The Most Scenic Train Journeys in the UK

Web team profile

By our Avanti West Coast web team

Becky blog author avanti social team

6 min read | Published 17 April 2023 | Updated 03 January 2024

There’s nothing quite like sitting back, relaxing and enjoying a scenic train journey. When some of the best mountain hikes and seaside towns in the UK await you, you’ve got the whole package.

We’ve covered the UK’s longest railway journey but here’s a roundup of some great UK railway journeys on and around the Avanti network.

The Lake District

An aerial view of a steam train that’s travelling over the Glenfinnan Viaduct in Scotland
The Lake District National Park is a vast region in northern England. It’s known for its sixteen lakes and the highest mountains in England surrounding them, including Scafell Pike.

The National Park is idyllic for UK train trips, too. It’s served by two train stations on the Avanti West Coast Line: Penrith and Oxenholme. Whatever your destination, you’ll enjoy an elegant journey past rolling hills and contrasting towns and villages.

Penrith serves the North Lakes, whilst Oxenholme is just two miles from Kendal in the south. Carry on north and you’ll experience one of the UK’s best train journeys as you reach the Scottish borders.

The landscape seems to change with every kilometre, which is utterly beguiling.

Where to hike

From Kendal, you can tackle the Thirlmere Way, or at least part of it. This long-distance walking path is 130 miles in total.

Unless you have a few days to spare, take a hike on the section from the centre of Kendal. This section, lasting roughly 12 miles, emerges in Windermere, where you’ll be treated to stunning views of the lake.

North Wales

Aficionados agree that one of the best train journeys in the UK is the line along the North Wales coast.

On one side is the Irish Sea, with the impressive wind farms and a string of seaside resorts. On the other is Snowdonia National Park, which dominates the horizon as you approach, and always looks extravagant.

Whether you’re going for the vistas or you’re en route to Holyhead, it’s one of those railway journeys UK train travellers just love.

Where to hike

A view over Colwyn Bay on the North Wales Coast
From Holyhead, you could walk back the way you came along the Wales Coast Path. It’s 80 miles from Holyhead to Bangor, so it’s definitely one to book a hotel for.

Alternatively, tackle a section of the Wales Coast Path, exploring the convenient path and taking in the sights along the way. The entire path is 870 miles around the entire perimeter, but you can hike from station to station along the North Coast.

You might even want to get the bus from Bangor to Llanberis. There, take a ride on the Snowdon Mountain Railway, hauled by a steam locomotive.

It’s a narrow gauge railway that goes all the way to a visitor centre and cafe next to the peak. Whether you hike back down (or vice versa) is up to you.

Loch Lomond

A view from a carriage as a steam train pulls you over the Glenfinnan Viaduct in Scotland
You’d never imagine, as you pull into Scotland’s biggest city, Glasgow, that in under an hour by train you could be at one of Scotland’s most picturesque spots.

Hop on the train to Balloch from Glasgow Queen Street and in 45 minutes you’ll be in the town on the edge of Scotland’s largest lake.

The Highland Line is many experts’ pick of the UK’s scenic train journeys. The highlight is undoubtedly the precipitous Glenfinnan Viaduct. It curves around a valley at the top of Loch Shiel and is the undisputed champion of delightful railways.

Cross it on a steam train and you’ll understand why this is among the most breathtaking rail journeys the UK has to offer.

Alternatively, navigate deeper into the wilderness by taking the train to Arrochar & Tarbet (approximately one hour and 20 minutes) or Ardlui (approximately one and a half hours). Both are ideal if you want to tackle a mountain or two.

These three journeys are all spectacular. First, you pass through the lowlands before the landscape starts to change as you journey into the rugged highlands.

If you want to know more about the most spectacular train trips in the UK, you can read more about Scotland’s most scenic railway journeys.

Where to hike

There are plenty of acclaimed hikes to enjoy in the area. Walk along the southern shores of Loch Lomond from Balloch, treating yourself to an ice cream along the way.

You can also go from Arrochar & Tarbet Station and head up to The Cobbler, one of the most admired mountains in the country.

Epping Forest

You can reach Epping Forest in the south-west corner of Essex in 30 minutes from London Liverpool Street Station. There, you can pick up the Epping Ongar Railway, a magnificent steam railway experience for all ages.

This UK rail journey is perfect for nostalgia lovers. It’s not just the locomotives, but also the stations that evoke the golden age of rail travel.

Where to hike

This area is perfect for a relaxing day trip from London with a range of different walks for every ability. Try the 6.6 mile Oak Trail which takes you through the best of the forest before passing by the deer sanctuary at the end of the route.

Settle to Carlisle

A steam train crosses the Ribblehead Viaduct on the Settle to Carlisle line
If you ask railway buffs about the best UK train journeys, they’ll almost certainly point to the iconic Settle to Carlisle railway. It cuts through the Yorkshire Dales and the North Pennines and plays host to the 400-metre-long Ribblehead Viaduct.

You can travel this heritage railway being pulled by a steam locomotive for the full heady effect. Can you think of a better location for afternoon tea?

Where to hike

There’s a great walk from Carlisle that takes in Hadrian’s Wall and Lanercost Priory, which can be tackled in about two hours.

If you fancy something more challenging, follow the River Caldew all the way to Dalston. This one takes about four hours, so make sure you’ve got the right gear.

Travel with Avanti West Coast

Whether travelling through splendid British landscapes or suburbia's commotion, we make it pleasurable. You’re never far from an imaginatively stocked onboard shop, and Wi-Fi and comfy seats only improve the experience.

If you’re aiming to travel on a budget, Avanti offers plenty of ways to save. There’s plenty of practical information on advance bookings, Railcards, and the Avanti app. Plan ahead and you save a lot on fares.

Getting to the start of your hike

Whether you decide to head to the south coast, up north to Scotland or want to explore the coastal paths and mountains of Wales, Avanti West Coast can get you there. You can book any train journey through our Journey Planner, even if the stations and services are not run by Avanti West Coast - and remember that you can make great savings when you book in advance. Then all you have to do is plan your hike and sit back and enjoy the scenic train ride.

Read more of our blogs


Camping the UK's Top Locations

Ready to pitch up the tent and adventure?

Find out more

Scotland’s best beaches

The beaches of Scotland are among the most beautiful and dramatic in the world.

Find out more

Three-day trip in Edinburgh

Edinburgh, a hive of culture, food and famous attractions.

Find out more