You don’t need to leave the country to have an adrenaline-fuelled adventure or do something a bit different with your time off work. From learning to belly dance in Bristol, white water rafting in Cardiff or exploring a steamy jungle rainforest near St Austell, we’ve rounded up some great ideas for weekends away by train. Adventures start here...
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Bristol Spirit Fest
The imposing, formal and traditional stately home Kings Weston House plays host to a festival that is anything but imposing and formal – Spirit Fest
, a ‘gathering of the heart and consciousness tribes to celebrate life with music, dance and arts’.
All ages come together to celebrate life through sacred music, dance and art from every tradition in the peaceful grounds of the house. Workshops range from tango, belly dancing and Shamanic yoga through to a medicine cacao dance ceremony and African drumming, and there’s plenty of opportunity to expand your mind in seminars and discussions. Spirit Fest music has a distinctly world vibe, featuring Dragonsfly, Omer Makessa Quintet, Ravi, Jason Kalidas and Maya Love.
Food is vegetarian, vegan or raw – and delicious. There’s also an array of alternative therapies and massages on offer to nourish mind and body.Bristol itself is a lively, vibrant, diverse city for a weekend. Solid Victorian engineering contrasts with Banksy murals and street art and there’s loads going on at the harbourside, docks and Wapping Wharf
GWR trains run from London Paddington to Sea Mills, changing at Bristol Temple Meads, in about 2h20m.
Pub in the Park
A food and music festival that’s the brainchild of jovial celeb chef Tom Kerridge – what’s not to love? Tom brings Pub in the Park
, his exuberant celebration of feasting and music, to the Royal Victoria Park in Bath. Taste the most popular dishes from Tom’s Michelin-starred The Hand & Flowers and other top-class gastropubs, restaurants and artisan producers at pop-up stalls. Learn how to cook to Michelin standard yourself at cookery demos, with top tips from top chefs, Bake Off and Masterchef winners. And when you need to dance off the indulgence, the music line-up is legendary, featuring Squeeze, Melanie C and Razorlight among others.
While you’re in Bath for the weekend, be sure to visit the Roman baths, the Royal Crescent and at least one quaint tea shop.Getting there:
GWR trains run direct from London Paddington to Bath Spa in about 1h30m.
C Faruolo Port Eliot Festival
The Port Eliot Festival
of creative arts is a full weekend of cultural adventure. Set in the grounds of the Earl of St German’s Cornish imposing estate at Port Eliot, it offers a rich and entertaining mix of art, music, literature, poetry, comedy, and film. Bring your own tent, or hire one of the more luxurious yurts or tipis. Port Eliot is particularly great for young families: children have their own dedicated area, the Pulse, for storytelling, music, workshops, jam sessions and even a tuck shop. They’re also encouraged to enter The Hullabaloo – Port Eliot’s century-old rhododendron garden’s ‘emporium of enchantment’ featuring giants, trolls, fairies and pixies.
Adults can wander between literary stages, local food stalls, the ‘Idler Academy’ to master the art of learning something while doing nothing, and music and comedy stages with headliners Baxter Dury, Billy Bragg and Shappi Khorsandi. And everyone is invited to leap into the muddy River Lynher estuary at high tide.Getting there:
GWR trains run from London Paddington to St Germans, direct or changing at Plymouth, in around 4 hours.
Timothy Kirman / EyeEm via Getty Images
You may have read the bestselling ‘H is for Hawk’
; now meet birds of prey up close at the Cotswolds Falconry Centre
. There are 60 different species of raptor at the centre: eagles, hawks, owls, falcons, vultures – even a secretary bird - some of which are breeding pairs and may have chicks that you’ll be able to see on CCTV. See different birds flying daily during displays – you’ll learn about the ancient art of falconry and appreciate how the different species hunt and catch prey.
