Great British Railway Journeys

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Great British Railway Journeys
Alt=Series title over a view through a train window
Presented by Michael Portillo
Composer(s) Jon Wygens
Country of origin United Kingdom
Original language(s) English
No. of series 5
No. of episodes 115
Executive producer(s) Charlie Bunce
Producer(s) Fiona Caldwell
Running time 30 minutes
Original channel BBC Two
BBC HD (2010-2013)
BBC Two HD (2014- )
Original run 4 January 2010 (2010-01-04) – present
Preceded by Great Railway Journeys
Related shows Great Continental Railway Journeys
Railways of the Great War with Michael Portillo
External links

Great British Railway Journeys is a BBC history travelogue documentary television series presented by Michael Portillo.[1][2][3] The first series premiered on 4 January 2010 on BBC Two, running for 20 half-hour episodes. Another series followed in 2011, when the series was extended to 25 episodes. In 2012, a third series was broadcast, followed by a fourth series in early 2013, the first episode being shown on Monday 7 January 2013.[4] However, the fifth series, first broadcast Monday 6 January 2014, was shortened back to 20 episodes. In the series, Portillo travels around the British railway network, referring to a Victorian guidebook written by George Bradshaw, and he describes how the destinations have changed between Victorian and modern times.


Travelling around Great Britain by train, Michael Portillo uses a copy of Victorian cartographer George Bradshaw's Railway Companion to compare and contrast modern Britain with that documented by Bradshaw in the 1840s, visiting recommended points of interest noted in Bradshaw's guide book, and where possible staying in recommended hotels. George Bradshaw was a cartographer who in 1840 became the first person to produce a comprehensive timetable and travel guide of the railway system in Great Britain, which at the time, although extensive, still comprised a series of fragmented and competing railway companies and lines each publishing their own literature.

Each series of the programme shows a number of individual journeys, which are split into separate "legs": each leg is one half-hour episode. Each journey comprises five such epidodes, one broadcast each day from Monday to Friday at 6:30pm on BBC Two across a single week.[5]

The first series comprised four journeys over 20 episodes. Broadcasting for four weeks, the series spanned 4 to 29 January 2010. The first journey was from coast to coast across Northern England, from Liverpool on the west coast to Scarborough on the east coast, taking in the historic Liverpool and Manchester Railway. The second journey covered North West England and Scotland. Portillo travelled from Preston northwards into Scotland, ending in his mother's birthplace, Kirkcaldy in Fife, taking in the historic Settle-Carlisle Line and the Forth Railway Bridge. The third journey, in Southern England, went from London to the South West, following the historic Great Western Railway from its London terminus at Paddington all the way to Penzance at the south-western tip of Great Britain. The fourth and final journey went south through central England, from the Midlands to London. Starting at Buxton in Derbyshire, Portillo travelled via Birmingham and Coventry to St Pancras station in London, and then by the London Underground to Big Ben.

The second run of the series was from 3 January to 4 February 2011 and featured five journeys: "Brighton to Cromer", "Ledbury to Holyhead", "Newcastle to Melton Mowbray", "London Bridge to Hastings" and "Ayr to Skye".

Series three began broadcasting on 2 January 2012, and again featured five journeys. As previously, the first four weeks of journeys crossed Great Britain, whilst the fifth journey saw the programme go to Ireland. In the autumn of the same year (2012), a new series entitled Great Continental Railway Journeys aired on BBC Two, also fronted by Portillo with a later Bradshaw publication, the 1913 Continental Railway Guide. The format of each programme was the same as Great British Railway Journeys - exploring noted points of interest and historic significance along a given railway route - but the episode formation was different, consisting of individual hour-long episodes containing the entirety of a journey, rather than split across five half hours. This first series included 5 such hour-long programmes.

A fourth series of Great British Railway Journeys began on 7 January 2013, again with five journeys. The first four, beginning with "High Wycombe to Aberystwyth", crossed Great Britain, whilst the fifth journey was again in Ireland. The Irish legs of both Series 3 and 4 were titled Great British Railway Journeys Goes To Ireland.[6]

A fifth series began on 6 January 2014, this time featuring a shorter collection of four further journeys: "Manchester to Chesterfield", "London Euston to Leeds", "Southampton to Wolverhampton", and "Norwich to Chichester".

A sixth series has been commissioned by the BBC and is to be filmed during spring and summer 2014 and will be broadcast in early 2015.

It takes 2 days for Portillo to film each 30 minute episode so, for each week we see on TV, 10 days is spent filming it.

Long before the GBRJ series, Portillo also presented an episode of the earlier Great Railway Journeys, a similar BBC Two travel documentary programme.


