Great British Railway Journeys

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Great British Railway Journeys
Series title over a view through a train window
Genre Travel documentary
Presented by Michael Portillo
Composer(s) Jon Wygens
Country of origin United Kingdom
Original language(s) English
No. of series 8
No. of episodes 170
Executive producer(s)
  • Charlie Bunce (series 1–2)
  • John Comerford (series 3–6)
  • Fiona Caldwell (series 1–2)
  • Jay Taylor (series 3)
  • Michelle Heeley (series 4)
  • Alison Kreps (series 5–6)
Running time 30 minutes
Production company(s)
Distributor BBC
Original network
Original release 4 January 2010 (2010-01-04) – present
Preceded by Great Railway Journeys
Related shows
External links

Great British Railway Journeys is a BBC documentary series presented by Michael Portillo. It premiered in 2010 on BBC Two, and has returned each year for a total of eight series.

The series features Portillo travelling around the railway networks of Great Britain and Ireland, referring to an 1840s copy of Bradshaw's Guide, comparing how the various destinations have changed since Victorian times.[1][2][3]

Portillo has gone on to present two related series, Great Continental Railway Journeys from 2012, and Great American Railroad Journeys which began in 2016.


The Bradshaw's Guide were a series of Victorian guidebooks written by George Bradshaw; it was the first 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.

Classified by the BBC in both the travel and history genres, the series features Portillo using the guide to plan his journeys, in the process visiting points of interest picked out in the guide and comparing its content with the modern world, both the physical and cultural.


Each series features Portillo travelling a different route each week, with each daily episode being one short leg of the journey. The weekly journey is chosen to fit with a theme, either geographic, such as coast to coast, or historic. Filmed entirely on location, the series features a mix of Portillo delivering dialogue to camera, as well as performing ad-hoc interviews with members of the public or fellow travellers, in addition to pre-arranged interviews.


All episodes were originally broadcast on weekdays on BBC Two, in the 6:30pm timeslot. Some series were simulcast on BBC HD before its demise. Repeats have been aired on BBC Four and BBC One, as well as the original channel of BBC Two. Edited versions of the episodes, reduced to about 23 minutes (excluding commercials), have been shown on the television channel Yesterday.

Series Episodes Originally aired
First aired Last aired
1 20 4 January 2010 (2010-01-04) 29 January 2010 (2010-01-29)
2 25 3 January 2011 (2011-01-03) 4 February 2011 (2011-02-04)
3 25 2 January 2012 (2012-01-02) 3 February 2012 (2012-02-03)
4 25 7 January 2013 (2013-01-07) 8 February 2013 (2013-02-08)
5 20 6 January 2014 (2014-01-06) 31 January 2014 (2014-01-31)
6 20 5 January 2015 (2015-01-05) 30 January 2015 (2015-01-30)
7 20 4 January 2016 (2016-01-04) 29 January 2016 (2016-01-29)
8 15 2 January 2017 (2017-01-02) 20 January 2017 (2017-01-20)


Series 1 (2010)[edit]

Liverpool to Scarborough[edit]

The first journey takes Portillo from coast to coast, from Liverpool to Scarborough, beginning on the world's first passenger railway line.

# Episode Original airdate
1 "Liverpool to Eccles" 4 January 2010 (2010-01-04)
On the first leg, Portillo learns to speak Scouse in Liverpool. He visits the scene of the Rainhill trials and finds out about the first railway fatality. Then, in Eccles, he explores the origins of the Eccles cake.
2 "Manchester to Bury" 5 January 2010 (2010-01-05)
Portillo visits Manchester to find out more about George Bradshaw himself. He also gets fitted for a trilby in Denton and learns how the railways helped to create fish and chips.
3 "Todmorden to York" 6 January 2010 (2010-01-06)
Portillo travels back in time on the Embsay and Bolton Abbey Steam Railway, finds out about the latest Roman discoveries in York of the York Archaeological Trust and takes to the air in the Network Rail helicopter.
4 "Pontefract to Bridlington" 7 January 2010 (2010-01-07)
Portillo searches for the last liquorice grower in Pontefract, discovers how the railways turned Hull into one of the largest white fish ports in the world and goes fishing for sea bass in Bridlington.
5 "Filey to Scarborough" 8 January 2010 (2010-01-08)
Portillo goes birdwatching on the wild cliffs of Flamborough Head, learns to decipher traditional knitting patterns in Filey and meets one of the oldest residents of the Victorian seaside resort of Scarborough - a 4,000-year-old skeleton called Gristhorpe Man.

Preston to Kirkcaldy[edit]

Portillo's second journey, from Preston to Scotland, is on one of the first railways to cross the border.

# Episode Original airdate
6 "Preston to Morecambe" 11 January 2010 (2010-01-11)
Portillo explores the origins of the temperance movement in Preston, samples the attractions of Blackpool such as the Blackpool Tower. Blackpool was a resort made by the railways. Portillo takes a walk across Morecambe Bay with the official keeper of the sands.
7 "Settle to Garsdale" 12 January 2010 (2010-01-12)
Portillo returns to the historic Settle-Carlisle line to find out what has happened to it since he helped save it in the 1980s. Along the way, he explores the magnificent Ribblehead viaduct, finds out about the [Navvy
8 "Windermere to Kendal" 13 January 2010 (2010-01-13)
Portillo takes a steamboat tour of Lake Windermere, visits Wordsworth's home village of Grasmere and makes sausages with a local Herdwick sheep farmer.
9 "Carlisle to Glasgow" 14 January 2010 (2010-01-14)
Portillo meets the wild clansmen of Carlisle, the Border Reivers, witnesses a wedding in Gretna Green and visits a secret World War I munitions factory.
10 "Edinburgh to Kirkcaldy" 15 January 2010 (2010-01-15)
Portillo makes apple juice in the Clyde Valley orchards, pays a thrilling visit to the top of the Forth Rail Bridge and relives his childhood memories in his grandparents' home town of Kirkcaldy.

Swindon to Penzance[edit]

The third journey takes Portillo along the Great Western Railway from Swindon to Penzance, nicknamed 'the holiday line'.

