During our 675-day honeymoon around the world, we always try to experience the things that really exemplify a place. So when it came to choosing the best way to explore Great Britain, we knew it had to be by train…after all the Brits invented rail travel! We went on ACPRail.com and saw that they offered this amazing deal (we did the 8-day Flexible Pass) that would allow us to explore the UK with unlimited trains each day, going anywhere their extensive network would take us. So with our BritRail passes in hand we set out for Wales and England for an incredible month-long journey.
We arrived to Wales via the northwestern port of Holyhead and hopped the first train to the beautiful market and castle town of Conwy. As we approached, we saw the 11th-century castle getting closer and closer only to glide right alongside it! We got out to walk along the town’s medieval walls and explore this UNESCO world heritage site, but the view might have been even more spectacular from our window seat.
Using our BritRail 1st Class Pass we always indulged in the unlimited drinks, snacks, and hot meals (depending on the train line). The staff was so sweet and attentive, frequently checking on us to see if our cups and bellies needed filling—we must have eaten our weight in fruit, Walkers shortbread and kettle crisps that month!
Continuing south we pulled into the charming town of Betws Y Coed in the Snowdonia National Park. We enjoyed strolling along the river past adorable inns and shops then we ventured further upstream to the spectacular multi-tiered Swallow Falls.
Perhaps our favorite ride was from Barmouth along the west coast of Wales. Crossing the Victorian rail bridge over the Mawddach estuary, you get views to the Cardigan Bay and the majestic Cader Idris mountain on either side of the car. And just when you think it can’t get better the train hugs the rugged coastline all the way down to Tywyn.
We continued our rail journey to southern Wales through the adorable village of Tenby, then on to the exciting Welsh capital of Cardiff and into England. We stayed in Bristol for a couple days, loving its artsy vibe. We walked the town looking for Banksy street art and popped into cool pubs for pints of local cider. Then we were strolling the river and found this old train yard. Bristol has the oldest rail station in England so beautiful old cars like these are in excess. We couldn’t help but climb up and explore.
After an essential stop in the Roman town of Bath, we ventured south to beautiful Devon county. The ride along the coast toward Plymouth was breathtaking with its red cliffs and crashing waves. And check that sunshine, England does have nice weather!
We used our BritRail pass to go from the far south of the country to the north in one shot, because why not? We had comfy seats, wifi, snacks, and stunning views…that will make any five hours fly. We were York-bound and so excited to experience the city’s rich history from the Romans to Vikings to Victorians. As a fabulously luxurious home base, we stayed at the Cedar Court Grand…a five-star hotel in what used to be the headquarters of the North Eastern Railway (that didn’t come with our BritRail Pass ;). You could see the wealth and glamour of its heyday with its original vaulted ceilings, grand stair cases, and even a gold weather vane in the shape of a locomotive.
We went to the National Railway Museum in York and it only made our love of trains grow stronger. This is the “Hogwarts Express,” the train in Harry Potter that passes through such gorgeous scenery you think it could only be from the movies. Well it’s a real train line and it’s in Scotland. This route from Fort William to Mallaig is considered to be one of the greatest journeys in the world and its available through ACP Rail. We know where we are heading next.
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Train travel is the absolute best way to see the UK. So extensive, so comfortable, and such fun! We’ll be back and we’ll be all aboard the BritRail.
Thanks ACP Rail,
Anne & Mike Howard