Train rides are a lot of fun, especially if you are a kid, and at Christmas they can bring that extra bit of spirit to the season. Festive Christmas train rides have become a beloved tradition across the United Kingdom.
From Scotland to Cornwall, steam trains are decorated with festive decorations, and passengers are treated to a magical journey through the beautiful winter UK scenery.
These train rides offer a unique and unforgettable experience for families during the holiday season, with many including visits from Santa Claus himself and opportunities to meet him and receive a gift.
From the Spa Valley Railway in Kent to the Lappa Valley Steam Railway in Cornwall, there are many Christmas train rides to choose from, each offering their own unique twist on the festive theme.
Christmas train rides UK offer a true festive experience and make for a great family day out. Kids of all ages can tag along and of course, a visit from Santa is included. Steam train rides are located all over the country, so here is a list of rides that may be near you.
Polar Express Train Ride UK
Polar express train rides became popular in the UK after the film with the same name was released. The film was full of magic and a Christmas train ride is sure to offer the magical experience that kids loved in the film.
The Polar Express Train Ride is an immersive Christmas experience based on the beloved children’s book with trains departing from various locations throughout the UK, including London, Edinburgh, and Birmingham.
During the journey, passengers can enjoy hot chocolate and cookies, meet Santa Claus, and sing Christmas carols.
However, if you haven’t read the story or watched the film then now is the perfect time to do it. You can grab a copy here. If you have the book at home, then you could bring it along. Some train rides may even tell the story during your ride.
Steam train rides Yorkshire
For a polar express train in the UK that lets you relive the film, then head to Wensleydale Railway. It is hugely popular and your journey will start at Leaming bus Station, just like the movie.
All of your favourite characters will be there and families are encouraged to wear their PJs. Throughout the journey, the story will be retold by the singing Chefs. Families can watch the events unfold while sipping their hot chocolate and eating their cookie.
The Wensleydale Railway is transformed into a winter wonderland, with festive decorations, music, and entertainment. The steam trains are decked out in Christmas lights and decorations, and Santa Claus himself makes an appearance on board the train to meet and greet the passengers.
Each child receives a gift, a Silver Sleigh Bell and if you have purchased the book, Santa may even sign it for you.
On returning back to the station, children get to check if they are on the naughty or nice list. They also get to write their own list to Santa. It is an enchanting experience that families are sure to remember.
Don’t worry if you are not in Yorkshire. The Polar Express runs from multiple locations around the UK. Some even offer an overnight stay for you to make the most of it.
Polar Express North Yorkshire
Santa Claus and his helpers walk through the heritage carriages. If the children have made the nice list, they hand out special presents. The children get to spend a few moments with Santa before he moves on to the next family. The train ride lasts about an hour from either departure station.
The Polar Express steam train ride departs from the Pickering station on the North Yorkshire Moors Railway. The railway runs through 18 miles of beautiful countryside, from Pickering to Grosmont, passing through the North York Moors National Park along the way.
Passengers can also purchase souvenir merchandise, including a silver bell, just like in the story.
The tickets usually sell out quickly and booking in advance is required.
Steam Train Rides, Midlands
Out in the Midlands, there is the award-winning Santa Express. Great Central Railway in Leicestershire is inviting parents and children to board their beautifully restored compartment coaches.
During the Santa Express, passengers board the steam train at Loughborough Station, where they are greeted by Santa Claus and his elves. The train is decked out in festive decorations, and passengers are encouraged to wear their Christmas jumpers and hats.
Christmas train rides UK are all about the children so there are sweets and drinks ready at the station. Father Christmas makes a surprise visit to families onboard to deliver your child’s gift.
Festive refreshments are included in the price but if you are still peckish after the Santa train ride then check out the Butler Henderson Café and nostalgic Tin Shed Shanty bar for some hot food and mulled wine.
The station yard has a Christmas village and plenty of Christmas cheer. Present your ticket and families can enter the yard for free.
They have two services to choose from, the Santa Special and the Santa Deluxe with the latter being an extended journey time, which means more time with Santa and less passengers on board this premium service.
Dates for the Santa Express service are : Sat 26 & Sun 27 Nov, *Wed 30 Nov, Sat 3 & Sun 4 Dec, *Wed 7 Dec, Sat 10 & Sun 11 Dec, *Wed 14 Dec, Fri 16 Dec – Sat 24 December
Dates for the Santa Deluxe service are : Sat 3 & Sun 4 Dec, Sat 10 & Sun 11 Dec, Sat 17 – Sat 24 December
Steam Train Rides, West Midlands
In the West Midlands, this magical journey starts in Staffordshire. Churnet Valley Railway invites families to jump on board the Polar Express and take a journey on the outskirts of the Peak District.
