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Britain’s most scenic railways

Travel plans have been put on hold for most of us at present as we deal with the global impact of COVID-19. But, as soon as the country is up and running again, you might like to book a trip on one of these scenic train journeys. Travelling Britain by train will not only support the economy, it also gives you the chance to kick back and enjoy some of the country's most majestic sights from the comfort of a railway carriage.
  1. The Jacobite

Served by a steam train called The Jacobite, this trip from Fort William to Mallaig in Scotland is magical and takes in the impressive landscapes of the Highlands. The train windows frame some of Britain's most dramatic scenery, from vast lochs and rugged coastlines to towering mountains (you'll climb aboard in the shadow of Ben Nevis, for instance). Chugging along the imposing Glenfinnan viaduct – which became a globally iconic landmark after starring in the Harry Potter films – is a real highlight and promises eyebrow-raising views across Loch Shiel. 

  1. Snowdon Mountain Railway

For over 100 years, a 19th century locomotive has been ferrying visitors up to the highest summit in Wales – and it's still going strong today. For a real dose of history alongside the drop-dead views, hop in one of the heritage carriages, which are reconstructions of the 1896 originals, built on their trusty original frames. Snowdon promises enveloping views at its peak – which sits 1,085 metres above sea level – but also charmingly rugged mountainscapes along the way. Setting off from Llanberis station, the trip takes an hour (just a tad quicker than the hike, then) and on a clear day you can spot Ireland in the distance. 

  1. Caledonian Sleeper

The thought of fancy sleeper trains conjures images of black and white movies from the 1940s; there's something undeniably romantic about them. You won't want to sleep for too long on this 13-hour journey from London to Scotland mind you, as there's quite the experience to be had. Enjoy the spectacular scenery, featuring centuries-old train stations, vast lakes and undulating moorland. Then, tuck yourself into a booth in the Club Car and fill up on top-drawer Scottish produce before retiring to your ensuite guest room for the night. 

  1. Cotswold Line

If it's quintessential England you want to see, the Cotswolds will be right up your street. With its rolling hills and clusters of centuries-old honey-coloured houses, it's not named an Area of Outstanding National Beauty for nothing. Travelling from Oxford to Hereford, you'll pass two such designated areas on this trip in fact, with the Malvern Hills also adding to the scenic appeal. Jump aboard after taking in the pretty university city famous for its punting, and keep an eye out for the Malvern Hills after crossing the River Severn.  

  1. Bluebell Railway 

Named after the pretty fields of colourful perennials it passes through, the Bluebell Railway heritage line winds across lush Sussex countryside. The 11-mile steam-powered trip between Sheffield Park and East Grinstead is certainly one for history enthusiasts and will have you feeling like you're travelling through time as opposed to counties, thanks to the puffing steam locomotive, vintage carriages, and the railway staff's period-inspired uniforms. The four stations along the route are each designed in the style of a different historic era, too – think Victorian and the Roaring Twenties. 

  1. Settle Carlisle Railway

Discover the northernmost patch of England on this famous train ride, which takes you through the Yorkshire Dales, Cumbrians Fells and the Eden Valley. It also takes you across the remarkable Ribblehead Viaduct, which promises great views across Yorkshire from its towering heights. Tie in a walk with your train journey too, and hop off at one of the carefully maintained Victorian stations to explore this handsome part of the country on foot. Scenic hiking routes are in plentiful supply. 

  1. Riviera Line

Joining Exeter to Paignton, this stretch of railway winds around the Exe Estuary and hugs the coast, affording gorgeous sea views from atop the South Devon sea wall. If those beaches seem all too tempting, eke out the 70-minute ride by alighting at Dawlish or Teignmouth to dip your toes, before carrying on to the impressive English Riviera. 

  1. St Ives Bay Line

Here's a short and sweet journey that shows off some of Cornwall's wonderful seascapes. Watch the waves lap the golden shores of Hayle Towans and Carbis Bay – or better yet, hop off here, kick off your shoes and feel the sand between your toes – before arriving at the harbour and seaside town of St Ives. Take a stroll around and sample some of the country's freshest seafood, check out the art at Tate St Ives or get up close and personal with the waves at Porthmeor beach, popular among surfers, before making that brief but beautiful return trip. 

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