Rail adventure in Dartmoor
After a 50-year hiatus, the legendary Dartmoor line is back, allowing families to explore the whole of Devon, from moor to coast, without the hassle of lengthy car journeys. Rail travel first came to Okehampton in 1871, with the Dartmoor line later becoming a key-point for the flagship train, the Atlantic Coast Express. Boarding at Okehampton, you can enjoy scenic views towards Exeter before the connecting route south, then along the sea wall to Exmouth, Paignton and Dawlish.
With sea views and use of a shared pool, 3 Goodrington Lodge, Paignton, costs £514 (sleeping four) per week, luxurycoastal.co.uk, dartmoorline.com
Young engineer days on the Isle of Wight
For young rail enthusiasts, Isle of Wight steam railways are offering a behind-the-scenes tour of the locomotive workshop, and a visit to the signal box. Younger children can play at being guardsmen on their traditional footplates. After that, settle back in an elegant vintage carriage, complete with polished brass handles and droplight windows, for a scenic ride all the way from Havenstreet to the restored Edwardian station of Wootton.
The Young Engineers Day (suitable for ages 6-12 years) takes place 23-24 April. Adults, £16, children, £14.50. iwsteamrailway.co.uk, wightlink.co.uk
Tracking the Railway Children to Yorkshire
The Keighley and Worth Valley Railway, used in both versions of The Railway Children, offers one of the UK’s loveliest heritage train rides, a five-mile trundle in dazzling red liveried carriages through remote moorland, all the way from Keighley to Haworth, the pretty village made famous by the Brontë sisters. On various Sundays throughout the summer, there’s the chance to ride in rarely used Victorian coaches or, at Ingrow’s Museum of Rail Travel, enjoy seeing heritage carriages immortalised in dozens of films.
Advance family day returns cost £8 from £21.25, kwvr.co.uk
All aboard for the Sleeper to Cornwall
The legendary Night Riviera Sleeper from Paddington to Penzance is arguably the most romantic way to travel to Cornwall. Bed down in a cosy cabin and wake refreshed to Cornwall’s sprawling beaches as you make your final approach to Penzance. Add to that, a complementary breakfast to be enjoyed in bed.
The Night Riviera Sleeper has advance sleeper fares from £79-£195 (one way) based on two sharing a twin-berth cabin, 50% off for children under 16;, under 5s go free, gwr.com
Steamy stays in Somerset
Wake up to the soothing sound of a steam engine during a stay at the Railway House in Crowcombe. This Somerset property, set within 50-acres of rolling Quantock Hills’ countryside, was recently restored to create a chic holiday retreat and renamed to reflect its position close to the track of the West Somerset Railway track. Steam locomotives regularly pass over the bridge and across the house’s western boundary – and the vintage train journey itself is not to be missed. At 20 miles, it’s one of the UK’s longest heritage rides.
The Railway House sleeps six and costs from £1,595 for a three-night stay.; www.uniquehomestays.com, west-somerset-railway.co.uk
Book into a ticket office in Shropshire
A dream ticket for rail lovers, the newly renovated Station Cottage in Bucknell, Shropshire, comprises the ticket office and waiting room of the former Victorian train station. Set alongside the rural Heart of Wales line that runs between Swansea and Shrewsbury, the cottage is Grade II listed and recognised by Nikolaus Pevsner in his Buildings of England series. The front door is a stroll along the platform and you can wake up to trains trundling quietly past your window.
The Railway Station Cottage has two bedrooms (sleeping four), and costs from £412 for a four-night stay, railwaystationcottages.co.uk
Hop-on, hop-off on Hampshire’s Watercress Line
Ride with Thomas the Tank Engine and stop at Alresford, from where the watercress that gave the line its name was taken by train to all over the country. Head to the heritage station of Medstead and Four Marks – with a steep 1-in-60 gradient, it’s the highest on the old Southern Railway in southern England. At Ropley’s playground, you can enjoy miniature railways and vintage fairground rides before discovering the footbridge used in Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone.
Family hop-on, hop-off tickets (two adults, two children) advanced booking, £40; children aged 4 and under travel free, watercressline.co.uk
Sleep in a railway carriage in Dungeness
Dating back to the Second World War, Hafod Station in Lydd is a uniquely restored railway carriage perched on a remote pebble beach looking out to sea. With a suitably retro theme, it’s all bunk beds, old travel trunks and milk-churn stools. Sleeps four and pets are welcome too.
Hafod Station costs from £869 for a week in early June. The owner can theme the property to suit your needs – everything from Hogwarts, to ghost trains and Santa’s grotto, snaptrip.com
Steam along to Bath
For a slice of steam history, board the apple-green 1948 Mayflower B1 locomotive – one of two still surviving – at Victoria. Swish through the Kennet Valley and past the chalk horses at Westbury and Pewsey. You can then wander round Bath for the day before before the return journey back to London.
Adult fares from £109 return, child fares from £93, premium dining fares available from £229pp, steamdreams.co.uk
Beamish Living Museum, Newcastle Gateshead
Travel back in time at this unique open-air museum in County Durham. As well as steam train rides families can stroll through a pit village from the 1900s and explore an Edwardian railway station. Finish with a stop at the vintage fish-and-chip shop.
Unlimited access family tickets from £51, beamish.org.uk