Journey 13: Berwick to the Isle of Man (Great British Railway Journeys, Book 13)
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It offers the opportunity to admire beautiful landscapes in the calm and comfort of your own space; it provides a space in which to sit and stare; to read or chat or simply to enjoy moments of calm reflection and the reassuring rocking motion and chug-a-chug-chug of the engine. In its more upmarket Orient Express-style manifestations — the luxurious and frequently epic journeys much beloved of Telegraph Travel readers — train travel offers the chance for fine dining and old-school sophistication; a stepping back into the era of silver service in the dining car and the sweet tinkling of the ivories in the piano bar.
It appeals to lovers of nostalgia — best evidenced in the extraordinary popularity of the various television series on train travel presented by Michael Portillo in which he uses as his guides books that were published more than a century ago. Of course, train travel serves a utilitarian function too: in its more modern high-speed forms, it offers quick, convenient ways of crossing to the Continent thank you Eurostar or travelling the length and breadth of Japan ditto the Shinkansen bullet train.
And it provides a very welcome alternative to what has become the decidedly unglamorous procedure of flying. There is never a bad month in which to take a train journey, but some are best made at certain times of year. That is the principle that informs this selection by Telegraph Travel writers of 50 great train trips for each season of the year. Some of the suggestions that follow are there because the journeys are new: the spectacular-looking Shiki-Shima that is set to redefine luxury train travel in Japan in May; the Andean Explorer that will take intrepid travellers to the shores of Lake Titicaca in Peru for the first time this spring; escorted tours that will take in Hellenic Treasures June , the mysteries of Tibet October and the rhythms of New Orleans February.
Some have been chosen because they coincide with commemorations: the th anniversary of the Russian Revolution; a centenary of travel on the Indian-Pacific in Australia. Most of our choices, however, have been governed by seasonal considerations: from experiencing the snows of Russia in winter to spying the mountain flowers of the Pyrenees in spring; from relishing the magic of the Rocky Mountaineer in Canada in summer to seeing the famous colours of the Fall in America in autumn.
Here then is a selection of some of our all-time favourite rail journeys — with recommendations for when best to take them: all aboard! Start the year as you mean to continue — in style on board a lavishly fitted train racing through the snowy landscapes of Russia towards the Arctic Circle. Over the coming days you will see ice sculptures and huskies, Arctic king crabs and ancient walled cities; you will take a horse-drawn sleigh ride and hear stirring choral works performed by monks.
It is not cheap, but this trip, bookended by visits to St Petersburg and Moscow, is a pretty spectacular way to greet the new year. The next departure is December 29 New trains have recently entered service, cutting the journey time between Kleine Scheidegg and Jungfraujoch by about 15 minutes. Interlaken-Jungfraujoch costs Winter in the northern hemisphere is of course summer in the south. From Christchurch, the journey begins with the breadbasket of the Canterbury Plains, criss-crossed with shelterbelts of columnar trees.
A minute stop allows passengers to stretch their legs, before rejoining the train for the entry into Otira Tunnel — the work of 37 years and the sinews of many a Welshman. More train to the slopes options on snowcarbon. There should be plenty of snow on the ground for the ascent of the Brocken mountain during this five-night tour of the Harz Mountains with Railtrail Tours. Once an out-of-bounds listening post in East Germany, the Brocken provides the most demonstrative daily display of steam power in Europe as the colossal narrow-gauge locomotives bark up the 1 in 30 gradient through coniferous forest straight out of a Caspar David Friedrich landscape.
The guided holiday begins aboard a Eurostar train at London St Pancras and continues by high-speed train from Brussels to reach Wuppertal for an overnight stay. From the base hotel in Wernigerode, three days are spent exploring the Harz Mountains and their medieval towns by the mile km narrow-gauge network. A day is spent in Goslar, full of timber-framed buildings and an 11th-century imperial palace. Quedlinburg, site of further timber-framed magic, is combined with the very different narrow-gauge journey on another branch of the network, between Quedlinburg and Alexisbad.
