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UK family holiday by train?

(29 Posts)
Smithagain Wed 27-Aug-08 18:38:11

Am planning early for next year here!

We've just got back from a trip to Edinburgh, to visit my parents. We travelled by train (from Surrey) for the first time. Our kids are 3 and 6 and it was MUCH MUCH nicer than driving, despite the hassle of crossing London on the tube and carrying all our stuff. And they behaved themselves pretty well on the train, so now I'm feeling inspired.

I'm wondering whether we could manage a whole family holiday without the car next year. Obviously we'd need a bit more stuff, if we weren't staying with family, but I think we couple manage that.

But where would be a good place to stay, so there are plenty of things to do without a car? I wondered about York (purely because we've just come through it and I remember having holidays there as a child) - or Canterbury? Is there anywhere that has good train access from London and also a sandy beach??!!

And what sort of accommodation to go for? Hotel, so we don't have to take towels, food etc. Or self-catering in an ultra light-weight manner? Anyone got any brilliant tips?

choosyfloosy Wed 27-Aug-08 18:44:57

I've always wanted to go overnight to Cornwall from London on the sleeper? I assume it's to Penzance but have never checked. Early start though.

York is fabulous. Two centre holiday - York and Scarborough?

If you were up for a city holiday rather than a beach one, Oxford would be great (says she who lives here).

But in any event, what about a house swap via the board on here, or the NCT one (much more options! it's #30 to join I think). That way you could do a mutual agreement between yourself and your swappee to get food in for each other.

AvenaLife Wed 27-Aug-08 18:46:39

Have you thought about newcastle? It's accessable from London. There's loads to do and loads of hotels. I took ds to Anwick last year (the place where 'Hogwarts' castle is, they shot the flying lesson there in the first Harry Potter film. They have a lovely garden and you can have afternoon tea up in a huge tree house. It's a train ride away from Newcastle, then you need to take a bus to Anwick. It's near the cost so there's a bus that goes there, we didn't have time though. The food is terrible in Anwick but there's a lovely Italian restauraunt in the town. We stopped off for a few hours in Newcastle on the way home, there's a science centre near the train station, we were in there for hours. They have moving diosaurs and all sorts (called Life).

bagofhammers Wed 27-Aug-08 18:59:39

Newcastle is great. Train to Newcastle then metro to Tynemouth or South Shields. Lovely beaches and South Shields has a lovely park and a funfair (expensive though). There are plenty of hotels, one is on the beach. You could go further up the Northumberland coast if you want a beach to yourself and to be away from funfairs and ice cream vans.

dinny Wed 27-Aug-08 19:03:04

go to Cornwall

I've done the sleeper quite a few times, I love it

zillions of places you could choose in Cornwall and reach by train

Smithagain Wed 27-Aug-08 19:14:53

Really, Dinny? I hadn't even thought of Cornwall by train. I love everything about Cornwall except the traffic jam there and back!!

Newcastle/Northumberland sounding v good, too. A beach to ourselves, you say ... grin grin grin

coppertop Wed 27-Aug-08 19:21:49

We don't have a car so for the past two years we've been going on holiday by train.

We stay in a hotel so that we can take as little as possible.

We've also learned that it's about 100 times less stressful if you don't have to change trains at all.

I would also very strongly recommend reserving seats on the train in advance. It means less flexibility on the day but is so much better than trying to find places near to each other on an overcrowded train.

Weegiemum Wed 27-Aug-08 19:22:41

We have friends from Glasgow who went on the train from Glasgow to Paris and then La Rochelle on the west coast of France! They had a fabulous time!!

We have done York without a car (as ours broke down there and was int eh garage for 3 days!) and it was fine, but there is a lot of stuff you have to pay for once you are there.

There are plenty s/c places which provide linen and towels, you just have to search for them. I would self cater as you usually have a washing machine, therefore have to carry less!

Takver Wed 27-Aug-08 19:23:31

North Wales is very accessible by train - its a long trip but absolutely lovely - you can go right out to pwllheli on the lleyn peninsula, the train line runs right up and down the coast stopping at lots of nice places. The good thing about the Lleyn (from 10 yrs of family hols as a child) is that it has its own microclimate and is much, much sunnier than the rest of Wales!

Majorca Wed 27-Aug-08 19:23:41

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

dinny Wed 27-Aug-08 19:30:20

Smithagain - I went down with the kids by train a couple of weeks ago - they love it

ecoworrier Wed 27-Aug-08 20:09:03

There's a thread on UK travel asking a similar thing. There are plenty of places - personally, I've done holidays by train to Penzance, Newquay, Whitby, Aberystwyth/Borth and Bournemouth. Dead easy. We did it with 3 under-5s 2 years in a row, once in a hotel and once self-catering. Since then we've self-catered every year, whether we've gone by train or by car.

If you're self-catering, obviously it's easier for you if you find somewhere that provides bedding and towels, but again we've managed it taking our own stuff. If you find a well-equipped self-catering place, you don't really need to take much more than you would for a hotel stay, you just need to buy your food there (or some supermarkets will deliver to some holiday homes!)

