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Bristol is a thriving city, full of culture and history. It’s also extremely well-placed in southwest England for some excellent day trips.

In this guide, we’ll look at some of the most beautiful places you can visit in the region and some super fun activities you can try out. So grab your bags and get ready to explore as we look at the best day trips from Bristol.

Bath

Visit historic Bath as a day trip from Bristol

Visit historic Bath as a day trip from Bristol

Bath was famously the home of Jane Austen, but even if you’re not a fan of literature, you’ll still get something out of a trip to this charming town.

One of the biggest landmarks in Bath is the roman baths where you can find the ruins of a public bathing and socialising complex used by the Romans over 2,000 years ago. There’s an onsite museum to give you more information about the archaeological site and you can also take an audio tour.

If you want to try out some bathing for yourself, head to the nearby Thermae Bath Spa, England’s only thermal spa where the natural hot waters can work wonders for your health.

You can get to Bath by train several times throughout the day, including direct trains that will get you there in no time. While you’re there, don’t forget to stop at one of the many chic coffee shops or visit the Jane Austen Center.

Cardiff

Cardiff Castle

Cardiff Castle

It takes less than an hour to get from Bristol to Cardiff, making it a perfect day trip. As the capital of Wales, it’s full of great activities to fill your day.

First on your agenda should be the National Museum Cardiff, a free museum and art gallery all about Wales, including botany, zoology, and geology.

You should also visit Cardiff Castle, a medieval castle that sits at the heart of the city. Inside, you can explore the castle towers, visit the inner keep, and explore the courtyards.

Before heading back to Bristol, finish the day off with a little trip down to Cardiff Bay where you’ll find a huge range of bars and restaurants overlooking the marina as well as the millennium centre where you can catch an evening show.

Cheddar Gorge

Cliff Road in the Cheddar Gorge

Cliff Road in the Cheddar Gorge

Cheddar Gorge is located about 30 kilometres from Bristol and makes an excellent day trip, it was voted the second greatest natural wonder in Britain (source).

If you love history, wildlife, or nature – or you simply have a sense of adventure – you should plan to spend a few hours here the next time you’re in the area.

It is a natural landmark where you can view gorgeous caves and cliffs, but it also includes exhibits to help you learn about long-ago ancestors.

Even better, you can go rock climbing or explore the caves on your own if you’d like to spend a little more time there.

Weston-super-Mare

If you’re looking for one of the best day trips from Bristol using public transport, you can take the train from Temple Meads to Weston-super-Mare in about 30 minutes.

This lovely seaside town is one you won’t forget, in part because it offers something for everyone. Included in the perks of visiting the town are quiet walks over Sand Bay, lively Punch and Judy shows, and a nostalgic pier.

You can also visit their impressive helicopter museum for lovers of flight, and don’t miss the Weston Sand Sculpture Festival if you’re there during the summertime.

Weston-super-Mare is home to a playhouse, theatre, several museums, and beautiful gardens. It also offers attractions such as arcades, fudge factories, eateries, and a go-kart track, making this a very fun place to visit.

Tintern Abbey

Tintern Abbey in the beautiful Wye Valley, perfect for a day trip from Bristol

Tintern Abbey in the beautiful Wye Valley, perfect for a day trip from Bristol

Located just over the border from Bristol in Wales, you can get to Tintern Abbey in around 30 minutes if you drive, or in roughly 2.5 hours by bus or train. Visiting the Abbey as well as the Wye Valley is one of the most beautiful day trips from Bristol.

The abbey was founded in the early 1100s and since then, it has changed a bit. Even from afar, the structure is nothing short of extraordinary, and as long as you wish to see something interesting, you can walk on the grounds and experience something new. The natural beauty it offers never fades, and it’s especially fun for people who love history.

The odd thing is that Tintern Abbey wasn’t really regularly tended to until the early 1900s, but since then it has been well taken care of and therefore, you can enjoy its magnificence today whenever you visit. Just the sheer size of the structure will surprise you.

Salisbury

Salisbury Cathedral

Salisbury Cathedral

In just over an hour by direct train, you can take a day trip from Bristol to the nearby city of Salisbury.

The city is home to Salisbury Cathedral which is famous for holding the best-preserved copy of the Magna Carta, attracting tens of thousands of visitors each year.