Rail Discoveries operates a similar guided six-night tour in spring and summer. One of the most spectacular festivals is at Pingxi, reached by frequent trains from Taipei, where this private nine-night tour — new for — begins with a full-day exploration of the capital. The railway highlight of Taiwan, the Alishan Mountain Railway, was built to extract logs from the forest but now provides access to a magnificent vantage point for sunrise. Google it if you dare. A grandstand festival ticket is included in the tour price. Each Thursday morning, train number 17 rumbles out of Belorussky Rail Terminal.
At this time of year, temperatures outside this wedding cake of a station barely scratch freezing. From the s, Russian aristocrats chased the southern French sun on this exact same route, which for obvious reasons went out of service following the Russian Revolution. In it was gloriously restored. The eight-nation tour continues through Vienna, Milan and a Riviera dawn at San Remo, dropping you in Nice for a sun-kissed Saturday breakfast on the Promenade des Anglais. The opening in late of yet another high-speed rail line in China — from Guiyang to Kunming — was great news for those wanting to see more of this intriguing country by train rather than from the air.
The tour can be taken at any time of year, but in March with the first hints of spring in the air it has particular allure. The tour can be shortened or modified ; bambootravel. This was big news for two reasons. First, it marked the extension of the bullet trains — which first wowed the world during the Olympics — to the northern island of Hokkaido. Second, the journey itself is a four-hour tease of what British rail could have been.
A final burrow through the Seikan Tunnel under the Sea of Japan completes the mile km journey. In March, Norway emerges blinking into the spring daylight. But the Tolkienesque topography that chasms between Bergen and Trondheim is still riven with snow. Three nights of activities here include reindeer rides and a Sami barbecue inside a wooden hut with a roaring fire. The mile 20km line starts at sea level at Sognefjord then weaves past crashing waterfalls to the Myrdal mountaintop station at 2,ft m.
Save room for the traditional Viking plank feast, a big pile of meat and fish served on a, erm, plank. Great Rail Journeys ; greatrail. Early spring is the time to discover a high plateau in the French Pyrenees ablaze with mountain flowers that enchanted the Scottish artist Charles Rennie Mackintosh, who called it fairyland. Half the fun comes from getting there on the Little Yellow Train that climbs for almost 40 miles on a narrow-gauge railway from the medieval fortified town of Villefranche-de-Conflent to the Spanish border, via the highest railway station in France.
It is a magical trip through time and space that has been defying both with daring engineering and merry toot-toots of its whistle for more than a century. Most of the carriages that entered service in are still running on the line that snakes improbably through chasms, over ravines and viaducts, and gazes imperiously down on the road to Andorra winding through valley floors below.
Well-heeled visitors, on the other hand, jumped at the chance to take in tourist sites from the Titanic Experience in the north to Blarney Castle in the south, shuttling between them on a country-house-on-rails with two restaurants and a bar offering constant changes of view. The Emerald Isle is green for a reason, and to avoid the worst of the wet the Grand Hibernian operates only between April and October. Be one of the first to ride it in Formerly government owned, the train has sparkling new livery, extra observation and dining carriages and shorter journey times off the train.
The climax of the journey is a sunset cruise on the Zambezi River. Few small islands pack in as much heritage railway interest as the Isle of Man. Cuzco, in Peru, used to be backpacker central. The train will travel on one and two-night journeys along one of the highest railways on Earth, via the 14,ft 4,m summit at La Raya, to Lake Titicaca and the Unesco World Heritage city of Arequipa. There are two restaurant cars, an open-air observation deck, a lounge car and 34 cabins, all en suite.
Ffestiniog Travel, venturing this year for the first time into the former Soviet republic of Uzbekistan, has sold out its first two tours and has one left in May. Those cities include Samarkand, with its three medieval madrassas in the colossal Registan Square; Bukhara, base for three nights, which is the best-preserved example of a medieval city in Central Asia; Khiva, with its inner town bounded by massive walls of mud; and the capital, Tashkent, where an open-air railway museum houses a fine collection of former Soviet locomotives and rolling stock.
