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Connecting London Paddington to Penzance, the Night Riviera Sleeper train is an eco-friendly way to travel to England’s azure south-west coast. Journeying through the night, you can enjoy comfy beds and a range of on-board facilities, before waking up to sandy beaches, glittering bays and bustling fishing villages. Those looking to cut their carbon footprint will also find there’s a range of sustainable experiences to enjoy at destinations en route, from bike trails in Bodmin to the Eden Project’s glittering biomes, to name just a few.
One of the earliest stops on this journey to the south-west is Exeter, Devon. Nestled within centuries-old city walls and home to a 900-year old gothic cathedral, this is a city steeped in heritage. Those jumping off to explore the Devon coastline can plan a trip to nearby Exmouth, the western gateway to the epic Jurassic Coast UNESCO World Heritage site. Home to Exe Estuary, which is known for migrating birds including rare avocets (the symbol of the RSPB), Exmouth is just a short bus ride from Orcombe Point, which marks the start of the dramatic coastal trail and its 185-million-year history. Step into the past on the Jurassic Coast hopscotch and trace the progress of time at the Geoneedle, a sculpture revealing the different rock types dating from the Triassic, Jurassic and Cretaceous periods. You can don your walking boots to discover the entire 96 miles (154km) of Jurassic coastline, or explore the secrets of the shoreline on a circular cruise with an expert guide.
Eco experience: Those wanting to toast their arrival can plan a tour of Exeter’s Two Drifter’s distillery – a chance to see how they make their carbon-negative rum. Accessible by car or bus, the tours cost £20 per person and last 90 minutes.
The Night Riviera also stops in St Austell, Cornwall, a spot packed with coastal and horticultural highlights. Whether you want to immerse themselves in greenery at the 200-acre Lost Gardens of Heligan, home to a national collection of camellias and rhododendrons, or explore the area’s sandy beaches, St Austell is a great addition to an eco-friendly itinerary, with many attractions accessible via public transport. Those wanting to enjoy a touch of adventure can also include some water sports on the nearby beach of Pentewan, where Cornwall Watersports rent kayaks, stand-up paddle boards and windsurfing equipment.
Eco experience: A futuristic project focused on protecting the world’s biodiversity, the Eden Project is bursting with environmentally-focused experiences. If you’re a nature lover, you can look forward to walks through the large, globe-like biomes housing the largest exotic rainforest in captivity, as well as the vibrant outside gardens and permanent exhibitions.
Found just a few miles from St Austell train station, tickets to the Eden Project start from £29.50 for an adult and £10 for a child aged 5-16, under 5s go free.
Cycling fans can look forward to a trip starting at Bodmin Parkway - known as one of Cornwall’s cycling hotspots. Those longing for a two-wheeled adventure can cycle to the coast on the Camel Trail, which follows a disused railway along the Camel Estuary and connects Bodmin Parkway to the famous port town of Padstow. Alternatively, those with a penchant for the past can make note of Lanhydrock, a grand Victorian manor house with formal gardens and wooded estate. Home to rare species including palmate newts and oil beetles, this historic site is the subject of continual conservation work thanks to a network of volunteers, and can be found under three miles from the train station.
There is also the newly renovated Bodmin Jail, an 18th century building brimming with immersive experiences taking you through the area’s dark history – there’s even a four-star boutique hotel on the grounds.
Eco experience: Those longing for a completely stripped-back getaway can add the Danish cabin, tipis or tree tents at Kudhva to their travel list. Expect strikingly simple, sustainable design that showcases all of the area’s natural beauty throughout the open-plan living spaces. Providing you with an unforgettable off-grid experience, this ultra-cool glamping site is easily accessible and is only 20 miles from Bodmin Parkway.
Once a haven for sea traders and smugglers, another stop on the sleeper train is the market town of Penzance. Home to a quaint harbour, it is also just a short drive to Marazion, the location of St Michael’s Mount. A natural tidal island topped with a majestic church, this picture-perfect landmark is rumoured to be a filming location for House of the Dragon, the prequel to Game of Thrones. Penzance itself overlooks the meeting of the English Channel and Atlantic Ocean and keen explorers can look forward to discovering Land’s End, nine miles from Penzance. As England’s most westerly point, it gives expansive views of the azure blue coastline as far as the eye can see.
Eco experiences: This destination is also a top surf spot – ideal for those longing to be at one with the waves. Future surfers can book a session at Sennen Surfing Centre, with single lessons starting at £35. Alternatively, foodies can plan an eco-focused foraging experience - from seaweed to wild foods - with Fat Hen Wild Cookery School Courses, which start at £225.
The start and end point of the Night Riviera sleeper train is Paddington, west London. Sandwiched between Hyde Park and Regent’s Park, with Baker Street and Notting Hill also close by, it is an ideal hub for soaking up the history and culture of the capital, often with an eco-friendly twist.
Eco experience: You will be able to continue your getaway by replacing a sight-seeing tour on the bustling roads with a self-driven boat ride. Passing Little Venice, Regent’s Park and through to Camden Lock, the Go Boat offers a fun and traffic-free way to explore London’s sights – there’s even a picnic table to enjoy a bite along the way. Alternatively, see conservation in action at London Zoo, located in the heart of Regent’s Park.
The Night Riviera Sleeper train comes with the choice of single or double occupancy cabins, complete with comfy bunks, handy storage and a complimentary breakfast. Alternatively, there’s the option to skip the cabin and book a single seat, for a budget-friendly experience without the frills. All options are best booked in advance to grab them at the lowest price. You can also enjoy the on-board lounge bar, complete with a range of drinks and light bites.
Restrictions on travel to and around Britain are in place due to Covid-19. You are encouraged to always check individual websites for the latest information, as details are subject to change.