It’s a New Year and the coming months are brimming with opportunity. Make sure you take the time to step outside your comfort zone and explore exciting new destinations that are just a train journey away. A trip doesn’t need to cost you an arm and a leg, either, and you can make savings by booking tickets in advance. Here’s the inspiration you need to plan your next adventure…
Exeter’s rich history can be found in the very fabric of the city. To this day, more than half of the destination’s ancient city walls, dating back nearly 2000 years, still remain and can be seen in and around the town centre. Beneath ground is a system of medieval tunnels that were once used as a water supply and can be visited on Paris Street.
Make sure you go to Exeter Cathedral – undoubtedly one of the finest Gothic structures in the country. Impressive both inside and out, with a beautifully-intricate vaulted ceiling, it is well worth a visit.
Take GWR train to Exeter Central
As the UK’s only island city – there’s a creek separating it from the mainland – Portsmouth is strongly associated with seafaring and is considered the home of the Royal Navy. There are loads of old naval ships that you can visit, including the grand HMS Victory, which was Nelson’s flagship during the Battle of Trafalgar, and the 500-year-old shipwreck of the Mary Rose.
The Emirates Spinnaker Tower offers top views of Portsmouth and the surrounding area. Head there with family to gawk at the scenery, or enjoy a relaxing high tea with friends – 170 metres off the ground – best enjoyed with a bottle of bubbly.
Take GWR train to Portsmouth & Southsea
The southernmost city in the UK, Truro is the perfect spot to set up base when exploring the Cornish countryside. It’s got everything you’d expect from a destination of this size, including some of the larger shopping chains, but there’s a distinctly local feel in and around the cathedral, where you can find boutique shops and cafes.
Find out about the region’s rich heritage at the Royal Cornwall Museum, where you can discover everything from local Bronze Age gold jewellery to an old Cornish pound – legitimate currency back in 1808.
Take GWR train to Truro
The country’s capital is jam-packed with fun things to do and can easily sustain several visits per year. If you’re on a tight budget, remember that a valid train ticket entitles you to 2for1 entry at some of the city’s best-loved attractions, including Tower of London, The London Dungeon, Kew Gardens, London Transport Museum, plus loads more.
Take GWR train to Paddington
Wales’ second city is the perfect place to begin an exploration of one of the country’s prettiest stretches of coast, full of award-winning beaches. It’s also a fun spot to hang out, with an epic indoor waterpark conveniently located next to the National Waterfront Museum, which gives a fascinating insight into the area’s industrial heritage and more.
Glynn Vivian Art Gallery has a wide-ranging collection that includes work by Welsh painters and old masters, as well as hosting an exhibition by contemporary artist Yinka Shonibare until 24 February.
Take GWR train to Swansea
Just a short journey from Stonehenge, one of the world’s best-known prehistoric sites, Salisbury is a great place to get in touch with your inner druid and explore the wider Wiltshire countryside. The city itself is jam-packed with medieval buildings, many of them still used today, and is home to what is purported to be the oldest purpose-built hotel in Europe, the Red Lion.
The Wiltshire city is home to one of the finest cathedrals in the country. Built during the 13th and 14th centuries, it is simply one of the most impressive buildings you’re likely to encounter, with the tallest church spire in the UK.
Take GWR train to Salisbury
Bristol is one of the country’s liveliest cities and home to the production companies that made hit TV shows Sherlock and Wallace & Gromit. It’s the perfect place to discover masterpieces by Great Western Railway’s chief engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel, including the Clifton Suspension Bridge and former passenger steamer SS Great Britain.
Take GWR train to Bristol Temple Meads
Another one of Britain’s great port cities, Plymouth has been the point of embarkation for many an intrepid explorer, among them Sir Francis Drake and James Cook. Today, the city is a great place to visit, with exceptional sea views and loads of spots to eat, drink and relax.
The National Marine Aquarium has over 4000 animals, including sharks, turtles and a giant Pacific octopus.
Take GWR train to Plymouth