonehenge

  • Stonehenge, Avebury stone circles & stunning Cotswold Villages – Full-day tour which includes the beautiful villages of Lacock and Castle Combe.

Day tours from Bath to Stonehenge

  • Stonehenge Private Tour (Half-Day Tour from Bath) – Includes a detailed guide to Stonehenge and private end-to-end transportation from your Bath hotel.
  • Bespoke private tours of Stonehenge and Avebury by car with a local guide – Half or full-day tour to the prehistoric stone circles at Stonehenge and Avebury.

Stonehenge in England.

🗺 Logistics – Bath to Salisbury (Stonehenge)

  • Bath to Salisbury travel time by train is approximately 1 hour  
  • Depart Bath Spa arrives in Salisbury 

Britain by train - 14 day itinerary map showing day 6 of 14 - Bath to Cardiff.

On day 6 hop on the train for a journey of just over an hour to a new country – Wales . The Welsh capital of Cardiff is the buzzing centre of this Celtic nation.

Crammed with cultural hotspots, charming Victorian architecture, a rich history, impressive castles, and modern urban hangouts, Cardiff has a whole heap of things for visitors to do and see.

🌟 Highlights of Cardiff

  • Cardiff Castle
  • Sail Cardiff Bay
  • Stroll the Centenary Walk through the city
  • Take a themed Dr Who or Gavin & Stacey tour

Read more – Things to do in Cardiff

🗺 Logistics Bath – Cardiff

  • Bath to Cardiff travel time by train is approximately 1 hour 12 minutes  
  • Depart Bath Spa (Platform 1 typically) arrives Cardiff Central (Platform 3/4 typically)

🏨 Accommodation options on Cardiff

  • Best luxury spa hotel in Cardiff – Voco St David’s Hotel is a waterfront hotel with balconies, bay views, and a luxury spa.
  • Best mid-range hotels in Cardiff – 4*  Hotel Indigo Cardiff  offers modern accommodation and a rather splendid Marco Pierre White restaurant!
  • Best budget option in Cardiff – Hotel Number One Hundred   is a boutique-style B&B offering superb value for money.

Cardiff Castle

On Day 7 you can choose to either spend a few days exploring the city of Liverpool or alternatively a rural experience in the beautiful Lake District.

If you are a fan of the Beatles Liverpool is the must-visit destination. Take the Magical Mystery tour and visit the childhood homes of Paul and John before dancing the night away at the Cavern Club.

Alternatively head to the Lake District and explore its stunning lakes and mountains, quaint towns and villages , from your base in Windermere .

Britain by train - 14 day itinerary map showing day 7 of 14 - Cardiff to Liverpool.

🗺 Logistics Cardiff – Liverpool

  • Cardiff Central to Liverpool Lime Street travel time by train is approximately 3 hours 25 mins.   
  • Depart Cardiff Central (Platform 1/2 typically) arrives Crewe (platform 6 change trains and depart at platform 6) to Liverpool Lime Street (Platform 9 typically)
  • There is one change required at Crewe. Transport for Wales trains from Cardiff to Crewe and then Crewe to Liverpool on Avanti West Coast

🏨 Accommodation in Liverpool

  • Best Liverpool Hotel for Beatles fans –  The Hard Days Night Hotel  is decorated with Beatles memorabilia and located around the corner from the Cavern Club – our number one choice when staying in Liverpool.
  • Best mid-range hotel in Liverpool –  The Titanic Hotel is located in a historic warehouse in the UNESCO World Heritage Stanley Dock. Spacious rooms in a unique setting.
  • Best budget option in Liverpool –  The Resident Liverpool   offers affordable accommodation in a central location.

⭐️ Find more options in my area & accommodation guide to Liverpool

Lake District

Britain by train - 14 day itinerary map showing day 7 of 14 - Cardiff to Lake District.

🗺 Logistics Cardiff – Lake District

  • Cardiff to Windermere in the Lake District train time is approximately 6 hours with 2 changes required.  
  • Depart Cardiff arrives Windermere
  • Change at Crewe (arrive and depart platform 6) and catch the Avanti West Coast to Lancaster (arrive and depart from platform 3) on Northern Trains to Windermere (Platform 1).

🏨 Accommodation in the Lake District

  • Best luxury hotel in Windermere –  Macdonald Old English Hotel and Spa  is a luxury 5* hotel and spa perched on the shores of Lake Windermere.
  • Best mid-range hotel in Windermere –  Cragwood Country House Hotel is located in stunning gardens on the shores of Lake Windermere. It offers spacious rooms, exceptional food, and a relaxing experience for guests.
  • Best budget (ish) hotel in Windermere – The 3* Windermere Manor Hotel is an 1850’s stone manor house offering dog-friendly accommodation.

