Board the Bluebell Railway for a Family Day Out on a Steam Train
Better still, the 20-mile return trip provides an opportunity to indulge in some leisurely railway car dining as you feast on views of the Sussex countryside. For an extra special day out, combine it with a trip to nearby Bluebell Vineyard, Bolney Wine Estate or to the botanical gardens at Wakehurst Place.
The Foodie Travel Guide
The Story of the Bluebell Railway
After its closure in 1958, and thanks to the dedication of railway enthusiasts and volunteers, the Bluebell line railway was brought back to life again as a popular Sussex tourist attraction. As one of Britain’s first restored heritage railway lines, it’s fortunate to have one of the finest collections of vintage steam train locomotives. The line runs through picturesque Sussex countryside from Sheffield Park station, named after the local landowner at the time, Lord Sheffield, along to East Grinstead station. It once transported passengers but also goods including milk. In fact, each morning at 11.25, a very special milk churn was loaded onto the train. Its shiny brass plate read “Sheffield Park to Buckingham Palace”.
Travel Back in Time on the Bluebell Railway
Nowadays the Bluebell line is also a popular filming location. It has featured in programmes such as Downton Abbey and Churchill’s Secret. Sheffield Station is in the style of the 1880s, Horstead Keys – the mid 1920s and Kingscote – the mid-1950s. Staff wear traditional uniforms and on each station platform, there are advertising boards for confectionery, cigarettes and household brands that were popular at the time. Walk up to Sheffield station and you’ll be greeted by a white picket fence lined with adverts for brands such as Lyons’ Cakes, Colman’s Mustard, Cadbury’s Chocolate and Brook Bond Dividend Tea. At Horstead Keys station, you’ll see Blue Bell Tobacco and Camp Coffee. There’s even a cinema room.
Enjoy Dining Out on the Bluebell Line
Of course to make your day out extra special, there are different train dining experiences to choose from. For delicious sandwiches followed by mouth-watering cakes, tarts, scones, fruit cake and shortbread, take the Afternoon Tea special. For something more relaxed, try the evening Fish & Chip specials or the Rail Ale Train where you enjoy a sausage and mash supper served with traditional ales. For a more glamorous three course dinner on a Saturday evening or Sunday lunch, hop aboard the Golden Arrow Pullman dining train.
Visit Wakehurst Place
Foodie gardeners can spend a day out on the Bluebell heritage line but also visit Wakehurst Place as part of the same experience. Wakehurst Place is the botanical garden country estate of the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew. Set in 465 acres of countryside, Wakehurst boasts ornamental gardens, temperate woodlands, a nature reserve, and an Elizabethan mansion. Bring your own picnic (complete with a bottle of sparkling wine from the Bluebell Vineyard), eat in the café or book one of the train dining experiences available on the Bluebell Line.
- Taste vintage English sparkling wine at Bluebell Vineyard which is a short drive away from Sheffield Park station
- Visit the National Trust Garden of Sheffield Park which is just a short walk away from Sheffield Station
- For more wine tasting in Sussex, book on to a vineyard tour at Ridgeview Wine Estate in nearby Ditchling or at Bolney Wine Estate
- For a car-free day trip from London, travel to East Grinstead by train and board the Bluebell Railway there
Ockenden Manor Hotel & Spa in Cuckfield – A Tudor manor house with Michelin dining, traditional interiors and a contemporary spa. If you stay here, pack your walking boots as it’s possible to walk to Bolney from the hotel
Alexander House Hotel and Utopia Spa – a smart and contemporary spa hotel in 120 acres of parkland located just 6 miles from Gatwick Airport.
Mr Hendricks says, “They tell me that dogs are very welcome and there is even a special ticket available for them. Assistance dogs travel for free”.
How to Find the Bluebell Railway
The Bluebell Railway, Sheffield Park Station, East Sussex, TN22 3QL
The Bluebell Railway
Bluebell Railway Steam Train Trip For Two
- Explore a vintage collection of steam locomotives
- Relax with a 22-mile trip on a steam train with glorious countryside views
- Available seven days a week April to September and selected weekends throughout the year
Family Day Out on The Bluebell Railway
- Have a fun family day out on The Bluebell Railway in Sussex
- Includes steam train trip for two adults and up to three children