Many of Britain’s original railway station hotels built for the boom of the 19th century are not only still standing, but they’re in remarkably rude health to boot.
Now we’ve helped you save some money on train travel you can reward yourself and stay in a superior hotel. But instead of traipsing around town or getting a taxi from the station, why not make life easy and hole up in a historic railway hotel?
Here’s our pick of some of Britain’s grandest railway hotels that are worth missing your train for.
- Amba Hotel Charing Cross: London Charing Cross, London
- Andaz Hotel: London Liverpool Street Station, London
- The Balmoral Hotel: Edinburgh Waverley Station, Edinburgh
- Grand Central Hotel: Glasgow Central Station, Glasgow
- Great Northern Hotel: London King’s Cross Station, London
- Hallmark Midland Hotel: Derby Station, Derby
- The Midland Hotel: Manchester Oxford Road Station, Manchester
- The Midland Hotel: Morecambe Station, Morecambe
- The Principal Hotel: York Station, York
- Royal Hotel: Cardiff Central Station, Cardiff
- The Royal Station Hotel: Newcastle Central Station, Newcastle
- St Pancras Rennaissance Hotel: St Pancras International Station, London
- Tregenna Castle Hotel: St Ives Station, St Ives
- Waldorf Astoria – The Caledonian: Haymarket, Edinburgh
A stay in any of these pleasure palaces is sure to please your significant other too, so remember to pack your Two Together Railcard.
Amba Charing Cross Hotel: London Charing Cross, London
The Amba Charing Cross Hotel is London’s most central railway hotel, ideally situated less than ten minutes’ walk from Convent Garden and the heart of the West End Theatreland.
Opened in 1865, The Charing Cross Hotel was designed by Edward Middleton Barry (son of Sir Charles Barry responsible for building the new Palace of Westminster) who had recently completed the Royal Opera House. It had 250 bedrooms over seven floors with public rooms and balconies overlooking the station concourse.
Built to rival other railway hotels in London, it has an ornate Franco-Italianate style frontage. One of its most distinct external architectural features is the cast-iron footbridge that spans over Villiers Street which links the main hotel with an extension added later. Inside, the Betjeman Suite decorated with red marble columns and winged female figures is one of central London’s most glamorous function rooms.
The Amba Charing Cross Hotel is the perfect place to explore London’s West End shopping, restaurants and theatres.
Andaz Hotel: London Liverpool Street Station, London
It’s not just Central London’s terminals that boast historic railway hotels; the City has its own red brick Victorian masterpiece the five-star Andaz. Set in the heart of London’s financial district directly above Liverpool Street Station but also within an easy striking distance of uber-trendy Shoreditch and Spitalfields Market, it’s a bolthole that doesn’t stint on grandeur.
Opened in 1884 as the Great Eastern Hotel, the architect Charles Barry Junior- not to be outdone by his brother – was another of Sir Charles Barry’s sons. As the Andaz today, it still heaves with original period features, such as marble staircases, mosaic tiled floors and the showstopper that is the glass-domed 1901 Ballroom, an opulent setting for breakfast.
The Andaz even has an art gallery with a design which nods at New York’s Guggenheim and a gym in a former Egyptian-style Masonic temple. The art theme continues with the rooms, which feature artworks by various contemporary London artists. The rooms come kitted out with large TVs, Nespresso coffee machines and mini-fridges stocked with complimentary soft drinks, which is a welcome touch many hotels could learn from.
For dining, take your pick from seven bars and restaurants, like the Eastway Brasserie which offers its own Bloody Mary brunch counter and the cosy Japanese diner Miyako.
The Balmoral Hotel: Edinburgh Waverley Station, Edinburgh
The Balmoral is a five-star hotel (originally built as the North British Station Hotel) located on Princes Street just minutes away from the cities main terminus Edinburgh Waverley Station. This landmark building, which first opened in 1902, welcomes visitors to Auld Reekie with fairytale turrets in Scottish Baronial style which define the Old Town cityscape.
Its famous clock is still set three minutes fast to ensure railway travellers enjoying lingering in the hotel bar and Edinburgh residents don’t miss their train. The only day the clock runs on time is 31 December to celebrate Hogmanay and the start of New Year.
No shortage of famous guests has stayed at The Balmoral which has been a favourite with entertainers and creatives like Laurel & Hardy, Sophia Loren, Elizabeth Taylor, Paul McCartney and Michael Palin.
One customer who tarried here was a certain J.K Rowling. She apparently finished writing her book Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows in a room which was later christened the J.K Rowling Suite.
The Balmoral has become synonymous with luxury service in Scotland’s capital and certainly ranks as one of Britain’s finest railway hotels.
Grand Central Hotel: Glasgow Central Station, Glasgow
‘Glasgow’s Miles better’, so goes the tourist board’s 1980s strapline, and indeed, few British cities combine cutting-edge culture, shopping and nightlife so well.
All the more reason to zip up from London on the Caledonian Sleeper for a long weekend. While you’re there, make sure you go for a whizz around its uber-cute and small metro system, affectionately known as the Clockwork Orange.
