SPRING RAIL TRIPS

This is the sea­son for some spec­tac­u­lar jour­neys, says

The Sunday Telegraph - Travel - - People & Places - An­thony Lam­bert

1 NICE-TENDE -CUNEO

Nice is de­light­ful in spring, and Nice-Ville sta­tion is the start­ing point for the rail car that winds into the moun­tains over many viaducts and through even more tun­nels. It is justly known as Train des Merveilles – train of mar­vels – for the com­plete loops and horse­shoe curves in its dra­matic progress. The SNCF train climbs as far as Tende where pas­sen­gers change to an Italian train for the on­ward climb to the sum­mit at Li­mone and de­scent to Cuneo. English-speak­ing guides are on the morn­ing train, June-Septem­ber.

Nice-Tende from £18, Ten­deCu­neo from £24. But in JuneSeptem­ber buy the SNCF TER Sum­mer Day Pass for £14, which al­lows un­lim­ited travel for the day around Nice, in­clud­ing Nice-Tende. SNCF (0844 848 5848; uk.voy­agess­ncf.com).

2 RÜGEN NARROWGAUGE RAIL­WAY

Spring is re­garded as the best time on this Baltic is­land, where Cas­par David Friedrich painted many of the coastal land­scapes. The narrowgauge “Rasender Roland” (Rac­ing Roland) steam rail­way links many tourist sites, in­clud­ing the re­sorts of Binz and Sellin favoured by Thomas Mann and Bis­marck, the huge brick Granitz hunt­ing lodge and the is­land’s old­est re­sort of Put­bus with its el­e­gant Neo­clas­si­cal square and cir­cle.

Put­bus-Göhren £20 re­turn (0049 38 301 88 40-12; rue­gen­schebaerder­bahn.de). Weekly passes are avail­able.

3 EUROSTAR TO KEUKENHOF

Eurostar has be­gun its new twice-daily ser­vice to Am­s­ter­dam in per­fect time to see one of the world’s most beau­ti­ful spring gar­dens. Seven mil­lion bulbs rep­re­sent­ing 800 va­ri­eties of tulip pro­vide a riot of colour in Keukenhof ’s 32 hectares of flower beds. This year’s theme is “Ro­mance in Flow­ers”, re­flect­ing the site’s mid-19th-cen­tury de­sign as an or­na­men­tal gar­den for Cas­tle Keukenhof. Open un­til May 13.

From £78 re­turn. Eurostar (03432 186186; eurostar.com). From Am­s­ter­dam city cen­tre, bus 397 to Schiphol for the Keukenhof Ex­press bus 858; £26 combi ticket, in­clud­ing ad­mis­sion to Keukenhof, which avoids queu­ing.

4 CLER­MONT FERRAND-BÉZIERS

This mag­nif­i­cent line is down to one train a day and un­der con­stant threat of clo­sure, de­spite it be­ing the French equiv­a­lent of the Set­tle-Carlisle rail­way. Spring, be­fore tem­per­a­tures rise in south­ern France, is a per­fect time to ap­pre­ci­ate the Gara­bit Viaduct, de­signed by Gus­tave Eif­fel, and the Lot and Tarn rivers be­fore reach­ing Mil­lau and Nor­man Fos­ter’s viaduct, the world’s high­est road bridge. Above Tourne­mire sta­tion is the vil­lage of Roque­fort and the lime­stone caves where the cheese is aged. Hill­sides of vines flank the lines on the ap­proach to the wine cen­tre of Béziers. Go be­fore it’s too late! Cler­mont Ferrand-Béziers, from £18.50 one way or £37 re­turn.

5 FORT WILLIAM TO MAL­LAIG

Stu­pen­dous views across the Western Isles are en­livened by the bark of steam lo­co­mo­tives on the Ja­co­bite train, which runs on week­days from April 9. Aza­leas and rhodo­den­drons line much of the route, which passes the Glen­finnan Mon­u­ment and crosses “Con­crete Bob” McAlpine’s fa­mous Glen­finnan Viaduct in an am­phithe­atre of moun­tains be­fore reach­ing Mal­laig.

Fort William-Mal­laig: £35 re­turn by the Ja­co­bite (0844 850 4685; ja­co­bite­train.com); ScotRail off-peak day re­turn £14.70 (0344 811 0141; scotrail.co.uk).

