How to plan your own adventure by train
Before you take a look at my list of train adventures below, I’d like to point out that it’s entirely possible to plan your own adventures by train. In fact I recommend you do so. Local line train fares are more reasonably priced than cross-country ones, and often more fun. With an open mind, you can end up in all kinds of interesting places.
Hopefully with a jam sandwich to keep you going.
If you’re wondering where to start, I’ve dedicated a whole page to planning your own train adventure. It includes tips on managing stations, choosing an activity, finding an instructor, reducing train fare costs and going it alone. I’ve even added in explanations of a few useful map symbols to help you find exciting places.
And I’ve explained the jam sandwich thing!
Station to station walks
One of the easiest ways to get started with train adventures is to try a station to station walking route. We’re starting to gather our collection online, feel free to take a look.
Train adventures you might like to try
If you’re not yet feeling brave enough to plan your own train adventures, I’ve been compiling a list of mine to help you. Each adventure page has station information, a walking route on the OS Maps app, a route description, some helpful activity tips, and the story of how my adventure went. Feel free to give some of them a try. Nothing has gone too wrong so far.
Although there was that solo wild camping night on Dartmoor without a torch.
And that day I nearly didn’t walk across the Severn Bridge into Wales.
But like I said, most of my adventures have gone really well. I’ve got plenty more planned so keep an eye out on my social media channels or subscribe to my blog. Feel free to read through the train adventures below and choose to have a go at them or do something similar in your own area (local train journeys are a lot cheaper than long distance ones).
And do please let me know how you get on. I would love to hear.
Travel from city to city the slow way along one of England’s most important trade and social routes. The Worcester and Birmingham Canal is a fascinating place to be. A place you’ll feel you know well once you’ve walked it’s 30 plus miles.
Push your confidence boundaries on a camping adventure like no other. Solo wild camping on Dartmoor is a unique experience but so is doing it with a friend. You’ll either never forget it or wish you could.
Train station: Ivybridge
Walk, swim or ride the train. The Riviera Line won’t disappoint, whichever you choose. Where else can you enjoy sea views by train then jump out to take them in the slow way on foot. Hop on board, this is a ride you won’t forget.
With mountain views ahead, and sea views behind, you won’t know where to look on this stunning walk. The Mawddach Trail from Barmouth to Dolgellau will take you right next to the track over the famous Barmouth Bridge on foot. Then onward beyond your expectations.
Train station: Barmouth
Above the weir at Totnes the River Dart loses it’s brackish, tidal tang. It’s a committed splash from the pontoon into the water but once you’re in, the gentle glide through the Dartington Estate is surpassed only by the speeded up return back downstream.
Train station: Totnes
To my mind, crossing any border should be a significant event, especially one as important as the border between Devon and Cornwall. Travel across the Tamar Road Bridge by car and you miss the experience completely. Travel across Brunel’s Royal Albert Bridge by train and you become part of history. Walk across and you get the opportunity to properly explore these amazing feats of engineering.
Train station: Saltash
I’ve camped wild and solo on Dartmoor before but always with a tent, and always in an area I know. Bivvying on a beach is different to backpack camping in the hills because it’s almost impossible to get permission to do it. Which is probably why I felt so nervous and awake for most of the night. Will I do it again? Well probably! With so many deserted beaches near UK train stations, it would be rude not to.
Train station: Secret Seaside Beach
I had plenty of adventure plans for my first trip on one of the world’s most beautiful railways but I didn’t know when I made them that I’d be travelling in December. I wanted desperately to stop at Corrour Station but winter daylight and timetables were against me. There was also the snow. In the end this trip turned out to be my best train adventure to date. But did I get off the train? You’ll have to click through to find out!
Train station: Mallaig
No trip to Portsmouth could be complete without some time on the water so for this adventure by train I added a ride on the Gosport Ferry, which as luck would have it lands right next to the pier that houses Portsmouth Harbour Station. Pack a jacket and your binoculars and be prepared to absorb an amazing amount of history. Most of it for free.
Train station: Portsmouth Harbour
Sometimes a flat walk is exactly what you need and they don’t come much flatter than this exploration of the lighthouses at Burnham-on-Sea. As adventures by train go, Highbridge & Burnham station doesn’t look too promising but start exploring and you’ll soon discover some fascinating watery history. And none of it will cost you a penny.
Train station: Highbridge & Burnham
I wonder if the workers who risked all to build the Ribblehead Viaduct had any inkling of how iconic their creation was set to become. Ribblehead is a busy place once more but now with walkers and cyclists enjoying the scenery both natural and manmade.
Train station: Ribblehead
Not only is Dent England’s highest mainline train station, it’s also in a rather beautiful part of the world. Set high on the Settle-Carlisle line, this lonely station is a long walk from the village of the same name. But you don’t have to walk anywhere when you arrive. The station buildings have been converted into cosy holiday accommodation.
We packed a lot into this train (and bus) adventure. From the UK’s shortest train line, to homes carved out of sandstone, to a pretty canal walk. Kinver really does have a lot to offer and even more if you can face the walk up to Kinver Edge.
Train station: Stourbridge Town
If you’ve ever considered undertaking the Camino de Santiago, you’ll be interested in this UK pilgrimage. And if it’s raining outside, you’ll also be interested in the unique night sanctuary accommodation available. This adventure offers travellers a whole new way to relate to our countryside.
Train station: Hereford
So why adventure by train?
Sustainable travel is a complicated affair
If you’re reading this you love to explore. You enjoy the challenge of getting from A to B but want to make sure your travel habits support rather than damage the places you visit. And the planet.
Like me, you’ve probably discovered that sustainable travel isn’t simple.
It’s multi-faceted. Which makes it tricky to decide which approaches to go for or what we need to change. Here are four elements that can support a sustainable travel habit.
- Contributing to local communities.
- Offering respect and support to local projects.
- Choosing activities that do less harm to the environment.
- Selecting travel methods that minimise carbon emissions.
Planes, trains, or walking around naked
If I wanted to select the most sustainable transport mode, I’d have to go for barefoot naked walking. No carbon emissions, no product wear and tear, just light footprints through the sand.
I might get to the sand because I live in Devon but I doubt I’d get much further.
I love walking, and I love my local area but local exploration doesn’t always satisfy my yearning to adventure further afield. I’m not adverse to the occasional plane flight or trip in my camper van. But I do want to investigate alternatives. Climate change does matter to me.
Which is why I started to adventure by train.
Life is more curious by train
If sustainability doesn’t turn you on, I’m happy to tell you that climate change isn’t the only reason to experience your adventures by train. Here are ten more really good ones.
- Traffic queues are no fun, even when compared to busy trains
- You don’t have to pay to park your bottom at a train station
- Train adventures can really exercise your planning skills
- Sitting on a train is far more relaxing than driving a car
- From a train you get to gaze where other eyes don’t roam
- Walking to and from train stations can keep you fit
- Train trips give nervous or non-drivers opportunities to explore
- If a train is cancelled, you’ll probably be sent a bus
- Adventuring by train can improve your map reading skills
- Talking to strangers on trains can reveal all kinds of useful travel tips
Two top train travel tips
- Want a few more minutes at your location? The Signalbox website shows real-time train delays right across Great Britain.
- Looking for cheaper train fares? Consider ticket splitting, it’s easier than you think.
Give our railways a go today
If like me you’re fed up with overcrowded roads, parking hassle and knowing that your travel is harming the planet, why not have a go at adventuring by train. I’m going to keep adding to the list so keep an eye on this page. And please let me know on social media how you get on.
Who knows where the great adventure train might take us all next.