Their Santa Express steam train ride follows the theme of the Polar Express, with the story being told onboard along with the children getting the chance to see Santa and his helpers.
The railway runs for around 10.5 miles from Froghall Station, passing through the Churnet Valley and the Staffordshire Moorlands along the way. The journey takes around 45mins each way.
During the steam train journey, passengers can sit back and relax in the comfortable carriages, while enjoying the show onboard while the steam train makes its way through the rolling hills, meadows, and woodlands.
The Churnet Valley Railway is located around 10 miles east of Stoke-on-Trent, making it easily accessible by car or public transportation. It’s a great day out for families and steam train enthusiasts, and a wonderful way to explore the stunning scenery of the Staffordshire countryside on the outskirts of the Peak District.
Welsh Steam Train Rides
The Gwili Railway in Carmarthen, Wales offers a special event called the “Santa Special” during the Christmas season. The event is a popular attraction for families and children, providing a magical experience in the beautiful Welsh countryside.
During the Santa Special, passengers board a steam train at Bronwydd Arms Station, which is decorated for the festive season. The train ride lasts for approximately 1.5 hours, taking passengers on a journey through the stunning Gwili Valley. Along the way, passengers can enjoy the views of the Welsh countryside while listening to festive music.
Santa will visit each carriage during the train ride, handing out presents to all children 11 and under on board. There are also refreshments available, including mince pies and mulled wine, to add to the festive atmosphere.
Tickets for the Santa Special can be booked in advance on the Gwili Railway website, and are usually in high demand, so it’s recommended to book early to avoid disappointment. The event is a wonderful way to celebrate the festive season with family and friends, and a great opportunity to experience the charm of a traditional steam train ride.
The Gwili Railway is a heritage railway that runs for around four and a half miles through the Gwili Valley. The railway is run by volunteers who are passionate about preserving and sharing the heritage of steam trains and the railway industry. The railway also offers other special events throughout the year, including dining experiences and themed train rides.
Steam Train Rides in Wales
Santa train rides may have become popular due to the Polar Express film but some families have been catching the train to Santa’s grotto for years now. The Brecon Mountain Railway is celebrating its 33rd year.
The Brecon Mountain Railway is a narrow-gauge heritage railway that runs for around 5 miles through the Brecon Beacons National Park.
Guests get to travel from Pant Station to Santa’s Grotto in Pontsticill. The Steam Hauled train takes families to receive an age-appropriate gift from Santa. They haven’t forgotten about the parents either. Mulled wine and mince pies will be available onboard.
During the Santa Special, passengers board the steam train at Pant Station and embark on a journey through the Brecon Beacons National Park, with views of the mountains and valleys. The train ride lasts for approximately 1.5 hours, and includes festive music and entertainment.
Train rides start from the end of November and like other Christmas train rides UK it is sure to be a popular event and tickets are likely to sell out quickly.
Steam train rides Scotland
The Strathspey Railway in Scotland offers a special event during the Christmas season called the “Santa Express”. The event is a popular attraction for families and children, providing a magical experience in the beautiful Scottish Highlands.
During the Santa Express, passengers board a steam train at Aviemore Station and embark on a journey through the Cairngorms National Park. The train ride lasts for approximately one hour, and includes festive music and entertainment.
Tickets for the Santa Express can be booked in advance on the Strathspey Railway website, and are usually in high demand, so it’s recommended to book early to avoid disappointment.
The event is a wonderful way to celebrate the festive season with family and friends, and a great opportunity to experience the charm of a traditional steam train ride in the beautiful Scottish Highlands.
Xmas Train Rides, Scotland
The Santa Steam Train at Bo’Ness and Kinel Railway is a popular Christmas-themed train ride that departs from the Bo’ness Railway Station in Bo’ness, Scotland. This festive ride is operated by the Scottish Railway Preservation Society and takes passengers on a nostalgic journey through the beautiful countryside of the Forth Valley.
During the Santa Steam Train ride, passengers are treated to a scenic journey aboard a beautifully restored steam train. Children can complete a Christmas wish list to post in the Christmas letter box.
The Steam Train is decorated with festive decorations, and Santa Claus himself visits each passenger carriage to deliver gifts to all the children on board.
The train departs from Bo’ness Railway Station and travels along the historic railway line to Birkhill Station. The journey takes approximately 1 hour and 15 minutes, and passengers can enjoy stunning views of the countryside along the way.