# Episode Original airdate
11 "Swindon to Bristol" 18 January 2010 (2010-01-18)
Portillo finds out about free holiday trains for the Great Western Railway workers at the Swindon Works, samples the Roman Baths in Bath and tries his hand at glass blowing in Bristol.
12 "Yatton to Weston-super-Mare" 19 January 2010 (2010-01-19)
Portillo samples local Cheddar and strawberries, explores Cheddar Gorge and the famous caves, and visits Birnbeck Pier, one of the oldest piers in the country, at Weston-super-Mare.
13 "Torquay to Totnes" 20 January 2010 (2010-01-20)
Portillo finds out about Torquay's micro-climate, takes a ride on a steam-hauled train to Dartmouth, goes salmon fishing on the Dart estuary and spends some of Totnes's local currency, the Totnes pound.
14 "Bugle to Mevagissey" 21 January 2010 (2010-01-21)
Portillo wakes up in St Germans railway station and then visits English China Clays near St Austell. Travelling on to Mevagissey, he goes pilchard fishing, discovering that the pilchard was renamed as the Cornish sardine in the 1950s, and visits the Lost Gardens of Heligan on the Heligan estate.
15 "Truro to Penzance" 22 January 2010 (2010-01-22)
Portillo searches for the lost church of Saint Piran, explores the last working tin mine in Cornwall at South Crofty, enjoys the sun and sands at St Ives, harvests oysters on the Helford River, and reaches the end of the line at Penzance.

Buxton to London[edit]

On this journey, Portillo travels from Buxton along one of the first railway routes south to the capital, London.

# Episode Original airdate
16 "Buxton to Matlock" 25 January 2010 (2010-01-25)
Portillo visits the Buxton Opera House and the Duke of Devonshire's stables in Buxton, helps to repair the ancient peat landscape of the Peak District, goes to Matlock Bath, and travels on a steam train on the heritage Peak Rail to Rowsley, where he visits the local stone quarry.
17 "Cromford to Burton upon Trent" 26 January 2010 (2010-01-26)
Portillo visits the oldest working factory in the world at Cromford, explores the country's first public park in Derby and finds out why Burton's beer is said to be the best.
18 "Walsall to Bournville" 27 January 2010 (2010-01-27)
Portillo meets the Queen's saddler in Walsall, visits the Balti Triangle, learns how to cook an authentic Indian curry at the Itihaas restaurant in Birmingham, and visits Bournville — the home of Cadbury and rumoured to be the best place to live in Britain.
19 "Coventry to Watford" 28 January 2010 (2010-01-28)
Portillo finds out about the Coventry Blitz, meets the last farmer with pure-breed Aylesbury ducks in Buckinghamshire, and finds out how the trains helped to evacuate millions of children during World War II.
20 "St Pancras to Westminster" 29 January 2010 (2010-01-29)
Portillo explores one of the grandest railway stations and hotels in the country, the St. Pancras Renaissance London Hotel. He rides the Tube's first line — the Metropolitan Line — to Smithfield market, and climbs the Clock Tower (re-named as Elizabeth Tower in 2012) of the Houses of Parliament to hear the Big Ben bell chime.

Series 2 (2011)[edit]

Brighton to Cromer[edit]

The first journey takes Portillo coast-to-coast from Brighton to Cromer

# Episode Original airdate
1 "Brighton to Crystal Palace" 3 January 2011 (2011-01-03)
Portillo finds out about Brighton's Victorian aquarium — the largest in the world at the time — and explores the underground quarries of Godstone, before discovering the wonders of Crystal Palace in suburban south London.
2 "Waterloo to Canary Wharf" 4 January 2011 (2011-01-04)
Portillo finds out about the Stiffs' Express, a funeral service running coffins from Waterloo to Brookwood Cemetery. He also discovers how London's West End became a great 19th-century shopping destination, and explores the changing fortunes of London's docks.
3 "Enfield to Cambridge" 5 January 2011 (2011-01-05)
Portillo visits the government arms factory at Enfield (the largest machine shop in Europe in Bradshaw's day), discovers how the trains transformed Newmarket's races and finds out why Cambridge could be considered as the birthplace of modern football.
4 "Ely to King's Lynn" 6 January 2011 (2011-01-06)
Portillo goes fishing with the last eel trapper on the Fens at Ely and visits one of the great triumphs of 19th-century engineering, the Denver Sluice. He ends this leg in King's Lynn, where he uncovers an ambitious plan to reclaim the Wash in Bradshaw's day.
5 "Dereham to Cromer" 7 January 2011 (2011-01-07)
Portillo gets a rare chance to drive a heritage diesel train, finds out why Norfolk black turkeys appeared on the Christmas menu in Bradshaw's day, and samples some classic Cromer crab.

Ledbury to Holyhead[edit]

On this journey, Portillo follows the route of the Irish mail from Ledbury to Holyhead.

# Episode Original airdate
6 "Ledbury to Shrewsbury" 10 January 2011 (2011-01-10)
He samples the Victorian drink perry (a kind of pear cider), gets up close and personal with a pedigree Hereford bull, and visits the grandfather of all skyscrapers — the world's first iron-framed building in Shrewsbury.
7 "Telford to Wrexham" 11 January 2011 (2011-01-11)
On this leg, he visits the world's first iron bridge at Coalbrookdale, explores the historic Chirk Castle and has a go at making traditional Cheshire cheese.
8 "Chester to Conwy" 12 January 2011 (2011-01-12)
On this leg, Portillo takes a tour of Chester's Roman remains and discovers a secret World War II chemical weapons plant at Rhydymwyn. After spending the night in Llandudno, he goes mussel fishing on the beautiful Conwy estuary.
9 "Llanrwst to Porthmadog" 13 January 2011 (2011-01-13)
On this leg, he explores the Conwy valley, stopping at Britain's first artists' colony at Betws-y-Coed, visiting the Victorian slate capital of Blaenau Ffestiniog and taking a steam train down to the harbour at Porthmadog.
10 "Llanberis to Holyhead" 14 January 2011 (2011-01-14)
On this leg, Portillo takes the train to the top of Wales's highest peak, Mount Snowdon, witnesses the revival of Anglesey's sea salt industry, and discovers how the railways transformed the tiny port of Holyhead.

Newcastle to Melton Mowbray[edit]

This journey follows some of the earliest railways in the country from Newcastle to Melton Mowbray.