Two adults should easily manage to carry the stuff for a family of 4 (think a large rucksack each and a hand-held bag or day-sack), leaving the kids with just a small backpack with a few books/toys for the train.

Don't take too many clothes - most people pack far too many. Some holiday homes have washing machines and even driers, so in an emergency you can recycle the few clothes you've taken!

Also, look at not just getting to the destination, but at what you do and how you get around once you're there. Is it a place you could amuse yourselves in all week quite happily? If not, are there places nearby you can visit by train or bus? Most of the places I mentioned above qualify on one or both counts.

I would say go for it - just make sure have a family railcard and book ahead to get the best price!

Madlentileater Wed 27-Aug-08 20:13:07

also consider a youth hostel- there are some lovely ones, in lovely places, and you will find other families (=kids for yourd dcs to play with)

Lilymaid Wed 27-Aug-08 20:56:55

Get train up to Alnmouth or Berwick on Tweed (trains travelling between Newcastle and Edinburgh will stop at one or other) then get bus to Bamburgh, Seahouses or one of the other little resorts along that lovely sandy coast. Coastal bus is fairly frequent.

notcitrus Wed 27-Aug-08 23:27:12

I second Isle of Wight, and have gone with 3 children from London to Isle of Cumbrae (change at Glasgow to Largs, then ferry takes 10 min to Cumbrae) - lovely beach, fair few things to do for a week including cycling all round the island.

Getting to Cornwall by train is definitely the civilised way to go, but you might want to hire a car once you get there.

Kids on trains always seem much happier and less stressed than at service stations or airports/planes. Maybe it's related to knowing they can get up and stretch or go to the loo any time, or just the parents are less stressed? Or maybe just I'm less stressed so the kids seem happier?

Smithagain Thu 28-Aug-08 08:39:43

Thanks everyone. Lots of good places that I hadn't thought of - am now looking forward to planning it but must restrain myself or will drive DH mad!

Madlentileater - do you use youth hostels yourself? I keep thinking about that as an option, but am a bit hesitant about sharing a room with the DDs the whole time. Do the family rooms have somewhere you can go an sit in the evening, without leaving the kids unattanded? But I do have fond memories of youth hostelling pre-kids and it would certainly help our budget somewhat.

ecoworrier Thu 28-Aug-08 11:15:33

Trouble with youth hostels is they're not always cheap and cheerful. I youth-hostelled in the past and have looked at it again the last couple of years, but for a family it's actually much cheaper to rent a cottage or chalet!

choosyfloosy Thu 28-Aug-08 11:49:43

or, of course, a house swap (dog with a bone emoticon)

Smithagain Thu 28-Aug-08 13:11:13

LOL choosy - I am listening, honest!

It does appeal from the point of view of economy. But I think I'd get very stressed trying to get our house to a state where I would be happy letting another family live in it. It usually looks like a bomb site just before we go away, cos whatever little housework I normally do gets replaced by packing blush grin

Fennel Thu 28-Aug-08 13:14:55

We do some holidays without a car, we've just had 5 nights in London (from Devon), children are 8, 6 and 4. It was great.

We took just 2 big rucksacks with a few clothes, books and a couple of toys. That was easy for London, we'd have needed more for a beach holiday (we tend to take windsurfers, kayaks, all sorts of stuff to the beach, but not by train).

We like youth hostels because though they often aren't cheaper than the cheaper hotels or b&bs they have self-catering kitchens, and common rooms, which we find very useful. And we find them very child-friendly, the dds can rampage all over and we don't feel we are being too noisy or messy.

we leave the dds in the room in the youth hostels as long as it's a room which locks from the inside, with an ensuite bathroom. So noone else can go in and the dds don't need to come out. It varies, some hostels have a much better set-up for this than others.

BlueChampagne Thu 28-Aug-08 13:18:35

Keep an eye on the 'bargain berths' section of the first scotrail website. DH & I did London to Fort William last year (when pg with DS), sleeper both ways, for £19 each each way. Would have cost more in diesel! Plus waking up in the morning somewhere completely different is magic in my book. Part of the adventure, rather than just travelling, IYSWIM. Have done Penzance run too in the past, but got cold feet about doing it with a 1 yo.

Fennel Thu 28-Aug-08 13:21:35

I have plans to do Devon-Milan by train, via London, but keep getting cold feet at the prospect of 15 hours by train with my offspring. I want to go and visit a friend there but I know the travelling will be hell. A few hours by train with mine is OK but not much more than that. but it would be bad in a car too. One day....

filthymindedvixen Thu 28-Aug-08 13:47:46

the problem I have found with Youth Hostels is they are often quite a fe miles out of town, which is difficult with young children and luggage, unless you get taxis..

choosyfloosy Thu 28-Aug-08 18:49:49

yes but compare the cost of accommodation for a week with the cost of a couple of cleaners for half a day as you leave.

dinny Thu 28-Aug-08 19:57:51

travel on a Sunday so you can upgrade to First Class for a tenner

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