Bodmin Parkway, destination Cornwall — Photo courtesy of Simon Pielow
Train travel in Britain is fun and picturesque. There are some great rides alongside the sea, underneath beautiful red cliffs, around lovely bays and to many of the country's top destinations. Just hop on at London Paddington, and book to at least Plymouth, if not all the way down to Cornwall; you'll get to enjoy the famous Devon Red Cliffs and Exmouth and Dartmouth bays from the train. Perfect as the sun sets on a summer's evening.
Red Cliffs in Devon — Photo courtesy of CrabChick
If you book early enough, you can also find some pretty good deals, too. Reading a book as the cityscape and countryside streams past you is relaxing, and if you're really into trains, you can hop on a modern high-speed train to take you to one of the many working steam heritage railways around the country, like the Bodmin and Wenford railway in Cornwall. At Bodmin Parkway station, you can hop off the Intercity from Paddington and straight on to a slower-paced steam train for a trip around the lush parkland of Bodmin moor.
Although some trains don't always have great food on board, when you're lucky, or you're on a special dining train, you could even sample another great British tradition: the English breakfast.
English breakfast on board — Photo courtesy of Simon Pielow
With this year's Olympics making London and Great Britain a go-to destination, you could plan to take in one of the out-of-London events by train to sample for yourself the delights of what used to be known as British Rail. The sailing takes place down in Dorset, which you can get to by train from London Waterloo. Today, each privately-operated train company has responsibility for its own region, but with judicial use of various discount cards (network cards, young person's railcards, etc.) and with planning you can enjoy the cream of the rail system without any problems.
Train driver, Bodmin and Wenford Railway — Photo courtesy of Robert Pittman
When it comes to trains in the UK, all rails lead to London, and often the quickest way of crossing the country is to change in London. Frustrating if you live elsewhere, but great if you're a Londoner. That said, there are some nice cross country routes which serve the small market towns along the way, say between York and Bristol, and that way you can travel right down the backbone of England.
There are so many great train trips to take in the UK, and heritage railways to discover, that you could come back every year and still not have done them all. Just think, you could take time to visit all 367 of London's train stations, or travel the length of the circle line in a day. A sleeper up to the Scottish Highlands and Islands or direct to the Edinburgh Art Festival in August (or Hogmanay) is another must.
Camel Trail Cornwall, old railway line — Photo courtesy of Max Hughes
For train enthusiasts, you can also hire and charter trains, and you don't have to limit it to the UK. The Eurostar takes you to France, Belgium and the European continent beyond. Some railway lines have been discontinued in the UK, but with cycling also making a comeback, many of them have been turned in to great cycle paths. Once past Devon, if you continue down to Bodmin, you can get your bike off the train or hire one in town, and continue on to Padstow by bike for a true British seaside holiday and a taste of Cornwall that you'll never forget.