Staring out of a train window as the English countryside rolls by is one of life's true pleasures. Rolling hills, magnificent sea views, charming cottages and vividly coloured fields all make up the stunning backdrop of England's train journeys, ranging from Avon to the Cotswolds, Sussex to the Malvern Hills.
With a railway system that boasts traditional steam trains and picture-perfect stations, England's railways are hard to beat. Taking in the countryside from a cosy train carriage is the perfect way discover hidden gems around England whilst spending time with friends and family. With this in mind, we've compiled some of our favourite journeys that criss-cross the country. So sit back, relax and let the English countryside take you away; enjoy the ride!
There isn't much that is more quintessentially British than an iconic locomotive chugging its way through the landscape, spouting billows of steam. So for those of you looking for something traditional, step back in time with a ride on a steam train! Starting at the beautifully restored Victorian station of Bitton, enjoy the beautiful Somerset countryside with its quaint towpaths, stunning views and beautiful buildings made from the iconic creamy Bath stone, all from a heritage carriage. The train stops intermittently along the line, giving you the chance to stroll along the wooded Bristol & Bath Railway Path which joins the two city centres. The railway also welcomes dogs on most of their services.
We recommend ending your trip with some time in the Georgian city of Bath, where you can visit the ancient Roman Baths, shop till you drop in Bath's artisan quarter or enjoy a picnic along the picturesque canal.
Make a weekend of it and stay at our beautifully boutique and dog-friendly inn, the Archangel, located close by in the picturesque market town of Frome.
Closer to London, city-dwellers are lucky to have the Surrey Hills a short train ride away; rich in woodland, wildlife and walking. The North Down Lines run from Reading to Redhill, passing through the idyllic countryside of Surrey and West Sussex, with plenty of pretty pubs and towns along the way. Why not explore the cobbled streets of Guildford, before passing through the gorgeous Surrey Hills and the historic town of Reigate, where you can stroll through the historic Priory Park just a 10 minute walk from the station.
Add in a stay at our charming West Sussex inn, The Old House Inn in Copthorne, where you could treat yourself to a Champagne Tea, and you have quite the English excursion planned.
Another stunning way to see the South Downs is along the charming Arun Valley Line, which runs from Clapham Junction towards the West Sussex coast. Following the river Arun, the train takes you right into the heart of Arundel with its famous cathedral and castle. The line boasts charming pubs, thatch cottages and wetlands - and ends in the pretty town of Chichester, home to the excellent Pallant House Gallery.
Enjoy Chichester's historic centre, and then relax at one of our local inns. The White Horse and the Royal Oak at East Lavant are close by, and prove the perfect places for those seeking a little peace and relaxation after the journey.
Running between Oxford and Hereford and spanning four counties, the Cotswold Line whizzes through the dramatic Malvern Hills, as well as pretty villages, quaint towns and the Vale of Evesham's beautiful orchards. There are plenty of picturesque stops along the way; don't miss Great Malvern station itself - one of the finest stations in the country - and the amazing Ledbury viaduct, a stunning Victorian bridge with views that will take your breath away.
For those fancying a scenic stroll, alight at the pretty village of Moreton-in-Marsh and make the short journey to our inn, the Horse and Groom to enjoy the roaring fires and classic Cotswold stone interior. From there, you can explore Batsford Arboretum - the country's largest private collections of trees and shrubs - enjoy a tour of the local Cotswolds Distillery, or for the more erudite, a look round Shakespeare's family homes.
You'll be delighted by West England's pretty countryside along this line, departing from Basingstoke and winding its way down to the city of Exeter. Beginning in Hampshire, the line weaves through Wiltshire and on to Devon, boasting an abundance of quaint villages, idyllic gardens, thatched cottages and pretty market towns such as Yeovil, Honiton or Axminster - the gateway to the UNESCO World Heritage Jurassic Coast.
A key stop on the way is the city of Salisbury. Famed for its wonderful Cathedral and proximity to Stonehenge, both well worth a visit. There are plenty of Collection Inns along the line too - so you can easily extend the trip and stay at either the King John Inn in Wiltshire, or The Museum Inn in Dorset.
You can't get much cuter than the Marshlink line, which whizzes past marshes rich in wildlife, captivating lighthouses and adorable miniature stations. Merging spectacular coastal and countryside views, you're sure to be blown away by the stunning scenery and vistas along the coastline. Starting in Ashford and ending in Brighton, you'll leave the chalky Kent Downs and pass through the well-known and popular towns of Rye, Hastings and Eastbourne.
Continue along the coast until you reach Pulborough to enjoy a well-deserved drink at The Welldiggers Arms as you look out over the South Downs, and where you could also tie in an afternoon exploring the Tinwood Vineyard.
Words: Anna Jamieson
In-post image: Tim M / Shutterstock.com