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Discovering Europe one train at a time

8 January 2020

There's something deeply romantic about train journeys. In a fast-paced world where the skies are dotted with aeroplanes and air traffic has become the norm, the nostalgic appeal of trains can hardly be denied. Idyllic hamlets, rolling meadows of lounging cattle, billowing chimneys raising their sooty heads from cheerful stone cottages, and slithering streams - all flit past as we sit back and lose ourselves in the swaying rhythm of the journey. Rail unveils a different aspect of our favourite holiday hotspots, and the experiences are as varied as the routes they traverse. Whether we choose to explore our very own island nation or the diverse landscapes of Europe, there's no dearth of unique rail journeys to enjoy.

 

The nostalgic locomotives of United Kingdom

Glens, lochs, stealthy deer, snow-drizzled mountains, castle ruins, and myths galore - the Scottish Highlands are like a gripping storybook. The West Highland Line from Glasgow to Fort William and Mallaig meanders through such dramatic scenery, offering us a sneak peek into the arcadian setting. A journey that captivates the imagination of all travellers, it has officially been recognised as one of the most scenic railway lines in the world and for good reason. The Jacobite Steam Train, the most loved train on this route, crosses the picturesque Glenfinnan Viaduct, traversing along some of the deepest lochs in Europe. For those who enjoy a touch of Harry Potter magic to perfect their holiday, this is the cherry on top of an already delectable cake.

 

Jacobite Steam Train

 

A UNESCO biosphere reserve, the Isle of Man is famous not only for its diverse wildlife, lush valleys, barren hills, and rugged coastline but also tailless Manx cats and annual TT race. The tiny island with its own parliament is best explored via its network of heritage railways, each of which presents the island in a new light. The Manx Electric Railway runs through the capital city of Douglas on the longest narrow-gauge electric line in the British Isles, offering views of hamlets and forests on one side and the endless sea on the other. The Snaefell Mountain Railway, the only electric mountain railway in the British Isles, travels to the summit of Snaefell, the only mountain on the Isle of Man. On sunny days, lucky passengers are rewarded with views of England, Ireland, Wales, and Scotland set against a glistening sea and lavender sky.

 

Isle Of Man Steam Railway

The slow and the picturesque - trains of northern Europe

Mainland Europe spoils us with choice when it comes to memorable railway journeys. Whether we're travelling through the snowy Alps, gaping at plunging waterfalls in Norway, or momentarily pining for a more relaxed life in some Swiss hamlet - all from the comfort of train. Aboard the Glacier Express, the 'slowest express train', Switzerland reveals itself as a winter wonderland of powdered peaks and rolling meadows, and if it's summer, the glistening waters of sapphire lakes fill our senses. The Harz Mountains in Germany, with their toy-like cities, fairytale castles, quaint buildings, and lost fortresses, transport us back to childhood, when imagination knew no borders. Could there be anything more nostalgic than making this journey aboard steam-hauled trains of Harz Railway?

 

Glacier Express

Wine and sun - Southern Europe by rail

The panoramic carriages of the Bernina Express speed through the Swiss Alps to northern Italy, bringing to life the changing landscapes across borders - from the snowy resort of St Moritz to the quintessential Italian town of Tirano.

Italy is a country that has it all - the Alps bordering the north, the romantic renaissance cities of Milan and Venice as well as picturesque towns on the banks of Lake Como and Lake Garda, the lush vineyards of Monferrato, the ancient volcano of Vesuvius, and the Apennine ranges running the entire length of the country. The Trenitalia network connects these geographically disparate yet equally wondrous destinations, taking passengers on a journey whose experience is unparalleled.

Further south, the Douro Valley in Portugal intoxicates holidaymakers, not only with its world-class port but also its terraced slopes, the meandering Douro River, and stately quintas. The enticing beauty of the Douro River as the last rays of the sun kiss it yellow, the curated perfection of the vineyards, and the rugged granite bluffs paint a mesmerising picture as we travel on the Linha do Douro Railway.

 

Bernina Express

 

Europe's train journeys evoke a deep sense of nostalgia as they paint a myriad of images best enjoyed from an on-track vantage point. But they are more than just romantic; some of them are sleek, fast, and futuristic, transporting us from city to city, country to country in utmost comfort. Be it France's TGV or Spain's AVE, trains provide a high-speed commute through the heartland of Europe.

Whether you're a fan of Europe's snowy wonderland or a lover of its history-laden cities and wondrous architecture, be sure that there's a train journey waiting just for you - a journey that offers up gems hidden away from most tourists' prying eyes. Perhaps a nameless babbling brook, a solitary shepherd on a vast meadow, or a forlorn beach - images that your mind's eye shall capture and store away carefully in your album of happy memories.