Hidden gems along the East Coast Main Line

Tired of the tourist trail? Go off the beaten track with a weekend away in London, Edinburgh or Newcastle


Things to do...

Highlight: Enjoy a canal-side stroll or take a narrowboat cruise in picture-postcard Little Venice in west London. Enjoy a drink at a waterside pub and watch the world (quite literally) float by. 

Budget: Explore the atmospheric ruins and gardens of St Dunstan in the East, an east London church bombed in WW2. 

Splurge: Crave a night on the tiles? Step into the past with a show or gig at Grade-II listed Wilton’s Music Hall.

Places to eat...

Highlight: Russian cuisine and culture is the order of the day at Mari Vanna – think dumplings infused with vodka and decadent surroundings featuring chandeliers and porcelain dolls.

Budget: Tuck into proper cockney fodder at F Cooke Pie & Mash – with finest scotch beef pies and a century-old liquor recipe.

Where to sleep…

Highlight: Sleep in opulent luxury a stone’s throw from a leafy Knightsbridge park at Twenty Nevern Square. Plush interiors, antiques and log fires await at this melting pot of East and West.   

Twenty Nevern Square

Budget: Clink78 is a hostel for hipsters at St Pancras. Think urban chic décor (all stainless steel and edgy art) and an on-site bar.

Splurge: It doesn’t get much cooler than bohemian Blakes a small Chelsea hotel loved for decades by rock stars, artists and writers.


Things to do…

Highlight: Go off grid with boat trip to Inchcolm Island. Set sail from the mainland across the Firth of Forth to explore the ancient ruined Abbey. Keep your eyes peeled for the seals.

Inchcolm Island

Budget: Step from the bustle of Princes Street into the Archivists’ Garden where plants, flowers and trees tell Scotland’s story.

Splurge: Watch as small batches of botanical gin are made in atmospheric, gothic surroundings at the Edinburgh Gin Distillery. 


Places to eat…

Highlight: Foodies can find seasonal cooking in a scenic setting at The Gardener’s Cottage. Tuck into local scallops at the foot of Calton Hill and share the moment at the communal tables.

The Gardener's Cottage

Budget: Seasonal ingredients dominate the ever-changing set 5-course tasting menu at the folksy Aizle (an old Scots word that means ‘spark’).

Splurge: Swanky seafood spot Ondine celebrates Scottish fishing heritage with a cheffy touch – razor clams with chorizo, anyone?


Where to sleep…

Highlight: Hunker down 5-star style at the opulent Glasshouse Hotel, a grand old church reimagined as a boutique hotel. Breathe in spectacular views of Edinburgh and sleep in sumptuous rooms.

Budget: Off Princes Street, Channings blends country house vibes with kitsch interiors (books and old furniture) for a cosy bolt-hole.

Splurge: Old-world glamour and decadence await at The Balmoral on Princes Street. Step into a more regal era at this 5-star spot. 


Things to do…

Highlight: Go deep beneath the streets of Newcastle along the Victoria Tunnel. It follows an old track that carried carts of coal from a mine to the River Tyne. The guided tours are great fun.

Budget: Enjoy a stroll along the elegant curve of Grey Street – one of the UK’s best Georgian streets with cafés and sights aplenty.

Splurge: Go backstage at one of the UK’s most distinctive buildings – the spaceship-like concert venue The Sage Gateshead.


Places to eat…

Highlight: What makes an amazing curry more amazing? Eating on board a train carriage. The Curry Train (as it’s become known) serves up Cobra Good Curry Guide grub from a 1912 train carriage.

Budget: Boiler Shop Steamer brings together the best street food stalls in Newcastle. Try some Geordie sausages or wood-fired pizza.

Splurge: Celeb chef Kenny Atkinson plies his trade at the rustic House of Tides. Seafood (think Lindisfarne oysters) dominates.


Where to sleep… 

Highlight: Leafy parklands await a short taxi ride from Newcastle city centre at the relaxing Jesmond Dene House. This Grade II-listed country pile is the perfect place to unplug your mind.

Jesmond Dene House

Budget: Slap-bang in the city centre is the sophisticated but budget friendly Motel One. Only a short walk from all the main sights.

Splurge: Sip cocktails and stargaze on the rooftop terrace at The Vermont, one of Newcastle’s best-known buildings.