The UK’s four different nations have histories that run parallel to one another, yet each still retains its own cultures and identities, making the union endlessly fascinating.

When the Stockton and Darlington Railway, the world’s first public steam railway, opened in 1825, the public was still relying on horse-drawn stagecoaches and narrow canal boats to move goods and travel. But once people realised the power of rail, the railway boom began. Companies rushed to invest in new railroads which inevitably improved mobility, changed the face of commerce, and made travel affordable, not to mention faster.

Today, millions of people in the UK still rely on trains to get to work and holiday each year. If you would like to enjoy a memorable rail holiday in the UK, talk to us today.

UK Railway Holidays

United Kingdom at a glance

Railway holidays in the UK

Capital: London

Language: English

Money: Pound sterling

Most restaurants add a service charge but for those that don’t include such charge, it is customary to tip 10-15%. In pubs, no tip is expected when you just order drinks, although it is polite to tip 10% if you enjoy a sit-down meal with drinks (if they haven’t included a service charge to your bill). Tipping taxi drivers is a norm.

  • New Year’s Day – January 1 
  • St Patrick’s Day – March 17 (Northern Ireland only)
  • Good Friday – date varies
  • Easter Sunday – date varies
  • Early May bank holiday – the first Monday in May
  • Spring bank holiday – the last Monday in May
  • Battle of the Boyne – July 12 (Northern Ireland only)
  • Summer bank holiday – the last Monday in August
  • St Andrew’s Day – November 30 (Scotland only)
  • Christmas – December 25
  • Boxing Day – December 26

Exploring the United Kingdom

UK scenery shutterstock 1863219478

Britain’s rich railway heritage 

When one talks about the history of modern railway today, it is natural to find the conversation stretches back to the 1800s, a time when British pioneers and engineers were busy introducing locomotives powered by steam and then electric to the world.

The spread of railways during the Victorian era (1837-1901) also spurred the growth of commerce, which in turn ushering in many years of prosperity. By 1900, it was estimated that 1100 million train journeys were made – people, who were once frightened of trains when they were first introduced, could now comfortably take trains to work, play, and of course, holiday.

Once upon a time, British cuisine wasn’t regarded highly by our European neighbours but things have changed considerably in the past few decades. Classics such as fish and chips, banger and mash, and an assortment of savoury pies remain hugely popular – and they are often reinterpreted and given a new twist by modern British chefs.

British have also happily incorporated foods from other cultures into their daily meals. Chinese, Indian, Vietnamese and Mexican dishes have gone mainstream, while foods from once obscure destinations like Ethiopia and Estonia are fast creeping up on the horizon.

As of 2021, there are 184 Michelin-starred restaurants in the UK. The figures further reinforce the UK’s status as a gastronomical hub.

Who would have thought that the British Isles could one day produce wine? But indeed we have, due to a drier and warmer world. Most of the vineyards are in southern England and Wales, and while the production is still small, it hasn’t stopped consumers seeking out a good bottle of white or sparkling variety made right here in the UK.

Most of the UK has a temperate climate influenced by the Atlantic Ocean, which brings in mild but wet weather. The best time to visit is undoubtedly from June to September, when the days are sunnier and warmer.

Broadly speaking, Scotland is colder than Wales and England, with abundant rainfall on its western highlands. Cities on the eastern side, like Edinburgh, are significantly drier.

Wales is cool and humid pretty much throughout the year, but temperatures do drop as you move away from the coast to the mountainous interior.

England is also influenced by the Atlantic Ocean, meaning the western part receives high precipitation but the east is drier. The wettest part of the UK is Seathwaite, a village in the Lake District where the mountains force the wet air masses to rise, condense and become rain.

Northern Ireland has an oceanic climate, with cold winters and relatively mild summers. While rainfall is frequent, it does not come in abundance as the hills of Donegal (in the Republic of Ireland) block most of it.

Warm clothes and a raincoat are essential throughout the year (even during warmer months) as the weather can be unpredictable.

Layer up if you’re visiting from November to February. While snow is not frequent, high humidity tends to make you feel colder. Having said that, most likely you don’t need a thick parka or long thermal underwear like you would visit countries in similar latitudes like Canada and Denmark, as the Gulf Stream helps to warm the UK.

The UK has a rich rail history – from Richard Trevithick building the world’s first steam locomotive that successfully hauled a train in 1804 to Brighton having the world’s first electric railway in 1883 – the union’s many achievements continue to attract rail enthusiasts from around the world.

  • Notes from a Small Island by Bill Bryson
  • A History of Modern Britain by Andrew Marr
  • Very British Problems by Rob Temple
  • The Joy of Railways: Remembering the golden age of trainspotting by Julian Holland

Why choose PTG Tour’s escorted rail tours through the United Kingdom

  • Established in 1998, PTG has evolved into a leading tour agency offering rail-based holidays with a focus on culture and heritage.
  • You can choose from a diverse product range, based on your preference and budget.
  • Your escorted rail tour comes with a professional tour leader who will take great care of you, plus local guides when applicable.
  • All hotels and restaurants included in your package are vetted and approved by the local teams.
  • You can travel in confidence as all of our tours are ATOL and ABTA protected.