Our truly Grand tour of the Great British Isles returns, packing in more steam highlights than ever before.
Iconic steam locomotives transport you on an enchanting journey through the diverse landscapes of England, Scotland and Wales, over lofty peaks and through serene river valleys. You’ll experience first-hand the spectacular panorama of the English countryside, from the fruitful Lincolnshire Fens to the rugged Scottish Highlands. Tour highlights include the Settle-Carlisle line, ascent to Aviemore and the steep Upway Bank in Dorset. You’ll travel on classic rail lines, over mighty viaducts and through deep tunnels as the endless vistas slip by. From the comfort of your carriage, with traditional cuisine and scheduled overnight stops in good quality hotels, you’ll feel you’ve crammed a lifetime’s holidays into one magical railway tour. If you only ever go on one steam railway trip, our Great Britain XI tour must be it!
Thursday 19th April
North on the East Coast Main Line with the ‘Flying Scotsman’
Your Great Britain XI tour starts its action-packed 9-day schedule steam hauled by the magnificent A3 Class Pacific No. 60103 Flying Scotsman from London’s King’s Cross station. Should Flying Scotsman not be available to us we will be steam hauled by our reserved replacement locomotive No. 46233 ‘Duchess of Sutherland’. We will make our way northwards down the East Coast Main Line, passing at speed through numerous tunnels and viaducts as we head for Hitchin Here we will leave the ECML and head eastwards through Royston to Cambridge, a historic city famous for its numerous colleges. We now head northwards across the Fens to Ely, with its majestic cathedral overlooking the area. Running via March, we reach the ECML again at Peterborough. Just north of Peterborough, you leave the ECML at Werrington Junction, and follow the former Great Northern Railway’s line to picturesque Spalding, centre of the UK flower industry. The former Great Northern & Great Eastern Joint Line then takes you via Sleaford towards Gainsborough, where Marshall steam traction engines used to be built. You pass through Lincoln, with its 11th century Gothic cathedral high on the hill top and continue to Doncaster, to meet the ECML once again. Doncaster is where many locomotives, including Flying Scotsman and Mallard, were built. Back on the ECML, you now head for York, home of the National Railway Museum. You branch off the ECML at York and take the scenic North Eastern line towards Malton and Scarborough. With its two bays, castle and fishing harbour, Scarborough is one of the most popular resorts on the east coast. You retire to your comfortable hotel here for the evening.
Friday 20th April
Scarborough to Edinburgh taking in the spectacular Settle-Carlisle line
This morning your train leaves Scarborough and retraces the previous day’s route through Malton and Kirkham Abbey back to York. You’ll be steam hauled by 60103 Flying Scotsman as far as York. At York steam locomotive no. 35018 British India Line will take over the haulage of the train. You head southwards, passing through Church Fenton and then westwards to Leeds. Here your train threads its way through the suburbs and follows the Aire Valley to Skipton and Hellifield, before pausing to collect water, prior to tackling the 72-mile scenic run from Settle Junction to Carlisle. This famed line climbs over the Pennine mountains, passing the three peaks of Ingleborough, Pen y Gent and Whernside on the way, and the 24-arch Ribblehead Viaduct that spans Batty Moss. The spectacular scenery continues through Dent Dale and Garsdale before you pass over the highest operational standard gauge railway summit in England at Ais Gill, 1,169 feet above sea level. Descending through Kirkby Stephen and Appleby to Carlisle, the journey breaks for a change to your steam locomotive. Leaving Carlisle two Jubilee class locomotives, No. 45690 Leander and No. 45699 Galatea, both built for the London Midland & Scottish Railway in 1936 will be hauling the train, you then take the line via Beattock to Edinburgh, the capital of Scotland. On arrival, you transfer to your hotel for a relaxing evening in this city of many attractions.
