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The Ultimate Great Britain Rail Itinerary

Great Britain offers a vast selection of rail routes that serve up some of the best views on the continent. There are many options available, from scenic trips through Scotland, to cultural delights in rural England. If you’re looking to explore the best of Great Britain by rail, then this itinerary ticks all the boxes. Your best rail pass option for this trip is the BritRail Pass.

Destinations

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From the bustling streets of London to the rural charm of England and the dramatic natural beauty of Wales and Scotland, travel some of the region’s most scenic rail routes.

 

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Day 1-2: London, England

 

As one of the world’s most visited destinations, the capital has to be your first stop. It’s a fast-paced city that offers up history, culture, and easy transport connections with continental Europe.

 

  • Marvel at London's iconic attractions, including Big Ben, Buckingham Palace, Trafalgar Square and Westminster Abbey.
  • Take a spin in the London Eye for some of the best aerial views of the city.
  • Hit by the British weather? Head indoors to one of the city’s many free museums, or max out your credit card on Oxford Street.

 

How to get there

 

Arriving by plane at London Heathrow Airport? There’s a quick and easy train connection every few minutes from the airport to Paddington station.

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Day 2: Bath, England

 

Bath is a beautiful town set amongst rolling hills of southwest England, named after the Roman baths that still exist in the city.

 

  • Soak your travel stresses away in the Roman baths, after which the city is named.
  • Explore Bath Abbey, a stunning medieval church with Gothic interior, founded in the 7th century.
  • Fan of architecture? Don’t miss the Royal Crescent, a row of 30 beautiful terraced houses designed by John Wood.

 

How to get there

 

The train journey between London Paddington and Bath is approximately 90 minutes, and there are departures every half hour.

 

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Day 3: Cardiff, Wales

 

Cardiff is a port city located on the south coast of Wales, and the vibrant capital of the country.

 

  • Walk the opulent interior of the famous Cardiff Castle, which dates back to the 11th century.
  • Stretch your legs along a section of Cardiff Bay, a beautiful urban marina with historic buildings and plenty of restaurants and stores.
  • Rugby fan? Watch a game at the Millennium Stadium for an atmosphere you won't forget.

 

How to get there

 

The train from Bath to Cardiff takes just over one hour, and there are departures approximately every 30 minutes.

 

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Day 4: Llandudno, Wales

 

Llandudno is a small town in northern Wales, popular for its beaches, nature, and medieval attractions.

 

  • Take a walk above the water on the Llandudno Pier – a 19th-century structure famous for its stores, arcade, and seaside charm.
  • Can’t get enough of trains? Hop aboard the Great Orme Tramway that travels to the summit of the Great Orme headland.
  • Take a quiet walk along the beautiful West Shore Beach, and if you’re feeling energetic combine it with a trek up Great Orme headland.

 

How to get there

 

The scenically beautiful train journey between Cardiff and Llandudno takes under five hours, and there are departures approximately every hour.

 

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Day 5: Liverpool, England

 

Liverpool is about more than just the Beatles – it’s a maritime city that’s a delight for lovers of history, mercantile architecture, and, of course, music.

 

  • Football fan or not, if Liverpool is playing at Anfield, buy a ticket and enjoy one of the most hallowed football stadiums in the country.
  • The ultimate tribute to the Beatles is located in Liverpool at the Beatles Story, where you’ll find a treasure trove of memorabilia and exhibits.
  • Get a bite to eat in the renovated Royal Albert Dock, a fascinating district packed full of museums, stores, bars, cafés and restaurants.

 

How to get there

 

Take the train to Liverpool via the town of Chester, which is well worth a stop. The total journey time is under two hours and offers beautiful coastal views.

 

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Day 6: Windermere, England

 

Windermere is a small town in Cumbria, England, and a perfect starting point for exploring the country’s Lake District.

 

  • Enjoy the scenery of Lake Windermere and hop aboard local buses to the nearby towns and villages.
  • Fan of Wordsworth? You’re a short bus ride away from Rydal, where the poet lived for much of his life. 
  • Prefer your reading to be on the lighter side? Pay a visit to the World of Beatrix Potter, which features interactive exhibits that share insights about the famous children’s author.

 

How to get there

 

There are regular trains from Liverpool to Windermere that take between two and three hours. Once there, the Lake District is a short taxi or bus ride away.

 

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Day 7: Glasgow, Scotland

 

Glasgow is a port city on the River Clyde, famous for its art nouveau and Victorian architecture.

 

  • Marvel at the displays in the rooms of the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, one of the country’s most popular attractions.
  • On a budget? One of the best things you can do in the city is just to walk it, being sure to take in the sights of George Square and Glasgow Cathedral.
  • If you’re into various modes of transport, you can’t miss the Riverside Museum, currently home to a staggering collection of historic vehicles.

 

How to get there

 

The train to Glasgow cuts through the heart of the United Kingdom, and takes under three hours with a transfer in Oxenholme Lake District.

 

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Day 8: Edinburgh, Scotland

 

Edinburgh is the capital of Scotland, and has beautiful hills, architecture and gardens.

 

  • Make the Edinburgh Castle your first stop - it’s a dramatic 11th-century structure with beautiful views from Castle Rock.
  • Get lost in the streets of Old Town Edinburgh, packed full of incredible buildings, traditional pubs, and dozens of restaurants.
  • Want to get some fresh air? Take a trip out to Arthur’s Seat, a popular hiking area that offers dramatic panoramic views of the city.

 

How to get there

 

Edinburgh is just one hour away from Glasgow by train, and there are departures every 15 minutes.

 

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Day 9: York, England

 

York is a walled town in northeast England that was founded by the Romans. It boasts a huge Gothic cathedral and remarkable medieval buildings.

 

  • As a rail enthusiast, consider visiting the popular National Railway Museum, which houses some 300 vehicles. 
  • York Minster’s stained glass windows are spectacular, and it is one of the largest Gothic Cathedrals in Europe.
  • Don’t forget York Castle and the precinct surrounding it – a walk along the cobbled streets is a journey back in time.

 

How to get there

 

Trains between Edinburgh and York take approximately two and a half hours, and there are regular departures throughout the day.

 

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Day 10: Birmingham, England

 

Birmingham in the West Midlands is packed with landmarks from the Industrial Revolution, and its canals, museums, cafés and restaurants make it a vibrant destination to visit.

 

  • Got a sweet tooth? Head straight to Cadbury World, and take a tasty journey through the history of Britain’s best-loved chocolate.
  • Get your hands dirty at the Black Country Living Museum, an impressive time machine to the region's industrial past.
  • Catch the train from Birmingham Moor Street station to scenic Stratford-upon-Avon, the birthplace of William Shakespeare.

 

 

How to get there

 

The train from York to Birmingham takes just 30 minutes, and there are regular departures for the city throughout the day. From Birmingham you’re just 90 minutes away from London.

 

Which Pass?

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Train is the best way to explore Great Britain. There are endless options, and most routes make for beautiful scenery. If you only have a few days to explore you can easily shorten your itinerary, but with more time to spare you can slow it down and take in the cultural attractions that are synonymous with this fascinating part of Europe.

 

Your best option is to travel with a BritRail Pass and discover every corner of Great Britain. Alternatively, you can combine this trip with other European locations using a Eurail Global Pass, with easy connections from Amsterdam and Paris to London.