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Top 10 Railway Trails For You Train Trip Across The UK

A generation ago, Britain's railways were almost consigned to history when Dr Beeching's cuts closed thousands of stations and lines across the country. But some gems survived, and now rail travel grows more popular by the day. Robin McKie picks 10 scenic lines that reveal the glories of the UK's surviving network

Inverness › Thurso › Wick

This is the most northerly line in the country and arguably its wildest. The journey takes about four hours and winds through some of the remotest landscape in Britain. Scheduled for closure by Beeching, the line was saved by a highly effective protest campaign that has preserved one of the nation’s grandest railways

Dingwall › Kyle of Lochalsh

Completed in 1897, the line was the most expensive rail project of its day: the last 10 miles between Stromeferry and Kyle needed 31 cuttings and 29 tunnels and had to be blasted out of solid rock. The result is a gem of a railway passing over deserted beaches and through fishing villages, and offering views of mountains and herons – and eagles and otters if you are lucky

Fort William › Mallaig

One of the greatest rail lines in the world, best reached by sleeper from London. Wake up and have breakfast as you sweep over Rannoch moor and on into Fort William. Then take the Mallaig train, which carries you over the Glenfinnan viaduct and on to the silver sands of Morar where Local Hero and Highlander were filmed

Newcastle › Edinburgh

North of Alnwick, the high-speed expresses of the east coast main line sweep along cliffs that rise above the Northumbrian coast and pass by Lindisfarne before reaching Berwick-upon-Tweed and on to Scotland. Best enjoyed at a window seat with a glass of wine or whisky

Settle › Carlisle

The line runs through the Yorkshire Dales and north Pennines, built by more than 6,000 navvies, who created a line of startling grandeur under the most severe conditions. The remains of one of their camps, Batty Green, can still be seen near Ribblehead, where workers also constructed a huge viaduct that carries the line high over a valley.

Carlisle › Carnforth

The Cumbrian coast line loops round the Lake District and offers visions of its great peaks inland. Stations include Grange-over-Sands, Sellafield – and Ravenglass, where you can stop and take a tiny narrow-gauge line that heads inland to Dalegarth and some of the best mountain walks in England.

Caernarfon › Porthmadog › Blaenau Ffestiniog

These two narrow-gauge lines, the Ffestiniog and the Welsh Highland railway, which merge at Porthmadog on the coast, are testimonies to the British love of railways. Both were rebuilt by volunteers who, in the process, opened up vast tracts of Snowdonia for travellers

Craven Arms › Llanelli

Passing through some of Britain’s remotest countryside, the Heart of Wales railcar that trundles along this little line passes through a total of 43 stations, most of them unstaffed and blessed with names that defy pronunciation for most English travellers. It is probably the British Isles’ most charming rail line

Oxford › Hereford

The Cotswold line service carries passengers through the rolling hills of Oxfordshire and Gloucestershire and on to the more rugged charms of Herefordshire via Great Malvern, which has one of the finest stations in the country. The line carries on over the Ledbury viaduct, one of the glories of the line, which was built using 5m bricks, enough to make 300 homes, and on to Hereford.

St Erth › St Ives

The shortest great railway trip in Britain, and probably in Europe, was built in 1877 to serve the little pilchard-fishing village of St Ives. Today, it brings passengers to a town transformed into an international resort, with many arriving at St Erth on the Night Riviera from London, the last remaining sleeper service running entirely in England