# Episode Original airdate
11 "Newcastle to Chester-le-Street" 17 January 2011 (2011-01-17)
Portillo visits the first locomotive factory in the world, opened by George Stephenson. He also searches for the lost pit village of Marsden in South Shields and is entertained by a comic troupe of rapper sword dancers in Chester-le-Street.
12 "Durham to Grosmont" 18 January 2011 (2011-01-18)
In this episode, he visits the historic Durham Cathedral, sees one of the first locomotives in Darlington and takes a Dracula tour in Whitby, before ending his journey on a steam train across the North Yorkshire moors.
13 "York to Saltaire" 19 January 2011 (2011-01-19)
In this episode, Portillo takes a Turkish bath in the famous spa town of Harrogate, explores the exemplary Victorian village of Saltaire, and rubs noses with some friendly alpacas, whose fleeces made fortunes in Bradshaw's day.
14 "Batley to Sheffield" 20 January 2011 (2011-01-20)
In this episode, he finds out about shoddy in the Heavy Woollen District, a successful 19th-century recycling industry in the textile town of Batley, discovers how the railways boosted Yorkshire's forced rhubarb trade, and meets the great-great-granddaughter of George Bradshaw himself.
15 "Langley Mill to Melton Mowbray" 21 January 2011 (2011-01-21)
In this episode, Portillo learns the secrets of stilton cheese, finds out how trains transformed the traditional British sport of fox hunting and attempts to make an authentic Melton Mowbray pork pie.

London Bridge to Hastings[edit]

This journey goes through Kent, from London Bridge around the scenic south coast to Hastings.

# Episode Original airdate
16 "London Bridge to Chatham" 24 January 2011 (2011-01-24)
Portillo visits the Royal Observatory at Greenwich to see how the railways standardised time, takes a walk through the Thames Tunnel, the world's first underwater tunnel, between Wapping and Rotherhithe and explores the historic dockyards at Chatham.
17 "Aylesford to Tunbridge Wells" 25 January 2011 (2011-01-25)
This time, he explores the life of Victorian hop pickers, finds out about Maidstone's paper industry exemplified by James Whatman and discovers how the railways turned cricket into a national sport at Linden Park Cricket Club based at Higher Common Ground in Tunbridge Wells.
18 "Canterbury to Margate" 26 January 2011 (2011-01-26)
This time, Portillo finds out how Canterbury Cathedral was saved during the Baedeker raids of World War II, goes whelk fishing in Whitstable and explores the origins of a seaside swim in Margate.
19 "Sandwich to Folkestone" 27 January 2011 (2011-01-27)
This time, he explores a secret port that ran the first train ferries to France carrying vital supplies during World War I, visits Walmer Castle, the home of the Duke of Wellington, and discovers how the Victorians initiated the building of the Channel Tunnel.
20 "Hythe to Hastings" 28 January 2011 (2011-01-28)
This time, Portillo discovers a hardy breed of sheep on the atmospheric Romney Marsh. The majority of New Zealand's sheep are Romney Sheep. Then, he explores Kent's sparkling wine industry. Bradshaw’s mentions grapes and wine, but there were none in Kent during his time. Only in the 1950s did a successful British wine industry emerge. Finally, he finds out why the Victorians went mad for ferns in Hastings.

Ayr to Skye[edit]

On this journey, Portillo journeys up the west coast of Scotland from Ayr to Skye.

# Episode Original airdate
21 "Ayr to Paisley" 31 January 2011 (2011-01-31)
Ayr was the hometown of Robbie Burns. Portillo finds out how to make haggis and recites Burns' Address to a Haggis. Portillo discovers how the railways transformed the game of golf at the Prestwick Golf Club and uncovers the story of the great Victorian tartan hoax in the Vestiarium Scoticum at Paisley.
22 "Dumbarton to Tyndrum" 1 February 2011 (2011-02-01)
Portillo explores the historic Dumbarton shipyards that built the Cutty Sark, learns that the phrase 'Cutty Sark' is from the Tam o' Shanter poem, visits Queen Victoria's favourite Loch Lomond, and goes hunting for gold at Tyndrum.
23 "Oban to Corrour" 2 February 2011 (2011-02-02)
Portillo discovers how trains spread the word about Oban whisky, hears about the heroic struggle to build a railway across the desolate Rannoch Moor and visits Corrour, one of the favourite shooting estates of the Victorian political elite.
24 "Roybridge to Glenfinnan" 3 February 2011 (2011-02-03)
Portillo investigates one of the great geological mysteries of the 19th century — the parallel roads of Glenroy. Plus, he finds out how the Victorians put a weather observatory on the top of Ben Nevis and takes a steam train across one of the most spectacular viaducts in Britain at Glenfinnan.
25 "Lochailort to Skye" 4 February 2011 (2011-02-04)
Portillo discovers how the railways helped train the first generation of commandos at Lochailort in World War II, finds out why langoustines have replaced herrings as the top catch in the fishing port of Mallaig and sails across the sea to Skye to explore the history of the highland crofters.

Series 3 (2012)[edit]

The third series featured four journeys in Great Britain; the fifth journey took place on Ireland, and consisted of three legs in the Republic of Ireland and two in Northern Ireland. The broadcast of this journey saw the show being called Great British Railway Journeys Goes To Ireland.

Great Yarmouth to Embankment[edit]

In these episodes, Portillo 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" 2 January 2012 (2012-01-02)
Portillo 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 railway guidebook helped aviators in the Second World War.
2 "Darsham to Felixstowe" 3 January 2012 (2012-01-03)
Portillo learns about the Victorian 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 country.
3 "Sudbury to Southend" 4 January 2012 (2012-01-04)
Portillo comes face-to-face with a medieval politician, takes a rail tour of Victorian freak show hotspots, and visits Southend to ride one of the world's first electric railways.
4 "Epping to Hackney" 5 January 2012 (2012-01-05)
Portillo visits Essex to discover why dairy herds travelled there by rail from all over the country in the 19th 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" 6 January 2012 (2012-01-06)
Portillo 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]

Following in the footsteps of Queen Victoria, Portillo uses the railways she often rode from Windsor Castle to her country getaway on the Isle of Wight. His journey then continues west, to Portland.

