Top 5 Train Trips from London in Britain

London, England

Whether coming for the Olympics, to celebrate the Queen’s Jubilee or to get a glimpse of Dutchess of Cambridge, London is teeming with excitement this year. Add in world-class culture, eons of history and the best chicken tikka masala outside India, and you’ll want to stay forever.

Alas, that vacation of yours is short. But your travel wish list is long. Think you need to come back across the pond to see other cities and countries? Not the case. While in London, easily pop over to Beatle-loving Liverpool, UNESCO Heritage Site Bath, even Scotland and Wales.

1. Edinburgh, Scotland 4 hours, 34 minutes from London

Edinburgh, Scotland

The capital of Scotland since the 15th century, Edinburgh is divided into the Old Town and the New Town. Although “New” in this case means over 200 years old. What connects these sections of town is the bench-lined Princes Street Gardens and Edinburgh’s main train station, Edinburgh Waverly.

On Board the East Coast Train

You’ll travel on the East Coast train, a bustling 393-mile high speed line that shepherds commuters and travelers alike. This is traveling in comfort, whether you choose first class or standard. Have an “odd number” seat? You’re by the window. Evens get the aisle. And if you see something snapshot worthy along the route, easily upload to your friends and followers thanks to free Wi-Fi.

Head to the Café Bar for a wide range of seasonal options and healthy choices like porridge for breakfast. For a truly distinctive, culinary experience, ask a crewmember if there’s room in the Restaurant car.

What to See in Edinburgh, Scotland

Once in Edinburgh, don’t just have a lowball of single malt or seek out men donning kilts. Visit the National Galleries of Scotland, tour the 16th century Lauriston Castle or cavort with the animals at the Edinburgh Zoo. Visit Edinburgh Castle and St Margaret’s Chapel, Edinburgh’s oldest building dating back to 1250. Take in some magnificent views, including Arthur’s Seat, a dormant volcano.

Like whiskey, Edinburgh is a perfect blend of ingredients and aged to perfection. This is a destination that goes down smooth and leaves a slight burning sensation in your soul.

2. Glasgow, Scotland 4 hours, 29 minutes from London

Glasgow, Scotland

Gritty, artsy Glasgow is truly the antithesis of caslte-laden, whiskey-fueled Edinburgh. It’s the biggest city in Scotland, with a population of 600,000 in the city itself. Located on the banks of the River Clyde, Glasgow’s industrial history led to decades of change and several gentrification efforts. In the last two decades, these changes have brought titles including City of Culture, City of Architecture and Design and Capital of Sport. In short, Glasgow’s transformation has been simply astounding.

From London, you’ll travel on board a Virgin train (yes, that Virgin.) These tilting trains are an engineering marvel – and travel at speeds up to 125 mph. Offering luxury, comfort and convenience, they run on the West Coast Main Line, which carries over 20 million travelers annually.

On Board the Virgin Train

First class coaches provide plenty of room to work or relax. There’s enhanced cell phone reception and power outlets to charge all of your gadgets. Add to that complimentary food served at your seat Monday through Friday. What’s your pleasure? From hot breakfasts to light bites, there’s a remarkable array of food and drink on board, including fair trade coffee (would expect nothing else from Sir Branson.)

What to See in Glasgow, Scotland

Once you exit the train, Glasgow waits with the unexpected. The Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum houses one of Europe’s great civic art collections and is one of the most popular free attractions in Scotland – not to mention the most visited museum in the UK outside of London. The 13th century Glasgow Cathedral miraculously survived the Scottish Reformation.

The nightlife here pulsates – mostly due to those crazy college kids over at the University of Glasgow. The school, founded in 1451, is the fourth oldest in the English-speaking world and ranks among the top 100 universities in the world.

Local Glaswegians will tell you “the best thing out of Edinburgh is the Glasgow train.” With the two cities less than an hour from each other by train, it’s easy to come view the difference.

3. Liverpool, England 2 hours, 5 minutes from London

Liverpool Street Station © Oliver Mallich http://www.flickr.com/photos/mtl_shag/2958363285/

Liverpool, a UNESCO World Heritage Site thanks to its impressive waterfront, was one of the centers of world trade in the 18th and 19th centuries. By the early 19th century, 40% of the world’s trade passed through Liverpool’s docks, contributing to city’s continued rise as a major port city and its colorful, cultural mix. Its population today is drawn from a wide range of peoples and cultures, including the oldest Chinese community in Europe. But Liverpool is known mainly for being the birthplace of The Beatles. Come for a magical, mystery tour.

On Board the Virgin Trains

Uncover the rich history, scenery and culture of England as you experience the real Britain on a Virgin train. These high-speed trains—which travel at speeds up to 125 mph—offer luxury, comfort, and convenience as travelers take in so much more flavor, fun and picturesque scenery than just London and Britain’s other major city centers. Covering a large swath of Britain, Virgin runs trains at least every hour from London to Liverpool. You’ll ride first class and enjoy a meal and refreshments right at your seat.

