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8 Unmissable Christmas Train Rides in the UK

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How many of us read The Polar Express – or watched the film – and dreamt of taking that magical train ride to the North Pole? For children today, that dream can become reality (sort of), with an abundance of Christmas train experiences across the country. If you want to bring the magic to real life for your kids, these are the best Christmas train rides in the UK

Dartmouth Steam Railway Train of Lights

The Dartmouth Steam Railway Train of Lights begins at Queen’s Park Station in Paignton, taking you through Churston Station and then around the Dartmouth countryside for a true Christmas train ride experience. The vintage carriages are decorated with thousands of lights, which are majestic when travelling through the Greenway tunnel and enchanted forest. You’ll be treated to an incredible view of the Dartmouth Christmas lights reflecting on the river Dart before you arrive back at your destination (Paignton – not the North Pole).

Churnet Valley Railway Polar Express

Beginning at Froghall Station in Staffordshire, the Churnet Valley Railway Polar Express train journey is an hour of pure Christmas heaven. You begin by being served hot chocolate and cookies by singing chefs. Christmas lights twinkle in every carriage as the train pulls away, taking you through the past the northern lights. Santa will be onboard to hand out presents to all children, and he’ll even sign your copy of The Polar Express if you purchased it from Churnet Valley Railway. If that isn’t enough magic for you, a bite to eat in Christmas town awaits you when you arrive back at Froghall Station.

North York Moors Railway Santa Specials

Perhaps less glitz and glamour than The Polar Express but no less magical, the North York Moors Railway Santa Specials is a more traditional take on the Christmas steam train. Santa Claus wanders through the heritage carriages to meet and give special gifts to all children onboard, with gifts relevant for children from 1 to 15. It’s the ideal Christmas train journey for parents too, with a full hour to admire the stunning views of the Moors in winter.

Severn Valley Railway Santa Specials

The Severn Valley Railway Santa Specials experience makes the magic happen both on and off the train. From the beginning – Kidderminster Station – to end, every train station is beautifully decorated to make your whole journey as magical as possible. Take your drink and sweet treat and settle down in your private compartment, before hopping off the train for the Jingle and Jangle Christmas show. When you’re back on and ready to head to Kidderminster, you’ll find Santa has finished work and left a special gift for each child onboard

Wensleydale Railway Polar Express

The Wensleydale Railway Polar Express begins at Leeming Bar Station, where you’ll embark for the North Pole with hot chocolate and cookie in hand. Meet all the favourite characters from the book and film, including the conductor, the singing chefs, and the hobo. Once you reach the North Pole, Santa Claus himself will hop on to give every child their first gift of Christmas – a silver sleigh bell. Throughout the magical Christmas train journey, the singing chefs will read you The Polar Express, so you really do live out the story.

Great Central Railway Santa Steam Trains

Meet Santa and receive your first gift this Christmas on the Great Central Railway Santa Steam Train. Beginning at Loughborough Central Station, you’ll be transported across the Leicestershire countryside to Leicester North, with stunning views outside every window. This award-winning Christmas train ride experience provides enough festive food and drink to passengers to keep the whole family refreshed. If you’re looking for a more dazzling experience, you can also opt for the Winter Wonderlights journey along the same railway.

South Devon Railways Polar Express

Hop on at South Devon Railway to begin your magical Polar Express adventure to the North Pole. As with all Polar Express journeys, you’ll be greeted with hot chocolate and cookies by the singing chefs, who will also be tellers of the original story throughout the journey. All your children’s favourite characters from the book and film will be present, with a special appearance from Santa as soon as you reach the North Pole. If you purchase a copy of the book through South Devon Railways, you can have it signed by the man himself – something to help your children remember their special day out.

Bure Valley Railway Festive Express

Starting at Aylsham Station, the Bure Valley Railway Festive Express is an hour of festive fun for all ages. You’ll be welcomed with refreshments to take on your adventure, which will take place in your own heated and private compartment. You’ll then depart for the beautifully decorated Brampton Station on a journey through the stunning UK countryside. As you make your way back to where you began, Santa and his elves will be ready and waiting to greet you in his grotto.


If you’re planning a trip to one of the best Christmas train rides in the UK, don’t forget to book an Advance ticket via our website or our Train Tickets app. You can also find information on how to get cheaper train tickets via our special offers page. If you need more information, you can contact us here.

The UK is bursting with fun activities. Whether you’re visiting one of the best castles in the UK, the best theme parks in the UK, or the best waterparks in the UK, you can always travel by train. CrossCountry has services running up and down the country to ensure you can get to the places you need to be.

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