Britain from the Rails
by Benedict le Vay
Britain from the Rails Guide – discover Britain from the rails, travel tips on British train travel and what to see from the comfort of your carriage. Covering England, Wales and Scotland, including the new Borders Railway, plus local history, practical advice, top ten railways, secret railways, branch lines, food and restaurants, hotels and B&Bs.
Published: 04th Oct 2019
About this book
Expert railway enthusiast Ben le Vay returns with a new edition of his much-acclaimed guide to discovering Britain from the rails. This latest edition adds new lines and destinations in Britain’s fast-changing railway, while updating the guide to the classic greats. Thoroughly updated, it includes a full, fascinating guide to the new Borders Railway in Scotland, plus details of the new route from London to Oxford and expanded coverage of the eccentric Jolly Fisherman line in Lincolnshire and the charming Cotswold line from Oxford to Hereford. Also included are more details of the Far North line from Inverness to Wick and Thurso.
‘Now, finally, the network has a book to be proud of!’ So said one reviewer of the first edition. Branch lines and ‘secret railways’ are covered, and so too are the popular routes such as the glorious East Coast main line to Scotland and the Great Western to Penzance. Regional treats include the famed West Highland Line in Scotland, the Settle and Carlisle railway in the north of England, and entire chapters dedicated to ‘Wales Rails’ and ‘East Anglia: A Circular Tour’.
Additional information ranges from the practical – such as a guide to the layout of some of the country’s main termini – to the ‘Inside Track: a window-gazer’s guide to stuff to look out for on your journey’ and intriguing train trivia. The best historic and preserved railways are also included, as are Ben’s Top Ten Rail Journeys.
Ben le Vay says: ‘There are endless books about trains, about the history of the railways, about stations, signal boxes, carriages, wagons. as specialist as you like. There are also myriad books about British cities and countryside, about what is wonderful and fascinating about different patches of our unique island. But there were none that successfully combined the one type of book with the other (after all, you look at the country while sitting on trains) until now. And this is I do with deep knowledge, love and enthusiasm for both parts.’
About the Author
Benedict le Vay says he loves train travel because it’s romantic, fun, comfortable, civilised, sociable, fascinating and doesn’t damage the wonderful places you go to. To date, he has written five books for Bradt (many on the ‘Eccentric Britain’ theme) as well as holding down a full-time job as a Fleet Street newspaper sub-editor. He ascribes his early interest in railways to the fact that his mother grew up on his grandfather’s private train, as the chief inspector of Indian railways. Later, as a London schoolboy, he played cricket next to the tracks where the luxury Golden Arrow train to Paris steamed past. Needless to say, he dropped a few catches .
“We live in one of the most beautiful countries in the world – sit back, relax and enjoy the ever changing landscape of Britain from the Rails!”
Pete Waterman Obe, Chairman of the Waterman Railway Trust
“Look out of those train windows and see another Britain. This is a richly researched and fascinating book, with a chuckle and a raised eyebrow at every page.”
“Whether you’re a first-time visitor or time-served commuter, Benedict le Vay’s book will open your eyes to the sights and history of Britain’s best train journeys. And his choice of the top ten British train routes is spot on!”
Mark Smith, The Man In Seat 61
“A quite superb, indeed incomparable, combination of maps, railway trivia, engineering isights and breathtaking landscape features to look out for.”
Michael Gove, The Times
“This elegant guide is perfect for people who really want to know what they are seeing when they idly look out of a train window. The maps and illustrations add to the joy of reading a gorgeous guide.”
Adam Trimingham, Brighton Argus Magazine
“Britain from the Rails: A Window Gazer’s Guide by Benedict le Vay, tells you what you should look out for from your carriage window on rail journeys from Aberdeen to Penzance and all points in between. This is a book that will gladden the hearts of all who love train travel.”
Frank Barrett, The Mail on Sunday
‘Gloriously quirky labour-of-love’
“If books have personalities, then this one is eccentric, but very appealing. It looks as though someone else has already owned it, written their very useful notes in the margin, and sketched the most fascinating sights too. It makes you want to try out the train routes that are outlined for yourself- and why not?”
RSPB Birds Magazine
‘The whole book has a friendly, if slightly eccentric, feel to it.’
National Railway Museum Review
‘This book is an absolute joy’
West Highland News
Additional InformationTable of Contents
Introduction: Rail Britannia!
