In the 1960’s, the ‘Beeching Cuts’ led to the closure of over 2000 railway stations across the UK. As a result, there are now hundreds of miles of old railway lines which have been turned into public walking routes. This guide will take you through the top 15 rail trails in the UK and the things you can see along their routes.
Rail Trails █
Rail Trail locations may not be precise, this map should be used for reference only.
15. Tissington Trail: Peak District
Previously the Buxton to Ashbourne railway which closed in 1966, this 13 mile route offers fantastic views of the Peak District countryside. Running from Parsley Hay to Ashbourne this path is relatively flat with plenty of picnic spots. Highlights include the restored Hartington signal box and walking through the 350 Metre Ashbourne tunnel.
14. Mawddach Trail: Snowdonia National Park
This 9 mile railway walk follows the Ruabon to Barmouth railway which closed in 1965. This relatively flat route takes you through some of the breath-taking scenery of the Snowdonia national park and finishes by crossing the railway bridge across the Mawddach estuary into Barmouth.
13. Parkland Walk: London
The parkland walk rail trail follows the route of the Finsbury Park to Alexandra Palace railway which closed in the 1970’s. Split into North and South sections, the 4.5 mile trail retains some original railway features including bridges, tunnels and the old platforms of Crouch End station. Highlights include the bat-cave at Highgate and views of the London skyline from the top of the hill at Alexandra palace.
12. Brampton Valley Way: Northampton
The 14 mile Brampton Valley Way was built on the Northampton to Market Harborough railway which closed in 1981. The route passes an operational steam railway and through 2 unlit tunnels at Oxedon and Kelmarch, so it’s a good idea to bring a head torch!
11. Consett and Sunderland Railway Path: Tyne and Wear
The 26 mile Consett and Sunderland Railway Path follows the route of the Stanhop and Tyne Railway, Britain’s first commercial railway which closed in 1985. This rail trail features artwork by internationally acclaimed artists and passes by Beamish Open Air Museum and the Stadium of Light, home of Sunderland FC.
10. Bristol and Bath Railway Path
This 13 mile off-road trail follows the old railway link between Bath and Bristol which closed to passengers in the 1960’s. The path is accessible by rail at both ends and tarmacked all the way, making it popular with cyclists as well as walkers. Attractions include Britton Railway Station where steam trains still run, Warmley station, where the waiting room has been converted into a tea room and the staple hill tunnel.
9. Strawberry Line: Somerset
This 10 mile route takes its name from the former railway which carried strawberries from the fields of Cheddar. Running past the river Yeo and Sandford Orchards this rail trail offers fantastic views of the beautiful Somerset countryside. Highlights include the intact platforms at Winscombe station and the 165 metre Shute Shelve Tunnel.
8. The Cuckoo Trail: East Susssex
This rail trail follows the old ‘Cuckoo Line’ from Polegate to Eridge in East Sussex, which closed in 1968. The 11 mile walk passes through the towns of Polegate, Heathfield and Hailsham and allows you to see a host of wildlife including a wide variety of different butterflies, birds and weasels. Look out for an assortment of railway architecture including arch bridges and the Heathfield tunnel, which is only open in summer.
7. Nidderdale Greenway: North Yorkshire
The Nidderdale Greenway runs along the old railway between Ripley and Harrogate in North Yorkshire. This 4 mile route opened to the public in 2013 and is easily accessible from Harrogate station. The highlight of this railway walk is passing over the 7 arch, grade 2 listed Nidd Gorge Viaduct.
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6. Wirral Way: Cheshire
Close to Liverpool, the Wirral Way runs 12 miles from Hooton, through the Wirral Country Park and along the coastline before reaching West Kirby. Along the route stop to take a look at the grade 2 listed Hadlow Road station, which has been restored to it’s original 1950’s condition.
5. Deeside Way: Aberdeenshire
This rail trail is over 40 miles long and follows the route of the disused Aberdeen to Ballater railway, a line previously used to transport the royal family to Balmoral Castle. The route offers stunning views of the Cairngorn Mountains and can be split into smaller sections from Aberdeen to Drumoak (10 miles), Drumoak to Banchory (7 miles), Branchory to Aboyne (13 miles) and Aboyne to Ballater (11 miles).
4. Castleman Trailway: Hampshire
Starting close to the New Forest National Park in Ringwood, the 16 mile Castleman Trailway follows the disused Southampton to Dorchester Railway and finishes in Poole. The trailway passes through the beautiful countryside of East Dorset and includes links with Moors Valley, Avon Heath and Upton Country Parks.
3. Camel Trail: Cornwall
The camel trail follows the route of an old railway line which once linked the towns of Padstow and Wendfordbridge. This rail trail passes through areas of wooded Cornish countryside and the Camel Estuary, a great place for birdwatchers. The route can be walked in stages between Wenfordbridge to Bodin (6.25 Miles), Bodmin to Wadebridge (5.75 miles) and Wadebridge to Padstow (5.5 Miles). Points of interest include the Bodmin and Wendford steam railway and the bridge across Petherick Creek.
2. Crab and Winkle Way: Kent
The crab and winkle way follows the disused railway between Canterbury and the seaside town of Whitstable. Named after a favourite local seafood in Whitstable, the 7 mile walk does include some hills but those who reach the highest points are rewarded with some fantastic views.
1. Phoenix Trail: Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire
The phoenix trail is a 5 mile walk which follows a line which only closed in 1991. The route includes a series of 30 artworks inspired by the railway and offers fantastic views of the Chiltern Hills.
Rail trails are a fantastic way to explore the UK on largely flat and uninterrupted paths. So grab your walking boots and follow an old railway walk near you!