How to Explore the UK by Rail

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The UK has so much to offer from culture and history to great food and drink, shopping, scenery and much, much more. Now you can explore the unique and diverse regions of the UK with our Explore the UK by Rail packages. The great thing about these packages is your itinerary is completely flexible. There’s no tour guide telling you where to go and what to do; you can enjoy and explore your chosen destinations and attractions at your own leisure. Nowhere is off limits so whether you decide to visit big cities, picturesque market towns or venture out into the countryside, there’s an Explore the UK by Rail break that’s just right for you. We’ve picked out some of our favourites to help get you on the right track!

Explore Northern England from York or Leeds

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Make your base in historic York or the vibrant city of Leeds and explore Yorkshire, Northumberland and Cumbria. Your rail ticket will enable you to travel as far south as Sheffield and up to Berwick on the Scottish border. You can journey through the Yorkshire Dales, across the North York Moors to the coast or to the edge of the Peak District.

If you’re a bit of a city slicker, explore the great cities of Northern England such as Newcastle, Leeds or Sheffield where you’ll find top shopping, amazing restaurants and cultural hotspots. The Metro Centre outside Newcastle is the largest shopping centre in the country so you’re sure to find something that tickles your fancy! Alternatively, Trinity Leeds is a brand new development in the centre of Leeds which features popular stores and great restaurants. For boutique shopping, York or Harrogate are full of small, independent retailers where you’ll surely find something out of the ordinary.

If you’re trying to escape urbanity, your rail ticket will get you into the wilds of the Yorkshire countryside or out to the coast where you can enjoy clifftop walks or just relax on the beach! Journey north from York to the beautiful fishing town of Whitby which is rightly famous for its fish & chips and its dramatic Gothic abbey. There’s a lovely stretch of coastline between Whitby and Robin Hood’s Bay which makes a scenic (and not too taxing) walk. Scarborough is a more traditional seaside resort with long sandy beaches, amusement arcades and fun boat trips around the bay. Make sure you pay a visit to the castle up on the headland for amazing views along the coast. For the ramblers among you, take the train from Leeds to Horton-in-Ribblesdale where you can walk around Yorkshire’s Three Peaks (the smallest of the three, Pen-y-Ghent is just a short walk from the station). We’re biased here at Super Break but they don’t call Yorkshire “God’s Own Country” for nothing!

Explore the South Coast from Bournemouth

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Spend a relaxing break on England’s south coast staying in the popular seaside resort of Bournemouth. From here you can journey east through the New Forest to Portsmouth or Southampton or west along the coast to Weymouth. Your ticket will also let you travel north to Bristol, Cardiff or Bath and to the edge of the Cotswolds in Stroud.

Explore England’s maritime heritage by visiting Portsmouth, Southampton and Bristol. Portsmouth Historic Dockyard is home to some iconic museum ships such as HMS Victory and HMS Warrior and of course the preserved remains of the Mary Rose. You can also take a tour around the harbour by boat to see some of the Royal Navy’s more modern fleet. Southampton’s SeaCity museum covers the history of civilian seafaring, especially the RMS Titanic which set off on its doomed maiden voyage from the port in 1912. The SS Great Britain has long been one of Bristol’s most popular tourist attractions but the museum now features a fully restored Great Western Dockyard and museum making this worthy of a full day out. The braver souls among you can Go Aloft! by climbing the ship’s rigging to over 25 metres above ground level.

If it’s seaside relaxation you’re looking for we’ve got you covered too. Bournemouth itself boasts seven miles of award-winning beaches which curve from Sandbanks to Hengistbury Head. Jump on the train for the short trip to Weymouth with miles of golden sands, traditional seaside entertainment and a historic harbour. If sand’s not your thing, take the train to Brockenhurst in the New Forest for country walks or Lymington on the coast and watch the world go by next to the marina. There’s a ferry from Lymington to Yarmouth on the Isle of Wight where, in summer, you can take an open top bus ride to the famous Needles at Alum Bay.