Ffestiniog ; ffestiniogtravel. This month, Japan Railways JR East inaugurates a new car tourist train with six sleeping cars, each with just two or three suites, a dining car serving eastern Japanese cuisine, lounge car and two double-deck observation cars at each end. It looks utterly different from any other tourist train on the planet and breaks new ground in luxury train design.
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Operations are year-round with one and three-night tours from spring to autumn and two-night trips in winter. Journeys begin in a luxurious lounge at Ueno station in Tokyo, and the itineraries include a circuit of Honshu visiting such places as Yamanashi for Mount Fuji, the Nikko Toshogu Shrine and Aizu for the replica of a traditional Japanese castle. The longest tour is an out-and-back visit through the Seikan Tunnel to the island of Hokkaido. The Amalfi Coast is lovely to visit at any time of year, but May brings a very special magic. The train onwards weaves though the Tuscan countryside to Rome and Naples, where there is a choice of reaching Sorrento by train and bus or the more romantic and scenic boat journey along the coast.
The route to reach Paris for the Eurostar home is through the scenic Savoy Alps. A seven-night trip with Railbookers ; railbookers. Its stops include the town of Jokkmokk, where the Midnight Sun can be seen for most of June and the beginning of July. The trips include overnight stopovers at hotels along the route, guided tours, museums and excursions.
Inlandsbanan ; inlandsbanan. On June 21, the Summer Solstice, a journey of more than 13 hours can take you from Aberdeen to Penzance with daylight all the way, and a civilised departure time after 8am. The styling of the end cars resembles an avant-garde samurai helmet, but inside all is quiet and restrained opulence: art deco meets 21st-century Japan.
JTB Europe ; japanspecialist. Summer brings a new tour beneath the blue skies of southern Europe on a Golden Eagle luxury train from Athens to Budapest. The ancient theatres, medieval walls and Ottoman baths of Plovdiv in Bulgaria are the next destination, followed by the fortifications and Turkish baths of the Serbian capital, Belgrade. Michael next follows in the footsteps of the master engineer of the Great Western Railway, Isambard Kingdom Brunel, beginning at the line's London gateway, Paddington Station and ending in Newton Abbot, Devon , the scene of one of Brunel's heroic failures.
Finally Portillo is on a railway journey through the Republic of Ireland travelling from the rugged beauty of County Kerry to the city of Galway across the rural Irish Midlands to end on the Atlantic coast. In Series 5 Michael Portillo finds out how railways have impacted on the places they link.
The first new journey in this series takes him from Manchester, birthplace of George Bradshaw, the publisher of his trusted guide, to Chesterfield , burial place of George Stephenson, the father of the railway. For his third journey in this series, assisted by his Bradshaw's guide, Michael Portillo embarks on a new journey from Southampton to Wolverhampton.
Finally, Michael Portillo embarks on a new journey from Norwich to Chichester. In a series of four epic journeys, Portillo travels the length and breadth of the country to see how the railways changed the public, and what of Bradshaw's Britain remains. Michael Portillo's journey begins on the world's first passenger railway line.
On the first leg, Michael learns to speak Scouse in Liverpool, finds out about the first railway fatality and explores the origins of the Eccles cake. Michael visits Manchester to find out more about George Bradshaw himself. He also gets fitted for a trilby in Denton and learns how the railways helped to create a national institution - fish and chips. From Manchester to York takes just over 1 hour and the journey ends with a Metrolink tram journey into Bury. Michael travels back in time on the Embsay and Bolton Abbey Steam Railway , finds out about the latest Roman discoveries in York and takes to the air in the Network Rail helicopter.
