It’s virtually impossible to overstate the colossal impact that rail travel has had on the literary canon. Books have long inspired us to hop on a train and explore the world, and few long rail journeys cannot be enlivened by a trusty paperback to flick through while the landscape scrolls by.
Research has found that over half of surveyed holidaymakers would be inspired to visit a literary attraction. (Visit England, 2017) So in celebration of World Book Day (Thursday 5 March) Tailor Made Rail have presented five of their favourite train holidays with a literary bent.
Specialist rail tour operator Tailor Made Rail (https://www.tailormaderail.com / 020 3322 7741) has been offering bespoke rail holidays since 2013, and know a thing or two about crafting page turning itineraries to fire up the imagination, sending travellers hot on the heels of their favourite writers and literary figures.
?Here’s their pick of five of the most literary rail expeditions:
Venice-Simplon Orient Express photo credit Tailor Made Rail
The Venice-Simplon Orient Express will naturally be forever synonymous with Agatha Christie’s 1934 novel Murder on the Orient Express, in which Hercule Poirot is called upon to solve a murder on the train heading west from Istanbul.
Christie herself was a frequent and enthusiastic international rail traveller, journeying solo all the way to Baghdad on the Orient Express to visit her second husband Max on his archaeological missions around the Middle East. She was known to travel with her typewriter and described it as “undoubtedly my favourite train.”
You’d be hard pressed to recreate the full extent of her intrepid voyages now for obvious reasons, but you can still ride on her coattails and sample the lavish splendour of the VSOE journey to Venice and back, with a detour via the charming Franco-centric Swiss city of Lausanne.
From £3,099pp, this 5-day luxury rail holiday includes an overnight journey in a twin cabin aboard the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express, transfer on arrival from the station to your hotel, 2 nights in Venice and then a return journey to London by train with a night in Lausanne en route.
This journey glides like a stake right through the heart of Transylvania, taking in Romanian capital Bucharest and the countless castles dotted around the cities of Sibiu and Sinaia, with special excursions to visit Peles Castle and, best of all, Brasov’s Bran Castle.
The castle’s dramatic setting, perched high above a river valley, fuelled the imagination of Irish writer Bram Stoker, who, despite never having actually set foot in Romania, was nonetheless suitably inspired to conjure up his infamous vampire and sorcerer Count Dracula on illustrations of this awe-inspiring castle alone.
From £899pp, this 12-day rail holiday includes flights in and out of Romania, 11 nights’ handpicked, four-star city centre hotel accommodation with breakfast, first class rail travel throughout Romania with seat reservations and time in the bustling Black Sea port town of Constanta, famous for its Art Nouveau casino.
Peru photo credit Belmond Images
Follow in the inimitable pawprints of everyone’s best loved bear from “deepest, darkest Peru” by taking the Belmond Andean Explorer in search of world-famous Machu Picchu.
Peru’s only luxury train travels from Arequipa to Cusco along one of the highest and most beautiful rail routes in the world, with a stay in Peru’s capital Lima, plus an unforgettable day trip to Machu Picchu.
From £3,299pp, this 12-day holiday includes London flights in and out of Peru, 8 nights four-star hotel accommodation, 2 nights on board the lavish Belmond Andean Explorer from Arequipa to Cusco in a twin bed cabin with full table d’hôte dining. Regretfully, marmalade sandwiches may not be included!
The complex narrative of Leo Tolstoy’s seminal novel Anna Karenina is heavily underpinned by trains, (spoiler alert!) with the titular heroine even ending her life by throwing herself under one, at the book’s dramatic climax. But don’t worry, this rail ride journey across Russia promises to be considerably more life affirming!
The novel is largely set amid the milieu of Saint Petersburg high society, and guests get a taste of this, spending three days in the great imperial city, along with equal time in Moscow.
From £1,149pp, this 10-day holiday includes flights in and out of Russia, 8 nights four-star hotel accommodation, and an overnight journey from Warsaw to Moscow in a double cabin.
Amsterdam photo credit Tailor Made Rail
Later this spring, Eurostar will be running their first direct return service from London to Amsterdam, delivering travellers from St Pancras to the Dutch capital – or the reverse - in a mere four hours. Thus, providing the perfect pretext to hit up the canals, parks, museums and Guild houses of Amsterdam, while also making time for the contrasting hip, design-conscious industrial port city of Rotterdam.
The first site on any enlightened traveller’s list in Amsterdam should be a pilgrimage to the Anne Frank House, a sobering museum dedicated to the tragically short life and monumental work of Jewish wartime diarist Anne Frank.
From £569pp, this 5-day holiday includes rail travel with Eurostar, 4 nights four-star hotel accommodation and comprehensive directions to hotels.