So 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 British railway hotel?
Many original railway station hotels built for the boom of the 19th century are not only still standing, but they’re in remarkably rude health.
Here’s our pick of Britain’s 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 bring your Two Together Railcard.
Amba Charing Cross Hotel: London Charing Cross, London
The Amba Charing Cross Hotel is London’s most central railway hotel. Built to rival other railway hotels in London, it immediately captures the eye with its spectacular ornate Franco-Italianate style frontage.
Designed by Edward Middleton Barry (architect of the new Royal Opera House and son of Sir Charles Barry responsible for building the new Palace of Westminster), it opened in 1865. On completion, it had 250 rooms over seven floors with public rooms and balconies overlooking the station concourse.
One of its distinctive architectural features is the footbridge that spans over Villiers Street which links the 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.
Less than ten minutes’ walk from Covent Garden and the heart of the Theatreland, The Amba Hotel is a perfect place to explore London’s West End.
Andaz Hotel: London Liverpool Street Station, London
The City has its red brick, Victorian railway hotel masterpiece, the five-star Andaz London Liverpool Street Hotel. Located in London’s financial district and close to uber-trendy Shoreditch, 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. Today, it still heaves with original period features, such as marble staircases and mosaic tiled floors. The centrepiece design 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, 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 (first built as the North British Station Hotel) located on Princes Street, minutes away from the main terminus at Edinburgh Waverley Station. Its fairytale turrets and clock tower in Scottish Baronial style define the Old Town cityscape and has welcomed visitors to Auld Reekie since it opened in 1902.
Its famous clock is still set three minutes fast to ensure railway travellers lingering in the hotel bar, and locals 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, including entertainers like Laurel & Hardy, Sophia Loren, Elizabeth Taylor, Paul McCartney and Michael Palin.
One customer who tarried here was a certain J.K. Rowling. She finished writing her book Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows in a room, later christened the J.K Rowling Suite.
The Balmoral has become synonymous with luxury service in Scotland’s capital and ranked as one of Britain’s finest railway hotels.
Grand Central Hotel: Glasgow Central Station, Glasgow
Built in the late 19th century, Glasgow’s Grand Central Hotel adjoins Central Station. The hotel has retained some original features such as the grand staircase and magnificent Champagne Central Bar with its domed ceiling and marble floor.
Glasgow Central station is handsome enough with it dashing glass roof. Constructed over the remains of a Victorian village of which you can see the remains on the acclaimed Glasgow Central Tours.
Prominent guests who have stayed at the Grand Central Hotel include Winston Churchill, JFK and Frank Sinatra. But its real scene stealer comes from being the venue in 1927, where John Logie Baird first transmitted a broadcast of his new-fangled television.
Recently refurbished, its award-winning Champagne Central Bar overlooking the station is the perfect place for a drink. All the more reason to travel up from London on the Caledonian Sleeper for the weekend.
Few British cities combine cutting-edge culture, shopping and nightlife as well as Glasgow. While you’re there make sure you whizz around its cute metro system, affectionately known as the Clockwork Orange.
Great Northern Hotel: London King’s Cross Station, London
First opened in 1854, The Great Northern Hotel wins the accolade of being one of Britain’s first railway hotels. Designed by Victorian master builder Lewis Cubitt, its beautiful curvaceous façade is a prominent landmark at London’s regenerated Kings Cross.
Reinvented as a boutique hotel, it lacks the statement interiors of its neighbour the St Pancras Renaissance but makes up for it with its delightful room decor, with swish, design touches galore, such as chrome-edged mirrors and bespoke leather and walnut furniture. And as a charming homage to the classic Continental sleeper, snug but stylish Couchette rooms.
An especially neat touch on every floor is the end of corridor pantries from which you can help yourself to home-cooked cakes, sweets, teas, Nespresso coffees and newspapers.
The first floor Plum and Spilt Milk restaurant (named after the livery colour of the original London and North Western Railway Pullman trains) serves creative, seasonal British favourites. While the snazzy, chandelier-adorned GNH Bar, contrasts with the quirky and quintessentially British, Snug Bar.
The Great Northern Hotel – nestled between St Pancras International and Kings Cross – is a superb location for connecting Eurostar trips with northern England.
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. As well as the hotel, the village included Derby Station, a vast train shed, a railway roundhouse, workshops and 80 houses 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, it retained the original oak interiors, walled garden and gorgeous garden room. The 4-star hotel located across from the station 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.
With journey times of less than 90 minutes, it makes an easy escape from London. Look out for East Midlands Trains special offers and save money with their Advanced fares.
The Midland Hotel: Manchester Oxford Road Station, Manchester
Manchester’s Midland Hotel has echoes of London St Pancras, with its impressive Victorian red brick façade. Its elegant design – spanning a whole block – ranks as one of Britain’s most beautiful railway hotels.
Initially built in 1903, the Midland Hotel served Manchester Central station. Long gone now, all that remains of the station is the front of the Manchester Central Convention Complex. But within 10 minutes’ walk from Manchester Oxford Station, the hotel retains its railway credentials.
Located in the heart of the city it’s a handy place to stay 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.
Thanks to Adam Reid’s prestigious award-winning The French restaurant, The Midland has a reputation for excellent food. Not to be outdone, Mr Cooper’s Restaurant & Bar is also scooping up accolades.
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, famous for its statue of the late comedian Eric Morecambe, may be an offbeat destination for some but the beautifully restored Grade II Art Deco Midland Hotel is putting it back on the map.
Designed in 1933 by Oliver Hill, its curved design and whitewashed walls reflect the sweep of Morecambe Bay. 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. The stylish 1930s contours made the hotel an ideal location for Agatha Christie’s 1989 Poirot film, Double Sin.