# Episode Original airdate
6 "Windsor to Didcot" 9 January 2012 (2012-01-09)
He visits a station fit for royalty in Windsor, views the Maidenhead Railway Bridge an engineering triumph built by Isambard Kingdom Brunel to span the River Thames at Maidenhead, and tries his hand at collecting the mail 'Victorian style' on a steam-powered travelling post office.
7 "Reading to Alton" 10 January 2012 (2012-01-10)
Portillo tastes a Victorian superfood in Alton, explores the fascinating Whitchurch silk mill, untouched for over 150 years, and tries his hand at driving a steam train on the challenging Watercress Line.
8 "Winchester to Isle of Wight" 11 January 2012 (2012-01-11)
Portillo experiences the magnificent Victorian organ at Winchester Cathedral, goes behind the scenes at a 19th-century rail works still running in Eastleigh today and travels to Queen Victoria's favourite holiday destination, the Isle of Wight.
9 "Brockenhurst to Poole" 12 January 2012 (2012-01-12)
On the trail of a Victorian snake catcher, Portillo visits the New Forest seeking out venomous adders, uncovers a secret library in Wimborne containing some very rare books and visits the Poole potteries founded in the 19th century, which are still working today.
10 "Wareham to Portland" 13 January 2012 (2012-01-13)
Portillo uncovers the amazing oil fields hidden underneath England's quiet seaside resorts, discovers the crucial role Weymouth played in the D-day landings, and heads to the cradle of Victorian Britain's most prestigious building rock, Portland.

Oxford to Milford Haven[edit]

On this journey, Portillo travels west, from Oxford in the heart of England, through the Malvern Hills and into Wales, taking in the unique Victorian heritage of the South Wales coastline.

# Episode Original airdate
11 "Oxford to Pershore" 16 January 2012 (2012-01-16)
On the first leg, he is led to a special view of the city of Oxford by his 19th-century guidebook, samples a Victorian navvies' brew made by steam power and discovers a unique and colourful crop in the heart of the Cotswolds.
12 "Hartlebury to Great Malvern" 17 January 2012 (2012-01-17)
Portillo visits the home of Queen Victoria's favourite bishop in Hartlebury, sniffs out the secrets of a famous 19th-century sauce in Worcester and follows in the footsteps of Victorian health fanatics to the Malvern Hills.
13 "Lydney to Newport" 18 January 2012 (2012-01-18)
Portillo discovers Britain's hidden micro-mines within the Forest of Dean, sees why the Victorians fell for the romantic ruins of Tintern Abbey and uncovers the railway engineering behind the industrial icon that is Newport Transporter Bridge.
14 "Cardiff to Brecon" 19 January 2012 (2012-01-19)
Portillo discovers the Victorian coal heritage that turned Cardiff into the city it is today, explores the 19th-century reason why Barry Island isn't an island, and takes a steam ride through the beautiful Brecon Beacons National Park.
15 "Port Talbot to Milford Haven" 20 January 2012 (2012-01-20)
Portillo explores the Victorian railway legacy behind the steel works of Port Talbot, follows the trail of 19th-century waterfall hunters in Neath and uncovers the fascinating whaling past of Milford Haven.

Berwick-Upon-Tweed to Snaefell[edit]

On this journey, Portillo takes in some of northern England's most dramatic scenery, from Berwick-upon-Tweed, crossing the Pennines to the Lake District before completing the journey on the beautiful Isle of Man.

# Episode Original airdate
16 "Berwick-Upon-Tweed to Morpeth" 23 January 2012 (2012-01-23)
On the first leg, he discovers the unique cross-border history of Berwick-Upon-Tweed, hears the unique story of the Pitman Painters of Ashington and sees first-hand the perils of working on the rails in Victorian times.
17 "Bardon Mill to Wigton" 24 January 2012 (2012-01-24)
Portillo gets his hands dirty following the example of Victorian archaeologists at Hadrian's Wall, discovers how the invention of the ticket machine made a big difference to 19th-century rail users, and sees how the Victorian railways first fuelled invention in Wigton.
18 "Cockermouth to Eskdale" 25 January 2012 (2012-01-25)
Portillo drinks a Victorian brew drawn from the pure waters of Cockermouth, steps inside the hidden world of nuclear reprocessing at Sellafield, and travels into the wonders of a Japanese-inspired 19th-century garden.
19 "Kirkby-in-Furness to Lancaster" 26 January 2012 (2012-01-26)
Portillo learns about the secrets behind Kirkby's famous blue slate, submerges himself into a secret world of nuclear submarines in Barrow-in-Furness, and sees why the executions at Lancaster Castle drew the Victorians in their droves.
20 "Heysham to Snaefell" 27 January 2012 (2012-01-27)
Portillo sets sail from Heysham to the Isle of Man, where he discovers the horse trams of Douglas, the 19th-century secrets of the giant Laxey Wheel, and the Victorian history of the delightful Snaefell Mountain Railway.

Goes to Ireland: Bray to Londonderry[edit]

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)
On the first leg, he 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)
Portillo 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)
Portillo explores the Victorian 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)
Portillo 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 Londonderry" 3 February 2012 (2012-02-03)
Portillo 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]

The fourth series followed the same format as the third, with four journeys in Great Britain and the last in Ireland, using the same title card as series 3.[4]

High Wycombe to Aberystwyth[edit]

Portillo follows the tracks that fuelled the industrial revolution, from the Chilterns to west Wales.

# Episode Original airdate
1 "High Wycombe to Stratford-upon-Avon" 7 January 2013 (2013-01-07)
Portillo meets the remarkable craftsmen behind the Victorian furniture trade, discovers how George Bradshaw helped save Britain's canal heritage, and sees Shakespeare through the eyes of a 19th-century railway tourist.
2 "Birmingham to Stafford" 8 January 2013 (2013-01-08)
Portillo travels to the manufacturing centres of the Midlands. He 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 the delicacies concocted in a Victorian kitchen at Shugborough Hall.
3 "Stoke-on-Trent to Winsford" 9 January 2013 (2013-01-09)
Portillo explores one of the greatest locomotive factories in railway history, discovers the dark side of the industrial revolution and learns how, in Victorian times, the potteries brought their products to the masses.
4 "Dudley to Bridgnorth" 10 January 2013 (2013-01-10)
Portillo learns how Victorian blacksmithing was not for the faint-hearted, rides one of Britain's most modern trains and traverses the remarkable Victoria Bridge.
5 "Welshpool to Aberystwyth" 11 January 2013 (2013-01-11)
Portillo travels to the Victorian seaside resort of Aberystwyth. He experiences Victorian entertainment, hears how the railways took Welsh textiles into even the most exclusive households and unleashes the power of a 19th-century engineering triumph.

