The quiet humming of the tracks, the gentle rocking of the carriage, the snotty children touching the shared table.
For the most part, train travel is easily one of the most enjoyable, and sustainable ways to travel and to see the United Kingdom.
Keep reading to discover the seven best places to visit in England by train.
Table of contents
- How to Book Affordable Train Travel in the UK
- Best Places to Visit in England by Train
- 1. Thirsk, North Yorkshire
- 2. The Lake District National Park
- 3. Manchester
- 4. York
- 5. Saltburn-by-the-Sea
- 6. Harrogate
- 7. The Peak District
- On the Map
- Keep Exploring England by Train
- Pin “7 Best Place to Visit in England by Train” & Follow Us on Pinterest
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How to Book Affordable Train Travel in the UK
Although the rail network with the UK is vast and well connected, it’s not as cheap as that of the general European continent.
That being said, there are some tips and tricks to get cheap train tickets.
Read on to discover train travel in the UK!
Book With Individual Carriers
More often than not, individual carriers like Virgin, Lner, or Scotland Rail will offer guarantees that they’ll always give the lowest price when you book through them. I’ve found this to be true.
But, it’s a pain to look through every individual rail operator’s website to find the perfect time and price.
Instead, use Trainline to search for a train, and when you find the best option, go to the carrier’s website and see how their price compares there.
This is also a good option because trains in the UK are frequently changed, canceled, or they just change destinations and stop early and they put you on a bus instead (I know, I don’t know who runs the system either).
Thankfully, when you book direct it’s a bit easier to get a replacement ticket or a refund than if you book with Trainline.
Get a Rail Card
If you’re going to be doing at least two train journeys in the span of a year, it’s worth investing in a rail card.
If you’re going to be in the UK for more than a month or two, just go ahead and get one because I almost guarantee that you’ll decide to take a train journey and it will have been worth the money (speaking from experience).
There are loads of different types of railcards and almost everyone is eligible.
- 16-17 Saver
- 16-25 Railcard
- 26-30 Railcard
- Disabled Persons Railcard
- Family & Friends Railcard
- Network Railcard
- Senior Railcard
- Two Together Railcard
Railcards are about £30 for one year and they allow you to get 1/3 off of the price of a regular ticket.
For example, if you are purchasing a ticket that is £120 and you have a railcard, you’ll only be paying £80 pounds for your ticket. That price, plus the £30 that you paid for your rail card means that in total, you’ve paid £110 pounds, still cheaper than the original ticket!
Long story short, get a rail card even if you only think that you’ll use it once!
Staying organized while you travel can be tricky. The older generations often believe that if you have everything printed out you’re better off, and while it is good practice to have tickets printed off, you can find a charging station just about anywhere now.
Instead, to stay organize I use TripIt. It’s free (although you can upgrade to the pro version which I highly recommend) and will help you:
- Organize plans automatically, simply forward them from your email
- Keep your contacts updated about your trip status
- Track your carbon emissions
- Notify you when you need to leave to get to the airport or train station on time (Pro version)
- Update gates
- Update arrival times
- Find alternate flights
- Help you get refunds if a lower price ticket occurs
- Monitor for better seat options
Really, it’s just a fantastic tool that all travelers should have. It’s essential if you’re going the cheap route with rail tickets and booking from individual carriers.
If you’re willing to spend a bit more money to have all of your tickets in one app (TripIt won’t hold the tickets just the plans), download and purchase your tickets through Trainline. It’s a bit more expensive (although from time to time you’ll find a great deal from London to Paris or on last minute weekend trips around the UK), but it’s good to stay organized.
Read More: 18 Must Download Apps for Travellers
Best Places to Visit in England by Train
Now that you know how to make the journey more affordable, let’s dive into the seven best places to visit in England by train!
1. Thirsk, North Yorkshire
Activities: Hiking and camping
Time on Train From London: 2h 30m
Thirsk is an adorable little town with cute coffee shops and a great square to wander. It’s not a place to go if you want a night out, but if you’re looking for incredible hikes, stunning sunsets, and adorable cafes, Thirsk is the place to be.
Where to Stay in Thirsk
Stay in central Thirsk for easy access to shops. You’ll be just around the corner from The World of James Harriet. Does it get any better? Free parking is also available if you decide to rent a car and venture out to the North Yorkshire Dales.