The city’s central station is handsome enough (built over a Victorian village of which you can see the remains on the highly acclaimed Glasgow Central Tours), and right across from its dashing glass roof you’ll find this wee gem of a railway hotel.
Many a bigshot has sauntered through its doors over the decades, including JFK, Winston Churchill, Frank Sinatra, but its real scene stealer comes from being the venue where none other than John Logie Baird first transmitted a broadcast of his new-fangled television 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.
Great Northern Hotel: London King’s Cross Station, London
Adjacent to King’s Cross station is one of London’s most elegant railway hotels, the Great Northern. Designed by Victorian master builder Lewis Cubitt, its beautiful curvaceous façade epitomises the extravagant hotels built by railway companies during the golden age of steam.
The Great Northern Hotel lacks the statement interiors found in its neighbour the St Pancras Renaissance, but it makes up for it with the room decor which has been rakishly rendered to reflect the feel of a vintage Pullman train car. There are 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 is 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) serves up creative dishes, while the ground floor cocktail bar does a decent line of British tapas fare.
Hallmark Midland Hotel: Derby Station, Derby
You’ll find Britain’s oldest railway hotel, not in London, Liverpool or Manchester but the town of Derby. The Midland Hotel – its original name – was built in 1841 as part of a Railway Village. Which also included Derby Station, a huge train shed, a railway roundhouse, workshop and 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 gorgeous garden room. The 4-star hotel situated directly across from the station now has a lounge bar, nine 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.
Younger railway enthusiasts will like the prices at the Hallmark Midland as it’s definitely the most inexpensive hotel on our list. Save on your journey with a 16-25 Railcard and get cheaper Advance fares with East Midlands Trains.
The Midland Hotel: Manchester Oxford Road Station, Manchester
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 Britain’s most beautiful railway hotels.
Originally built in 1903, the Midland Hotel served Manchester Central. The station is long gone now and all that remains is the outer facade which is part of the Manchester Central Convention Complex. But being less than 10 minutes walk from Manchester Oxford Road station, it still retains its railway hotel credentials.
Located in the heart of the city it’s a perfect place to stay for business and leisure 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.
The Midland made it into Conde Naste Traveller’s Top 50 Best Destinations in the World, thanks to Adam Reid’s restaurant The French, which has bagged no fewer than 4 AA Rosettes over the years.
The Midland upped the ante further by recently opening a new luxury spa, a city centre retreat where guests can discover the ‘art of relaxation’.
The Midland Hotel: Morecambe Station, Morecambe
The tranquil seaside town of Morecambe may be an offbeat destination than some, famous mainly due to the statue of the late comedian Eric Morecambe, but the beautifully restored Grade II Art Deco belle Midland is steadily putting it back on the map.
Designed in 1933 by Oliver Hill with elegant sculptures and mosaics by Eric Gill and Eric Ravilious and seahorse insignia by Marion Dorn, the building is an excellent example of the ‘Streamline Moderne’ Art Deco style. On its convex side facing the sea, its curved design and whitewashed walls reflect the sweep of Morecambe Bay. These stylish 1930s contours made it an ideal filming location for Agatha Christie’s Poirot film in 1989.
On the other side of the hotel, as a reminder of its railway heritage, it faces the now-closed Morecambe Promenade station. Although being just five minutes walk from Morecambe station endorses its status as a railway hotel.
In its heyday, Sir Lawrence Olivier and Noel Coward stayed here when they performed at the Winter Gardens Theatre. The Midland did its duty for Britain by serving as a hospital in World War Two, but later fell into neglect and closed its doors for 15 years.
In 2008 a restoration project by Urban Splash finally revived it, restoring its cantilevered staircase and Gill’s £3 million stone relief of ‘Odysseus welcomed from the sea by Nausicca’ in the lounge.
Now the 4-star boutique hotel offers a sun-drenched terrace restaurant, 44 boutique rooms and beauty treatments at the Midland Spa, access to leisure facilities at the nearby Sandpiper Club and afternoon tea. With doubles starting at £94 a night, it’s a keenly priced British railway hotel.
In collaboration with local lad and fashion designer Wayne Hemmingway, the hotel created the award-winning ‘Vintage by the Sea Festival‘. To celebrate all things vintage, don your classic 20th-century outfit, grab your Senior Railcard (for those of you over 60) and join the festival for fun and frolics on the sand.
The Principal Hotel: York Station, York
York is an exceptionally welcoming destination for trainiacs since the medieval city is home to the National Railway Museum and an important rail hub in its own right.
The Principal is a classic luxury railway hotel built in 1878 by William Peachey of the North Eastern Railway, as an integral part of the newer York Station, which opened the previous year. It’s an imposing five-storey building clad in yellow Scarborough brick and reminiscent of a stately home and just steps away from the station it has splendid views of York Minister.
By contrast, award-winning interior designers Goddard Lifftlefair have refurbished the hotel in 2016 with soft, muted tones with funky notes applied to the bar and restaurant areas.
