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Ideas & Inspiration Take lovely day trips by train from five great UK locations
Experience Aberystwyth on a day trip from Machynlleth

Take lovely day trips by train from five great UK locations

Fab British holidays by taking day trips from Glasgow, Leeds, Reading, Manchester, or The Cambrian Coast.

| Last Updated: about 1 month ago
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Yes it would be rather wonderful if some of the long-lost rail routes in scenic areas were still available, but the majority of Britain’s many outstanding areas of natural beauty can still be accessed by train.
Even more thrillingly steam trains now make their way along a multitude of once closed lines in many stunning locations.
So it’s straightforward to combine the best aspects of a city break along with days spent traveling across beautiful landscapes to a multitude of charming destinations, where it’s possible to relax away from the demands of everyday life.

And despite the complications of British train ticketing, for pretty much every journey suggested on this guide, off-peak Day Return tickets, will be money savers, even when booking at the station just prior to boarding.
And if you meet the criteria there's likely to be a railcard available, which will pay back its costs once you have taken the train to a location and made just one or two day trips - on journeys which don't have higher prices in summer and during school holidays!

from Glasgow:

Taking day trips by train from Glasgow Taking day trips by train from Glasgow

Glasgow has the edge over Edinburgh as a base for exploring the best of Scotland by train, and its accommodation prices tend to be cheaper than those in the Scottish capital.

And if you stay in Glasgow you don’t have to miss out on experiencing the wonders of Scotland’s capital.
Two to four new trains per hour operate over the fastest route between the two cities and the journey takes less than 45 minutes – plus the final train of the day back to Glasgow doesn’t usually depart from Edinburgh until after 23:00.

Though as you'll see below, if you have already opted to spend time in Edinburgh instead, a holiday there can also be made even more wonderful by taking easy day trips by train.

Easy access to stunning highland scenery

What makes Glasgow a great base for exploring by train is that it’s closer than Edinburgh to the beautiful islands off the West Coast, which have easy rail access, plus the city is also the starting point of the incredible West Highland Line.

The Jacobite steam train makes its majestic journeys over the spectacular part of the railway between Mallaig and Fort William from late May to late October and taking a ride on it is possible on a magnificent day trip from Glasgow (except on Sundays).
Despite the distance you won’t have to rise before dawn, because the train to Mallaig will usually be scheduled to depart from Glasgow Queen Street station at 08:23.
You will arrive in Mallaig before the steam train departs for Fort William at 14:10 and with an easily timed connection, you’ll be back in Glasgow in good time for a night cap.

to Oban

Or if heading to the end of the line in Mallaig does seem a tad daunting, then an alternative is to experience the journey on the West Highland line by taking a trip to the coastal town of Oban, pretty much the perfect location for a late lunch.

On Mondays to Saturdays the 10:33 train from Glasgow will arrive there at 13:43.

Experience the beautiful islands in the Firth Of Clyde

Heading off from Oban to explore the islands of the Inner Hebrides isn’t possible on a day trip from Glasgow, but simple as can be connections between trains and ferries make it easy to experience two of the beautiful islands in the Firth of Clyde.

to Bute

It takes less than a couple of hours to reach the gorgeous isle of Bute on a combination of a train from Central station to Wemyss Bay and the ferry to Rothesay.
The delightful ferry crossing takes 35 minutes and then on arrival you can see the best of Bute by touring the island on an open-topped bus.

to Arran

And or head off to the island of Arran, from Glasgow Central station by connecting to the ferry at Ardrossan Harbour station.
It’s possible to depart Glasgow at 09:15 and step off the ferry in Arran at noon – though check the timetable.
Due to the variety amidst its stunning landscape, Arran has been described as Scotland in miniature and a network of local bus routes link the ferry terminal to beauty spots across the island.
In summer the final ferry of the day back to Ardrossan usually departs from Brodick at 19:20.

An afternoon tea on a steam train

Spend a wonderful afternoon on the Speyside Railway Spend a wonderful afternoon on the Speyside Railway

For steam train fans The Jacobite isn’t the only journey into the past that can be easily accessed from Glasgow.
A gorgeous idea is to have an afternoon tea on the beautiful Strathspey Railway which shares the station in Aviemore with the mainline trains.
You won’t usually have to depart Glasgow Queen Street station until 10:39, though the optimum connections aren’t available on Sundays.
Having the tea isn’t compulsory, you can just sit back and enjoy the ride on a steam train.