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From Todmorden to York takes about 1 hour 45 minutes and requires a change of trains, usually in Hebden Bridge or Leeds. Michael searches for the last liquorice grower in Pontefract, discovers how the railways turned Hull into one of the largest white fish ports in the world and goes fishing for sea bass in Bridlington. From Pontefract to Bridlington takes about 3 hour 15 minutes and requires two changes of trains, usually in Leeds and Hull.
Michael goes bird-watching on the wild cliffs of Flamborough Head, learns to decipher traditional knitting patterns in Filey and meets one of the oldest residents of the Victorian seaside resort of Scarborough - a 4,year-old skeleton called Gristhorpe Man. From Filey to Scarborough takes about 20 minutes on a direct Northern Line train.
On this first leg, he explores the origins of the temperance movement in Preston, samples the attractions of Blackpool, a resort made by the railways, and takes a walk across Morecambe Bay with the official Keeper of the Sands. From Preston to Morecambe takes about 40 minutes with a change of trains required onto the Morecambe branch line in Lancaster. On this second leg, he returns to the historic Settle-Carlisle line to find out what has happened to it since he helped save it in the s.
Along the way, he explores the magnificent Ribblehead viaduct, finds out about the navvies who helped to build it and catches a steam train along the line. From Settle to Garsdale takes about 30 minutes. On this third leg, he takes a steamboat tour of Lake Windermere, visits Wordsworth's home village of Grasmere and makes sausages with a local Herdwick sheep farmer. From Windermere to Kendal takes about 14 minutes on a direct Transpennine train.
On this fourth leg, he meets the wild clansmen of Carlisle, the Border Reivers, witnesses a wedding in Gretna Green and visits a secret World War I munitions factory. Michael travelled from Carlisle to Gretna Green, an 11 minute journey. He then went on to Lockerbie, which would involve travelling back down the Glasgow and South Western line to Carlisle before travelling north again on the West Coast Main Line to Lockerbie. This would take around 40 minutes. On this fifth leg, he makes apple juice in the Clyde valley orchards, pays a thrilling visit to the top of the Forth Rail Bridge and relives his childhood memories in his grandparents' home town of Kirkcaldy.
From Edinburgh to Kirkcaldy takes about 45 minutes on a direct First Scotrail train. He finds out about free holiday trains for the GWR workers in Swindon, samples the spa in Bath and tries his hand at glass blowing in Bristol. From Swindon to Bristol takes about 45 minutes if travelling via Bath. A break of journey in Bath is not usually allowed unless purchasing separate tickets. This time, Michael samples local Cheddar strawberries, explores Cheddar Gorge and the famous caves, and visits one of the oldest piers in the country at Weston Super Mare.
From Yatton to Weston-Super-Mare takes about 15 minutes. This time, Michael finds out about Torquay's microclimate, goes salmon fishing on the Dart estuary and spends some of Totnes's new local currency. From Torquay to Totnes takes up to 1 hour, with a change of trains required in Newton Abbot. This time, Michael visits the largest clay mine in the world near St Austell, goes pilchard fishing in Mevagissey and finds out how the estate of Heligan shaped British gardens. Mevagissey does not have a railway station, the closest is St Austell, 4. From Bugle to St Austell takes about 1 hour with a change of trains required in Par.
This time, Michael searches for the lost church of St Piran, explores the last working tin mine in Cornwall and harvests oysters on the Helford River. From Truro to Penzance takes about 45 minutes. This time, Michael visits an architectural wonder, the Duke of Devonshire's stables in Buxton, helps to repair the ancient peat landscape of the Peak District and travels on the historic steam railway to Rowsley. This journey is one of the less practical that Michael undertakes as the two stations are not connected.
One can either take the North Easterly route changing in Sheffield and Derby taking about 5 hours, or the South Westerley route via Stockport and Nottingham taking about 4 hours. Both routes begin with the Buxton Line and end on the Derwent Valley line.
