Zoom in on the historic sites of the East Coast Line aboard an LNER Azuma
It's simple really, the moment I step on board any mode of transport, the adventure begins and when it comes to sightseeing, especially when London bound, nothing beats a trip on an LNER Azuma as it powers along the spectacular East Coast Line.
Steeped in history, the route boasts wonders both natural and man-made while also carving its way through two castles that, having withstood centuries of wars, succumbed to the Victorian advancement.
Depending when you travel, the line from Edinburgh to London takes in Newcastle, Durham, Darlington, York, Doncaster and Peterborough, before finally arriving at Scotland's gateway to the English capital, King's Cross. That's a 393 mile journey in 4 hours 20 minutes, or 4 hours 15 as the driver managed on my most recent trip.
In that time we'd crossed 28 viaducts and shot through 18 tunnels at speeds of around 113 miles per hour.
It's a journey LNER make ever half hour from both capitals and as regular will tell you, for the best views traveling southbound, sit on the left of the carriage, and then on the right when coming north. The stretch of line between Edinburgh and Durham has been voted one of the Top 10 most beautiful rail journeys in the world so it’s worth having your phone camera ready to make memories and don't worry about running out of battery, every seat on an Azuma has its own charging socket.
Just beyond Edinburgh limits the first site of interest appears. Look left. It might not have the historic lineage of some of the landmarks that lie ahead but there's no denying the impact of the pale blue spectre of Torness Nuclear Power Station. Commissioned in 1988 it remains an impressive if somewhat unnerving sight.
As Torness flashes by, breakfast arrives, a bacon roll ordered just after leaving Edinburgh with a choice of sauces - brown for me. Ordering food has never been easier. Just scan the QR code by your seat, click through to the new all-day Cafe Bar menu with its range of snacks and drinks sourced exclusively from suppliers along the route, make your choice, pay, and wait for your order to be delivered to your table. If you do decide to wander to the 'buffet car' remember, LNER has gone cashless.
I enjoyed breakfast taking in panoramic coastal views. Dramatic or serene, depending on the weather, but always breath-taking, the craggy coastline as we approach the border drops dramatically towards the crashing waves. Today the haar may be rolling in but it remains a mesmeric spectacle, all the better for being viewed from the comfort of the train.
On the right, green fields and farmlands provide an ever changing landscape peppered by towns, villages, football pitches, tennis courts, graveyards and even the odd skeleton of a long abandoned greyhound stadium.
This service stops at Berwick Upon Tweed, Newcastle, Darlington, York before arriving in London. The first of these, England's most northerly station has much history to be absorbed in the briefest of stops. Before that, however, the graceful arc of sentinel-like wind turbines provide a strangely calming distraction. Oh, and watch for the border crossing. Welcome to England.
At Berwick Upon Tweed, look right to see all that remains of the west wall of Berwick Castle's Great Hall, demolished in 1842 to make way for the station. Just south of the station, look left as the train crosses the Royal Border Bridge, an impressive railway viaduct, so as not to miss arresting views down the River Tweed.
Next, glance left for Alnmouth’s multi-coloured 'Balamory-style' houses that give the Northumberland village a splash of rainbow colour.
Before Newcastle, where those pesky Victorians again worked hard to eradicate history, we glide through the picturesque Morpeth Station; its original Scottish Baronial-style buildings resplendent still despite being more than 170 years old.
The high level approach to Newcastle Central is an intriguing one, the line cutting through yet another castle – the one that gave the city its name. All that remains today are the imposing Black Gate to the right and the Castle Keep on the left.
On board, meanwhile, the now permanent enhanced cleaning regime is underway as a cleaner armed with a fogging machine makes their way through the carriage.
Freshly sanitised, we leave the Toon behind. Look left as you do for a view of the 1928 through-arch Tyne Bridge. Designed by the firm that would later design the Forth Road Bridge. There's no fog on the Tyne right now so it's also easy to spot, the 1876 Swing Bridge in the foreground, while behind sits the 2001 Millenium Bridge, known locally as the 'winking eye'. Oh, and keep an eye out for the Angel of the North as you leave, again on the left, but be warned, blink and you'll miss it.
'The next station stop is Darlington,' announces the guard, and for those of a theatrical bent that means a chance to spot the New Hippodrome Theatre, said to be haunted by three ghosts, including a Scottish cigar-smoking doorman called Jimmy. With some 209 miles still to go, the ghosts that welcome us to York are not of the ethereal kind but every bit as evocative of a time long gone. York Railway Museum, on the right, welcomes travelers with a glimpse of a once workhorse of the tracks, a restored steam locomotive.
Ten minutes out of York you'll spot one of my favourite sights, the brutalist charm and six cooling towers of the Drax Power Plant which, despite dating back to the 1970s retain a futuristic aspect, never more than when billowing white steam skyward.
As the journey reaches its terminus at King's Cross, look up and take in the architectural wonders of Lewis Cubbit's arched roofs or, if the kids are with you, muggles young and old alike can stop by Platform 9¾, departure point of the Hogwart's Express, to have their photo taken with a disappearing luggage trolley. Top Tip, if you’re traveling with kids, a Family Ticket (2 adults, 4 children up to age 15) is just £169. Top Top 2: Buy your tickets on the LNER app and you get live time updates direct to your phone as well as loyalty perks. With LNER the adventure really does start the minute you stop onboard.
Take an LNER driver’s eye ride cab ride from Newcastle to Edinburgh at https://youtu.be/WTUP5Jjmdo4
Visit www.lner.co.uk for fares timetables