This month, GTW’s regular feature recommends some of the best heritage railways in the UK for group visits!
There’s nothing quite like puffing through the countryside on a beautiful steam train, stopping at picturesque platforms and enjoying the lovely views passing by the windows at a perfect pace. We are lucky in the UK to have an abundance of heritage railways, all of which work hard to give visitors a perfect day out. These are three of the unmissable ones.
The longest steam heritage railway in the UK connects Mine head with Bishop’s Lydeard near Taunton. The West Somerset Railway will be running its steam trains on selected dates throughout the year and on a daily basis from mid-May to early October. The journey takes passengers on a journey through the Quantock Hills and along the Exmoor Coast, taking in the ancient harbour town of Watchet, Cleeve Abbey, Torre Cider Farm at Washford, medieval Dunster with its castle as well as the seaside at Minehead. A full programme of events throughout the year, including children’s activity days and historical themed events ensures that no two visits to the railway are ever the same.
Group discounts are available for pre-booked groups of 16 or more adults/seniors with an option to book entire carriages for larger groups. Group catering is also available and most trains have a licensed buffet car. West Somerset Railway has a Group Travel Pack available for GTOs.
T: 01643 704996
The Mid Hants Railway is known as the ‘Watercress Line’ due to its history of transporting watercress from the beds in Alresford all the way to London. This heritage railway was saved from total extinction by a band of enthusiastic volunteers in 1973, who raised enough money to re-open the line as a visitor attraction from Alresford to Ropley in 1977 and continued to raise funds to relay the track to join up with the South West Trains station at Alton by 1985. They operate a fleet of steam locomotives and today the railway runs the full ten miles between the market towns of Alresford and Alton.
Tickets allow visitors to use the train all day, so it is possible to make as many journeys as desired, stopping off at all the interesting stations along the way. Alresford is a pretty Georgian town, the home of Hampshire’s watercress industry, with the railway station right in the centre. At Ropley, passengers can visit the engineering works and watch some of the current restoration projects being undertaken. Medstead and Four Marks is the highest station in Southern England and is a pretty little country station, from where many local walks can be started. Finally, Alton is a typical market town famous for its brewing tradition, with a museum, outstanding pottery gallery and access to Chawton village, home of Jane Austen.
Group ticket rates are available and free coach parking at Alresford station if prearranged. There are options to add in food for your group, such as ploughman’s lunches or traditional cream teas.
T: 01962 733810
Vintage steam-hauled trains make their way from Kidderminster to Bridgnorth on the Severn Valley Railway. Stations include one at Bewdley, an ancient riverside town with a quaint quayside, lovely gardens and Georgian architecture to explore and another at the village of Arley by the River Severn. The Engine House at the Highley stop is home to a collection of steam locomotives and railway exhibitions, as well as a gift shop and the Flag and Whistle Food Stop, a restaurant with panoramic views across the Severn Valley.
The Severn Valley Railway runs a programme of special events throughout the year, including family fun days, a beer festival, steam galas and ghost trains. Dining is available in the restaurant cars of several of the regular trains and they also offer private train hire for corporate events or special celebrations.
Groups who pre-book get ticket discounts and also reserved seating on the trains. Group travel is available for parties of 15 or more adults who travel together from either Kidderminster or Bridgnorth and book in advance.
T: 01299 403816