Travelling by train can be one of the best ways to get around. Whether you’re looking for coast, countryside or cities, here are some of the best places to take a train trip in England.
England is full of fantastic destinations. From cultural cities, heritage towns and beauty spots in rural areas, there is plenty to see and do. The country also benefits from a well-connected rail network, meaning you can get to all these places quite easily and in good time.
Discover the top destinations in England to visit by train.
It goes without saying that London is one of the must-visit destinations in England. As well as buses, there is also the Tube that gets you anywhere within the city.
London is divided into different neighbourhoods, each with tons of things to see and do. This makes it easier to break your itinerary up! A list of things to do in London would be exhaustive, because whatever you’re into, London has it!
If history and art are your thing, then you’re in for a treat as London is home to some of the best museums and galleries in the world. Some of the top ones include the Victoria and Albert Museum, British Museum, Tate Modern, Natural History Museum, National Gallery and the Science Museum.
Whether you’re a foodie or love a good bargain, London’s markets are one of the top places to visit. There’s a huge range of markets, from street food and farmers markets, to fashion, vintage and antiques. Some of the most well-known markets are Borough Market, Old Spitalfields Market, Portobello Road Market, Covent Garden Market, Camden Market and Brick Lane Market.
Some of London’s iconic landmarks to visit are Buckingham Palace, London Eye, Big Ben, Tower Bridge, Tower of London and St Paul’s Cathedral. If you’re only in London for a quick break, a great way to see these landmarks is on a guided tour, whether it’s a walking tour, hop-on-hop-off bus tour, or even an afternoon tea bus tour!
Liverpool is another must-visit city. This maritime city is considered to be a ‘capital of culture’ in England, and is jammed with museums, art galleries, bars, restaurants and excellent shopping.
When talking about Liverpool, it’s pretty hard to ignore the elephant in the room – The Beatles. As the birthplace of the band, there is so much to explore.
The Beatles Story is an immersive walk-through experience with a huge collection of memorabilia and merchandise. While you won’t get to see The Beatles perform, there are still some fantastic tribute acts performing at The Cavern Club, an iconic live music venue that played a role in the birth of The Beatles.
Make sure you visit the city’s waterfront, once one of the busiest docks in the world. Today, it’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site and there are tons of attractions to explore. For some shopping and a bite to eat, head to the Royal Albert Dock.
This complex of former dock buildings and warehouses is now home to independent shops, boutiques and cafes. You’ll also find the Tate Liverpool hare, as well as the Merseyside Maritime Museum and the Museum of Liverpool nearby.
A must-do in Liverpool is to get a good view of the city’s skyline. The best way to do this is to take a ride on the Mersey Ferry. Another fantastic view is from the top of Liverpool Cathedral. It’s the largest religious building in Britain, home to the world’s highest and widest Gothic arches, and the largest organ in the country.
Manchester is England’s second largest city by area. It’s a vibrant city with tons of interesting attractions. Manchester is also surrounded by the Pennines, making it the perfect base for exploring the countryside.
If you’re interested in museums, then Manchester has a lot to offer. There’s the Manchester Museum, People’s History Museum, and the Science and Industry Museum to name a few. If you’re interested in football, the National Football Museum is worth a visit. The city is also home to Manchester United FC and Manchester City FC which both run stadium tours.
Manchester has a lot of beautiful architecture, and the best way to see it is just by walking around the city and taking it all in. Some of the most impressive buildings are the John Rylands Library, Manchester Town Hall, Central Library, Bridgewater Hall and Manchester Cathedral.
Speaking of impressive, the Manchester Art Gallery should be on the itinerary for every art lover. It hosts a huge collection of art from local and international artists, including famous names like Gainsborough, Turner and Pissarro. It’s more than just paintings too – there are ceramics, metalwork, clothing and accessories dating back to 1600.
Manchester’s Chinatown is the second largest in the country, and well worth a visit with an excellent selection of restaurants, supermarkets and shops. If you love shopping, then you’re in for a treat. Manchester has a huge choice when it comes to the retail sector. There are shopping centres like Manchester Arndale and intu Trafford Centre, high streets like Exchange Square and Market Street, boutique districts around King Street, Spinningfields and New Cathedral Street, as well as handmade and vintage shops around the Northern Quarter.
Manchester has a long history with music, so it would be rude not to visit one of its music venues to sample what the city has to offer. Whatever genre you listen to, it’s there. Some of the best live music venues include The Whiskey Jar, The Ritz, Night and Day Cafe, The Deaf Institute and Band on the Wall.
Straddling the River Avon, Bristol is a thriving, colourful city with a lot to offer. A good place to start your adventure in Bristol is at the harbour. Bristol Harbour has been around since the 13th century, and was a popular spot for ships setting sail for the ‘New World’. There are many attractions, cafes and arts and exhibition spaces peppered round the area. You could also take a river cruise to learn more about the city.
If you have a bit of time on your hands, pay a visit to Bristol Zoo which has been at the forefront of conservation since 1836. There are a huge variety of animals here, from aye ayes to Asiatic lions. For a bit of an adventure, have a go at ZooRopia, an adventure rope course that passes through the zoo alongside gibbons, lemurs and gorillas.
