Beautiful Train Journeys in the UK

Beautiful Train Journeys in the UK

All aboard the trend for train travel. We’re swapping car trips and flights for slow-paced journeys on the UK’s most beautiful rail routes

time to ditch flying. Or at least, ditch it where it’s not
needed. Cars, too. This year, we’re making the most of our
railcards and braving the strike chaos to explore our backyard by
rail. We’re not alone. Some estimated 359 million rail journeys
were made around the UK in the last quarter of 2022 (not all, we
promise, commutes).

There are few better ways to journey to your destination: take
out two-hour pre-arrival times, grumpy border guards and the
dangerous allure of testing perfumes in Duty Free (guilty), do away
with motorway services and traffic tailbacks, and suddenly that old
cliché about the journey being as important as the destination
rings true. There’s a nostalgic romance in jumping on a train, and
a timeless elegance in watching the landscapes roll by. Make your
next trip about both the journey and the destination with these
seven beautiful train rides in the UK.

Seven of the most beautiful UK train journeys

Dartmoor Line, UK
Photo credit: Peter Titmuss /

The Dartmoor Line


Expect to shimmy past backpack-shelled hikers squeezed into
aisles and compass-yoked explorers, their noses tucked into vast
maps, as you find your seat on this West Country rail trip.
Reopened last year, the Dartmoor Line connects Exeter to
Okehampton, providing easy access to the northern reaches of
Dartmoor National Park. The 150-year-old-plus route
takes passengers into the patchwork wilderness of the storied moors
in just 40 minutes, from where they can set off on hikes straight
from the station, exploring sculpted hills and wind-pestered flats.
For a challenge, try a romp up to Yes Tor, the highest point in
southern England. Spend a day orienteering, then board one of the
hourly trains in the evening golden hour to watch the moorlands
sink into purple darkness as you cruise back towards the city.

East Coast Main Line, Northumberland, UK

East Coast Main Line


Swooping along Northumberland’s coast, most passengers on the
high-speed East Coast Main Line barely raise their
headphone-crowned heads to look out the window. They’re missing
out: this journey along rugged Northumberland’s eastern extremes
ventures into the lesser-known locations of England’s wildest
county. Streaking along dramatic cliffs above the furious North
Sea, and bending into the curves of the coastline, you’ll want a
right-hand window seat to spy the sun-haloed Holy Island of
Lindisfarne adrift beyond the shore. In Edinburgh, book a room at
the dashingly dressed Gleneagles Townhouse. Opened last year, the
former bank has been transformed into an opulent city bolthole,
complete with moss-coloured, velvet-fringed armchairs and
lipstick-pink scalloping on bed canopies.

Coleraine-Londonderry Train, Northern Ireland

Londonderry & Coleraine Railway

Coleraine to Londonderry

Passing between emerald pastures and the expansive, salt-sprayed
beaches of Northern Ireland, this 40-minute train journey is a
bog-standard commuter route that travels through
anything-but-ordinary surroundings. There are no graffiti-tagged
underpasses in sight; instead, the line trundles through tidy
fields, running parallel to the lazy waters of the River Bann,
before diving into cliff-cut tunnels towards Northern Ireland’s
dazzling northern coast. Edging along ivory sands, the train
regularly stops at diminutive harbour towns. For a pre- or
post-trip lunch, try Lost & Found in Coleraine’s historic town

Royal Scotsman, Scotland
Photo credit: Martin Scott Powell

Belmond Royal Scotsman


Looking to keep it traditional? Jump aboard the Royal Scotsman
for a tartan-clad, seven-night adventure. This luxurious rail trip
is a masterclass in nostalgia: rolling out of Edinburgh’s Waverley
Station with a bagpipe serenade, the traditionally styled sleeper
train switches city turrets for the russet and moss-green
topography of Perthshire and the Cairngorms National Park, skimming
glittering lochs and crossing a soaring aqueduct along the way,
before swinging back towards Edinburgh on rails that hug the
country’s rugged Eastern shoreline. Cocooned in private,
wood-panelled compartments, travellers can enjoy distillery stops,
visits to ancient estates and, come evening, onboard ceilidhs to
accompany seasonal fine-dining menus in the dining car. The whisky
pours are generous, too.

Settle-Carlisle Rail, England

Settle-Carlisle Railway

Settle to Carlisle

Running some 118km, the Settle-Carlisle Railway is a journey
into northern England’s rugged interior – a slow meander through
the heather-purple moorlands, dry stone wall-edged meadows and
windswept hills of the Yorkshire Dales and Cumbrian fells. First
opened in 1876, the route is one of the last remaining Victorian
rail journeys (and it only survived a threatened closure in the
1980s thanks to a campaign run by local residents and Rebook Club C
85-wearing, of-the-era Francis Bourgeois types). Jump aboard at
Settle to whizz your way through England’s northern heartlands. The
accomplishments of Victorian engineering – enabling the train to
squeeze through majestic hill cuts and fly across mind-dizzyingly
high bridges – are almost as impressive as the Brontë-esque natural
landscapes outside the window.

Ffestiniog Railway, Wales

Ffestiniog Railway

Blaenau Ffestiniog-Porthmadog

Award-winning, record-breaking and jaw-dropping: three things we
never thought we’d say about a dinky Welsh train trip. But all
three accolades apply to the Ffestiniog Railway. The world’s oldest
narrow-gauge railway (no, us neither) descends in coil-tight bends
and belly-dropping curves from Blaenau Ffestiniog’s old slate
quarries towards the harbour town of Porthmadog on a 22km journey.
Ensconced in lacquered-up retro carriages, passengers peer out at
snow-dusted mountains, dramatically scooped-out valleys and
bluebell-cloaked pastures – views that have – together with its
industrial history – earned the area a Unesco World Heritage badge
to add to its trophy cabinet. It’s the story behind this former
industrial rail route as much as the scenic vistas rolling past the
windows that has us racing to book a seat, though. Transformed from
a slate-mining transport line into a scenic rail route by
volunteers, the steam trains continue to be run by the same group
of enthusiasts today. The cherry-red locomotives are as much a
symbol of community pride as they are a cheery local

St Ives Bay Line, UK

St Ives Bay Line

St Erth-St Ives

Our advice if you’re jumping aboard this 10-minute rail trip
between St Erth and St
? Bag a seat on the right-hand side of the train to
guarantee views across the paradisiacal crescent sands of Carbis
Bay as the train winds along Hayle estuary’s secluded mud flats
towards Cornwall’s most picturesque seaside town. After enjoying
one of the shortest railway trips in Britain (and probably Europe,
too), you’ll want to make a beeline for St Ives’ Moomaid of Zennor to continue the
bucket-and-spade nostalgia. The ice-cream shop makes all its scoops
in a family-run dairy nearby. Fancy an overnighter? Check in at
The Harbour House Hotel for painterly panoramas
across Porthmeor Beach from your room.

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