Series 1 (2010)[edit]

Liverpool to Scarborough[edit]

# Episode Original airdate
1 "Liverpool to Eccles" 4 January 2010 (2010-01-04)
Michael travels from Liverpool to Eccles via Rainhill
2 "Manchester to Bury" 5 January 2010 (2010-01-05)
Michael travels from Manchester to Bury via Salford
3 "Todmorden to York" 6 January 2010 (2010-01-06)
Michael travels back in time in an old Victorian railway carriage on the Embsay and Bolton Abbey Steam Railway, discovers the latest Roman events in York and rides on the Network Rail helicopter whilst inspecting the railway tracks on the East Coast Main Line and the Hull to Scarborough Line.
4 "Pontefract to Bridlington" 7 January 2010 (2010-01-07)
Michael travels from Pontefract to Bridlington via Hull
5 "Filey to Scarborough" 8 January 2010 (2010-01-08)
Michael travels from Filey to Scarborough via Hunmanby

Preston to Kirkcaldy[edit]

# Episode Original airdate
6 "Preston to Morecambe" 11 January 2010 (2010-01-11)
Michael arrives in Preston where he learns why drinking is a drug, attends a musical called 'The Bradshaw Guide' in the Royal Ballroom in Blackpool, enjoys a great view on Blackpool Tower and learns about the quicksands in Morecambe Bay.
7 "Settle to Garsdale" 12 January 2010 (2010-01-12)
Michael returns to the historic Settle-Carlisle Line to find out what has happened to it since he convinced Margaret Thatcher to save it in the 1980's. Along the way, he explores the magnificent Ribblehead Viaduct, finds out about the navvies who helped to build the line and then travels back to Ribblehead to experience a steam train called 'The Fellsman' hauled by LMS Jubilee Class 5690 Leander chugging along the Ribblehead Viaduct.
8 "Windermere to Kendal" 13 January 2010 (2010-01-13)
Michael rides on an oldest tourist steamboat on Lake Windermere on where he has a cup of tea with the captain, sees that Kendal doesn't store any Kendal Mint Cakes and learnt how the railways changed farming life.
9 "Carlisle to Glasgow" 14 January 2010 (2010-01-14)
Michael arrives in Carlisle where he learns about the history of the English and Scottish battles, attends a wedding in Gretna Green and visits a secret munitions factory near Lockerbie.
10 "Carluke to Kirkcaldy" 15 January 2010 (2010-01-15)
Michael braves the rainy weather in Carluke as he finds a apple juice industry still alive, finds the Act of Union a Scottish basement in Edinburgh and has lift off on the Forth Bridge.

Swindon to Penzance[edit]

# Episode Original airdate
11 "Swindon to Bristol" 18 January 2010 (2010-01-18)
Michael starts in Swindon where he listens to a couple's story about free steam train travel to the seaside in South Devon, samples the spa in Bath and tries a hand at glass-blowing in Bristol.
12 "Yatton to Weston-super-Mare" 19 January 2010 (2010-01-19)
Michael learns about the national delicacy of strawberries in Yatton, finds out what the ancestors got up to in Cheddar and visits Birnpeck Pier in Weston-super-Mare.
13 "Torquay to Totnes" 20 January 2010 (2010-01-20)
Michael learns about healthy air in Torquay, takes a ride on the Dartmouth Steam Railway to Kingswear where he goes salmon-fishing on the Dart Estuary and finds out about Britain's first local currency in Totnes.
14 "Bugle to Mevagissey" 21 January 2010 (2010-01-21)
Michael travels from Bugle to Mevagissey via St Austell
15 "Truro to Penzance" 22 January 2010 (2010-01-22)
Michael tries looking for an ancient church on Perran Sands near Truro, visits South Crofty the last working tin mine near Redruth, goes harvesting for oysters in the Helford River and then completes his journey into Penzance.

Buxton to London[edit]

# Episode Original airdate
16 "Buxton to Matlock" 25 January 2010 (2010-01-25)
Portillo travels from Buxton to Matlock via Bamford
17 "Cromford to Burton upon Trent" 26 January 2010 (2010-01-26)
Portillo travels from Cromford to Burton upon Trent via Derby
18 "Walsall to Bournville" 27 January 2010 (2010-01-27)
Portillo travels from Walsall to Bournville via Birmingham
19 "Coventry to Watford" 28 January 2010 (2010-01-28)
Portillo travels from Coventry to Watford via Aylesbury
20 "St Pancras to Westminster" 29 January 2010 (2010-01-29)
Portillo travels from St Pancras to Westminster via Bishopsgate

Series 2 (2011)[edit]

From the second series onward, the total of 4 journeys is extended to 5 (totalling 25 episodes respectively).