Explore the Heart of England and Shakespeare’s Country from Birmingham

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The Heart of England covers a large area from Gloucester to Chester, Hereford to Nottingham so there’ll be plenty to keep you occupied! As if there wasn’t enough to do in Birmingham already you can wander round the dreaming spires of Oxford, explore historic buildings in Leicester, Worcester or Shrewsbury and discover the world of Shakespeare in Stratford-upon-Avon. England’s second city is renowned for shopping at the Bullring, its vibrant nightlife and range of museums and galleries. Use your rail ticket to head out to Tipton for the Black Country Living Museum or Warwick to visit its famous castle. Cadbury World is just a short walk from Bournville Station.

Heading further afield you can journey to the East Midlands to visit Derby, Nottingham or Leicester, explore historic market towns along the Welsh borders such as Shrewsbury, Chester and Hereford or head to Oxford, home to the famous university. History buffs will be right at home in the “city of dreaming spires” as it is home to several world-renowned museums and galleries including the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford University Museum of Natural History and The Bodleian Library. Wander through the quadrangles, stroll along the river banks or even hire a boat and spend a relaxing afternoon punting.

A small market town on the banks of the River Avon, Stratford might have been quite insignificant were it not for the birth, in 1564, of one William Shakespeare! These days tourism in the town is centred on the Bard with several attractions related to his life such as Anne Hathaway’s Cottage, Shakespeare’s Birthplace and Holy Trinity Church. Stop for a drink in The Garrick Inn (reputedly the oldest pub in Stratford), explore the shops on Sheep Street or maybe take in a matinee show at the RSC’s Swan Theatre.

Explore the Scottish Lowlands from Edinburgh

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Your base is the historic capital of Scotland, Edinburgh. From here you can explore from the east coast at North Berwick to Glasgow on the west coast, up to Stirling and north of the Forth to Kirkcaldy.

It’s a journey of just under an hour through the Scottish countryside from Haymarket to Glasgow Central. You’re right in the middle of the city centre with its huge range of shops, restaurants, bars and cafes. If the weather is nice it’s a pleasant walk up to Kelvingrove Park to visit the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum (if the weather is not complying, take the Glasgow Subway, affectionately dubbed “The Clockwork Orange” by the locals). The Kelvingrove is one of Europe’s great art collections with works by Salvador Dali, Rembrandt, Monet, Renoir and Van Gogh. It’s not just art though, there’s collections of arms & armour, archaeological relics, a World War Two Spitfire and an Asian Elephant called Sir Roger! Take some time out to stroll around the park, along the banks of the River Kelvin before heading back to the city centre.

For a more relaxed day out, head along the banks of the Firth of Forth to North Berwick on the North Sea coast. This popular seaside town features a picturesque harbour and long sandy beaches, perfect for a scenic walk. Look out to sea and you should be able to spot the famous Bass Rock; you can take a boat trip from the harbour to get closer to the rock and it’s colony of gannets and other seabirds. Alternatively if you head out of Edinburgh to Queensferry you can take a boat trip under the magnificent Forth Rail Bridge. One of the wonders of the industrial age, the iconic red bridge is an icon of engineering. It’s worth taking the train over to the north bank of the Forth just to say you’ve crossed the famous bridge.

One more must visit place is the magnificent castle at Stirling. Make the walk up Castle Hill from the station to explore the medieval fortress, one of the most important castles in Scottish history. The seat of Scottish kings, the castle passed backwards and forwards between Scots and English during the Wars of Independence in the 13th and 14th centuries. It was famously besieged by Edward I using “War Wolf”, an enormous trebuchet that hurled 300lb rocks and levelled the castle walls. These days the castle houses the regimental museum of the Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders and fun, interactive exhibitions especially for younger visitors in the Palace Vaults. You’ll be transported back to Tudor times with a tour around the Royal Palace, the childhood home of Mary Queen of Scots and one of the best-preserved Renaissance buildings in the UK.

So there’s just a small selection of our great Explore the UK by Rail packages. Where do you want to discover on your next rail break? Let us know in the comments section below…

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