Belmond's British Pullman, an elegant English sister train of the Venice-Simplon-Orient Express, is a luxury passenger line combining the nostalgic joys of rail travel with the comfort and efficiency of the information age.
In others, it is a multifaceted museum on rails, with each of its eleven flawlessly restored vintage railcars boasting a distinct history, character, and style (including one recently remodeled by renowned director Wes Anderson).
Consequently, the British Pullman is often advertised as resurrecting a forgotten age when "to travel was more than just simply to arrive."
In other words, the train's onboard features are so impressive that tickets would be worth their considerable cost (about $490 on average) regardless of where it traveled to.
If there is one drawback to this marketing strategy, it is the inevitable tendency to insufficiently feature the destinations in question.
After all, while the amenities and facilities on the British Pullman are unforgettable, the cities it visits and the landscapes it traverses are no less remarkable.
On the contrary, though its routes seamlessly incorporate the culinary decadence of an upscale soirée with the Art Deco luxe of a bygone era, the British Pullman is, at its heart, a touristic passenger train connecting England's capital to many of the country's most celebrated locales.
Below, prospective travelers will find an overview of popular British Pullman destinations. While by no means exhaustive, this list features many of the Belmond train's best offerings.
Since England's golden age of rail travel, the national southwest has been a popular destination for leisure tourists. For the better part of the twentieth century, historic lines conveyed wealthy travelers to various destinations along its coast.
The Torquay Pullman Limited, for instance, brought passengers to the eponymous seaside town of Torquay, whose temperate climate and relaxed ambiance inspired its nickname, the 'English Riviera.'
The region is arguably best known for its Jurassic Coast, an archeological wonder housing a trove of paleolithic fossils along its breathtaking shoreline.
Similarly, it boasts the spectacular Cotswolds: a rolling expanse of grassy hills whose beauty is such that Hollywood managed to pass them off as the magnificent Scottish Highlands in the 1995 film Braveheart.
Nowadays, travelers can journey on board the British Pullman through the lovely knolls and pastures of Somerset County, where their train calls at Bath, a historic municipality on the limestone shoulder of the Cotswolds.
Many of Bath's ornate pillars, stately busts, and regal pavilions—not to mention its eponymous Roman baths—are fittingly carved from Cotswold stone: a locally abundant resource with a pearl-white sheen akin to alabaster.
The resulting moonstone-like luster of Bath's architecture is complemented by the glassy current of the River Avon, which flows through the heart of the city.
British Pullman passengers visiting Bath will find themselves transported to a city of timeless and world-renowned splendor: a UNESCO World Heritage Site consistently ranked among the "Great Spa Towns of Europe."
Here, travelers can wander through the city's ancient streets, follow a complimentary guided tour of its local landmarks, or else enjoy a luxurious treatment at the rooftop Thermae Spa: Great Britain's only natural thermal spa.
The British Pullman also offers weekend trips to the former Celtic stronghold of Cornwall, where travelers are immersed in the lush beauty of the Cornish coast: an area characterized by wild moorlands, sheer cliffs, and rugged shores.
Here, passengers visit the quixotic harbor village of Falmouth, where they enjoy, among other luxuries, gourmet lunch with a sea view at the Idle Rocks Hotel, a trip to the National Maritime Museum of Cornwall, and two nights at the fabulous Royal Duchy Hotel on the Falmouth shorefront.
Most British Pullman trips to Cornwall also feature visits to at least one of Falmouth's neighboring towns, such as Fowey and St. Mawes, where ancient castles and bustling ports emphasize the natural grandeur of the Channel coast.
The immense touristic popularity of this province is predominantly a result of its verdant landscape, which typifies many of the serene, pastoral features frequently celebrated in English art and poetry.
Passengers on any of the British Pullman's Oxfordshire routes will be offered endless views of its glorious countryside, whose venerable forests, vast fields of wildflowers and mist-shrouded waterways inspired the legendary beauty of Middle Earth (in particular, its aptly named Shire), as described in several of J.R.R. Tolkien's greatest works, including his classic Lord of the Rings trilogy.