And make sure you spend some time wandering the old city centre where you’ll find quaint little buildings and a mixture of architecture dating as far back as the middle ages.

Longleat Safari Park

Longleat is a drive-through safari park located just an hour away from Bristol so it makes for a perfect family day trip.

It opened in 1966 when it was the first park of its kind outside of Africa. Here, you’ll have the chance to see tons of safari animals, including giraffes, tortoises, lemurs, sheep, ostriches, zebras, and so many others. You can enjoy a boat cruise around Half Mile Lake or visit the monkey temple, which is nothing short of extraordinary.

Even better, you can stop and have a snack, buy souvenirs, or even schedule a wedding or other special event on the grounds. In other words, you won’t just be driving around looking at animals up close if you visit this attraction. There is a lot more to do.

The Cotswolds

The Cotswolds town of Lower Slaughter

The Cotswolds town of Lower Slaughter

The Cotswolds are only 50 miles from Bristol and can be reached in around an hour on a good day. It is an area located in Central South-West England known for its stone-built towns and villages made with iconic Cotswolds stone.

Some of the best places to visit in the Cotswolds are Chipping Campden, Broadway, and Cirencester.

Of course, you can get out and enjoy the rolling countryside too where you’ll find wildlife walks and manor houses dotted among beautiful landscapes.

We can all agree that some of the best things in life are free. However, visiting London is far from cheap and is one of the most expensive cities in the world.

Apart from booking your accommodation and organising your train to London Kings Cross station, there’s so much to do in London without forking out a single penny – it’s just knowing where to go and what to do.

Whether you’re completely skint or just fancy stretching out your budget a little longer, here’s our list of the best things to do on your trip to London that are completely free.

The Tate Modern

Atrium in the Tate Modern, one of the best free things to do in London

Atrium in the Tate Modern

One of the most beloved attractions in London, the Tate Modern is home to a wide collection of permanent artwork including that of Picasso, Warhol and Matisse. The gallery lies in what was previously the Bankside Power Station on the south bank of the Thames.

Whilst some of the larger temporary exhibitions may require a fee, the permanent collection here is free to visit. If you’re a fan of galleries and museums, you should definitely organise a visit here during your stay.

Houses of Parliament

The iconic Houses of Parliament and Big Ben are one of the best things to do in London for free

The iconic Houses of Parliament and Big Ben are one of the best things to do in London for free

Built during the 19th century, the Houses of Parliament are a quintessentially British landmark, home to arguably the world’s most famous clock, Big Ben. If you’re a UK resident you can book a free ‘Inside UK Parliament’ guided tour up to six months in advance. All you need to do is contact a member of the House of Lords or your Member of Parliament (MP).

For everyone else, there are still guided tours of the Palace of Westminster but these require a paid ticket. You can also take an online guided tour, which is also free should you still want to take a look inside the neo-Gothic wonder.

Kensington Gardens

The sprawling Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens

The sprawling Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens

Perfect for an afternoon stroll or picnic, Kensington Gardens is a stunning collection of trimmed lawns and beautiful fountains among the Royal Parks of London. There is a trove of attractions here just waiting to be explored, including the Serpentine Gallery and the Albert Memorial.

For the children, there is the Princess Diana Memorial Playground, which is home to a wooden pirate ship, a sensory trail and numerous play sculptures. Better still, all of the sights here are free, as are all of the other Royal Parks, including Hyde Park, St James’s Park and Regent’s Park. You can easily spend hours out in the open without breaking the bank.

Changing of the Guard

Changing of the Guard at the Victoria Memorial

Changing of the Guard at the Victoria Memorial

The most iconic ceremony that takes place in London is, of course, the changing of the guard. Typically, the event takes place outside Buckingham Palace at 11 am every Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday, but it’s always best to check the schedule before you arrive.

Dressed in their traditional red tunics and bearskin hats, the King’s Guard will march around in unison to music in a display of remarkable pageantry. During this, they will switch responsibilities with each other and return to their duties. Whilst it’s one of the best things to do in London for free, it is also very popular, so make sure to get there early if you want the best spot.

The Natural History Museum

The Natural History Museum in London

The Natural History Museum in London

One of the largest collections of nature in the whole world, boasting over 80 million items, the National History museum takes you back through time as far back as the Prehistoric Period.