The journey between Glasgow and Aviemore will take around 2hr 45mins, but the scenery on most of the train ride is fabulous, particularly north of Perth.

Within 90 minutes of Glasgow by train

Loch Lomond on a day trip by train from Glasgow Loch Lomond on a day trip by train from Glasgow

Or if you don’t want to travel so far, there are a multitude of other fabulous destinations which can be easily accessed from the newly enhanced Queen Street station.

to Dundee and / or St Andrews

Every hour express trains depart for Dundee where the wonderful V & A Museum in Dundee is across the street from the station.
Whether you do or don’t want to take the time out to explore Dundee, you can travel on to St.Andrews, with the next stage of the journey taking you over the incredible Tay Bridge.

Frequent buses meet the trains at Leuchars station and the transfer into the centre of lovely St Andrews takes around 10 minutes.

to Loch Lomond, Stirling Castle, The Falkirk Wheel

  • Or head off to Balloch on the shore of Loch Lomond there are trains every 30 minutes from the lower level platforms at Queen Street station;
  • Visit Stirling Castle, the journey by frequent trains takes under 40 min;
  • Or experience The Falkirk Wheel - there are trains every 30 mins from Queen Street to Falkirk Grahamston station (avoid the trains going to Faklkirk High), then from there, take bus route/line 6 to the wheel.

Booking Tickets

If you want to head off on the longer suggested journeys to Aviemore (for the Strathspey Railway; Mallaig (for the Jacobite) or to Oban, you likely will save money and have assigned seats on the trains if you book Advance tickets - in effect you'll be booking two single tickets for each direction of travel.

Though when booking, also check the price of Day Return tickets.
You should also be offered these because you will have entered the same date for the outward and return journeys.
Then compare this Day Return price with the Advance tickets, once you have selected journeys for both directions of travel.
You'll particularly want to compare the total costs of travelling each way with 2 x Advance tickets (these tickets are one-way tickets) with the Day Return price.

Also keep in mind that if you book Advance tickets ahead of your trip, you will then be commited to travellling by the trains you chose when booking, so will lose out finacially if you then were to change your plans once you're in Glasgow.

If you head to Rothesay on Bute, or Brodick on Arran, book Rail+Sea tickets which include both the train and ferry.
You should be automatically offered these when telling the booking agent at the ticket office that you're final destination will be Rothesay or Brodick, or if you select these locations as destinations when using a ticket machine.

from Leeds:

Day trips by train from Leeds Day trips by train from Leeds
Visit the National Railway Museum in York on a day trip from Leeds Visit the National Railway Museum in York on a day trip from Leeds
The Peace Hall in Halifax is a five minute walk from the station The Peace Hall in Halifax is a five minute walk from the station

The main station in Leeds is the busiest in northern England, because of the high number of routes taken by the trains which use it.
Those multiple routes mean that there are a swathe of picturesque destinations that can be accessed from Leeds on simple day trips by train including Knaresborough (easily combined with a visit to Harrogate) and Ikley, or Hebden Bridge.

Easy access to other cities

Plus there are also other must see cities that are less than an hour from Leeds by train including Manchester and York – where the National Railway Museum is a five minute walk from the station and the gorgeous city centre can be reached in 10 - 15 minutes.

Take England’s Most Stunning Railway Journey

Board a train for England's most scenic rail journey at Leeds station Board a train for England's most scenic rail journey at Leeds station
The trains may be ordinary but the landscape and stations are wonderful The trains may be ordinary but the landscape and stations are wonderful
Between Skipton and Appleby the views are often glorious Between Skipton and Appleby the views are often glorious
Take the train to Ribblehead to be wowed by its viaduct Take the train to Ribblehead to be wowed by its viaduct

What makes Leeds a particularly splendid location for railway exploration is that the trains which travel the length of England’s most beautiful railway, commence their journeys at Leeds station.

Though check the departure times (Route 7), as the service isn't particularly frequent.

Appleby is a charming market town, but that isn’t why it’s being suggested as a location to head to on a day trip from Leeds by train.
It’s because the trains to Appleby from Leeds travel traverse the Settle and Carlisle line, which is without doubt England’s most scenic long-distance train journey.
It takes 80 minutes for trains to travel over the most dramatic section of the route between the stations in Skipton and Appleby; longer than many of Europe’s most acclaimed railway journeys, such as the route through the Rhine Gorge, or a ride or Norway’s Flamsbana.

