Strolling through the North York Moors National Park, it’s not uncommon to hear the whistle of a steam engine.
The North York Moors Railway, which runs all the way to Whitby, winds its way through the moors.
The Yorkshire Express chugs under the viaduct from Whitby; climb Skelton Tower at Corn Hill Point for a great view of the NYMR
Like many heritage railways, the NYMR only keeps running thanks to a tireless army of staff and volunteers. Yorkshire Steam Railway: All Aboard (Channel 5, Fridays, 8pm) goes behind the scenes at the North Yorkshire Moors Railway, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary in 2018.
If you enjoy the first episode as much as we did, why not try a spot of trainspotting in 2018? Many of the UK’s 150 heritage railways chug through lovely countryside.
Here are eight excellent places to start, where you can enjoy lovely scenery as well as the sight of classic locomotives.
Just don’t forget your anorak…
1. Bluebell Railway, Sussex
Chugging along the border of East and West Sussex, the Bluebell Railway has been preserved by volunteers for over 50 years. The railway is home to the second largest collection of steam locomotives (the National Rail Museum in York is the only collection to beat it). It’s also a great place to couple trainspotting with stunning scenery. There are a number of walks along the railways line (where in late April and May you will be greeted by an abundance of bluebells) and the final stop is Sheffield Park, a National Trust property in lovely Capability Brown-landscaped grounds.
2. Glenfinnan Viaduct, Scottish Highlands
Framed by the Scottish Highlands, the Glenfinnan Viaduct will make you see trainspotting in a totally different way. Its Jacobite steam train famously doubled as the Hogwarts Express in the Harry Potter films, and there is certainly something magical about the spectacular backdrop. There are trails around the track for all levels of experience and you can brush up on your locomotive history at the Glenfinnan Station Museum.
3. Whitby, North Yorkshire
The picturesque seaside town of Whitby boasts an equally picturesque railway line. It runs beside the River Esk down to the pretty port. Head to New Bridge for views of the railway, fisherman’s boats, Whitby Abbey and the sea. Look out for the heritage trains of the North Yorkshire Moors Railway, which run every day.
4. Porthmadog, North Wales
This small coastal town within the Snowdonia National Park features not one but two historic railway lines: the Welsh Highland Heritage Line and the Ffestiniog Railway. So it’s a great place for some scenic trainspotting.
5. Llangollen Railway, North Wales
What could be more tranquil than the sound of the River Dee coupled with the calming chug of a steam train? The chain bridge in the charming Denbighshire town of Llangollen overlooks a railway line where you can spot an array of steam trains.
6. Exmoor National Park
1,000 feet above sea level and with stunning views of Exmoor, Woody Bay station is where you’ll find England’s highest narrow-gauge railway: Lynton & Barnstaple. More than 80 years after its closure in 1935, the line is staffed entirely by volunteers.
Pack a picnic and head for Sydney Gardens, 18th century pleasure gardens in the city centre. It’s the perfect place to see the trains roll into Bath Spa train station.
8. Toddington, Gloucestershire
Standing on the platform at Toddington, it can feel as if time has stood still for decades. It’s one of the stops on the Gloucestershire & Warwickshire Steam Railway and is surrounded by rolling Cotswolds countryside – pick up a guide to local “Railway Rambles” at the station to make the most of it.
Radio Times Travel rail holidays:
Beamish, Whitby and the North York Moors, 3 nights from £289pp
This varied weekend gives you the chance to explore Beamish, ‘The Living Museum of the North’, a wonderful re-creation of North-East life in 1825 and 1913, to enjoy some sea air in the delightful resort of Whitby with its many attractions, and to journey through some stunning scenery on the steam-hauled North York Moors Railway. Click here for the full itinerary and to book.
Scottish Highland Railways, 4 nights by £379pp
Visit the heart of the Highlands to enjoy three spectacular train journeys. Ride the famous West Highland Line from Fort William to Mallaig, take a trip on the charming Strathspey Steam Railway and enjoy a breathtaking run from Inverness to the Kyle of Lochalsh. Click here for more details and to book.
Little Trains of Norfolk, 4 nights from £399pp
We include no less than four different railway journeys on this short break, along with plenty of time to explore each destination, plus a cruise on the Norfolk Broads and a visit to Sandringham Estate. If the charms of Norfolk are good enough for the Queen, that’s a good enough reason for us to go! Click here for the full itinerary and to book.