UK Breaks: Get a ticket to ride, but take a grand tour

Ben Hall reveals how to turn a train journey into a holiday

Buy a second-class saver return ticket, on the day you travel if necessary, and you can transform a simple trip by train into a fully fledged, carbon-light, eco-worthy grand tour of Britain.

Little known even to regular train users, this ticket allows you to break your journey anywhere along the main line, as often and for as long as you like (within the validity of the ticket), at no extra cost. The only restriction, for reasons best known to the train companies, is that you can only break your journey on the return leg, not outbound. Here are three stop-over possibilities along three of Britain's longest railway lines.



Go North-west

Travel from Glasgow to London Euston with Virgin Trains and you can mix urban and rural pleasures. Stop at Carlisle, one of Britain's most historic towns with three top sights within a 10-minute stroll of the station: the Tullie House Museum; the massive 12th-century castle where Mary Queen of Scots was imprisoned; and England's smallest cathedral, famed for its medieval choir carvings, stained glass and blue ceiling covered with golden stars.

Take your second break at Oxenholme, gateway station for the Lake District. Hop on the spur line to Windermere, which also offers open double-decker buses to Bowness, where you can explore the lake by steamer, or Ambleside. Stop in Preston for a dramatic change of pace with Blackpool an easy 25-minute train link from the main north-west line.



Go South-west

Just 10 minutes into the ride from Penzance to Paddington, operated by First Great Western, you'll arrive at St Erth where a branch line will take you along the Hayle estuary to St Ives – hopefully bathed in that halo of Med-bright light that has drawn artists ever since Turner first set up his easel there in 1811. St Ives is home to the Tate which overlooks the surfers' beach of Porthmeor, and the sculptor Barbara Hepworth's studio is also close by.

Continue the Cornish theme with a break in Truro. Cornwall's only city has a pretty, part Georgian heart, a stock of interesting shops around the new Lemon Street market, and a graceful Gothic-revival cathedral – the first to be built in England since Salisbury after a gap of 600 years.

Totnes has one of the most historic high streets in Britain lined with 16th- and 17th-century buildings built by merchants during a golden age of cloth. You can walk across the meadows to medieval Dartington Hall, an arts and educational centre with a hotel, restaurant and shops.

And, depending on the tide, you can catch a boat to Dartmouth, following the snaking, thickly wooded valley of the Dart, then ferry across the river to Kingswear, where you board a steam train to Paignton followed by a number 12 bus into Torquay. With its knobbly geography, deep sea blues, terracotta cliffs and abundant greenery, Torquay – on a sunny day at least – could pass for the south of France.



Go North-east

First stop on the Edinburgh to King's Cross line, operated by National Express, is Berwick-upon-Tweed, south of the border. Nicknamed the Bath of northern England, Berwick's magnificent Georgian core – there are 260 listed buildings – is encased by an unbroken barricade of Elizabethan ramparts.

The track south to Newcastle hugs the Northumbrian coast, with stunning views for those who have bagged seats on the left. The city itself offers a rich seam of cultural attractions, as well as the Baltic Centre in neighbouring Gateshead, the biggest gallery of contemporary art outside London.

If you are travelling with the family go to Life, a colourful, noisy, hands-on museum giving serious science all the fun of a fairground. Then there's the model ship collection in the Discovery Museum, the Laing's collection of paintings with a high quota of pre-Raphaelites and terrific shopping in Grainger Town, the listed golden stone heart of Newcastle, which was conceived as a city of palaces.

And so to York where a short walk from the station will lead you into the heart of one of Europe's best-preserved medieval cities, dominated by the Minster, the largest Gothic cathedral north of the Alps. Other attractions include the National Railway Museum and Jorvik, where time capsules will carry you back to Viking times.

Compact facts

Further information

Virgin Trains (08457 222333; virgin.com/trains); Carlisle Tourist Information (01228 625600; historic-carlisle.org.uk);

Cumbria Tourism (01539 822222; golakes.co.uk); Blackpool Tourist Information (01253 478222; visitblackpool.com); First Great Western (08457 000125; firstgreatwestern.co.uk);

St Ives Hotel and Guesthouse Association (01736 796297; stives-cornwall.co.uk);

Truro Tourist Information (01872 274766; truro.gov.uk);

Totnes tourist information (01803 863168; totnesinformation.co.uk);

Torquay Tourist Information (0870 707 0010; englishriviera.co.uk);

National Express (08457 225225; nationalexpress.com);

Berwick-upon-Tweed (01289 330733; berwick-upon-tweed.gov.uk); Newcastle Tourist information (0191-243 8800; visitnewcastlegateshead.com);

York Tourist Information (01904 550099; visityork.org).

PROMOTED VIDEO
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Recruitment Genius: Tour Drivers - UK & European

    Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity to join a is a...

    Old Royal Naval College: ORNC Visitor Experience Volunteer

    Unpaid voluntary work: Old Royal Naval College: Join our team of friendly volu...

    Recruitment Genius: Customer Service / Sales Assistant

    £8 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This airport parking organisation are looking...

    Recruitment Genius: PCV Bus Drivers

    £8 per hour: Recruitment Genius: Do you enjoy bus driving and are looking for ...

    Day In a Page

    Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

    Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

    One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
    The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

    The enemy within

    People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
    'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

    'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

    Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
    Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

    Autumn/winter menswear 2015

    The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
    'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

    'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

    Army general planning to come out
    Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

    What the six wise men told Tony Blair

    Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
    25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

    25 years of The Independent on Sunday

    The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
    Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
    Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

    Smash hit go under the hammer

    It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
    Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

    The geeks who rocked the world

    A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
    Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

    Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

    Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
    America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

    America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

    These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
    A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

    A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

    A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
    Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

    Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

    A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
    Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

    Growing mussels

    Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project