England doesn't have the highest mountains, the biggest lakes or the longest bridges in the world, but there are still few better ways of seeing this green and pleasant land than from the window of a train as you glide effortlessly through the countryside. Here are four of the best train journeys England has to offer, all different but all brilliant...
Settle to Carlisle
Running for 73 miles from the southern end of the Yorkshire Dales National Park to the northern end of Cumbria, the Settle–Carlisle railway is held by many to be England's most beautiful rail journey. If you start at the southern end then your journey begins in the wide, green valleys of the Dales, with the distinctive flat-topped hill of Ingleborough soon looming into view as your train approaches the 24 arches of the iconic Ribblehead Viaduct.
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There are plenty more viaducts to come (another 20 in total) as the impressively engineered line makes it way northwards through the undulating countryside. Eventually the Dales give way to the wild North Pennines and the Howgill Fells – and the high hills of the Lake District are seen on the left. Gradually the landscape becomes more cultivated as the line travels through the Eden Valley, before making its way onwards to Carlisle – where it arrives around one and three-quarter hours after departing Settle.
Exeter to Teignmouth
Considerably shorter but just as scenic in its own way, the rail journey from Exeter to Teignmouth in Devon hugs the stunning estuary of the River Exe before turning west along the coast at the resort of Dawlish Warren. Popping in and out of tunnels through cliffs and headlands, the line runs so close to the sea that you might be worried about getting your feet wet. In fact, the line has had to be closed in the past when the track has either been flooded or subject to a landslide.
Bluebell Line, East Sussex
While the above train journeys are run on the normal rail network, the famous Bluebell Line in East Sussex is what's known as a heritage line. The 11-mile stretch of track runs along the border of East and West Sussex, travelling from Sheffield Park near Haywards Heath to East Grinstead. And best of all, it hosts the largest collection of restored steam locomotives in southern England – which run daily until November 1. As well as taking visitors through the pleasant Sussex countryside, the line also takes them on a journey back through time – with stations restored to the character and ambiance of different periods including the Victorian era, the 1920s and the 1940s.
Durham to Berwick-upon-Tweed
The North East of England is one of the most overlooked and under-appreciated areas of the UK when it comes to natural beauty and spectacular scenery. But what the region lacks in national parks or lofty peaks, it more than makes up for in rugged beauty and history. Starting from the charming city of Durham, the East Coast Main Line heads north to Newcastle-upon-Tyne – with passengers enjoying panoramic views of the city and its iconic bridges.
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Leaving the city behind the Northumberland countryside beckons – and the train runs alongside the handsome coastline for miles, with historic castles punctuating the scenery. The journey ends in spectacular fashion as the line crosses the Royal Border Bridge into Berwick – from where visitors can travel to Holy Island if the tide allows.