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England’s most scenic train journeys and destinations

By Jess Marshall on 19th October 2019

As a child I always loved gazing out of the windows of trains. I would listen to my favourite music and daydream as I watched the beautiful British countryside zip by me before being rocked to sleep by the undulating train. I have carried that love with me into adulthood, and sometimes even look forward to the journey more than the destination.

This is especially true of my journeys with Great Western Railway which often boast picturesque views of the Westcountry’s unmatched coastal views. I find the train journeys calming; a time to relax for a good few hours before the chaos of normal life returns. With some of the most quintessentially British sights and destinations England has to offer, Great Western Railway is leading the way in making the journey a snug, plush first-class seat on one of their trains.

With timetables changing from the 15th December 2019 (as part of their #AllChange2019 campaign) to encompass even earlier and more frequent train services, Great Western Railway is all about the journey. To get your inspiration flowing and your fingers itching to book your next UK-based trip; here are the some of the most iconic, and picturesque train journeys and destinations in England. 

Bath

As a World Heritage Site, Bath is the perfect destination for history lovers, architecture admirers and city break enthusiasts

As a World Heritage Site, Bath is the perfect destination for history lovers, architecture admirers and city break enthusiasts. Surrounded by countryside, this journey really shows off the lush green trees and abundant fields that encompass Bath. The city itself is famed for its eye-catching stone architecture, of which Bath Spa train station is a fine example. Stepping out into the city, it is clear that this is somewhere with the heart of a modern city but the soul of ancient England.

Of course, anyone visiting Bath will have seeing the Roman Baths on the top of their agenda, but there are many other wonderful sights to see, including Bath Abbey – a spectacular architectural marvel; Theatre Royal Bath – one of the Oldest theatres in Britain, and Royal Crescent – a stunning set of curved Georgian townhouses that hold the potential for unique and memorable photo opportunities at golden hour.

In the colder months look out for the Bath Film Festival. As the home of great films and friendly people, this is essential for anyone visiting Bath this autumn. Additionally, any foodies out there are truly spoilt for choice in this city. With renowned restaurants such as Olive Tree, Acorn, and The Pump Room, there really is no shortage of decadent cuisine to indulge in. With regular trains running from London to Bath Spa in under two hours, there is no excuse not to jump on a train and experience your own Bath adventure!

Cotswolds

Jumping from historic cities to quaint villages nestled in stunning British countryside, the Cotswolds are a haven of tranquility, and a true countryside escape from big city life

Jumping from historic cities to quaint villages nestled in stunning British countryside, the Cotswolds are a haven of tranquility, and a true countryside escape from big city life. Sit back in your first-class, reclining seat courtesy of Great Western, enjoy the complimentary refreshments, and be transported to a world of thatched roofs, babbling steams and endless green countryside made up of rolling hills that are perfect for watching the sun disappear behind. The Cotswolds are a place for relaxation; for mouthwatering pub lunches or world-class cuisine at Michelin star restaurants; hot tub sessions with a glass of Moët in hand or cups of tea in the back garden with a good book.

If lounging in the sun isn’t quite your thing, there are some unique local attractions that are sure to fill the days with unlimited excitement. These include Gloucester Cathedral and Cotswold Wildlife Park and Gardens; the latter houses an enormous range of animals and is perfect for a family day out with the kids. There is also the Cheltenham Literature Festival and Castle Combe Circuit, farmers markets boasting fresh, locally grown produce and the old-as-time British pastime – the pub – of which many sell the most delectable local wines, craft beers and snacks.

With Great Western Railway having train links to most major cities and towns in the Cotswolds, and a Railbus service which links the Cotswold and Malvern Line trains, there is no better time to grab your favourite tea bags and enjoy a very British holiday! Don’t forget to check for the updated train schedule after 15th December for even more frequent trains!

