Romans to Code-Breakers
Be transported back in time as you explore some of Britain's rich history by train. Step in the footsteps of Romans in St Albans, hear the inspirational story of the World War II Codebreakers at Bletchley and discover the charming history of Bedford's riverside.
This itinerary is to help you make the most out of your time exploring the history and heritage along the Thameslink railway network. Be sure to check out our other heroic heritage itineraries for other parts of the lines including: Awe-inspiring architecture, extraordinary artifacts and pioneering history. If you're short on time, or just looking for day trip ideas, simply pick your favourites from our suggestions below and build your own itinerary.
From an afternoon or a day trip to a short break or longer holiday, however long you spend there's plenty to keep you busy!
Day 1 - morning
Start your journey at London Blackfriars, catching a morning train north to St Albans that takes around 30 minutes.
Leave the train at St Albans City station and walk through the city to reach the Verulamium Museum that's built on the site of one of the largest Roman cities in Britain and features ancient treasures and some of the finest mosaics outside of the Mediterranean.
The walk will take around 35 minutes or you can catch the bus instead (bus number 302 from Hatfield Road near the station) that takes around 20 minutes. You can easily spend a couple of hours here exploring the museum and nearby park, discovering how Roman life shaped the area.
As you head back to the railway station pick up a warm drink and a tasty treat from one of the many cafes along the high street.
Optional afternoon activity
Stretch your legs, get some fresh air, and enjoy a scenic station to station walk. The Abbey Line Trail starts from St Albans Abbey railway station and covers a 6.5-mile route finishing at Watford Junction railway station. You can access St Albans Abbey station from St Albans City station with a 35 minute stroll along the Alban Way walking/cycling route, simply pick up the signs from either station.
Catch the train from Watford Junction back to St Albans and pick up the itinerary below.
Back at St Albans City railway station, take the train to Bedford railway station that takes around 40 minutes.
Leave the station and enjoy a 15-minute stroll to the heart of the town centre. From here you can discover the fascinating life of John Bunyan, author of The Pilgrim's Progress, which remained the best-selling book in the world for centuries, at the John Bunyan Museum. Nearby, explore the site of where the 11th century Bedford Castle once stood and be sure to pay a visit to The Higgins Bedford, home of the towns museum and art gallery.
End your day with a peaceful walk along the Embankment, where you'll often see swans sharing the river with rowing club practice and stop off at one of the many riverside restaurants for a tasty meal.
Bedford is an ideal base for your overnight stay and offers a range of accommodation suitable for all budgets. For a full list of places to stay, visit the Love Bedford website.
Day 2 - morning
From Bedford railway station take the train along the picturesque Marston Vale Line to Bletchley, a journey of around an hour. Please note as of February 2023 the Marston Vale Line is running a rail replacement bus service (all stations & limited stop) along the route. Find out more through Marston Vale Community Rail Partnership here.
A short 5-minute walk from the railway station and you'll reach the iconic Bletchley Park, once home to the top-secret World War II Codebreakers. There's so much to see and do here you may need to book a return visit!
Get hands on with fascinating interactive displays and don't forget to pick up a free multimedia guide to hear more stories as you explore the park. Understand the origins of the computers we use today with a visit to The National Museum of Computing or learn about the development of radio communications technology at the National Radio Centre, both located inside Bletchley Park.
Optional afternoon activity
Later in the day, head back to Bletchley railway station and catch the train to Bedford. Around 25 minutes into your journey, you'll want to stop off at Ridgmont.
Here you'll find the Ridgmont Station Heritage Centre, Tea Room and Gift Shop housed in the old station building, open every Wednesday to Sunday. The heritage centre is a small hidden gem packed full of interesting railway artifacts and is well-worth a visit.
The Gift Shop provides you with a chance to buy souvenirs of your visit alongside other railway related items and the charming Tea Room, in what used to be the women's waiting room, provides tasty homemade treats, a perfect spot for a bite to eat before catching the train back to Bedford.
After a quick change at Bedford railway station, catch the train to Luton, arriving in under 30 minutes.
Although most commonly known for its international airport, the large town of Luton has so much more to offer. Discover a wealthy family home in the Victorian era at the Grade II listed Wardown House, Museum & Gallery, around a 25-minute walk from Luton Station and set in the beautiful grounds of Wardown Park.
If the weather's dry be sure to spend time exploring the many surrounding gardens including Period Gardens, Sensory Garden, World Garden and a Medicinal Garden. Finish your visit with a visit to the Garden Café featuring a menu using fresh produce grown in the gardens, a great place to stop for a delicious late lunch or afternoon treat.
From Luton railway station you can catch a direct train to the capital, returning to London Blackfriars around 45 minutes later.
To make your days out as enjoyable as possible, we encourage you to plan your trip in advance and check for disruptions before you start your journey. Visit our travel safe page to see what you can do to make planning easy.
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