Saturday 21st April
Edinburgh to Inverness via the Highland Main Line
After an evening in Edinburgh, your steam locomotive, now hauled double headed by A4 Pacific class No. 60009 ‘Union of South Africa’and B1 61264, heads for the world famous Forth Bridge. It’s now a UNESCO World Heritage site, and has carried trains to and from Fife since it opened in 1890. Once in Fife, the line follows the coast for many miles, passing through Kirkcaldy, with spectacular views across the Firth of Forth. At Ladybank, you take the Highland Main Line via Perth, Kingussie and Aviemore with Inverness the destination. You’ll have the next two nights to relax in your centrally situated hotel in Inverness, located on the River Ness and a major shopping and cultural centre of the region.
Sunday 22nd April
Optional round trip to the Kyle of Lochalsh on the Far North and Kyle Lines
Today, your train will be hauled by B1 Class No. 61264 steam locomotive as you travel initially on the Far North Line from Inverness, on the northernmost railway in the UK. The route runs westwards from Inverness, and pass over the Caledonian Canal on the Clachnaharry Swing Bridge. At Dingwall you take the largely single track Kyle line, passing through the dramatic Highland landscape. The route takes you beside various lochs, through farmland, dense forests, alongside craggy steep rock faces and over numerous streams. Along the way you will see 17 stations, including the one with the shortest platform in the UK! The locomotive stops at Achnasheen to take on water before you descend to the shores of Loch Carron and run close to the seashore to Kyle of Lochalsh. The village is located at the entrance to Loch Alsh and there are fine views across the loch to the centre of the Isle of Skye, a vista dominated by the mountainous Cuillins. The nearby Skye Bridge links the island to the mainland. You return to Inverness, hauled by the steam locomotive, and can then appreciate the wonderful Highland scenery from a different aspect. Overnight accommodation is at your Inverness hotel tonight.
Monday 23rd April
Ascent to Aviemore and Druimuachdar; South through Lockerbie to Windermere
This morning you leave Inverness double-headed by locomotives B1 Class No. 61264 and No. 60009 ‘Union of South Africa’ and take the Highland Main Line through to Perth. This route presented a formidable obstacle to 19th century railway builders, as it includes severe gradients and moorland terrain. Your steam locomotives work hard as they make the arduous 20 mile climb to Slochd summit in the Cairngorms, before descending to Aviemore, the winter sports centre and home to the Strathspey Railway. More climbing takes you over the highest main line summit in Britain, at Druimuachdar (1,484 feet above sea level). After Pitlochry and Dunkeld, the route follows the Tay valley to the Fair City of Perth. The route now winds via Stirling and Cumbernauld to the industrial belt around Motherwell, before joining the West Coast Main Line. Heading south, you pass over Beattock Summit and through Lockerbie before arriving in the border city of Carlisle. The final leg of your journey to Oxenholme will be via Penrith and Tebay on the West Coast Main Line. From Oxenholme you transfer by road coaches to a Lake Windermere hotel for a two-night stay.
Tuesday 24th April
Free time in the Lake District to relax and explore
Today is a free day for you to enjoy the many attractions and postcard panoramas of the Lake District. Bowness, for example, is one of the calling points for the cruises that ply up and down the magnificent Windermere lake all day. There is also the Lakeside & Haverthwaite Railway to visit, operating steam trains from its convenient station at Lakeside. Otherwise, scenic bus tours visit local villages and tourist attractions, including Wordsworth’s famous house. For those who just want to enjoy the peace and quiet, there are many different walks, for all abilities, to be enjoyed as well. Alternately, why not just relax and indulge yourself in the benefits of your highly-appointed luxury hotel!