Learn how the dinosaurs roamed the Earth from an animatronic T-rex or go see the humongous blue whale suspended from the ceiling. There is so much to do and see here that you can easily spend the whole day walking around the exhibits.

Whilst donations are welcome, the museum is free to enter, except for the special exhibits. It is always best to visit on weekdays after 2 pm or at opening time on a weekend if you don’t want to be stuck in long queues. You will also need to book your tickets prior to arrival and select your designated time.

Sky Garden

Hang out in the Sky Garden with a view of London below

Hang out in the Sky Garden with a view of London below

Providing some of the best views of Central London, the large glass dome is dedicated to three storeys of beautiful public gardens, including an open terrace and several observation decks. It’s the ideal place to hang out and pass a few hours and you can also grab a few drinks should you choose to do so. Visiting the Sky Garden is one of the best things to do in London for free.

You are free to explore the Sky Garden on weekdays from 10 am to 6 pm and weekends from 11 am to 9 pm. You can get your tickets online up to three weeks in advance and these can sell out quickly. Walk-ins are sometimes available so it may be worth visiting early in the day if you were unable to get yourself a ticket.

With the cost of everything soaring, the last thing anyone needs when they’re backpacking around Europe is to be hit with hefty data roaming charges that can leave a big hole in your wallet. But many Brits are still unaware that they’re racking up huge mobile bills when abroad, leaving them outraged when they get back home and discover they’ve been unknowingly clocking up data charges as they travelled.

Since Britain left the European Union, most mobile networks stopped providing free roaming in EU countries, which allow their citizens to make calls and use mobile data at no additional cost while in member states. But Brits may not know that when they’re in an EU nation and using data for such things as maps and messaging that they’re incurring charges that could add up to large sums.

According to a survey commissioned by mobile network Lebara UK, some Brits are paying up to £1,000 in roaming charges while on holiday in the EU. As many as one-third of British people holidaying in places like France, Spain and Italy were paying such enormous bills that were mostly made up of roaming charges, the survey found.

Other destinations where Brits were holidaying when they were being charged for mobile data roaming included Germany, Greece and Croatia. Respondents to the survey, carried out by OnePoll in early August and involving 2,000 people, also visited the Netherlands, Poland and Portugal.

What’s All the Roaming About?

When you’re backpacking around Europe, in towns and cities you don’t know, the most essential tool is right there in your pocket — allowing you to easily find hotels, bars, restaurants and clubs, and snap all the sights as you go. Sharing picturesque images with pals on social media is another must-do while abroad, making them green with envy that you’re on your travels in exciting places while they’re stuck at home.

So it’s no surprise that almost half of survey respondents (44%) said they used mobile data for social media use in EU countries — posting pics to Instagram, TikTok and other online platforms to keep their followers updated. A total of 42% of those who took part in the poll said they used mobile data for maps, so they could quickly locate the places they wanted to be. Others (28%) streamed music on their mobile devices; 20% used mobile data for gaming; and 16% were looking for love while abroad — not in pubs and clubs but via dating apps.

Avoiding Big Roaming Charges in the EU

Before you head overseas on your next big trip, check with your mobile network provider to see if free roaming in the EU is included in your package, or if there are extra charges. Even if you have to pay more, small sums can quickly add up when you’re downloading, streaming, scrolling or searching on your phone.

For those unlucky enough to have no free EU roaming, they may want to consider getting a SIM-only deal before they head away. These are available in the UK from networks like Lebara and they don’t tie you into any contracts and provide the amount of EU data roaming you’re likely to need.

So when you get to your destination, swap out your usual SIM for your new one, giving you the freedom to roam like home. You can then enjoy your holiday without the worry of clocking up data charges as you travel and being landed with a massive bill when you get back that would certainly ruin the happy memories of those carefree European days.

People go backpacking for any number of reasons. The genre really got off the ground in the late 1960s when hippies headed east in search of spiritual enlightenment, and by the 1980s, taking a year off to explore Australia or Latin America became almost a rite of passage.

Recent years have seen the rise of more niche backpacking trips, including long-distance hiking, visiting historic sites such as battlefields and especially sports. Every year, for example, thousands of English cricket fans follow their team to exotic destinations such as the West Indies, New Zealand and Sri Lanka, combining their sporting passion with exploring distant lands on the cheap.

