Between train, plane and automobile travel, climbing aboard the former is without doubt the most relaxing – when it’s not part of your daily commute, that is. Skip the long check-in lines and veer away from traffic, and you’ll wind up chugging along a railway route that’s both seamless and scenic – particularly if you’re headed on one of these five quintessentially British journeys…
Snowdon Mountain Railway
From plunging waterfalls and craggy peaks to panoramic valley views, Snowdon delivers all. The breathtaking area has more than earned its name as Eryri, or the Land of Eagles, so it’s little wonder why visitors have been boarding the Snowdon Mountain Railway since 1896.
As you ascend from Llandberis station to the summit, black volcanic rock, babbling rivers and soaring mountainous peaks will fill the picture windows; you’d be forgiven for not expecting such landscapes in the UK. At its highest point – the highest in England and Wales – you can venture to the cairn, where you can see as far out as Ireland on a clear day.
Snowdon Mountain Railway opens in mid-March, running to Clogwyn, with the full route to the summit available from May.
The Riviera Line
The Riviera Line, so named for its location along the English Riviera in scenic South Devon, runs from Exeter Central to Paignton. Aboard the train, you’ll speed past two estuaries and dramatic cliffsides, hugging the coastline as you head towards the towns of Dawlish, Teignmouth, and Torquay.
The sea views from the carriages are stunning, presenting some of the best coastal scenes the UK has to offer, and the best part of the trip is what awaits at your final stop: a chance to top up your tan on the beach and enjoy an authentic British seaside experience.
The Belmond British Pullman train
Although the scenery from aboard the Belmond British Pullman is unforgettable, as London’s cityscape blends with burgeoning countryside and historical towns, the true wow-factor of this railway experience is to be found within the carriages themselves. The ultimate in onboard luxury, each embodies the roaring 20s and 30s, and has its own story to tell – the Audrey carriage, for example, damaged and rebuilt after a 1940s air raid, has carried the Queen Mother, HRH Prince Philip and, twice, the Queen herself.
The epitome of vintage glamour, you can toast to your decadent journey with a glass of champagne as you hurtle towards a handful of quintessential British towns steeped in history, including Bath, York and Canterbury. In fact, the train serves as the first leg between London and Folkestone for the famous Venice Simplon-Orient-Express.
The Settle-Carlisle Railway
Voted one of the best train trips in the world (coming second only to South Africa’s Blue Train), the Settle-Carlisle Railway takes in the diverse landscapes of the dramatic Northern England countryside, from the stunning Lakeland fells to the 24 grand arches of the 104-feet-high Ribblehead viaduct. Trains along this route even stop at England’s highest station, Dent, set at a heady 1,150 feet.
For an added treat, Fellsman steam trains run along the tracks on selected dates each year and, to really get your teeth into the beauty and history of the area while on the regular trains, you can download audio guides to accompany your journey. Using GPS to pinpoint exactly where you are en route, guides provide a captivating commentary on the world outside your window.
The Ffestiniog Railway
Ffestiniog Railway is another wonderous Welsh railway that also partially runs through Snowdonia National Park. Entertaining passengers for over 150 years, the narrow-gauge heritage railway (measuring only one foot and 12 inches!) travels for 40 miles through the voluptuous landscape, offering a traditional steam engine experience.
You’ll chug past mountains, rivers, a beach and the countryside, spotting all manner of wildlife on your way. Opt for a luxury Pullman carriage for panoramic windows and plush seating; some carriages even come with armchairs – nothing like your average train journey.