Wednesday 25th April
Steam hauled from Grange-over-Sands through Central Wales to Cardiff
You leave the Lake District this morning and return to Grange over Sands by coach. You’ll be steam hauled by a Jubilee class locomotive either 45690 Leander or 45699 Galatea through Carnforth and clip the edge of Morecambe Bay at Hest Bank before reaching Lancaster. You then head southwards through Lancashire and pass through Preston on the way to Warrington and Crewe, where we will change locomotive to a Stanier 8F Class No 48151. Continuing to Shrewsbury, you pick up the ‘North & West’ route before the spectacular journey over the Central Wales line. At Craven Arms station, you leave the main line to Hereford and head for Llandrindod Wells, entering Wales at Knighton. Your train steams over the famous castellated Knucklas Viaduct before reaching the fashionable Victorian spa town of Llandrindod Wells, where your steam locomotive pauses for a water stop. Your journey to Cardiff continues through central Wales, passing through the magnificent Welsh landscape before culminating in the long climb to the Sugar Loaf tunnel. You pass through several mid Wales towns, including Llandovery and Llandeilo, before reaching the South Wales main line at Hendy Junction. The Swansea District line then takes you through Neath before joining the main line at Briton Ferry. You now pass through the contrasting industrial centres at Port Talbot and Bridgend before reaching Cardiff, the capital city of Wales, your destination for the evening.
Thursday 26th April
Cardiff to Swanage via Dorchester
Today’s epic journey sees the Great Britain tour leave Wales by way of the Severn Tunnel and heading for Bristol. You will be steam hauled by a West Country Pacific class 4-6-2 steam locomotive 34046 Braunton or an A4 Pacific class No. 60009 'Union of South Africa'. You skirt around Bristol and take the Bath line, passing through this famous spa town on the Avon, shaped by the Romans. You continue following the Avon and the Kennet & Avon Canal through to Bradford on Avon before reaching Westbury, a large railway freight centre. With the Westbury White Horse high on the hillside overlooking the area, Castle Cary is your next destination, before taking the single-track line south to Yeovil. At Yeovil Pen Mill station your train is joined by U Class steam locomotive No. 31806 and you continue double headed towards Weymouth via Yetminster in Dorset. There’s a hard climb ahead to Evershot Summit, where the line follows the river Frome to Maiden Newton. You pass through Thomas Hardy’s long-time home and inspiration Dorchester, the setting for his novel The Mayor of Casterbridge. It’s a short run now to the popular seaside resort of Weymouth, and a break before the train reverses direction. The following climb of Upwey Bank away from Weymouth towards Dorchester is one of the highlights of the tour. Cutting across country you arrive in Wareham, and a further reversal sees you return to Worgret Junction and take the branch line to Swanage. The Swanage Railway is a privately-owned preservation heritage line, with Corfe Castle overlooking the station here. You reach the terminus of the former London & South Western Railway’s branch at Swanage, a busy seaside town only a few minutes from the station, before transferring to your hotel for the evening.
Friday 27th April
Swanage to London Waterloo via the South Downs with Braunton 34046 or Union of South Africa 60009
You reluctantly leave Swanage today on the last day of your tour and return to Wareham, before following the coast line through Poole to Bournemouth and then Christchurch. You will After Brockenhurst, the line passes through the New Forest, famous for its wild habitats and roaming ponies. Next comes Southampton, with its many maritime connections, before you cross the river Itchen en route for Fareham in Hampshire. Following the South Coast line, you skirt the northern side of Portsmouth Harbour and reach Cosham, where the line to Portsmouth Harbour forms a junction. Continuing eastwards, you reach Havant and take the Portsmouth Direct line through to Guildford. This highly scenic route crosses the South Downs of West Sussex but includes some arduous gradients, including the 1 in 80 up to Buriton Summit and the 1 in 100 climb to Haslemere. From Petersfield, you run through the Liss Forest alongside the river Rother to Haselmere and onwards to Godalming, passing through the rolling North Downs to Guildford. Heading northwards now, you reach Woking and join the South-Western main line for a final fast run towards your Great Britain XI tour conclusion at London Waterloo, to complete your highly memorable 9-day tour around England, Scotland and Wales.
All prices shown are per person.
Premier Class includes:
First Class includes:
Meals included each day are shown as:
B = Breakfast - L = Lunch - D = Dinner
Tables for two can be guaranteed in Premier Class and First Class for a supplement of £185 per person (subject to availability).
Please note: The Kyle tour is optional and priced per person.