Portsmouth to Grimsby[edit]

The second journey sees Portillo go from port to port, from Portsmouth on the south coast to Grimsby on the east coast.

# Episode Original airdate
6 "Portsmouth to Gomshall" 14 January 2013 (2013-01-14)
Portillo feeds the crew of Britain's newest warship, discovers how the Victorians planned to repel a possible French invasion and learns that there is well-established industry where one might least expect to find it.
7 "Woking to Clapham Junction" 15 January 2013 (2013-01-15)
Portillo 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" 16 January 2013 (2013-01-16)
Portillo learns how volunteer Victorian fire fighters liked a tipple, discovers how even 19th-century sewage pumps were a celebration of design and puts in a shift at the oldest fish market in Britain.
9 "London King's Cross to Peterborough" 17 January 2013 (2013-01-17)
Portillo discovers how derelict Victorian London is being rejuvenated, puts in a shift at a Cambridgeshire brick factory and meets the immigrant community built from its bricks.
10 "Spalding to Grimsby" 18 January 2013 (2013-01-18)
Portillo sees how Lincolnshire farmers utilised rails to improve their harvests, visits Lincoln Cathedral and looks to the future of rail freight.

Stirling to John o' Groats[edit]

On this journey, Portillo is exploring the stunning scenery of rural and coastal Scotland, travelling from Stirling, through the industrial east coast and dramatic Highland landscapes, to the beauty of the western lochs, finally ending his journey in John o' Groats.

# Episode Original airdate
11 "Stirling to Invergowrie" 21 January 2013 (2013-01-21)
Portillo learns about a Scottish hero, visits a Highland Games and discovers how an impressive piece of Victorian engineering ended in tragedy.
12 "Dundee to Aberdeen" 22 January 2013 (2013-01-22)
Portillo 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" 23 January 2013 (2013-01-23)
Portillo 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" 24 January 2013 (2013-01-24)
Portillo rides one of 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" 25 January 2013 (2013-01-25)
Portillo 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 sees Portillo 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" 28 January 2013 (2013-01-28)
On the first leg, he gets to grips with the old grey matter at a Victorian asylum, gives a historic horse a facelift and makes malt the 19th-century way.
17 "Salisbury to Castle Cary" 29 January 2013 (2013-01-29)
Portillo 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" 30 January 2013 (2013-01-30)
Portillo 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" 31 January 2013 (2013-01-31)
Portillo gets up close to a piece of natural history, visits a garden that was used as a viewing platform for public hangings and experiences a timepiece like no other.
20 "Exmouth to Newton Abbot" 1 February 2013 (2013-02-01)
Portillo takes to the sea with the heroes of the RNLI, visits a stormy coastal railway, and has a close personal encounter with his boyhood hero.

Goes to Ireland: Killarney to Galway[edit]

All this week, Portillo visits the Republic of Ireland, travelling from the rugged beauty of County Kerry, across the rural Irish Midlands, to end in the city of Galway on the Atlantic coast.

# Episode Original airdate
21 "Killarney to Cobh" 4 February 2013 (2013-02-04)
In this episode, he samples 19th-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" 5 February 2013 (2013-02-05)
Portillo 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" 6 February 2013 (2013-02-06)
Portillo 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" 7 February 2013 (2013-02-07)
Portillo 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" 8 February 2013 (2013-02-08)
Portillo 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" 6 January 2014 (2014-01-06)
Portillo 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" 7 January 2014 (2014-01-07)
Portillo enjoys the fun of the fair beside the sea in Southport, explores the origins of business in Wigan and of the Industrial Revolution in Bolton, and then visits Leyland where he gets the chance to drive a 100-year-old vehicle.
3 "Preston to Rochdale" 8 January 2014 (2014-01-08)
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" 9 January 2014 (2014-01-09)
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" 10 January 2014 (2014-01-10)
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, one of the first stately homes to welcome visitors by rail.

London Euston to Leeds[edit]

# Episode Original airdate
6 "London Euston to Cheddington" 13 January 2014 (2014-01-13)
Portillo 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" 14 January 2014 (2014-01-14)
Portillo 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" 15 January 2014 (2014-01-15)
The next leg begins in Northampton, where Victorian methods have been used to make shoes for more than 130 years. He 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" 16 January 2014 (2014-01-16)
On the next leg Portillo sets off in Leicester, where he finds out about the hunt for Richard III remains. He 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" 17 January 2014 (2014-01-17)
On the final leg of his journey, Portillo 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" 20 January 2014 (2014-01-20)
On the first leg, Portillo is taught to set tables aboard the luxury liner Queen Elizabeth, finds the remains of a military hospital built in the village of Netley by order of Queen Victoria, and learns about a battle in Basingstoke between townspeople and the Salvation Army.
12 "Winchfield to Crowthorne" 21 January 2014 (2014-01-21)
Portillo travels through Hampshire and Berkshire, stopping-off at 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, he visits the tomb of French emperor Napoleon III and his family, and ends in Crowthorne, Berkshire, the home of Broadmoor high-security psychiatric hospital.
13 "Wokingham to Bradford on Avon" 22 January 2014 (2014-01-22)
This part of Portillo's journey 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, where a local manufacturer describes how his Victorian forebears were the first in Britain to be licensed to vulcanise rubber.
14 "Chippenham to Gloucester" 23 January 2014 (2014-01-23)
Portillo continues his journey 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 learns that tigers and polar bears also arrived there 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. Finally, in Gloucester, he finds out why the station became infamous for lost luggage, and meets a stonemason who invites him to have a go at the city's cathedral.
15 "Cheltenham to Wolverhampton" 24 January 2014 (2014-01-24)
On the final leg of this journey, Portillo starts in the elegant spa town of Cheltenham where he discovers a very early locomotive carriage which ran on the road, and is allowed to get behind the wheel. Next stop is the medieval town of Tewkesbury, scene of a grisly battle during the Wars of the Roses, where he joins a group of re-enactors for a taste of the action. In Droitwich, he learns of the origins of the local salt industry, and then ends his journey in Wolverhampton, scene of Queen Victoria's first public appearance after the death of Prince Albert.

