On the 6th of November 2008, Tornado became the first steam train since 1960 to travel again on the national railway network at a speed of 60 miles per hour.
It was the first Peppercorn class A1 since the last surviving original, which was scrapped in 1966. This was the beginning of other large-scale steam trains in the UK, where 11 years on, we have been inspired to write this 8-day itinerary of the UK countryside featuring some classic steam trains.
First Day – Arrival in Manchester and transfer to York
For those flying into the UK, it’s best to arrive at Manchester airport, where you will find bus transfers to York. Here you can take a tour of this city, that is of Viking origin. While taking a tour of its cobbled streets, you will explore the famous National Railway Museum, which is an ideal starting point for this train tour. After the visit, check in at your hotel and get settled. Some people may prefer to spend a night in Manchester, where nightlife is abundant. Even though the top UK casinos list is rather big, there are many great venues available in Manchester, before venturing into the countryside.
Second day – North Yorkshire Moors Railway and Whitby
After breakfast, head over to Pickering, where you will board the steam train that will take you to Whitby, a quintessential British seaside town. Along the way, you will cross the North York Moors National Park and enjoy the magnificent Yorkshire landscape. Grab your camera! After this trip, you will surely be ready to eat lunch and what could be better than a traditional Fish & Chips in one of the most famous local restaurants. In the afternoon, you will have free time to explore Whitby. Here you will be able to learn more about the connections between this city and Dracula and explore the famous ruins of its Abbey.
Third day – Alnwick and Edinburgh
This morning, make your way to Edinburgh via bus. Along the way, you can stop in the lovely town of Alnwick for a visit to its beautiful castle. The interiors and exteriors of this castle were used for the scenes of Hogwarts in the Harry Potter films. After this visit, continue on to the Scottish capital of Edinburgh to enjoy this beautiful city and its imposing splendid castle.
Fourth day – Ben Nevis
Departing Edinburgh and heading west, you will cross the suggestive hilly area of Glen Coe, in the Scottish Highlands. Characterised by narrow valleys and forests, its immersed in a wild and sparsely inhabited nature. This area has been used as a movie set for some drops of Braveheart, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows and Skyfall. Visit the Glen Coe visitor centre to discover the story of the bloody battle that took place in 1692. Then head to the top of the highest peak in Scotland, Ben Nevis, with the help of the Nevis Range Gondola. Also, grab some whiskey that you can taste while visiting the Ben Nevis Distillery.
Fifth day – the Jacobite Steam Train
Here is the highlight of the journey! An experience on the legendary Jacobite Steam Train, which famously appeared in the Harry Potter films. From Fort William, you will reach Mallaig, a port on the west coast of the Highlands. But it is more than the destination that will take your breath away, the scenery that you’ll cross along the way is surreal.
Travel by bus back to Fort William, which will allow you to appreciate all the things you could not grasp along the way via steam train. For example:
- The Silver Sands of Morar – a series of magnificent white sandy beaches overlooking the islands
- The monument of Bonnie Prince Charlie – built in the place where, in 1745, the homonymous prince raised his flag to begin the Jacobite revolt
- The Glenfinnan viaduct and its museum – a railway which is famously featured as the track leading to Hogwarts.
Sixth day – Hadrian’s Wall
Leaving Fort William and heading south to the Lake District, you will cross the English border. Stop to visit a part of Hadrian’s Wall, at the Roman fort of Birdoswald. This is one of the most famous forts during the Roman occupation while being used throughout history, and still, today is the subject of archaeological investigations. Along the way, you will also be able to enjoy the traditional local cuisine in local restaurants.
Seventh-day – The Lake District
The discovery of the Lake District needs a full day. We suggest boarding the Haverthwaite Railway for an unforgettable journey across the lakes of this area. Then by ending at Lakeside, for a change of transport, with a cruise on the lake to Bowness on Windermere. Throw in a visit to the Beatrix Potter Experience to learn the story of Peter Rabbit and his friends. You can travel by bus to Chester, for accommodation.
Eighth day – Snowdonia Mountain Railway
By travelling via bus across the border and finally into Wales, you will find the traditional steam train, which travels to the top of Mount Snowdon. Enjoy the magnificent views before returning to the valley and heading to Conwy Castle. Here you will enter the medieval history of Wales by visiting this fortress, which stands on the estuary of the river of the same name. Considered the best-preserved fortress in all of Wales and the most impressive in Europe, which since 1986 has been included among the UNESCO World Heritage Sites.