Tip – More accommodation options can be found in my guide to the best places to stay in Lake Windermere

Liverpool versus the Lake District illustration.

🌟 Highlights of Liverpool

  • Albert Dock
  • Beatles Tour
  • Tate Modern
  • Enjoy a football match 

Read more – Liverpool Travel Guide (including tips, itinerary & map

Statue of the Beatles.

🌟 Highlights of the Lake District

  • Boat trip across Windermere
  • Take a Hike and enjoy stunning views
  • Visit Hill Top the former home of Beatrix Potter
  • Enjoy a drink in an English pub  

Read more – Lake District Travel Guide

Train in the Lake District.

On day 9 travel from Liverpool or the Lake District to Edinburgh. Journey time from both departure points is around 3 – 4 hours so you will arrive in plenty of time to start exploring the sights of Edinburgh.

Top tip – Book a hotel near the train station, drop your bags, and head out to the Royal Mile and soak in the atmosphere of the Scottish capital. This hop-on-hop-off bus pass is great to explore Edinburgh at your own pace with a 3-route tour ticket.

🗺 Logistics – Liverpool to Edinburgh

  • Liverpool Lime Street to Edinburgh travel time by train is approximately 3 hours 45 minutes  
  • Depart Liverpool Lime Street arrives Edinburgh
  • One change at Preston in Lancashire.

🗺 Logistics – Windermere to Edinburgh

  • Windermere to Edinburgh travel time by train is approximately 3 hours 10 minutes.
  • Depart Windermere arrives Edinburgh Waverley
  • Depending on time of travel 1 or 2 changes at Oxenholme in the Lake District (and possibly an additional change at Carlisle) .

🏨 Accommodation in Edinburgh

  • Best luxury hotel in Edinburgh –  The Balmoral is a luxury 5* hotel
  • Best mid-range hotel in Edinburgh –  Radisson Blu Hotel Edinburgh City Centre
  • Best budget option in Edinburgh –  Elder York Guest House

Scotland’s capital is historically rich and scenically beautiful. The winding cobblestone streets of its Old Town offer quaint medieval charm which is contrasted by the New Town, the very epitome of Georgian style.

There is culture and history around every corner and numerous landmarks, sights, and attractions to explore.

🌟 Highlights of Edinburgh

  • Edinburgh Castle
  • Walk the Royal Mile
  • Shop on Princes Street
  • Enjoy the views from Arthur’s Seat 

Read more – Things to do in Edinburgh

Edinburgh castle.

Day 11 provides a couple of options. You could spend more time exploring Edinburgh OR take a day trip to see more of Scotland’s famous sights, landmarks, and attractions.

☂️ Best day trips from Edinburgh

There are some fantastic day trips you can do from Edinburgh. You could hire a car for the day but we recommend either jumping on the train or taking an organised tour especially if you want to fit as much as possible into your day.

Destinations which can be reached easily by train from Edinburgh in 2 hours or less include:

  • St Andrews (1½ hours)
  • South Queensferry (30 mins)
  • The Kelpies & Helix Park (1 hour)
  • Glasgow (1 hour)
  • Pitlochry (2 hours)
  • Linlithgow Palace (20 mins)
  • Dundee (1 hour 30 mins)
  • Stirling Castle (1 hour)
  • Loch Lomond (1 hour 40 mins)

We recommend the following day tours from Edinburgh:

  • Hogwarts Express and Scottish Highlands Tour – Escape the city for the day and head to the Scottish Highlands. Follow in the footsteps of the world’s most famous wizard, Harry Potter, and jump on board the Hogwarts Express on an unforgettable journey on the Jacobite Steam Train.
  • Loch Ness, Glencoe & the Highlands Tour from Edinburgh – Enjoy a full-day tour and experience some of the most dramatic scenery the Scottish Highlands has to offer. Spend time at mysterious Glencoe and have the chance to enjoy a cruise on Loch Ness and a visit to Urquhart Castle.
  • Loch Lomond, Kelpies, and Stirling Castle Small-Group Tour – Discover the Scottish Highlands on a full-day small-group tour, and see forests, lochs, and stunning mountains. Explore Scotland’s history and learn about its greatest heroes with visits to Stirling Castle, Loch Lomond, and more.
  • Loch Ness, Highlands & Whisky Distillery Tour – Experience the natural beauty of the Scottish Highlands on a full-day coach tour to Loch Ness, Glencoe, and the Trossachs National Park. Go to a working whisky distillery for an optional tasting. Stop for lunch in Fort Augustus and more.

