Five historic English towns to visit by train

Let the train take the strain to these five historic English towns: Bath, Bournemouth, Dorchester, Salisbury and Winchester.

By Sharron Livingston on 09 September 2014 in Travel Articles

South West Trains are offering 25% off off-peak day return tickets every Friday, Saturday and Sunday until Sunday 28 September*! So we went looking for historic English towns you could visit by train and explore. Here is our choice:


Roman Baths, Bath (c) wikimedia/David Iliff

The beautiful Georgian city of Bath is so historic that the entire city is a World Heritage Site. There's an abundance of Roman heritage, in particular the Roman Baths and Temple built around a natural hot spring which reaches temperatures of 46°C. From the first to fifth centuries this was the hub of Roman life and the remains are so remarkable they are a must-see. Combine this with a visit to the 18th century Pump Room, located by the Temple, for a spot of tea and some live Georgian entertainment.

One thing you should know before you venture to Bath: they say it is haunted and for the brave there are guided tours to visit their haunts, such as the Man in the Black Hat who loiters around the Assembly Rooms and the Gray Lady who leaves a waft of jasmine behind whenever she visits the Theatre Royal.

There are museums too, including the Jane Austen Centre, the Museum of Costume and the American Museum.


Bornemouth Pier (c) Taylor

This is one of England's most visited seaside towns. There's a long ribbon of soft golden sand that stretches into the distance for seven miles. The curves of the pretty promenade are followed by a remarkable series of colourful beach huts, many of which have all mod-cons including cooking facilities.

The coast laces a cosmopolitan town that bustles with shops, restaurants, bars and a vibrant nightlife.

There's peaceful areas too such as lovely public gardens – you can follow the tree trail for a two-hour walk through this lovely space.

One of the features of Bournemouth is its hilly landscape. If you look up you can see a fantasy castle styled house on the cliff-top.

Merton Russell-Cotes bought this incredible villa for his wife and the art loving duo were avid travellers and Victorian art collectors. Their home is now the Russell-Cotes Art Gallery and Museum where all their acquisitions from all over the word, including a collection of British and Pre-Raphaelite art, is on show. You can even get married there.


Dorchester (c) flickr/Alex Liivet

The historic market town of Dorchester is one of the smallest in England yet huge on history.

It dates back to the Iron Age but has its roots in Roman England when it was known as Durnovaria. Fires destroyed most of it in the 17th and 18th century and had to be rebuilt which explains why so many elegant Georgian buildings lace its side streets. The high street is on a hill so it's a steep, but interesting walk to get to the top.

It lies on the banks of the River Frome, in the Frome Valley and has a lovely coast line at Lyme Regis. This is where Hollywood blockbuster, The French Lieutenants Woman was filmed.

It was also the setting for Thomas Hardy, whose novel The Mayor of Casterbridge was based on the town. The writer was born at Higher Bockhampton a few miles outside of town and his cottage was bought by the National Trust who have opened it to the public.

Later he moved to a house called Max Gate which is also open for viewing. In fact many of the buildings mentioned in Hardy's novels can still be seen, such as St Peter's Church, The King's Arms Hotel, the White Hart Hotel, The Corn Exchange and Grey's Bridge.


Salisbury Cathedral (c) wikimedia/Bellminsterboy

Dubbed as the “city in the countryside”, because it nestles in a valley, this handsome Wiltshire town is located just on the edge of Salisbury plain. It is famously home to the Magna Carta. There are timbered buildings and the 13th century imposing Salisbury Cathedral which has the tallest spire in Britain and Europe's oldest working clock. Inside it has the remaining original Magna Carta. and within the Cathedral Close there's The Rifles Military Museum and the Salisbury Museum.

If you fancy a flutter the city has its own racecourse, which comes alive for 15 days in the summer months.

Don't leave without visiting Stonehenge just above Salisbury Plain. President Barak Obama visited these amazing structures recently saying “I've knocked it off my bucket list”.


Winchester (c) wikimedia/Christophe Finot

Once the Roman town of Venta Belgarum Winchester has a lovely location on the western end of the South Downs National Park, on the banks of River Itchen. It's most imposing landmark is the Winchester Cathedral, among the largest in Europe with the longest nave of all Gothic cathedrals in Europe. Novelist Jane Austen died in Winchester in 1817 and is buried in the cathedral.

Winchester is quite beautiful in the autumn so much so that John Keats was inspired to write Ode to Autumn.

To really enjoy the compact and unspoilt city centre join a regular guided tour from the Tourist Information Centre in The Broadway (£4) which explain the layers of Winchester's history.

Or visit the City Museum in The Square or go on a Keats walk which starts at College Street by Winchester college one of England's oldest public schools.

* "25% off off-peak day return tickets" offer is valid for travel ANYWHERE across the South West Trains network. Book your ticket a minimum of 24 hours before you travel to receive the discounted fare.

South West Trains

Book your ticket online today and start exploring!

Disclaimer: this article is sponsored by South West Trains.
Image credits: Bath (c) wikimedia/David Iliff, Bornemouth (c) Taylor, Dorchester (c) flickr/Alex Liivet, Salisbury (c) wikimedia/Bellminsterboy, Winchester (c) wikimedia/Christophe Finot


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