There’s no better way to witness autumn’s glorious displays of colour than on a picturesque train ride through scenic countryside. Embark on one of these five journeys for the best views of the season
NEW ENGLAND, USA
For the most spectacular display of autumnal colours, New England wins hands down. Vivid scarlets, golds and oranges seem to blaze from the trees in this part of world as the leaves change their colours – sometimes seemingly overnight -giving memorable vistas and plenty of photo ops. Mother Nature is so impressive at this time of the year that the quest for the most idyllic view has turned into a tourist attraction in its own right. Join the other so-called ‘leaf peepers’ on board one of the charmingly old-fashion trains that run on the historic Winnipesaukee Scenic Railroad, based in New Hampshire. The four-hour route from the pretty town of Meredith, that is located nest to Lake Winnipesaukee, to Plymouth, only runs in the fall foliage season to take advantage of the amazing natural beauty. The journey heads north towards the White Mountains, passing Lake Winona and over the Pemigewasset River, with station stops along the way. Expect to see a riot of colour emanating from the maple trees as well as charming countryside views – red barns, white farmhouses and sweeping panoramas over shimmering lakes. Take advantage of harvest time and join in with one of the many pumpkin-carving festivals occurring in the area (www.visitnh.gov).
Return ticket on the Fall Foliage Special, from Meredith to Plymouth, New Hampshire, is £36; www.foliagetrains.com
A passage on the Belmond Royal Scotsman is one of the most luxurious ways to see the breathtaking views of the Scottish highlands. The Highland Journey is a two-night trip that departs from Edinburgh, to the evocative sounds of bagpipes, and chugs through the cities of Keith and Dundee and on to the Cairngorms National Park. You’ll wake up to misty views over forests and dales, home to red deer and mountain hares, and be whisked past heather-clad hills and deep lochs. Watching the impressive views, champagne in hand, from onboard this iconic train is one of those must-do life experiences. The Royal Scotsman, sister to the Orient Express, is renowned for its luxurious carriages complete with tartan seating and wood paneling as well as its elegant restaurant car serving sublime table d’hote meals (very Agatha Christie). Included in the itinerary is a trip to the Strathisia Scotch Distillery (www.maltwhiskydistilleries.com), where you can get in touch with the real Scottish spirit with a glass of Chiva Regal Whisky. Moving stuff.
The Highland Journey cost from £2,350 per person, including all meals, drinks and excursions; www.belmond.com
ESPANA VERDE, NORTHERN SPAIN
This region of Spain, stretching across the country’s rugged, northern coastline, is marked out by sheer cliffs, traditional fishing villages and beautiful bays. The higher amount of rainfall, compared to southern Spain, means an impressive autumn show. Take your seat on the classic blue-and-white El Transcantabrico luxury train, which travels through the lesser-known areas of the north, such as the three-day journey from Oviedo to Bilbao. You’ll travel through the heart of Asturias, where the National Park of the Picos de Europa lies and past deep valleys burnished under the autumn sun, glacial lakes and medieval towns. The trip also takes in the historical town of Santillana del Mar and Santander, where you’ll no doubt be impressed with nature’s artwork. The journey ends in Bilbao – home of the Guggenheim Museum – perfect for comparing man’s attempt at artistry.
The three-day tour from Oviedo to Bilbao costs from £540, www.luxurytrainclub.com
ROCKY MOUNTAINS, CANADA
Famous for its iconic journeys into the heart of the Canadian Rockies, the gloriously luxurious Rocky Mountaineer train is as memorable as the scenery that it passes. Its journeys recapture the romance of rail travel as it follows historic rail routes, which united Canada from coast to coast over 100 years ago. The two-day First Passage To The West expedition retraces the steps of the 19th-century explorers, starting from Vancouver and travelling through the legendary Spiral Tunnels and passing the spot where the last spike on the Canadian Pacific Railway was driven. As well as the historic interest on offer, you’ll encounter British Colombia’s jaw-dropping views over winding river canyons, the majestic peaks of the Coast and Cascade Mountains and vertiginous trees, just as nature’s colours begin to change. With the snow-capped peaks of the Rockies as your backdrop, the journey ends in the mountain hamlet of Lake Louise in Banff. Check out the Halloween events, such as the spooky horse-back trails, that are part of the Lake Louise Fall Festival (www.banfflakelouise.com).
The First Passage To The West, Vancouver to Lake Louise, costs from £742 per person, www.rockymountaineer.com
One of the most spectacular ways to cross the Alps is on the red Bernina Express, from Chur in Switzerland to Tirano in Italy. Travelling on the UNESCO-listed railway line, the panoramic journey takes you past glistening glaciers of Switzerland and on to the russet tones of Italy. Travelling via 55 tunnels and over 196 bridges, the four-hour journey passes by a varied terrain, including orchards, chestnuts trees and vineyards – all displaying their glorious autumnal hues. The journey also passes through St Moritz, ideal for a chic lunch stop-off at Badrutt’s Palace Hotel (www.lhw.com).
The Chur-Tirano journey costs from £8 per person; www.rhb.ch