Reconnect with family by rail
Whether you're looking to spend some quality time with your nieces and nephews, taking time out for a dad and daughter day or searching for ideas to have a grand day out with the grandkids, going by train is a great way to reconnect and get back to doing the things you love with the people you love.
You'll find some of our exciting days out by rail suggestions below. Just one question... where will you go first?
Train times are subject to change. Please check your route before you set off and allow extra travel time. We strongly suggest you travel outside of busy periods and book in advance where possible. Many train operators have capacity checkers or provide advice on when services may be quieter, check their websites for details.
Step back in time along the Highland Main Line
Visit Britain's first open air museum as you explore the Highland Folk Museum. Located a 25 minute walk from Newtonmore Station, this open air museum features over 30 buildings furnished to represent a flavour of how Highland folk lived and worked from the 16th century through to the 1950s.
Further down the line, leave Carrbridge Station and take a twenty minute walk, passing the charming Old Packhorse Bridge (the oldest stone bridge in the Highlands), to reach the Landmark Centre, a forest activity park that's perfect for thrill-seekers in your family. This park boasts a climbing wall, highwire course, maze, raft ride and a roller coaster. You can even walk with dinosaurs as you explore Dinosaur Kingdom.
Scenic railway route: Glasgow/Edinburgh to Inverness via Perth
Go wild along the Mid Cheshire Line
Get back to nature as you visit Cheshire's Wonderful Wildlife exhibition and children's trail at Vickersway Park in Northwich – just a short walk from Northwich Station. For the full walking route take a look at the Rail Walk booklet here.
Rub shoulders with feathered friends with a day out at Gauntlet Birds of Prey. Enjoy magnificent flying demonstrations, vulture talk and meet and greet sessions. The park is around a 40 minute walk from Knutsford Station or a short taxi ride.
Get up close to wildlife as you explore Chester Zoo, featuring over 20,000 animals spread over 128 acres of zoological gardens. Regular bus services leave from outside Chester Railway Station and reaches the zoo in under 20 minutes.
Have a model railway lover in the family? They'll love the Making Tracks model railway and art exhibition at Chester Cathedral this summer, created in partnership with railway enthusiast Pete Waterman OBE and Mid Cheshire Community Rail Partnership.
Scenic railway route: Manchester Piccadilly to Chester
Delve into history along the Preston to Ormskirk Line
A short 10 minute walk from Rufford station you'll reach National Trust Rufford Hall which is perfect for a family day out. You can explore the gardens, become a nature detective or set imaginations free inside this historic Tudor house. The Great Hall was once the stage for William Shakespeare before he was famous!
Take a walk between Burscough Junction and Rufford Station for a relaxing afternoon with the family. The walk takes in the scenic Leeds & Liverpool and Rufford Branch canals as well as the historic Rufford Old Hall, see above. This film highlights the man interesting things that can been seen along the way.
Scenic railway route: Preston to Ormskirk
Discover the history of railway along the Gainsborough Line
Immerse yourself in a real steam railway museum and get up close and personal to the wide collection of steam trains, diesel locomotives and vintage carriages as you explore the East Anglian Railway Museum. Extend your railway themed day and take a scenic ride along the Gainsborough Line joining the train at Chappel Station. While in Chappel head to Millennium Green, an ideal place for catching up with family and friends for a picnic.
Scenic railway route: Marks Tey - Sudbury
Have a ROARsome day out in the Rhee Valley
Just 12 minutes by train from Cambridge along the picturesque Rhee Valley Line, you'll arrive at Shepreth. Across from the station is Shepreth Wildlife Park. Here families can see Sumatran Tigers, Red Pandas and Meercats at play, with plenty more animals to visit too. As well as the wildlife habitats, the park provides visitors with a chance to learn about important conservation work carried out including the wonderful hedgehog hospital.
See more inspiring ideas for days out along the Thameslink route here.
Scenic railway route: Cambridge to Royston
Explore the birthplace of the Mayflower in Essex
Known as the UK's second busiest passenger ferry port, Harwich has a long and fascinating seafaring history that provides a great day out by rail, along the aptly named Mayflower Line.
The coastal town of Harwich is believed to be where the Mayflower ship was built before setting of on the legendary sail across the Atlantic Sea delivering Pilgrims to North America. Families can walk in the footsteps of the Mayflower's Captain and explore his 17th century home on Kings Head Street. Follow the Maritime Heritage Trail, to discover sights such as the High Lighthouse, Lifeboat Museum, Guildhall and Harwich Redoubt Fort.
Scenic railway route: Manningtree - Harwich
A weekend of steam
Step back in time for a weekend of steam-powered demonstrations and vintage fairground fun for all the family. Roads to Rail takes place on 27 to 30 August with tractor engines, road rollers, showman's engines and more bringing Purbeck to life with recreations of a bygone age.
Scenic railway route: Swanage Railway
Seek thrills along the Kent Downs Line
Thrill-seeking families will love Go Ape at Leeds Castle. Around a 30-minute walk from Hollingbourne Station you'll reach the Treetop Challenge at Go Ape. This challenge boasts five zip lines, two of which are over an impressive 250m long! Get the family out and about into the treetops. The adventure course unfurls as you make your way into the woods and is a great confidence booster and starting point for young explorers.
Scenic railway route: Ashford to Otford
Crack codes and delve into history along the Abbey Line
Spend quality time with the family as you leap into new worlds completing ground-breaking missions, finding clues, solving puzzles and completing challenges. Will you escape in time? Choose from Escape Hunt Watford or Breakout Rooms Watford both within easy reach of Watford Junction Station.