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This time, Michael visits the oldest working factory in the world at Cromford, explores the country's first public park in Derby and finds out why Burton's beer is said to be the best. From Cromford to Burton-on-Trent takes about 1 hour with a change of trains in Derby. This time, Michael meets the queen's saddler in Walsall, learns how to cook an authentic Indian curry in Birmingham and visits Bournville, rumoured to be the best place to live in Britain.
From Walsall to Bournville takes about 50 minutes with a change of trains, usually in Birmingham New Street. This time, Michael relives the Coventry Blitz, meets the last pure-breed Aylesbury duck farmer in Buckinghamshire and finds out how the trains helped to evacuate millions of children during World War II. This time, Michael explores one of the grandest railway stations and hotels in the country: St Pancras. He rides the world's first tube line to Smithfield market and climbs up the clock tower of the Houses of Parliament to hear Big Ben chime.
This journey is entirely on the London Underground. Michael finds out about Brighton's Victorian aquarium, the largest in the world at the time, explores the underground quarries of Godstone and discovers the wonders of the Crystal Palace in suburban south London. Michael finds out about the Stiffs' Express, a funeral service running coffins from Waterloo to Brookwood Cemetery. He discovers how London's West End became a great 19th-century shopping destination and explores the changing fortunes of London's docks.
Michael visits the government arms factory at Enfield the largest machine shop in Europe in Bradshaw's day , discovers how the trains transformed Newmarket's races and finds out why Cambridge could be considered the birthplace of modern football. From Enfield to Cambridge takes just over an hour with a change in Cheshunt. Michael goes fishing with the last eel trapper on the Fens at Ely and visits one of the great triumphs of 19th century engineering, the Denver Sluice.
He ends his journey in King's Lynn, where he uncovers an ambitious plan to reclaim the Wash in Bradshaw's day. Michael gets the rare chance to drive a heritage diesel train, finds out why Norfolk black turkeys appeared on the Christmas menu in Bradshaw's day and samples some classic Cromer crab. Michael travels from Dereham to Wymondham on the private Mid Norfolk railway. From there is takes just over an hour to reach Cromer with a further change of trains in Norwich.
Michael tastes the Victorian drink perry, a kind of pear cider, gets up close and personal with a pedigree Hereford bull and visits the grandfather of all skyscrapers, the world's first iron-framed building in Shrewsbury. From Ledbury to Shrewsbury takes about 1 hour 20 minutes with a change of trains in Hereford.
Michael visits the world's first iron bridge at Coalbrookdale, explores the historic Chirk Castle and has a go at making traditional Cheshire cheese. After spending the night in Llandudno, he goes mussel fishing on the beautiful Conwy estuary. Michael Portillo explores the Conwy valley, stopping at Britain's first artists' colony at Betws-y-Coed, visiting the Victorian slate capital of Blaenau Ffestiniog and taking a steam train down to the harbour at Porthmadog.
The Ffestiniog Railway then takes just over an hour to reach Porthmadog. Michael Portillo takes the train to the top of Wales's highest peak, Mount Snowdon, witnesses the revival of Anglesey's sea salt industry and discovers how the railways transformed the tiny port of Holyhead. The first part of the journey is on the Snowdon Mountain Railway at Llanberis. There is no longer a rail link from Llanberis to the North Wales Coast, the closest station is Bangor. In this episode, Michael visits the first locomotive factory in the world opened by George Stephenson, searches for the lost pit village of Marsden in South Shields, and is entertained by a comic troupe of rapper sword dancers in Chester-le-Street.
Michael visits the historic Durham Cathedral, sees one of the first locomotives in Darlington and takes a Dracula tour in Whitby, before ending his journey on a steam train across the North Yorkshire Moors. From Durham to Grosmont takes about 2 hours 30 minutes with changes in Darlington and Middlesborough. Michael takes a Turkish bath in the famous spa town of Harrogate, explores the exemplary Victorian village of Saltaire, and rubs noses with some friendly alpacas, whose fleeces made fortunes in Bradshaw's day.