Brighton to Cromer[edit]

# Episode Original airdate
1 "Brighton to Crystal Palace" 3 January 2011 (2011-01-03)
Portillo travels from Brighton to Crystal Palace via Godstone
2 "Waterloo to Canary Wharf" 4 January 2011 (2011-01-04)
Portillo travels from Waterloo to Charlton via Canary Wharf
3 "Enfield to Cambridge" 5 January 2011 (2011-01-05)
Portillo travels from Enfield to Cambridge via Newmarket
4 "Ely to King's Lynn" 6 January 2011 (2011-01-06)
Portillo travels from Ely to King's Lynn via Downham Market
5 "Dereham to Cromer" 7 January 2011 (2011-01-07)
Portillo travels from Dereham to Cromer via Thuxton

Ledbury to Holyhead[edit]

# Episode Original airdate
6 "Ledbury to Shrewsbury" 10 January 2011 (2011-01-10)
Portillo travels from Ledbury to Shrewsbury via Hereford
7 "Telford to Wrexham" 11 January 2011 (2011-01-11)
Portillo travels from Telford to Wrexham via Chirk
8 "Chester to Conwy" 12 January 2011 (2011-01-12)
Portillo travels from Chester to Conwy via Llandudno
9 "Llanrwst to Porthmadog" 13 January 2011 (2011-01-13)
Portillo travels from Llanrwst to Porthmadog via Blaenau Ffestiniog
10 "Llanberis to Holyhead" 14 January 2011 (2011-01-14)
Portillo travels from Llanberis to Holyhead via Llanfairpwll

Newcastle to Melton Mowbray[edit]

# Episode Original airdate
11 "Newcastle to Chester-le-Street" 17 January 2011 (2011-01-17)
Portillo travels from Newcastle to Chester-le-Street via South Shields
12 "Durham to Grosmont" 18 January 2011 (2011-01-18)
Portillo travels from Durham to Grosmont via Whitby
13 "York to Saltaire" 19 January 2011 (2011-01-19)
Portillo travels from York to Saltaire via Harrogate
14 "Batley to Sheffield" 20 January 2011 (2011-01-20)
Portillo travels from Batley to Sheffield via Wakefield
15 "Langley Mill to Melton Mowbray" 21 January 2011 (2011-01-21)
Portillo travels from Langley Mill to Melton Mowbray via Barrow upon Soar

London Bridge to Hastings[edit]

# Episode Original airdate
16 "London Bridge to Chatham" 24 January 2011 (2011-01-24)
Portillo travels from London Bridge to Chatham via Rotherhithe
17 "Aylesford to Tunbridge Wells" 25 January 2011 (2011-01-25)
Portillo travels from Aylesford to Tunbridge Wells via Maidstone
18 "Canterbury to Margate" 26 January 2011 (2011-01-26)
Portillo travels from Canterbury to Margate via Whitstable
19 "Sandwich to Folkestone" 27 January 2011 (2011-01-27)
Portillo travels from Sandwich to Folkestone via Deal
20 "Hythe to Hastings" 28 January 2011 (2011-01-28)
Portillo travels from Hythe to Hastings via New Romney

Ayr to Skye[edit]

# Episode Original airdate
21 "Ayr to Paisley" 31 January 2011 (2011-01-31)
Portillo travels from Ayr to Paisley via Prestwick
22 "Dumbarton to Tyndrum" 1 February 2011 (2011-02-01)
Portillo travels from Dumbarton to Tyndrum via Crianlarich
23 "Oban to Corrour" 2 February 2011 (2011-02-02)
Portillo travels from Oban to Corrour via Rannoch
24 "Roybridge to Glenfinnan" 3 February 2011 (2011-02-03)
Portillo travels from Roybridge to Glenfinnan via Fort William
25 "Lochailort to Skye" 4 February 2011 (2011-02-04)
Portillo travels from Lochailort to Skye via Mallaig

Series 3 (2012)[edit]

The third series, the broadcasting of which commenced on 2 January 2012, was the first to feature Railways in the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland including the line from Coleraine to Derry along Lough Foyle.[7]

Great Yarmouth to Embankment[edit]

In these episodes, Michael travels along the route of the Great Eastern Line, which ventures from the edge of England to the centre of the country's financial capital, London.

# Episode Original airdate
1 "Great Yarmouth to Beccles (via Lowestoft)" 2 January 2012 (2012-01-02)
Michael discovers the grave robbing history of Great Yarmouth, tries his hand at working a Victorian swing bridge in Reedham and takes to the air to discover how a Victorian rail guidebook helped aviators in World War II.
2 "Darsham to Felixstowe (via Ipswich)" 3 January 2012 (2012-01-03)
Michael follows the Victorians' fascination with Britain's own Atlantis to the lost city of Dunwich, meets some gentle giants who were crucial to the smooth running of the railways and discovers how the Port of Felixstowe grew into the biggest container port in the land.
3 "Sudbury to Southend (via Chelmsford)" 4 January 2012 (2012-01-04)
Michael comes face to face with a medieval politician, takes a rail tour of Victorian freak show hot spots and visits Southend to ride one of the world's first electric railways.
4 "Epping to Hackney (via Waltham)" 5 January 2012 (2012-01-05)
Michael visits Essex to discover why dairy herds travelled there by rail from all over the country in the nineteenth century. He also visits Waltham Cross to see how the gunpowder made there fuelled the building of an empire and heads to Hackney to uncover the gruesome details of the first murder on a train.
5 "Fenchurch to Embankment (via Bow)" 6 January 2012 (2012-01-06)
Michael takes a ride on a secret miniature railway hidden beneath London's streets, rings the bells of the famous church of Bow and tries his hand at station announcing at Fenchurch Street station.

