Great news! You’ve decided to ditch the car and give adventuring by train a go. My research so far this year shows that train adventures aren’t just possible, they can be really good fun.
Especially if you pick the right train line.
If you’re wondering which UK train lines offer the best opportunities for outdoor activities, look no further. I’ve been doing my research, and have chosen three that will definitely fit the bill.
The Riviera Line – South Devon
No matter how many times you travel between Exeter and Newton Abbot, you’ll always get a thrill from this route’s stunning estuary and sea views. Loved by visitors travelling from the city to the seaside, that first glimpse of the sea as you round the corner at Dawlish Warren takes some beating.
- Route: Exeter St Davids to Paignton
- Time: 1 hr
Train adventure suggestions – Riviera Line
With the exception of one hilly section in the middle, the South West Coast Path from Dawlish Warren to Teignmouth offers a flat meander on a high promenade above the beach. Stop off for as many Riviera Line sea swims as you like, then hop back on the train to Paignton for an exhilarating coasteering experience.
Accommodation on the Riviera Line. Places to stay along the Riviera Line tend to be of the traditional seaside variety. Five Trees Camping offer tent-only pitches just 10 minutes from Dawlish Warren Station or you could treat yourself and check into one of Paignton’s many traditional B&Bs.
The West Highland Line – Scotland
If you want to see Scotland by train, the West Highland Line offers a taste of just about everything Alba has to offer, and is considered to be one of the world’s most scenic rail journeys.
Past mysterious lochs, historic moorlands and even a famous wizard or two, relax as your train takes you through places cars can’t reach and past stations remote enough for any outdoor adventurer.
- Route: Glasgow to Crianlarich then either Oban, Fort William or Mallaig
- Time: Oban – 3 hrs 20, Fort William – 3 hrs 50, Mallaig – 5 hrs 30
Train adventure suggestions – West Highland Line
On the way to Fort William, alight at the UK’s highest train station, Corrour Station, to find yourself in stunning countryside, ten miles from the nearest public road. This is the terrain for serious walking and backpacking adventures. To get yourself started, why not enjoy uninterrupted mountain views on a nine-mile walk around Loch Ossian or get the gravel bike wheels rolling on the trails between Corrour Station and Rannock Station.
Accommodation on the West Highland Line. For the adventures above, you could take a tent for a bit of wilderness backpack camping or stay at Hostelling Scotland’s remote Loch Ossian Youth Hostel, which has a self-catering kitchen and these days even boasts hot showers.
The Heart of Wales Line – Mid Wales and Borders
The Heart of Wales Line provides vital rural communications links and many of its stations are looked after by the local communities they serve. If you’re looking for adventure, these guys are the people to ask. With two marvellous viaducts and six tunnels, be prepared to experience the very best of hidden Wales.
- Route: Swansea to Shrewsbury
- Time: 3 hrs
Train adventure suggestions – Heart of Wales Line
This big-hearted train line even has its very own long-distance trail, not surprisingly called the Heart of Wales Line Trail. Linking with all but four of the stations along the Line, it covers 141 miles from the Welsh coast at Swansea to the English border at Shrewsbury, and is perfect for walkers looking for something a bit different. Along the way, why not stop off for a bit of bog snorkelling in Llanwrtyd Wells.
Accommodation on the Heart of Wales Line. The local communities along this line request you avoid wild camping but instead use some of the delightful local campsites or holiday accommodation. As it rains so much in Wales, this makes perfect sense to me.
Other train lines for outdoor adventure
We have a great train network in the UK so if the train lines above don’t suit your thirst for adventure, we’ve found a few more and listed them below.
The Esk Valley Line – for access to the North York Moors
The Highland Main Line – for winter skills and skiing in the Cairngorms
The Wherry Lines – for boating adventures on the Norfolk Broads
The Cambrian Coast Line – to enjoy sections of the Wales Coast Path
The Atlantic Coast Line – for surfing at Newquay
Plan your own train adventures
It’s going to take you (and me) a while to travel all of the train lines above. Especially if you take advantage of all the fantastic outdoor adventure opportunities along the way. In the meantime, find out more about planning your own adventure by train, and how my year of train adventure is going so far.
Hop on board. There’s a whole lot of fun just waiting out there!