From York to Saltaire takes just under 1 hour with a change Leeds. Michael finds out about shoddy, a successful 19th-century recycling industry in the textile town of Batley, discovers how the railways boosted Yorkshire's forced rhubarb trade, and meets the great-great-granddaughter of George Bradshaw himself. From Batley to Sheffield takes about 1 hour 30 minutes with a change Leeds.
Michael learns the secrets of stilton cheese, finds out how trains transformed the traditional British sport of fox hunting and attempts to make an authentic Melton Mowbray pork pie. Michael visits the Royal Observatory at Greenwich to see how the railways standardised time, takes a walk through the world's first underwater tunnel at Rotherhithe and explores the historic dockyards at Chatham.
Michael explores the life of Victorian hop pickers, finds out about Maidstone's revolutionary paper industry and discovers how the railways turned cricket into a national sport. Michael finds out how Canterbury Cathedral was saved during the Baedeker raids of World War II, goes whelk fishing in Whitstable and explores the origins of a seaside swim in Margate From Canterbury to Margate takes 30 minutes on a direct SouthEastern train. Michael explores a secret port that ran the first train ferries to France carrying vital supplies during World War I, visits Walmer Castle, the home of the Duke of Wellington, and discovers how the Victorians initiated the building of the Channel tunnel.
From Sandwich to Folkestone takes just under 40 minutes on a direct SouthEastern train. Hythe's only railway connection is the Romney, Hythe and Dymchurch railway. The closest National Rail station is Folkestone Central from where it takes about an hour 20 minutes to Hastings with a change in Ashford.
Michael visits the hometown of Robbie Burns and finds out how to make haggis, discovers how the railways transformed the game of golf in Prestwick, and uncovers the story of the great Victorian tartan hoax in Paisley. From Ayr to Paisley takes just under 40 minutes on a direct train. Michael explores the historic Dumbarton shipyards that built the Cutty Sark, visits one of Queen Victoria's favourite haunts, Loch Lomond, and goes hunting for gold in Scotland's mountains.
From Dumbarton to Tyndrum takes one hour 35 minutes on a direct train. Michael discovers how trains spread the word about Oban whisky, hears about the heroic struggle to build a railway across the desolate Rannoch Moor, and visits Corrour, one of the favourite shooting estates of the Victorian political elite.
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From Oban to Corrour takes three hours with a change in Crianlarich. Michael investigates one of the great geological mysteries of the 19th century - the parallel roads of Glenroy.
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Plus, he finds out how the Victorians put a weather observatory on the top of Ben Nevis and takes a steam train across one of the most spectacular viaducts in Britain at Glenfinnan. From Roybridge to Glenfinnan takes 1 hour on a direct ScotRail service. As he journeys up the west coast of Scotland from Ayr to Skye, Michael discovers how the railways helped train the first generation of commandos at Lochailort in World War II, finds out why langoustines have replaced herrings as the top catch in the fishing port of Mallaig, and sails across the sea to Skye to explore the history of the highland crofters.
From Lochailort to Mallaig takes just over 30 minutes, from there the Caledonian MacBrayne ferry takes another 30 minutes to reach Armadale. Michael discovers the grave robbing history of Great Yarmouth, tries his hand at working a Victorian swing bridge in Reedham, and takes to the air to discover how a Victorian rail guidebook helped aviators in the Second World War. From Great Yarmouth to Beccles takes about 2 hours and requires changes of trains in Reedham and Lowestoft.
Michael follows the Victorians' fascination with Britain's own Atlantis to the lost city of Dunwich, meets some gentle giants who were crucial to the smooth running of the railways, and discovers how the Port of Felixstowe grew into the biggest container port in the land. From Darsham to Felixstowe takes about 1 hour 30 minutes and requires a change of trains in Ipswich.