One of the British Pullman's trips through Oxfordshire is its specialty gastronomic tour to Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons, Belmond's luxury hotel in Great Milton: a bucolic village on the outskirts of Oxford known for its manicured gardens and old-fashioned charm.
Here, passengers are warmly welcomed into the hotel's double Michelin-starred restaurant, where they enjoy a three-course gourmet lunch, followed by a sumptuous two-course dessert back onboard.
Another British Pullman journey calls in central Oxford itself—a fierce contender for England's most picturesque city.
Characterized by a palpable sense of historicity, with cobblestone squares, ancient stone castles, and lamp-lit alleyways—to say nothing of its 39 regal colleges, collectively comprising the oldest English-speaking university in the world—Oxford possesses an imperious beauty to rival that of any continental European city.
A free guided tour of Oxford is offered to all British Pullman passengers, but more independent travelers can opt to amble through the city along their own paths: exploring its tranquil canals, world-famous landmarks, and charming historic pubs.
Formerly a base for M15 operations during World War II, Blenheim has more recently seen use as a featured set-piece on a truly impressive number of film and television productions. With 71 such onscreen appearances as of 2021, it is currently considered the most-featured country house in the nation.
The only non-royal country estate in all of England to hold the title of 'palace,' Blenheim more than lives up to the lavish standard that its name implies.
Its sweeping grounds—made up of magnificent Italian gardens featuring labyrinthine hedges and an ornate mermaid fountain—are crowned by an architectural tour de force in the rarely-seen English Baroque style, complete with painted ceilings, majestic water terraces, and delicately carved marquetry.
Additional British Pullman journeys call in Hampshire, a quintessential province on the English Channel coast, formerly home to some of the most famous authors in England's literary corpus, including Charles Dickens and Jane Austen.
On these journeys, the castle and grounds are open exclusively to British Pullman passengers, who are treated to a private tour of the same.
The advantage of such exclusive access to this particular castle is difficult to overstate, given the frequently enormous and occasionally distracting crowds that it draws.
This is because Highclere, like Blenheim, is no stranger to the silver screen: in 1999, the castle featured prominently in Eyes Wide Shut, Stanley Kubrick’s sordidly captivating tale of lechery, fidelity, opulence, and intrigue. More recently, it served as the primary filming location for the much-loved drama Downton Abbey.
In the county of East Sussex, various British Pullman journeys call at Hastings, an enchanting seaside town best known for the legendary 1066 Battle of Hastings, which marked the start of the Norman Conquest.
In addition to windswept pebble beaches and panoramic views of the English Channel, British Pullman passengers in Hastings can experience the stark, imposing beauty of its prominent Saxon ruin, Hastings Castle, stunningly framed against the nation's southern coast.
Another East Sussex trip on the British Pullman visits the vibrant coastal city of Brighton.
This immensely scenic journey follows the route once plied by the Brighton Belle: the world's first all-electric Pullman train and one of the most glamorous services in the history of English rail travel.
Passengers on British Pullman outings to Brighton disembark for a leisurely afternoon in the avant-garde heart of his fabulously queer-friendly resort town, where they can admire the artisanship of its regal Georgian terraces, explore the stately gardens of its Royal Pavilion, or wander along its seaside promenade.
Fittingly, three historic railcars once operating on the Brighton Belle (all favorites of the English royal family) have since been purchased and restored by Belmond and put to use on the British Pullman itself.
On its Golden Age of Travel specialty historical tour, the British Pullman offers travelers a steam-hauled journey through Kent's majestic countryside.
This 1920s-inspired voyage captures the era's extravagance and glamour, complete with a lavish five-course lunch. Unsurprisingly, it is one of the train's most popular and frequently sold-out experiences.
Nicknamed the 'Garden of England' for the Edenic lushness of its orchards and vineyards, Kent's timeless beauty makes it an ideal destination for a luxury rail voyage that combines lavish onboard amenities with the splendor of the English countryside.
Another of the British Pullman's most popular journeys, also based in Kent, is its historically inspired traversal of the route once plied by the glamorous Golden Arrow: a luxury service that ran between London and Dover from 1929 until 1972.
