Written By Chris Young
This post was most recently updated on June 27th, 2018
The train is an excellent way to get around in England, and so we’ve looked at some of the best English rail journeys for your next visit.
England is home to some of the oldest railways in the world, which have existed since as early as the 1830s. A generation ago, thousands of stations and lines were closed due to budget cuts, but some of the greatest gems have survived and are increasingly popular with visitors looking to see the English countryside, as well as with commuters.
Scenic railway routes within England are a great way to sightsee as well as get to each new destination on your itinerary. While taking a train won’t be as quick as a plane ride, you will be able to experience some of England’s greatest historical and natural treasures, all from the comfort of a train.
We’ve assembled a top-ten list of our favorite scenic rail journeys in England.
Some of these railroad journeys will take you along the English coasts while others wind through the moors. Some will take you past historical sites, like World War II airfields, while many take you over Victorian viaducts and through tunnels.
Some of these rail journeys are exceedingly long while others are perfect for a quick day trip to see a city or two. Regardless of the length of the trip, each journey is unique and worth the time and expense.
And, some of the lines in this list have both passenger trains as well as historic steam engines, so if you’re history inclined you might want to take a route with a steam train.
Note that these are only rail journeys that stay entirely within England -there are also some amazing trips you can take into Wales and Scotland as well…
Here, then, are the top 10 English rail journeys:
The Best 10 English Rail Journeys
Table Of Contents
1. Settle to Carlisle
Our number one pick for the most striking rail journey in England is this 72-mile long track that travels along the hills of the Pennines, through 14 tunnels, and over 20 Victorian viaducts. This is an incredible day trip that you won’t want to miss.
The Settle to Carlisle railway has daily passenger services; 14 services per day, or if you’d prefer a taste of history, you can opt for steam services.
2. Exeter to Teignmouth
The Exeter to Teignmouth rail line hugs the Devonshire coastline, getting you close enough to watch the surf roll in on Dawlish Beach, by the Exe estuary.
Waves at high tide can even break over the tracks themselves! The line also includes tunnels through cliffs and headlands, always with a stunning view of the coast.
The Exeter to Teignmouth has daily passenger services.
3. St. Erth to St. Ives
While St. Erth to St. Ives is the shortest of the great rail journeys of England, it will take you to the international resort village of St. Ives. The rail was built in 1877 to service St. Ives–at that time just a tiny fishing village.
The line is noted as one of the most picturesque journeys, and is popular with birdwatchers, as it runs past both the Hayle Estuary and along the coastline.
The single-track line has daily passenger services.
4. London to Bath
London to Bath is a line that is popular with history fanatics, and will take you from the cosmopolitan center of London to the historic city of Bath.
The hot springs of Bath first attracted the Romans, who built Aqua Sulis. The city is still home to the remains of the baths, as well as other archaeological sites. Bath’s popularity hit a peak in the 18th century, and today is Britain’s best-preserved Georgian-era city.
Visitors can choose either a passenger train or those looking for a more historical or theatrical element can choose to ride a restored Orient Express train.
5. Durham to Berwick-Upon-Tweed
The Durham to Berwick-Upon-Tweed takes visitors up to the border with Scotland and offers travellers stunning views of historic castles, dramatic seas and coastlines, and even a WWII-era airfield along the route.
This journey is among the most scenic, but is also a shorter trip, for those on a tight schedule. The line has daily passenger services.
6. Liskeard to Looe
The journey from Liskeard to Looe is short and sweet, only taking about 30 minutes. This short journey is worth it though–the scenery is vast, varied, and beautiful. The line follows the East Looe River through Cornwall, and is popular with birdwatchers, particularly at low tide.
Visitors can spot wading birds in the river, including Litte Egrets, Grey Herons, Oystercatchers, and Curlews.
This fantastic scenic railway has daily passenger services.
7. Carlisle to Carnforth
The trip from Carlisle to Carnforth is a bit more complex than all the other journeys in this list, as it requires you to make one train change.
The line loops around the Lake District and has incredible vistas of the inland peaks. There are daily passenger services from Carlisle to Carnforth.
8. Oxford to Hereford
This journey takes you from one of England’s greatest university cities to the city of Hereford in the West Midlands. You’ll travel through the rolling Oxford hills and on to the more rugged charms of Herefordshire.
The journey also takes you over the Ledbury viaduct, and daily passenger services are available.
9. Whitby to Pickering
The incredible Whitby to Pickering route is one of the oldest in the world, built in 1832. The railway winds through the picturesque North Yorkshire Moors while passengers enjoy the beautifully restored carriages.
The route features steep gradients, ancient woodlands, tunnels, and historic Victorian viaducts.
The line only runs between April and September but has daily services during those months.
10. Leeds to York
The Leeds to York route winds through the beautiful countryside and passes by ancient settlements, providing striking views throughout the journey.