The UK is blessed with a rich variety of scenic rail routes. From stretches through national parks, to the many coastal trips up and down the country, and the rugged natural beauty of the highlands, the rail traveller can witness some stunning views.
We've selected some of the most scenic railway journeys in the UK that are enhanced further by the coming of the colours of autumn.
Glasgow to Mallaig - West Coast of Scotland
Scenic train journeys in Scotland are not rare and the West Highland Line between Glasgow and Mallaig is considered Britain's best one. So popular that it was voted 'top rail journey in the world' by Wanderlust readers in 2009, pipping the iconic routes including the Trans-Siberian railway.
Over the course of 164 miles, the 'Road to the Isles' speeds through dramatic landscapes, passing the banks of Loch Lomond, before speeding onward passed ruined castles, mountain peaks, and waterfalls toward the west coast. Spot Britain’s highest peak, Ben Nevis, as you near Fort William. Harry Potter fans will rejoice towards the journey's end, you cross the spectacular Glenfinnan Viaduct depicted so famously in the films of Harry Potter.
Travelling to Mallaig in Autumn will reveal the magnificent depth of the colourful vibrancy throughout the Highlands in the build-up to winter.
As well as the train journey, Glasgow’s thriving art and culture scene - including the magnificent Kelvingrove Gallery - is worth checking out. From lochs to castles, and highland coastline Mallaig and its surrounding area have so much to explore.
Getting there: Arrive in Glasgow in under 5 hours from London.
Inverness over to Kyle of Lochalsh
The train journey from Inverness to Kyle of Lochalsh takes just under three hours and reveals a fine variety of Highland landscapes, that is again perhaps further enhanced thanks to the great lens of Autumn. From glens and forests through to the drama of the west coast on the approach to Kyle.
With a choice of four trains each day (except Sundays when there’s just one), taking the train from Inverness to Kyle of Lochalsh is a hassle-free way of catching the colours of autumn on the Scottish hills, and you can even spot the ruins on the Isle of Skye. If you’re a fan of rugged hills, and general outdoors activity - this area of the world is definitely for you.
It’s just over 3 hours from Edinburgh to Inverness
East Coast Main Line
The East Coast mainline is key to life in the UK, it connects many cities and communities over the course of the 393 miles that it runs. Of course, most notably connecting the capitals of England and Scotland. Travelling the route, at least once, is a must for anyone living in the UK.
Travel from Edinburgh all the way to London and enjoy several memorable moments along the way. Cross the border between Scotland and England whilst savouring the beautiful coastal scenery of the Berwick Upon Tweed area, and of course the incredibly striking stretch of coastline between Dunbar and Alnmouth. The train will then race down to Newcastle with the magnificent run over the Tyne river through to the station located in the heart of the city of Newcastle. You don’t wait long before the stunning approach to Durham from which you’ll see views over to the Durham castle and cathedral. From then gaze upon the English countryside as you get into the capital in under 5 hours.
Settle to Carlisle, Yorkshire Dales National Park
This route, through a large chunk of northern England, spends over one-third of the journey weaving through the Yorkshire Dales National Park. Look out of the window and relax as you gaze upon rolling hills, lush green valleys, and stone-built barns dotted around the edges of the moorland. Yorkshire is rightly proud of its countryside, the self-proclaimed ‘God’s own country’ bursts with beauty in Autumn. The Dales and Moors may be the most famous areas of natural beauty, but there are other less well-known areas of Yorkshire waiting to be discovered too, like the Howardian Hills and the magnificent cliffs at Flamborough.
An added bonus of the journey from Settle to Carlisle comes in the form of a structure standing 31 metres high and 400 metres long. Ribblehead viaduct is the track's most dramatic feature – comprising of 24 soaring arches. Its backdrop of Pen-y-ghent mountain, one of the Three Yorkshire Peaks!
It’s under 4 hours from Birmingham to Settle, changing trains in Leeds.
Exeter to Dawlish
In Exeter, you’ll find more than a few traces of Roman times and one of the most famous cathedrals in England. Full of wonder at all times of the year, the train journey from the bustling city of Exeter to the classically quaint seaside town of Dawlish is short - taking under 30 minutes. However, the train will spend the journey running parallel to the River Exe, stopping at the very edge of the English Channel.
Not only is the Exe Estuary popular with families on holiday, but the clear waters provide a vital habitat for wildlife. This rail route doesn’t only get you from A to B but also offers the traveller an invaluable opportunity to see if you can catch otters, seabirds and even the occasional seal around the sandbanks and upper estuary.
It takes 2 hours to arrive in Exeter from London.
Got inspired? Pick one of our autumn most scenic train rides in the UK and book your tickets now!