Windsor to Portland[edit]

# Episode Original airdate
6 "Windsor to Didcot (via Bray)" 9 January 2012 (2012-01-09)
Michael Portillo visits a station fit for royalty in Windsor.
7 "Reading to Alton (via Yateley)" 10 January 2012 (2012-01-10)
Michael Portillo tries driving a steam train on the challenging Watercress Line.
8 "Winchester to Isle of Wight (via Southampton)" 11 January 2012 (2012-01-11)
Michael Portillo visits a 19th-century rail works still running in Eastleigh.
9 "Brockenhurst to Poole (via Wimborne Minster)" 12 January 2012 (2012-01-12)
Michael Portillo uncovers a secret library in Wimborne containing some very rare books.
10 "Wareham to Portland (via Weymouth)" 13 January 2012 (2012-01-13)
Michael Portillo uncovers the oil fields hidden underneath England's seaside resorts

Oxford to Milford Haven[edit]

# Episode Original airdate
11 "Oxford to Pershore (via Broadway)" 16 January 2012 (2012-01-16)
Michael Portillo is led to a special view of Oxford by his 19th-century guidebook
12 "Hartlebury to Great Malvern (via Droitwich Spa)" 17 January 2012 (2012-01-17)
Michael Portillo visits the home in Hartlebury of Queen Victoria's favourite bishop.
13 "Lydney to Newport (via Severn Tunnel)" 18 January 2012 (2012-01-18)
Michael Portillo discovers Britain's hidden micro-mines within the Forest of Dean
14 "Cardiff to Brecon (via Merthyr)" 19 January 2012 (2012-01-19)
Michael Portillo discovers the Victorian coal heritage of Cardiff.
15 "Port Talbot to Milford Haven (via Swansea)" 20 January 2012 (2012-01-20)
Michael Portillo explores the Victorian railway legacy behind Port Talbot steel works

Berwick-Upon-Tweed to Snaefell[edit]

# Episode Original airdate
16 "Berwick-Upon-Tweed to Morpeth (via Lindisfarne)" 23 January 2012 (2012-01-23)
Michael Portillo discovers the unique cross-border history of Berwick-Upon-Tweed.
17 "Bardon Mill to Wigton (via Carlisle)" 24 January 2012 (2012-01-24)
Michael Portillo sees how the Victorian railways first fuelled invention in Wigton.
18 "Cockermouth to Eskdale (via Seascale)" 25 January 2012 (2012-01-25)
Michael Portillo drinks a Victorian brew drawn from the pure waters of Cockermouth
19 "Kirkby-in-Furness to Lancaster (via Barrow)" 26 January 2012 (2012-01-26)
Michael Portillo finds out the secrets behind Kirkby's famous blue slate
20 "Heysham to Snaefell (via Douglas)" 27 January 2012 (2012-01-27)
Michael Portillo sets sail from Heysham to the Isle of Man.

Bray to Derry[edit]

All this week he crosses the Irish Sea to discover the rich railway history of both the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland, following the unfurling 19th century expansion of the tracks from Dublin to Derry.

# Episode Original airdate
21 "Bray to Dublin" 30 January 2012 (2012-01-30)
Michael observes the amazing engineering feat involved in building the railway along Dublin's treacherous East coast, explores 19th century crime and punishment in a Victorian jail, and finds out how the lions of Dublin Zoo changed the fortunes of the railways.
22 "Enfield to Drogheda" 31 January 2012 (2012-01-31)
Michael explores the extensive railway network within the Bog of Allen, discovers the Victorian secrets behind the amazing Boyne Viaduct, and travels underground, into the vast Irish Zinc mines.
23 "Dundalk to Portadown" 1 February 2012 (2012-02-01)
Michael explores the Victorians' fascination with antiquity, by visiting the amazing Cromlech stones of Dundalk. He reaches for the stars at the Armagh Observatory and travels in style along the steam railway of Downpatrick.
24 "Belfast to Whitehead" 2 February 2012 (2012-02-02)
Michael explores the fascinating history of Belfast's Victorian docks, discovers the Irish spade making traditions untouched for over 150 years and takes a walk on the wild side with Whitehead's Victorian coastal paths.
25 "Ballymoney to Derry" 3 February 2012 (2012-02-03)
Michael takes a white knuckle walk over the Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge, follows in the footsteps of the Victorians to experience the delights of the Giant's Causeway and explores the rich history of Derry.

