It's full steam ahead for Britain's heritage railways this year. Many lines reported improving passenger numbers last year. With the UK looking forward to welcoming more overseas visitors as pandemic concerns recede, these attractions, which exemplify the very essence of British tradition, are set for a bumper 2022. For some, it's a day of pure nostalgia; for others, it's the delight of discovering the fascination of Victorian steam. So enjoy the pleasure of steam-hauled rides through idyllic English countryside as engines puff and clank, their trailing entourage clattering behind at breakneck speeds of up to 40mph.
So, for all you lovers of steam, My Favourite Holiday Cottages has rural properties nationwide, many located within the haunting sound of a train whistle. Here are just a few cottages ideally placed to spend some time riding the rails.
Go WestRailway Cottage near Woolston on the West Somerset Railway.
Railway buffs to Somerset will love Railway Cottage (see picture above). It adjoins the West Somerset Railway, the longest of the UK's heritage railways. There is perhaps no better holiday cottage in the West Country to get up close and personal with passing engines that range from tiny tank engines to historic expresses.
The South Devon Railway runs along the stunning valley of the River Dart between Buckfastleigh and Totnes, offering a treat for people of all ages. Passengers can hop off en route to visit the Totnes Rare Breeds Farm and Dartmoor Otters & Buckfast Butterflies.
Gitcombe House Retreat. 4-bedroom luxury near Dartmouth
This is a superb holiday cottage sleeping up to eight guests in style in the heart of the South Devon countryside. Guests staying at Gitcombe House Retreat are spoilt for choice when it comes to heading for the sound of steam. Located close to the Paignton-Kingswear line and The South Devon Railway from Totnes to Buckfastleigh, there's the Dartmouth Steam Railway. Trains on this Dart Valley line puffs merrily between Buckfastleigh to Totnes. Alternatively, travel along the Torbay coast from Paignton to Kingswear. If you really want to do it in style, catch a pleasure boat up the Dart to Totnes0 From there (Dart Valley Line trips optional), take a mainline train to Newton and back to Torquay from where you can enjoy another boat trip across Torbay to Dartmouth or to Paignton to return by steam to Kingswear. You can buy inclusive 'Round Robin' boat and rail tickets and times on the South Devon Railway website.
Go Wild in Wales
The final section of the Welsh Highland Railway connecting the North Wales coast at Caernarfon through the heart of Snowdonia to Porthmadog and Blaenau Ffestiniog re-opened a decade ago, offering trips from the North Wales coast into the heart of Snowdonia.
Stay nearby at Bodalaw, a beautifully restored Welsh slate miners cottage in Blaenau Ffestiniog in Gwynned. The cottage sleeps two adults and a child in 2 bedrooms. Explore Snowdonia and the North Wales coast on foot or by steam train.
Meanwhile, up north...
With its traditional tea rooms, Pickering station is the perfect start to the North York Moors Steam Railway Whitby. Just 15 minutes walk from the station, Keld Head Farm Cottages, a group of nine traditional stone-built barns, restored by expert local craftsmen, provide an ideal family base for exploring the railway and the countryside beyond (7 nights from £364 sleeps 2 – 4).
A Southern Railway
Travel in the 1913 Observation Carriage for a panoramic view of bluebells on the Sussex Bluebell Railway in April-May. This railway runs through the prettiest East Sussex countryside for 11 sedately travelled miles from Sheffield Park to East Grinstead. The Bluebell was one of Britain's first preserved railways and, over time, has acquired an eclectic collection of locomotives. One of the line's attractive features is that each of its four stations is presented as it would have looked in different decades from the 1930s to the 1960s.The very comfortable and stylish lounge at Cherrystone Barn near Lewes
Stay at Cherrystone Barn, a superb rural retreat with a hot tub for couples near Lewes. As well as travelling by train, it's also good for couples wanting to explore the East Sussex countryside on for or by bicycle.
A Riverside Railway
One of the best places to admire the Severn River is from the train. The Severn Valley Railway runs for 16 miles through beautiful countryside and knockout views from Bridgnorth to Kidderminster and back. Treat yourself to a bit of luxury at The Tudor Crest, a luxury 3-bedroom, historic holiday cottage sleeping six near Bridgnorth demands serious consideration.The Tudor Crest at Upton Cressett sleeps six and is very handy for riding trains on the Severn Valley Railway
All the cottages above are available via www.myfavouriteholidaycottages.co.uk. Contrary to most holiday rental sites My Favourite Holiday Cottages offers direct access to an owner's website upfront. Select your favourite and one further click links directly to the cottage owner's website.