The best bracing British train journeys


No sun? No problem. We asked rail guru Mark Smith (AKA The Man in Seat 61) to recommend his favourite wintry routes.

The West Highland Line  

“This links the ports of Mallaig and Oban in the Scottish Highlands to Glasgow. You can get there on a Caledonian Sleeper train from London Euston. It’s one of the most scenic routes in Britain – most of it’s a twisting single-track railway through fabulous Highland scenery. If there’s a sprinkling of snow on the ground, it’s magical.”

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The Settle-Carlisle Line  

“This takes you through the Yorkshire Dales to Leeds. It’s a famous line that was almost closed, but former politician Michael Portillo filed an order to keep it open. If you stare out of the window you’ll see a remote, beautiful landscape and, if you’re lucky, a dusting of snow on the hills. February is a great time to do it and it only takes an hour or two.”

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Exeter to Penzance  

“The highlight is the sea wall at Dawlish on the south coast of Devon, so it might be a wild card because the English Channel often smashes over the wall. There’s a fantastic shot of a two-car diesel unit going through waves crashing over it. I’ve no idea what it’d be like on the train at that point, but I’m sure it’s fun.”

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The Marshlink Line  

“This little diesel line runs from Ashford, Kent, via Rye, to Hastings, crossing Romney Marsh in East Sussex. I got a train set of this line for Christmas once – it was my first job, so I know first-hand how lovely it is. Rye’s a pretty town and out of season it’s quiet, scenic and absolutely beautiful.”

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(Images: Getty/iStock)