Series 4 (2013)[edit]

High Wycombe to Aberystwyth[edit]

To begin the fourth series of Michael Portillo's epic Great British Railway journeys following Bradshaw's guide, Michael follows the tracks that fuelled the industrial revolution, from the Chilterns to west Wales. This is also the second series to feature Railways in Ireland.

# Episode Original airdate
1 "High Wycombe to Stratford-upon-Avon (via Leamington)" 7 January 2013 (2013-01-07)
Michael embarks on another journey around the nation with a copy of George Bradshaw's Victorian Railway Guidebook to discover how the railways have affected people and what remains of Bradshaw's Britain. He begins by travelling from High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire, to Stratford-upon-Avon in Warwickshire, finding out about the remarkable craftsmen behind the Victorian furniture trade, discovering how George Bradshaw helped save Britain's canal heritage and seeing Shakespeare through the eyes of a 19th-century rail tourist.
2 "Birmingham to Stafford (via Wolverhampton)" 8 January 2013 (2013-01-08)
Michael learns how the railways helped to make Birmingham the pen-making capital of the world, hears the chilling tale of one of 19th-century Britain's most notorious murderers and samples delicacies concocted in a Victorian kitchen at Shugborough Hall, Staffordshire.
3 "Stoke-on-Trent to Winsford (via Crewe)" 9 January 2013 (2013-01-09)
Michael travels from Stoke-on-Trent to Winsford, Cheshire, finding out about one of the greatest locomotive factories in railway history along the way. He also discovers the dark side of the Industrial Revolution and learns how Victorian potteries brought their products to the masses.
4 "Dudley to Bridgnorth (via Stourbridge)" 10 January 2013 (2013-01-10)
Michael travels from Dudley in the West Midlands to Bridgnorth, Shropshire. He learns how Victorian blacksmithing was not for the faint-hearted, rides on one of Britain's most modern trains and traverses the Victoria Bridge at Bewdley in Worcestershire.
5 "Welshpool to Aberystwyth (via Machynlleth)" 11 January 2013 (2013-01-11)
Michael travels from Welshpool, Powys, to Aberystwyth in Ceredigion. He experiences Victorian entertainment in one of Wales's best-loved resorts, hears how the railways took the country's textiles into the most exclusive households and unleashes the power of a 19th-century engineering triumph.

Portsmouth to Grimsby[edit]

The second part of the series see Michael go from port to port, from Portsmouth on the South Coast to Grimsby on the East Coast.

# Episode Original airdate
6 "Portsmouth to Gomshall (via Guildford)" 14 January 2013 (2013-01-14)
Michael feeds the crew of Britain's newest warship, discovers how the Victorians planned to repel a possible French invasion and learns that there's well established industry where one might least expect to find it.
7 "Woking to Clapham Junction (via Kew)" 15 January 2013 (2013-01-15)
Michael gets close to some precious Victorian botany at Kew Gardens, tries his hand at croquet and discovers a very surprising 19th century place of worship.
8 "London Victoria to Abbey Wood (via Southwark)" 16 January 2013 (2013-01-16)
Michael learns how volunteer Victorian firefighters liked a tipple, discovers that 19th-century sewage pumps were a marvel of design and puts in a shift at the oldest fish market in Britain.
9 "London King's Cross to Peterborough (via Biggleswade)" 17 January 2013 (2013-01-17)
Michael puts in a shift at a Cambridgeshire brick factory and meets members of an immigrant community linked to it.
10 "Spalding to Grimsby (via Lincoln)" 18 January 2013 (2013-01-18)
Michael learns about how Lincolnshire farmers utilised rails to improve their harvests, visiting the impressive cathedral in Lincoln and looking to the future of rail freight.

Stirling to John o' Groats[edit]

# Episode Original airdate
11 "Stirling to Invergowrie (via Birnam)" 21 January 2013 (2013-01-21)
Michael learns about a Scottish hero, visits a Highland Games and discovers how a piece of Victorian engineering ended in tragedy.
12 "Dundee to Aberdeen (via Montrose)" 22 January 2013 (2013-01-22)
Michael learns how Queen Victoria used to hide from her subjects, discovers how factory workers went deaf and goes out with a bang in Aberdeenshire.
13 "Dufftown to Aviemore (via Keith)" 23 January 2013 (2013-01-23)
Michael learns how Victorian whisky trains were raided by robbers, travels along one of Scotland's most impressive viaducts and discovers that life is not always sweet on a shortbread production line.
14 "Inverness to Plockton (via Garve)" 24 January 2013 (2013-01-24)
Michael rides one of the Scotland's most picturesque railways, visits Scotland's smallest station and learns what went into a Victorian style spa-break.
15 "Invergordon to John o' Groats (via Tain)" 25 January 2013 (2013-01-25)
Michael learns how one man's vision helped bring train travel to the Highlands, discovers how farming has changed since Bradshaw's day and hears the remarkable tale of Scotland's Victorian gold rush.

