Travelling through Cornwall by train is one of the highlights of rail travel in Britain. The county boasts some of Britain’s most scenic rail journeys. You’ll be spoilt for choice with itineraries through picturesque villages, coastal routes with golden beaches, and bustling, cultural towns and cities to journey to.
Getting to Cornwall from London on the Night Riviera train is a classic journey that shouldn’t be missed, and all the more special as it’s the last sleeper journey within England. Taking the trip in the daytime is also highly recommended as you can enjoy the changing scenery as the train winds its way from London, through the West Country, and into Cornwall.
We’ve brought together 23 stories, photos, guides and videos to inspire you to explore to Cornwall by train. Throughout you’ll also find some money-saving tips so you can make sure you get the best value on your day out.
Cornwall By Train: 23 Inspiring Journeys & Days Out By Rail – Quick Links
- Night Riviera – London Paddington to Cornwall Sleeper Train
- Scenic Rail Journeys in Cornwall – St Ives Bay Line, Looe Valley Line, Maritime Line and Atlantic Coast Line
- Cornish Riviera Express – London Paddington to Cornwall
- More Ways to Save Money on Trains in Cornwall
Night Riviera – London Paddington to Cornwall Sleeper Train
The most romantic way of getting to Cornwall from London is on the Night Riviera sleeper train. Setting off from Paddington – one of London’s grandest railway stations – and waking up in Cornwall is, without doubt, one of the most exceptional travel experiences in Britain.
Night Riviera sleeper train – London to Penzance, Cornwall
For starters check out our London to Cornwall sleeper train photoblog – it’ll whet the appetite for this classic journey that really shouldn’t be missed.
In October 2012 I took the sleeper train to Cornwall. I was looking forward to the journey but wasn’t expecting quite the experience I enjoyed. From the First Class lounge at London Paddington to disembarking in Truro (Cornwall), it was an absolute joy.
I’ll never forget how friendly and generous the staff were, who fascinated me with their stories of life working on Britain’s sleeper trains. There was also a real sense of camaraderie among the passengers, embarking one of Britain’s last real rail adventures.
The night train to Cornwall, the most romantic way to visit
This video from Visit Cornwall does a great job of conjuring up the experience and in particular the romance of sharing the Night Riviera sleeper service with someone you love. And of course, if you are travelling the Night Riviera with your partner, the bonus – along with the memories – is that you’ll get 1/3 OFF the journey with a Two Together Railcard.
Night riders: aboard the Paddington-Penzance sleeper train
Get a different take on the journey by finding out what it’s like for people commuting to London from Cornwall on the sleeper train.
…those who can afford a berth are prone to fall in love with the service the moment they step on board, and the numbers of people using it are going up at a rate of around 10% a year: nearly 30,000 people used the train last year.
– ‘Night riders: aboard the Paddington-Penzance sleeper train’ – Emily Barr
The article is written by Emily Barr, the author of ‘The Sleeper’ a fictional thriller which itself is set on and inspired by the sleeper train.
For interesting facts, anecdotes and stories from commuters we recommend ‘Night riders: aboard the Paddington-Penzance sleeper train’. It’s a great read, and if you’re not already sold on the idea of this journey, you will be after dipping into some of its fascinating stories.
London to Cornwall Sleeper Train – The Man in Seat 61
As anyone scouring the internet for rail information is sure to have noticed, The Man in Seat 61 has plenty of expert advice for train travellers in the UK and further afield. His excellent guide to the London to Cornwall sleeper train contains all the information you need and a lot more.
For the journey itself, there’s detailed information on timetables, fares, how to buy tickets, what it’s like, children, luggage, bikes, pets, showers, toilets, the station lounge at London Paddington, wheelchair access and the sleeper cabins themselves. And even details about power sockets if you’re worried about keeping your devices charged up.
There’s also information on onward journeys to the Eden Project, Lands End and the Scilly Isles, plus recommended hotels in Cornwall.
The Man in Seat 61 guide to the London to Cornwall sleeper train is an excellent resource which admirably covers all the bases and some you hadn’t even thought about.
Travelling the branch lines of Cornwall is full of contrasts. From Truro, Cornwall’s ancient capital, you can head out to explore the county’s classic seaside resorts, picturesque villages, maritime heritage and renowned coastal stretches.
- The Looe Valley Line – Liskeard to Looe
- The Maritime Line – Truro to Falmouth Docks
- The Atlantic Coast Line – Par to Newquay
- The St Ives Bay Line – St Erth to St Ives
The Looe Valley Line – Liskeard to Looe
Starting in a heavily wooded valley, the line soon opens out as the river nears the sea. The last two miles between Sandplace and Looe are stunning.
– Great Scenic Railways Devon & Cornwall
Nature lovers and walkers will be in their element as they journey from Liskeard to Looe on the Looe Valley Line.
Starting in the handsome market town of Liskeard, the Looe Valley Line takes you on a meandering route to Causeland. From here you can disembark for a while to make the short walk to Duloe, a quaint village famous for its ancient stone circle. After some refreshments at a local pub, step back aboard to make your way to the picturesque seaside town of Looe.
