Rediscovering days out with friends

30 August 2021

Catching up on the latest gossip, laughing together until your stomach aches, sharing secrets and supporting each other (oh and the occasional disagreement!) are all things we've missed out on with our friends during lockdown. Virtual gatherings online and phone conversations just can't replace seeing your besties face to face. So, as life starts to get back on track why not relive the good old days pre-lockdown, and make some new memories as you take your friends on a delightful day out by rail. Find inspiration with some of our suggestions below.

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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. We can't guarantee low prices on your particular route so please check with the train operator. The advice on our website is given in good faith.

Friends enjoying real ale
Photo: CAMRA

Toast your friendship along a rail ale trail

Just 40 minutes from London Liverpool Street Station is Wickford, the start of the Crouch Valley Line. As well as picturesque river views, historic towns and wildlife reserves, the stations along this line have a host of great village pubs. Not forgetting the tap rooms for the Crouch Vale and Wibbler's Breweries to enjoy. Download the guide here.

Explore the charming pubs dotted around the Rhee Valley, less than 10 minutes from Cambridge by train. Boasting traditional country pubs with locally sourced menus and village pubs with live music and even open mic night there's lots of interesting places to explore using the Rhee Valley Line. Download the pub trail here.

Head across the border into Scotland and try your hand at brewing your own beer along the East Lothian Line. Faking Bad Brewery is located on the seafront, 15 minutes walk from Prestonpans Station, and offers a selection of different brew days and experiences that make great days out.

Explore more rail ale trails with CAMRA...

Arundel Castle is ideal for a day out by rail with friends
Photo: Arundel Castle

Curious castles and crusades

Discover over 900 years of history set in 500 acres of glorious grounds and gardens at Leeds Castle, Kent. Explore the castle that started life as a Norman stronghold, was home to six of England's medieval queens and used by Henry VIII, before uncovering more history through fascinating displays and exhibitions including a unique collection of historic and interesting dog collars. Best of all you can enjoy a scenic journey to get here with a trip along the Kent Downs Line, leaving the train at Bearstead to pick up a shuttle bus run by Spot Travel (please check their website for operating times).

Take a scenic journey along the Medway Valley Line and stop off at Strood to explore nearby Rochester Castle. Strategically placed astride the London Road, guarding an important crossing of the River Medway, this imposing fortress has a complex history of destruction and rebuilding. Today it stands as a proud reminder of the history of Rochester, along with the cathedral and cobbled streets and is perfect for a day exploring with friends.

Take the Arun Valley Line and explore nearly 1,000 years of history at the magnificent Arundel Castle. Marvel at the impressive Gothic style architecture, discover the beautiful Earl's Garden and climb the steps to the keep to be rewarded with panoramic views of the River Arun, the sea, the town and the South Downs. Nearby you can step back in time and experience life through the ages as you explore the award-winning Arundel Museum, located across from the castle.

Leeds is ideal for days out by rail with friends
Photo: Leeds

Captivating city adventures

Enjoy a scenic journey past Pennine peaks and Yorkshire Dales landscapes as you travel along The Bentham Line delivering you straight to the bustling city of Leeds. Renowned for it's retail offer, where big brands meet Victorian arcades, and a thriving independent food scene, Leeds is an ideal place to enjoy catching up with friends.

Chester is one of Britain's greatest heritage cities, packed full of historic treasures and fascinating attractions just waiting to be discovered. The city is home to the most complete City Walls in Britain dating from the Roman occupation 2,000 years ago built to protect the city. Today you can take the 2 mile walk of the walls and admire the beautiful heritage of Chester. Add a scenic railway journey onto your trip and explore either the North Cheshire Line leading you to even more history, culture and leisure as the gateway to major cities in the North West or slow the pace with a picturesque journey along the Mid Cheshire Line through charming villages and market towns on your way to Manchester.

Speaking of Manchester, this vibrant city has a wealth of fascinating museums and galleries to explore. However, one of the best ways to see the city and discover its hidden history is to join the Free Manchester Walking Tour. Every day at 11am a tour starts from the Alan Turing Memorial Statue in Sackville Gardens, 5 minutes walk from Manchester Piccadilly railway station. On this 3 ½ hour tour you can expect to visit Manchester Town Hall, National Football Museum, China Town, Rochdale Canal, Manchester Central Library and many more places of interest. The knowledgeable and friendly guides will highlight hidden games, put a spotlight on Manchester's rich history and share the story of the city from the people who know it best.

Walking in the Peak District is ideal for days out by rail with friends
Photo: cattan2011 on FlicR

Swop your slippers for walking boots

Get back to nature and explore the outstanding natural beauty of the Cotswolds with the Kingfisher Trail. This trail, made up of 22 kingfisher sculptures made by local artists provides a perfect day out with friends. Follow the scenic Golden Valley Line to find the kingfisher at Cheltenham Spa, before walking from the station to Benhall Park to see the impressive Kingfisher Mural. Download the app to easily find your way to the various locations along the River Severn or River Thames and enjoy days out with friends.

Explore Hope Valley on foot as you journey from Grindleford Station to National Trust Longshaw. Leave the train at Grindleford and fuel up at the nearby Station Café, famous for it's hearty portions making it a favourite among walkers, before heading over the bridge and joining the Padley Gorge Trail. This tranquil walking route takes you through stunning ancient woodland and tumbling streams before opening up to wild moorland. Leave the trail here and cross the road to pick up the route to National Trust Longshaw providing even more scenic walking trails and beautiful landscapes.

The East Suffolk Lines pass through some of East Anglia's most picturesque countryside and it's easy to explore on foot with local rail trails. Gentle rolling hills and valleys, historic market towns, quaint villages, undisturbed ancient woodlands and coastal heath-land all make up this beautiful landscape. With twenty-two way-marked walks covering 160 miles you really can explore these unspoilt areas of Suffolk for yourself. Many of the walks in this series are station-to-station connecting Lowestoft, Ipswich and Felixstowe, making it easy to enjoy a walk then take the train back. The question is which route will you explore first? See the full list of walking routes here.

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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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