The 21 best train journeys in the UK and beyond

From right on your doorstep in the UK to the other side of the world, these are the rail journeys that will take your breath away

Okay, we know what you’re thinking. But hear us out on this one. You see, train journeys in your adult life are miles away from the days when your mum would pack a bag of sandwiches, fold out a paper napkin onto the seats and continue to profess you were having a picnic.

Today, they offer an unforgettable experience and it’s not just great for getting you from A to B. In fact, there’s plenty of train journeys all over the world and some amazing options in the UK that deserve recognition in their own right. So here, we highlight 21 of the best that are sure to take your breath away.

 

The Best Train Journeys Across The UK

 

The Scottish Spectacular

It probably won’t surprise you that Scotland is top on our list. After all, it’s even home to a viaduct that made it famous in Harry Potter which you can see in this tour. Starting in Edinburgh and ending in Glasgow, you’ll head north to the Forth Bridge before heading to the famous Glenfinnan Viaduct. Keep your eyes peeled for some incredible countryside views and castle experiences as you travel through Skye and Glencoe. It might be slightly pricey, at over £1895, but it’s definitely worth it.

 

The Belmond British Pullman

What makes Britain special? And no, we’re talking about Wetherspoons. It’s our social season of course! And this day train will take you to some of the UK’s most prestigious events like the Royal Ascot, The Cartier Queen’s Cup Final, Glorious Goodwood and Glyndebourne. Tickets for all events are included in the package and you’ll also be wined and dined aboard. We’ll take two tickets please…

 

The Derry-Londonderry Explorer

Want a train journey with a variety of scenic views? Northern Ireland certainly won’t disappoint. The train from Derry-Londonderry and Coleraine travels past coastal towns, rivers, countryside, cliffs and small villages – and begins with a journey through a walled city. There’s a reason Michael Palin described this exact route as “one of the most beautiful rail journeys in the world.”

 

The Aberdonian

Okay it might be another one in Scotland but can you blame us?! Connecting Edinburgh with Aberdeen, this journey crosses the Forth Bridge (twice) and runs along the North Sea and River Tay. There’s also the option to get off the train and enjoy some local castle tours and distillery experiences. Standard class starts from £99 which we think is a bargain!

 

Caledonian Sleeper

Now this really is the king of all railway journeys. You only have to look at the en-suite bathrooms and double bedrooms to see what we’re talking about. The night time service runs from London to Scotland, and allows passengers to get some shut eye before arriving at their destination. With plenty of food and drink options available too, we don’t think you’ll be going to bed just yet though.

 

The Snowdon Mountain Railway

If getting your walking boots on doesn’t fill you with joy then then railway journey certainly will. Simply take a seat, get comfy and be prepared to take in the incredible views of Snowdonia National Park from your seat. With modern and vintage carriages to choose from, there really is something for everyone. And as you head up higher into the mountains in Wales, you can see Ireland, England and Scotland.

 

Bluebell Railway

Adventure through the beautiful Sussex countryside, marvel at the trackside nature and explore the villages on the way. The Bluebell Railway is the first preserved gauge passenger train in the UK and offers an afternoon tea experience while you’re chugging along. Just when we thought afternoon tea couldn’t get any better, ey?

 

The Poppy Line

Also known as the North Norfolk Railway, The Poppy Line is one of the best heritage railways in Britain. Run by volunteers, and packed full of history, this steam train line will take you back in time as you explore the tales of years gone by. Expect to see both countryside and coastal views as you enjoy a great day out in Norfolk.

 

Settle to Carlisle 

Take in the stunning views of the Yorkshire Dales National Park and get those perfect pictures of rolling hills, green valleys, endless countryside and traditional farms. If you think that’s impressive, wait until you travel along the Ribblehead viaduct which sits 31 metres tall and is 400 metres long. For something even more special, why not book the steam train experience?

 

The Cornwall Sleeper

Previously called the Penzance Sleeper, this overnight service takes you from London to Cornwall – stopping at a range of destinations including Reading and Exeter. Aboard, you can choose from a private or shared cabin or an airline style seat. There’s also showers, breakfast and an on-site lounge to enjoy. It might be dark outside but all you need for a great experience is on the train itself…

 

The Best Train Journeys Outside The UK

 

The Nordic Capital Adventure

Heading to Stockholm, this five and a half hour journey will take you past Oslofjord, Lake Vanern and Copenhagen. With plenty of opportunities to get off and explore the local areas, as well as the food and drink on offer, this rail journey can easily be broken up into smaller journeys for a truly impressive experience.

 

The Transylvania Sleeper

Choose from one, two or three-bed cabins and get ready to marvel at the Dracula-style castles and dark forests. Starting in Budapest, the train travels through Sibu and then Brasov. One thing’s for sure, with its eerie-looking buildings and gothic streets, you’ll be pleased to be tucked up in bed…

 

Geneva’s Cross Border Rail

Hidden under the streets of Geneva lies a 10-mile railway that links the main station and four other stops with one across the French border. Not only is this a great choice if you’re looking to explore but it also opens up the opportunity for day trips in both France and Geneva.

 

The Costa Verde Express

This five-night tour travels along Spain’s north coast taking in the Bay of Biscay, Laredo, Santone and Santander to name a few. That’s not all either as there’s lots of opportunities for day trips and experiences when you’re not aboard. With double suites, private bathrooms and an on-board library, you might find it difficult to pull yourself away though…

 

The Trans-Mongolian Express

Starting at Moscow, this train heads to Beijing and offers passengers the most varied scenes around. You’ll definitely want to get your camera out as you cross from Siberia to Mongolia as well as on your arrival in China where you can see the Great Wall snaking around in the distance. As well as this, the natural landscape views are outstanding with plenty of picture-perfect opportunities.

 

The Riviera Railway

This journey might only take 90 minutes but it passes through Cannes to reach Ventimiglia in Italy. Travelling along the beautiful coastal line, you’ll see traditional seaside villages and vibrant towns, stopping at Nice and Monaco. Whether you choose to get off and explore or simply want to stay on and take in the sights, you won’t be disappointed.

 

The Sunset Limited

Hop on board America’s oldest named train and travel from New Orleans to Los Angeles in just two days. Find your seat and get ready to see Louisiana, New Mexico and Arizona. Look out for the lady selling burritos at the El Paso station too – a firm favourite with locals and tourists on the train.

 

Spain’s Feve Line

Looking for a slow-paced journey to take in Spain’s beautiful coastal views? The Feve line which travels from Bilbao to Ferrol is great for hopping on and off and exploring medieval towns, golden beaches and quaint fishing villages. You’ll also pass through some rich green valleys so keep your eyes peeled for some wildlife.

 

The Nordlandsbanen Railway

The longest of its kind in Norway, this is the only rail line in the country to cross the Arctic Circle. You’ll travel past mountains, rivers, farms, fjords and forests before finally reaching Bodø. From here, you can take a ferry to the Lofoten islands. If you’re lucky you might even see the northern lights.

 

South Africa’s Blue Train

As one of the most luxurious trains in the world, this one starts at Pretoria and ends in Cape Town. Boasting sleeping cars, a fine dining restaurant and a fantastic service, you really won’t want to get off. Outside, the views are mega too with the likes of the Karoo desert, the Cape wine region and Table Mountain.

 

The Tazara Train

Adventure through the Selous game reserve, which is one of the biggest globally – and spot elephants, hippos, lions, rhinos and more from the comfort of the train. Not only is it a great way to enjoy a safari on a very small budget but the actual train experience is an unforgettable one too. 

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