Durham Castle and Cathedral

Heritage cities

Heritage cities itinerary

Britain is a fascinating place with a history that goes back centuries. Our 5-day railway itinerary takes you on a whistle-stop tour of some of the country’s historical highlights, from the spectacular Norman relics of Lincoln to the Viking heritage of York and all the way north to the medieval gems of Edinburgh.

One of the easiest and most relaxing ways to explore Britain's heritage cities is with a BritRail train ticket, a rail pass that allows you unlimited journeys, giving you the freedom to explore at your own pace. For shorter trips, you can book your individual rail tickets in advance through the Trainline, ACP Rail, International Rail and Rail Europe.

Start your journey

The first destination on our Heritage cities tour is Lincoln in the East Midlands. Just 2 hours north of London by train, there’s a regular service from London’s Kings Cross station via Peterborough or Newark North Gate.





Day 1: Lincoln

Lincoln Cathedral

A mighty cathedral, an ancient castle and a warren of medieval streets make up the hilltop city of Lincoln. Small with a village feel, Lincoln boasts a wealth of historic treasures mingled amid quaint tea rooms, excellent restaurants and independent shops. Avoid the hilly climb up to the Cathedral by taking the Steep Hill Shuttle Bus from the station.

Things to do in Lincoln

Commissioned by William the Conqueror and consecrated in 1092, the huge gothic towers of Lincoln Cathedral have been dominating the city’s skyline for nearly a thousand years. Take a guided tour to learn more about the architecture and rich history.

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It’s a short stroll from the cathedral across the cobbles to the towering entrance of Lincoln Castle. Home to an original copy of the Magna Carta, don’t miss the chance to see one of the world’s most important documents first-hand.

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A privately owned Elizabethan Mansion with stunning gardens, Doddington Hall was built in 1600 and is unique in that it has never been sold or cleared out since. The Hall is a 15-minute taxi ride from Lincoln centre. Please see website for opening days.

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Day 2: York

York Walls © VisitEngland / Diana Jarvis

Time to trade the Norman charms of Lincoln for the Viking heritage of York. To reach the medieval city, take a 30 minute train from Lincoln to Newark North Gate followed by a 45 minute connection to York.

A place of extraordinary cultural and historical wealth, York is a must-visit. Seemingly unchanged for centuries, the modestly sized city is packed with attractions. Meander along the narrow cobbles of The Shambles, wonder at the dramatic architecture of York Minster and relax in the rolling countryside that surrounds Castle Howard.

A York Pass is a great idea to save money if you are planning on visiting multiple attractions.

Things to do in York

Truly awe-inspiring, York Minster is one of the most beautiful gothic cathedrals in the world and one of the largest examples of medieval architecture in Northern Europe. After you’ve marvelled at the stunning stained glass on display, climb the steps of the central tower to get a bird’s eye view of the city.

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A gem amongst English stately homes, Castle Howard is a majestic pile surrounded by lush gardens. Splendidly maintained, the house’s ornate rooms are filled with antiques and offer stunning vistas of the surrounding countryside. A bus runs direct from York city to Castle Howard.

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Like stepping back into the Middle Ages, The Shambles’ overhanging timber-framed houses and traditional shopfronts makes it one of the UK’s most historic and picturesque streets. Spend some time wandering along its cobbles, now dotted with lovely souvenir shops, cafes and restaurants.

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Day 3: Durham 

Durham Castle and Cathedral

The third destination on the trail is beautiful riverside Durham City, 45 minutes north of York by rail. As your train pulls into town, you’ll be greeted by its hilltop famous landmarks, Durham Cathedral and Durham Castle, which together make up a UNESCO World Heritage Site. While heritage and history are around every corner in Durham, the young university population ensures a sense of youthful vibrancy in the city’s many cafes and pubs. The Cathedral bus connects the train station and bus station with the Castle and Cathedral Square.

Things to do in Durham

Raised up above the city on a rocky promontory, the Norman church is a sight to behold. Founded in 1093, the building has seen hundreds of years of political, social and religious intrigue, and more recently found fame when the cloisters doubled as Hogwarts in the Harry Potter films. Entry to the cathedral is free.

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Standing side by side with the cathedral, the ancient castle forms the other part of this unique and fascinating World Heritage Site. Now home to University of Durham students, you can explore the grand site on a guided tour.

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Just a short walk from the bustling market, the medieval Crook Hall dates back to the 13th century. A place of ‘history, romance and beauty’, spend some time exploring the rooms of the house and the idyllic gardens before stopping for cream tea in the courtyard café. Crook Hall is closed on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays.

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Day 4-5: Edinburgh 

Calton Hill, Edinburgh

The ancient Scottish capital is a fitting final stop on our history tour. A scenic 2-hour train journey from Durham, Edinburgh’s rich heritage is evident the moment you step off the train. From the many medieval charms of the Old Town to the elegant Georgian facades of Princes Street and the New Town, there’s a wonderful array of history, culture, art and Scottish eccentricities to discover. If you are planning to spend some time exploring Scotland, an Explorer Pass will give you great-value access to 77 historic sites.

Things to do in Edinburgh

Presiding over the city from its lofty seat atop a rocky cliff, Edinburgh Castle is the city’s most iconic attraction, wowing visitors with its impressive views, legendary 1 o’clock gun salute and dazzling display of Scottish Crown jewels.

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Newly refurbished, this grand Victorian museum's marvellous displays encompass everything from nature to science and Scottish history throughout the ages. Once you’ve filled up on culture, treat yourself to a giant scone in the museum’s Balcony Café. Entry to the museum is free.

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Don’t miss the chance to nose around the yacht that was used by the Queen and the Royal family for state visits and holidays for more than 40 years. Now berthed in the harbour of Leith, you can get there on the No. 22 bus from Princes St.

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BritRail Pass

If you’re exploring Britain by train a BritRail pass is the easiest and most cost-effective way to travel. For a single fixed price you can make unlimited train journeys around the whole country or a region of your choice. BritRail tickets are exclusive to overseas visitors so you'll need to buy your ticket before you arrive in the UK.

BritRail 2 for 1 Attractions

From the Edinburgh Dungeon to the Tower Bridge exhibition, you can enjoy 2 for 1 entry with your BritRail pass at more than 50 amazing attractions throughout the UK.