Sit back and watch the sea roll by on one of these scenic railway journeys in the British Isles, then bed down at the end of your trip.
Words: Madeleine Barber
INVERNESS, SCOTTISH HIGHLAND → THURSO, SCOTTISH HIGHLAND
Photo: Ben Collier
WHY THIS LINE? The northernmost railway in the UK, Scotland’s Far North Line, has its own campaign group, (the Friends of the Far North Line) which is helping to preserve this historic railway. The track traverses the Beauly Firth, Cromarty Firth and Dornoch Firth before running parallel to the North Sea, and steam trains occasionally run on the line too. If they can tear their gaze from the horizon, passengers can look out for landmarks including Foulis Castle, coastal distilleries and Skibo Castle.
HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE? Approximately three hours and 45 minutes.
WHERE CAN I STAY? The Royal Hotel sits in the centre of Thurso, half a mile from the station, and within easy walking distance of the shoreline. The hotel’s Hyde Restaurant or the more relaxed Invictus Bar are ideal for post-journey re-fuelling.
WHAT DOES IT COST? An anytime day single ticket costs around £19.80. A room at the Royal Hotel costs from around £53 per night, including breakfast and dinner.
HOW DO I BOOK? Visit scotrail.co.uk and muthuhotelsmgm.com
DERRY, LONDONDERRY → PORTRUSH, ANTRIM
WHY THIS LINE? Nestled between craggy cliff-faces and golden sands, this line is the only track to run along the iconic Causeway Coast. Tunnels carved into headlands make it possible for the tracks to be a stone’s throw from the ocean. From Portrush, you can hop along to Bushmills via taxi, where during the summer months you can catch a historic steam train to the basalt columns of the Giant’s Causeway.
HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE? Around one hour, plus a change at Coleraine.
WHERE CAN I STAY? Just around the corner from the station and the harbour, among Portrush’s restaurants and shops, you’ll find The Adelphi. This stylish hotel has a health suite, spa and treatment salon.
WHAT DOES IT COST? A single journey costs from £12. Rooms at the Adelphi start at around £69 per room, per night.
HOW DO I BOOK? Visit translink.co.uk and adelphiportrush.com.
MACHYNLLETH, POWYS → PWLLHELI, GWYNEDD
Photo: Visit Wales
WHY THIS LINE? Known as the Cambrian Line, this route is sandwiched between the towering mountains of Snowdonia and the expansive water of Cardigan Bay. Expect sandy beaches galore, as the train passes through the seaside resorts of Aberdovey, Fairbourne (which is edged with wartime fortifications), and Barmouth, to name a few. Towards the end of the line, Criccieth Castle is a sight not to be missed.
HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE? Approximately two and a half hours.
WHERE CAN I STAY? Pwllheli Marina Cottage is a traditional Welsh cottage on the waterfront of Pwllheli Hafan Marina. It sleeps four, and also has a raised decking area with sea views.
WHAT DOES IT COST? An anytime day single ticket costs around £16.40. Prices for Pwllheli Marina Cottage start at around £259 per week.
HOW DO I BOOK? Visit arrivatrainswales.co.uk and homeaway.co.uk.
Take a look at our Wales by Mountain Rail tour
NEWCASTLE, TYNE & WEAR → BERWICK-UPON-TWEED, NORTHUMBERLAND
Photo: Philip Birtwistle/Shutterstock
WHY THIS LINE? Trundling along the cliffs of the Northumberland Coast AONB is what makes this journey so special. It takes in views of Holy Island and Lindisfarne Castle.
HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE? 45 minutes.
WHERE CAN I STAY? Waterfront is a self-catered apartment in Berwick-upon-Tweed that sleeps six and has estuary views.
WHAT DOES IT COST? An off-peak single journey is around £25.70. A midweek short break in Waterhouse this November costs around £475.
HOW DO I BOOK? Visit virgintrainseastcoast.com and coastalretreats.co.uk.
EXETER, DEVON → TEIGNMOUTH, DEVON
Photo: Paul J Martin/Shutterstock
WHY THIS LINE? After taking a battering in the 2014 storms, the Dawlish railway has now been restored. As soon as it reaches the Exe Estuary, it doesn’t leave the shoreside until Teignmouth. Keep an eye out for wildlife as the train passes the Dawlish Warren National Nature Reserve, then enjoy endless ocean views.
HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE? 25 minutes.
WHERE CAN I STAY? The Saltings cottage sits right on the Teign Estuary and sleeps four.
WHAT DOES IT COST? An off-peak day single ticket is around £4.10. For the cottage, prices start from around £395 per week.
HOW DO I BOOK? Visit firstgreatwestern.co.uk and helpfulholidays.com.
CARLISLE, CUMBRIA → BARROW-IN-FURNESS, CUMBRIA
WHY THIS LINE? Running alongside the Lake District National Park, the Cumbrian Coast Line is never far from a walker’s heaven. Stop-off points include the seaside towns of St Bees, Silecroft and Ravenglass. The sea laps at the trackside for most of the journey. There are also occasional steam specials on this line.
HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE? The journey takes nearly three hours.
WHERE CAN I STAY? The recently restored Imperial Hotel is just a mile from the station at Barrow-in-Furness.
WHAT DOES IT COST? A one-way ticket costs around £17.10. Prices at the Imperial Hotel start from around £50 per night B&B in low season.
HOW DO I BOOK? Visit northernrail.org and oyorooms.com.
ST ERTH, CORNWALL → ST IVES, CORNWALL
Photo: Devon & Cornwall Rail Partnership/Matt Jessop
WHY THIS LINE? The St Ives Bay Line follows the River Hayle before opening out to uninterrupted views of Carbis Bay.
HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE? 15 minutes.
WHERE CAN I STAY? Try the plush St Ives Harbour Hotel, which has a luxurious spa.
WHAT DOES IT COST? An off-peak one-way ticket costs around £4. Check out Harbour Hotel’s website for their latest deals including dinner, breakfast and spa use.
HOW DO I BOOK? Visit firstgreatwestern.co.uk and harbourhotels.co.uk.
Take a look at our Isle of Man by Heritage Rail tour