Most beautiful train journeys in Cornwall

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Most beautiful train journeys in Cornwall

Some say that the journey can be just as exciting and important as the destination . . . And what better way is there to enjoy the Cornish coastline and countryside, whatever the weather, whatever the season, than from the window of a train carriage? Sitting in comfort, watching the stunning scenery slide by before arriving at a new destination, rested and ready to go. Bliss!

There are so many wonderful railway journeys in Cornwall to choose from, from classic steam trains to fun narrow gauge tracks. Ready to tour the Duchy in this most traditional of ways? These beautiful train journeys are just the ticket!

So  . . . ‘ALL ABOARD!’ It’s time to sit back and relax as you enjoy a sentimental steam-powered or unhurried diesel adventure through Cornwall.


Bodmin & Wenford Steam Railway

A beautiful steam train travelling through some trees along Bodmin Railway in Cornwall

• Bodmin General to Bodmin Parkway

• Journey time: 45 minutes

• Tuesdays to Sundays

Take a journey back in time on Bodmin Railway and discover the excitement and nostalgia of travelling by steam train through the Cornish countryside. This is Cornwall’s only full-size railway still operated year-round with steam locomotives, so it’s a must for all the trainspotters out there.

The journey on the Bodmin branch line is a leisurely 13-mile round trip taking in the sights, sounds, and smells of a bygone age, as the era of the long forgotten joys of 1950s and 60s are revealed during the course of your journey.

The trains operate from Bodmin General, the principal station, which is only a short walk from the town centre or you can park in the free car park at the station. The final destination is Bodmin Parkway station – where connections can be made directly with main line railway services. Should you choose to, you can also disembark part way at Boscarne Junction, which is situated next to the wonderful Camel Trail, a popular recreational footpath and cycleway that goes all the way to Padstow.

Travel on to Bodmin Parkway and you can also walk from there to the National Trust property of Lanhydrock, which nestles in parkland beyond the main line. This magnificent house was built in the 17th century by the Robartes family and its highlights include the intricate plasterwork on the ceiling of the long gallery, the elegant formal gardens, and the miles of woodlands to explore (visit in April and May for carpets of bluebells amidst the ancient trees).


Looe Valley Line

The picturesque harbour in Looe, which  lies at the end of the Loe Valley Line railway in Cornwall

• Liskeard to Looe

• Journey time: 9 miles/30 minutes

• Seven days a week in season (Sundays only October to April)

This beautiful railway journey departs from the town of Liskeard, a stop on the main line, and trundles through lush farmland, wooded valleys, and then, for the last 2 miles, skirts beside a tidal estuary teeming with wildlife. Bird watchers in particular will love this line, especially at low tide when the river is full of wading birds such as little egrets, grey herons, oystercatchers and curlews.

The journey is roughly 9 miles and brings you to one of the prettiest seaside towns in Cornwall, Looe. With its maze of narrow streets, historic buildings, great seafood restaurants and sandy beaches, Looe makes a wonderful day trip. There’s a lovely local museum to enjoy too, which is situated in the Old Guildhall and boasts a fascinating collection of local history.

It is also possible to time your train journey to link up with one of the unique boat trips, perhaps to Looe Island Nature Reserve or even to the smuggling village of Polperro further along the coast. There are fishing and wildlife watching trips too, all leaving from Looe’s harbour everyday during the summer.

Then after an exhausting day of seaside fun, full of fish and chips and ice cream, you can just pop back on the train and let it carry you home.


St Ives Bay Line

The beautiful waterside town of St Ives in Cornwall

• St Erth to St Ives

• Journey time: 4.5 miles/12 minutes

• Seven days a week

Known far and wide as one of the most beautiful train journeys in the UK, it’s easy to see why this stretch of sun-kissed coast is so popular.

Following the curve of the coastline, with views across the stunning sweep of St Ives Bay and a bounty of white-sand beaches laid out before you, this iconic journey is the perfect way to start any visit to the beautiful fishing port of St Ives.

It may be a relatively short trip, but it’s chock-full of sights, making it a perfect introduction to one of Cornwall’s most popular places to visit. It’s also a great car-free alternative when visiting St Ives!

Once in the bustling waterside town, you can either wander to one of those gorgeous sandy beaches back along the coastal path or explore the numerous art galleries, quirky shops, and delicious restaurants within the picturesque warren of cobbled lanes. Don’t forget to pay a visit to the inspiring Tate St Ives or the unmissable hidden gem of the Barbara Hepworth museum for even more spectacular sights!


Tamar Valley Line

The impressive Calstock Viaduct along the Looe Valley railway line in Cornwall

• Plymouth to Calstock and Gunnislake

• Journey time: 14 miles/45 minutes

• Seven days a week

The Tamar Valley Line offers an unexpected and little-known escape into the rolling countryside and sleepy river side villages around the Tamar River direct from the hustle and bustle of the busy city of Plymouth.

