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Best places to visit by train in the UK

By Fi Darby

Published on 7 min read


Amazing locations by train

OS Champion Fi Darby shares her favourite places in the UK to visit by train. From summits up Ben Nevis to wild swimming in Carbis Bay, there are thousands of amazing locations just a short walk from a train station.

Fi at the train station

Fi at the train station

Why travel by train?

Choosing train travel over the car isn’t just a sustainable choice, it’s one that can really add to the enjoyment of your day out. Why not wave goodbye to the traffic queues, and forget the parking hassles, as you sit back, sip your coffee, and watch the world slide by from the comfort of your train seat.

Dog adventures by train

Dog adventures by train

I’ve recently been challenging myself to enjoy my outdoor adventures by train instead of car (or in my case van). It’s been great fun, I’ve walked from Birmingham to Worcester, wild camped on Dartmoor, and cold-water dipped along the English Riviera. If anything, the addition of a train trip to my itinerary has added to my sense of adventure. It’s also meant I’ve had more exercise because my nearest train station is a 40-minute walk, and a rather steep hill away.

Train travel in the UK

We have such an extensive train network in the UK, there’s no shortage of interesting options for outdoor fun. You might not be able to easily reach all the places on your bucket list (or everyone else’s Instagram account) without a bus ride or hefty hike but it’s surprising how many fascinating outdoor locations you can find when you start to study the map around different train stations.

Y Borth petrified forest

Petrified forest at low tide at Y Borth

Here are some of my favourite places to visit by train in the UK.

Y Borth (Borth), Wales

Y Borth (Borth) train station is on the scenic Cambrian Line, which runs right across Mid-Wales from Shrewsbury (Cambrian Main Line) and up the coast to Pwllheli on the Llŷn Peninsula (Cambrian Coast Line). Y Borth is an unassuming place, especially out of season but it has more of interest to outdoor enthusiasts than you might imagine.

· Walk from groyne to groyne along Y Borth’s six kilometres of sandy beach

· Discover a mysterious petrified forest at low tide

· Explore Ceredigion’s largest sand dunes

· Visit the Ynyslas Visitor Centre to find out who’s hiding in the dunes

· Spot fluffy bog cotton at Cors Fochno, Y Borth’s huge peat bog

· Train those hill legs along the Wales Coast Path to Machynlleth (23 km – catch the train back)

· Enjoy cliff top views from the Wales Coast Path to Aberystwyth (10 km – catch the train back)

If that level of exploration isn’t enough for you, the Cambrian Line has plenty more #GetOutside opportunities to offer. Why not stay overnight in Y Borth before you explore further? There are a couple of basic campsites, and the YHA Hostel is less than a kilometre from the station.

Ynyslas Beach

Ynyslas Beach

Fort William, Scotland

If you’re a summit lover, you’ll be pleased to hear that it’s also possible to climb mountains and higher summits by train in Britain. I’m not talking here about trains that actually take you up the mountains, although I would love to hop on board the Snowdon Mountain Railway or the Cairngorm Funicular (when it reopens). I mean train stations that take you near the start of summit walking routes, like Fort William.

It’s only a 3 km trot along the West Highland Way from Fort William Train Station to the Ben Nevis Visitor Centre. Once you’re there, you can laugh at people struggling with car-parking machines, then head on up the Mountain Track (make sure you read and understand the weather and safety information at the Visitor Centre first).

View of Ben Nevis from Fort William

View of Ben Nevis from Fort William

Four more British summits walks from train stations

Sugar Loaf (596km) – Y Fenni (Abergavenny) Station, Black Mountains, Wales

High Willhays (621km) – Okehampton Station, Dartmoor

Murton Pike (594m) – Appleby Station, North Pennines

Ben More (1174m) – Crianlarich Station, Perthshire

Okehampton and Ivybridge, Dartmoor

In recent years, wild camping or more correctly ‘backpack camping’ has become a sticky issue in some areas of the UK. The only area in England and Wales where you have the legal right to wild camp is currently Dartmoor. and now there’s even fewer areas, The good news is that from Okehampton Station you can get you easily up onto the moor and into permitted wild camping areas. If you’re walking from Okehampton Station, make sure you check MOD firing times for the Okehampton Range before you set off. If you’re looking for a day walk, head to Meldon Reservoir from Okehampton Station along the fantastic Granite Way.

Meldon Reservoir

Meldon Reservoir – near Okehampton Station

The great thing about attempting your wild camp by train is that you’ll be travelling light (or you’ll wish you were by the time you’ve changed trains twice). This fits in with the ethos of wild camping. It also helps you hone your rucksack packing skills.

Millerground, Lake Windermere

Millerground, Lake Windermere

Millerground, Windermere, Lake District

If you fancy a dip, grabbing a map and finding your own pools and streams from railway stations is great fun. From Windermere Station on the edge of Windermere, follow the footpaths to Millerground which is a wonderful place for a family day out. Walk through a lovely, wooded area before arriving to the shore. At Low Millground there’s a couple of old boat houses and a jetty, where a rowing boat foot ferry used to cross Windermere over to Belle Grange. Time your stroll for sunset to experience spectacular views out to the mountain peaks in the distance. It is also one of the few remaining places where you can gain free access to the natural lakeshore, so don’t forget to pack your bathers!

Four more great wild swimming locations accessible by train

Ludlow, Shropshire – Capture the castle above the weir from Ludlow Station (almost like swimming in the castle moat).

Totnes, Devon – Float across a gentle pool in the River Dart from Totnes Station (spot a seal if you’re lucky).

Carbis Bay – Jump on the short but incredibly scenic St Ives line and make the train journey to the beautiful beach at Carbis Bay. With hardly any surf, it’s great for swimming!

Teignmouth – For a spot of seaside swimming, head to Teignmouth beach on the Riviera Line in Devon. This is a beautiful coastal train journey and my local line.

Carbis Bay

Carbis Bay

Tips for outdoor adventures by train

If I’ve managed to persuade you to the advantages of adventures by train, hooray! You’re going to have amazing fun (and not all of it expected). To help keep your adventure on the rails, feel free to check out my ‘planning your own adventures by train’ page. I’ve included everything I’ve found out so far about getting outside by train, but I’m still learning, and I’d love to hear your own tips and ideas.

Train on the St Ives line

Train on the St Ives line

In the meantime, here are my five favourite tips for #adventuresbytrain.

  • Don’t rely on train stations to have loos. Pack a poo kit or make sure you go on the train.
  • Mobile battery can be important in an emergency. Look for charging points on your train.
  • Busy trains aren’t always enjoyable. Consider off-peak and book a seat when you can.
  • If you enjoy adventuring with your dog, you’ll be pleased to hear he can travel free.
  • Train tickets can be costly. Investigate railcards, Rover and Ranger tickets and ticket splitting.

Have fun, and don’t forget to hold your breath through the tunnels!!

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By Fi Darby


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