Great Britain by Train: An ideal international family vacation

Great Britain is a great starting point for international family travel.

The majestic Royal Crescent overlooks the spa village of Bath (wikipedia)

LONDON, May 23, 2015 – International family travel is a growing trend as grandparents are joining grandchildren in journeys that are both memorable and educational.

When it comes to international family travel, there may be no better starting point than Great Britain, and there is no more convenient way to go than by train.

Steam train over the Glenfinnian ViaductA journey through the UK by rail is time travel by train. It is a beguiling destination for Americans that beckons us to savor its spirit, a place for legends and myths to merge with historic truths to create the ideal blend of fact and fiction.

Much of the appeal of the British Isles has to do with heritage and tradition, for this is a land of “once upon a time.” It is a place where the procession of history thrives within its own timelessness.

Consider literary characters and personalities, imagined and real, who pass through our minds as voices personified in a panoramic parade of poetry and prose: Macbeth and Lear and Hamlet; Tom Jones and Henry Higgins and Eliza Doolittle; Oliver Twist and Ebenezer Scrooge and Phileas Fogg.

Classic horror of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde  (wikipedia)
Classic horror of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (Wikipedia)

There is an aura of mystery and suspense as well. Stonehenge, the Tower of London and the Loch Ness Monster; Sherlock Holmes, Jack the Ripper and Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde appear out of the mists.

Kings and queens have their own special allure in this land with its stories of King Arthur’s knights, Henry VIII, Victoria and Elizabeth and today’s royal family.

Truly this is a land for all seasons, enveloped by the richness of its history — and trains are the ideal links to those legacies. British rails connect us to a cavalcade of culture that is familiar to us all.

In many ways, the roots of our American spirit can be traced to the glories of the British past, and tracks are pathways that lead us through the tunnels of time to new moments of discovery.

Castles dot the landscape everywhere you look in the UK  (wikipedia)
Castles dot the landscape everywhere you look in the UK (Wikipedia)

They take us to the birthplace of golf past neat fields, through a sea of vivid green tumbling landscapes that one writer said creates a sense of being at the “midpoint of creation.”


Trains pass by, and travel to, walled towns and haunting ruins. There is a medieval quality to it all; an ancientness enhanced by a kaleidoscope of colors amid heather-carpeted hills and echoes of untamed vistas. They reveal castles, estates and stately mansions, all monuments to the works of man that are as engrossing in their own way as works of nature.

British trains come to rest where the Romans once bathed in natural spring waters, where cobblestone streets are squeezed into narrow alleyways beneath half-timbered houses, where distant pastures can be seen through empty archways or as British journalist and writer H.V. Morton noted, “Where every meadow has a valet.”

Traditional fish and chips

Taste the traditions with a full English breakfast. Have tea with Devonshire cream and scones. Try fresh fish and chips or perhaps enjoy a pint of ale with locals in a country pub.

Meander through the countryside where sheepdogs bark in the distance and hedgerows and rock walls give order to things.

In Scotland and Wales a panorama unfolds as the landscape rises and falls past muscled peaks, fertile fields and dense forests before giving way to deep Scottish lochs or the embraces of the Irish Sea.

Pulteney Bridge in Bath

Diversity creates the character of Great Britain, and it is this variety that refutes the concept that “there are no more unknown places.” You see, every place is unknown until you experience it yourself.

Britain’s compact size offers concentrated travel experiences unlike any other, and the rail system makes it convenient to use one city as a base for day trips that seem like mini-holidays.

Ancient city wall of YorkFrom London, for example, head north to the walled city of York. Journey to the Roman ruins at Bath. Spend a quiet afternoon in the gentle surroundings of the Cotswolds. Explore Shakespeare’s Stratford and visit Trinity Church, where he is buried. Or stroll among the historic “rows” of Chester. All are within easy reach, yet still close enough to have you back in London in time for the theater.

Prices for point to point tickets and passes vary according to distance, time of day, level of service and, even, a traveler’s age. Rail Europe is the complete one-stop shop for answering all of your individual questions and providing the best options for your particular itinerary.

Newport station in EnglandBritish trains do, indeed, tell tales of “once upon a time.” As someone once wrote, “the past is no ghost at this banquet; rather, it sits at the head of the table.”

For American family travelers, our links to Great Britain are powerful reminders of our own heritage which is no better characterized than by sharing a language.

William the Conqueror's historic Tower of London is a popular attraction (wikipedia)
William the Conqueror’s historic Tower of London is a popular attraction (Wikipedia)

Listen to the rails of Great Britain, for here legends do linger and the rails are the “ties that bind.”

Bob Taylor has been traveling the world for more than 30 years as a writer and award-winning television producer focusing on international events, people and cultures around the globe.

Taylor is founder of The Magellan Travel Club (

Read more of What in the World and Bob Taylor at Communities Digital News

Follow Bob on Twitter @MrPeabod

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