For years, the train line between London and Brighton has been a byword for misery. Chronic delays and endless strike action have often meant it would have been quicker to cycle from the capital to the coast.
And while many have been spared the pain of dealing with last-minute cancellations and train breakdowns over the past 12 months, there’s one way to experience this famous tourist route in real style: Belmond’s Golden Age of Travel Brighton Belle service.
This is train travel as it’s meant to be. The route kicks off at Victoria, with its art deco carriages (including three painstakingly restored cars from the original Brighton Belle) trundling through the South London suburbs and on to a circular route through the Surrey, Hampshire and Sussex countryside. Champagne is served as you settle into your plush armchair, before a leisurely five-course lunch. The train then follows the route of the famous Brighton Belle north to London from the seaside.
The Belle ran for 41 years, from 1933 until 1972, and was the world’s only all-electric Pullman train. The services were renowned for their opulence, beyond even the best first-class experience on British Rail, with fancy fittings and at-seat service. Brighton resident Laurence Olivier famously campaigned to have kippers and eggs reinstated to the service’s menu in 1970 after his favourite breakfast option was suddenly removed.
Recreating Olivier’s regular trip doesn’t come cheap, with Belmond’s service costing £365 per person for a day-long ride. That does include a glass of champagne and half a bottle of wine to wash down lunch, however, and certainly seems like better value than a regular ticket. And if a signal failure does strike, at least you won’t be stuck on a bog-standard train without access to first-rate booze and a selection of petits fours.
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