Here are the most beautiful train journeys in England from Cornwall to Carlisle. If you like your days out under someone else’s steam (or electric) then check out these scenic train journeys for your next trip.
I mean, just look at this scenic train journey in Devon for starters!
England is a beautiful country no matter what lens or perspective you view it from, whether it be from a plane high up above, or from the window of a train through its rolling country sides and green shires. But where there are train journeys, there are those that could be categorised among ‘the best,’ and there’s absolutely no beating these scenic train journeys through England.
Best Scenic Train Journeys in England
Here are the most beautiful train routes in England so you can sit back and simply admire the view.
1. The Settle to Carlisle route
You can hardly talk about scenic and gorgeous train journeys in England without bringing up the ‘Settle to Carlisle’ route, which just so happens to go through the stunning Yorkshire Dales National Park.
It’s by no means a long route, lasting only 1 hour and 45 minutes on average, but this can be considered the perfect amount of time to witness the many stunning sights along the way. Many of these beautiful views are owed to the Yorkshire Dales National Park itself, through which you’ll see classic rolling hillsides as well as memorable deep valleys all throughout the English moorlands.
The area was deemed a National Park thanks in large part to both its beauty and wildlife. If you’re lucky, you just might catch a glimpse of a European Otter scurrying in a pond, or a Brown Hare scurrying just about anywhere, from the pastures to the watersides.
The Settle to Carlisle route consists of over a third of the Yorkshire Dales National Park, and is well worth the trip for the scenery alone. It’s one of the most scenic train journeys in England.
READ MORE: The Best National Parks in England
2. The Cornwall Sleeper
The Cornwall Sleeper scenic train journey from London Paddington to Penzance in Cornwall was once known as the Penzance Sleeper, and given that the journey usually takes a little over 8 hours, the ‘Sleeper’ term has been a particular mainstay of the title.
If you’re enjoying a few days in London before you embark on one of England’s most scenic train journeys, check out Triptile vacation planner to see how they can help you plan your trip in the Big Smoke. They have day tours in the city, and around and about in the local counties too.
Sleeper trains are not always the best for witnessing beautiful sights along the journey, as the trip is so long that you’re absolutely bound to get tired before long. There’s no doubt, however, that the Cornwall Sleeper is one of the best lenses through which to view some of England’s more typical scenery.
Though it sets out by night, the gorgeous scenery of towns in particular is not to be missed, with the Sleeper going through such charismatic English towns as Plymouth, Newquay, and Falmouth, before coming to terminate at its final stop in Penzance. Everyone knows Cornwall is a stunner, especially after all the photos of the 2021 G7 summit beamed around the world, but did you know it’s home to some of the most scenic train journeys in England, too?
For those whose idea of pleasant scenery revolves less around nature and more about culture and English town design, then there’s no doubt that the Cornwall Sleeper is the way to go. Even by night time, the scenery of English town after English town and all the gorgeous rolling country sides and forestry in-between make for a most memorable train ride. The perfect way to arrive in the county to enjoy some of the best days out in Cornwall.
3. The Exeter to Devon route
One of the most famed pictures of an English train ride depicts a train travelling right by the storming coastal waters, in the process of being struck by a wave that does nothing to put it off its track. As it so happens, the Exeter to Devon route is where this picture was taken from – as the English coast is exactly where this route passes through.
The train route was destroyed by a storm back in 2014, but reopened again soon enough, giving any and everyone the opportunity to ride along it once again and see the outlandishly stunning sea views all along its tracks. There are few trains in the world where you spend the majority of the journey riding right alongside the English coast, but right here is where you get that opportunity.
This particular route isn’t a long one by any means, lasting only around 11 minutes from the city of Exeter to the equally breathtaking seaside port town of Dawlish. All the while you’ll ride along the mouth of the River Exe and come out on the verge of the English Channel.