6 TOKYO-KY­OTO AND THE SAGANO TOROKKO

Cherry blos­som in the Arashiyama dis­trict has been de­light­ing tourists for more than a mil­len­nium, and the best way to en­joy it to­day is the Sagano Scenic Rail­way. It starts from Saga Torokko sta­tion, reached by a 15-minute jour­ney from Ky­oto to JR Saga-Arashiyama sta­tion, and ends at Kameoka Torokko. Boughs of pink blos­som wave above the train as it runs be­side the Hozu­gawa river in a steep val­ley. The Shinkansen from Tokyo to Ky­oto is scenic too, pass­ing Mount Fuji and green tea fields.

Tokyo-Ky­oto £189 re­turn, Saga Torokko-Kameoka Torokko £9 re­turn. Seven-day Ja­pan Rail Pass from £189. In­side Ja­pan Tours (0117 370 9730; in­sid­e­japan­tours.com).

7 PALMA-SOLLER. MAL­LORCA

Most peo­ple travel the length of this his­toric elec­tric rail­way from the fin de siè­cle sta­tion on Palma’s Plaça d’Es­panya to Sóller, and con­tinue by the open tram to the port. Be­fore the long sum­mit tun­nel, the line dis­sects olive groves full of spring flow­ers, but to en­joy the wild flow­ers of the Serra de Tra­muntana, try a walk from Bun­y­ola, where herb-based liqueurs are made at the Túnel fac­tory. Among the glo­ries of the coun­try­side are white mignonette and wild or­chids.

Book­ing of­fice at sta­tion. Pal­maSóller £22 re­turn, Sóller-Sóller Port £12.50 re­turn, com­bined re­turn ticket £29.

8 BLUE­BELL RAIL­WAY, SUS­SEX

Named af­ter the blue­bells that car­pet the line­side woods, the Blue­bell Rail­way be­gins at East Grin­stead sta­tion (trains from Lon­don Vic­to­ria) and am­bles through idyl­lic Sus­sex coun­try­side, paus­ing at sta­tions re­stored to dif­fer­ent his­toric pe­ri­ods. Its steam lo­co­mo­tives also haul car­riages from dif­fer­ent eras. Na­tional Trust gar­dens of Sh­effield Park are a short walk from Sh­effield Park sta­tion.

East Grin­stead-Sh­effield Park adult re­turn £19. Blue­bell Rail­way (01825 720800; blue­bell-rail­way.com). Lon­don Vic­to­ria-East Grin­stead, from £15.70 re­turn. South­ern Rail­way (south­ern­rail­way.com).

9 SHREWS­BURY TO HERE­FORD

Be­gin­ning at Shrews­bury’s splen­did neo-Tu­dor sta­tion, this jour­ney through the beau­ti­ful rolling hills of the Welsh Marches and woods of pale-green spring leaves has barely a dull mo­ment. From Church Stret­ton the Long Mynd and Stiper­stones shut­tle bus of­fers walk­ers an hourly ser­vice to the Shrop­shire Hills. The train flashes past me­dieval Stoke­say Cas­tle, and Lud­low of­fers a mar­ket, cel­e­brated restau­rants and the ru­ins of the Marcher Lords’ cas­tle, briefly home to Cather­ine of Aragon.

Shrews­bury-Here­ford adult day sin­gle £22, any­time day re­turn £23.70. Ar­riva Trains Wales (03333 211202; ar­riva­train­swales.co.uk).

10 INTERLAKEN-SCHYNIGE PLATTE

Trains re­sume the dra­matic climb to the moun­tain ridge over­look­ing lakes Thun and Brienz on May 26. Close to Schynige Platte sum­mit sta­tion and ho­tel of 1899 is an Alpine gar­den dat­ing from 1929 with about 650 species, in­clud­ing edel­weiss, black lo­belia and par­adise lily. Two-thirds of all flora can be en­joyed on a ⅔-mile (1km) walk through the gar­den. An easy cir­cu­lar walk from the sum­mit passes the bizarre domed rock known as the Daube.

Interlaken Ost-Schynige Platte, £55 re­turn, chang­ing at Wilder­swil. Switzer­land Travel Cen­tre (020 7420 4900; switzer­land­trav­el­cen­tre.co.uk).

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