London Paddington to Newton Abbot[edit]

The fourth part of the series see Michael follow in the footsteps of the master engineer of the Great Western Railway, Isambard Kingdom Brunel, beginning at the line's London gateway, Paddington Station and ending in Newton Abbot, Devon, the scene of one of Brunel's heroic failures.

# Episode Original airdate
16 "London Paddington to Warminster (via Westbury)" 28 January 2013 (2013-01-28)
Michael gets to grips with the old grey matter at a Victorian asylum, gives an historic horse a facelift and makes malt the 19th century way.
17 "Salisbury to Castle Cary (via Yeovil)" 29 January 2013 (2013-01-29)
Michael visits a world famous tourist hotspot that's been captivating visitors since the Victorian era, takes to the air in Yeovil and tries his hand at cloth making, the 19th century way.
18 "Taunton to Minehead (via Dunster)" 30 January 2013 (2013-01-30)
Michael explores a church that moves in mysterious ways, finds out just what it takes to run a 19th century signal box and summons all his strength, to move a one hundred and ten tonne steam locomotive.
19 "Lynton and Lynmouth to Exeter (via Barnstaple)" 31 January 2013 (2013-01-31)
Michael gets up close to a piece of natural history, visits a garden used as a viewing platform for public hangings and experiences a timepiece like no other.
20 "Exmouth to Newton Abbot (via Sidmouth)" 1 February 2013 (2013-02-01)
Michael takes to sea with the heroes of the RNLI, visits a stormy coastal railway and has a close personal encounter with his boyhood hero.

Killarney to Galway[edit]

All this week, Portillo returns to Ireland for a second time.

# Episode Original airdate
21 "Killarney to Cobh (via Mallow)" 4 February 2013 (2013-02-04)
Michael samples nineteenth century foodie delicacies, explores a stunning landscape shot to fame by rails and royals and risks life and limb for the gift of the gab.
22 "Charleville to Waterford (via Thurles)" 5 February 2013 (2013-02-05)
Michael learns the ancient art of butter making, attempts to learn the basics of Ireland's oldest game, and rides the Duke of Devonshire's Victorian Irish railway.
23 "Kilkenny to Athy (via Muine Bheag)" 6 February 2013 (2013-02-06)
Michael tries his hand at cutting marble Victorian style, uncovers 19th century Ireland's surprising industrial heritage and learns how the railways helped bring motorsport to the masses.
24 "Newbridge to Roscrea (via Kildare)" 7 February 2013 (2013-02-07)
Michael visits the Irish National Stud, discovers how harsh life was for the Irish poor and uncovers an astronomical feat of Victorian engineering.
25 "Athlone to Galway (via Ballinasloe)" 8 February 2013 (2013-02-08)
Michael is on the final leg of his Irish journey and discovers historic jewellery with royal connections in Galway, meets a people's king and finds his voice with a traditional Irish singing group.

Series 5 (2014)[edit]

Manchester to Chesterfield[edit]

Michael Portillo starts the fifth series with a journey from Manchester to Chesterfield.

# Episode Original airdate
1 "Manchester to Birkenhead (via Warrington)" 6 January 2014 (2014-01-06)
Armed with a copy of George Bradshaw's Victorian Railway Guidebook, Michael Portillo embarks on another journey around the country to discover how the railways have affected people and communities, and the legacy they have left behind. He begins in Manchester, where he finds out how the world's first industrialised city produced a revolutionary political movement, and learns about the railway workers who founded one of the most successful football clubs of all time. Along the way, the presenter does the washing in Port Sunlight - a model village on the Wirral - and hears stories about the aptly named George Francis Train's time in Birkenhead, Merseyside.
2 "Southport to Leyland (via Bolton)" 7 January 2014 (2014-01-07)
Michael Portillo continues his journey around north-west England in the elegant resort town of Southport, where the railways provided thousands of holidaymakers with the chance enjoy the fun of the fair. On his journey around some of the region's larger towns, the presenter uncovers the history of Victorian entrepreneurship in Wigan and the beginnings of the Industrial Revolution in Bolton, before heading to smaller Leyland to get behind the wheel of a 100-year-old commercial vehicle.
3 "Preston to Rochdale (via Accrington)" 8 January 2014 (2014-01-08)
Michael Portillo continues his journey around north-west England by celebrating Victorian trade with the Preston Guild, and then heading to Rochdale to learn about a pioneering movement to improve the lives of working families. The presenter also follows in the tracks of many 19th-century industrial employees who made day trips to Hebden Bridge to walk in the Calder Valley.
4 "Haworth to Huddersfield (via Halifax)" 9 January 2014 (2014-01-09)
Michael Portillo crosses into West Yorkshire to begin the next leg of his journey, visiting the Worth Valley and the home of the three Bronte sisters, who were early investors in the railway industry. He then heads to Oakworth to find out how its station and tracks were used in one of the most popular films ever made, and in Bradford he discovers the ways in which 19th-century workers saved to buy a home. The presenter finishes in Halifax, where he learns how the railways contributed to the town's success.
5 "Honley to Chesterfield (via Holmfirth)" 10 January 2014 (2014-01-10)
Michael Portillo tunes into the music of the mills and collieries of Victorian England by joining a brass band in Honley, West Yorkshire, before stopping off in Holmfirth to learn about a tragedy that led to a tourist boom in the town. The presenter then crosses into Derbyshire to pay homage to railway engineer George Stephenson at his resting place in Chesterfield, before concluding his journey through the contrasting places of interest across north-west England at Chatsworth House, which was one of the first stately homes to welcome visitors by rail.

