Best British railway journeys

From the majestic Highlands of Scotland to Cornwall’s sun-baked cliffs you can enjoy scenic areas of Britain from the comfort of a carriage.

The Mussenden Temple by the coast on the Derry-Londonderry to Coleraine journey © Translink

Picture of Northern Ireland
Departing from: Derry-Londonderry
Final destination: Coleraine
Highlight: The Mussenden Temple, built on the estate in 1785 as a summer library and isolated on a basalt cliff edge, is one of the most photographed scenes in Ireland.
Approximate journey time: 43 minutes

The Orient Express

Heart of the Scottish Highlands
Departing from: Edinburgh Waverley
Final destination: Edinburgh Waverley
Highlights: The train stops for whisky tasting at the Glen Ord Distillery on the Black Isle peninsula and the chance to take a boat trip to see wild seals in the unfeasibly pretty Highlands village of Plockton on the west coast. Romantic medieval Eilean Donan on a small tidal island in the West Highlands, built at the dramatic confluence of two lochs to guard against Viking attack. Since the 13th century there have been at least four different castles here – the last restored to its former glory in the early 20th century.
Of course, you’ll be travelling in luxury. This is the classic Orient-Express journey: four blissful nights on one of the most glamourous trains in the world.
Approximate journey time: Four days and four nights.

Ribblehead Viaduct

Delights of the Dales with the Wensleydale Railway
Departing from: Leyburn
Final destination: Redmire
Highlight: The medieval majesty of Bolton Castle, nestled into the landscape. Completed in 1399, the castle was built by Sir Richard le Scrope, Lord Chancellor of England to King Richard II.
Approximate journey time: 15 minutes

Old Keiss Castle in Caithness © Alamy

Remote Scotland
Departing from: Inverness
Final destination: Thurso
Highlight: When you cross the ‘flow country’ of Caithness, a large, rolling expanse of peatland and wetland area, the virtually uninhabited landscape has a rare, bleak beauty.
Approximate journey time: 3 hours 50 minutes

Border country
Departing from: Durham
Final destination: Edinburgh
Highlights: The train passes through the village of Chathill close to Bamburgh Castle, one of the largest inhabited castles in Britain. With a history dating back 2,000 years, it sits dramatically on an outcrop overlooking the Farne Islands. Views of the Holy Island of Lindisfarne, marooned in the North Sea and accessed at low tide by a causeway known as Pilgrims’ Way, are spectacular.
Approximate journey: 1 hour 50 minutes with East Coast

Bamburgh Castle in Northumberland lies between Durham and Edinburgh © Alamy

The Welsh Highlands
Departing from: Caernarfon
Final destination: Porthmadog
Highlight: Travelling the length of the Aberglaslyn Pass, a beautiful narrow gorge that runs through Snowdonia from south of Beddgelert, intersecting the Glaslyn River. The trains on the Festiniog & Welsh Highland Railways are steam powered and beautiful.
Approximate journey time: 2 hours 25 minutes

Steam train crossing the Cob embankment in Portmadog
Castle Stalker © Alamy/Henk Meijer

Scotland’s West Coast
Departing from: Glasgow
Final Destination: Fort William
Highlights: Not only does the journey take you up to Corrour, the highest station in Britain, but it also speeds across the 21-arch Glenfinnan Viaduct with views of vibrant green landscape to the east and the coastal waters to the west. Of course now this amazing viaduct is known worldwide from the Harry Potter films and the train may pause here to allow you to take in the magnificent scene.
Arriving in Fort William is a treat, as it is situated at the head of the lovely Loch Linnhe, with views across to Glencoe and Ben Nevis. Look out for Castle Stalker (pronounced stal-ker, with the ‘l’ sounded), a tower house built around 1320 and picturesquely set on a loch inlet.
Approximate journey time: 3 hours 45 minutes

The St Erth to St Ives journey

Coastal Cornwall
Departing from: St Erth
Final destination: St Ives
Highlight: Travelling around the coast on the cliff edge to provide a stunning first impression of St Ives’ colourful harbour.
Approximate journey time: 12 minutes

What are your favorite railway journeys? Tweet us @BritainMagazine

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