Britain’s busiest heritage railway runs through 24 miles of stunning countryside, much of it within the North York Moors National Park. Using part of Network Rail, trains climb across the Esk Valley from the coast at Whitby to reach the North Yorkshire Moors Railway’s own tracks at Grosmont junction.
Designed by George Stephenson himself, the railroad crosses the wooded landscape to the steppe village of Goathland and is still remembered as the scene of the TV series Heartbeat. Some travelers cut off the journey here to walk into the village or explore the famous mile-long trail that was Rome and even before on Wheeldale Moor. Leaflets suggest walks from other intermediate stations before the journey ends in the market town of Pickering and the 13th-century castle.
Details: Return from Whitby to Pickering from £38 for adults; for children from £19 (01751 472508; nymr.co.uk)
The West Highland Railroad runs through some of the wildest countries where a British rail line connecting Glasgow to Fort William passes, but it’s the sequel to Mallaig that’s best known. The famous meandering viaduct at Glenfinnan, featured in all four of the Harry Potter films, and the Jacobite steam trains to the fishing port from April until the end of October, attract thousands to the area for its spectacular views.
After catching a glimpse of the Caledonian Canal on the Neptune Staircase – a flight of eight locks – the railroad runs past Loch Eil and soon runs along the seashore. Cattle can sometimes be spotted on the white sands near Morar with views of the sea lakes stretching to the small Muck, Eigg and Rum Islands. Inland, there is a mountain panorama adorned with pounds of sheep and stones of farmer’s huts. London’s Caledonian Sleeper’s new wagons, some with en-suite showers and even a double bed, are the most romantic and relaxing way to get to Fort William.
Details: Jacobite, refund from £49 (0844 850 4685; Westcoastrailways.com.tr). Caledonian Sleeper, London to Fort William from £205 for single occupancy, £250 for double occupancy (0330 060 0500; sleeper.scot)