London Euston to Leeds[edit]

# Episode Original airdate
6 "London Euston to Cheddington (via Harrow)" 13 January 2014 (2014-01-13)
Michael embarks on the first leg of a journey to Leeds, beginning at London Euston station. He finds out what happened to the once proud Euston Arch and heads to Camden to see how goods were transported by rail, road and canal. He reflects on the Harrow rail disaster of 1952 and visits a country estate in Tring, Hertfordshire, before alighting at Cheddington in Buckinghamshire, which is close to the scene of 1963's Great Train Robbery.
7 "Bletchley to Newport Pagnell (via Olney)" 14 January 2014 (2014-01-14)
Michael continues his journey to Leeds by travelling through Buckinghamshire, meeting one of the Second World War's most secret agents at Bletchley. In Olney, he learns about a poet whose words are still sung today, and explores the first purpose-built railway town at Wolverton. His last stop is Newport Pagnell, where he tackles the ancient craft of vellum making.
8 "Northampton to Nuneaton (via Rugby)" 15 January 2014 (2014-01-15)
The next part of Michael's journey from London to Leeds begins in Northampton, where Victorian methods have been used to make shoes for more than 130 years. Michael then heads to Warwickshire, learning about the legacy of Dr Thomas Arnold at Rugby School and finding out how Coventry's craftsmen learned to adapt to survive, before ending this leg of his trip in Nuneaton.
9 "Leicester to Loughborough (via Syston)" 16 January 2014 (2014-01-16)
On the next stage of his journey to Leeds, Michael sets off in Leicester, where he finds out about the hunt for Richard III remains. Michael works his passage on the Great Central Railway from Rothley to Loughborough, where he learns about a family that has been casting bells in the town since 1839.
10 "Nottingham to Leeds (via Doncaster)" 17 January 2014 (2014-01-17)
On the final leg of his journey, Michael rediscovers a once-famous poet in Nottingham and travels on a railway line resurrected by popular demand after falling victim to Beeching's cuts. He finds out how Doncaster rail workers shaped British political history, before reaching his final destination of Leeds, where he auditions at Britain's oldest continuously working music hall.

Southampton to Wolverhampton[edit]

# Episode Original airdate
11 "Southampton to Basingstoke (via Totton)" 20 January 2014 (2014-01-20)
Michael Portillo embarks on the first leg of a journey from Southampton to Wolverhampton, beginning by being taught how to set table aboard the luxury liner Queen Elizabeth. In village of Netley he finds the remains of an extensive military hospital built by order of Queen Victoria, and ends in Basingstoke, where he learns out about a pitched battle between townspeople and the Salvation Army.
12 "Winchfield to Crowthorne (via Farnborough)" 21 January 2014 (2014-01-21)
Michael Portillo travels through Hampshire and Berkshire, as he continues his journey to Wolverhampton. His stop-off points include Stratfield Saye House, the stately home bequeathed by the nation to Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington, in 1817. He then heads to Aldershot Garrison, where he is put through his paces under military instruction. At St Michael's Abbey in Farnborough, Michael visits the tomb of French emperor Napoleon III and his family, before ending in Crowthorne, Berkshire, the home of Broadmoor high-security psychiatric hospital.
13 "Wokingham to Bradford on Avon (via Newbury)" 22 January 2014 (2014-01-22)
The next part of Michael Portillo's journey from Southampton to Wolverhampton begins in Wokingham, Berkshire, where the former politician finds out how demand from a growing number of rail commuters fuelled the development of the modern printing press. He then learns about a Tudor businessman who manufactured cloth in enormous volumes in Newbury, and ends this leg of his trip in Bradford on Avon, Wiltshire. Here, a local manufacturer describes how his Victorian forebears were the first in Britain to be licensed to vulcanise rubber.
14 "Chippenham to Gloucester (via Bristol)" 23 January 2014 (2014-01-23)
Michael Portillo continues his journey from Southampton to Wolverhampton beginning today in Chippenham, where at Lacock Abbey he discovers how the world's first photographic negative was made and learns how to make a print. He travels on to Bristol to visit the Victorian Clifton Zoo, where he finds tigers and polar bears before him also arrived by train. Next stop is Severn Tunnel Junction in Wales, where he explores an extraordinary piece of Victorian engineering with its own pump house pumping out millions of gallons a day to keep it dry. Michael then heads for Gloucester to find out why the station became infamous for lost luggage. At the city's cathedral, Michael meets a stonemason who bravely invites him to chip away.
15 "Cheltenham to Wolverhampton (via Droitwich)" 24 January 2014 (2014-01-24)
On the final leg of his journey from Southampton to Wolverhampton, Michael Portillo's first destination is the elegant spa town of Cheltenham, where he discovers a very early locomotive carriage which ran not on rails but on the road and is lucky enough to get behind the wheel. His next stop is the medieval town of Tewkesbury, scene of a grisly battle during the Wars of the Roses. Armour-plated and sword at the ready, Michael joins a group of re-enactors for a taste of the action.