The Kelpies.

Why not combine this best of Britain by rail itinerary with our Scotland rail itinerary?

Scotland Rail Itinerary

We have done the work for you and produced a 21 day + plus complete UK rail itinerary which includes the best of England, Scotland and Wales.

UK rail trip - 14 day itinerary map showing day 12 of 14 - Edinburgh to York.

On Day 12 depart Edinburgh for York. This ancient city is located halfway between Edinburgh and London and its medieval city walls, museums, and shops make this the perfect destination for the last stop on your 14-day tour of Britain.

Journey time is around 2½ hours.

Good to know – Book a seat on the left side of the train (facing direction of travel) for views of the beautiful Northumberland coastline as you journey towards Newcastle and look out for the iconic Angel of the North after departure.

The train passes through Durham and Darlington before arriving in York.

🗺 Logistics Edinburgh – York

  • Edinburgh Waverley to York travel time by train is approximately 2 hour 25 minutes  
  • Depart Edinburgh Waverley arrives York
  • This is a direct train service with London North Eastern Railway (LNER)

🏨 Accommodation in York

  • Best luxury hotel in York – The Grand York is the only 5* hotel in York. Chic, luxury rooms in a grand Edwardian hotel.
  • Best mid-range hotel in York – The Bar Convent is England’s oldest living convent and one of the most unique places to stay in York.
  • Best budget option in York – Wheatlands Lodge offers good value accommodation only 5 minutes walk away from York train station.

🌟 Highlights of York

  • York Minster
  • Walk the Walls
  • The Shambles
  • The Jorvik Viking Centre 

Read more – York Travel Guide

York Minster.

Day 14 is the final leg of this UK train itinerary and will take you from York back to London.

Journey time is a little over 2 hours which means (depending on your flight time) there is the possibility of spending a few more hours exploring London.

🗺 Logistics York – London

  • York to London Kings Cross travel time by train is approximately 2 hours 10 minutes
  • Depart York arrives London King’s Cross
  • This is a direct train service with LNER

FAQs – Travelling the UK by train

If you are considering following this UK rail trip itinerary the easiest and most cost-effective way to travel is to either purchase a BritRail Pass or a Global Eurail Pass . These tickets are only available for overseas visitors so buy them before you arrive.

What are the advantages of purchasing a BritRail Pass?

  • The Britrail M-Pass is an electronic rail pass that can be downloaded directly onto your phone. Also available to print as a PDF copy if you prefer.
  • No need to stress over searching for ticket prices and booking each leg of your journey separately.
  • No need to stick to a rigid timetable as you can travel as much as you like on each day your BritRail Pass is valid.
  • Easier than searching for ticket prices for every leg of the journey.
  • Cheaper than buying individual tickets.
  • Children travel free with most passes. A family of 4 will only pay for 2 adults.
  • No queuing at ticket offices to purchase your ticket – just head to the platform and hop on the train.
  • Airport transfers by rail are included (Heathrow Express, Gatwick Express, and the Stansted Express)

For the itinerary above I recommend purchasing a Britrail GB M-Pass or a Global Eurail Pass as these passes enable unlimited travel across the full length of England, Wales, and Scotland.

I recommend comparing these passes before you buy as you may find one is more cost-effective for your trip.

Click for more information and to purchase BritRail Passes

Click for more information and to purchase a Global Eurail Pass

For this 2 week itinerary, I recommend purchasing a Britrail Pass or a Global Eurail Pass .

If you are planning to take a limited number of train trips purchasing individual tickets may be more cost-effective.

  • 🗓 Purchase prior to travel for the cheapest train tickets .
  • 🚆 Bookings open 12 weeks (84 days) before the date of travel.
  • 🎫 Tickets can be purchased online via thetrainline.com
  • ⚠️ Reservations are compulsory on many services.
  • 😷 Check regulations in regard to Covid-19 prior to travel.

Our complete guide to travelling the UK by train details everything you need to know including how and where to buy tickets, tips for your day of travel and what to expect from your UK train trip.

You can take up to 3 pieces of luggage for free on UK trains including 2 large items such as suitcases or rucksacks.

Store luggage in overhead luggage racks, under the seats, and in the luggage compartments at the end of each carriage.

Are any of the UK’s scenic train routes included in this itinerary?