The same goes for hardcore horse racing fans. The Sport of Kings boasts a long history not just in the US and the UK but around the world, and fans are willing to travel long distances to see the best races while at the same time poking around the towns and cities which play host to them.

We’ve picked three examples of great travel locations which boast classic horse racing along with plenty of other things to do and see to keep backpackers occupied during their short stay there.

Lexington

Lexington Kentucky, a famous destination for horse racing fans

Let’s start close to home and Lexington, Kentucky. Imagine combining history and horses in one short trip! They have been distilling bourbon, a type of corn whisky which takes its name from a French royal family, in the region for almost 150 years now, and Lexington sits at the very heart with a large number of distilleries to visit. The Buffalo Trace Distillery on the Kentucky River is one of the oldest in the land and even stayed open during prohibition. As for history, take time to visit Mary Todd Lincoln House, one-time home to the wife of Abraham Lincoln, before a peaceful stroll around the peaceful Lexington Cemetry, home to three lakes, 179 species of birds and more than 200 types of trees as well as being the final resting place of many a famous Kentuckian.

Then there are the horses! Whether it’s horse farms, museums, studs or the world-famous Churchill Downs, home of the Kentucky Derby, in nearby Louisville, the equine world runs through the Kentucky DNA. Closer to Lexington itself is Keeneland which frequently plays host to the Breeder’s Cup, one of the biggest events on the US racing calendar. This year, Medina Spirit will be hoping to improve on second place in 2021, and put the disappointment of Ketucky Derby disqualification in the

Melbourne

Melbourne's Central Station

Melbourne’s Central Station

As mentioned earlier, there is a long tradition of backpacking in Australia. The vast distances involved, the natural beauty and the relative ease of getting around continue to entice travelers from around the world looking for an adventurous or sporting break. As the capital of the state of Victoria, Melbourne’s cosmopolitan population has left its mark on the city’s dining options, with Greek, Italian, Chinese and Vietnamese restaurants proving to be very popular. Then there are its natural attractions, including the spectacular Great Ocean Road with its beaches and bays as well as the Twelve Apostles, stunning rock formations jutting up from the ocean.

But Melbourne is also sports-daft! It hosts the Formula 1 Grand Prix, the Australian Open in tennis and its own local games; Australian Rules Football often attracts attendances in excess of 60,000, while the official website Visit Victoria lists many other orthodox and less orthodox activities. But everything comes to a halt on one day in November when the Melbourne Cup hits Flemington. With many of the Covid-19 restrictions now behind us, race organizers can be looking forward to crowds of 80-90,000 returning for the biggest horse racing event in the Southern Hemisphere. And those crowds will be witnessing the favorite in the Ladbrokes horse racing odds, Loft, attempting to secure the $4.4 million prize. Whilst his stable will be expecting the win, the Melbourne Cup often serves up a shock, especially in 2009 when Shocking won, and it is this uncertainty which makes the race so special.

Ascot

Check out some horse racing near historic Windsor Castle

Check out some horse racing near historic Windsor Castle

Ascot, a small, nondescript town just outside of London, sits in the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead, and it is that regal link which explains its worldwide fame. A short drive up the road sits the impressive Windsor Castle, nigh on 1,000 years of British history lies behind its thick walls and the expansive Windsor Great Park, originally laid out as a private hunting ground for the folks in the castle but now a delightful place for a walk. On the opposite bank of the River Thames is the elite Eton College, where future politicians and inheritors of royal seats receive their expensive education.

Ascot comes alive every June for the Royal Meeting, one of the highlights of the British social calendar. Britain’s pomp and ceremony vie for attention with the racing as each day of the meet starts with the Royal Procession when the Royal Family arrive and take their place in the exclusive Royal Enclosure. But away from the pageantry and the dressing up, the meet offers up some of the finest races in the world, including the prestigious Gold Cup and the Diamond Jubilee Stakes and the most budget-friendly place to watch these races is in the Windsor Enclosure, which provides a more informal environment. After witnessing the British all dressed up, head back to Windsor and enjoy a meal on the Thames as the sunsets on another exciting day out.


Backpacking started off as a cheap form of travel where interacting with local communities was just as important as visiting a museum. Themed trips such as those mentioned above continue that fine tradition.

