I Take A 12-Hour Day Trip on “Britain’s Most Luxurious Train”

I Take A 12-Hour Day Trip on “Britain’s Most Luxurious Train” I recently travelled on what Conde Nast Traveller Magazine calls “Britain’s Most Luxurious Train”, and rates as one of the world’s Top 10 Trains: the “Northern Belle”.

In this post, I’ll be revealing what the eye-watering fare gets me, the unusual history of the train, it’s link to cruising and some surprising quirks I never thought I’d see or experience on a train.

London, Victoria – Where It All Begins

I started the journey at London Victoria station, we arrived at 9:15am ready for our 9:30am departure, just as the 7-carriage train was pulling in.

Although the train looked pretty underwhelming pulling in, stepping on board into the Chatsworth carriage we had been allocated, the wow factor was huge. Big comfy sofa-style seats, plush and opulent cutlery and crockery, the tables looked magnificent.

Settling in we were offered a Mimosa, though we went for orange juice and sparkling water, and soon we were on our way – and were surprised to be entertained by two musicians that roamed up and down the carriages during the trip.

northern belle


Breakfast followed not long after, served by the smartly uniformed hosts. While taking orders all dietary quirks were sorted, like Mark being dairy sensitive.

Breakfast started with a Tri-melon starter with yogurt (soya yogurt for Mark), the main for me was a Twice Baked cheddar cheese soufflé and it was delicious! While Mark had the vegetarian mushroom bubble and squeak. Once suitably content an unexpected, and the most enormous, breadbasket I have ever seen was brought round for us to enjoy.

With Breakfast enjoyed and finished, I thought I’d go and explore some more of the train.

I Take A 12-Hour Day Trip on “Britain’s Most Luxurious Train”

Dress Code

There is a dress code on board! You’re asked not to wear jeans or trainers. And most people did get dressed up.

A lot of people ask me what sort of people come on this trip? Well, because it’s a costly trip, a lot of people come on here to celebrate. So, in fact, when we got on board, the guards and the manager were asking, “are you on here to celebrate anything?” So, there’s people doing significant birthdays or anniversaries, and so on. Or just splashing out and pampering, which is what we did. We were spending some of Mark’s bonus this year to go on this rather nice train trip!

A Quick Stop in Bournemouth

I was soon on the move again – back to my carriage to enjoy the scenery – as we headed towards Bournemouth. We arrived at 1:30pm and had several hours to explore before we would re-join the train at 17:30 for the journey back to London.

Mark and I enjoyed what I can only refer to as a typical seaside day. We went in the amusements and played the slot machines – even winning a few bars of chocolate! It was a light-hearted way to enjoy one of the UK’s most popular seaside towns.

Back Onboard For Dinner

On the return journey, Mark and I swapped seats – he hates riding backwards. We were greeted with a glass of champagne each, a plate of smoked duck and spiced tuna canapes, and a pouch containing a gift on our plates. Mark got a keyring, myself, I got a magnet. The gifts are themed to the carriage, so we’ll have to ride 6 more times in different carriages to get them all. We were then served a caviar and quail egg canape and it was very tasty.

Included in the fare is a bottle of wine per couple for dinner, with a choice of 2 whites, 2 reds and 2 rose. We had asked for the non-alcoholic wine. This was not a great success, Mark called it cooking vinegar. Cocktails and other drinks, including liqueurs or fancier wines had to be paid for, and there are menus and prices for both.

Soon it was time for the 4-course dinner. The starter was Smoked mackerel rillette, which I’m not usually a fan of but thoroughly enjoyed – even Mark enjoyed it.

The main was a Duo of Lamb with celeriac, fondant potato, asparagus, sugar snaps, carrot puree and, of course, gravy and mint sauce. Very good indeed!

Dessert was a White Chocolate and raspberry mousse, though Mark had a dairy-free lemon tart.

Then along came one their signatures, the vast cheese board tray which was rather grand. I’m not usually a big cheese eater but took a slice of everything and loved it.

We were then given two homemade chocolates in a box to take home.

The Big Question – How Much Did It Cost?

As we made our way back towards Victoria at the end of what had been a wonderful day, it really hit me just how crazy expensive this is, but it is also something very special. You can see why people come and do this for a special occasion.

But just how much did it cost? We could have done a 3-night mini-break cruise in an oceanview cabin on MSC Virtuosa out of Southampton for just £10 per person more.

The day trip on the train cost £440 per person, that 3-night cruise to Rotterdam and back is $450 per person. Cost aside, this was a trip I will treasure forever. The whole experience was incredible.

northern belle

A History Of The Belle Trains

The Belle trains are originally the trains that used to take people – a long time ago – on their summer vacations and they went to all the big tourist resorts. So, for example, the train I was aboard was heading to Bournemouth. It was basically doing the route of the old Bournemouth Belle, which ran between 1931 and 1967.

The train used to stop at Southampton so people could get off and go on their wonderful trans-Atlantic voyages.

And let me tell you the names of the different carriages on the Northern Belle, because they’re all named after stately homes. You’ve got the Alnwick, the Belvoir, the Chatsworth, the Glamis, the Harlech, the Duart, and the Warwick. In fact, one of these, which is the most famous of all, used to be one of the royal carriages. So that’s one that’s much sought after.

The Northern Belle first came to service in 2000 and is owned by a British company. So, it’s separate to the Orient Express. The train uses old Pullman coaches all turned into and revamped into these glamourus plush carriages for when the Northern Belle went into service in 2000.

The Link With Cruising

Very much like cruise lines, trains used to be very glamorous, and the Northern Belle is designed to kind of bring back a lot of that glamour, and so they run these very exotic day trips all around the UK.

The link between cruising and trains still seems a strong one, as not only did I hear many people in our carriage talking about cruises they’d been on – but three of the carriages on this trip were chartered by a cruise agency called “Imagine Cruising” that sell cruise and rail packages.



Gary Bembridge

I grew up in Zimbabwe, but I have been based in London since 1987. My travel life spans more than three decades and that includes more than 95 cruises. In 2005, I launched Tips for Travellers to make it easy and fun for people to discover, plan and enjoy incredible cruise vacations. And the rest, as they say, is history. I have the largest cruise vlogger channel currently on YouTube, with more than 3 million video views per month.

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