Some of the most scenic train journeys in the UK are included in this itinerary including the East Coast Mainline from Edinburgh to York.

If you are planning a UK rail trip itinerary for the first time you will find our comprehensive guide to using the UK train network an invaluable resource.

Written by Doug Collins who worked on UK railways for over 25 years it contains practical information, tips, and advice to ensure you make the most of your UK rail adventure.

Read more – Complete guide to travelling the UK by train

  • 13 Tips to save money on rail travel in the UK
  • 9 tips for those planning to travel the UK by rail
  • Guide to the 9 regions of England
  • UK trip planner
  • Guide to English drinks
  • Lines to Explore
  • Plan a trip

great uk train journeys

Tamar Valley Line

Plymouth - gunnislake.

Explore the riverside village of Calstock. Great pubs & walks.

great uk train journeys

Looe Valley Line

Liskeard - looe.

Enjoy great estuary views and Looe’s harbour and beach.

great uk train journeys

St Ives Bay Line

St Erth (P&R) - St Ives

One of Britain's most scenic railways. Amazing views.

great uk train journeys

Maritime Line

Truro - falmouth docks.

Visit Falmouth’s harbour, beaches, castles and shops.

great uk train journeys

Atlantic Coast Line

Par - newquay.

Arrive in the heart of Newquay ready to hit the beach.

Couple exploring Dartmoor

Dartmoor Line

Exeter - Okehampton

Dartmoor adventures right from Okehampton station.

great uk train journeys

Exeter - Barnstaple

Take in the countryside views and explore North Devon.

great uk train journeys

Riviera Line

Exeter - Paignton

Travel the famous Devon coast to the English Riviera.

Avocet Line

Avocet Line

Exeter st davids - exmouth.

Journey along the Exe Estuary to Topsham and Exmouth.

great uk train journeys

East Devon Line

Exeter st davids - axminster.

Visit Honiton and Axminster with countryside views.

Great Scenic Railways

  • Tamar Valley Line Plymouth – Gunnislake
  • Looe Valley Line Looe – Liskeard
  • St Ives Bay Line St Erth – St Ives
  • Maritime Line Truro – Falmouth
  • Atlantic Coast Line Par – Newquay
  • Dartmoor Line Exeter – Okehampton
  • Tarka Line Exeter – Barnstaple
  • Riviera Line Exeter – Paignton
  • Avocet Line Exeter – Exmouth
  • East Devon Line Exeter – Axminster
  • Explore Cornwall by train Glorious beaches, estuaries, wooded valleys – soak up the views on your way to beloved coastal destinations.
  • Explore Devon by train From rolling countryside to seaside views, Devon’s branch lines offer a real taste of the West Country.

Walks from the railway

Rail ale trails, beaches by train.

  • Arts, culture and heritage
  • Vinyl Trail
  • Times and prices
  • Parking and public transport
  • Travelling with kids
  • Taking bikes
  • Dogs on trains
  • Assisted travel

It's all about the Journey

Great Scenic Railways

Some of Britain's most scenic railways

Explore Devon and Cornwall by train and enjoy stunning coastal views, rolling green countryside, wooded valleys and river crossings.

Visit picturesque villages, fabulous beaches, historic market towns and bustling cities. Forget the hassles of taking the car and concentrate on exploring to your heart’s content.

Devon and Cornwall are famed for their beaches. You can reach some of the best of them by train. Take your pick with our at-a-glance guide:

Enjoy a fine pub? Try our seven Rail Ale Trails. Sample real ales and great food along your chosen line. You can even win a T-shirt!

Foodie Guides

Read our top tips for scrumptious cafes, delis and purveyors of top quality local produce - all located near branch line stations.

great uk train journeys

Enjoy the views of the lush Tamar Valley. Explore gems like the riverside village of Calstock with its great pubs and walks.

GWR train on Looe Valley Line at high tide

Weave alongside the estuary, then visit Looe’s harbour, beach and coastal walks.

GWR train on St Ives Bay Line

St Erth Park & Ride - St Ives

One of Britain's most scenic railways, with amazing views of the golden sands.

GWR train on the Maritime Line between Truro and Falmouth

Visit Falmouth’s harbour, beaches, castles and National Maritime Museum.

Newquay beach scene

Arrive in the heart of Newquay and hit the beach within just 5 minutes' walk.

Belstone Tor

Exeter Central - Okehampton

Explore Dartmoor's peaks, woodlands and waterfalls. Or cycle the Granite Way to Lydford - with top pubs en route.

