Go back in time to a more elegant era with Britain’s loveliest railway journeys, from a real-life Hogwarts Express to a five-star hotel on tracks that even has an onboard SPA
- Tourists can hop onboard a daily all-first-class ‘Staycation Express’ charter service in Yorkshire
- The London Victoria-based Belmond British Pullman is formed from 11 immaculately restored 1920s carriages
- The spellbinding Jacobite steam train in Scotland offers first-class ‘Harry Potter’compartments for six
Luxury rooms with en-suites, fine dining, spas, stunning countryside views.
Not only can you find these at Britain’s luxury hotels, but also on its railways (and yes, even spas).
Here we present some of the loveliest rail journeys in Britain, from the real-life Hogwarts Express to epic Pullman services. Scroll down for the inside track (and to the end to discover the ultimate ‘lovely’ British railway journey).
The ‘Staycation Express’ on the Settle to Carlisle railway
The ‘Staycation Express’ charter service travels from the Yorkshire towns of Skipton and Settle to Appleby in Cumbria
Inside the Staycation Express. This picture is courtesy of Gareth Davison, who posted it to Twitter
The remote Settle to Carlisle Railway is one of the most famous scenic lines in the UK – and now tourists can hop onboard a daily all-first-class ‘Staycation Express’ charter service that runs on a section of this magnificent route.
The service, which runs until September 12, travels from the Yorkshire towns of Skipton and Settle to Appleby in Cumbria and is aimed at ‘long-suffering families’, to give them a great day out after months of lockdown.
According to the operator, Rail Charter Services, the train’s ‘classic Mark 3 InterCity coaches feature well-padded reclining seats around a private table with large windows through which guests can view the stunning Yorkshire Dales and upper Eden Valley in Cumbria’.
The Staycation Express service is aimed at ‘long-suffering families’, to give them a great day out after months of lockdown
An onboard guide provides commentary as the train passes points of interest such as Ribblehead Viaduct (pictured)
The train’s ‘classic Mark 3 InterCity coaches feature well-padded reclining seats around a private table’
It has also installed perspex screens as a measure against coronavirus and boarding and alighting is by way of a socially divided one-way system.
An onboard guide provides commentary as the train passes points of interest such as Ribblehead Viaduct, Dent – the highest mainline station in England at 1,150ft (350 metres) – and Ais Gill summit, which at 1,169ft (356 metres) above sea level is the loftiest point on the Settle to Carlisle Railway.
The new timetabled charter trains operate three return trips a day, Monday to Saturday, between Skipton and Settle in Yorkshire non-stop to Appleby in Cumbria – a round-trip of 112 miles. First-class day return fares are £29 per person, or it’s £99 for a family of four. To book tickets visit www.railcharterservices.co.uk. The last service will be on September 12.
The Belmond British Pullman
The Belmond British Pullman is formed from 11 immaculately restored 1920s carriages
The food is first class, with ‘fine dining to rival even the best London restaurants’
The Belmond British Pullman is a train fit for royalty.
It’s formed from 11 immaculately restored 1920s carriages and Belmond says on its website, without fear of contradiction, that passengers can expect ‘luxury, glamour and a dash of adventure’ as they’re ‘whisked back to a more elegant era’.
Each ‘whimsically named’ carriage has a distinct character and boasts ‘antique-style marquetry, vintage lighting and heritage upholstery’.
The standards of yesteryear: Each ‘whimsically named’ carriage boasts ‘antique-style marquetry’
You’ll be fizzing with excitement when you board the Belmond British Pullman
The Belmond British Pullman operates excursions from London Victoria around five times a month
The food is first class too, with ‘fine dining to rival even the best London restaurants’. Think smoked salmon cheesecake, braised Scotch beef, Champagne and Pimms.
The charter train operates excursions from London Victoria around five times a month. The next is ‘The Golden Age of Travel’, departing on Saturday August 22 for a jaunt around Kent. Tickets cost from £340 per person and include a Champagne reception and a five-course lunch. Dress to impress.
Visit www.belmond.com/trains/europe/uk/belmond-british-pullman/search-results for more information.
