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Our History

Great Rail Journeys is the UK's market leader for escorted holidays by rail. Founded over 30 years ago, there is no-one else who understands rail travel like we do.


British Rail employees Ian Macbeth and Howard Trinder began the company in the 1980s as "Mac's Tours" organising holidays on a semi-formal basis in Europe and beyond for fellow employees - British Rail staff at the time were entitled to many discounts on foreign rail travel.

On leaving British Rail, Macbeth and Trinder, who had a personal passion for train travel, decided to launch the company as a tour operator, keeping the name "Mac's Tours" but producing more professional brochures and organising more purely tourist itineraries than ones aimed at rail enthusiasts. Over the years the company's product has moved steadily more upmarket.


Great Rail Journeys logo

The name "Mac's Tours" was replaced with the new trading name "Great Rail Journeys".


In 2004 Great Rail Journeys was a founding member of the Amber Travel Partnership with independent specialist tour operator, Inntravel. The group was formed with the view to bringing further like-minded and owner-managed travel brands into the group.


In September 2005, the Amber Travel Partnership, including Great Rail Journeys, was bought by independent private equity firm Primary Capital.


railselect logo

In 2006, Great Rail Journeys launched a new subsidiary programme,, to provide rail holidays for the independent traveller rather than the group travel that forms the main part of Great Rail Journeys' product.

In late 2006, Great Rail Journeys launched its new product, Cruising By Rail, establishing the company in the cruise sector.


Treyn Holidays logo

Great Rail Journeys established Treyn Holidays, a new brand offering affordable group rail holidays to the most beautiful parts of Europe.

In February 2008, Inntravel was sold to Inghams.

In October 2008, Great Rail Journeys launched a dedicated product offering holidays by rail for single travellers. 

In November 2008, Great Rail Journeys scoops the Grand Prix in the annual York Press Business Awards, cementing its position as the leading organisation in the York area. Great Rail Journeys also won Growth Business Of The Year.


Continuing in its quest for excellence, in 2009 Great Rail Journeys introduced yet more innovative, rail-based holidays into the market. 2009 saw the sale of rail holidays to the Oberammergau Passion Play, new tours that took in the Christmas and New Year season as well as a range of UK-based tours that featured some of the finest scenery the British Isles had to offer.


2010 saw the expansion of Great Rail Journeys' European and Worldwide Holidays by Rail programmes. A new selection of 'Fly Rail' tours was introduced as well as a number of exciting new destinations including Peru and Namibia. We also launched three new websites dedicated to Great Rail Journeys' expanding River Cruise programme, USA rail tours and Christmas Markets breaks.


The Great Rail Journeys group of companies, comprising Great Rail Journeys, RailSelect, Treyn Holidays and The Rail Discovery Company, is the UK's leading operator of holidays by rail. Over 100 people work at the company headquarters in York and more than 250 Tour Managers escort over 1,800 tours departing every year. In August 2012 the Company launched the latest version of its website introducing new functionality and new content including tour videos and destination guides.


Private equity firm ECI Partners took a major stake in the Great Rail Journeys companies, valuing them at over £50m, with expected growth of 20% in 2013. This ended the company's eight-year ownership by Primary Capital.


In May 2014, Great Rail Journeys launched an independent range of holidays under the GRJ independent brand offering greater freedom to travellers, allowing them to travel individually rather than part of an escorted group.

A major user experience project culminated with the launch of a new Great Rail Journeys website in June 2014. 

Following extensive consultation with our customers, Treyn Holidays was rebranded to Rail Discoveries in August 2014. The new name was designed to encapsulate two key aspects of holidaying by rail; namely, the journey and the destination.

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