Couple at Umberleigh

Exeter Central - Barnstaple

Take in the countryside views and discover North Devon and the famous Tarka Trail.

GWR IET at Dawlish on Riviera Line

Exeter Central - Paignton

Enjoy glorious sea views along the Devon coast, then explore the English Riviera.

Avocet Line

Journey along the Exe Estuary to Topsham and Exmouth. Great walks and views.

East Devon Line from Exeter to Axminster

Visit Honiton and Axminster, with onward bus connections to the Jurassic Coast.

Great Days Out

From short strolls to longer rambles, we’ve got maps and directions aplenty for walks starting or finishing at many of our stations.

Stunning Coastal Walks

You can walk from Looe to the beautiful village of Polperro along the stunning South West Coast Path.

The walk is only 6 miles and you can catch the bus back to Looe from Polperro to make it a circular walk.

Group of people walking down the South West Coast Path into the fishing village of Polperro

Liskeard - - - Causeland - - Looe

Buying tickets.

great uk train journeys

Liskeard to Looe

Tickets & train times, scenic walks from the riviera line.

Combine a trip on The Riviera Line with a scenic walk. Get your free booklet of maps and directions for six short walks from Riviera Line stations.  There are also even more walks available online, courtesy of the South West Coast Path team.

From Starcross or Dawlish Warren stations, you can explore the beautiful Exe Estuary by foot, bus or ferry – see map .

great uk train journeys

Exeter Central - - - - - - Dawlish - Teignmouth - - - Torquay - Paignton

Exeter to paignton, train times and prices.

great uk train journeys

Soak up the culture

With two World Heritage Sites, two National Parks, ancestral homes, castles and festivals, Devon and Cornwall have a rich cultural heritage.

great uk train journeys

Great shopping

Whether you like exploring hidden back street gems, or hitting the high street brands, our destinations offer it all.

great uk train journeys

On your bike

Enjoy estuary views by bike on the glorious Tarka Trail, starting from Barnstaple station. Hire a bike or bring your own.

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British Pullman

Belmond British Pullman

Luxury British Pullman Train Travel across the UK

Step aboard the British Pullman luxury train and be whisked back to a more elegant era. Experience pure 1920's style opulence as you navigate through the glorious British countryside on one of many themed journeys available throughout the year. With authentic, fully-restored carriages, the British Pullman is "The" train to enjoy a luxury train day trip in the UK. Finished with fine woods and the highest-quality fabrics, the Pullman-style carriages are exceptional in every way, complimented with exceptional service and multiple courses of the most exquisite cuisine. A truly unforgettable journey that will evoke memories you will cherish forever, our British Pullman day trips are the perfect retreat back to a time where luxury was unrivalled in every aspect. The 1920's carriages have sheltered royalty and have even starred on the silver screen. Each carriage is delightfully styled with antique upholstery, vintage lighting with every detail truly taken care of. History has truly been preserved at its finest aboard the British Pullman. The British Pullman offers round-trip, single day luxury train travel departing from London Victoria. A generous selection of journeys means finding your perfect journey is easy; whether you're looking for a luxury train trip to enjoy with friends, or to spend with a loved one, we are pleased to offer a range of journeys suited for every occasion. Our ever-popular Champagne Afternoon Tea offers a luxurious jaunt across the countryside as you enjoy a relaxed and sociable time aboard the British Pullman, while our Murder Mystery Lunch offers an incredible, immersive experience accompanied by delicious food.

If you require more information or assistance with your booking or are interested in a group or corporate journey, please do not hesitate to contact us .

British Pullman Afternoon Tea

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Love Exploring

Love Exploring

The most beautiful (and budget) train journeys in the UK and beyond

Posted: 22 January 2024 | Last updated: 22 January 2024

Slow and relaxing, train travel is one of the best ways of getting around if you have the time to spare. Some of the most breathtaking views in the world can be enjoyed from behind a train window and you don't necessarily have to shell out the big bucks for an epic ride. Here we take a look at the world's most scenic train journeys that you won't have to splash out on.

Christchurch to Greymouth, New Zealand

Taking in some of New Zealand's most dramatic landscapes, the TranzAlpine route from Christchurch to Greymouth travels through some of the most incredible sights on the South Island. The train crosses the Canterbury Plains and travels alongside the Waimakariri River before ascending into the mountains where it crosses the Staircase Viaduct. One-way fares start from £116 ($142) and all the seats line up with the huge panoramic windows and roof skylights.