If you fancy yourself as a bit of a creative, take a stroll to the Watershed. Housed in former warehouses, the multi-arts venue has three cinemas, a cafe and several spaces for creative use. It’s a popular hangout for locals, so it’s a great spot to get a feel for Bristol life.
Bristol is a hub for aerospace and industry. A fun place to discover more about its aerospace industry is Aerospace Bristol. It tells the story of the city’s aviation achievements and you’ll even get the chance to step foot on the Concorde Alpha Foxtrot, the last of the supersonic jets to fly. If it’s ships you’re interested in, the SS Great Britain was the world’s first great ocean liner. It ferried visitors across the Atlantic, and immigrants to Australia. Today, the ship is a floating museum and an award-winning attraction.
Fans of historic houses won’t leave disappointed. There’s the Georgian House, built in 1790 and used as a museum. Having been restored to its original glory, the house shows what life would’ve been like in 18th century Bristol. Another impressive home is Ashton Court. This manor has been around since the 11th century and has a fascinating mix of architectural styles.
No trip to Bristol would be complete without visiting the Clifton Suspension Bridge, an iconic landmark. Opened in 1864, the bridge stretches across the Avon Gorge. Before you cross it, climb up Observatory Hill for the best view of the bridge.
Leeds, West Yorkshire
Leeds is a thriving city in West Yorkshire. It has something for everyone, whether you enjoy art, fashion, food and drink, history or the outdoors.
Leeds has its fair share of museums and art galleries. The most popular museum is the Royal Armouries Museum, home to the National Collection of Arms and Armour. There is an extraordinary collection of over 75,000 objects such as weaponry used in the Ottoman Empire, Japanese shogun armour and guns from the Wild West. Other engaging museums are the Leeds City Museum, Thackray Medical Museum and the National Coal Mining Museum.
Some great city centre art galleries are the Leeds Art Gallery, Henry Moore Institute and The Tetley. If you have a bit of time on your hands, take a train to the nearby city of Wakefield and pop into the Yorkshire Sculpture Park. This open-air gallery showcases modern and contemporary art by British and international artists.
If you’re a fan of beer and cider, then you’ve come to the right place. Leeds has many breweries which hold tours and tasting. Some of the most established ones are Leeds Brewery, Northern Monk and North Brewing Company. Just outside of Leeds you’ll find Ilkley Brewery, Ossett Brewery and Quirky Ales.
After a tasting, catch a show at one of Leeds’s esteemed theatres. There’s Leeds Grand Theatre, Leeds Playhouse and City Varieties Music Hall. Prefer to shop? Whatever you’re into, Leeds has it. If it’s designer brands, head to Victoria Quarter. If you like high street brands, Trinity Centre is the place to be. Prefer independent boutiques? Head to The Corn Exchange.
In Leeds, you’re always a train or bus ride away from the countryside. With a name like God’s Own Country, it would be rude not to take a walk in the great outdoors! The Yorkshire Dales National Park is literally on the doorstep, so get out and explore the moors, valleys and villages.
Truro is the only city in Cornwall. It’s a great place to visit, with great shopping, historical attractions and a thriving food and drink scene. If you’re interested in some retail therapy, you’ll find the usual high street stores alongside a wide choice of independent shops. Some of the most popular streets are Boscawen Street, River Street and King Street. If you’re more into markets, Lemon Street Market is an indoor destination full of boutiques, galleries and cafes. Another great place is the Pannier Market, home to 35 independent shops.
Truro has a rich history, and it was one of the most successful port towns during the Industrial Revolution. A good place to brush up on the history of the city is the Royal Cornwall Museum. As well as engaging exhibitions on Cornwall’s mining and engineering heritage, you’ll also find out about its link with the rest of the world through Ancient Egyptian, Greek, Roman and Byzantine artefacts.
While you’re in Truro, it’s worth catching the bus for a short ride to Tregothnan. Dating back to the 14th century, this country house and estate is also the largest gardens and arboretum in Cornwall. In addition to rare and endangered trees from around the world, it also happens to be the first tea plantation in Britain, with up to 20,000 tea bushes harvested each year. You’ll also find products which aren’t usually grown in the UK, such as Kea plums and Manuka honey. Fancy a taste? Pay a visit to the shop while you’re there.
Newcastle is an industrial city that lies on the River Tyne. It’s a buzzing, cultural city with plenty of attractions, magnificent buildings and great shopping. A good place to start is the historic quayside. Many of the old houses have been redeveloped and are now hotels, shops and restaurants. As you walk down the quayside, you won’t miss the seven bridges that span the River Tyne, from the old High Level Bridge to the spectacular Gateshead Millennium Bridge.
Newcastle Castle is definitely worth a visit, and you can explore the old passages and medieval chambers. For more history, take a stroll down to the Old City Chares. This area is full of well-preserved, narrow medieval alleyways. There are also some architectural gems such as the Custom House and Trinity House.
