Why UK Rail Holidays are gaining popularity

Poppy Backshall - Mar 14, 2023 - Inspiration5635Self Guided

Written by Neve McCracken

Train journeys often conjure images of luxurious travel in days gone by with gilded carriages whisking travellers across Europe towards Istanbul or over the plains of Mongolia. For a while, this method of slow travel fell out of fashion. Today, UK rail holidays are once again increasing in popularity as they provide a more environmentally-friendly mode of transport. They also enable travellers to glimpse all the in-between places of a country. As is often famously quoted, it’s not the destination but the journey, and more and more travellers are rediscovering the delights of UK rail holidays.

Jacobite Steam Train in Scotland an epic UK rail holiday
Jacobite Steam Train, Scotland

Why Travel by Rail?

  • A Hassle-free Holiday – With trains frequently running to all destinations, you can avoid the endless early morning queues for the one flight of the day. With no motorway or inner-city traffic to contend with either, you can smoothly zip across the country in record time. The average drive between London and Edinburgh will take around eight hours, yet the high-speed train completes the trip in under five, whilst saving around 56kg of carbon dioxide emissions
  • An Affordable Alternative – Whilst rail holidays can be pricey, a bit of forward planning can help you enjoy lower prices than other modes of transport. Booking between 8-12 weeks in advance is often thought to be when tickets are at their lowest. By purchasing a railcard you can also help save money over multiple journeys. Even simply opting to travel at off-peak times and choosing slower services with more stops can save your pennies. Booking through a tour operator can also bag you the best ticket price and save the hassle of making your own arrangements.
  • An Experience in Itself – Rail holidays offer the perfect opportunity to soak in the rolling views, with many UK train lines following spectacular routes you simply couldn’t access by car. One example is the Settle Carlisle Railway across the Yorkshire Dales. Trains also offer a more comfortable mode of transport with generous legroom, buffet cars and the choice to walk around, helping you relax and enjoy slow travel.
Llangollen railway perfect for a UK rail holiday
Llangollen Railway, Wales

Why Choose Rail Holidays in the UK?

The UK has always been a world leader when it comes to railways, with the world’s first train line built between Stockton and Darlington in 1825. Train travel has remained popular here, the main national network can whisk you between all major cities and even more remote rural areas. The network has been designed so that many of the country’s airports are accessible by rail, alongside ferry ports which connect to exciting wild destinations such as the Shetland Islands.

The Eurostar means travelling between mainland Europe and the UK is quick and simple, but there are also several sleeper trains on offer. These allow you to drift off in a cabin in London listening to the gentle clatter of the tracks and wake up in Fort William, Edinburgh or Penzance. These journeys can be as luxurious as you like, with various tickets offering private cabins, shared lounges, breakfast and shower facilities at the station. It’s no wonder Britain has the fifth most used railway network in the world!

Mountain bikers on a trip accessible by UK rail travel
Mountain Biking, North Wales

Easily Accessible Adventure Tours 

Our tour start points are easily accessible by public transport wherever possible, encouraging our guests to opt for a low carbon method of travel. Sustainability and responsible travel are at our heart because we want to protect the wild spaces we enjoy escaping to and exploring. To do this, we ensure the impact our tours have on the environment is as positive as can be. Developing trips which are easily accessible without a car is just one of the ways we hope to encourage people to be mindful of their impact on our fragile planet. For example, our Adventure West Scotland trip begins in Inverness with the hotel a mere ten minute walk from the station and ends in Glasgow, another excellent transport hub. The same is true for our Mountain Biking North Wales adventure, which you can reach via the local rail connection into Betws-y-Coed.