On its exclusive modern re-creation of the Golden Arrow's journey, the British Pullman is hauled along the English leg of its predecessor's route by the SR Merchant Navy Class 35028 Clan Line: a vintage steam locomotive constructed in 1948, which also hauled the original Golden Arrow train.
Passengers on this route will experience firsthand many of Dover's most renowned characteristics, including its eleventh-century castle, South Foreland Lighthouse, and of course, the White Cliffs of Dover, whose ancient, melancholy beauty has inspired generations of poets, playwrights, artists, and musicians.
In addition to its restored railcars from the historic Brighton Belle, the British Pullman features six vintage cars from the Golden Arrow's original lineup.
Perhaps best known as the iconic locale of Chaucer's 1387 Canterbury Tales—or else, as the site of Archbishop Thomas Beckett's infamous 1170 assassination—the city of Canterbury is another enormously popular British Pullman destination based in Kent.
During an afternoon visit to Canterbury, travelers on the British Pullman can experience the venerable churchyards, peaceful waterways, and divine English gardens underpinning the richly storied, occasionally bloodstained past of this medieval town, which once represented the essential crossroads of England's uncertain future.
Additional British Pullman routes connecting London with Kent include those to the quaint seaside villages of Whitstable and Broadstairs. In Whitstable, British Pullman passengers can explore the town's ancient harbor, as well as its whimsical array of shops and eateries.
In Broadstairs, on the Isle of Thanet, they can visit the famed Viking Bay—a stunning, crescent-shaped strip of coastline that was once the preferred holiday retreat of legendary writer Charles Dickens—or else take a scenic stroll along the town's clifftop promenade, with ts peerless views and vintage ice cream parlors.
Characterized by regal vales and the gently sloping beechwood Hills of Chiltern, Buckinghamshire is not just a scenic delight but home to many of England's grandest estates.
Drawing from the classic elegance of French châteaux, this estate boasts minaret-style roofs, a balustraded terrace, and acre upon acre of meticulously tended parterre gardens.
British Pullman guests enjoy a private guided tour of the lavish mansion, whose stunning interior includes eighteenth-century furniture, Sèvres porcelain, Savonnerie carpets, portraits by Dutch and Flemish masters, and priceless works of Renaissance art.
East of England
Bordered by the North Sea and home to the wild Fens, the rugged East of England is set apart by the sparse and almost desolate quality of its beauty: a forlorn expanse of windswept cliffs and crumbling monasteries strewn along a foggy coast.
On the first stop in their journey, passengers experience the city of Cambridge's gorgeous architecture, state-of-the-art museums, and of course, its prestigious university, whose reputation and pedigree rival even those of its more ancient counterpart, the University of Oxford.
Next, passengers are ushered back on board the British Pullman for a glass of chilled champagne and a brief, scenic journey to the neighboring town of Ely.
Here, they can explore the breathtaking local cathedral, a Romanesque vision comprised of immense symmetrical arches and kaleidoscopic stained-glass apertures, crowned by the eight prismatic facets of its magnificent Octagon Tower.
Additional British Pullman routes traverse East Anglia, known for its low-lying marshlands and wandering rivers, often shrouded in the incandescent, dreamlike mists said to have inspired those of legendary Avalon.
Here, the British Pullman calls at Sandringham House, a royal residence of Queen Elizabeth II, perched on 20,000 acres of the idyllic English countryside.
Featuring landscaped gardens, pensive woodlands, and a bold, unusual pairing of red brick and limestone on its exterior walls, this Jacobean manor was first opened to the public in 1977 to mark the Queen's Silver Jubilee Year.
Nowadays, British Pullman passengers enjoy leisurely private tours of Sandringham House's interior, with opportunities to admire its Curzon Street Baroque-influenced saloon, regal ballroom, and spacious dining room adorned with handmade Spanish tapestries, including several by the legendary Romantic master, Goya.
Afterward, guests are given free time to explore, during which many pay a visit to the manor's museum to peruse its fascinating array of vintage automobiles belonging to past generations of the English royal family.
Others opt to stroll through its magnificent gardens: some 60 acres of camellia and magnolia trees, redwoods and oaks, rhododendron and azalea shrubs, beds of lavender and roses, and countless other species of trees and flowers, many of them exceptionally rare.