So heading to Appleby from Leeds by train isn’t a particularly eccentric idea, considering that most people who take a journey on the Flamsbana do so because of the views that can be appreciated from the train windows, and not because Flam is a must visit destination.

Walk across the Dales

If you want to make multiple stops along the Settle and Carlisle Line, in order to talk a walk from Dent, England’s highest station, or to see more of the Ribblehead Viaduct, or to have tea in Settle, then it can be worth purchasing a Day Ranger ticket.

Stop over at Saltaire

On the return to Leeds an idea is to make a straightforward connection in Skipton to take a train to Saltaire, the station which serves the fascinating village with U.N.E.S.C.O. heritage status.
Steps away from the station is the majestic Salts Mill which houses art works by David Hockney.
Or an option is to head to Saltaire from Leeds on a separate day trip by train, the station is served by a minimum of two trains per hour and the journey takes less than 15 minutes.

Ride a steam train or two

The wonderful Keighley & Worth Valley railway The wonderful Keighley & Worth Valley railway

For those with a penchant for a ride on a steam train, another location along this Settle And Carlisle line, which makes for a fabulous day out is Keighley, because its station is shared with the wonderful Keighley and Worth Valley Railway.
There are a minimum of two trains per hour from Leeds to Keighley and the journey takes less than 45 minutes.

If it’s available on the day on which you pay a visit, riding on the vintage open top bus across the Yorkshire Moors from Oxenhope to Haworth station is highly recommended.
And as the railway also calls at Haworth station, which is the village in which the Bronte sisters resided, combining a ride on the steam train with a visit to the Bronte Parsonage, is a grand day out.
And for those with a special affection for the cinematic wonder that is The Railway Children, lingering at Oakworth station is a nostalgia-fest.

to the North Yorkshire Moors Railway

Another steam railway that can be accessed from Leeds is the glorious North Yorkshire Moors Railway.
Though a visit needs to be planned with care as a journey from Leeds involves heading to Malton station by train, from where Coastliner buses on the 840 route can take you on to Pickering where the stream trains can be boarded.
The bus stop in Malton is right by the train station and in Pickering it will be a 10 minute walk to the railway.

Show your bus ticket at Pickering station to obtain a 20% discount for the gorgeous ride on the trains which will transport you to the charming fishing port of Whitby.
There will be time to have a fish and chip supper by the harbor side before heading back to Leeds on the return journey.

But before heading off from Leeds, check the railway timetable so that you can plan your optimum connections.

from Reading:

On the list of the UK’s most visited towns and cities, most of the inclusions are predictable, Manchester, Edinburgh, Liverpool etc, but Reading was an unexpected entry.
The town isn’t exceptionally beautiful, it’s not particularly historical it and isn’t the home of any noteworthy museums and galleries.
But what Reading does have is a fabulous location, as it lies on the busy rail route between London and numerous other must-see destinations to the west of the capital.

A gateway to the best of the west

Oxford Oxford

The town’s one outstanding architectural statement is its newly enhanced railway station.
Reading possesses one of the UK’s largest stations because it’s the gateway to the best of the west of England.
Many of the towns and cities that are on that most visited list, including Bath, Bristol and Oxford are within easy reach of Reading on journeys which take less than 60 minutes, by trains which depart at least twice an hour during the day.

Super easy access to London

to the British Museum at Tottenham Court Road to the British Museum at Tottenham Court Road
to the London Transport Museum from Tottenham Court Road to the London Transport Museum from Tottenham Court Road
To Spitalfields by Liverpool Street To Spitalfields by Liverpool Street
to the Sky Garden by the Elizabeth line to Liverpool Street to the Sky Garden by the Elizabeth line to Liverpool Street

If you visited those cities from London, your journey in each direction would be 25-30 minutes longer, but because those fast trains and many more, all call at Reading when making their journeys to and from the capital, London is within exceptionally easy reach.
There are at least four or more non-stop trains to Paddington station from Reading in every hour and the journey to Paddington station takes less than 30 minutes, so a day trip, or two, or more, to the capital is an easy option.

The opening of the Elizabeth line has transformed for the better the access on from Paddington to many of London's most popular tourist locations.