What to Do in Thirsk
Thirsk and North Yorkshire is also a great place to try geocaching. If you’ve not done it before, essentially there’s a little box with trinkets hidden somewhere in the woods. It’s basically a treasure hunt. There are lots of different apps so just search in your app store and see what pops up!
Be sure to spend some time wandering around the town square in Thirsk. From cute coffee shops and boutiques to your standard Gregg’s (complete with vegan sausage rolls), it’s easy to spend hours exploring.
2. The Lake District National Park
Size: Spans large area, towns are small
Activities: Hiking, water sports, coffee drinking, pubs, lounging
Time on Train From London: 4 hours
Adorable cottages, amazing food, lots to drink, and endless places to explore and landscapes to photograph. The Lake District is easily one of the best places to visit in England by train.
It’s best to rent a car in the Lake District because although there is public transportation, it sticks mainly to the towns and doesn’t run very frequently.
Where to Stay in the Lake District National Park
Where you stay in the Lake District will completely depend on what you’re looking for. If you want easy access to water sports, stay near Lake Windemere. If you want an adorable town, Cartmel or Grasmere is the place to be.
Use the map below to find places to stay in the Lake District with all major booking sites!
What to Do in the Lake District National Park
You’ve got so many options of things to do in the Lake District. Here are a few stops we always try to make when in the Lake District:
- Cartmel: Beautiful little town that’s easy to spend the afternoon wandering through, eating, and drinking
- Grasmere Ginger Bread: The best thing you will ever eat, and the gingerbread is vegan. The town of Grasmere is right out of a storybook
- Water Sports: We like Low Wood Bay Water Sports on Lake Windemere for kayaking and boat rental
- Chester’s By the River: for a beautiful café to grab a healthy vegan lunch, or to grab a coffee and get some work done
- The World of Beatrix Potter – a great way to connect books with the physical world and fun for kids and adults alike!
Size: Large city
Activities: Drinking, Clubbing, Foodie
Time on Train From London: 2 hr 30 min
Manchester is definitely a hopping city, so if you’re looking for a night out and some epic eats without the craziness or tourists of London, check out Manchester. It’s also easily accessible by train and it has an international airport. The city is easy to walk if you’re in comfy travel shoes and public transportation in Manchester is phenomenal.
Where to Stay in Manchester
The Northern Quarter is easily of the best places to stay in Manchester for those who are looking for the hub of the city. It’s very hipstery with plenty of vegan eats, record shops, and places to drink and dance.
What to Do in Manchester
Manchester is a place to wander, browse, eat, and drink. They also have a great night scene and some cool hidden bars (I love a treasure hunt!).
One hidden bar in Manchester that has been on my list forever is called the Washhouse. It looks like a standard laundromat, but you have to call ahead to book your “wash”. If anyone has been, please do let me go, because it’s the first thing I’m booking when I next head to Manchester.
Besides this one secret bar, Manchester is full of great food! I highly recommend V Rev for some great vegan junk food.
Read More: Vegan Guide to Manchester
Size: Large but feels cozy
Activities: Browsing unique shops, get lost and feel like you’re on Diagon Alley
Time on Train From London: 2 hours
Said to have inspired Diagon Alley in the Harry Potter Series, York is easily one of the best places to visit in England by train and has so many things to do! Its close proximity to London makes is a perfect day trip (although my English partner would say otherwise).
The city is incredibly pedestrian friendly and once you get to the center you won’t find any cars or bikes.
Where to Stay in York
Although pricier, the best to stay in the city center if you want the full feel of York. It’s ideal if you want to be exploring before the mass amounts of tourists arrive because you’ll simply step out of your accommodation and onto the old streets.
What to Do in York
You could easily spend a few days wandering around York eating and shopping. Here are a few of our top recommendations.
- York Minster – Make your way to this gorgeous old church and you’ll be in the perfect place to begin your wanders. Streets around this church will remind you of Harry Potter and you’re sure to find plenty of gorgeous photo-worthy spots.
- Shambles – This street has some absolutely ancient buildings dating all the way back to the 1300s!
- Source – This restaurant is vegetarian and vegan and has some really delicious options with great portion sizes. I recommend the vegan paella – sooooo good!
Size: Small/Medium (it does get busy during the warm months)
Activities: Beach lounging, drinking, hiking
Time on Train From London: 5 hours
Saltburn by the Sea is a picturesque paradise from years gone by. It’s one of the best maintained Victorian towns in the UK attracting tourists from all over. From the lemon top ice creams (sadly not vegan) to the engineering marvel of its gravity elevator.
