10 of the UK’s best railway station and cottage stays | Travel
Coalport station, Shropshire
Coalport, built in 1861, was never a bustling hub even at the height of the Industrial Revolution. Today, its owners, Lisa and Steve Rawlings, who fell in love with the sleepy, disused station, platforms and waiting room, capitalise on its bucolic location in the heart of Ironbridge Gorge, offering self-catering stays in two converted carriages. On the outside, the retired GWR rolling stock, in trademark chocolate and mustard, looks old-school but inside it’s all pale wood, cream leather sofas and corner whirlpool baths, plus retro rail posters on the walls. In four acres with woodland boardwalk trails on the doorstep, it’s close to a gastropub, the Woodbridge Inn, on the banks of the River Severn, named after the bridge that once connected it to the village of Coalport.
• Sleep four and six, from £370 for a two-night break in a four-person carriage, coalportstation.com
Alpine Apartments, Betws-y-Coed, Conwy valley
When a South African artist, photographer and environmentalist comes to Snowdonia national park and decides to turns his hand to restoration and interior design, the result is going to be interesting. With his Welsh wife, Gwyn, Jacha Potgieter has turned this 19th-century station into a creative hub with a coffee shop, gallery and, on the first floor, five holiday apartments.
Described as “honeymoonish”, apartment six is a bijoux bolthole with a bespoke metal headboard in the shape of angel’s wings, and a flower-fringed balcony looking out over the platform to the hills beyond. Mexican-inspired apartment 10 is boudoir-chic, with hot pink walls and striking artworks, while apartment four has a Mexican-made terracotta tiled floor.
Sleeping from two to six, they are furnished with items from Jacha’s travels, such as Moorish doors, Arabic rugs and chandeliers, along with artistically upcycled pieces: bare boards, feathered lamps, chapel chairs and the odd romantic roll-top tub. There’s also a store cupboard of palm-oil free supplies – and three bottles of wine (a red, white and prosecco).
• Sleeps 2-6, from £605 a week, betwsaccommodation.co.uk
Levisham Station House, Pickering, North Yorkshire
There’s a nostalgic Railway Children vibe to the old station master’s house overlooking the platform in Levisham, the most remote station on the North Yorkshire Moors steam railway (NYMR). You can almost imagine Jenny Agutter running down the platform waving her hankie. The last full-time signalman and station master decamped in 1946 and this traditional stone house is now a heritage-themed hideaway. Guests are given NYMR membership for the week and half-price travel up and down the line, but they can simply curl up by the window in the old ticket office and watch the trains chug past. The interiors are museum-like and crammed with authentic details. There’s a wind-up gramophone in the claret-hued sitting room; the kitchen has a traditional range and sink (along with an electric oven hidden away) and a pantry. Other period touches include a grandfather clock, iron bedsteads topped with patchwork quilts – and a harmonium.
• Sleeps 6, from £525 a week, levishamstationhouse.com
Brockford Railway Siding, Suffolk
These five converted railway carriages, and station building, are on a set of tracks over the road from the Mid-Suffolk Light Railway, which has a museum as well as the heritage steam railway. Brockford Railway Siding has views over rolling countryside, farmland and a tangle of country lanes. The largest of the carriages sleeps six and has wooden floors with Persian rugs, a candy-striped sofa and old pine chapel chairs. The Guard’s Van (sleeps four) has tartan-trimmed bench seating and wood-panelled bedrooms, while Wilby Halt is a cluster of accommodation (sleeps 4/5) with a re-creation of the old station building, a carriage and box wagon around a platform. It’s also possible to stay in the Station House itself (sleeps six), with its quaint wood-panelled interiors.
• Sleep four to six; carriages from £329 a week, Station House from £445 a week, brockfordsiding.co.uk
Sleeperzzz, Rogart, Sutherland
Rogart, a remote crofting community in the Highlands, is a request stop on the Far North Line, halfway between Inverness and Wick. It has a post office, shop and inn serving pub grub, a fair few sheep – and an unusual place to bed down. Sleeperzzz is a collection of four vintage carriages and a showman’s wagon converted into a family-run Highland hostel. The carriages are all named after malt whisky distilleries: Glenmorangie (sleeps nine), Glenfiddich (sleeps four), Strathisla (sleeps two) and Deanston (sleeps two). You can stay here from March to October, while the Old Waiting Room B&B, a studio apartment, is open all year. Breakfast is delivered in a basket the night before.
