There’s something a bit magical about walking along an old railway line. You can almost imagine yourself a passenger from years gone by, travelling away on an adventure. There are many disused lines across the UK where the trains are long gone, but what’s been built in their place is just as exciting. Lots of former lines have been turned into accessible trails for the public, perfect for walking, cycling and even horse riding. Here are a few of our favourites.

Deeside Way, Aberdeenshire, Scotland

This regal route largely follows the Old Royal Deeside Railway, a line that carried royals to Balmoral Castle and was used by Queen Victoria herself. Along Deeside Way you’ll be treated to outstanding scenery. The 41-mile trail begins in Aberdeen and ends at the Old Royal Station in the stunning Cairngorms National Park. For a shorter excursion, try Drumoak to Banchory, a 7-mile part of the route. Visit Aberdeenshire notes that you’ll come across another royal gem here – Robert the Bruce’s ancient hunting estate. Want to clock up more miles? Then try the route’s longest section, Banchory to Aboyne. Most of this 13-mile route doesn’t follow the railway line but passes through forests, farmland and Deeside’s oldest village, Kincardine O’Neil. Whatever section you choose, make sure you stop and take in the views – they’re fit for a king or queen.

Pick up a map of Aberdeen & Banchory and a map of Aboyne, Alford & Strathdon for your visit

High Peak Trail, Derbyshire, England

High Peak Trail, Derbyshire, England

History feels ever present on a visit to Derbyshire’s High Peak Trail. The route follows the old Cromford and High Peak Railway, “one of the world’s first long-distance railway lines”, according to Derbyshire County Council. There’s evidence of the Georgian railway all around as you travel along the traffic-free trail. Look out for the limestone Minninglow Embankment, evidence of where the railway once stood. And don’t forget to stop by Middleton Top Engine House to see a working beam engine, once used to move wagons on the Middleton Incline. Travel even further back in time at the mysterious Minninglow hill – the site of several Neolithic tombs – not far from the route. Let’s Go Peak District suggests an easy circular route for reaching the historical site. You’re sure to find the scenery just as impressive as the history when you travel the trail’s 17.5 miles. Wonder at the beautiful Derbyshire Dales and look out for wildflowers blooming in warmer months.

Explore the region with a map of The Peak District – White Peak Area

Bristol and Bath Railway Path, South Gloucestershire, Bristol and Somerset, England

Bristol and Bath Railway Path, South Gloucestershire, Bristol and Somerset, England

The Bristol and Bath Railway Path is something of an institution, attracting visitors from near and far. It runs along the route of the old Midland Railway, between the buzzing city of Bristol and the city of Bath, a World Heritage Site. You can travel the full path – over 13 miles – or choose a section to venture along. Feeling thirsty? Gaius Sentius is an epic sculpture of a giant Roman soldier gulping down a drink, to mark the spot of an old Roman road. It doubles up as a quirky fountain to fill your bottle from, too! When it’s time for lunch we recommend stopping at the Bitton Station cafe. Eat al fresco on the old station platform, or inside one of two 1950’s railway carriages stationed on site. And the best part? Steam trains still run from the line here, so you can watch them chugging by.

Plan your journey with an Ordnance Survey map of Bristol and Bath

The Camel Trail, Cornwall, England

Camel Trail, Cornwall, England
Camel Trail, Cornwall, England

The famed route is an accessible, multi-use trail of over 17 miles, showcasing north Cornwall’s incredible scenery and wildlife. Starting at the attractive port of Padstow, it ends at Poley’s Bridge, by the sweeping Bodmin Moor. You can explore it on bike, foot or even horseback. Find out why Naomi, Office Manager and PA to the MD at Dennis Maps, has named the trail her favourite place to explore by bike. The Camel trail is a great place to look out for wildlife, as well as epic scenery. North Cornwall Council notes that bats, otters and dormice can all be spotted along the trail. It’s a paradise for birdwatchers as well. Grab your binoculars and head to the bird hide on the route near Wadebridge – the perfect place for birdwatching. When it’s time for a well-earned rest, stop at the Camel Valley Vineyard for award-winning wine, or the Camel Trail Tea Garden for a Cornish cream tea.

Plan your trip with a map of Newquay and Bodmin

Mawddach Trail, Gwynedd, Wales

Barmouth Bridge. Mawddach Trail, Gwynedd, Wales
Barmouth Bridge. Mawddach Trail, Gwynedd, Wales

Sustrans calls the Mawddach Trail “one of the most scenic railway paths in the country”. And they’re not wrong. The trail runs for around 9 miles through the awe-inspiring Snowdonia National Park, offering jaw-dropping views as it goes. If you don’t want to travel the full length, the Snowdonia National park website recommends points to join the route at. It’s worth venturing along the whole route if you can though – the scenery is spectacular from beginning to end. You can travel the route in either direction, but it feels extra special if you travel from inland to the sea. Beginning in the market town of Dolgellau, you’ll go along the Mawddach Estuary, and finish at Barmouth, a pretty seaside resort. Look out for the imposing mountain, Cadair Idris, as you go along – it’s an ever-present backdrop to the trail. Luckily, there’s plenty of seating along the trail to stop and admire those views.

Explore the area with an OS map

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