Norwich to Chichester[edit]

# Episode Original airdate
16 "Norwich to Brandon (via Thetford)" 27 January 2014 (2014-01-27)
Michael Portillo embarks on a journey to Chichester, with the first leg beginning in Norwich. At the city's Norman castle he uncovers the Victorian public's gory fascination with crime and punishment and finds out how campaigners such as Elizabeth Fry worked to improve conditions for prisoners. Heading west to Thetford, he explores how the Victorian appetite for rabbits and their fur led to special train services to London, and ends in the Suffolk town of Brandon, where he tries his hand at flint-knapping.
17 "Ipswich to Chelmsford (via Colchester)" 28 January 2014 (2014-01-28)
Michael Portillo travels from Ipswich to Chelmsford, starting at an agricultural implements works with its own railway sidings. Continuing his journey south-west into Essex, Michael dredges for oysters off Mersea Island before taking the train to Witham, where he discovers a model farming establishment at Tiptree. His final destination is Chelmsford, home to the world's first purpose-built radio equipment factory, established by Guglielmo Marconi.
18 "Ilford to Rochester (via Gravesend)" 29 January 2014 (2014-01-29)
On the next leg of his journey, Michael Portillo heads along the Essex bank of the Thames before crossing the river into Kent. He begins in Barkingside, where Victorian philanthropist Thomas Barnardo made it his mission to transform the lives of destitute children. The former politician then tries his hand at loading a container onto a pocket wagon at Tilbury docks, and ends his trip in Rochester, where he encounters a host of familiar characters and explores a town that was an inspiration for many of Charles Dickens' works.
19 "Faversham to Dorking (via Staplehurst)" 30 January 2014 (2014-01-30)
Michael Portillo starts the next leg of his journey to Chichester in Faversham, Kent, where he visits Shepherd Neame, which is one of the oldest breweries in Britain. He then heads to Dover to explore a sunken fortress known as the Western Heights, before crossing into Surrey where he blow-dries a hen in Dorking.
20 "Brighton to Chichester (via Arundel)" 31 January 2014 (2014-01-31)
Michael Portillo discovers the history behind the extraordinary Pavilion at Brighton and learns that Queen Victoria was not an admirer of the Prince Regent's flamboyant taste. Michael finds that while above ground the railways brought day trippers to frolic in fashionable Brighton, underground, Victorian engineers built a magnificent network of sewers more than 40 miles in length, which are still functioning today. At Bramber, he discovers at the time of his guide tourists flocked to the town in huge numbers due to a Victorian museum of taxidermy. Michael's next stop is the impressive castle at Arundel and he's pleased to find that the Duke of Norfolk was a great supporter of the railways. His rail journey ends in Chichester from where he heads up into the South Downs for a taste of life in the fast lane at Goodwood.

DVD releases[edit]

As of 2014, DVDs of the first four series of Great British Railway Journeys have been released by Fremantle Media under license from the Series 1 - 2 Production company, Talkback Thames, Series 3 - 5 Production company, Boundless and the BBC.

Series UK release date
Series 1 7 February 2011
Series 2 9 January 2012
Series 3 28 January 2013
Series 4 27 January 2014
Series 5 19 January 2015

A book, Great British Railway Journeys, written by Charlie Bunce and with a foreword by Michael Portillo, was published by Collins in January 2011.[8]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Michael Portillo rides the rails again". Wales On Sunday. 27 December 2009. Retrieved 6 January 2010. 
  2. ^ Clay, Jeremy (6 January 2010). "TV review: Great British Railway Journeys". Leicester Mercury. Retrieved 6 January 2010. 
  3. ^ "Great British Railway Journeys". BBC. Retrieved 25 January 2010. 
  4. ^ Royal Navy HMS Dragon on TV
  5. ^ [1] Great British Railway Journeys | Series 1 episode guide | Radio Times
  6. ^ [2] Great British Railway Journeys | Series 4 episode guide | Radio Times
  7. ^ "Rail journey between Londonderry and Belfast takes longer than it did 50 years ago". Belfast Telegraph. Retrieved 11 January 2012. 
  8. ^ "Great British Railway Journeys". Retrieved 19 August 2010. 

External links[edit]