Perhaps one of the most stunning features along the TranzAlpine route is traversing the snow-capped mountains of Arthur's Pass National Park. The scenery then quickly turns subtropical as the train continues its journey through the west coast's rainforests. Make sure to step out on the open-air viewing car at least once.

Glasgow to Mallaig, Scotland, UK

Dubbed Britain's most scenic train route, the West Highland Line runs from the Scottish city of Glasgow to Fort William before continuing its journey towards the port of Mallaig. The journey traverses the Scottish Highlands' epic landscape and passes through the remote wilderness of Rannoch Moor. After a brief stop in Fort William, the train crosses the Glenfinnan Viaduct – the same bridge the Hogwarts Express crosses in the Harry Potter films.

For an even more authentic Harry Potter experience, hop aboard The Jacobite steam train – the one used in the films. The train now runs Monday to Friday from mid-May to early October (and Saturdays and Sundays from late June to late August) between Fort William and Mallaig. A one-way ticket costs $40 (£31.75). Otherwise, regular ScotRail trains run every day and the fares average around $76 (£60.80) for an off-peak ticket.

For an even more authentic Harry Potter experience, there's The Jacobite steam train – it's the one used in the films. In 2023 the train ran Monday to Friday from early April to late October between Fort William and Mallaig. The 2024 season is yet to be announced. A standard adult return ticket costs £57 ($70). Otherwise, regular ScotRail trains between Glasgow and Mallaig run every day and a one-way off-peak fare is around £42 ($51).

Stretching along the Pacific coastline, Amtrak's Pacific Surfliner connects the southern Californian cities of San Luis Obispo and San Diego. It's a comfortable 350-mile (563km) journey taking in stunning ocean views, beaches, rocky coast and quaint towns along the way. The train stops in places like Santa Barbara and Los Angeles so, if you have time, you can hop off and explore.

San Luis Obispo to San Diego, California, USA

Stretching along the Pacific coastline, Amtrak's Pacific Surfliner connects the southern Californian cities of San Luis Obispo and San Diego. It's a comfortable 351-mile (565km) journey taking in stunning ocean views, beaches, rocky coast and quaint towns along the way. The train stops in places like Santa Barbara, Anaheim and Los Angeles so if you have time, you can hop off and explore.

<p>One-way fares start from $60.70 (£49) and the full journey takes just under six hours. The route offers 11 daily round-trip services between San Diego and Los Angeles, and five between Santa Barbara and San Diego so you can be flexible with your itinerary. Take a look at <a href="https://www.loveexploring.com/guides/74496/explore-san-diego-where-to-stay-what-to-eat-the-top-things-to-do">our guide to San Diego</a> and discover <a href="https://www.loveexploring.com/news/84605/what-to-see-do-where-to-stay-san-luis-obispo-california">the best things to do in San Luis Obispo</a>.</p>

One-way fares start from around £50 ($61) and the full journey takes just over eight hours. Normally, the route offers 13 daily round-trip services between San Diego and Los Angeles, five to Santa Barbara and two to San Luis Obispo so travellers can be flexible with their itinerary, but do check the website for the latest timetables and service updates.

Built by the British in the late 1800s, Sri Lanka's rail system was originally used to transport tea and coffee for export so it's no surprise that this seven-hour trip takes passengers through stunning tea plantations, remote villages, lush green hills and tumbling waterfalls. If you're traveling from Kandy, know that the better views are from the seats on the right.

Kandy to Ella, Sri Lanka

Tickets cost $3 (£2) for a third-class, one-way reserved seat and $10 (£7) for a first-class ticket. The train makes several stops along the way where locals sell fresh fruit and snacks right by the tracks.

Flam to Myrdal, Norway

Often described as one of the most beautiful train rides in the world, this journey is just under two hours and takes in some of the most beautiful scenery Norway has to offer. The Flåm Railway travels from sea level at the Sognefjord in Flåm to the Myrdal mountain station, 2,841 feet (866m) above sea level.

Passing deep ravines, cascading waterfalls and towering peaks, the journey is equally stunning in both summer and winter, when a blanket of snow turns the green landscape into a winter wonderland. The Flåm Railway connects with trains running between Oslo and Bergen, and one-way fares start from $50 (£40).

Williams to Grand Canyon Village, Arizona, USA

The trip on the Grand Canyon Railway begins in Williams, a small town 30 miles (48km) west of Flagstaff. Meandering its way through ponderosa pine forests and open prairie, the train terminates in Grand Canyon Village on the South Rim of the Grand Canyon National Park before heading back to Williams. On the way, passengers are encouraged to get into the spirit of the Old West and enjoy the musical entertainment, cowboy characters and other surprises.

