Touring The English Premier League By Train
For travellers who happen to be interested in sports, touring England for Premier League matches can be a special experience. While a few teams rise to and fall from the league each season, meaning it’s never exactly the same twice in a row, it’s always true that it’s spread out all over England and Wales. This actually makes the Premier League a sort of natural itinerary for this who might want to explore the country. It involves the most prominent cities, some of the most passionate displays of local culture, and some truly incredible stadiums. Plus, the rides from one city to the next can give you pretty glimpses of the famous British countryside!
Truthfully this kind of tour could be designed in all kinds of different ways, given that the Premier League consists of 20 teams per season. This is something of a sample though, of the different routes you can take and the cities, stadiums, and teams you can see.
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London to Brighton
It’s best to start this sort of trip in London for two reasons. First, it’s where you’re most likely to fly into anyway. And second, it’s home to several Premier League clubs, meaning it’s a nice place to begin and end your journey for a nice loop around Britain. You could start with several clubs, but I’d recommend seeing Chelsea at Stamford Bridge. The venue is excellent, with one ranking of Premier League stadiums citing 140 years of history and character as elements that keep it among the best. And the team is almost always competitive (and should be in 2018 as well).
From London, one logical route to start with is south toward Brighton. It’s a very quick ride that ends at one of England’s best beach towns in Brighton. London Victoria station, London Bridge Station, and London St. Pancras station all have direct rides that take roughly an hour.
Brighton to Cardiff
Once in Brighton, you can stretch your legs by walking around some really special areas. The city’s pier is famous (and highly entertaining thanks to its fair-like atmosphere), and there are a few old shops and restaurant districts worth exploring. Football-wise, you’ll be headed to Falmer Stadium, which is one of the newer ones in the league. Brighton & Hove Albion is not a powerhouse in the top flight of English football, but its fans can be passionate and a match is a great way to spend an afternoon or evening in a warm beach town in the autumn.
After Brighton, you’ll need to start circling up toward the west, and there area few options. You could journey to Bournemouth or Southampton in the Southwest, for instance, as both cities have Premier League teams. But because football is better up north (and so are the towns, arguably), it’s best to start moving north as well. So I’d recommend heading to Cardiff, Wales. Trains from Brighton station to Cardiff Central can run from about four to four-and-a-half hours, with anywhere from one to three changes. The trains on this route run more or less all day.
Cardiff to Liverpool
In Cardiff, you’ll be seeing Cardiff City at Cardiff City Stadium, which is a fairly intimate venue for this level. And if you happen to time your trip to see a rivalry match against Swansea City, you’ll be in for a real treat. This should ultimately be a fairly quick stop however en route to the bigger football towns farther north. The three- to four-hour train from Cardiff Central to Liverpool Lime Street is my recommendation. It’s a fairly regular and straightforward route, typically with just one or two changes, and takes you right into the heart of English football. Not to mention the train takes you right along the Cotswolds, a gorgeous natural area that’s a tourist attraction in and of itself.
Liverpool to Newcastle
In Liverpool, you might want to set aside some time to explore, as it’s really an authentic and wonderful city. But football is still the main attraction. Anfield, where Liverpool plays, is known to be among the best Premier League stadiums, and many believe this could be the year for the team to regain Premier League glory and capture a championship. That’s just to say that the stadium, already known for its energy, should be buzzing for the next year or so, and could well make for the best football experience in all of the UK.
From this point, there are a few options. If your time is limited, it might be best to take the very short journey to Manchester before heading back to London. If there’s time, however, I’d recommend going past Manchester and to the north, on what should be a roughly a three-hour ride from Liverpool Lime Street to Newcastle. You can get a direct ride, and while this looks like the longest stretch of this whole outline on the map, it’s really not a bad trip.
Newcastle to Manchester
St. James’ Park in Newcastle may be the nicest stadium in the league, even if it can’t quite match the history of a place like Anfield. It’s a beautiful, unique venue, and one where there can be quite a bit of passion. Indeed, ahead of a recent league opener, it was suggested Newcastle could upset Tottenham Hotspur because of the new-season buzz on Tyneside and the passion and belief that can come from this crowd. That upset didn’t come to be, but this is still an inspiring place to watch the sport for the same reasons cited. That makes it a very worthy detour.
After a quick match in Newcastle, you can catch the train back to Manchester, possibly on the very same day if the scheduling works out. Newcastle Central Station to Manchester Victoria should be a two-and-a-half hour trip without more than one change.
Manchester to London
There are multiple options in Manchester, as two of the league’s most prominent teams – Manchester City and Manchester United – call the city home. If you’re particularly into football and you’re not using it as a means to a good itinerary, you should try to catch both teams in one go, if the schedule allows. Otherwise, you may as well flip a coin. Man Utd.’s Old Trafford is a historic stadium and one with incredible fans; Man City’s Etihad Stadium is more state-of-the-art, and City has been the better team of late.
Once you’re done in Manchester it’s a smooth, two-and-a-half or three-hour train ride back to London from Manchester Victoria or Manchester Piccadilly. At that point, the trip is a wrap! Though you may want to use your remaining time in London to see one of the clubs you didn’t see at the beginning of the journey. As mentioned, there are several good options.
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