Britain’s railways have romantic history. It began with steam trains and blossomed into a golden age of opulent rail travel during the 1930s. The heady romance may have gone from everyday rail travel, but it still lives on in the Orient-Express.
The Orient-Express became an iconic form of travel in the stylish art deco era of the 1930s. It earned a reputation for comfort and luxury for both its sleeper cars and onboard restaurants, which played host to royalty, nobles, diplomats, business people and the bourgeoisie.
Although there are a number of modern Orient-Express routes operating in Europe, only a few capture the original romance of the railways in its art deco heyday. Britain is lucky enough to have three of these: the Northern Belle, British Bullman and The Royal Scotsman.
The Northern Belle was modelled on the classic ‘Belle’ trains of the 1930s. It entered service in 2000 as a sister to the highly successful British Pullman train of the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express.
Known as the ‘Orient-Express of the North’, the Northern Belle provides day excursions and short breaks throughout the UK, including romantic weekends from London to destinations like Edinburgh (from £825) and the Lake District (£675).
The Northern Belle combines luxurious accommodation and fine dining with some of Britain’s most beautiful scenery as the backdrop to a memorable journey. The Northern Belle passes by dramatic castles, rolling countryside, tiny villages and great cities.
Another quintessential Orient-Express experience is offered by the British Pullman, named after George Mortimer Pullman, who designed the first luxurious railway carriages back in 1864 and pioneered the domination of luxury train travel in Britain.
The opulent art deco surroundings of these original Pullman carriages, all built in the 1920s and 30s, transport passengers into the past. These luxury carriages would take passengers from London to the English Channel ports as part of the famous Venice Simplon-Orient-Express as well as travelling the length and breadth of Britain. Today, the British Pullman escorts passengers on a variety of day and weekend trips from London and other cities to spectacular UK destinations.
The Orient-Express offers a short break in London combining a stay at The Ritz with a gourmet dining experience onboard the British Bullman. Guests check into The Ritz before boarding the train at Victoria Station and travelling into the Home Counties for dinner. After dinner is served, guests will soak up the atmosphere by enjoying smooth live jazz before the British Pullman slowly glides back to reality at London Victoria. Return to the Ritz for an overnight stay. This break costs £475 per person.
In Scotland, The Royal Scotsman keeps the romance alive and its journey is regarded as one of the world’s greatest travel experiences. The Pullman carriages also feature a unique open-ended observation car, which allows passengers the best views as they journey to the heart of the breathtaking Highlands. Passengers can disembark along the way to visit exceptional places of interest, such as private residences or whiskey distilleries. A two-night Highland experience on The Royal Scotsman starts from £1,680, including onboard accommodation in a sleeper carriage and meals.