Norwich to Chichester[edit]

# Episode Original airdate
16 "Norwich to Brandon" 27 January 2014 (2014-01-27)
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" 28 January 2014 (2014-01-28)
Portillo travels from Ipswich to Chelmsford, starting at an agricultural implements works with its own railway sidings. Continuing his journey south-west into Essex, he 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" 29 January 2014 (2014-01-29)
On the next leg of his journey, 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" 30 January 2014 (2014-01-30)
Portillo starts the next leg 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" 31 January 2014 (2014-01-31)
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. He learns 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 long, which is still functioning today. At Bramber, he discovers that at the time of his guide tourists flocked to the town in huge numbers to see a Victorian museum of taxidermy. Portillo'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 journey ends in Chichester, from where he heads up to the South Downs for a taste of life in the fast lane at Goodwood.

Series 6 (2015)[edit]

Ayr to Edinburgh[edit]

Michael Portillo starts the sixth series with a journey from Ayr to Edinburgh, through southern Scotland from west to east.

# Episode Original airdate
1 "Ayr to Stewarton" 5 January 2015 (2015-01-05)
From Ayr, he admires the granite island of Ailsa Craig before getting to grips with the ancient sport of curling, with help from a Scottish world champion. The Ancient Society of Kilwinning Archers invites him to take part in the oldest archery competition in the world. At Barassie, he rides the footplate of a freight train hauling coal on Scotland's oldest railway line. He caps off this leg of his journey in Stewarton.
2 "Greenock to Larkhall" 6 January 2015 (2015-01-06)
Portillo begins in the industrial town of Greenock from where he sets sail in the last seagoing paddle steamer in the world. In Glasgow, he investigates 'Mackintosh style' in an iconic city tea room, before seeing the devastating effects of the 2014 fire at the Glasgow School of Art. In Blantyre, he discovers the humble beginnings of Britain's most famous missionary and explorer, and learns to bake sour dough in Scotland's oldest bakery in Strathaven.
3 "Motherwell to Linlithgow" 7 January 2015 (2015-01-07)
Portillo celebrates Victorian iron and steel in Motherwell and admires one of its crowning achievements - the Forth Bridge. He journeys through picturesque countryside to admire the raw power of nature at the magnificent and romantic Clyde Falls, which inspired William Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge, and where Victorian ladies swooned. In Cumbernauld, he learns of the birth of one of Scotland's best-selling soft drinks. In Linlithgow, he marvels at the ingenuity of the engineers who built the Union Canal and experiences a 21st century technological refinement at Falkirk.
4 "Stirling to Pitlochry" 8 January 2015 (2015-01-08)
Portillo begins this leg in Stirling, where he visits the scene of a bloody battle at Bannockburn. Following in the footsteps of Victorian holidaymakers, he travels north to Crieff to experience the popular Crieff Hydro. In the ancient capital of Scotland, Perth, he learns what it takes to make a sporran before catching the Highland Main Line to Pitlochry and one of Queen Victoria's favourite haunts. He finishes for the day with a wee dram in Scotland's smallest distillery.
5 "St Andrews to Edinburgh" 9 January 2015 (2015-01-09)
On the last leg Portillo pays homage to the birthplace of golf at St Andrews. He visits a factory where they make traditional hickory-shafted clubs and ventures out on to the green. In Dunfermline, he discovers the poor beginnings of one of the world's wealthiest men, a remarkable philanthropist who worked on the railroads before making his fortune in steel. Crossing the Firth of Forth via the legendary red bridge, he arrives in Edinburgh in the middle of the world's largest arts festival, the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, where he treads the boards in an unconventional adaptation of a play by Oscar Wilde.

Amersham to London Bridge[edit]

Portillo embarks on a series of journeys around London, from Amersham to London Bridge.

# Episode Original airdate
6 "Amersham to Regent's Park" 12 January 2015 (2015-01-12)
Portillo travels on the capital's first underground railway, the Metropolitan line, from Amersham, where he discovers the foundations for modern day suburbia. In Pinner, he finds out about a Victorian domestic goddess and whips up a pint of her fanciest ice cream. In Highgate, he investigates the terraced catacombs of one of London's vast 19th-century cemeteries. At Madame Tussauds he comes face to face with Isambard Kingdom Brunel before experiencing a hot wax at first hand. He ends this journey with a trip to the London Zoo at Regent's Park.
7 "Deptford to West Silvertown" 13 January 2015 (2015-01-13)
Portillo is invited aboard the construction locomotive for Crossrail to travel under the River Thames and to meet Mary, on whom the project depends. He travels on the capital's first railway, and admires the remarkable brick viaduct on which it was built. He takes a tour underneath its arches with a Victorian map showing the poverty of those who once lived there. The Docklands Light Railway takes him to Greenwich, home to the Cutty Sark and in Woolwich, he discovers the firepower of the British Empire before coming to a sticky end at West Silvertown.[5]
8 "Stratford to London Victoria" 14 January 2015 (2015-01-14)
Guided by his Bradshaw's, Portillo takes the High Speed 1 line to Stratford to explore the legacy of the Olympic Park. He hears how an Indian lawyer, who learnt his trade in Victorian London, went on to change the world and explores an area of the city which has been home to wave upon wave of immigrants, Spitalfields. He ends this journey at Victoria Underground Station, where he finds out about the massive makeover currently under way.
9 "Covent Garden to Soho (London's West End)" 15 January 2015 (2015-01-15)
Portillo next explores London's theatreland and discovers how 19th-century engineering made for spectacular theatricals. At Charing Cross, he learns about the ambitious building programme which saw Trafalgar Square replace streets of slums and comes face to face with George Bradshaw. At one of the busiest stops on the tube, Piccadilly Circus, he indulges in some retail therapy at a perfumery patronised by kings, queens and prime ministers. The Bakerloo to Oxford Circus line brings him to Soho and a grimmer side of Victorian London, where disease was rife.
10 "High Street Kensington to London Bridge" 16 January 2015 (2015-01-16)
On the last of his journeys in the capital, Portillo explores Albertopolis and reaches dizzying heights inside a Victorian landmark. He meets some of Battersea's most famous residents and gives one of them a bath! At Vauxhall, he learns about the darker side of London's flower market in Bradshaw's day. He ends this journey at London Bridge, where two stations are becoming one, and a new concourse is being built.