Michael comes face-to-face with a medieval politician, takes a rail tour of Victorian freak show hot spots, and visits Southend to ride one of the world's first electric railways. To travel from Sudbury to Southend one has to travel into London and back out again. Michael visits Essex to discover why dairy herds travelled there by rail from all over the country in the nineteenth century. He also visits Waltham Cross to see how the gunpowder made there fuelled the building of an empire, and heads to Hackney to uncover the gruesome details of the first murder on a train.
This journey begins on the Central line of the London Underground, and with a change to the London Overground in Stratford takes about 45 minutes to reach Hackney. Michael takes a ride on a secret miniature railway hidden beneath London's streets, rings the bells of the famous church of Bow, and tries his hand at station announcing at Fenchurch Street station.
Michael visits a station fit for royalty in Windsor, views an engineering triumph built by Brunel to span the Thames at Maidenhead, and tries his hand at collecting the mail 'Victorian style' on a steam-powered travelling post office. From Windsor to Didcot takes about 1 hour and requires a change of trains in Slough.
Michael tastes a Victorian superfood in Alton, explores the fascinating Whitchurch Silk Mill, untouched for over years, and tries his hand at driving a steam train on the challenging Watercress Line. Michael experiences the magnificent Victorian organ at Winchester Cathedral, goes behind the scenes at a 19th-century rail works still running in Eastleigh today, and travels to Queen Victoria's favourite holiday destination, the Isle of Wight.
From Winchester to West Cowes takes about 1 hour including a bus transfer from Southampton and the Red Jet ferry crossing. On the trail of a Victorian snake catcher, Michael visits the New Forest seeking out venomous adders, uncovers a secret library in Wimborne containing some very rare books, and visits the Poole potteries founded in the 19th century, which are still working today.
From Brockenhurst to Poole takes just over 30 minutes on a direct train. Michael uncovers the amazing oil fields hidden underneath England's quiet seaside resorts, discovers the crucial role Weymouth played in the D-day landings, and heads to the cradle of Victorian Britain's most prestigious building rock, Portland. Portland is 3. Michael is lead to a special view of the city of Oxford by his 19th century guidebook, samples a Victorian navvies' brew made by steam power, and discovers a unique and colourful crop in the heart of the Cotswolds.
Michael visits the home of Queen Victoria's favourite bishop in Hartlebury, sniffs out the secrets of a famous 19th-century sauce in Worcester, and follows in the footsteps of Victorian health fanatics to the Malvern Hills. From Oxford to Pershore takes just under an hour with a change required at Droitwich Spa.
Michael discovers Britain's hidden micro-mines within the Forest of Dean, sees why the Victorians fell for the romantic ruins of Tintern Abbey and uncovers the railway engineering behind the industrial icon that is Newport Transporter Bridge. From Lydney to Newport takes about 30 minutes. Michael discovers the Victorian coal heritage that turned Cardiff into the city it is today, explores the 19th-century reason why Barry Island isn't an island, and takes a steam ride through the beautiful Brecon Beacons National Park From Cardiff to Merthyr Tydfil takes about 1 hour and 10 minutes.
From there it is possible to reach the Brecon Mountain Railway by taking a bus. Michael explores the Victorian railway legacy behind the steel works of Port Talbot, follows the trail of 19th-century waterfall hunters in Neath, and uncovers the fascinating whaling past of Milford Haven.
From Port Talbot to Milford Haven takes about 2 hours and 20 minutes. Michael discovers the unique cross-border history of Berwick-Upon-Tweed, hears the unique story of the Pitman Painters of Ashington and sees first-hand the perils of working on the rails in Victorian times. From Berwick-upon-Tweed to Morpeth takes about 30 minutes. Michael gets his hands dirty following the example of Victorian archaeologists at Hadrian's Wall, discovers how the invention of the ticket machine made a big difference to 19th century rail users, and sees how the Victorian railways first fuelled invention in Wigton.
From Bardon Mill to Wigton takes about 1 hour and 30 minutes with a change required in Carlisle. Michael drinks a Victorian brew drawn from the pure waters of Cockermouth, steps inside the hidden world of nuclear reprocessing at Sellafield, and travels into the wonders of a Japanese inspired, 19th century garden.
