Traveling on British trains is just better
Ride in comfort and sometimes in luxury
August 1, 2021 | View PDF
The English have always been keen to train travel, particularly during the days when they had private compartments and different classes. The Brits do love their classes.
Today, while the trains are more modern and may remind you of a New York subway, they do have amenities like a club car and sleeping quarters.
Take a pass
The BritRail train ticket is worth buying as it is exclusive for tourists, providing unlimited journeys and discounts, and gives you the freedom to go at your own pace. You can buy tickets online from National Rail, The Trainline, or directly from the train companies.
Tourists from outside Britain can get discounted and flexible travel with a BritRail Pass, from the VisitBritain Shop, or also purchased from agents such as ACP Rail, Rail Europe and International Rail.
Keep a passport-sized photograph handy for buying passes. If you have a pass, you will need to show it when you buy a ticket.
Britain's fastest and most comfortable trains are those on the mainline routes. Reserve your seat in advance, especially if you want to travel at peak times, such as Friday evenings. Mainline trains have dining cars and air conditioning, and they are fast – for example, traveling from London to Scotland's capital city Edinburgh takes just four hours and 20 minutes direct, or from London Paddington to Wales's capital city Cardiff it's just two hours direct.
If you are disabled go to https://bit.ly/3x0CZ3x to book your ticket.
Pass costs vary on how many days you intend to travel. For instance, two days at first class is $201, up to eight days is $531 for one adult, and standard is $132 and $357 respectively.
See other prices at https://shop.britrail.net/#/pass/britrail_passes.
The BritRail South West M-Pass is an electronic rail pass that you can download directly to your smart phone. This pass can also be printed in case of loss or theft, and stored on electronic devices like iPads and tablets. For easy train travel in the UK, this is the way to go.
A consecutive pass is valid for a set number of days in a row. For example, if you start using a four-day pass on a Monday, it will be valid until Thursday.
This pass is ideal for trains to Oxford and trains to Bath.
Short jaunts from London
Journeys across the country may involve changes since most lines radiate from London, which has seven major terminals. Here are some examples:
from London King's Cross Station to York (1hr 50mins), Lincoln (2hrs 20mins), Newcastle (2hrs
50mins), Durham (2hrs 55mins), Edinburgh, Scotland (4hrs 20mins), London Waterloo Station to Salisbury for Stonehenge (1hr 20mins), Bournemouth (1hr 55mins); London Marylebone Station to Bicester Village (50mins), Warwick (1hr 25mins), Stratford-Upon-Avon (2hrs), Oxford (1hr 10mins); and, London Paddington Station to Oxford (55mins), Windsor (55 mins), Bath (1hr 25mins), Bristol (1hr 40mins), Cardiff (2hrs).
Pay attention to the yellow line above a train window indicating a first class compartment. Even if the train is full, you cannot sit in the first-class area without paying the full fare.
For sure go and see Stonehenge. When we went to see it back in 1967, some Welsh nationalists had painted slogans all over it and groundskeepers were busy washing them off.
Stonehenge is a must-see. About eight miles north of Salisbury (go see Salisbury Cathedral too) it is thought to be a religious site although there is no evidence. The chieftains, aristocrats and clergy who built it are buried nearby.
This prehistoric monument sees crowds on the summer solstice, especially by present-day druids.
Take a Bath
For centuries Bath has been the place people come to relax, thanks to the ancient Romans who came here for the hot thermal waters. Victorians made the Bath popular by taking the waters and with its high-class boutiques, beautiful Georgian architecture and elegant eateries it remains a beehive of activity to this day.
One of best preserved ancient sites in Europe, the Roman Baths' colonnaded pools promises a tonic to your aching back and is just five-minute walk from the train station. At the Thermae Bath Spa, bathe in naturally warm, mineral-rich
waters in a rooftop pool overlooking the city skyline. It is also just a five- minute walk from the train station.
Visit the bard
Yes, there's more to Stratford-upon-Avon than Shakespeare, as the city's tourist site proclaims, but really you go because of Shakespeare, who was born there.
I visited in 1972, and made a gravestone rubbing of his stone but forgot it in a hostel, which I regret to this day. It read: "For Jesus sake forbeare, to dig the dust enclosed here, blessed be ye man that spares these stones, and curst be ye that moves my bones."
The Royal Shakespeare Company, headquartered here, will resume its post-pandemic season in September, but in October it presents its only Shakespeare play "The Comedy of Errors." The company also presents non-Shakespeare plays. See the season at http://www.rsc.org.uk.
Go in style
The legendary steam train The Flying Scotsman that plied the rails between London and Edinburgh is featured on a special trip with the East Lancashire Railway.
Famous for being the first train ever to travel 100 miles an hour, it will travel at the end of September for a special journey between Bury and Rawenstall. Book online at https://www.eastlancsrailway.org.uk/events-activities/flying-scotsman.
Now, the Royal Scotsman is a different story. Pricey but wallowing in luxury, this train offers several different itineraries priced from $3,350 pounds to $12,500 pounds per passenger, or $4,586 and $17,113!
The Royal Scotsman, decorated in Edwardian style, will carry you through the Highlands to some of the most historic sites in Scottish history - the Culloden Battlefield, Eilean Donan Castle and Glamis Castle, and all that gorgeous scenery in between. Go to
England opens up for U.S. visitors (there still are some hurdles)
The United States is considered an “amber” country, meaning it’s not as good as a green country but not as bad as a red country as far as the rate of vaccination and active cases, and England has loosened restrictions for travelers to and from England from amber countries.
However, the new rules as of July 19, 2021, do not include Ireland, the Isle of Man, or Scotland, which have separate orders, but if you arrive in England and travel to those parts, you will have conformed to the rules.
People covered by the amber list rules, like Americans, will not need to quarantine on arrival in England or take a COVID-19 test on their eighth day in the country, as long as you have been fully vaccinated under the UK vaccination program or have not been in a red list country or France in the 10 days before you arrive in England.
Fully vaccinated means that you have had your final dose of an approved vaccine at least 14 days before the date you arrive in England. The day you have your final dose of the vaccine does not count as one of the 14 days.
You will still need to take a two-day test when you arrive in England, and you will need to declare that you have been fully vaccinated on your passenger locator form and show proof of your vaccination status to your carrier (ferry, airline or train) when you travel.
You do not need to take a COVID-19 test or quarantine on arrival in England if you are traveling within the UK, Ireland, the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man (the Common Travel Area), and you have not been outside of the Common Travel Area (meaning the United Kingdom) in the previous 10 days.
This website is updated and contains the passenger locator that you have to fill out before you land in England. It also has links to Wales, Ireland and Scotland regulations: https://bit.ly/3kMGyru.
And you can also visit https://www.visitbritain.com/us/en/know-you-go.