Tailormade Adventure Rail Holidays in the UK

With many of our customers increasingly seeking a sustainable slow travel experience, we have designed several tailor-made railway holidays. Using almost solely trains (and the occasional bus!) we can transport you between exciting adventure hotspots, cutting out the use of mini buses and taxis. Here’s some great inspiration for adventures that allow you to step onto the train platform and straight into the UK’s most rugged, stunning landscapes:

Arisaig, Scotland

Rail Holidays to the Heart of the Highlands

If Scotland, with its pristine beaches and dramatic mountains is calling your name, we can organise a tailor-made railway holiday here for you! Starting in Edinburgh or Glasgow, frequent trains carry you to Fort William, the outdoor capital of the UK. It’s a fantastic base for many beautiful hikes, including the mighty Ben Nevis, Glen Coe and Steall Falls. You could even canoe the famous Caledonian Canal or go wildlife spotting at the surrounding lochs; you might spot an otter or something closer to resembling a dark ominous monster… From here you can take what is described as one of the best rail journeys in the world; the Jacobite steam train. Also known as the Hogwarts Express, this majestic railway takes you past Loch Morar and over the famous Glenfinnan Viaduct, before reaching Mallaig on the Arisaig peninsula, just in time to enjoy fresh seafood with a stunning view over the Small Isles.

Once by the sea, you have the chance to explore the coast in one of the best kayaking spots in Britain before taking the ferry to Skye. Here, your days can be filled with wild swimming, searching for sea eagles, tackling the island’s 12 Munros or simply sipping a wee dram of the local whisky. To extend your adventure, catch a bus east to Inverness, and from here the railway continues right up to the tip of the mainland at remote Thurso, a legendary surf destination. As you wind your way back down the East coast by train, hop off to explore castles, stunning beaches and the remote Cairngorms national park, where you can rock climb or hike, before spending a night in a traditional bothy.

A Voyage Across Wales

Forget the Trans-Siberian Express, why not take on the Trans-Wales experience? From the busy hub of Cardiff, you can be carried straight to historical Carmarthen. The oldest town in Wales, with hoards of Roman coins discovered here and tales of King Arthur’s wizard. You may not find gold or Merlin here today, but you can take the opportunity to discover one of Wales’ many castles. In fact there are believed to be more than 600 castles in total! With a bus connection up the west coast to colourful Aberystwyth, you’re back on the railway, continuing along the coast to Criccieth on the edge of the gorgeous Llyn Peninsula. You won’t struggle to find a spectacular view here as the train runs right along the top of the golden beach before delivering you into the town complete with, of course, another castle. This station also serves the Cambrian Coast Railway, which you can choose to explore. Or if you prefer to stretch your legs, take on the three peaks of Yr Eifl, which offer spectacular views over heather-strewn hills and the Irish Sea. This is also the perfect destination for watersports.

Criccieth, Wales

From here it’s only a short hop, skip and choo-choo into the heart of Snowdonia, where a whole wealth of adventure is waiting to be discovered. Take advantage of our incredible local guides to spend your days canyoning, rafting, hill walking or careering down a zipline. For the less energetic, why not explore the many heritage trainlines, such as the Welsh Highland and Ffestiniog Railways. Cut through the heart of Snowdonia on enchantingly named steam engines, such as Woodland Wanderer and Mountain Prince. Of course, the most famous of them all might be the Snowdon Mountain Railway, carrying you to the top of the highest mountain in Wales, Yr Wyddfa (Snowdon). Continuing north, take the train to Conwy to discover this walled town with its majestic castle, part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site. From here it’s a straightforward connection to Manchester Airport or Holyhead ferry point. In fact, if you’re headed to Holyhead, why not explore the rest of Anglesey along the way, with puffin-spotting boat trips, epic coasteering, stand up paddle boarding and more to choose from.

Your UK rail experience

Rail holidays in the UK can take you across the wild North Pennines or the misty North York Moors, along the edge of the Lake District on the Ravenglass line or to the heart of the New Forest. If you’re looking for a new, more sustainable adventure, why not see what the fuss is about and try slow travel for yourself by enquiring about a tailor-made trip. Shift your focus to the journey, not the destination, and really get under the skin of the UK’s wild spaces.