Travel rail journeys: ...and some of the best ways to see Britain by train

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The Independent Travel
The "Deerstalker Express", so called because of its very important role in ferrying Scottish landowners between their shooting estates and their London interests, leaves London Euston for Fort William every night except Saturday. This is the way to travel to the Western Highlands. From dawn to arrival in Fort William at 10-ish - preferably while eating a huge breakfast - you will pass through some of the most stunning scenery in the world. A dastardly plan by British Rail in May 1995 to close the line (impossibly uneconomic, said BR) attracted howls of outrage from said landowners (including Alan Clark MP, who has an estate in the western Highlands), Scotland's tourist industry, loyal holiday makers and railway buffs. The howlers won and British Rail was accused of acting "absurdly" and illegally by the Court of Session in Edinburgh. If it had not been for BR's absurd and illegal behaviour, however, I and many others probably would not have made the journey. The publicity surrounding the closure attracted enough new trade to warrant extra coaches on each train and ScotRail, the post-privatisation owner, continues to run a two-coach service. It still makes a loss but has a seven-year subsidy for one coach under its franchise arrangement. Take the Deerstalker Express before the subsidy gets cut.

Trains leave Euston Monday to Friday at 21.30 (21.10 on Sunday) and arrive at Fort William at 10.25. The return service from Fort William leaves at 19.50 Monday to Friday (Sunday 19.05) arriving 7.47. A super saver standard fare is pounds 82 return and sleeping berth costs pounds 27 each way. Full details can be found on the Internet at

Fort William to Mallaig

Once in Fort William you can take the connecting steam train - the Jacobite - to Mallaig, gateway to the Isle of Skye and the Small Isles to the south of Skye - Rum Eigg, Muck and Canna. The route includes the enormous Glenfinnan rail viaduct, overlooking Loch Sheil where Bonnie Prince Charlie raised his standard in 1745. This may be your only chance this summer to take a working steam train on the national rail network. Railtrack has called for a suspension of steam trains throughout England and Wales for the summer months. Dry weather has increased the risk of sparks igniting tracksides.

Trains leave Fort William at 10.35 and arrive at Mallaig at 12.25. Bookings can be made by telephone on 01397 703791

Darlington to Whitby

This connects with the East Coast main line from London to Newcastle/Edinburgh. It takes you through Middlesbrough, scene of footballing heartbreak, Marton, birthplace of Captain Cook, and on across the thickly wooded northern reaches of the North York Moors national park before dropping to the seaside town of Whitby. Jump off at Grosmont to connect with the North York Moors Railway steam trains for an 18-mile ride across the moors.

Darlington to Whitby: day return pounds 9.70.

North York Moors Railway: return excursion pounds 8.90

Carnforth to Ravenglass

Tracing the shoreline, the train winds its way through marshes and over estuaries with panoramic views of Morecambe Bay, and Furness Abbey just outside Barrow where you have to change trains. The mountains of the Lake District provide the backdrop to the final leg. If you want to get closer to them, connect at Ravenglass with the narrow-gauge Ravenglass-Eskdale railway for an enchanting journey into the heart of the fells.

Carnforth to Ravenglass: saver return from pounds 10.70

Ravenglass and Eskdale Railway: return excursion pounds 6.10