Who is this book for? A lot of people…, How to use this book, Ben’s top ten rail journeys
Chapter 1 The Glorious East Coast Main Line to Scotland
King’s Cross to York: record breakers, York to Edinburgh: to the world’s first railway, Edinburgh to Aberdeen: Firth to last
Chapter 2 Scotland: Rails to Romance and Beauty
The basic layout, Glasgow and Edinburgh termini, Planning ahead in Scotland, The West Highland Line: Glasgow-Crianlarich-Fort William-Mallaig and the Oban branch: the iron road to the isles, The Highland Main Line: Inverness to Glasgow (and Edinburgh), Britain’s first new domestic line for many decades, the fascinating Borders Railway, Seaside excursions: two great days out from Scotland’s two big cities, The Great North of Scotland Railway: Inverness to Aberdeen, The Skye Railway: the very strange story of ‘the most beautiful line in Europe’, The intriguing Far North Line: from Inverness to Wick and Thurso put into sharp focus
Chapter 3 The North of England: Chuffing ‘eck, That’s Grand!
Midlands mentions, The North of England: overview and recommended lines, The wonderful Settle & Carlisle Railway: don’t Settle for anything less! Leeds to Lancaster and Morecambe: a useful connector, brief encounters and a great comedian, The Cumbrian Coast Line: right round the Lake District, The Lake District by train? What are those words worth?! No missing Lincs in Lincolnshire: Nottingham to Skegness – the Jolly Fisherman Line seen in a fresh perspective
Chapter 4 Great Western: God’s Wonderful Railway
The GWR: trunk, branches and twigs, Keeping great company: the GWR’s great history, London to Penzance: best of the West, The Berks & Hants route: Kennet Valley and Vale of Pewsey, The GWR strikes north: expanded detail on the lovely Cotswolds, Golden Valley and Banbury, West Country branches: Devon and Cornwall’s cream, Wessex lines: undiluted Old England at her best, The GWR route into South Wales: branch lines to Dai for. New ways to Oxford – the first new route linking London to a major British city for almost 100 years
Chapter 5 Wales Rails
Fire-breathing dragons: & going for a spin with the best connected, Welsh rare bits and best bits, North Wales and the Marches: a fantastic circular route or splendid separate days out, The Heart of Wales Line: Shrewsbury to Swansea, a real rural rail survivor
Chapter 6 East Anglia: A Circular Tour to See the Best of This Unique Region
Bargain Anglia, Hitchin to Cambridge: teetotal recall, dozy crossing keepers and snooty dons, The Breckland Line: Cambridge to Norwich – islands in the Fen to blasted heath, Really recommended for the ride, Norwich-Lowestoft: Queen of the Lot, The lovely East Suffolk Line: Lowestoft to Ipswich (for London): swinging stuff, London Liverpool Street to Norwich via the Great Eastern Main Line (plus fabulous branches)
Chapter 7 South Western from Waterloo: Take Me to the Sunshine
Waterloo: welcome to Britain’s biggest and busiest station, Waterloo to Woking: another Britain’s busiest, Woking to Southampton: Martians to maritime, Southampton to Weymouth: the New Forest and two Hardys’ Wessex, The Portsmouth Direct Line: Woking to Pompey, ups and Downs, Waterloo to Exeter: the West of England Main Line
Chapter 8 South and Southeast: From Dirty Weekends to Bo Peep
The Brighton Line: premier holiday route, London Victoria to Brighton: what to look out for from Thames to Channel, Brighton Line Branches, Brighton-Hastings-Ashford: towns, gowns and Downs, Hastings Direct and the Kent Coast: catch the 1066
Chapter 9 Britain’s ‘Secret Railways’
Manchester to Glossop and Hadfield, The Welsh Valleys: Merthyr and branches, The Ebbw Vale line: Film stars and a phoenix, Vale of Glamorgan: Where you can find coastal beauty, a TV hit, a vital scrap of history and forgotten disaster, London’s new Orbital Railway: Outer Circle Line or rail M25?
Appendix 1 The Inside Track
A window-gazer’s guide to ‘rail things’: stuff to look out for on your journey, Train trivia.
Appendix 2 Useful Information
Books on railways: read between the lines, Steamy affairs: best historic and preserved railways.