A day trip on a steam train can be a fun, unique experience. You get to see some of the most beautiful sights in the country while being treated to a luxury train experience that normal trains just don’t provide. There is plenty on offer across the country that have pick-up points at easily accessible, major train stations. If you’ve always wanted to go on one but didn’t know where to start, this article has got you covered. Here are just some of the best steam train day trips to take in 2024. 

Are steam trains too expensive for students?

are steam train day trips expensive for students?

The idea of going on a steam train is fun, but they aren’t always the cheapest day trips to take. When you’re a student, every penny counts. You might think that a day out on a steam train is a luxury that’s out of reach, but guess what? Well, the truth is they aren’t cheap. BUT – there are ways you can keep costs down. Here’s how you can experience the thrill of steam trains without your wallet taking a huge hit.

1. Student discounts and group deals

Many steam train operators offer student discounts, so don’t forget to flash your student ID when buying tickets. Also, if you’re planning a trip with a bunch of friends (and you should, because it’s more fun that way), look out for group discounts. Splitting the cost can make it even cheaper, and let’s face it, everything’s better with friends.

2. Off-peak travel for lower prices

Timing can be everything. If you travel off-peak, you can snag tickets at a lower price. This means avoiding weekends and holiday periods when prices can go up. A weekday adventure can be just as fun and easier on your wallet.

3. Shorter journeys, smaller price tags

You don’t have to embark on a long, epic journey to enjoy the steam train experience. Shorter trips can offer just as much charm and excitement at a fraction of the cost. These mini-adventures are perfect for a day out, letting you soak in the scenery and experience without the longer journey’s price tag.

4. Pack a picnic

Here’s a pro tip: bring your own food. While some trains offer dining cars, buying meals on board can add up. Packing a picnic can save you money and add to the fun. Imagine munching on sandwiches and snacks with your friends in a vintage train carriage – it’s like your own little party on wheels.

6. Look out for special offers

Keep an eye on the websites and social media pages of railway companies. They often have special offers, last-minute deals, or off-season discounts that can make your trip even cheaper.

The best steam train day trips for 2024

Here’s our pick of some of the most fun steam train day trips you can take this year. Some are happening soon so you need to be quick!

The Winter Cumbrian Mountain Express

Fun steam train day trips to take in 2024
Source: Wikipedia

You’ve gotta be quick with this one, as there’s not long left. The Winter Cumbrian Mountain Express travels from Manchester Piccadilly to Carlisle, with pick-up points at Wigan and Preston on the way. You’ll get to see the sights of the Fells and the peaks of Pen-y-Ghent, Whernside and Ingleborough as you go. There will be two hours in Carlisle to explore before the return journey home. While there are only three more journeys for the Winter Express this year (10th February, 17th February, 16th March), the regular Cumbrian Mountain Express has its first journey of 2024 on the 16th of May. 

The Jacobite

Up in the Scottish highlands, you’ll find The Jacobite. The 84-mile journey takes you across some of Scotland’s most breathtaking sites from Fort William to Mallaig. You’ll have about two hours in Mallaig to explore before heading back to Fort William. The train runs in both the morning and afternoon, however, the morning service is offered more frequently (28th March to 25th October, 7 days a week) compared to the afternoon (6th May to 27th September, 7 days a week). A standard adult-day return will set you back £65 per person, no matter when you are travelling. 

The Shakespeare Express:

Fun steam train day trips to take in 2024
Source: Wikipedia

Now this one is for the Shakespeare buffs. The Shakespeare Express runs once a week on a Sunday from April to November, departing Birmingham and arriving in Stratford about an hour later. There, you’ll have just over five hours to explore Shakespeare’s hometown and all it has to offer. So, it’s a two-in-one: you get to travel there on a steam train and you get to experience the hometown of one of England’s most celebrated playwrights. Tickets are generally more affordable than some of the other options on this list, with a tourist class seat costing a mere £35 per person. 

English Riviera Express

English Riviera dartmouth steam train day trips

The English Riviera Express recreates one of the classic journeys from the golden age of steam travel. The pickup points differ depending on which day you choose to travel, but that means that so long as you’re in the general south/west of the country, it is easily accessible. After a morning of travel on the steam train, you’ll arrive at Kingswear with a little over three hours to explore the “English Riviera” resort of Dartmouth. This is an all-day trip, but it’s worth it. The train departs once a week on Saturdays throughout the summer, starting on Saturday the 4th of May and ending on Saturday the 24th of August, with increasing frequency as it gets closer to peak summer. 

The Golden Arrow

steam train day trips 2024 - Kent coast

The Golden Arrow is running three times in March, on Wednesday the 13th, Tuesday the 26th and Saturday the 30th. It also has differing pick-up points for each journey, making it quite accessible for as many people as possible. But, your journey will take you through the Garden of England and the Kent coast before roughly two and a half hours of sightseeing in Canterbury before heading home. This is another trip that is truly all day, with pick-up times as early as 5:45 am and return times as late as 11:55 pm, but it is worth it. 

The Cathedrals Express

Fun steam train day trips to take in 2024
Source: Salisbury Cathedral

The Cathedrals Express starts in Birmingham and takes you to Salisbury, with pick-up points along the way in Widney Manor, Dorridge, Warwick Parkway and Banbury. You’ll spend the day in Salisbury, exploring all that the city has to offer, from its cathedral to its market or even visiting nearby Stonehenge. However, if this is one you want to try out, you’ll have to book quickly. As of the time of writing, the only available date left for the next year is Saturday the 2nd of March. That just goes to show how popular it is.

So, these are just some of the best steam train day trips to take in 2024. If you’ve not seen a trip for you, why not take a look at our best road trips to do around the UK.

By now, we’re in the swing of things for the second semester at university, which means cooking for yourself again. Check out this article for some healthy meals that you can make on a student budget.