Derby to Lindisfarne[edit]

Portillo embarks on a new journey from the heart of the industrial East Midlands to the north-eastern island of Lindisfarne

# Episode Original airdate
11 "Derby to Grantham" 19 January 2015 (2015-01-19)
On this leg, he gives an old engine a fresh start in the railway hub of Derby. In Nottingham. he discovers the Victorian origins of a well-known high street chemist He then travels to Newstead Abbey, where he learns about its former owner, the young Lord Byron. A baking lesson in Grantham yields a batch of the oldest commercially traded biscuits in the country, and no visit to the town would be complete for him without calling at a historic grocer's shop.
12 "Boston to Hensall" 20 January 2015 (2015-01-20)
Beginning in Boston in the flatlands of Lincolnshire, he explores the connection between the city and its American namesake. At Southwell, he discovers the origins of a favourite Victorian apple and learns how to make apple pie. In Menston, he visits an imposing institution built to provide asylum for those suffering from mental illness and learns how volunteers care for its once derelict chapel and graveyard. At Wakefield, he manages to board one of Britain's least frequent services and finds out what led to the birth of the parliamentary train. Along the way, he meets a former locomotive engineer who offers him the chance to drive a steam engine.
13 "Hessle to York" 21 January 2015 (2015-01-21)
Portillo begins in Hessle, on the north bank of the River Humber, in the shadow of the Humber Bridge, where he learns about the technology that made it possible. In Kingston upon Hull, he meets his friend and sparring partner, local MP Alan Johnson, who tells him about another famous son of his city, William Wilberforce. In Scarborough, his handbook directs him to the castle, where the founder of the Quaker movement was once imprisoned. His last stop of the day is York, where he learns what made the ancient capital a centre for the sweet-making industry.
14 "Middlesbrough to Hexham" 22 January 2015 (2015-01-22)
Portillo begins in Middlesbrough, visiting one of the last iron foundries in the town and helping cast a carrot valve for a steam engine. His next stop is Darlington, where he meets the editor of the Northern Echo and finds out about the colourful history of WT Stead, one of his predecessors. He then heads to St Paul's monastery in Jarrow, to learn about 8th century monk the Venerable Bede, known as `the father of English history', before finishing in Hexham, where he visits a historic ginger beer emporium.
15 "Newcastle to Lindisfarne" 23 January 2015 (2015-01-23)
Portillo sets off from Newcastle, finding out about the world's earliest swing bridge and its inventor William Armstrong. He also travels by boat from the port of Seahouses to examine the story of lighthouse keeper's daughter Grace Darling, who, along with her father, rescued nine people from tumultuous seas in 1838. On the Holy Island of Lindisfarne, he explores the lime kilns and finds out how Christianity spread from here across northern England in the 7th century.

Pembroke Dock to Cambridge[edit]

Portillo embarks on a new journey from south-west Wales to Cambridge, beginning in Pembroke Dock, where Queen Victoria's royal yachts were built.

# Episode Original airdate
16 "Pembroke Dock to Swansea" 26 January 2015 (2015-01-26)
In the little market town of Narberth he investigates what caused rebels to dress up as women, later spending the night at an inn in Carmarthen where Horatio Nelson once met Emma Hamilton. Next day, the former politician pitches in with the volunteers who look after the Gwili Railway and ends his leg in Swansea, where he learns how to pose for a photograph in Victorian style.
17 "Swansea to Hereford" 27 January 2015 (2015-01-27)
Portillo begins in the ruinous gardens at Aberglasney House near Llandeilo before riding shotgun in the driver's cab on one of the most scenic routes in Britain. Over the border in Leominster, he steps out onto the dance floor at the Lion Hotel Ballroom, where a grand ball was held to celebrate the opening of the Ludlow to Hereford railway, and finishes this leg of his journey at a traditional cider house in Hereford.
18 "Abergavenny to Hanborough" 28 January 2015 (2015-01-28)
Portillo begins underground at Big Pit coal mine in Blaenavon, where he discovers how Victorians toiled night and day to power the Industrial Revolution. On the River Usk, he learns about 19th-century developments in angling before heading to Ascott-under-Wychwood - once the scene of a farm labourers' dispute that ended in rioting. He concludes this leg of his journey at Blenheim Palace the birthplace of Winston Churchill.
19 "Oxford to Luton" 29 January 2015 (2015-01-29)
Beginning in the heart of academia in Oxford, Portillo visits the Bodleian Library to see some Victorian treasures, including Mary Shelley's Frankenstein manuscript and a pocket-sized edition of Bradshaw's Companion. At Bicester, he investigates two new rail projects, finds out about Victorian philanthropy in Bedford and finishes in Luton, where he explores the dark arts of the hat-maker.
20 "Oakham to Cambridge" 30 January 2015 (2015-01-30)
Portillo sets off from Oakham in Rutland, where he learns about a noble tradition dating back to the Middle Ages and decides to take part. Heading east to Stamford, he discovers why the town is such an attractive location for period dramas, while a ghoulish scene awaits in Peterborough when he visits a Victorian operating theatre where railwaymen were treated. His last stop on his journey is Christ's College at Cambridge University, where he finds out about the student days of Charles Darwin.

Series 7 (2016)[edit]

Carlisle to Alton[edit]

A journey through north west England.

