Our prestigious Great Britain tour returns for its 12th edition, packed with great steam highlights and covering the full span of Britain’s culture, history and incredible landscapes.
Your breath-taking adventure starts at London Paddington Station with a picturesque journey to Kingswear, travelling along the famous sea wall at Dawlish en route. You’ll journey from Somerset and Cornwall through Wales and Cumbria to the Scottish Highlands on exclusively chartered trains, steam hauled in relaxed style with overnight stays in comfortable hotels. With incredible highlights including Shap Summit en route to Carlisle, crossing the Forth Bridge, time in classy Edinburgh and a trip to remote Stranraer among many others, you’ll see the wonderful panorama of the British Isles unfold as you travel in style on this true holiday adventure of a lifetime. And with iconic locomotives such as 46233 Duchess of Sutherland, 60009 Union of South Africa, B1 61264, Jubilees 45690 Leander and 45699 Galatea, 60103 Flying Scotsman and a Black V scheduled to be used on the tour, you’re advised to book early to be certain of your place!
Saturday 27th April
Steam-hauled to Exeter via Taunton; the Dawlish Sea Wall
Your epic nine-day tour of Great Britain starts steam-hauled from London Paddington, along the former Great Western Railway (GWR) main line. You leave London and follow Brunel’s route to Bristol, building speed through west London suburbs. Crossing the Thames via Brunel’s famous arch at Maidenhead, you approach Reading via the mile-long passage through Sonning Cutting. Your route shadows the Thames towards Swindon, passing the former locomotive depot at Didcot, now a working museum. Taking the Swindon line, you traverse the Vale of White Horse, where the prehistoric Uffington White Horse overlooks the railway. Leaving Oxfordshire, you enter Wiltshire at Swindon, famous for the railway works built there by the Great Western Railway in 1841. You continue on to the famous Roman city of Bath, before heading for Bristol. Sited on the river Avon, Bristol’s extensive docks are home to Brunel’s restored steamship SS Great Britain. From here you head across the Somerset Levels, passing through Highbridge and Bridgwater before reaching Taunton. You now steam toward Wellington bank through the Blackdown Hills to face the 1-in-170 gradient. Once clear of the summit at Whiteball tunnel, you enter Devon and follow the line through Cullompton to the cathedral city of Exeter. The route follows the river Exe past Powderham Castle and through Starcross before reaching the English Channel at Dawlish Warren. You then experience the famous sea wall run between Dawlish and Teignmouth, before heading inland along the river Teign towards Newton Abbot. You’ll branch off the main line here to reach Plymouth at Aller Junction for the short, former GWR branch line to Paignton, a popular seaside resort on the so-called English Riviera. At Paignton, your train moves on to the Paignton & Dartmouth Railway line for the run to Kingswear. Spectacular cliff top vistas and wooded valleys lead to this fine naval and fishing port, where you have time to take the ferry over the Dart to Dartmouth. You then return from Kingswear to Exeter along the Dawlish sea wall for your first night’s stay in a quality local hotel.
Sunday 28th April
Heritage steam at the West Somerset Railway
This morning, you set off from Exeter back towards Taunton, again tackling the long climb through to the tunnel at Whiteball. After Taunton you follow the local link via Norton Fitzwarren to Bishops Lydeard, for a memorable trip along the 20-mile heritage West Somerset Railway. Crowcombe Heathfield, Stogumber and Blue Anchor are just some of the stations on the line. Travelling along the southern edge of the Quantock Hills you skirt the pretty harbour at Blue Anchor Bay to reach Minehead. Here you can either explore the town or take a WSR train back along the line to visit some of the colourfully-named stations. Later in the afternoon you depart Minehead back to Bishops Lydeard and thence to Taunton for your overnight stay in a comfortable hotel.
Monday 29th April
Welsh Marches line to Chester; sightseeing in Hereford
Today your train travels across the Somerset Levels towards Bristol, entering Wales via the Severn Tunnel and running along the Welsh Marches line to Hereford. You run via Caerleon and Abergavenny, with spectacular views of the distant Black Mountain and plenty of steep gradients to challenge your steam locomotive. The line twists and turns northwards through Pontrilas, crossing the Wales/England border frequently before reaching Hereford. After a break to sightsee this historic city on the River Wye, you continue via Leominster to Ludlow in Shropshire. Passing the Long Mynd at Church Stretton you descend alongside the winding River Severn towards Shrewsbury, before heading for Chester through Gobowen and Wrexham, crossing the Welsh border at Chirk, famed for its medieval castle. The Llangollen canal and rivers Ceiriog and Dee run nearby, so lofty aqueducts and viaducts are a feature of the line. Elihu Yale, who founded Yale University, is buried in St Giles church in Wrexham. Evidence of former coalmining activity abounds as you head down Gresford Bank and across the Cheshire Plain towards the border. Crossing the river Dee by the Racecourse, you enter the cathedral city of Chester for a comfortable evening stay in a local hotel.
Tuesday 30th April
Northwards to Edinburgh via Shap Summit and Beattock
Leaving Chester, you head inland and follow the line through Frodsham, in the shadow of Frodsham and Runcorn Edges, to Warrington to join the West Coast Main Line (WCML). Heading northwards, you’ll pass through Preston and Carnforth before steep ascents to Oxenholme and Grayrigg. The spectacular Lune Gorge and the Howgills precede the climb to Shap Summit as your steam locomotive tackles this notorious 1-in-75 incline. Descending through Penrith your train reaches the border city of Carlisle, pausing for a short service break while you explore the locality. Back on board you head north and cross the Scottish border at Gretna Green, following the valley of Annandale through pleasant Borders scenery to Beattock, where your locomotive battles to maintain steam on the ten-mile climb against a 1-in-80 gradient. A rapid descent through the upper Clyde valley towards Carstairs follows before you leave the WCML to follow the Edinburgh line. After a long climb to Cobbinshaw you descend to Edinburgh, running through the Princes Street Gardens before reaching Edinburgh Waverley station. You’ll spend the next two nights in Edinburgh, with ample time to discover its many attractions, including the Castle, Cathedral, Palace of Holyrood and fashionable shops. Tomorrow is an optional day, with either a trip to Aberdeen to enjoy, or time to make use of the facilities at your hotel before further sightseeing.
