Friday, May 22, 2015

Great Britain by Train: An ideal international family vacation

The magnificent Royal Crescent of Bath, England sits on a hill overlooking the famed Roman spa  (wikipedia)
LONDON International family travel is a growing trend as grandparents are joining grandchildren in journeys that are both memorable and educational.

When it comes to international family travel, there may be no better starting point than Great Britain and there is no more convenient way to go than by train.
Modern British trains glide through history  (wikipedia)

A journey through the UK by rail is time travel by train. It is a beguiling destination for Americans that beckons us to savor its spirit. A place for legends and myths to merge with historic truths to create the ideal blend of fact and fiction.

Much of the appeal of the British Isles has to do with heritage and tradition, for this is a land of “once upon a time.” It is a place where the procession of history thrives within its own timelessness.

Jousting was popular in Medieval England  (wikipedia)
Consider literary characters and personalities, imagined and real, who pass through our minds as voices personified in a panoramic parade of poetry and prose: Macbeth and Lear and Hamlet; Tom Jones and Henry Higgins and Eliza Doolittle; Oliver Twist and Ebenezer Scrooge and Phileas Phogg.

There is an aura of mystery and suspense as well. Stonehenge, the Tower of London and the Loch Ness Monster; Sherlock Holmes, Jack the Ripper and Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde appear out of the mists.

Kings and queens have their own special allure in this land with its stories of King Arthur’s knights, Henry VIII, Victoria and Elizabeth and today’s royal family.
King Henry VIII was one of many notorious English monarchs  (wikipedia)
Truly this is a land for all seasons, enveloped by the richness of its history -- and trains are the ideal links to those legacies. British rails connect us to a cavalcade of culture that is familiar to us all.

Robert Louis Stevenson wrote a classic horror story  (wikipedia)
In many ways, the roots of our American spirit can be traced to the glories of the British past, and trains are pathways that lead us through the tunnels of time to new moments of discovery.

They take us to the birthplace of golf past neat fields, through a sea of vivid green tumbling landscapes that one writer said creates a sense of being at the “midpoint of creation.”

Trains pass by, and travel to, walled towns and haunting ruins. There is a medieval quality to it all; an ancientness enhanced by a kaleidoscope of colors amid heather carpeted hills and echoes of untamed vistas.

They reveal castles, estates and stately mansions, which are monuments to the works of man that are as engrossing in their own way as works of nature.

Castles are in abundance throughout the United Kingdom  (wikipedia)
British trains come to rest where the Romans once bathed in natural spring waters. Where cobblestone streets are squeezed into narrow alleyways beneath half-timbered houses. Where distant pastures can be seen through empty archways or as British journalist and writer H.V. Morton noted, “Where every meadow has a valet.”
Scotland is famous for its heather carpeted hills and deep lochs  (wikipedia) 
No trip is complete with visiting a pub  (wikipedia)
Taste the traditions with a full English breakfast. Have tea with Devonshire cream and scones. Try fresh fish chips or perhaps enjoy a pint of ale with locals in a country pub.

Meander through the countryside where sheepdogs bark in the distance and hedgerows and rock walls give order to things.

In Scotland and Wales a panorama unfolds as the landscape rises and falls past muscled peaks, fertile fields and dense forests before giving way to deep Scottish lochs or the embraces of the Irish Sea.

Steam train crosses the historic Glenfinnian Viaduct in Scotland  (wikipedia)
Diversity creates the character of Great Britain, and it is this variety that refutes the concept that “there are no more unknown places.” You see, every place is unknown until you experience it yourself.

Britain’s compact size offers concentrated travel experiences unlike any other, and the rail system makes it convenient to use one city as a base for individual day trips that seem like mini-holidays within themselves.

York is still surrounded by its wall  (wikipedia)
From London, for example, head north to the walled city of York. Journey to the Roman ruins at Bath. Spend a quiet afternoon in the gentle surroundings of the Cotswolds. Explore Shakespeare’s Stratford and visit Trinity Church where he is buried. Or stroll among the historic “rows” of Chester.

All are within easy reach, yet still close enough to have you back in London in time for the theater.
Prices for point to point tickets and passes vary according to distance, time of day, level of service and, even, a traveler’s age. Rail Europe is the complete one-stop shop for answering all of your individual questions and providing the best options for your particular itinerary.

Pulteney Bridge in Bath remains a commercial center filled with shops (wikipedia)
British trains do, indeed, tell tales of “once upon a time.” As someone once wrote, “the past is no ghost at this banquet, rather it sits at the head of the table.”

For American family travelers, our links to Great Britain are powerful reminders of our own heritage which is no more characterized than by sharing a common language.
The Tower of London was built by William the Conqueror and later housed many famous prisoners  (wikipedia)

Listen to the rails of Great Britain, for here legends do linger and the rails are the “ties that bind.”