I don’t know what it is, but I adore a steam train. I love the clickety-clack noise, seeing the puffs of smoke chug upwards, and the piercing whistle as you whizz through a crossing, as well as the nostalgic, vintage elegance, which always has me daydreaming of the golden age of train travel.
A dream of mine has always been to travel on the Orient Express across Europe or to have a fancy meal on the British Pullman until then I love discovering local heritage railways, and I’m fortunate that in Kent there are a few, including The Spa Valley Railway that runs from Tunbridge Wells West railway station in Tunbridge Wells to High Rocks, Groombridge, and Eridge.
The Spa Valley Railway takes you on a picturesque railway journey through the Wealden countryside, either on a steam train or a heritage diesel train, with pretty stations and plenty to see and do if you disembark along the way. Also, this is a Kent attraction that is very much dog friendly.
You can choose to do a round-trip, from Tunbridge Wells to Eridge and back again, staying on the train and never getting off. This option is pretty, however, you will miss out on a few beauties along the way.
We took the first steam train down the track from Tumbridge Wells to Eridge, looking out of the window the whole way looking at the Kent and Sussex countryside. We got out at Eridge to get a closer look at the steam train as well as the delightful country junction station, which has been restored to the British Railways Southern 1960’s green and cream colour scheme. The station also has flowers planted everywhere and touches of vintage nostalgia with posters and maps from the past.
We then hopped back on the heritage diesel train back to Groombridge Station, where we disembarked for Groombridge Place, a moated manor house with formal gardens. This place is geared to families and children, there are play areas, farm animals and impressive birds of prey displays. I would have liked more garden and tranquillity.
I think in August you can safely say that it will be busy and noisy. I also wouldn’t recommend the cafe, it took us so long just to get a cup of tea, try one of the pubs in the village for a spot of lunch, as I wish we had.
Also worth noting that while the train is dog friendly, not all the attractions are, including here sadly, there is however several public footpaths on the edge of the estate that you can enjoy.
Groombridge also has the prettiest station – filled with nostalgic touches, bookstall, and sitting areas to watch the steam trains go by.
After a walk, we jumped back on the train to go to High Rocks Station, the stop that intrigued me the most, as it is a tiny station overlooked by the High Rocks Inn and ancient sandstone rock formations.
This for me is the stop to watch the world go by, as the train station is set in the gardens of the High Rocks Inn, a pretty spot to have afternoon tea or lunch, especially if the weather is lovely. We must have come at just the right time as we had the gardens to ourselves and it was wonderful to see the steam train power through the station and the smoke stream across the garden.
Feeling adventurous you can head off to see the High Rocks, where acres of sandstone rocks are interlinked with eleven bridges, for a scenic walk. Sadly the national monument isn’t open to dogs, but definitely something that I would love to explore another time.
All-day travel costs just £10 on the Spa Valley Railway and that was money well spent for a lovely day of train-hopping. You can also do a host of experiences onboard such as afternoon tea, ploughman’s lunch, gin tasting, fish and chips, and Sunday lunch.