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Historian and TikTok star Alice Loxton shares the best rail routes to explore Britain’s past

York is one of Alice Loxton's favourite UK cities to visit.
York is one of Alice Loxton's favourite UK cities to visit. Copyright Canva & @historyalice
Copyright Canva & @historyalice
By Vincent Vitis
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Don't know where to start your UK trip? Follow historian Alice Loxton’s rail recommendations.

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Want to delve into the UK’s rich history?

With over 2 million TikTok followers, historian Alice Loxton is encouraging people to rediscover their heritage in places just a few hours from home. 

And it’s clear there is untapped potential: in a survey by online ticket company Trainline, 75 per cent of Brits said they would like to visit a historic site this year, yet only 10 per cent had ever been to one before.

What’s behind this gap between intention and action? Almost a fifth of respondents said they don't know where to find historic sites or how to get to them. 

To fix this, Trainline has teamed up with Alice to encourage curious travellers to visit the UK’s historic sites by train this summer. 

“There are so many incredible historic towns to visit all across the UK,” she tells Euronews Travel.

Here are her top recommendations.

Get to grips with Shakespeare in Stratford-upon-Avon

Stratford-upon-Avon is one of Alice’s favourite UK destinations.

“There are so many wonderful things you can see that are mostly related to Shakespeare, because this was Shakespeare's birthplace. You can see the house that he was born in, his school and where he's buried.”

But other hidden gems are also waiting to be uncovered, such as the Guild Chapel. 

“The Guild Chapel is free to enter. It's got these amazing mediaeval wall paintings, and these are some of the greatest from that era that survived today,” says Alice. 

In the 1500s, the chapel’s walls were whitewashed as the English Reformation cracked down on ornate decorations that were seen as distractions from worship. 

“For hundreds of years, they were whitewashed. And it was only in recent years they removed it,” explains Alice. 

The whitewashing of the paintings was overseen by Shakespeare's father, John, who was serving as town chamberlain at the time. 

“So it's fascinating to think about whether William Shakespeare as a very young boy was there. Did he see this happen?” 

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Stratford-upon-Avon is just two hours by train from London.

Stratford-Upon-Avon's Guild Chapel was built in the 13th Century
Stratford-Upon-Avon's Guild Chapel was built in the 13th CenturyCanva

Follow in Roman footsteps in York

The Roman walls are the first stop in York, a city of 200,000 inhabitants less than two hours by train from London and under three hours from Edinburgh

“It's incredible to think that you're walking along these walls - you're literally putting your feet in the footsteps of our ancestors from almost 2,000 years ago,” says Alice.

“There are these amazing streets in York, like Whip-Ma-Whop-Ma-Gate, which is one of the shortest streets in the country.”

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Just around the corner, you’ll also find the Harry Potter-esque Shambles - “an incredibly quaint, higgledy-piggledy mediaeval street.” 

Other treasures include the birthplace of Guy Fawkes, the man behind the gunpowder plot, and York Minster, a magnificent 7th century cathedral in the heart of the city. 

“One of my favourite details is this great circular window - it's got this tracery, which is in the shape of a heart. And this is known as the heart of Yorkshire,” says Alice.  

She also recommends going to York during the Viking Festival in February, a city-wide celebration of York's rich Norse heritage “where the city is literally invaded by Vikings!”

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The best place to go as a foreign tourist.

“Edinburgh is one of the most popular places for visitors to the UK,” says Alice. 

“The city is built around an extinct volcano which is known as Arthur's Seat.”

Hiking to its peak for sweeping views across the Scottish capital is just one of the city’s highlights - especially for Harry Potter fans.

“It's got lots of very windy streets, which genuinely did inspire JK Rowling with her Harry Potter books,” says Alice. 

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“And it's got royal history: the Palace of Holyroodhouse is where the royals still stay sometimes, but also, Mary, Queen of Scots used to be there. There's this amazing story of her lover being stabbed 57 times to death [there].” 

Arthur's Seat is in the centre of Edinburgh and easy climb for visitors.
Arthur's Seat is in the centre of Edinburgh and easy climb for visitors. Canva

Fans of royal history can also visit the Royal Yacht Britannia.

The last British royal yacht served Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip for many years on diplomatic trips. It hosted prestigious receptions and welcomed the likes of Sir Winston Churchill, Nelson Mandela, Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher.  

“Aesthetically and visually, it's incredibly impressive,” says Alice. 

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“Even if history is not necessarily your thing, I think people from all around the world can appreciate that.”

Just five hours by train from London, Edinburgh also has direct rail links with Glasgow, Birmingham and Manchester that “bring you right into the centre of the city… without being stuck on a motorway or having the faff of trying to park” says Alice. 

Watch the video above to see more from Alice Loxton.

Video editor • Vincent Vitis

Additional sources • Produced by Hannah Brown

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