Slow travel is the antidote to our frantic, busy lives. It’s about enjoying the journey as much as the destination, all while cutting carbon emissions.
Often, we’re so focussed on getting somewhere fast that we miss the beauty around us en route. But maybe 2020 is the year that we stop obsessing about the end game and start enjoying how we get there.
We live on an exquisitely beautiful island, just off the coast of an incredible continent. Both the UK and mainland Europe, in my opinion, are best viewed from a train window.
With that in mind, close your SkyScanner app and cop a load of these railway journeys that’ll have you rueing the amount of time you wasted queuing to get through airport security.
London North Eastern Railway - Newcastle to Edinburgh
Aye, it might not be a long trip but man, do you get some spectacular views. In fact, the only way to get a seriously great view of the Fourth Bridge is from a train window. The journey from London is fine but it’s only really once you get seriously north that you can enjoy coastal views and the seriously impressive border crossing. It’ll go quickly so make sure you’re prepared for it!
2 hours 10 minutes, advance returns from £20. Book now.
West Highland Line - Glasgow to Mallaig
Allow the West Highland Line to take you deep into the Wild West coast. The trip to Mallaig is so spellbinding that it was used in Harry Potter to film the Hogwarts Express. Once out of the city, prepare to be stuck dumbfound by dramatic mountains, lochs and heather moors packed with red deer. But perhaps the most daunting/peaceful thing about the trip is that aside from a few tiny stations, you’ll go for hours without seeing any signs of civilisation – not even roads.
5 hours 30 minutes, from £41.20 off-peak day return. Book now.
Cornwall Riviera - Paddington to Penzance
You could travel from London to Cornwall during the day and be engrossed in the Wiltshire White Horses, stunning rural countryside and coastal views...or you could take a sleeper train and wake up to sumptuous vistas after an evening of old world excitement. Is there anything more glamorous than taking a sleeper train across the UK? You can almost imagine you’re in the 39 Steps (except without the whole murder mystery element, hopefully).
Grab a cabin and enjoy the use of an onboard lounge area, showers, complimentary drinks. The next morning, tuck into a continental as you look out onto one of the prettiest coastal stretches of the UK. Pro tip: try to get a seat on the left side of the train from Paddington for the best sea views in the house.
Leaving Paddington at 11.45pm and arriving in Penzance at 7.50am (or 8.50 on Sundays). Sleeper singles from £79, with shared cabins costing £55 extra, or £80 for a solo cabin. Book now.
The Looe Valley Line - Liskeard to Looe
Fancy a spot of nature watching en route to your final destination? Head into deepest, darkest Cornwall and hop onto the Looe Valley Line where the eagle eyed will see little egrets, grey herons, oystercatchers and curlews. Oh, and you can bring your dog onboard, too - so you’ve got animal company inside the cabin and out. Say goodbye to the bustling market town of Liskeard and prepare to slow things down in the pretty little seaside town of Looe, with its independent shops, cafes, and clean beaches.
£4.50 off-peak day return, 30 mins. Book now.
North Yorkshire Moor Railway - Pickering to Whitby
The North York Moors are romance personified. Think Wuthering Heights. Jane Eyre. The Secret Garden. Is there anywhere more ruggedly beautiful? Probably not. So get a train across the moors to see them at their best. Start off in the ancient market town of Pickering on the border of the moors and end your trip in arguably the best seaside town in the UK - ready to climb the 99 steps, eat your weight in soft rock and spend all your money on jet in one of Whitby’s many gothic jewellery and crystal shops.
£31 return, 1hr 45 mins. Book now.
Cambrian Line - Shrewsbury to Aberystwyth and Pwllheli
The Cambrian Coast Line is one of the most beautiful coastal journeys in Britain, and runs from Shrewsbury along the Welsh Coast - casually taking in Snowdonia National Park and the Dyfi Biosphere Reserve en route. As well as incredible ocean views, the line also stops at Harlech, Aberystwyth and Criccieth castles - so you can marvel at both man made and natural beauties.
£43.10 off peak return, 3hrs 45 mins. Book now.
The Flåm Railway - Flåm to Myrdal
Fancy a real Northern Europe slow travel adventure? Pop over to Brevik on the ferry from Immingham, Lincolnshire (it takes 36 hours) before catching the Flåm Railway - one of the world’s most beautiful train journeys and arguably the only way to see Norway. Foaming waterfalls, fabulous fjords and vertiginous mountains aside, the line is also a pretty bonkers feat of engineering; The Flåm Railway is one of the steepest standard gauge railway lines in the world, with 80% of the journey running on a gradient of 5.5% (that’s a lot!). Maybe not one for the morning after a night on the Aquavit.
Return from £47, 2 hours. Book now.
Bernina Express - Switzerland to Italy
The most stunning way to cross the Alps, another bucket list European train adventure has to be the Bernina Express. Forget packing a novel - this trip has more highlights than your favourite Instagrammer’s page. You’ve got the Zügen Gorge - a breathtaking three-kilometre-long passage through Davos, the Albula/Bernina UNESCO World Heritage route which includes The Landwasser Viaduct and the tunnels between Bergün and Preda (all amazing examples of the pioneering days of the railway), and Alp Grüm, where you’ve got an unforgettable view of the Palü Glacier, Bernina Range, Bergamasque Alps and all of Valposchiavo.
Choose from routes including the year-round Chur - Tirano - Chur, or the summertime Landquart - Davos Platz - Tirano - Landquart, St. Moritz - Tirano - St. Moritz, or Tirano - St. Moritz - Tirano.
Prices start from £25, length dependent on journey type. Book now.
The Orient Express - Venice to London
Agatha Christie immortalised the glamour and beguiling beauty of the Orient Express line back in 1934 - but did you know that you can still ride the line? There’s no more luxurious way to get to cities like Venice or Verona, and this train ride is as much about what’s going on inside the train as outside, with 5* cabins, gourmet cuisine and service straight out of the 1920s. Mingle at the Champagne bar or allow yourself to be blown away by French fields, Swiss mountains and Italian lakes.
Of course, this kind of service doesn’t come cheap but the price does include a welcome glass of sparkling wine, a four-course dinner, three-course lunch, coffee, teas and petit fours, continental breakfast served in your cabin, a brunch and a wine-fuelled afternoon tea. So at the very least, you won’t have to waste your time bringing snacks on board. One for the mini moon maybe, or when you win the lottery.
From £3,255, one night. Book now.