Wednesday 1st May
Optional trip to Aberdeen; Forth Bridge crossing; time in the ‘Granite City’
This morning your optional return trip to Aberdeen leaves Edinburgh Waverley heading for the world famous Forth Bridge, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. You follow the coastline through Burntisland and Kirkcaldy, with outstanding views across the estuary. Cutting inland you pass through Ladybank and run via Leuchars to cross the Firth of Tay on the Tay Bridge. Across the water lies Dundee, where Captain Scott’s Antarctic expedition ship ‘RRS Discovery’ is housed. Leaving the Tay estuary, you follow the coast towards Arbroath, famous for its culinary ‘Smokies’. Reaching Montrose, which sits on a land-locked lagoon, you move inland through the Howe of Mearns to reach the North Sea again at Stonehaven. Your route follows the coastline before entering the ‘Granite City’ of Aberdeen, where you’ll have time to sightsee and shop, before your steam locomotive retraces the route back to Edinburgh for a free evening to enjoy the city. Continued overleaf.
Thursday 2nd May
Steam-hauled through rugged landscapes to remote Stranraer
This morning you leave Edinburgh and head west towards Glasgow to pick up the line to Paisley and onwards to Irvine, eventually reaching the Firth of Clyde. Passing through the golf links of Troon and Prestwick, you follow the Ayrshire Coast Railway to the seaside town of Ayr, where you’ll return later in the day. First, however, you enjoy a scenic rail journey south along the Scottish west coast, to the sea port of Stranraer on Loch Ryan off the Irish Sea, through landscapes that inspired poet Robert Burns, who was born near Ayr. The railway was built by the Glasgow & South Western Railway Company and joined up with the Portpatrick & Wigtownshire Joint line for the last few miles to Stranraer. It’s noted for some severe gradients, particularly the 1-in-54 climb away from Girvan and the lengthy 1-in-67 climb through Barrhill. On arrival at Stranraer you’ll have time to either visit the town while your steam locomotives are serviced or take in the brisk air off Loch Ryan. You’ll return northward later to Ayr for an overnight stay.
Friday 3rd May
South into England to Scarborough via the Settle & Carlisle Line
You depart this morning from Ayr northwards for Troon, to join the G&SW main line from Glasgow to Carlisle for a run through East Ayrshire to Cumnock and Sanquhar. Passing through dense forests via Nithsdale towards Dumfries, you pass over the border into England at Gretna Green heading for Carlisle, where you’ll take a short break. You leave Carlisle on the spectacular Settle & Carlisle line through the rugged Pennines to Settle Junction, a journey of 72 miles incorporating 20 viaducts and 14 tunnels. Following the undulating Eden Valley from Carlisle you reach Appleby, a town famous for its annual horse fair. The line climbs for fifteen miles at a gradient of 1-in-100 to the summit of the line at Ais Gill, 1169 feet above sea level. There then follows the passage through Garsdale to Dent, the highest main line station still open in England. There are spectacular views from your train as it passes through Dent Dale and into Blea Moor Tunnel, before reaching the iconic Ribblehead viaduct, spanning 24 arches and over 100 feet tall. The three peaks of Ingleborough, Wernside and Pen y Gent will be visible as you descend to Settle Junction. Your scenic journey continues along the Aire Valley via Leeds to York. The last section of the day follows the river Derwent across Yorkshire through Malton to the seaside resort of Scarborough, where you’ll stay overnight. As well as two scenic bays overlooked by an imposing castle, this popular North Yorkshire resort has many other tourist attractions.
Saturday 4th May
Free time in and around busy Scarborough
Today is free to do your own thing in and around Scarborough, with its charming shops and market, harbour boat trips, parks, museums and variety of seaside entertainments. Alternatively, you might like to join us on an optional visit to the North Yorkshire Moors Railway we will travel to Pickering by coach and then continue onwards to Whitby steam hauled.Here you will have some free time to enjoy this seaside town before you return to Pickering and then back to Scarborough.
Sunday 5th May
South to London through Oxford and Didcot
After two nights in Scarborough, you re-join your Great Britain train and head south towards York, with a fast run along the ECML to Doncaster. Threading your way through the South Yorkshire industrial towns of Rotherham and Sheffield, you head past the crooked spire at Chesterfield, to follow the fertile Derwent Valley through Belper to Derby. Leaving the railway town behind you head south along the valley of the Trent through Burton on Trent and Tamworth to the outskirts of Birmingham. Running via Bordesley Junction, you join the Great Western Main Line from Snow Hill at Tyseley and continue through Warwick and Leamington to Banbury. After Banbury, the route follows the meandering Oxford Canal as you head for Oxford, the ‘City of Dreaming Spires’. You continue south through Didcot to arrive at London Paddington in the early evening to end your comprehensive highlight-packed 9-day rail tour of England, Scotland and Wales.
All prices shown are per person.
Premier Class price includes
First Class price includes
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 Aberdeen tour is optional and priced per person.
Advertised routes and locomotives are subject to change due to availability and operational issues.
Meals included each day are shown as:
B = Breakfast - L = Lunch - D = Dinner