All aboard! Travelling around Britain by train is often a rewarding way to see the very best of the country. Once aboard a train, you can sit back and enjoy your journey to some incredible destinations. Travelling by train is one of the most scenic and relaxing ways to discover the real Britain and once on-board, you can sit back, relax and enjoy the journey. Trains in the UK are fast and frequent meaning you can escape the hustle and bustle of London and be in another city, country retreat or the depths of Wales in no time at all.
Britain’s rail network has been run by over 20 private train companies. But the government makes sure they work together as National Rail, with co-ordinated fares, ticketing & information. You can find train times & fares for all train operators all on one website, you can buy a train ticket between any two stations, tickets are normally valid on any operator’s trains. This page is a guide to train travel in Britain….
WHERE CAN I GO BY TRAIN?
Explore anywhere from the Cotswolds to the Scottish Highlands, and from sunny Brighton to the colder North of England. Weekend breaks are all well and good but if you pick your destination wrong, you’ll spend half of your trip on a train. Scotland and Cornwall are gorgeous but you won’t get there before midnight on Friday night and you’ll have to leave early on Sunday so you’re not exhausted and have time to get ready for work the next day.
Here are the best places in the UK to spend your weekend away, and BONUS they’re all less than two hours from London.
- Chester, Cheshire – 1 hour 58 minutes awayYou don’t have to stay south for your mini break, you can be in Chester in no time at all. Of course, the races might be top of you list but the largest Roman amphitheatre in Britain is here as well.
- Oxford – 1 hour 25 minutes awayThe iconic university town of Oxford has been a hub of academia since 1167. Besides housing one of the world’s most prestigious universities, the town also has lots of old pubs, historic bookshops, medieval streets and beautiful stone architecture throughout a small and easily walk-able town centre. To get there with a whole day to explore jump on a train from London Paddington which takes about an hour to reach Oxford.
- Winchester, Hampshire – 57 minutes awayThanks to a super speedy train line, the historic city of Winchester is within very easy reach for Londoners. Make sure you pop in on Jane Austen, she’s buried at Winchester Cathedral.
- Brighton- 1 hourBrighton is one of England’s most charismatic seaside cities, filled with eclectic shops and a vibe at once edgy and sophisticated. Should you decide to turn your day trip into a weekend, Brighton has some of the best clubbing outside of London, as well as the biggest gay scene in the country.
- Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire – 1 hour 57 minutes awayThe birthplace of Shakespeare is the place to be this year, it’s the 400th anniversary of his death. You can be there in less time than it would take to watch Romeo & Juliet. Read my article on: Places to go within two hours of London here.
HOW DO I BUY TICKETS?
You can buy your train tickets from large travel agents and all railways stations. First-class tickets cost about one-third more than standard fares, and buying a return fare is sometimes cheaper than buying two singles. But remember always allow plenty of time to buy your ticket, and always ask about any special offers or reduced fares. An advance ticket is usually cheaper than one bought on the day, but often has restrictions on your ability to change or cancel your journey. You can buy tickets directly from the rail provider, National Rail or a third-party website, such as the trainline or Red Spotted Hanky. At Rail Easy, you may find discounted tickets in advance. Virgin Trains (link is external) cover much of England, Scotland and Wales and there are no booking fees. Ticket offices in rural areas may close at weekends, so if you are unable to buy a ticket a conductor on board will sell you one.
HINTS AND TIPS
Britain’s fastest and most comfortable trains are those on the mainline routes. It is always advisable to reserve your seat in advance, especially if you want to travel at peak times, such as Friday evenings. Mainline trains have dining cars and air-conditioning, and they are fast – travelling to Edinburgh from London, for example, takes just over 4 hours! Some stations are a little way from town centres, but they are usually well signposted and mostly on a bus route. Trains on Sundays and public holidays can be slower and less frequent than normal.
If you plan to do a lot of train travel around Britain, it’s worth buying a BritRail pass which can be purchased from many agents abroad, such as Rail Europe. National Rail’s All Line Rail Rover gives adults unlimited travel through out England, Scotland and Wales for 7 or 14 days. A Young Person’s Railcard offers discounts to 16- to 25-year-olds or full-time students attending a UK educational establishment. There are special passes for London transport, too, and a pass that covers London, Oxford, Canterbury and Brighton. Children aged 5 to 15 pay half fare; those under the age of 5 travel free.
One of the countries best operators are Virgin, who put on a lot of the ‘fast’ trains around the country. I use Virgin to go from Milton Keynes to London all the time and love travelling with them. To celebrate 20 Years on The Track, Virgin hosting a ‘pop-up musical performance’ at London’s Euston Station.
Since its maiden voyage in 1997 when the Spice Girls were number one, the trains have travelled over 334,500,000 miles, an average of 17 million miles per year. To celebrate the occasion and give back to their customers, Virgin Trains hosted a ‘pop-up musical performance’ at London Euston which saw choir Urban Voice Collective sing legendary pop song ‘Ain’t Nobody,’ by Chaka Khan. Customers travelling in the midst of rush hour were delighted by the impromptu singing and dancing performance which lasted around 5 minutes. It’s brilliant, have a watch below!
* This is a sponsored post in collaboration with Virgin Trains. However I am already a fan of Virgin and would not endorse a brand I do not already love!