Lorraine Jackson travels at a perfect paceWashford Station - Steve Edge

The West Somerset Railway is the longest standard gauge preserved railway in the country, operating over a 20 mile stretch between Minehead, on the Somerset coast, and Bishops Lydeard, four miles west of Taunton. It delivers a nostalgic experience of travel by steam train, passing by pleasant coastal and countryside scenery.

On offer at Minehead station, where we started our journey, is the popular Turntable Café overlooking the platforms and turntable, with a great choice of hot and cold food and beverages.  There’s also the Buffer Stop gift shop for souvenirs, memorabilia and local interest items for visitors to the area.  We whiled away some time in the shop and browsed through the secondhand books and magazines for sale on the platform at ‘Readers Halt’ before boarding the train.

Departing from Minehead at 12.30pm we travelled at gentle pace along the coast enjoying the views and taking in the stations en route.  From Blue Anchor the line dips inland a few miles to Washford station, which houses the Museum of the Somerset & Dorset Railway Trust, before heading back towards the coast at Watchet.  A visit to the buffet car proved rewarding at this point as we discovered a nice selection of snacks and drinks available.  We took advantage of the combo lunch deals, which I have to say were very good value, and settled on hot West Country Pasties served with soup/drink and choice of cake to finish.

Leaving the old harbour town of Watchet, the line runs along the clifftops and onto Doniford Halt before heading inland to Williton and through the Quantock Hills, an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.  As we stopped for passengers at Stogumber and Crowcombe Heathfield we had the opportunity to take some photos. These are charming country stations, well-maintained and made all the more attractive by colourful flower displays.

And so to Bishops Lydeard, the southern terminus for WSR. Here you will find refreshments at the Whistle Stop café, a well-stocked model and souvenir shop and the Gauge Museum and model railway. We had just enough time to look around and visit the museum before the return journey to Minehead. Our particular trip had taken a little over three hours with a stop of around 45 minutes at Bishops Lydeard. The WSR Rover Ticket offers the best value for the day as it allows unlimited travel on the railway and freedom to explore along the route.

This is a great attraction for groups of all type and size, pre-booked groups of 16 and above will receive discounted travel and guaranteed reserved seating. If you wish to combine the train with another attraction in the area there are a number of options available.

Call WSR Group bookings direct line on  01643 700384 or email: groups@wsrail.net

www.westsomersetrailway.vticket.co.uk