This is a far more sea-focused scenic train ride, and not a very long one. However, it’s absolute must-ride for those who enjoy the seaside, beaches and general port towns where sailors flock and gather in old English pubs.
A trip to Dawlish makes for one of the best day trips from Exeter, and travelling by train means you can enjoy a few drinks while you’re there too. Check out our ideas for the best days out in Devon for more inspiration.
4. The Cumbrian Coast Line
Let’s go north for our next great England scenic train journeys – to beautiful Cumbria.
Running from the English towns of Carlisle to Barrow-in-Furness, this is a railway journey that will take you around the Lake District and show you some of the best inland sights that North-Western England has to offer.
This is an average train ride of 3 hours, along the way of which you’ll be find yourself riding along the coastlines – treated to beautiful views of the Irish sea along the way. It’s the perfect amount of time to enjoy England trains along a beautiful route.
One of the best stops along the way include Ravenglass, where you can take another, smaller line along the Ravenglass & Eskdale Railway to the inlands of England towards the Lake District National Park.
Lake District National Park has plenty of scenic mountain views on its own to satisfy a whole train journey, and it’s home to Black Combe – one of the most visually stunning mountains that you can ever hope to find in England. All along the Cumbrian Coast Line, which is open all year round and for 7 days a week.
5. The Cotswold Line
No English scenic rail journey list is complete without even a mention of the Cotswold line, and for good reason – the Cotswolds rank among England’s most beautiful regions, and this particular train route will take you through them from Oxford and Hereford. There are some great days out in the Cotswolds to enjoy.
The average journey time for this railway is around 2 hours and 10 minutes, throughout all of which you’ll be riding through some of the most classical English country sides and famed ‘rolling hills’ as you travel along.
The majority of scenic landmarks you’ll come across here are in the forms of quaint English towns and villages, where you can really get a sense of the local cultures and ways of life. You’ll also be riding through the Malvern Hills and the orchards of the Vale of Evesham, thus offering a more natural set of sights to those who enjoy them.
The main attraction here is the scenery of the Cotswolds. The journey spans across four entire counties, and is primarily a trip through the countryside – but among the best train routes through which to embrace the scenery of English culture and its many beautiful villages.
6. The St. Erth to St. Ives Route
Better known as the St. Ives Bay Line, this line is yet another coastal-focused journey that will take your past sweeping views of golden sands and lapping waters. The aesthetic pleasures of English coastal towns cannot be understated, and this journey is particularly enjoyable in the summer when the passing waters are at their bluest.
This scenic train journeys isn’t a long one at all, ranking among the shortest great railway journeys in all of England, if not all of Europe, at only 10 minutes in length. It runs for 7 days a week, with two trains coming every hour – the final destination of St. Ives is well worth the short trip, and offers the opportunity to see in person what you’d otherwise only see through the train’s passing window.
The golden harbours of Hayle Towans and Carbis Bay make up the majority of what you’ll see along this short route. It’s worth keeping your eyes open all the way through, as if you’re very lucky, you might even spot a dolphin in the warmer parts of the year!
St. Ives is considered one of the gems of Cornwall for good reason, and most of those reasons can be spotted and put together along the length of the train journey. Don’t forget to enjoy the destination just as much as the trip itself, for this route!
In fact, we have a great guide to a day out in St Ives for you.
Best scenic train routes in England
There are some stunning scenic train journeys in England.
Whether you’re looking for a short route that has just enough beauty to satisfy your needs of a memorable train ride, or a longer route where the scenery is more spread out across the length of the trip for you to enjoy at a slower pace, you’ll find it there. From cultural spyholes, to natural guided wanderlust, England has some great scenic train journeys for you to try.
Quicklist to the most scenic routes in England
- 1. The Settle to Carlisle route
- 2. The Cornwall Sleeper
- 3. The Exeter to Devon route
- 4. The Cumbrian Coast Line
- 5. The Cotswold Line
- 6. The St. Erth to St. Ives Route