Lazy days in riverside towns

See the guards parade in Windsor Castle on Sundays See the guards parade in Windsor Castle on Sundays

The River Thames flows through Reading, but nearby towns along the river bank within easy reach by train, are more charming locations in which to have a lunch or tea by the waterside.
A simple connection in Twyford, takes you to Henley-on-Thames, and/or you can change trains in Maidenhead in order to visit Marlow.
Both of these charming towns can be accessed in around 45 minutes/

to Richmond

Reading also has two direct trains per hour to Richmond, with a journey time of 70 minutes, where both the riverbank and its park, make for a splendid day out - but there is one town along the Thames which reigns above all others on the must-see list, and that is Windsor.

to Windsor

With a simple connection at Slough available twice per hour, the train journey from Reading to Windsor takes a little over 30 minutes.
Although it’s best to head off on Mondays to Saturdays, as St Georges’ Chapel, the location of the wedding of the Duke and Duchess Of Sussex, isn’t open to visitors to the castle on Sundays.

And locations for railway fans

Steam train fans will love a day out to Didcot Railway centre Steam train fans will love a day out to Didcot Railway centre

For those who want to base a holiday around destinations with easy access by train, because of an enthusiasm for railways, there are also two attractions within easy reach of Reading that are a must for steam railway fans, namely the Didcot Railway Centre and the Steam Museum in Swindon.

From Machynlleth (on the Welsh Coast)

Day trips by train from Machynlleth Day trips by train from Machynlleth

For those seeking easy access to beautiful Welsh countryside and beaches without having to use a car, then the charming small town of Machynlleth is a great holiday destination.
It’s packed with attractions for the days when you won’t want to head off and explore, but it’s also ideal for those who enjoy a day by the seaside.

to Aberystwyth or Aberdovey

The charming resort towns of Aberystwyth, the cliff railway in the town is pictured at the very top of the page, and Aberdovey/Aberdyfi with their lovely beaches can be accessed by train in under 30 mins.

to Barmouth

While a journey of not much than an hour takes you to picturesque Barmouth.
If the weather is fine, an idea is to leave the train at Morfa Mawddach, the station before Barmouth, so that you can enter the town by using the footpath, beside the railway over the stunning Barmouth Bridge.

to the Great Little Trains of Wales

Machynlleth is also a particularly great location for those who want to experience the utterly wonderful Great Little Trains Of Wales.
In Aberystwyth, less than 30 minutes from Machynlleth, there is an easy connection to the beautiful Vale of Rheidol Railway

and in Talyllyn, which is also around 30 mins away by train, there is a very easy connection to the Talyllyn Railway.

to the Ffestiniog and Welsh Highland Railways

Machynlleth also has direct trains to Porthmadog for the the Ffestiniog Railway

and the West Highland Railway.

Though if you want to travel the full length of both of those lines, you’ll need to make two day trips from Machynlleth to Porthmadog to make separate journeys by each of the railways.
However, doing so will involve another yet more opportunities to experience the glorious coastal scenery that can be seen from this Cambrian Line.
When heading northwards along Cardigan Bay, take a seat on the left when boarding the trains in Machynlleth.

There are other towns, which are also great bases for day trips, there is the possibility to explore Snowdonia and beyond by train (and bus) from Bangor or to see the best of North Wales on day trips from Llandudno.

From Manchester:

Manchester is a fabulous city, but ShowMeTheJourney’s decision to spend a holiday there raised a few eyebrows, despite the city's makeover from industrial grit and grime to the north of England’s version of New York.
What drew me to Manchester for pleasure rather than business was that its city centre is the only location in England outside of London, which is still ringed by magnificent stations.
So a place to stay in the heart of the city, by the tram routes that now link Piccadilly and Victoria stations, is a fabulous location for an extended break.

Explore other fabulous towns and cities

That’s because trains from those stations provide easy access to other fabulous cities, head to Victoria station and up to 4 brand brand new trains per hour, can transport you in under 50 minutes to the centres of Leeds and Liverpool.
On arrival at Liverpool Lime Street station I hopped on a local train to Blundellsands & Crosby station in order to see Anthony Gormley’s Another Place a long term fixture on the bucket list.
The local train then took me back to James Street station, close by Liverpool’s fabulous waterfront area.

to Bradford

Another wonderful city just over an hour from Manchester by train, on trains which depart every 30 minutes, is Bradford, home of the National Science and Media Museum.
Those trains between Manchester Victoria station and Bradford also call in the charming towns of Halifax and Hebden Bridge so it’s possible to take in two or three of these must-see locations on a single day trip.

