1. The West Highland Line
Glenfinnan Viaduct © Andrew Shapland
Come in by sleeper from London, and finish off with steam. This sensational route will change your life with indelible memories. Beautiful ones.
2. The East Coast Main Line
The Forth Bridge is an internationally recognised outline © Copycat37, Shutterstock
Speed, style and scenery in abundance, plus the double drama of the Forth and Tay bridges. Two great capitals, with stunning views north of Newcastle. The Flying Scotsman route – rightly railway royalty.
3. The Wherry Lines
Reedham Swing Bridge © Gerry Balding
Charm on wheels. The layout of the lines is eccentric, like the waterways they follow, and defies explanation; their survival inexplicable too. Much overlooked gems.
4. The Skye Railway
The Isle of Skye is home to some out-of-this-world scenery © Tom Dawson
This is what they mean by remote possibilities. Sea to shining sea, and a chance to avalanche on the way! A classic that tells almost incredible tales.
5. The Settle & Carlisle Line
© David Horner
A mad, moody, magnificent and mountainous main line – England’s highest. Unmissable.
6. The Looe Branch
St Ives © Dan Breckwoldt, Shutterstock
Or maybe the St Ives, it’s so hard to choose – in Cornwall. These Enid Blytonish short-but-sweet numbers will charm the socks off you, guaranteed. Do both in a day, go on!
7. The Cambrian Coast Line
Barmouth Viaduct © Kevin Eaves, Shutterstock
Wales has a total treasure trove of railways, but this is the best. Made into a North Wales circuit with the help of the Ffestiniog line – it’s simply superlative.
8. The Great Western
Maidenhead, a stop on one of the Thames Branches © Andrew Shapland
It might be well known, but it offers constant joys: from Brunel's billiard table in the Thames Valley to viaducts over Cornish rivers, curving around bays and coves.
9. The Wessex Main Line
Bradford-on-Avon: a thoroughly charming station for a thoroughly charming town © Pitamaha, Shutterstock
Very little known outside its region, it brings before you a glorious variety of scenery and, with its long arm to Weymouth, returns you to Hardy's Wessex.
10. West of England Main Line
Salisbury © Eleanor Howell
The forgotten way west. As you near Salisbury it starts getting lovely and then just gets better and better.
Inspired by these routes? Read more in Britain from the Rails.