The story of Preston
Preston is a city of many ‘firsts’. The first city outside of London to be lit by gas, the home to Britain's first motorway and even the first KFC on British soil.
Once a small market town, Preston was known for textile manufacturing, dating back to the mid-13th century. Sir Richard Arkwright, a famous Prestonian, invented the Water Frame which revolutionised the cotton mill industry and helped put Preston on the map.
Over the course of its history Preston has been hit by many economic changes but has bounced back in recent years, and in 2018 Preston was named ‘The most improved city in the UK’, for making substantial improvements to the city and welfare of its residents. Now a vibrant place to explore and learn, Preston has so much to offer for a weekend away or even just a day trip.
Popular Avanti West Coast trains to Preston
Preston is served by several Avanti West Coast routes making it easy to reach by train from all corners of Great Britain. Take a look at our 'Fastest Journey Times' table for more information on how to get to Preston from your favourite destinations.
Interesting facts about Preston
- The Preston By-Pass was Britain's first motorway. It was opened in 1958 and has become part of the M6
- It was the first town outside of London to be lit by coal gas in the mid-1800s
- The word "teetotal" was born in Preston during Joseph Livesey’s first pledge for the Temperence Movement
- Charles Dickens' novel "Hard Times" was inspired by his time in Preston
- The UK’s first Kentucky Fried Chicken opened in 1963 on Fishergate High Street
- The Dick, Kerr Ladies (the ‘most successful team ever’) were formed in 1917 in Preston and shaped women's football.
- Preston's Caribbean Carnival, founded in 1974, is one of the oldest in the UK
- The city has the longest continuous row of red telephone boxes anywhere in the country.
- Butch Cassidy’s parents emigrated from Preston to America and it is said he spoke with a strong Lancashire accent.
- Preston’s premier attraction, the Harris Museum and Art Gallery, is having a multimillion pound renovation and will reopen in spring 2024
Things to do in Preston
If you fancy more train travel, enjoy a ride on the Ribble Steam Railway which is a functioning heritage railway line and museum, located near the Preston Docks. Travel on a 1960s style carriage for a three-mile return trip, over the dock swingbridge and alongside the stunning views of the River Ribble. Why not plan ahead and book afternoon tea aboard and enjoy a cup of tea, a glass of fizz and delicious cakes and sandwiches.
As one of the tallest buildings in the northwest of England, the Church of St Walburge is a must-see when visiting Preston. The Grade 1-listed Gothic Revival church was built in the 19th century and with a spire of 94 metres tall, it is renowned for having the tallest spire of any parish church in the country. Explore this historic church with a free guided tour every Saturday 11:30 to 14:30.
So, what are you waiting for?
Have a great time in Preston and we’ll see you onboard.
Other popular destinations
If you’re not familiar with Preston or its station, you’ll find everything you need right here:
Preston station information
There’s information from accessibility to parking, and ticketing to WiFi coverage. More details on our wider network can be found on this page.