The Best Places to Visit in England by Train
Follow in the tracks of Wordsworth, Austen and the Brontës... but on a rather more modern form of transport.
Did you know that the first train was invented and built on these shores? A fella called Richard Trevithick constructed the steam locomotive back in 1804. Ironically, he hailed from Cornwall, which is today a frustrating place to reach by train (better to drive). That said, much of the rest of England is extremely well connected by train, so you can get between London and Leeds in just a couple of hours. London is of course one of the best connected spots in Europe. You can be in Disneyland Paris (and adult Paris) in just a few hours from Kings Cross St. Pancras. But then you can follow in the footsteps of the likes of Jane Austen with a trip to Bath, and continue on a historic voyage before meeting up with the ghosts of the Brontë sisters in Yorkshire. Of course, you have one thing those literary legends don’t: access to our stunning Plum Guide homes (well, and modern railways). And since we’re connecting our recommended train journeys to the brains inspired by the countryside you’ll see out the window, we’ll top it off with a trip to Oxford. You may have heard of its university. Without further ado, here are our favourite places to visit in England by train.
If you’re not already there, you will be soon, because London is so well connected to the rest of England. Whether you’re in Manchester, Liverpool or York, you can be at London’s King’s Cross in around two hours. The neighbouring London Euston Station is another huge transportation hub, so we had to include the capital city on a list of the best places to visit in England by train. It's well connected by public transport too, so you’ll have no trouble getting around the city, no matter where you’re staying. Make sure to see the big sights, such as Buckingham Palace, the Houses of Parliament and St. Paul’s Cathedral. Of course, there’s much more to the city than the iconic postcard emblems. Take a canal boat from Camden to Little Venice, explore the Portobello Market and enjoy the cosmopolitan splendour of Notting Hill. If you’re looking for something special in the way of culinary experiences, try the French cuisine at Core by Clare Smith. Sushi Tetsu and The Ledbury are other top fine-dining settings you won’t forget in a hurry.
Even the train stop has a pretty name: the Bath Spa Railway Station. We can’t think of a more appealing place name, so it’s worth the 90-minute journey from London just for that. Once you’re there, you’ll find yourself in 18th-century author Jane Austen’s old haunt, surrounded by historic buildings, some of which date back to the Roman times. The Roman Baths is one such example (its name is a bit of a giveaway to its origins), dating back millennia and giving us an insight into how the Romans lived and how they relaxed back in the day.
Embark on a Bath City Sightseeing Tour and do something delightfully English in the form of tea at the Sally Lunn’s Historic Eating House. It’s the oldest house in Bath, dating back to the 15th century. Make sure to see Bath Abbey, and climb up to the tower for stunning views of the city. Learn about the aforementioned writer in the Jane Austen Centre, before visiting the iconic Pump Room for champagne by the spa waters.
In less than two hours, you can get from London to Oxford. Awarded a spot on our list of the best places to visit in England by train for its medieval charm, it's just two hours away in time, but a world away in style and atmosphere. That is, the University of Oxford dates back to the 11th century, and continues to totally dominate the town today. Avoid the gaze of the overachieving students as you make your way around their university, and make sure to purchase one of those jumpers that make it look like you or a family member studied here. Look busy by studying the tomes at the 17th-century Bodleian Library, which has more than 7 million books. A little more than you’ll likely manage in an afternoon. Delve through the Botanic Garden on a crisp and sunny day, and attend a concert at the Sheldonian Theatre.
While the college (if you’ll forgive the Americanism in our desperate pursuit of a synonym for university) is all the rage in the city centre, the Oxfordshire countryside is somewhat devoid of annoying students. Green fields as far as the eye can see are interspersed with quaint villages and, best of all, Plum Guide homes that’d make for an idyllic stay for you and your family.
When it comes to places to visit in England by train, we had to consider the beauty of the journeys themselves. While the English countryside, with its green hills and quaint hamlets, passes you by in the window of your train, think about how it inspired so many of the country’s most famous writers. William Wordsworth was taken by the Lake District, Jane Austen was a frequenter of the spas in Bath, and Yorkshire was home to the Brontë sisters. Did you know there were four of them? Most people have only heard of Emily and Charlotte, let’s be honest.
Strutting along the North York Dales and the Yorkshire Moors, you might write that one book we’re all supposed to have inside us. If not… stop in at Leeds for the Harvey Nicholls department store and other excellent shopping opportunities, and head to York for its enormous cathedral and the lane that inspired Diagon Alley in Harry Potter.