As a reminder of its railway heritage, the hotel backs onto the now-closed Morecambe Promenade station. Although, being only five minutes walk from Morecambe station, endorses its railway hotel status.
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.
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 four-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.
In collaboration with local lad and fashion designer Wayne Hemmingway, the hotel hosts the award-winning Vintage by the Sea Festival. For those of you who can remember more than most of the festival’s celebrated 20th-century culture, grab your Senior Railcard for fun and frolics on the sand.
The Principal York Hotel: York Station, York
York is an exceptionally welcoming destination for trainiacs since the medieval city is an important rail hub and home to the UK’s National Railway Museum.
The Principal is a classic luxury British 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.
By contrast, award-winning interior designers Goddard Lifftlefair have refurbished the hotel with soft, muted tones with funky notes applied to the bar and restaurant areas. While vintage Ordnance Survey maps, velvet armchairs and nice touches such as ‘tuck boxes’ adorn the rooms.
Service is a priority at the hotel; children receive welcome packs, rooms come with dog beds, and if requested, staff will greet you on the platform at York station.
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.
Royal Hotel: Cardiff Central Station, Cardiff
Cardiff’s oldest hotel is 100 metres from Cardiff Central Station, and barely a lineouts throw away from the home of Welsh rugby, the Principality Stadium. The Grade II listed built in beautiful Italianate style sandstone first 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 dinner. In honour of the historic find, they renamed the function room in the explorer’s honour.
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 local steelworker Pat Fitzgerald adopted a baby he found in the hotel’s foyer, hence the name.
Re-opened in 2011 after a decade-long restoration, the Royal describes itself as an ‘urban retreat’ in the Welsh capital. The hotel offers plenty of modern twists on its heritage setting, such as a rooftop beehive supplying honey for the hotel’s menu.
The Royal’s unique cinema bedrooms come equipped with 75-inch screens and surround sound, traditional board games, games consoles, free popcorn and soft drinks.
The Royal makes a cosy getaway for young lovers who’d be wise to save on their travel there with a 16-25 Railcard.
The Royal Station Hotel: Newcastle Central Station, Newcastle
Newcastle’s Royal Station Hotel is one of the north’s oldest railway hotels, opened in 1850 by Queen Victoria herself. Over the decades it’s welcomed all manner of grandees, like Laurel and Hardy, Vera Lynn, Muhammad Ali and Richard Burton.
Located next to Newcastle Central Station and 10 minutes’ walk from Newcastle United’s St James’ Park football stadium, it opens out to the city’s lively shopping, dining and nightlife.
The lobby is all sweeping staircases, plush carpets and grand chandeliers, making it a popular draw for wedding parties. The 140 rooms vary in size and 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 Renaissance Hotel: St Pancras International Station, London
These days St Pancras International is a prime destination in its own right, a triumph we Brits can be genuinely proud of. And the magnificent refurbished Renaissance Hotel is the cherubic cherry on the cake.
Designed by George Gilbert Scott – the English Gothic revival architect – it first opened its doors as the Midland Grand in 1873. The hotel was expensive with its grand staircase and gold leaf walls, and innovative features such as hydraulic lifts and revolving doors.
It’s hard to believe British Rail earmarked the hotel for demolition in the 1960s. Only a high profile campaign by the Victorian Society saved the hotel and St Pancras station which both received Grade I listed status.
Before its redevelopment, the impressive staircase shot to fame providing the setting for the Spice Girls to zig-a-zig-ahh around in their Wannabe video.
In 2011, the five-star St Pancras Renaissance opened with restored public rooms and some bedrooms from the old Midland Grand. It’s a veritable cathedral to rail travel, inside and out, and without doubt Britain’s premier railway hotel.
The Renaissance has a wide range of luxury suites and premium rooms with authentic decor and Victorian features. And the spectacular views of William Barlow’s train shed spanning 240 feet over the Eurostar platforms will delight any guest.
Reviving the tradition of the station cafe, the atmospherically lit Booking Office draws the crowds with its excellent range of heritage punches and cocktails, while Marcus Wareing’s Gilbert Scott restaurant is a refined oasis serving nostalgic British classics.
Best of all is the Chambers Club, where guests get exclusive access to a special 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 laid by Isambard Kingdom Brunel’s seven-foot Broad Gauge design.
The following year the Great Western Railway Company (sometimes known as God’s Wonderful Railway because of its 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 fifteen minutes’ walk from St Ives Station. Situated five minutes from the beach and 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 live your Murder on the Orient Express fantasy by travelling to Cornwall on the marvellous Night Riviera sleeper.
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.’
The Peacock Alley Bar traces echoes of its railway heritage as it used to be the station’s ticket office and concourse. Look out for the original station clock and other mementoes while you indulge in a luxurious afternoon tea.
Outside, the original three arched entrance to the station remains, and an iron archway on Rutland Street has also been preserved.
While you’re considering what hotel to stay at, take a look at our train deals and discounts. We keep it up to date with promotions on rail tickets, passes, short breaks and holidays.
Are there any more British railway hotels that are worth missing your train for? We’d love to know your favourites and hidden gems.
Written by Jools Stone and Chris P King. Last updated February 2018.
Images: nosh (edit), Amba Hotels, LONGE2014, Gideon Chilton, Principal Hotel Company, Great Northern Hotel, Hallmark Hotels, The French, Matthew Hartley, Principal Hotel Company, Royal Hotel Cardiff, The Cairn Collection, St Pancras Renaissance Hotel, Tregenna Castle, Waldorf Astoria The Caledonian, nosha
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