• From £20pp a night, the Old Waiting Room costs £69 B&B, sleeperzzz.com
Mevy and The Old Luggage Van, St Germans, Cornwall
Railholiday, which owns this accommodation, is an eco-friendly family business and offers a discount if guests arrive by train to stay in five restored carriages, in St Germans and Hayle, that are powered by renewable energy. In St Germans, Mevy (a glamorous Victorian slip coach sleeping five) is heated by a biomass boiler and has a private deck with views over the River Lynher to fields beyond along with 10 snowdrop-pricked acres of private woodland to explore. The Old Luggage Van (sleeps two) is next to the platform with great views of the Plymouth-to-Penzance line. The Travelling Post Office (sleeps six) is a popular option for families. The village has a community shop and post office and great pub, the Eliot Arms; the railway station was built by Isambard Kingdom Brunel in 1858.
• From £255 for a three-night stay, railholiday.co.uk
Station Cottage, Duirinish, Ross-shire
This pretty, three-bedroom Victorian railwayman’s cottage is next to the tiny station in the crofting community of Duirinish on the west coast of Scotland. The cottage is surrounded by National Trust land, with views out to the Isle of Skye and the Applecross peninsula. It’s also close to the picturesque palm tree-peppered seaside village of Plockton, with its lively traditional pubs and galleries. The Kyle Line, which runs between Inverness and Kyle of Lochalsh, is among the most scenic rail journeys in the country. Inside, the cottage is cosy and quaint, with an open fire, wooden floors, two double bedrooms (one under the eaves) and a bunkroom, and shelves of well-thumbed books.
• Sleeps 6, from £460 a week, stationcottage.com
Dent Snow Huts, Sedbergh, Cumbria
Two maintenance workers’ “snow huts” have been converted into holiday lets at Dent, the highest (operational) mainline station in England, and on the Settle to Carlisle Line. Workers shovelling snow from the line in winter would traditionally stay in these low-slung stone huts at the end of their shift. Now upgraded for high-spec, studio-style, open-plan living, the first hut has exposed brickwork and beams, under-floor heating, slate floors, reclaimed teak furniture, an L-shaped leather sofa and a woodburner. The other hut is also open-plan with a mezzanine bedroom under the sloping eaves. The village of Dent, with its cobbled streets, is five miles from the station and on the Dales Way.
• Both huts sleep 2, from £400 a week, railwaystationcottages.co.uk or dentstation.co.uk
High Cross Camping Coach, Beaminster, Dorset
In the undulating Dorset countryside, a few miles from the Jurassic Coast, this is a glamping-style railway retreat. The accommodation is in a Victorian “camping coach” and separate Edwardian “living van”, both with views across rolling meadows. The interiors are colourful and cute, all mint green woodwork and bubble-gum pink stripes, with an antique pot-bellied stove, wooden floors strewn with rugs and antique fixtures and fittings. A third carriage, in the garden of thatched High Cross Cottage, is the oldest surviving carriage (the First Class Family Saloon) of the London and South Western Railway – dating from 1876. It has been restored with gold-leaf detail, embossed wallpaper and brass fittings and turned into a dining car offering afternoon tea and three-course dinners.
• Sleep 4 in total, from £210 for two nights (two-night minimum) or £620 a week, campingcoach.co.uk
Seabank, Selsey, West Sussex
Seabank is a beachfront pad created from two restored 19th-century Stroudley railway carriages. “Clarrie” and “Annabel” once plied the London-to-Brighton line (you can still see working examples on Sussex’s Bluebell Railway and Isle of Wight Steam Railway). Now these two are unrecognisable from the outside, converted into a periwinkle-blue and white-clapboard seaside villa with an enclosed veranda for sea views, and circled by a fenced garden with decking. But, inside, you can make out the carriages, decked out in jaunty, seaside chic with cream floorboards and Lloyd Loom chairs in two double bedrooms and two twins with bunk beds. There’s plenty to do in Selsey (boat trips, diving, paddling and beachcombing, with Pagham Harbour nature reserve nearby) but if the rain rolls in there’s a woodburning stove and stacks of board games and books to curl up with.
• Sleeps 8 (four adults and four children), from £250 for two nights (minimum two-night stay), week from £500 (Nov-Feb), seabankselsey.com