The Bluebell Railway Golden Arrow service
The Bluebell Railway’s luxurious Golden Arrow evening dining service trundling through the countryside
The Golden Arrow consists of two vintage Pullman carriages and a first-class carriage that recreate the glamorous service that linked London and Paris
The Bluebell Railway’s luxurious Golden Arrow evening dining service takes passengers back in time to a more fabulous railway era.
It consists of two vintage Pullman carriages called Christine and Fingall and a first-class carriage called ‘Sapphire’ that recreate the glamorous Golden Arrow service that linked London and Paris from 1926 to 1972.
Onboard passengers enjoy ‘fine food and wine served to the standards of yesteryear’ while trundling through 11 miles of the Sussex countryside.
Passengers pay £90, then enjoy ‘fine food and wine served to the standards of yesteryear’
Journeys depart from Sheffield Park station in East Sussex and last for three and a half hours. Tickets cost £90. Visit www.bluebell-railway.com/whats_on/golden-arrow/ for more information. Note – the service is currently suspended while Bluebell Railway works on making it Covid-secure. Its advice is to check the website for updates and announcements.
In the meantime, it is running dining services including breakfast, lunch, tea and dinner trains that allow for social distancing and food hygiene preparation within current guidelines.
The Caledonian Sleeper
The Caledonian Sleeper is a luxurious way to travel between London and Scotland by rail
Sleeping options include rooms with en-suites, luxury toiletries, dimmable lights and Glencraft mattresses
Gleaming: A £150million fleet of 75 carriages was introduced last year
The Caledonian Sleeper is the swankiest way to reach Scotland from London by rail.
A new £150million fleet of 75 carriages was introduced last year and the sleeping options include rooms with en-suites, luxury toiletries, dimmable lights and Glencraft mattresses, which are often found in royal residences.
Sleeper car tickets from £195 one way, reclining seats from £48. Visit www.sleeper.scot for more information.
The Jacobite steam train
The Jacobite steam train offers ‘Harry Potter’ first-class compartments for six. This picture of one is courtesy of blog www.wanderintwo.com
The service crosses the 21-arch Glenfinnan Viaduct featured in the Harry Potter movies. This image is courtesy of Flickr user R. Siegel
The Jacobite runs between Fort William and Mallaig and passes through magnificent scenery
It’s called The Jacobite steam train, but we all know it’s actually a real-life Hogwarts Express.
This classic spellbinding service not only crosses the 21-arch Glenfinnan Viaduct featured in the Harry Potter movies as it trundles the 84 miles from Fort William to Mallaig, but you can also book first-class ‘HP’ compartments for six and pretend you’re off to learn the art of sorcery (as you sip a complimentary tea and admire the upholstery).
Regular open first and standard-class carriages are also available.
A first-class adult day return starts from £65. Visit westcoastrailways.co.uk/jacobite/steam-train-trip for more information.
The Belmond Royal Scotsman
To experience the ultimate lovely British railway journey, you’ll need to buy a ticket for the Belmond Royal Scotsman
Passengers sleep in en-suite cabins, can gaze at epic Highland scenery from an observation car and even visit an on-train Bamford spa (pictured)
The ultimate lovely British railway journey is this – a trip on the eye-wateringly opulent Belmond Royal Scotsman.
Truly a five-star country hotel on train tracks.
It departs from Edinburgh Waverley and transports passengers on overnight excursions around Scotland in the grandest lacquer-polished style.
‘From the moment you step onto Belmond Royal Scotsman, you are swept up in a world of myth, legend and timeless luxury,’ says the website for it.
One of the Belmond Royal Scotsman excursions crosses the ‘Harry Potter’ viaduct (pictured)
Dining on board the Royal Scotsman is, as you might expect, firmly in the ‘fine’ category
That’s no word of a lie.
Passengers sleep in en-suite cabins with plush beds and full-length wardrobes, they can gaze at the epic Highland scenery from an observation car and even indulge in mid-journey pampering in the on-train Bamford spa.
This heavenly experience isn’t cheap though, with tickets costing from around £3,000. Visit www.belmond.com/trains/europe/scotland/belmond-royal-scotsman/search-results.
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