Having had such a large Roman presence, there is a wealth of Roman history to delve into. The best place to take a step back in time is the Great North Museum: Hancock. Find a treasure trove of artefacts from the Romans, Egyptians and the Greeks. For a look back into the Industrial Revolution, the Discovery Museum has exhibits ranging from early steam engines to vintage cars.
If you have time (and fitness!) on your side, then a popular thing to do in Newcastle is to tackle a section of the 84 mile long Hadrian’s Wall which runs through the city centre and across some beautiful countryside. For something a little more relaxing, Jesmond Dene is one of the loveliest city parks in England. There is a picturesque nature trail that takes you past the Old Mill which has been around since the 1700s.
If it’s a warm day, nothing beats a trip to the seaside. Paignton is one of my top choices when it comes to seaside towns. Sitting on the English Riviera, the area has a mild climate and subtropical palm trees that won’t feel like England at all!
A classic thing to do at any seaside town is to stroll down the pier. It’s hard to miss Paignton Pier which is perched in the centre of Paignton Beach. There’s something for everyone to enjoy, with over 20 different entertainment options. If you’re travelling with kids, there are bouncy castles and face painting for the younger ones, and crazy golf and dodgems for the older ones. If you want to unleash your inner child, have a go at the games at Paignton Pier Amusements. Grab a bite at one of the various food vendors and sit back on the giant deck chairs to enjoy the views.
If you can’t get enough of travelling by train, then you’ll love a trip on the Dartmouth Steam Railway. It starts at Paignton and journeys along the picturesque Torbay coast for seven miles to Kingswear. If you’re interested in more water activities, Dartmouth Steam Railway & River Boats offer a range of boat trips and paddle steamers to explore the coast.
Love animals? Then a trip to Paignton Zoo is a must. This zoo was one of the first in the UK to promote and emphasise animal conservation, and there are over 2,500 animals to see here. It’s also a botanical garden with fascinating plants from all over the world. Make sure you stroll through the flower meadows, herbaceous borders and indoor areas.
Lyme Regis, Dorset
Another great spot on the coast is Lyme Regis. It’s nicknamed ‘The Pearl of Dorset’ and rightly so – the town has stunning scenery, breathtaking coastal walks, amazing beaches and fun attractions.
Lyme Regis is famous for its geology, and fossils can be found on its beaches. A must-do is a visit to Dorset’s famous Jurassic Coast, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Head to Monmouth Beach which stretches for a mile from the town’s harbour to Pinhey Beach. It’s a great spot for fossil hunting and rockpooling, so keep an eye out and see what you can find!
Alternatively, you can join in on a fossil walk with local experts from the Lyme Regis Museum. Make sure to pop into the museum to see fascinating displays on the town’s history, including fossil collections, maritime and domestic objects, paintings, prints and photographs. The Dinosaurland Fossil Museum also doesn’t disappoint, with over 12,000 specimens on display.
If you’re a keen walker, Lyme Regis doesn’t disappoint. It’s part of the South West Coast Path, England’s longest waymarked long-distance footpath. There are shorter sections of this 630 mile route, like the one from town to West Bay.
It’s also worth checking out what shops the town has to offer. The Town Mill is a unique shopping destination with art galleries, artists’ studios, a cafe, a silversmith, a seamstress, a pottery, a bakery and deli, and a microbrewery. What makes it special is that the shops are situated around a working water mill. Take a tour to see the Victorian milling machinery and learn how the giant water wheel creates power as grain is converted into wholemeal flour.
Canterbury is a cathedral city in Kent and a must-visit. The city has a rich history and culture and holds the status of UNESCO World Heritage Site. Lying on the banks of the River Stour, Canterbury is a picture postcard city, with period architecture, cobbled streets and green spaces.
If there’s only one thing you see in Canterbury, it should be the thing the city is most famous for – its UNESCO World Heritage cathedral. It’s one of the oldest Christian structures in the country, dating back to 597AD. It’s known as the spot where Thomas Becket was killed, the Archbishop who was hunted down by King Henry II’s followers in 1170. There are guided tours, but you can also explore at your own pace.
Walking around the city is fun, but what’s even better is exploring by boat. Climb aboard one of the boats from Canterbury Historic River Tours, and make your way down the River Stour, keeping an eye out for the city’s landmarks. You’ll also be in for some entertaining tales of Canterbury’s history from the tour guides.
Speaking of history, Canterbury is the place to be for history nerds. The Romans had a large presence in Canterbury, and built walls around the city which you can still find traces of today. Canterbury Roman Museum is a great place to learn more about the city’s past. Find Roman floor mosaics, artefacts and a reconstructed Roman house and marketplace.
Can’t get enough of museums? The Beaney House of Art and Knowledge is Canterbury’s central museum, library and art gallery. There’s a whole treasure trove of artefacts including sculptures, mosaics, jewellery, glassware and pottery, many of which have been excavated from around the area.
If you need a break from all that history, grab a treat from one of the many cafes and coffee shops and head to Westgate Parks, a lush collection of different landscape areas along the River Stour.