 

London is one of the most vibrant, exciting cities in the world, with so many incredible things to see and do. However, there are plenty of other fantastic places in the south of England that are also definitely worth visiting. Many of these make easy day trips from London by train. Here are some of the very best.

Oxford (or Cambridge)

Historic Oxford, accessible as a day trip from London by train

Historic Oxford, accessible as a day trip from London by train

Home to a world-famous 1,000-year-old university, beautiful medieval buildings, cozy cafes, atmospheric pubs, and more Harry Potter filming locations than you can shake a wand at, Oxford is a wonderful place to spend a day.

The centre of town is fairly compact and walkable. Highlights include the Radcliffe Camera, the Bodleian Library, Christ Church College,

Turf Tavern, the Pitt Rivers and Ashmolean museums, as well as the Sheldonian Theatre, Botanic Gardens, and Magdalen College.

For the best view in the city, and to see why Oxford is known as the “City of Dreaming Spires”, climb the tower of the Church of St Mary The Virgin.

Alternatively, why not visit the other equally-famous university town, Cambridge. (Or “the Other Place”, as Oxonians like to call it.

Cambridge is smaller than Oxford, with slightly fewer “sights”, but an equally captifying atmosphere. Famous places to visit in Cambridge include the Fitzwilliam Museum, the Bridge of Sighs (named after the bridge in Venice), the Mathematical Bridge, King’s College Chapel, and “the Backs” – an iconic and beautiful area that separates some of the university’s colleges with the river Cam (hire a punt for the best views).

The South Downs

Head to South Downs National Park to experience English countryside just outside of London

Head to South Downs National Park to experience the beautiful English countryside

There are many excellent walks in and around London. However, if you’d prefer to spend a day hiking in the English countryside, head for the South Downs National Park. This range of hills passes through the counties of East Sussex, West Sussex and Hampshire, and has some of the finest scenery in southern England.

It’s a beautiful place, with gently rolling hills, picture-postcard green fields, ancient woodland, and meadows of wildflowers. From many viewpoints, you can see all the way to the coast and out to sea.

There are many excellent walking trails passing through the South Downs. Two of the best known are the South Downs Way and the Monarch’s Way. These are both long-distance hiking routes, but several sections make excellent day walks that are easily doable on a day trip from London by train.

A classic route is from Hassocks to Lewes, via Ditchling Beacon. Both Hassocks and Lewes have a station with direct trains to/from London.

Another great option is the walk from Seaford to Eastbourne, via the famous “Seven Sisters” cliffs.

Brighton

Take a day trip from London by train and head to the coastal town of Brighton

Take a day trip from London by train and head to the coastal town of Brighton

Brighton is a popular seaside town on the south coast of England.

Famous for its long pebbly beach and party atmosphere, Brighton is a great place to visit throughout the year. In the summertime, the long, mild evenings draw crowds of locals and visitors alike to the seafront. Here you can enjoy friendly festival-like vibes and a drink or two as you watch the sunset over the English Channel.

Other places to visit in Brighton include the iconic Royal Pavilion and Brighton pier, complete with a traditional amusement arcade and mini-theme park. Wander through the narrow alleyways of the Lanes, an area close to the seafront that’s full of pubs, bars, restaurants, vintage shops, and independent boutiques.

Brighton is known for being a very progressive, open-minded place. Brighton Pride is arguably the UK’s most popular international Pride Festival, and the city has a large LGBTQ+ community.

There’s also a vibrant creative scene here, with a range of music, theatre, art, film, and literature festivals throughout the year.

Brighton is particularly easy to explore as a day trip from London by train. There are usually at least 2-3 direct services per hour to/from several London stations, and the journey only takes 60-70 minutes.

Windsor Castle

Windsor Castle, just outside of London

Windsor Castle, just outside of London

Located just outside London and accessible by train, Windsor Castle is one of the Queen’s three official residences. It’s also the largest and oldest continually-inhabited castle in the world.

The castle is located on top of a hill and can be seen for miles throughout the surrounding area. It has many imposing towers and battlements, immaculately manicured courtyards, and more than 5,000 acres of grounds.

One of the most striking things about Windsor Castle is its size. It’s truly massive, with over 1,000 rooms. You can visit many of these, including the richly furnished state apartments (full of priceless artwork by painters such as Rembrandt), and the Royal Family’s luxurious private apartments.