One-way fares start from $67 (£54) to $226 (£180) for a seat in the luxury dome car which has a private bar service and incredible views. Pick the luxury parlor and you'll be able to step out on the rear platform to see the changing landscape from a different perspective.

One-way fares start from £57 ($70) for a traditional Pullman Class seat up to £195 ($240) for a spot in the luxury dome car which has a private bar service and incredible views. Pick the luxury parlour and you'll be able to step out on the rear platform to see the changing landscape from a different perspective.

The two-hour journey on the Kuranda Scenic Railway begins in Cairns and takes visitors through one of the world's oldest rainforests. The tropical scenery takes in waterfalls, mountains and ravines as well as one of Queensland's most popular national parks, Barron Gorge. In Kuranda, visitors can tour the historic train station which is more than 100 years-old, plus a reptile park and a butterfly sanctuary.

Cairns to Kuranda, Queensland, Australia

The two-hour journey on the Kuranda Scenic Railway begins in Cairns and takes visitors through one of the world's oldest rainforests. The tropical scenery takes in waterfalls, mountains and ravines as well as one of Queensland's most popular national parks, Barron Gorge. In Kuranda, visitors can tour the historic train station which is more than 100 years old, plus a reptile park and a butterfly sanctuary.

A one-way ticket costs $35 (£28) for adults and $18 (£14) for children. Many opt to take the railway to Kuranda and get the Skyrail Rainforest Cableway back, to experience the World Heritage-listed Wet Tropics of Queensland from a different angle.

Return fares start from £42 ($52) for adults and £20 ($25) for children. Many opt to take the railway to Kuranda and get the Skyrail Rainforest Cableway back, to experience the World Heritage-listed Wet Tropics of Queensland from a different angle. A combined rail and cableway ticket costs £66 ($81) for adults and £36 ($44) for children.

The TAZARA (Tanzania & Zambia Railway Authority) route is a great way of experiencing a safari without splashing out. The train travels from Dar es Salaam in Tanzania to the Zambian town of Kapiri Mposhi through the Selous game reserve, offering a chance to spot elephants, lions, giraffes and more. The journey covers 1,155 miles (1,860km) and takes just under 48 hours to complete.

Dar es Salaam to Kapiri Mposhi, Tanzania and Zambia

The TAZARA (Tanzania & Zambia Railway Authority) route is a great way of experiencing a safari without splashing out. The train travels from Dar es Salaam in Tanzania to the Zambian town of Kapiri Mposhi through the Selous game reserve, offering a chance to spot elephants, lions, giraffes and more. The journey covers 1,150 miles (1,852km) and takes just under 48 hours to complete.

The trains, which have sleeping cars and a restaurant car, provide a safari experience on a budget. Prices start from $26 (£21) for a one-way, third-class seat while the first-class sleeper is $37 (£30).

Ho Chi Minh City to Hanoi, Vietnam

When travelling on The Reunification Express line (also known as the North-South Railway) you don't have to choose between seeing historic cities, charming towns and spectacular coastline – this journey has it all. Traversing more than a thousand miles between Hanoi in the north and Ho Chi Minh City in the south, the route is one of Asia's most popular train rides. The full journey takes over two days but you can hop on and off at destinations like Hue and Da Nang.

A trip on this train takes in breathtaking Vietnamese landscapes like Hải Vân Pass, Vân Phong Bay and the Annamite Range. Prices for the full, one-way journey between Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City start from £29 ($40) for a soft seat while soft sleeper lower berths with air conditioning start from £46 ($62).

Creel to Los Mochis, Mexico

The Chepe Express , running from the coastal city of Los Mochis in northern Sinaloa to Creel in Chihuahua, is easily one of the most picturesque train journeys you could take without blowing the budget. Throughout the nine-hour trip, the train goes through 86 tunnels and crosses 37 bridges, and traverses the epic canyons of the Sierra Tarahumara, including the Copper Canyon.

It's a brilliant way to explore more of the country as you're allowed to make up to three different overnight stops at no extra cost. One-way ticket prices vary between $99 (£79) and $188 (£150), and there's a dining room on every train serving an à la carte menu.

Winnipeg to Churchill, Manitoba, Canada

Part of VIA Rail Canada's Adventure Routes, the Winnipeg to Churchill route (formerly known as the Hudson Bay and before that the Northern Spirits) is the only dry land connection to Churchill from the rest of Canada. The journey stretches 1,054 miles (1,697km) and takes more than two days to complete.

