Since the country’s first steam railway opened up in 1825, England has become a champion of rail travel, with a vast network of tracks running the length and breadth of the country. Today, high speed, comfortable trains run from London to destinations in every corner of the UK, as well as the cross-channel Eurostar running to locations in France and Belgium.
Railway tours are also a popular way to explore the country and there are a number of renowned routes. From London, tours of the idyllic Cotswolds are a popular choice, where cobbled alleyways, timber-fronted cottages and flower-filled country gardens line the route to famous cities like Oxford, Bath and Shakespeare’s hometown Stratford-Upon-Avon. Another popular train journey is the overnight Caledonian Sleeper (nicknamed the ‘deerstalker express’ thanks to the abundance of wild deer that stalk the tracks) that runs from London to the foot of Britain’s highest mountain – Ben Nevis in Fort William, Scotland. Speeding through the London suburbs, the diesel locomotive runs through the marshlands of Northern England before climbing though the stunning Scottish Highlands and features luxury sleeper cabins and 5-star service. Alternatively, chug along the vast plains of the Esk Valley towards the fishing town of Whitby, or gawp at the best of the British coastline on the Cambrian railway, tracing the Dovey Estuary past craggy coves and charming seaside villages.
If you’re just looking to get from a to b, National Rail lists up-to-the-minute timetables and fare information for the country’s rail routes. Train prices can vary dramatically, so try to book ahead for the best deals or consider a Britrail pass if you plan on using trains regularly – the prepaid visitor pass allows unlimited travel on countrywide rail services.