To indicate the thought that’s gone into the hotel service, children receive welcome packs, rooms come with dog beds and if requested staff will greet you at the York station platform. The rooms, decorated with vintage Ordnance Survey maps and velvet armchairs come with nice touches such as ‘tuck boxes.’
The airy, conservatory style Garden Room is a favourite spot to spoil yourself with an afternoon tea served with Yorkshire rarebit, and if your train arrives delayed, you can console yourself with the hotel’s super-fast wifi.
York’s history, association with Harry Potter and free attractions makes it the perfect place for a family visit. Don’t forget your Family & Friends Railcard so you can make huge savings on train tickets.
Royal Hotel: Cardiff Central Station, Cardiff
Cardiff’s oldest hotel is a mere 100 metres from Cardiff Central Station, while also being the closest to the Millennium Stadium. The Grade II listed built in handsome Italianate style sandstone opened in 1866.
The Royal once hosted a farewell fundraising banquet in 1910 for RF Scott’s ill-fated expedition to Antarctica. This fact only came to light in 1982 after a chance discovery of a menu from the banquet and subsequently the function room was named in the explorer’s honour.
The hotel reopened in 2011 after a decade-long restoration project and these days the Royal describes itself as an ‘urban retreat’ in the Welsh capital, offering plenty of modern twists on its heritage setting. For starters there’s a rooftop beehive supplying honey for the hotel’s menu and cinema rooms equipped with 75-inch screens, surround sound, traditional board games, next generation games consoles and even free popcorn and soft drinks, perfect for cosy nights away.
Fitz’s Lounge Bar serves up a reliable range of snacks, light bites and cocktails. Fitz’s was also named after a historic occasion. In 1939 a baby was found abandoned in the hotel’s foyer and was adopted by local steelworker Pat Fitzgerald, hence the name.
The Royal Station Hotel: Newcastle Central Station, Newcastle
Newcastle’s Royal Station Hotel is one of the north’s oldest railway hotels, opening in 1850 by Queen Victoria herself. Over the decades it’s welcomed all manner of grandees, from the likes of Laurel and Hardy and Vera Lynn to Muhammad Ali and Richard Burton.
It’s perfectly located, adjacent to Newcastle Central Station and just 10 minutes’ walk from Newcastle United’s St James’ Park Football Stadium and the city’s lively shopping, dining and nightlife areas.
The lobby is all sweeping staircases, plush carpets and grand chandeliers, making it a popular draw for wedding parties. While the 140 rooms vary in size but offer modern luxuries, desks and 24-hour room service.
The Empire Restaurant has a solid, traditional feel, offset by the jaunty cocktail bar Jalou which often has a party atmosphere with DJs playing into the wee small hours.
St Pancras Rennaissance Hotel: St Pancras International Station, London
These days St Pancras Station is a prime destination in its own right, a triumph we Brits can be genuinely 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 made famous for providing the setting for the Spice Girls to zig-a-zig-ahh around in their Wannabe video. And the atmospherically lit bar the Booking Office, which serves up a vast 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 access to an exclusive lounge area serving up afternoon tea, alcoholic drinks and canapes at intervals throughout the day.
The St Pancras Renaissance is a truly fabulous British railway station hotel, and it conjures up magic that is hard to beat.
Tregenna Castle Hotel: St Ives Station, St Ives
The Tregenna is a little different from most other historic British railway hotels since it was not made for railway tourism but cannily adapted for it. In 1877 – a century after local politician Samuel Stephens built the house – the St Ives to St Erth branch line 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.
Set in a vast, secluded 72-acre estate of natural woodland, Tregenna is a fifteen-minute walk from St Ives Station. Situated just five minutes from the beach and directly overlooking stunning St Ives Bay, makes it a popular wedding venue. Steeped in history, you half expect to bump into Hercule Poirot stalking the corridors in this 18th-century mansion house.
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 southwestern 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!
Waldorf Astoria – The Caledonian: Haymarket Station, Edinburgh
Under the shadow of Edinburgh Castle near Edinburgh’s West End and ten minutes’ walk from Edinburgh Haymarket Station sits The Caledonian Hotel. Completed in 1903 the hotel’s atrium once served as the ticket hall of the former Princes Street Station which closed in 1965.
The hotel re-opened in 2012 to great acclaim after a lavish £24 million refit. The Michelin-starred Galvin brothers run the hotel’s two restaurants, Galvin Brasserie De Luxe and the Pompadour. Pampering is the order of the day here. ‘The Caley’ boasts Britain’s only Guerlain spa and also claims to have ‘the biggest hotel bathrooms in Edinburgh.’
Echoes of its railway heritage can be traced in the Peacock Alley Bar which used to be the station’s ticket office and concourse. Look out for the original station clock and other historic mementoes while you indulge in a luxurious afternoon tea.
Outside the three arched entrance to the hotel were originally built to enter the station complex. While on Rutland Street, a decorative iron archway has been preserved from one of the station’s other gates.
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.