The Santa Steam Train Ride departs 2, 3, 9, 10, 16, 17, 23 or 24 December 2023!
Steam Train Rides, Kent
In Kent, there are many scenic train rides UK. The Santa train does not disappoint as passengers travel through the breathtaking Kent and Sussex countryside from Eridge to Tunbridge Wells.
Spa Valley Railway are also upgrading to the Polar Express this year. It is organised by an outside company and all of the details are on the website.
Passengers are encouraged to wear pyjamas to join in the festive atmosphere on board the Polar Express with hot chocolate and cookies being served while they enjoy the ride. Santa Claus himself makes an appearance on board the train, giving out gifts to all the children.
Steam Train Rides Cornwall
It is not surprising to find a Christmas train in Cornwall. Lappa Valley is located in 35 acres of Cornish woodland. It not only has a Santa train, but it has some of the best things to do in Cornwall with kids. In fact, there is plenty to keep little ones busy all day. The journey starts when you board a nostalgic train and ride it through the wooded valley into Lappa.
Kids can collect their presents from Santa in his grotto. There is balloon modelling and music galore. While you are there you can also take advantage of the play areas or go for a woodland walk.
Tickets can be booked online and all bookings are seated together.
Steam Train Rides Devon
Technically this is not a train ride. The Polar Express tram ride sets off from Seaton Tramway in Devon. Families are able to visit Santa’s home in the North Pole in one of the decorated tram cars. The journey is around 2.5 hours and there is plenty to do onboard.
You can enjoy a cup of hot chocolate and a special treat. Then take in the lights and speak to Santa as you walk around the North Pole. There Santa himself gives each child their special gift and then Christmas carols will be sung on the journey home.
This Polar Express ride UK runs throughout November and December and tickets online.
Steam Train Rides in Essex
Audley End Miniature Railway is nestled in the Estate Woodland. This Christmas you can find a magical winter wonderland there too. The Santa express takes you through the woods, for you and your family to meet Santa Claus and his elves. There you can pick up your gift and watch a special Christmas dance.
The adventure doesn’t end there as you are led to the Gingerbread house to hear what mischief the resident fairy and elf have been up to. The kids can burn off some energy at the adventure playground while parents can grab a drink at the cafe.
There are activities set up for kids to make their own reindeer food and write a letter to be sent to Santa at the North pole. Kids don’t just get to meet Father Christmas as Mother Christmas is there too with an interactive show of her own.
Like all Christmas train rides UK, tickets need to be booked in advance.
Steam Train Rides, London
At Epping Ongar Railway in London Santa is returning and is onboard and families ride through the Essex countryside. Perfect for those spending Christmas in London with kids or for a quick break in a hotel in London.
During this special and festive journey, passengers are treated to a specially designed show that highlights the beautiful rural setting, woodlands, and stations that the train passes through.
The journey is filled with dazzling light displays, enchanting music, and charming illuminated decorations that add to the magical atmosphere.
The on-board narration further enhances the experience, guiding passengers through a story-driven adventure that adds an extra layer of excitement and wonder to the journey.
Starting from North Weald Station the day is kicked off with some Christmas music from the live brass band. Enjoy some drinks and festive snacks. While families are waiting Santa’s helpers will be walking through the crowds looking for the children that made the nice list.
Onboard kids get their presents and are entertained by some of his helpers. There is a chance to write a letter to Santa and enter a drawing competition.
There is hope that children can get a photo with Santa, however, this is dependent on time.
Steam Train Rides, Peak District
Peak Rail Santa and Steam specials will be operating this year giving all passengers the opportunity to enjoy a mince pie and hot chocolate as they wait for Santa to do the rounds.
During your journey on the beautifully decorated coaches, Santa and his elves deliver the gifts. There is some entertainment to keep everyone amused throughout the journey
The return journey to Matlock Platform 2 lasts approximately one hour and both tables and compartments are available online from August. Families can take in the beautiful views of the Peak District.
Christmas Steam Train Rides, Norwich
This December Bure Valley Railway has a Festive Express Steam train for families to meet Father Christmas. You need to arrive at Aylsham Station early to pick up your boarding pass and your refreshments.
Families can feel snug in their heated private compartments on a return journey from Aylsham to Brampton. Santa greets the children from his sleigh on your return to Aylsham and boards the train to hand out gifts.
There are several dates and times available throughout December.
There are plenty of Christmas train rides UK to choose from. We have done our best to ensure the information is accurate. However as things can change be sure to check online or phone ahead.
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