If you’ve been following this site for a while, you’ll no doubt have already saved bags of cash on train tickets by using railcards and cheeky discounts, like the eminently sensible soul you are.
That means you can now reward yourself by splurging on a little treat and stay in a superior hotel. But instead of traipsing around town or taxiing it from the station, why not make life easy and hole up in a historic British railway hotel?
Many of the original station hotels built for the boom of the 19th century are not only still standing, but they’re in remarkably rude health to boot. A stay in any of these pleasure palaces is sure to please your significant other too, so remember to pack your Two Together Railcard.
Here’s our pick of some of the finest British railway hotels that are definitely worth missing your train for.
St Pancras Renaissance Hotel – London St Pancras International Railway Station
These days St Pancras Station is a prime destination in its own right, a triumph we Brits can be truly proud of – and the recently refurbished Renaissance is the cherubic cherry on the cake.
It’s a veritable cathedral to rail travel, inside and out, with its impressive centrepiece staircase (famous for providing the setting for the Spice Girls to zig-a-zig-ahh around in their Wannabe video) atmospherically lit bar the Booking Office, which serves up a great range of heritage punches and other cocktails and the refined oasis that is Marcus Wareing’s Gilbert Scott restaurant.
Best of all is the Chambers Club, where guests get exclusive access to a special lounge area serving up afternoon tea, booze and canapes at intervals throughout the day.
The St Pancras Renaissance is a truly marvellous British railway station hotel, and it conjures up a magic that is hard to beat.
Great Northern Hotel – London King’s Cross Railway Station
Just around the corner is yet another contender for the London King’s Cross railway station hotel crown. Part of the original building designed by celebrated Victorian architect Lewis Cubitt that makes the most of its curvaceous façade.
The GNH lacks the statement interiors found in the Renaissance, but it makes up for it with the room decor, which have been rakishly rendered to reflect the feel of a vintage Pullman train car, with swish design touches galore, such as chrome-plated mirrors, leather piping-edged seats and authentic sleeper cabin-style flick light switches.
An especially neat touch are the end of corridor shared pantries, which come righteously stuffed with home-baked cakes, fancy teas and jars of sweeties, for added nostalgia value.
The first floor Plum and Spilt Milk restaurant (named after the livery colour of the original London and North Western Railway Pullman trains, which ploughed a dashing path through what’s now the Great Western Railway until the 1920s) serves up fairly creative dishes, while the ground floor cocktail bar does a decent line in British tapas fare.
Grand Central Hotel – Glasgow Central Railway Station
‘Glasgow’s smiles better’, so goes the tourist board’s strapline, and indeed, few British cities combine cutting edge culture, shopping and nightlife so well.
All the more reason then to zip up on a Virgin train from Englandshire for a long weekend. While you’re there, make sure you go for a whizz around its uber-cute and tiny metro system, affectionately known as the Clockwork Orange.
The city’s central station is handsome enough (there was once a Victorian village buried beneath it, and you can now take an interesting tour of the building) and right across from its dashing glass roof you’ll find this wee gem of a railway hotel, opened just four afters the station was completed in 1883.
Many a bigshot has sauntered through its doors over the decades, including JFK, Winston Churchill, Frank Sinatra, but it’s real scene stealer comes from being the venue where none other than John Logie Baird first transmitted a broadcast of his new-fangled television set in 1927.
Its bar Champagne Central scooped the gong for Urbane Bar of the Year at the Scottish Hotel Awards, and the four-star hotel has recently undergone a £20 million renovation.
The Midland Hotel – Manchester Oxford Road Railway Station
Manchester’s Midland Hotel has definite echoes of St Pancras, with its impressive Victorian red brick façade that takes up an entire block of the city centre. Architecturally it certainly ranks alongside it as one of the finest railway hotels in Britain.
The Central railway station it was originally built for in 1903 is long gone and these days it sits opposite from the Manchester Central Conference Centre, making it perfect for business travellers and high rollers. Speaking of which, one of the hotel’s claims to fame is being the venue for a historic meeting between a certain Mr Rolls and Mr Royce. Oxford Road Station is a short 200 metre stroll away though, keeping its railway hotel credentials in currency today.
The Midland made it into Conde Naste Traveller’s Top 50 Best Destinations in the World, thanks to Simon Rogan’s restaurant The French, which has bagged no fewer than 4 AA Rosettes over the years.
In June 2015 The Midland will up the ante further by opening a new spa, a city centre retreat which promises to ‘redefine relaxation in Manchester.’
Tregenna Castle Hotel – St Ives Railway Station
The Tregenna is a little different from most other historic British railway hotels, since it was not built for railway tourism, but rather cannily adapted for it. In 1877, a century after the house was built in 1774 by local politician Samuel Stephens, the St Ives to St Erth branch line was opened, the final track in England to be laid to Isambard Kingdom Brunel’s 7 foot Broad Gauge design.
The following year the Great Western Railway Company (sometimes known as God’s Wonderful Railway because of its highly scenic views) took the line over, snapping up Tregenna Castle and converting it into a spacious hotel.
Tregenna is set in a vast, secluded 72-acre estate of natural woodland, a fifteen-minute walk from St Ives Station, just five minutes from the beach and directly overlooking the stunning St Ives Bay, making it a popular wedding venue. This 18th-century mansion house is steeped in history, and you half expect to find Hercule Poirot stalking the corridors.
Talking of which, why not get in the Murder on the Orient Express mood and take the Night Riviera Sleeper to Cornwall from London.
And if you’re lucky enough to live already in this lovely slice of south western serenity, why not make the most of your backyard using the Devon and Cornwall Railcard? You can’t get a better bit of butter on your knife!
Hallmark Hotel – Derby Railway Station
You’ll find Britain’s oldest railway hotel not in London, Liverpool or Manchester but the humble town of Derby. The Midland Hotel (as it was originally called) was built in 1841 as part of the Railway Village, an ambitious complex of buildings designed by Francis Thompson, including Derby Station, a colossal train shed, a railway roundhouse and workshop and some 80 houses built for railway employees.
The Hallmark Group bought this Grade II-listed building in 2009, refurbishing it with a cosy, contemporary vibe with subtle nods to the hotel’s Victorian heritage, retaining the original oak interiors, walled garden and ornate garden room. The 4-star hotel directly across from the station now has a lounge bar, 9 function rooms accommodating up to 150 guests and a very well-regarded brasserie.
Derby itself has plenty of cultural attractions, and a lively Cathedral Quarter with independent shops, market stalls and regular live cooking demos and makes for an easy escape from London on the East Midlands Trains network.
British Railway Hotels Worth Missing Your Train For
Are there any more British railway hotels that are worth missing your train for? We’d love to know your favourites and hidden gems.