Traces of Roman life can be explored in St Albans with the Verulamium Museum containing ancient treasures and artifacts. Visit the nearby Roman Theatre built around 140AD and used to showcase religious processions, dancing, wrestling, armed combat and wild beast shows. Take a walk to the majestic St Albans Cathedral and take some time to admire this magnificent building. All with easy access to St Albans Abbey Station.
Scenic railway route: Watford to St Albans
Outdoor family fun near Wellington Station
Bowring Park, located a 15 minute walk from Wellington Station, is an ideal place to catch up with family and friends. This lovely green space just outside the market town of Wellington, is overlooked by the famous Wrekin Hill. The park boasts a children's play area, free tennis courts and table tennis, outdoor gym, bowls club and plenty of outdoor space to explore. Why not pack a picnic and treat the family to an al fresco lunch this summer? If the weather's not great you can always pop into the park café for a tasty bite to eat before you head home.
Tucked away on the edge of Wellington, less than a 20 minute walk from the railway station, is the rare suburban villa and mini-estate of National Trust Sunnycroft. Immerse yourself in a past era as you explore how families used to live in this pre-First World War country house lifestyle. Look out for special events throughout the year.
Castle to Coventry on the Nuckle Line
Discover Leamington Spa, home to Jepson Gardens, the Pump Rooms and plenty of museums, galleries and open spaces nestled in this beautiful Warwickshire town. The railway station is a few minutes' walk from the main high street and the town is perfect for days out with the family, weekends away with friends or somewhere to celebrate a special occasion.
Further down the line you'll reach Kenilworth, with plenty of attractions within walking distance of the train station, it makes a perfect day out with the kids. Discover 900 years of history at Kenilworth Castle where you can climb the towers and battlements and let imaginations run wild. A 10-minute taxi ride from the station you can explore Stoneleigh Abbey, a hidden gem in the Warwickshire countryside. This beautiful stately home is a wonderful day out, set in 690 acres of parkland.
When you arrive in Coventry, head to Coventry Transport Museum to see the largest publicly owned collection of British vehicles in the world. Only 15 minutes walk from the station, you'll enjoy captivating displays, interactive galleries and immersive exhibitions, perfect for all the family.
Other highlights close to Coventry Station include the Herbert Gallery, offering a wide range of detailed talks, fantastic events and workshops for all ages alongside an ever-changing exhibition programme. Get active at The Wave boasting high-speed slides, fun-packed splash zone, exciting wave pool and relaxing lazy river.
Scenic railway route: Nuneaton to Leamington Spa
Explore Shakespeare's heritage along the Shakespeare Line
Stratford-upon-Avon is world famous for being the birthplace of William Shakespeare and with over 800 years of history to explore, this charming town is ideal for a family day out. From Shakespeare's Birthplace to the magical Butterfly Farm and the extraordinary MAD museum, there is plenty to discover.
A 20 minute walk from Stratford-upon-Avon railway station will bring you to Avon Boating. Here you can hire a small boat or book on to a public boat trip to marvel at the picturesque views down the River Avon.
Further along the line you can step foot in the childhood home of Shakespeare's mother. Experience the sights, sounds and smells of a working Tudor farm on a fantastic family day out at Mary Arden's Farm, a short 5 minute walk from Wilmcote railway station.
Scenic railway route: Shakespeare Line
Create & make with pottery in North Staffordshire
Take a trip on the picturesque North Staffordshire and visit the home of The Potteries. Gladstone Pottery Museum is only a 15 minute walk from Longton station and offers families a variety of engaging exhibits and hands on learning.
As Britain's only complete Victorian pottery factory, families are invited to have a go at throwing a pot, making a bone china flower or painting pottery. There are children's trails to follow, watch expert demonstrators and go inside giant bottle ovens as well as learning more about pottery and local history. Pay a visit to the café for a bite to eat before you head back to the station.
Scenic railway route: Derby to Crewe via Stoke
Yorkshire & North East
From fire engines to animal encounters in Calder Valley
Get up close and explore full-sized fire engines at Fireground, Greater Manchester Fire Service Museum as it opens it's doors this summer. Learn about the fire service and it's heritage through fascinating interactive displays and young ones will love the children's play area. Less than 5 minute walk from Rochdale Station.
Back on the train head to Mills Hill to have a wild day out at Lancaster Park and Animal Farm. Located across the road from the railway station, the farm offers families the chance to meet, touch and feed a range of animals. The adjoining park boasts two play areas and zip lines dotted along a scenic nature walk, rides, sand pit and look out for the pirate shoot-out! A perfect place to burn off some energy before heading home on the train.
Uncover the history of rail
Step back to a time when rail travel was only for the few as you explore Locomotion – The National Railway Museum at Shildon. The museum is the smaller sister of the National Railway Museum in York but still displays a number of real-engines and carriages for you to explore. You can even see the locomotive that hauled the first train along the Bishop Line. It's easy to explore by train along the historic Bishop Line, leave the train at Shildon Station and it's only a 10 minute walk.
Scenic railway route: Darlington to Bishop Auckland
We encourage you to explore these journeys safely by adhering to the latest government advice. Before planning any journey, please check the government guidance on travelling on public transport, relevant to where you are: England, Scotland, Wales. Please research your journey in advance as timetables can change and check for disruptions before you set off.
These scenic railway routes are supported by community rail partnerships, you can find out more about each partnership on the individual line pages linked above. Community rail is a growing grassroots movement made up of community rail partnerships and groups across Britain. They engage communities and help people get the most from their railways, promoting social inclusion and sustainable travel while working alongside train operators to bring about improvements. Learn more about community rail across Britain and how you can get involved through the Community Rail Network website.
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