The railway from Cockermouth closed in , the nearest station is now Mary Port. Michael also rides on the Ravenglass and Eskdale railway. Michael finds out the secrets behind Kirkby's famous blue slate, submerges himself into a secret world of nuclear submarines in Barrow, and sees why the executions at Lancaster Castle drew the Victorians in their droves. From Kirkby-in-Furness to Lancaster takes about 1 hour and 30 minutes on a direct train. Michael sets sail from Heysham to the Isle of Man, where he discovers the horse trams of Douglas, the 19th-century secrets of the giant Laxey Wheel, and the Victorian history of the delightful Snaefell mountain railway.
We can issue through rail tickets from UK stations to Douglas including the ferry from Heysham, please ask for prices. We can also issue passes valid on most of the Island's railways. For customers wishing to recreate these journeys a one country InterRail pass would be valid for the three journeys in the Republic of Ireland, or all five journeys if you are resident outside of the UK. Michael observes the amazing engineering feat involved in building the railway along Dublin's treacherous East coast, explores 19th century crime and punishment in a Victorian jail, and finds out how the lions of Dublin Zoo changed the fortunes of the railways.
Michael travelled south from Bray to Greystones taking about 10 minutes, and then back north for about 55 minutes to Dublin through the spectacular tunnels. We are not able to supply tickets for this journey. Michael explores the extensive railway network within the Bog of Allen, discovers the Victorian secrets behind the amazing Boyne Viaduct, and travels underground, into the vast Irish Zinc mines. From Enfield to Drogheda takes about 2 hours and requires a change of trains in Dublin. Michael explores the Victorians' fascination with antiquity, by visiting the amazing Cromlech stones of Dundalk.
He reaches for the stars at the Armagh Observatory and travels in style along the steam railway of Downpatrick. From Dundalk to Portadown takes about 40 minutes on a direct train. Michael explores the fascinating history of Belfast's Victorian docks, discovers the Irish spade making traditions untouched for over years and takes a walk on the wild side with Whitehead's Victorian coastal paths. From Belfast to Whitehead takes about 30 minutes on a direct train.
Michael takes a white knuckle walk over the Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge, follows in the footsteps of the Victorians to experience the delights of the Giant's Causeway and explores the rich history of Londonderry. From Ballymoney to Londonderry takes about 1 hour and 20 minutes, at present a bus replacement service is running between Coleraine and Londonderry. The first of a series of journeys along the tracks that helped fuel the Industrial Revolution begins in the rolling Chiltern Hills. Michael meets the remarkable craftsmen behind the Victorian furniture trade, discovers how George Bradshaw helped save Britain's canal heritage and sees Shakespeare through the eyes of a 19th century railway tourist.
Michael learns how the railways helped to make Birmingham the pen-making capital of the world, hears the chilling tale of one of 19th century Britain's most notorious murderers and samples the delicacies concocted in a Victorian kitchen at Shugborough Hall. From Birmingham to Stafford via Tamworth takes about 1 hour. Michael explores one of the greatest locomotive factories in railway history, discovers the dark side of the industrial revolution and learns how, in Victorian times, the potteries brought their products to the masses. From Stoke-on-Trent to Winsford requires a change of trains in Crewe, and takes about 1 hour.
Michael elearns how Victorian blacksmithing was not for the faint-hearted, rides one of Britain's most modern trains and traverses the remarkable Victoria Bridge. From Dudley to Kidderminster trains run half-hourly, and take approximately 45 minutes. The heritage line can be picked up in Kidderminster to travel to Bridgnorth. The timetable for this service varies seasonally, and can be found here. Michael experiences Victorian entertainment, hears how the railways took Welsh textiles into even the most exclusive households and unleashes the power of a 19th century engineering triumph Services depart twice daily in each direction, with journeys taking approximately 1 hour and 35 minutes.