<p>As the train edges its way closer to Churchill, passengers have the chance to spot unparalleled northern landscapes and maybe even a polar bear or two. You can choose between economy class or sleeper plus, which includes meals throughout the trip. One-way fares start from $163 (£130). Find out <a href="https://www.loveexploring.com/news/82844/the-power-of-nature-polar-bears-and-street-art-in-arctic-canada">what's great about visiting Churchill</a>.</p>

As the train edges its way closer to Churchill, passengers have the chance to spot unparalleled northern landscapes and maybe even a polar bear or two. Travellers can choose between economy class or sleeper plus, which includes meals throughout the trip. One-way fares start from around £150 ($181).

Peru is filled with exciting train journeys from the luxurious Belmond Andean Explorer to the much-loved tourist route between Cusco and Machu Picchu. For an unusual (and a more wallet-friendly) experience, opt for the Ferrovías Central railway. Taking passengers from Lima to Huancayo, the charming capital of Peru's central highlands, it's the second-highest passenger train in the world reaching a height of almost 16,000 feet (4,782m) as it travels through the Andes.

Lima to Huancayo, Peru

The trip takes 12 hours to complete and travels through the Nor Yauyos-Cochas Landscape Reserve, one of Peru's most important protected areas with breathtaking landscapes. Make sure to plan the trip carefully as the trains only run once or twice a month. One-way fares start from $109 (£87).

The trip takes 12 hours to complete and travels through the Nor Yauyos-Cochas Landscape Reserve, one of Peru's most important protected areas with breathtaking landscapes. Those keen to travel should plan the trip carefully as the trains only run eight to nine times a year between April and November. The line is currently closed after a landslide damaged the track between Chaclacayo and Matucana but is expected to re-open in 2024. One-way fares start around £109 ($132).

great uk train journeys

Mettupalayam to Udagamandalam, Tamil Nadu, India

India's only rack railway, the Nilgiri Mountain Railway from Mettupalayam to Udagamandalam is part of the UNESCO-listed Mountain Railways of India but a one-way ride in first class won't cost you more than £1.40 ($1.70). The train climbs the mountain rather sharply – it has the steepest track in Asia with a maximum gradient of 8.33%. The route takes exactly 290 minutes to go uphill, yet the return journey is 75 minutes shorter.

great uk train journeys

The route is 28.5 miles (46km) long and passes through many tunnels and over hundreds of bridges. The surrounding scenery includes rocky terrain, ravines, tea plantations and forested hills. The best views are between Mettupalayam and Coonoor, which is famous for its teas.

<p>Connecting two of Switzerland's mountain resorts, the Glacier Express is a brilliant way of seeing some of the most beautiful views in the Swiss Alps. The scenic route takes in sights like Oberalp Pass, the highest point of the journey, and the Landwasser Viaduct (pictured) – a six-arch bridge which stands at 213 feet (65m) and plunges straight into a tunnel that leads through the mountain. The day-long trip covers 91 tunnels, 291 bridges and offers the chance to take in stunning alpine meadows, mountain lakes and chalets.</p>

Zermatt to St. Moritz, Switzerland

Connecting two of Switzerland's mountain resorts, the Glacier Express is a brilliant way of seeing some of the most beautiful views in the Swiss Alps. The scenic route takes in sights like Oberalp Pass, the highest point of the journey, and the Landwasser Viaduct (pictured) – a six-arch bridge which stands at 213 feet (65m) and plunges straight into a tunnel that leads through the mountain. The day-long trip covers 91 tunnels, 291 bridges and offers the chance to take in stunning alpine meadows, mountain lakes and chalets. 

Although you might expect to have to pay dearly for such a stunning train ride, the journey will only set you back around $150 (£120) for a one-way, second-class ticket. You can choose to pay a $44 (£35) supplement for a three-course lunch or you're free to bring your own food, drink and even a bottle of wine on board. There is a food service car and staff come down the train taking orders. The panoramic coaches were specially built for the service in 2006.

Zermatt to St Moritz, Switzerland

Although you might expect to have to pay dearly for such a stunning train ride, the journey will only set you back around £137 ($169) for a one-way, second-class ticket. You can choose to pay a £44 ($55) supplement for a three-course lunch or you're free to bring your own food, drink and even a bottle of wine on board. There is a food service car and staff come down the train taking orders. The panoramic coaches were specially built for the service in 2006.

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Why Britain Just Ended 14 Years of Conservative Rule

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great uk train journeys

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