One of the magnificent highlights of this route is that the line crosses the wonderful Calstock viaduct. This marvel of Victorian engineering towers 120ft (37m) above the tidal river below and its twelve wide arches mark the entrance to the Cornish side of the journey - not forgetting a jaw-dropping panorama of views.

You can hop off the train here and enjoy the lovely waterside pubs and restaurants in Calstock village or alternatively stretch your legs with a peaceful riverside walk to the National Trust property of Cotehele – one of the finest manor houses in Cornwall that has hardly changed in some 500 years.

If you stay on board the train, you will eventually reach the end of the line at Gunnislake, where you can see the old granite bridge traversing the Tamar at what used to be the main crossing point into Cornwall for many hundreds of years. Here, the driver walks to the other end of the train and back you go again in the other direction to enjoy it all over again!


Helston Steam Railway

The historic train station along Helston Railway in Cornwall

• Prospednick to Truthall

• Journey time: Return trip 35 minutes

• March to December, two to three days a week (see timetables for details)

The Helston Railway is the most southern train line in Britain and was originally completed in 1882. Unfortunately, the cuts of the 1960s meant that the track fell out of use and much of it was returned to nature. However, in 2005 the Helston Railway Preservation Society was formed and since then volunteers have worked tirelessly to bring this beautiful little line back to life.

A good distance of the track has been restored and more is added each year by the enthusiastic and determined helpers. The rolling stock is the group’s pride and joy and includes two Ruston & Hornsby shunters and a two-car Park Royal Diesel Multiple Unit. As well as two-brake vans, Daisy and Bluebell, you’ll find a well-stocked shop that’s manned by the volunteers in a converted mail van at Prospidnick Halt and period buffet housed in the Park Royal.

In 2016, they proudly took delivery of a Peckett Steam locomotive that now pulls passengers in a restored period coach. It’s a wonderful sight to see it puffing through the countryside, whether you’re on board or watching from the trackside.

Helston Railway often has themed or fundraising days at Halloween, Easter, Christmas or through the summer holidays, with special events and fun for all the family!

From the line, it is an easy hop to explore more of the gorgeous beaches, coastline, and villages of the Lizard as well as the town of Helston itself, famous for its Flora Day each May.


Lappa Valley

One of Lappa Valley's historic trains with an engine house in the background

• Benny Halt to East Wheal Rose

• Journey time: 1.5 miles/10 mins (plus two shorter lines)

• Daily, March to December

This family-friendly attraction near Newquay has been a firm favourite with visitors and locals alike over the last 50 years. Lappa Valley was opened in 1973 after a section of the historic Mineral Tramline, which had been closed in 1963, was restored. Today, you will discover a 15-inch minimum gauge railway that travels through a 35-acre site with lots of fascinating narrow gauge rolling stock to enjoy.

The main line follows the old route of the Newquay to Chacewater branch line, which today runs between Benny Halt and the old mine workings of East Wheal Rose but there are also two smaller lines to discover too. There’s a fun circular track around the picturesque lake, using the smallest railway (7.25″ gauge) at Lappa Valley. This takes you on an exciting 5-minute journey, enjoying the sights and smells and even passing through a tunnel!

The third line is the Newlyn Downs Branch line, which is another narrow gauge line taking you to a play area and picnic spot where you can also join some woodland walks or enjoy the historic remains of the East Wheal Rose mine.

Alongside the railways there is a boating lake with pedalos, a mini golf course, and lots of indoor and outdoor entertainment as well as an adventure park, shop, and café.


The Maritime Line

Truro Cathedral from across the water at Malpas

• Truro to Falmouth

• Journey time: 7 miles/20 minutes

• All year round

This celebrated line was one of the first to be built in Cornwall and was opened in 1863. The track traces the edges of the Fal River from the city of Truro to the historic docks at Falmouth, journeying through fine rolling countryside with excellent views. The line also passes over the impressive Carnon Viaduct, which towers 98ft above the river and valley.

Each of the stops along the route offers something different if you decide to leave the train. Perranwell Station is a small village with lots of walking opportunities, including a chance to see the Carnon Viaduct from beneath! There are also two historic pubs, The Royal Oak and the Norway Inn, offering food and drink aplenty.

The next stop is the town of Penryn. The little town was actually established long before Falmouth and has numerous historic buildings and lots of quirky, small businesses, cafés, and shops to explore.

The final two stops are Falmouth Town, which is the main stop for the shopping area, the National Maritime Museum, and the beaches. While the end of the line is Falmouth Docks, from here you can also make your way to Pendennis castle or perhaps take in the stunning views on a walk around Pendennis Point.

From Falmouth, it’s also possible to do your return trip to Truro by boat. From the Prince of Wales Pier you can catch a ferry that takes you on an hour-long ride up the peaceful waters of the Carrick Roads back to the city. This makes a wonderful circular journey!


Feeling inspired by the many scenic train journeys in Cornwall? Start planning your own nostalgic adventure with a stay in one of our beautiful Cornish cottages.

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