Reduce your carbon footprint and escape the city for a weekend break that you don’t have to take a plane for. Train holidays might seem old-school, but they’re a wonderful way to take a more relaxed, slower approach to travel. And with faster Eurostars and new overnight train services running between Scotland and London, it’s the right time to get away. From the wild west of Scotland to France’s gastronomic capital, these foodie holidays will show you don’t have to go far to get proper good grub on the other end of a trainline.
Learn how to forage on Scotland’s wild west coast
The Caledonian Sleeper has just got its first new trains in more than 30 years: perfect timing to ride the rails up to Scotland’s wild west coast. When you get there, head off on a two-day foraging course with Wildwood Bushcraft around the shores of Moidart and the nearby woodlands. You’ll pick up shellfish, seaweed and a whole lot of plants, learning how to identify what’s edible, where to find it and how to forage responsibly. You’ll also light a fire and cook what you’ve found on the beach. As for where to stay, Scotland is the only part of the UK, apart from Dartmoor, where you can wild camp legally – and if you ask the guide nicely, they might just point you in the direction of a great spot to pitch your tent.
Getting there: London Euston to Fort William on the Caledonian Sleeper, and onwards by local train to Lochailort. Your guide can pick you up from there.
Foraging there: Two-day course £180 per person, including lunch and your foraged ingredients, but not accommodation or travel.
Devour Michelin-starred Welsh fare at Ynyshir restaurant
A lovely old farmhouse surrounded by woods and fields, Ynyshir isn’t just a pretty face. At this Michelin-starred restaurant with rooms, chef-owner Gareth Ward loves to celebrate local produce – and with a location on the edge of Snowdonia National Park, close to the Bay of Cardigan, there’s plenty of that to celebrate. Expect creative dishes made with ingredients such as Welsh Wagyu beef and Aylesbury Duck, and smartened up Welsh classics like cawl soup. Best of all, once you’re full you can bed down in one of the 10 guestrooms before hopping on the train home.
Getting there: London Euston to Dovey Junction, via Birmingham New Street, then a 10-minute taxi ride.
Staying there: Ynyshir has doubles from £220, B&B.
Scour the markets in France’s foodie capital
France’s gastronomic capital, Lyon has everything you’d want from a foodie break. There are fantastic markets, including Les Halles de Lyon-Paul Bocuse (which shares its chef-namesake with the triple-Michelin-starred Restaurant Paul Bocuse), plus the outdoor Quai Saint-Antoine. The former in particular is the ideal hunting ground for top-notch produce to take home, such as St Marcellin cheese and various types of sausage. And you can learn what to do with it during a farm-to-table cooking class at Plum Lyon; their ‘Market Table’ classes include a trip to a market and fromagerie before you start. Finally, if your budget won’t stretch to dinner at Bocuse, try carefully prepared, seasonal plates at the hip Kitchen Cafe.
Getting there: Eurostar from London St Pancras to Lyon Part-Dieu. Direct during the summer, or via Lille Europe the rest of the year.
Shake up vegan smoothies with Berlin’s eco neighbourhood tours
Yes, this journey takes about nine and a half hours, but it’s worth it. En route you can admire the hills and forests of Belgium’s Wallonia region, and break your journey in beautiful Cologne if you fancy. Once you get to Berlin, try one of Greenme’s neighbourhood tours, taking in vegan restaurants, organic producers and zero-waste heroes, or a cooking lesson at Goldhahn und Sampson, where they teach everything from nose-to-tail preparation to raw food dining. As for where to eat and drink, Lokal and Katz Orange both dish up sustainable, seasonal German dishes, while zero-waste coffee shop Isla is the place for a caffeine fix.
Getting there: London St Pancras to Berlin via Brussels (by Eurostar) and Cologne (by DB). Use Go Euro to book your ticket all the way through.
Gorge on tasty food that would otherwise go to waste at Instock restaurant
Thanks to Eurostar, Amsterdam is now less than four hours away by rail. And there are plenty of exciting, ethically-minded places to eat when you arrive. The city might be known for a particular kind of weed, but at Dutch Weed Burger the plant-based patties, hotdogs, nuggets, and kebabs are nothing to do with marijuana. Instead, they all contain seaweed, sourced from the Netherlands’ coastline. Instock, meanwhile, serves dishes made from food waste, including granola that incorporates excess malt from beer-brewing, and ricotta produced using leftover from cappuccino-making. And, for ultra-local dining, Restaurant de Kas grows its own herbs and veg in an onsite greenhouses and a nearby farm, with set meals based around the harvest.
Getting there: Eurostar from London St Pancras to Amsterdam Centraal (direct outbound, via Brussels on the return journey).
Eat and stay at Yorkshire’s farm-t0-table Black Swan restaurant
For a walking weekend with a foodie twist, jump on a train towards to the North York Moors. At their edge you’ll find the Black Swan at Oldstead, a family-run, Michelin-starred restaurant with nine bedrooms. Head Chef Tommy Banks was just 24 when he took over the kitchen, after his parents bought the place, and he has made a name for himself since then by focusing on ingredients foraged nearby or grown in the restaurant’s own garden. Think: beef with lovage and onion, and root veg toast. Not your usual pub grub after a ramble over the moors.
Getting there: London King’s Cross to Thirsk, usually via York or Northallerton but occasionally direct. From Thirsk it’s roughly 20 minutes by taxi.
Staying there: The Black Swan offers dinner, bed and breakfast from £220 per person.
Want to stay even closer to home? Why not eat your way around Bristol with this 24-hour sustainable eating guide.