The centre also runs Experience Days
at weekends and during the week: If you’re serious about falconry, the Introductory Day
will help you understand the basics, handle and fly a bird to the glove. If you love owls (and who doesn’t?) Owl Evenings
give you special access to the breeding woods, free-flying owls and the opportunity to handle some of these adorable birds.
Moreton in Marsh is a delightful place to spend a weekend – Pretty Batsford Arboretum
next to the falconry centre is a riot of colour from spring through to autumn, and a Cotswolds Guided Tour
will take you to ‘off the tourist trail’ villages and drop you back to your train station of choice.Getting there:
GWR trains run direct from London Paddington to Moreton-in-Marsh in about 1h30m.
Christoph K_tteritzsch / EyeEm via Getty Images
Have an energetic family and want to do something different to tire them out? How about Cardiff International White Water
? Right in the heart of the International Sports Village is a magnificent artificial white water course and indoor water centre.
It’s not just white water rafting – pretty much every other exhilarating watersport is covered: indoor surfing, bodyboarding, canoeing and paddle boarding to ramp up the adrenalin, all under the watchful eyes of highly-skilled trainers. Not all activities are aquatic; there are high ropes, zip wires and climbing walls too. And when everyone’s starving hungry, the Oriel Café overlooking the water course hits the spot with warming drinks, delicious dishes made with Welsh produce and plenty of cake.
If you can drag your family away from the water, Cardiff has delights to fill the rest of your weekend: a fascinating castle
with its nearby Victorian shopping arcade, the free National Museum of Cardiff
, really a museum and art gallery in one, and regenerated Cardiff Bay
, waterfront cultural hub and the place to pick up a leisurely boat tour.Getting there:
GWR trains run direct from London Paddington to Cardiff Central in about 2 hours.
Flickr CC-BY aweldemann
It’s the plot of ‘The Secret Garden’ come to life: the once-vibrant Heligan Estate was buried for decades under untamed undergrowth and weeds until in 1990 someone accidentally discovered a door into one of the walled gardens...
The rest is gardening history. Following a shoestring, yet award-winning restoration, the witty and magical Lost Gardens of Heligan
now cover 200 acres with rope bridges, ancient woodland, subtropical gardens and a temperate jungle. Everything seems huge - tree ferns, colossal gunnera, banana trees and especially the Giant’s Head and Mud Maid living sculptures. It’s a magical place where, for the duration of visits at least, we could all believe in fairies.Getting there:
GWR trains run direct from London Paddington to St Austell in about 4 hours.
Combine your weekend visit with…
Flickr CC-By Angel Ganev
You can’t come to the Lost Gardens of Heligan without a visit to what some call the Eighth Wonder of the World – the Eden Project
. These two attractions make a perfect weekend for anyone with even a passing interest in nature and plants. The Eden Project’s iconic geodesic biomes recreate the sticky environments of a rainforest and the Mediterranean and are jam-packed with native flora of each region – chili plants, cocoa pods, coffee beans; cork oaks, olives and grapevines.
Outside the biomes are learning centres, outdoor gardens, children’s play gardens, eye-catching sculptures, many made of recycled or sustainable materials, and even a zip wire. The whole site is a 21st-century temple to conservation, sustainability, recycling and humans’ imagination and ingenuity in the face of environmental change. You’ll come away more inspired and determined than ever to do your bit for the planet. Getting there:
GWR trains run direct from London Paddington to St Austell in about 4 hours.
Book your event break to one of 270 destinations in advance and save over 50%* on Advance Single fares at GWR.com. Stay connected with GWR’s free onboard wifi and power sockets and arrive at your weekend break destination refreshed, relaxed and ready to explore.
* Savings correct as of January 2018. Average saving calculated by comparing Advance Single Standard Class ticket prices to the equivalent price of a Standard Class Super Off Peak ticket bought on the day of travel. Advance fares are subject to availability. Selected GWR routes only. Advance fares available from up to 11 weeks prior to travel. Full terms and conditions at GWR.com.