Travelling by train combines all the best things to get you from A to Z: comfort, lovely views and the freedom to enjoy a drink or two, be it a steaming hot cup of coffee or something a little stronger. There’s also the added benefit that train travel is kinder on your carbon footprint than most other forms of long-distance transport.
So sit back, relax and enjoy the view on one of these scenic rail journeys in Great Britain.
1Riviera Line, England
Start/finish: Exeter – Paignton
Distance: 28 miles / 46 km
Journey time: 1 hr 10m
Cost: From £8.50 for an off-peak day return
Departing from Exeter City Centre in Devon, the Riviera Line calls at seaside beauty spots that hug the stretch of coastline known as the “English Riviera”. The views are particularly pleasing between Starcross, a village on the Exe Estuary, and Teignmouth. The beaches here are a mix of shingle and sand, and on a sunny day the sea is a blanket of calm and tranquillity.
If you have a hankering for a day at the seaside, look no further than Torquay, the penultimate stop on the Riviera Line. Home of murder-mystery legend Agatha Christie, Torquay contains a pretty marina lined with quaint shops and cafes and has a surprisingly active nightlife too.
2Highland Main Line, Scotland
Start/finish: Glasgow/Edinburgh – Perth – Inverness
Distance: 118 miles / 190 km
Journey time: 1 hr 10m
Cost: From £33.10 for an off-peak return
Passing through the Cairngorms National Park, this is one of the most scenic rail journeys in the whole of Scotland, and that’s quite the boast given the beauty of the country. You can start this route from either Glasgow or Edinburgh, and you’ll travel first through Dunkeld & Birnam, where you’ll see the historic two-storey signal box erected in 1919, a rare example of a Highland Railway box.
The first stop in the Cairngorms National Park, home to Britain’s highest mountain range, is Blair Atholl. From here you’ll make the ascent to Dalwhinnie, the highest station on the line at 1,174 feet and home to the Dalwhinnie whiskey distillery, which utilises clear spring water and peat from the surrounding bogs to create a unique flavour.
One stop on the line that is really worth a visit is Carrbridge, a small but lively village renowned for its unusual festival line up, including an annual chainsaw carving competition and porridge making festival. Don’t miss a great photo opportunity at Old Pack Horse Bridge, which would make a perfect film prop in Hobbiton.
3Cumbrian Coast, England
Start/finish: Barrow-in-Furness – Carlisle
Distance: 85 miles / 137 km
Journey time: 3 hrs
Cost: From £17.80 for an Off-Peak Day Return
The Cumbrian Coast line journeys through the spectacular Lake District, famous for its glacial ribbon lakes and rugged mountainous landscape. The stretch from Barrow-in-Furness to Maryport hugs the coastline with lovely views of the Irish Sea.
If you’re a hiking fan, you can leave the train at St Bees and begin Alfred Wainwright’s famous coast-to-coast walk. The unofficial coastal route passes through three national parks: the Lake District National Park, the Yorkshire Dales National Park, and the North York Moors National Park. However, you may just want to complete a small stretch as the total distance is an impressive 182 miles.
4Penistone Line, England
Start/finish: Sheffield – Huddersfield
Distance: 40 miles / 64 km
Journey time: 1hr 15m
Cost: From £11.20 for an Off-Peak Day Return
Opened in the mid 19th century, the fabulously named Penistone line travels through the South Pennines from Sheffield in South Yorkshire to Huddersfield in West Yorkshire. Showcasing the ingenuity of Victorian engineering, you’ll travel across four viaducts with amazing views of rolling hills and dense forests.
A journey along the Penistone line is incomplete without making a stop at Penistone itself, which has the slightly random accolade of being the highest market town in the Pennines (at 702 feet). The town has some very pleasant walks and there’s also an old fashioned cinema, Penistone Paramount, which showcases live performances and organ concerts.
5Cambrian Line, England and Wales
Start/finish: Shrewsbury and the Welsh coast
Distance: 137 miles / 221 km
Journey time: 3hrs 45m
Cost: From £44.30 for an Off-Peak Return
The Cambrian Line takes you from the pretty historic town of Shrewsbury in Shropshire over the border into Wales, where you’ll travel through the rugged Welsh countryside to Dovey Junction Station where the line divides.
Either you can travel south to Aberystwyth, the unofficial capital of Mid Wales, or head north along the West coast all the way to the coastal village of Pwllheli (meaning “salt-water pool”).
If you opt for the coastal branch you’ll travel alongside the Dyfi Estuary with its saltmarshes, sandbanks and mudflats. The journey along the coast also offers plenty of opportunities to look out for seabirds and other wildlife.
You’ll pass several castles, including Criccieth Castle, which is perched atop a hill situated on the headland between two beaches. If you travel all the way to Pwllheli you’ll also get to admire the imposing mountains of Snowdonia National Park.
Disclaimer: this article was sponsored by Scenic Rail Britain