London to Penzance

yachts in Penzance harbour, Cornwall, England
The train line to Penzance lies almost directly on the coast and you can enjoy the beautiful views of the cerulean seas which sparkle in the morning light and mirror the sky’s flaming sunsets in the evenings

The journey down to Penzance is my personal favourite! The train line to Penzance lies almost directly on the coast and you can enjoy the beautiful views of the cerulean seas which sparkle in the morning light and mirror the sky’s flaming sunsets in the evenings. On a sunny day, the stretch of coast from Dawlish Warren to Teignmouth is simply breathtaking with both adult and child alike often caught in a trance with their nose pressed against the train window, eyes sparkling and mouth wide-open in awe of the natural beauty on display.

Achieving the impossible by making this journey even more appealing, the #AllChange2019 initiative will make this trip easier with ‘…an earlier morning direct service from London to Plymouth and Cornwall getting to key destinations beyond Totnes 40 minutes earlier than today’. It will also add a faster mid-morning service between Paddington and Plymouth. Speaking of which, why not stop off in this famous seaside city while en route. This scenic, bustling haven of old fashioned fishing values turned impressive metropolitan city is worth a visit. If you are after impressive eateries with stunning scenery head straight to the Barbican. The Harbour Seafood Restaurant housed in the old glass blowing house is definitely one to check out! Maybe head over to the Mayflower steps afterwards and stand in the place where some of America’s first pilgrims stood as they set out for the New World in 1620. Trains from London to Plymouth take approximately three hours but with these kinds of views being unrivalled, no one is complaining.

Next, hop back on that train because we’re off to Cornwall! Cornwall is best reached from London by Great Western Railways’ famous Night Riviera sleeper train, which allows you to catch up on some much needed rest, before the excitement of finding the best cream tea in the UK begins. With private cabins on the sleeper train costing just £80, this is a stress-free way to travel in style.

On the way down to Penzance you will be lucky enough to see the National Trust’s St Michael’s Mount, a rocky island crowned by a medieval church and castle

Once you arrive, your first priority should be grabbing a Cornish pasty and a cup of coffee from one of Cornwall’s many pasty houses. In fact, why not try several throughout your stay? You are on holiday, after all! Each pasty is guaranteed to be unique thanks to varying lovingly crafted recipes, each devised with cornish pride and tradition at their heart. With cafes on everyone corner offering mouth-watering delights, visitors with a sweet tooth will truly have the time of their life. Alternatively, with celebrity chefs like Rick Stein and Jamie Oliver both having restaurants located here, there really is something for everyone.

If you’re feeling guilty about all this indulgence already, fear not as Cornwall also boasts many picturesque coastal trails for you to walk it off, in addition to many other physical activities such as surfing, rock climbing, swimming and even cliff jumping – if you’re brave enough. With such an array of activities, including a buzzing nightlife accompanied by live music and evening entertainment, and an incredible amount of independent shops and boutiques for some essential retail therapy, Cornwall makes for a memorable holiday that is guaranteed to leave everyone smiling on return. Make sure to book a place on the Night Riviera soon to soak up the last days of summer in a place that prides itself on heritage and natural beauty.

St Erth to St Ives

The trip from St Erth to St Ives (pictured above) may only be 10 minutes but it sure does pack a punch in terms of beautiful scenic views and quintessential British character

So this one is a little less about the destination (even if it is stunning), and more about the journey itself. The trip from St Erth to St Ives may only be 10 minutes but it sure does pack a punch in terms of beautiful scenic views and quintessential British character. Sand, sea and greenery can all be ticked off the list with this quaint little train ride, and if you are lucky you may even get to see a seal in its natural habitat.

Ending in the historic fishing and seaside town of St Ives, you’ll be greeted by cobbled streets, independent shops award-winning restaurants that leave you spoiled for choice. And to top it off, the beach and an ice cream parlour are never more than a stones throw away. At only ten minutes long, this beautiful train journey will leave you longing for a just a few more minutes in your Great Western Railway seat!