From great pubs lining the beach to gin bars, you’ll spend a happy evening at, Saltburn really is a must-visit and one of the best places to visit in England by train.
Where to Stay in Saltburn-by-the-Sea
I could spend hours happily browsing the Airbnb options for Saltburn. Check out our full guide for Saltburn accommodation and itinerary or see the place that we stayed in:
What to Do in Saltburn-by-the-Sea
- Take the Saltburn Cliff tramway down to the beach. Pictured above on the right is the tramway with its unique downward angle.
- Head to Saltburn Beach, although you may need a wet suit to stay warm! Unless you’re here in the heat of summer it’s unlikely that you’ll be able to bear the water temperature and even then you may want to bring/rent a wetsuit
- Walk to the end of Saltburn Pier for beautiful ocean views and a look back at the quaint little town
- Shop around for some water sport activities
Read More: How to Spend 3 INCREDIBLE Days in Saltburn
Activities: Shopping, eating
Time on Train From London: 4 hours
Harrogate is a lovely posh little town that with it’s slightly hilly roads and older architecture is reminiscent of Edinburgh. You’ll definitely want to wander these streets!
Plan your visit when you have some cash to splash on lovely eats and boutique shopping. Harrogate is a great place to stop and spend a night on your way up to the Scottish Highlands or before popping over to Northern Highland after a jaunt in Edinburgh.
Where to Stay in Harrogate
Try and stay in central Harrogate for the best experience. Although there are places to wander on the outskirts, you’ll enjoy your time far more if you stick to the central area. Aim for somewhere near Betty’s and you’ll be in the perfect spot.
What to Do in Harrogate
Wander, wander, wander! This is a town full of hidden gems so you’re definitely best off taking the chance to explore. Here are a few stops I definitely recommend stopping by:
- Betty’s Tea Rooms – This is often the reason that people come to Harrogate – this famous tea room. If not booking in advance and wanting to sit down, be prepared to wait in line. There are limited vegan options but what they do have is absolutely phenomenal! The vegan carrot cake is a must.
- Bean and Bud – I love this little coffee shop for a reasonably priced sandwich, some very generous toast slices, or a delicious coffee. Vegan options are available!
- Shop: The best way to explore Harrogate is simply by foot. Wander into buildings and up stairways to stumble across some truly fantastic antique shops.
7. The Peak District
Size: Spans large area
Activities: Hiking, water sports
Time on Train From London: 3 hours
The Peak District is for mountain addicts and adventurers, for lovers of sunshine and rain, for everyone seeking fresh air and jaw dropping views.
The Peak District has some public transport, but if you want to target specific areas for hiking, you’ll want to rent a car.
Where to Stay in The Peak District
The Peak District is full of nothing but amazing views, lakes, and places to stay. You’ll find hundreds of accommodation options across the national park, so which you choose will depend on where to you want to stay.
If you’re planning on renting a car, staying near Buxton is a good option because you’ll be in a town with available car rentals and you’ll be almost completely surrounded by the Peaks.
If you’ve explored Buxton before and you have a car, staying on the southeast side of the peaks will offer some amazing hikes and you can always venture into Sheffield if you’d rather do some city hiking.
What To Do in The Peak District
The Peak District has hundreds of different walks that you can do. Some are easier routes while some are not for the faint of heart.
Here are a few options to get you started:
- Hathersage to Stanage Edge Walking Route (9 miles)
- The Limestone Way (46 miles – go you)
- By the Heights of Abraham to Matlock (shorter but steep)
- Castleton – Mam Tor – The Great Ridge – Walking Route (6.5 or 8 miles)
- Mam Tor – Shivering Mountain (517 meter high peak)
- Bakewell – Edensor – Chatsworth Walking Route (6 or 8 miles)
And that’s just to name a few! Do your research to find a few walks near where you’ll be staying. Keep in mind that depending on the weather, it might be wise to avoid certain heights.
On the Map
Keep Exploring England by Train
Check out the posts below to learn more about places to visit in England by train!
What Camera Gear Do We Use?
- Camera body: Nikon d750
- Prime lens: 35mm f/1.8
- Wide-angle lens: 18-35mm f/3.5-4.5 FX
- GoPro: GoPro Hero 8
- Drone: DJI Mavic Air is no longer available so we recommend the DJI Air2S
- Camera Bag: Wandrd Prvke 31L
- Tripod: ESDDI Aluminum Tripod
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