Jumping on a steam train is a great way to see the Cotswold countryside without even having to step foot outside. For many, steam trains will bring back great memories of days gone by, and for others, it will be a novel and exciting trip that has never been done before.
During the autumn/winter months when the wet/icy and cold weather means many of us don’t get out for the walks that we enjoy in the warmer months, taking a steam train ride through the Cotswold countryside could be a lovely (although somewhat more expensive!) alternative. If you fancy treating yourself this winter and taking a step back in time then have a look at the best places in the Cotswolds to do this.
Gloucestershire & Warwickshire Steam Railway (GWSR)
The GWSR runs several beautiful steam trains from Cheltenham Race Course to Broadway Station which recently re-opened after being closed for many years. The track runs through the principal station at Toddington where you can jump off and grab a coffee in the cafe, let the children play in the park, and take a ride on the Narrow Gauge Railway that goes on a short ride through the countryside, stopping for you to see the miniature railway. Visitors to the GWSR can enjoy a round trip of over 20 miles passing through Didbrook and near the ruins of beautiful Hailes Abbey, The picturesque route also has views of the Cotswolds Evesham Vale and in the Malvern Hills in the distance. Just a short distance away from Winchcombe Station is the 2nd longest tunnel on a UK-preserved railway with a length of 693 yards.
Avon Valley Steam Railway
The Avon Valley Railway is based at Bitton Station, halfway between Bath and Bristol, and offers a six-mile return journey along the former Mangotsfield to Bath Green Park branch of the old Midland Railway. On the journey, you’ll see plenty of lovely Cotswold countryside, including aspects of the River Avon that can’t be reached by car.
Bitton Station was once a Midland Railway Station and it has been extensively restored from a state of dereliction. At the station, there are refreshments and toilet facilities, a railway shop, a pleasant garden, and provision of outdoor seating if you do get some winter sunshine and fancy some fresh air. If you’ve always fancied trying your hand at driving a train, or have a train enthusiast in the family, then the 2019 Drivers Course dates are out, Treat yourself or a loved one to the gift of a lifetime for Christmas.
Dean Forest Railway
Run almost by volunteers, the Dean Forest Railway is based at Norchard near Lydney in Gloucestershire. A visit here allows you to soak up the sights, sounds, and smells of travel on a rural branch railway operated by a steam train or an occasional heritage diesel or diesel railcar. There is a manor of events that go on here, from Days Out With Thomas, to a Paw Patrol Day, to Santa Special Trains; people of all ages will be sure to find something of interest.
With five stations along the stretch of the line, you can easily hop off your steam train and explore the local area. There are some stunning woodland walks and country pubs in the area or venture down to the Severn estuary to explore Lydney Harbour with its fantastic views across the Severn.
Brecon Mountain Railway
A steam train journey on the Brecon Mountain Railway is simply a magical experience. The journey takes you into the Brecon Beacons National Park, through Pontsticill and along the full length of the Taf Fechan Reservoir before climbing to Torpantau high in the Brecon Beacons and the summit of the original line. The views are as magnificent as they sound and the trains returning from Torpantau stop at Pontsticill station where you can visit the Lakeside Cafe, take a walk alongside the reservoir and the kids can play in the play area. With a Santa Special steam train about to get going, the Brecon Mountain Railway is very popular at this time of the year.