Or travel further on into Yorkshire

Or another option is to walk across Bradford city centre to Forster Square station, because from there, every 30 minutes, trains head to Saltaire, the station which serves the fascinating village with U.N.E.S.C.O. heritage status.
Steps away from the station is the majestic Salts Mill.
Those trains to Saltaire continue on to Keighley where the station is shared with the fabulous Keighley and Worth Valley Railway.
(OR both Saltaire and Keighley can also be reached on a different day thanks to an easy connection at Leeds station).

Easy Access by train to stunning scenery

Bus route 508 travels along the length of UIlswater... Route 508 travels along the length of UIlswater...
Ride the Lakeside Railway on a day trip from Manchester by train Ride the Lakeside Railway on a day trip from Manchester by train

What Manchester also offers is easy access by train to some of England’s most fabulous landscapes.
A marvelous steam railway with easier access to and from Manchester city centre is the East Lancashire Railway, it can be reached in around half an hour by taking the trams to Bury that operate every 5 - 15 minutes

A round trip by day to Windermere and Keswick

Or in just over two hours from Piccadilly and Oxford Road stations, you can be enjoying a day out in the fabulous Lake District, by taking direct trains to Windermere - in the hours when no direct trains are available, there are simple as can be connections to be made in Oxenholme.
For easy access to the beauty spots in the southern part of the Lake District national park, from Windermere station there are buses on to Ambleside, Coniston and Grasmere and Keswick.
From Keswick there are frequent buses to Penrith North Lakes station, which has direct trains back to Manchester, so it can be worth looking up the bus and train timetables in order to make a glorious round trip to and from Keswick.

A round trip by day to Ullswater, Windermere and The Lakeside Railway

Or another easy day trip itinerary is:

  1. take the train which leaves from Piccadilly and Oxford Road stations at around 09:30 on the lovely journey to Penrith North Lakes station.
  1. Then take one of Britain's most glorious bus journeys on route 508 to Bowness-on-Windermere, the bus travels along the west shore of Ullswater and then up and over the stunning Kirkstone Pass.
  2. It stops right by the piers which the Windermere lake cruises depart from.
  3. Take the boat over to Lakeside and you can also take a ride on the Lakeside Railway.
  4. Have some food/drink in of the many cafes and restaurants in Bowness and take a local bus up to Windermere station.
  5. Board the 18:56 train which is direct to Manchester.

to the Pennine Way at Edale

Another stunningly beautiful national park with easy access by train from Manchester is the Peak District.
Hourly trains from Piccadilly station can take you into the heart of the park at charming Edale in around 50 minutes, where multiple scenic walking trails begin and end.

to the Peak District
Or another destination with hourly trains from Piccadilly is wonderful Buxton, it’s a beautiful town and buses on routes across the Peak District depart from a stop by the station, the journey by train from Manchester will take around an hour.

to Blackpool

Or for a different kind of thrill, follow in the footsteps of thousands of Mancunians by taking the train from Piccadilly and Oxford Road stations to the boisterous seaside resort of Blackpool the journey will take less than 90 minutes and there are usually two departures per hour

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This second version of ShowMeTheJourney is exciting and new, so we are genuinely thrilled that you are here and reading this, but we also need your help.
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Author

Simon Harper

I wanted to share my passion for train travel and explain how anyone can take the fantastic journeys I have taken.

ShowMeTheJourney

This is one of more than 100 train travel guides available on ShowMeTheJourney, which will make it easier to take the train journeys you want or need to make. As always, all images were captured on trips taken by ShowMeTheJourney.

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Please support ShowMeTheJourney

Help keep us advertising and paywall free!

Donate

This second version of ShowMeTheJourney is exciting and new, so we are genuinely thrilled that you are here and reading this, but we also need your help.

We’re striving not to let anything get in the way of providing the most useful service possible, hence a facility has been set up with DonorBox which can be used to support the running costs and make improvements.

Instead of advertising or paywalls, your financial support will make a positive difference to delivering an enhanced service, as there’s a lot of ideas which we want to make happen.

So if you have found the info provided here to be useful, please consider saying thank you.