May 06, 2022 6 min read
I must admit, travelling by train can be a pretty frustrating experience not least owing to the notorious periodic cancellations and delays which are commonplace here in the UK. However, when I was sat on the London to Edinburgh Waverley train recently, I found myself thinking there’s something so nostalgic about the beautiful countryside revealing itself while the wheels trundle. It transports you right back to a slower pace of life. You’ll pass areas unreachable by cars and what’s better is that you know you’re doing your bit for the environment. From country to coastline, the following 5 trips showcase some of the UK’s most beautiful train journeys.
The Jacobite Steam Train
You may have come across this train journey before, or perhaps already been lucky enough to embark on it, especially if you’re a Harry Potter lover as it passes by Glenfinnan viaduct which features in the movies. However, you most definitely don’t have to be a Potterhead to appreciate the magnificence of this route. This luxurious Jacobite Steam Train connects Fort William and Mallaig, and you will certainly encounter some of the UK’s more dramatic scenery along the way.
This train journey has been described as the greatest railway journey in the world and for good reason! It takes you through a list of magnificent extremes. You’ll start near Ben Nevis, Britain’s highest mountain, then pass through Arisaig, Britain’s most westerly mainland train station. Beyond this, you’ll pass by Loch Morar, the deepest freshwater loch and then River Morar, the shortest river in Britain. You’ll then arrive next to Loch Nevis, the deepest seawater loch in Europe. You’ll be in for the journey of a lifetime as very few train rides transverse the rugged scenery that comes with the splendour of the Jacobite Steam Train. Make sure you book in advance as places fill up quickly!
Starts and Ends: Fort William to Mallaig
Duration:1 hour 25 minutes
Find out more about the Jacobite Steam Train here.
Snowdon Mountain Railway
Ceunant Mawr Waterfall
Feral Goat on Mount Snowdon
Take in the breathtaking landscape of Snowdonia National Park while on board the Snowdon Mountain Railway. This once in a lifetime adventure traverses the village of Llanberis to the 1085m summit of Mount Snowdon, the highest mountain in Wales. It’s worth spending some time visiting the foot of Snowdon in Llanberis before you embark on this journey and take in the surrounding mountains. This train journey is steeped in history – Snowdon is said to be the burial place of Rhita, a giant ogre conquered by King Arthur. Since 1896 visitors have been travelling to Llanberis to experience this awe-inspiring rail journey. It is now a favourite among tourists and hikers looking for a lift halfway up the mountain, but visitors have been travelling to Llanberis to experience this awe-inspiring rail journey since 1896.
Travel in their footsteps on ‘The Snowdon Lily’, one of the Railway’s oldest carriages, or hop in one of the more modern carriages for a more contemporary experience. Whatever carriage you go for, keep an eye out for feral goats, uplands ravens, and peregrine falcons along the way. Just shortly after the train departs you’ll be presented with the Ceunant Mawr waterfall, which crashes down over an impressive 100 feet into a gorge. Once you reach the top, head to the Summit Visitor Centre where you can top the journey off nicely with a delicious traditional Welsh pasty better known as an Oggie. Every moment along this adventure is bound to be memorable.
Starts and Ends:Llanberis to Mount Snowdon Peak
Duration:2 hour return journey
Find out more about the Snowdon Mountain Railway here.
St Ives Bay Line
Porthminster Beach Café
Experience spectacular views along one of Britain’s most scenic train journeys, the St Ives Bay line. Now, this line may be short but is so very sweet. This 10-minute journey is absolutely spectacular and well worth it. It starts off at St Erth and clatters along the Cornish coastal path of Hayle Towans and Carbis Bay before reaching the seaside town of St Ives. St Erth is very accessible as it is the penultimate station on the mainline between London Paddington and Penzance, and if you’re travelling by car, you can leave your car at the new Park & Ride at St Erth station.
As a top tip, I would recommend sitting on the right-hand side of the train when you board at St Erth if there’s space. As the train sweeps along the Hayle estuary, you’ll see birds make their way through the pools, and people sunbathing on the golden sands. Once you get to St Ives there is plenty to do and see – head to the beach, wander the art galleries and shops, or explore the harbour. Porthminster beach café is definitely worth a visit – I had the Pan-Fried Cornish Hake Fillet and it was absolutely delicious, I find myself often craving it and I’m desperate to go back!
Starts and Ends: St Erth to St Ives
Find out more about the St Ives Bay Line here.
View from the Belmond Royal Scotsman
Inside the Belmond Royal Scotsman
For something a little bit more luxurious, exclusive, and perhaps bucket list-worthy, step aboard the Royal Scotsman. With no more than 40 guests, it is a truly intimate experience providing personal attention and maximum comfort. There are different journeys to choose from, each of which spans several nights with four-course meals made with local produce, steward service, plenty of whiskies and live music. Travelling on this train is truly a once in a lifetime opportunity to see Scotland in all its glory.
Whatever journey you choose, you’ll board the Royal Scotsman at Edinburgh Waverley station, where you’ll then be shown to your Edwardian-feeling private compartment decorated with lacquer-polished wood and tartan cushions. When the train departs, you’ll be tempted to daydream as the rugged countryside passes by, but head on over to the dining carriage for some delicious afternoon tea. As if this train journey isn’t special enough, you’ll be able to go off on some day tours to the Isle of Bute and to Inverlochy Castle, and the train even has its own spa on board!
Starts and Ends:All journeys depart from and finish at Edinburgh Waverley
Duration:Dependent on the journey you choose.
Find out more about The Belmond Royal Scotsman here.
The Caledonian Sleeper
Sleeping area on the Caledonian Sleeper
Sunrise over Loch Lomond
For the ultimate unique British railway experience, board the Caledonian Sleeper from London Euston to Fort William. It is one of only two-night trains in the UK, and this route in particular, known as the ‘Deerstalker’ has been claimed as being one of the world’s best train journeys. The train underwent a makeover in 2019 and so instead of it resembling merely a mode of transport, it now is more of a mobile hotel. In the dining carriage expect smoked salmon followed by haggis, neeps and tatties with whisky sauce. If you’re a whisky drinker, choose from 14 varieties then drift off as the train leaves London. What’s even better is that the train is dog friendly so you can take your pooch along with you on this special adventure!
With en-suite bathrooms, dimmable lights, and double beds, this journey is a great way to get a good night’s sleep and wake up fresh the next morning. The train leaves London in darkness, reaching Scotland by dawn for you to wake up to a breathtaking sunrise over the Scottish Highlands. Sights you won’t want to miss include Loch Lomond, Rannoch Moor, Loch Treig and the Glenfinnan Viaduct. After the 13-hour journey, the train pulls into Fort William, which is at the foot of the magnificent Ben Nevis.
Starts and Ends: London to Fort William
Find out more about The Caledonian Sleeper here.
We hope you have been inspired by these wonderful train journeys. We know there are so many more out there so if you’ve been on any fabulous train journeys we would love to hear about them in the comments below!
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