Anytime and Off-Peak Day Return tickets between Liskeard and Looe allow a break of the journey on both the outward and return leg so you can stop at one place along the way.
If you want complete flexibility to roam when and where you like, a Looe Valley Line Day Ranger is a great value option which allows railcard discounts too.
The Maritime Line – Truro to Falmouth Docks
Fancy exploring winding back streets lined with quirky independent shops or maybe discovering some of Cornwall’s maritime heritage? Or, if you fancy an adrenaline rush, what about some all-action watersports like sailing, kayaking, windsurfing or snorkelling?
You’ll have all these options exploring the Maritime Line linking Truro – Cornwall’s capital city – to Falmouth, the historic and scenic harbour town.
Anytime and Off-Peak Day Return tickets between Truro and Falmouth docks allow one break of the journey so you can stop off and explore the medieval port town of Penryn along the way.
The Atlantic Coast Line – Par to Newquay
Cornwall is famous for its sandy beaches and crashing Atlantic breakers. Nowhere epitomises this spirit more than Newquay. The Atlantic Coast Line between Par and Newquay has plenty of countrysides, real pubs and walking trails in between.
Newquay has plenty more to offer than sea and surf though and hosts several festivals and music and cultural events in the summer. It’s a popular spot for young people, so don’t forget you can get discounted rail travel with a 16-25 Railcard.
Anytime and Off-Peak Day Return tickets between Par and Newquay allow one break in your journey so giving you plenty of time to explore and find out about the mining heritage at Luxulyan.
The St Ives Bay Line – St Erth to St Ives
For panoramic views as you travel the coast, the journey to the picturesque town of St Ives is probably the most scenic trip in Cornwall by train. And once you’ve arrived, there’s plenty of things to do in St Ives. Besides lounging on one of its four beautiful beaches or enjoying some seafood in a harbourside pub or restaurant, there’s the famous Tate St Ives along with numerous other smaller art galleries to enjoy.
Nanny Pat’s Days Out: St Ives by Train
The St Ives Bay Line is excellent for families. There are plenty of places on the route for kids to explore and keep them occupied. And family days out by train are just as much fun in winter as they are in summer.
Nanny Pat’s Days Out: St Ives by Train is full of ideas and tips for a family day out by train to St Ives.
Just make sure you’re getting discounted train travel with a Family and Friends Railcard as adults get 1/3 OFF and children 60% OFF. But even if you don’t have one, you can always get a St Ives Bay Line Family Ranger which gives you the freedom to explore all day.
Cornwall is famed for its natural beauty and has some great scenic railway lines to explore. So before setting out, make sure you know about all the ways to save money on days out in Cornwall by train.
The Cornish Riviera Express – London Paddington to Penzance, Cornwall
The first train after 10am from London Paddington to Penzance has become known as the Cornish Riviera Express. It’s a service that’s been running since 1904. If it didn’t sound enticing, enough here’s a way to inspire you to take this classic journey to Cornwall by train.
Cornish Riviera Express: On a Slow Train to Yesterday
Capturing the age of steam this nostalgic look at one of Britain’s classic rail journeys Brian Jackman revisits adventures from his youth. It brings the Cornish Express to life with lots of history and anecdotal stories.
He details the journey as it weaves its way from London, skirting past the flanks of Salisbury Plain, before entering the West Country proper. Onwards he really brings the trip to life as it continues through Devon to include the scenic English Riviera Line, where it navigates the banks of the River Exe before riding along the coast at Dawlish.
As he crosses Brunel’s Royal Albert Bridge over the River Tamar he leaves England to enters Cornwall. Continuing on through Truro he swaps trains in St Erth, avoiding Penzance and heading straight to St Ives instead.
You can relive the nostalgia for yourself on the Cornish Riviera Express from London to Cornwall, an incredible rail journey from the capital and through the West Country.
More Ways to Save Money on Trains in Cornwall
We all know that you’ll get a better deal on train tickets by buying in advance and travelling off-peak, But you should also make sure you’re not paying additional charges by getting tickets direct from rail companies such as Virgin Trains.
And don’t forget to make the most of national railcard discounts and get 1/3 OFF travel for adults and 60% OFF for children. Everyone can benefit from railcards, whether you’re a young person, travelling in a pair, taking the family or are over 60.
Residents of Cornwall can get similar reductions on rail travel with a Devon and Cornwall Railcard. This card is a bargain at just £10 per year. It lets kids go for £1 and up to two adults getting a 33% discount.
If you’re planning on seeing as much as possible in one day, a Ride Cornwall Ranger may be just the ticket. It offers unlimited rail travel in Cornwall (including journeys to and from Plymouth) for adults, children and families.
Travellers who want to spend more time in Cornwall and other parts of the region may want to consider the rail rover tickets available in south-west England.
If you’re not a UK resident and travelling to Britain from overseas, meanwhile, you can travel in Cornwall with a BritRail South West Pass.
Travelling through Cornwall by train is full of contrasts, from coast to countryside and through picturesque villages and bustling towns. Taking the trip from London is a great way to start exploring Cornwall by rail and one you’re unlikely to regret, especially with all the money-saving deals on offer.