Ride a luxury steam train through the English countryside 

by Hannah Stuart-Leach
Thursday 17 January 2019

Experience the glamour of vintage train travel with a day trip aboard the Belmond British Pullman.

Heard of the Orient Express? Since the 19th century the name has conjoured visions of opulence, intrigue and long-distance train travel. But it's never been a particular train - over the years it's alluded to all sorts of combinations of carriages and routes, starting with a service which took passengers from Paris to Constantinople (now Istanbul) in unprecedented comfort.

While that service and its descendents no longer exist, today you can actually experience even more sumptuous train travel - without ever leaving Britain - on a day or weekend trip aboard the Belmond British Pullman. From murder mystery-themed excusions to first-rate fine dining adventures. Then, if you wish to travel further, you can connect to the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express which continues onto France and Italy. Here's everything you need to know...

Wait – you can still ride a steam train in England? 

The Belmond British Pullman travelling through the countryside
© Belmond/Geoff Griffiths

Oh yes! And it’s just as romantic as you imagine. Dress up in your fanciest frock or a freshly pressed suit, and be guided to your seat in a beautiful vintage carriage – perhaps the Phoenix, the Queen Mother’s favourite – by a liveried steward. 

As the train pulls out of the station for the rolling green hills, you’ll clink glasses of English sparkling wine with your neighbour. And no need to pack those cheese sandwiches – fine dining is all part of the experience.

Oh wow, what sort of food will be served?

Table set for dinner aboard the Belmond British Pullman
© Belmond/Helen Cathcart 

Meals differ, depending on the journey, but range from elaborate afternoon teas on delicate china crockery to 7-course silver service tasting menus, showcasing the best of British produce. 

Tell me more about the train...

Window view in a Belmond British Pullman carriage
© Belmond/Helen Cathcart

The Belmond British Pullman first took to the tracks in the 1980s, made up of restored carriages from historic 1920s trains such as the Brighton Belle. 

Each carriage is unique and has its own story to tell, but all are renowned for their exquisite art deco craftsmanship, with details such as crystal table lamps, heritage upholstery and detailed floral wood panelling.  

Where can I travel on the Belmond British Pullman?

Smart attendants ready to help passengers aboard the Belmond British Pullman
© Belmond/Helen Cathcart 

The Belmond British Pullman operates mainly around London and southern England, with all trips starting and ending at London Victoria train station. 

Popular journeys take in scenic sights such as the Surrey Hills, the Cotswolds, the pretty gardens of Kent and the storied cities of Bath and Canterbury. There are also seasonal themed trips, such as Valentine’s lunches and New Year’s Eve dinners. 

Wasn’t there a train like this in Paddington 2? 

This one-of-a-kind train has hosted celebrities, royalty, visiting dignitaries and yes, that loveable duffle coat-wearing bear - Paddington.

If you’re a fan of the movie, book tickets aboard the Belmond British Pullman for a special Paddington Afternoon Tea on 16 February or 7 April 2018. Feast on some of Paddington’s favourite sweet treats (including marmalade sandwiches of course) and enjoy live fun and games as you travel.

Do they ever do murder mysteries on board? 

Yes. There’s no travel experience quite as evocative as an Agatha Christie-style murder mystery aboard a vintage railway carriage. Test your sleuthing skills over a 5-course lunch, with the crime only being solved as the train pulls back into London Victoria. Prizes are awarded for the most clued-up detectives. 

Does the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express leave from Britain?

Venice-Simplon-Orient-Express exterior
© Venice Simplon-Orient-Express

No, but the Belmond British Pullman is its sister train and you can take it from London before embarking on a Venice Simplon-Orient-Express journey. The train transports you out of London to transfer via the Eurotunnel across the English Channel to France. You’ll then board the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express in Calais before heading on to Paris or Venice. 

This all sounds amazing, how do I book?

Inside a Belmond British Pullman carriage
© Belmond/Helen Cathcart 

Easy – just go to www.belmond.com/uk and book your seat online. Some journeys fill up far in advance so it’s a good idea to plan your trip well ahead if possible. 


Hannah Stuart-Leach

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