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TravelThe 11 most scenic train journeys in the UK

The 11 most scenic train journeys in the UK

Whether you’re keen to admire the stunning vistas of the Scottish countryside, or just after a setting to pretend you’re in a music video, staring longingly out at the mesmerising beaches of Cornwall or the mountains of Wales, these train journeys will make you feel like the main character in the window seat. 

You could be a solo traveller craving some luxury transport, or just looking to take the kids on a wholesome family day out – either way, these railway trips will have you covered. Stretching from the very top of the country in Mallaig to the very bottom down in St Ives – and right across to Coleraine in Northern Ireland – here’s where to get your railway fix on your next UK holiday. All aboard!

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Best train journeys in the UK

The Jacobite Steam Train

Photograph: Shutterstock

1. The Jacobite Steam Train

All aboard the Hogwarts Express! Okay, you don’t have to be a Potterhead to get into the majesty of this stunning route. Scotland’s Jacobite Steam Train traverses the gorgeous landscape between Fort William and Mallaig, offering up a conveyor belt of rugged scenery that belies the comfort and luxury inside the train itself. Booking ahead is an absolute must, but it is 100 percent worth it. Few train journeys on the planet come with the grandeur of the Jacobite Steam Train.

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North Norfolk Poppy Line

Photograph: Shutterstock

2. North Norfolk Poppy Line

We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again, but North Norfolk might just be the most underrated part of England. The entire coast is an absolute delight, filled with gorgeous seaside villages and a very real sense of charm, and the so-called ‘Poppy Line’ is an adorable way to explore it. The heritage steam train runs the short distance between Sheringham and Holt (with options to go further at either end) and is an exercise in beautiful nostalgia that will practically drag serenity into your day. Yes, that is something of a contradiction, but it fits. 

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St Ives Bay Line

Photograph: Shutterstock

3. St Ives Bay Line

Okay, it might only be a ten-minute journey, but that just means that you can go back and forth on the St Ives Bay Line as many times as you like during the day. Why wouldn’t you? This 4.25-mile stretch of seaside sumptuousness was opened in 1877, the last of the new broad gauge railways to be opened in the UK, although standard gauge has since taken over. Of course, you’re not here for gauge history, you are here for impossibly quaint seaside views and that special delight that only Cornwall can provide. 

Snowdonia Mountain Railway

Photograph: Shutterstock

4. Snowdonia Mountain Railway

Scratching and clawing your way to the top of Mount Snowdon (Yr Wyddfa in Welsh) is one of the most exhilarating experiences in Wales, but all that scratching and clawing does sound sort of tiring, right? If slugging up the mountain isn’t your idea of fun, the Snowdonia Mountain Railway is here to save the day. Trains leave from the gorgeous village of Llanberis and slowly climb the mountain, stopping at the top for incredible views and a real sense of achievement.

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The Flying Scotsman

Photograph: Karl Weller / Shutterstock.com

5. The Flying Scotsman

A real piece of history here, albeit only really in the name. The original Flying Scotsman still takes short, special journeys in the UK (in the south of England, mostly), and tickets sell out quickly, but why not jump on the spiritual successor of the famous train and make the journey between the capitals of Scotland and England instead? London to Edinburgh is a trip from one powerhouse to the other, a route that takes you through the whole of England – a curious look into the North/South divide.

Settle to Carlisle

Photograph: Shutterstock

6. Settle to Carlisle

The North really is blessed with some beautiful train routes, isn’t it? The beloved Settle to Carlisle line runs across 73 miles of gorgeous countryside, showcasing Yorkshire Dales and the North Pennines at their most rugged and remote. It is stunning stuff and has been a point of pilgrimage for train enthusiasts since passengers first jumped aboard in 1876. The journey takes 90 minutes (delays notwithstanding, this is the UK, after all), and tickets start at £8.50.

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Ffestiniog Railway

Photograph: Lara Ra / Shutterstock.com

7. Ffestiniog Railway

Fancy taking a short trip on the oldest independent railway company in the world? Of course you do, and you’ll find the little train that could waiting in the heart of Wales. The Ffestiniog Railway runs from the harbour of Porthmadog to the mining town of Blaenau Ffestiniog, passing through Snowdonia National Park as it does, ensuring some incredible views and a palpable sense of history within the carriages. The company offers plenty of journeys, but the three-hour charmer between Porth and Blaenau is the one to go for. 

Londonderry to Coleraine

Photograph: Shutterstock

8. Londonderry to Coleraine

Northern Ireland’s prettiest rail line? While it’s a beautiful place from east to west, the stretch of tracks between Londonderry and Coleraine is right up there. The railway has plenty of history (more than 170 years of the stuff), but passengers can be forgiven for eschewing that in favour of the views waiting outside the window. You simply won’t get better rolling views of the coast than from the comfortable seat of a 3000 class DMU, trundling between the two towns. Michael Palin called it ‘one of the most beautiful rail journeys in the world’, and he wasn’t wrong. 

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North Yorkshire Moors Railway

Photograph: Shutterstock

9. North Yorkshire Moors Railway

North Yorkshire is a treasure trove for railway lovers. As well as being a beautiful city with few equals, York is also home to the National Railway Museum, an absolute must-visit for anyone with even the most rudimentary interest in trains. The North York Moors National Park is truly sumptuous, and no prizes for guessing where the North Yorkshire Moors Railway runs. Yes, that’s right, smack-bang through the aforementioned sumptuous scenery. The journey from Pickering to Whitby takes almost two hours, and tickets start from £45, although members get big discounts.

Inverness to Kyle of Lochalsh

Photograph: Joe Dunckley / Shutterstock.com

10. Inverness to Kyle of Lochalsh

Two hours and 45 minutes (give or take a minute or two) of absolute rural bliss. The northern reaches of Scotland are Britain at its most beautiful, and the views afforded to passengers from the cars of the Inverness to Kyle of Lochalsh line are as good as it gets. Ttickets cost £15.90, an absolute bargain considering the beauty outside the window. 

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Bluebell Railway

Photograph: Shutterstock

11. Bluebell Railway

Even the name is all sorts of adorable. The UK offers a fine line of heritage steam railways, and the darling Bluebell Railway down in Sussex is one of the best. Originally opened in 1882, it actually closed in 1958 – sparking a preservation society into action, in the hopes of restoring as much of the original line as possible. They did a darn good job, and today the Bluebell is a time machine, taking you back to the days of steam engines trundling from Sheffield Park to East Grinstead. The journey takes around 40 minutes, and advance tickets cost £25.

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