The U.K. goes back into lockdown this week — but in some cases, it still makes sense to plan for when restrictions go away. One British luxury train, in particular, certainly requires early booking.
This month, the Belmond British Pullman was named the best luxury train journey in the world by Condé Nast Traveler’s 2020 Readers Choice Awards.
The train comprises 11 carriages, each with its own name and history, restored to their art deco glory. They epitomize 1920s and 1930s glamor, harkening back to the “Golden Age” of train travel.
The history of the Belmond British Pullman
Originally, most of the carriages were part of different train services around Britain.
However, the oldest carriage, called “Ibis,” was first used in the Milan to Venice journey for the Simplon-Orient-Express in the late 1920s. It operated on the Deauville Express and was designed to entice wealthy Parisians to the Deauville Casino, in the wealthy French seaside resort town that still lies along the “Parisian Riviera.”
Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, commonly known as Kate Middleton, greets children aboard the Belmond British Pullman train.
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Meanwhile, the “Phoenix” carriage was once used as a static restaurant in Lyon, France. Before that, it was the carriage of choice for Britain’s Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother.
The “Vera” cart was used by Prince Charles and Princess Anne for their first trip on an electric train in the 1950s.
Immortalized in books, film and television
The Belmond British Pullman train is sister to the legendary Venice Simplon-Orient-Express. One of the carriages from the original transcontinental service was once caught in a snowdrift outside Istanbul for 10 days, an incident which inspired Agatha Christie’s classic novel “Murder on the Orient Express.”
The Belmond British Pullman has its very own murder mystery lunch journey. In fact, two of its carriages — “Perseus” and “Cygnus” — appeared in the 1979 film “Agatha” starring Dustin Hoffman.
Riders toast aboard the vintage Belmond British Pullman train at Kent’s Ashford International station en route to London.
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The murder mystery lunch is a popular journey, as is the trip to Highclere Castle in Hampshire, England, better known as the titular setting for the popular TV show “Downton Abbey.”
Belmond released bookings for the trip to Highclere at the beginning of this year, and it sold out a year in advance. The next available journey is Sept. 29, 2021.
Other trips include train rides to the cities of Canterbury and Bath, known for their well-preserved, historical architecture.
The train normally departs from London Victoria station.
The cost of traveling like a royal
Unsurprisingly, it’s expensive to travel like a royal for the day. Tickets start at around £250 ($323) and go up to more than £500 ($646). However, it’s an option for upgrading a staycation and offers an alternative to traveling by plane.
Prince Harry prepares to board the Belmond British Pullman train in London, England.
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To ensure safety, Belmond vice president of trains and cruises, Gary Franklin, said the service had reduced capacity and implemented social distancing on carriages.
“Each carriage has its own dedicated steward ensuring intimate service and allowing us to continue to offer our guests a truly exceptional experience,” he said.