The castle’s gothic St George’s Chapel has a beautiful vaulted ceiling and contains the tombs of many former British monarchs, including Charles I and Henry VIII. (For anyone interested, this is also where Harry and Meghan were married.)

If you can time your visit to coincide with the Changing of the Guard (at 11 am), this is worth seeing. A colourful and symbolic daily ceremony marks the formal changing of the castle’s guards. It’s full of pomp and tradition, complete with a marching band.

Don’t miss a walk through the extensive grounds too. The best – and most iconic – view of Windsor Castle can be seen from the Long Walk, a 2.6-mile tree-lined avenue that leads up to the castle.

Margate & Whitstable

Walk along the seafront in Whitsable - A day trip from London by train

Walk along the seafront in Whitstable

The Victorian seaside town of Margate has recently become popular again with a wave of regeneration and gentrification.

Today, the town is full of hipster coffee shops, vintage shops, trendy bars selling craft beer and natural wine, and inventive restaurants and galleries. The Turner Contemporary gallery is well worth a visit, as is Crate, an artists studio and creative space housed in a former printing factory.

Also worth checking out, the alternative-themed amusement park Dreamland has several fun rides and also hosts a range of live music.

A few miles along the Kent coast, Whitstable has a totally different feel to Margate. More upmarket, here you’ll find several smart restaurants and many fancy holiday rental properties.

Take a walk along the Whitstable seafront, past the rainbow-coloured beach houses, maybe stopping to chat with one of the vendors selling freshly caught oysters, mackerel, and other local produce. If you have time, pop in for a drink at the Old Neptune pub, a local institution located right on the beach.

It’s easy to visit both Margate and Whitstable as a day trip from London by train. Both towns have good rail connections with the capital, and the train only takes 20 minutes between the two.

Bath

With Roman origins and stunning architecture, Bath is well-worth a day trip from London

With Roman origins and stunning architecture, Bath is well worth a day trip from London by train

Home to an incredible ancient Roman bathhouse, the city of Bath has some of the most beautiful architecture in Britain.

The famous Roman baths were built 2,000 years ago on top of a natural hot spring. Mineral-rich water rising from the ground was channelled through an impressive system of pipes and chambers to create a spa complex with several heated rooms and thermal pools.

It’s one of the best-preserved ancient bathhouses in the world, and definitely worth a visit.

Sadly, you can’t take a dip in the Roman baths in Bath. However, the same natural hot spring water flows into the modern Thermae Bath Spa, where you can enjoy a luxurious pampering experience complete with a stunning rooftop pool.

Other sites not to miss in Bath include the Royal Crescent (a gorgeous curving street lined with butter-coloured Georgian houses), Pulteney Bridge (an 18th-century bridge lined with shops), and Bath Abbey (a beautiful medieval church).

For a great view over the city, try hiking the Bath Skyline, a 6-mile circular trail passing through ancient woodland and meadows.

Bristol

Bristol is known for its vibrant arts scene and quirky alternative culture

Bristol is known for its vibrant arts scene and quirky alternative culture

Arty, edgy, and wonderfully unconventional, Bristol is one of the most liveable cities in the UK. At only 1.5 hours away from central London by train, it makes a perfect day trip.

Bristol is known for its attractive harbour, vibrant arts scene, rich history, quirky alternative culture, and the friendliness of its locals. It’s also the proud birthplace of the famous street artist Banksy, whose works are found throughout the city.

Clifton, a smart residential area of the city, is definitely worth a visit. Here you’ll find beautiful large Victorian and Georgian houses, green parks, boutiquey shops, and independent cafés and wine bars. From the famous Clifton suspension bridge, there are wonderful views across the Avon Gorge.

For a grittier take on the city, take a walk around the Stokes Croft area, home to a range of excellent pubs, artists’ studios, and fantastic international eateries.

Planning Your Day Trip from London by Train

The price of your ticket can vary wildly depending on the time, and how far in advance you book. For the cheapest fares, it’s best to book as far in advance as possible. If you’re travelling between Monday and Friday, try to book “off peak” trains (i.e. departing between 9:30 am and returning after 7 pm), if possible.

It’s quick and easy to compare and book tickets online using thetrainline.com.