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Iconic Rail Journeys of the British Isles

The sound of your ticket being punched by an inspector, the clickety-click of the tracks, the smell of a traditional steam engine chugging along, and the anticipation which builds as your destination comes into view through the sparkling carriage windows.

There’s something undeniably nostalgic about travelling by rail. Even in the British Isles, with its unspoilt landscapes, verdant hillsides, and dramatically beautiful coastlines, there are some of the most spectacular train journeys that make the views all the more special. Here are a handful of our favourites around the UK, which we think you’ll love too.

Famous Glenfinnan Railway Viaduct in Scotland

Ravenglass & Eskdale Railway
Built in 1873, the Ravenglass & Eskdale Railway is one of the oldest and longest narrow-gauge railways in England. Affectionately known as “La’al Ratty”, meaning little railway in old Cumbrian, the train can be found running through the Lake District’s stunning Eskdale valley. With its handsomely historic appearance, it’s no surprise the journey itself was one of Alfred Wainwright’s favourites due to the beautiful scenery and was immortalised in his guidebooks. We enjoy all 7 miles of this traditional train journey on the Lake District Walk & Discover tour. 

Fort William to Mallaig Train 
Described as one of the most scenic train journeys in the world, the Fort William to Mallaig train can be found winding through the stunning hills of Scotland, and is one of the highlights of our Scottish Highlands tour. You may recognise it from numerous films and television programmes that have featured, the most famous being Harry Potter. As the majestic Jacobite Steam train puffs along the lush countryside, it passes through Arisaig and Morar stations, with striking loch, sea and hill views before the approach to Mallaig, from where you can see the small isles.  

Peak Railway 
Journey back to the Golden Age of steam travel on our Peak District tour. This beautifully restored section of the former Midland Railway stretches 4 miles from Matlock to Rowsley has a true nostalgic feel. On a traditional red and black steam engine, you truly step back in time as the magical train gently chugs through the delightful Derbyshire countryside. 

South Devon Steam Railway 
Step back in time our Devonshire Coast & Dartmoor tour on the traditional Great Western Railway, running between Buckfastleigh and Totnes Riverside. With the stations lovingly restored back to their former glory, we board the South Devon Steam railway and trace the tracks along the 
the stunning river Dart valley. 

Snowdon Mountain Railway 
Snowdon Mountain Railway, Britain’s only rack railway, is one of the highlights of this part of Wales, being both picturesque and wildly rugged. The views are stunning on all sides as we slowly arrive at the summit whilst taking in the expanse of stark landscape, with sparse vegetation. At over 3500 ft, Snowdon is the highest summit in England and Wales, and if venturing to the cairn from here, on a clear day the breathtaking views can stretch as far as Ireland – a truly incredible experience as part of our Conwy Coast & Snowdonia Walk & Discover tour. 

Which iconic rail journey of the British Isles have you been on, or would love to travel? Browse our incredible British Isles tour collection to find out more.