What to Do in Liverpool, England

Be a daytripper on our Beatles and Liverpool Tour. Take a self-guided journey through the city, starting on Matthew Street where you’ll find a wealth of music memorabilia at the Matthew Street Gallery. Spend time in Cavern Pub (a tribute to the Cavern Club), a who’s-who of rock, pop, soul, R&B, and jazz performed through the early Seventies. Relive the Beatles Story from their early Hamburg days through solo careers at the Albert Dock exhibition. Then it’s on to a 1960s vintage coach bus where your expert guide chronicles The Beatles Magical Mystery Tour. You’ll travel to over 30 sites, including Penny Lane and Strawberry Field. Then, it’s time to find your tickets to ride…the rails back to London, of course.

Cardiff, Wales

 4. Cardiff, Wales 2 hours, 7 minutes from London

Cardiff, the Capital of Wales, has a reputation of being an industrial city, but that’s simply not the case anymore. For those interested in Welsh history and culture, you can access a worldly capital in just over two hours from London. Which is exactly why it’s become a tourist hot spot – as well as a haven for organic cuisine.

On Board the First Great Western Train Line

The First Great Western line truly unites Great Britain. Operating high-speed, commuter, regional and branch line train services, the Great Western covers London, South Wales, the West of England, Devon and Cornwall. In the process, they serve almost 80 million travelers each year with a concentration on traveler comfort and continuous improvement. In fact, the entire high-speed train fleet has been refreshed with new environmentally friendly engines, new seating, better lighting and on-board facilities.

Most First Great Western high-speed services now have an Express Café or trolley service with a wide selection of hot and cold snacks and drinks. On-board services in Standard Class goes above and beyond. In addition to the ergonomically designed seats and increased legroom, you’ll find a high level of customized travel options. Like a Family Car available on Saturdays, Sundays and during off-peak hours. Or a dedicated Quiet Car for optimum serenity. And there’s visible luggage racks and overhead storage so your creature comforts are never far away.

What to Do in Cardiff, Wales

At the Riverside Farmers’ Market, across the street from the Millennium Stadium, stroll the stalls for sumptuous selection of cheese, plus vendors hocking local game meats and other farm-to-table goods. The Millennium Stadium is a sight in itself. An incredible piece of modern architecture, it was opened by the Queen herself. The futuristic Center hosts operas, dance and musicals throughout the year. You can see the inside for free, and live performances take place in the foyer every day during lunch. So grab a bite at the market and stay for the entertainment.

For a glimpse of the past – head to Cardiff Castle. The foundations are based upon a Roman fort, and in the nineteenth century, was the one of the homes of the Marquis of Bute. The Norman fort, Welsh Regimental Museum and excavated Roman ruins are all open, and tours of the Bute household are available. Completed in the early 20th century, the interiors are idiosyncratic to say the least.

When people visit Great Britain, most head straight for England and Scotland. Don’t skip out on wonderful Wales. Come taste the difference.

Bath, England

5. Bath, England 90 Minutes from London

One of only two UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the region, Bath is one of the most visited towns in England. And while you no longer can sit in the original Baths – one of the finest ancient monuments in Europe and Britain’s only hot spring, you can bathe in the Thermae Bath Spa, which uses the same warm, mineral-rich waters the Celts and Romans did 2,000 years ago.

On Board the First Great Western Train Line

You’ll travel on the First Great Western line for just a short while, but the experience will stay with you whether you sit in Standard or Comfort class. Each Standard Class seat in your car has its own number to make finding your place easy. You’ll find odd numbers next to the window and even numbers next to the aisle. In First Class (Comfort) you’ll find amenities galore while rolling through the English countryside. The cabin is a sophisticated affair with soothing appointments, power outlets and a quiet car should you feel compelled to write, as Jane Austen did when living in Bath.

What to Do in Bath, England

Soak up all this lovely town has to offer by purchasing The Bath Sightseeing Card; a 24 hour hop on hop off sightseeing tour. Let the bus climb those famous British rolling hills while you decide which of the local offerings you want to take a closer look at. Like the gorgeous Royal Victoria Gardens. Opened in 1830 as “a breathing space for the occupants of these very dreary localities,” today there’s nothing dreary about the surroundings. Overlooking the Royal Crescent, this park offers something for everyone – a golf course, tennis court and the largest playground in the area.

Prep for your trip with a read of Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey. The novel is a satire of the town’s social life at the time. Many of the sites she mentioned can still be visited today.

Alas, that vacation of yours is short. But your travel wish list is long. Think you need to come back across the pond to see other cities and countries? Not the case. While in London, easily pop over to Beatle-loving Liverpool, UNESCO Heritage Site Bath, even Scotland and Wales.

A Bit on British Rail

British rail is a bit different than other countries.  France has the SNCF. Italy? Trenitalia. ATOC is the association of rail companies in the UK. There’s no “national railway company.” A different carrier operates each line. Rail Europe now has a direct connection to these lines, and can offer you the same prices as in the UK (but in dollars.) They’re all e-tickets too. So just print at the station– and go!

  • cow

    Don’t forget about Bristol!!!

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