# Episode Original airdate
1 "Carlisle to Penrith" 4 January 2016 (2016-01-04)
Portillo joins an assembly line in a Carlisle biscuit factory and discovers the popularity of the custard cream in Victorian times. He descends into Honister Slate Mine (now the only operational slate mine in England) and sees the miniature railway previously used to carry the slate to the surface. Portillo follows the route Victorian miners took to work, focusing on the tightrope bridge 300 feet (91 m) above the Borrowdale Valley which is now Britain's only Via Ferrata.[6][7]
2 "Windermere to Carnforth" 5 January 2016 (2016-01-05)
In the Lake District Portillo explores the magical world of Beatrix Potter as author and illustrator of the well-loved stories of "talking rabbits, ducks, hedgehogs and mice" and learns that she feared the encroachment of the railways. He visits the Brantwood home of the Victorian art critic and social thinker John Ruskin. Finally, at Carnforth he plays out a "Brief Encounter" .[6][7]
3 "Preston to Swinton" 6 January 2016 (2016-01-06)
In Preston, where four mill workers had been shot dead by soldiers during a protest in 1842, Portillo reads the Riot Act. In Darwen, he follows 19th-century developments in interior design from wallpaper to paint. He explores the Victorian industrial landscape of Salford depicted in L. S. Lowry's paintings - most recognisably with matchstick figures. He finishes on Kersal Moor, experiencing the tongue twisting Lancashire dialect and the poetry of Edwin Waugh.[6][7]
4 "St Helens to Knutsford" 7 January 2016 (2016-01-07)
In Merseyside, Portillo discovers how glass-making has evolved, from the inventiveness of the Victorians who constructed Crystal Palace to the modern industry, seen in St Helens and elsewhere, which has inspired a new revolution in architecture.[6][7]
5 "Ashley to Alton" 8 January 2016 (2016-01-08)
Portillo discovers how the new middle class homes of Victorian Ashley had many chimneys which needed to be kept clean and were swept by young children as depicted in Charles Kingsley's The Water-Babies. In Macclesfield, he finds the end of the Silk Route and tries screen printing. A steam-powered engine on the Churnet Valley Railway takes him to Froghall for Alton Towers where he learns about the 19th-century origins of this modern theme park.[6][7]

Dover to Porthcurno[edit]

A journey along the south coast of England.

# Episode Original airdate
6 "Dover to Lewes" 11 January 2016 (2016-01-11)
Beginning in the port of Dover, Portillo takes a plunge into the English Channel, inspired by the example set by a brave 19th-century sea captain. A miniature steam train one third the size of a conventional locomotive conveys him from Romney Marsh to Dungeness, and in Eastbourne, he learns how the 7th Duke of Devonshire managed to market the town's attractions to the refined upper-crust of Victorian London. The first leg of his trip concludes in eccentric style at the Glyndebourne opera festival on the South Downs.[6][7]
7 "Newhaven to Worthing" 12 January 2016 (2016-01-12)
Portillo travels from Newhaven to Worthing, examining the nation's hidden defences, and taking in two magnificent engineering achievements - the Ouse Valley Viaduct and the Clayton Tunnel. High on top of a favourite Victorian beauty spot he learns how trains carried hordes of day-trippers to fly kites, and finds a novel way to pick tomatoes in Worthing.[6][7]
8 "Littlehampton to Beaulieu" 13 January 2016 (2016-01-13)
Portillo arrives in Littlehampton, where he discovers how Victorian engineers dug deep to defend the town's residents from cholera and learns how their drills still access clean water around the world. At Gosport, he experiences first-hand the lethal firepower unleashed on the French and learns how the Victorians were engaged in a furious arms race against them. At the family home of Florence Nightingale in the New Forest, he finds out what motivated the Lady of the Lamp, before seizing the chance to drive the first motor car at Beaulieu.[6][7]
9 "Lymington Town to Exmouth" 14 January 2016 (2016-01-14)
Portillo arrives in the sailing haven of Lymington where he makes a lifesaving discovery. Exploring Dorchester's literary landscape, he finds out how the coming of the railways inspired the work of the region's greatest writer - Thomas Hardy. Weaving his way to Axminster, he tries his hand at carpet-making. His last stop is Exmouth, home to Francis Danby, a forgotten Victorian landscape artist.[6][7]
10 "Plymouth to Porthcurno" 15 January 2016 (2016-01-15)
In Plymouth, Portillo finds out about the Royal Navy's fighting spirit and mixes his own blend of ruin. Crossing into Cornwall, he learns about the last bridge to be built by one of his heroes, the engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel. By Tre Pol and Pen, he comes to know Cornishmen and how to prepare the perfect pasty. His journey ends in a small village which in Victorian times became a hub of global communications.[6][7]

Birmingham to Dartmoor[edit]

# Episode Original airdate
11 "Birmingham to Worcester" 18 January 2016 (2016-01-18)
Every train ride begins with a whistle and Portillo's new railway journey is no exception, blasting off from Birmingham's jewellery quarter to the sound of the Acme whistle, manufactured there since 1884. A visit to the city's town hall reveals a magnificent organ and the location for a celebrated music festival. Travelling south to Kidderminster, he reports for duty at the Post Office, where he sorts the letters and discovers more about the great postal innovator Sir Rowland Hill, before heading out to deliver the Royal Mail. 19th-century quack doctors and their bogus remedies are exposed in Worcester, where he discovers the origins of the British Medical Association.[6][7]
12 "Redditch to Gloucester" 19 January 2016 (2016-01-19)
Portillo travels from Redditch to Gloucester, beginning with a look back to Victorian times at a needle manufactory. He also learns how to make Gloucester cheese and joins the Gloucester Choral Society in a rendition of Jerusalem.[6][7]
13 "Stroud to Bath" 20 January 2016 (2016-01-20)
Portillo journeys from Stroud to Bath, investigating the Victorian origins of snooker, before ploughing a crooked furrow at the Royal Agricultural College in Cirencester. At his final destination in Bath, he takes tea with the ladies, and also discovers a scandalous novel written by an eccentric recluse, who was once the wealthiest man in England.[6][7]
14 "Bristol to Glastonbury" 21 January 2016 (2016-01-21)
Portillo travels from Bristol to Glastonbury, entering the foul-smelling world of a Victorian tannery and hearing how a 19th-century entrepreneur made his fortune thanks to mountains of bird droppings, using his wealth to build churches and one of the most luxurious country houses in Britain. When he reaches his destination, he heads for the mystical Glastonbury Abbey, where Victorian tourists flocked to hear tales of King Arthur and the Holy Grail.[6][7]
15 "Bridgwater to Dartmoor" 22 January 2016 (2016-01-22)
Portillo stands trial at the Bloody Assizes in Taunton, Somerset, and feels the full force of the law. He also gets to grips with a miracle of Victorian engineering on the Somerset Levels at Westonzoyland, and on Dartmoor embarks on a mid-19th century treasure hunt still popular today.[6][7]

Ashford to Henley-on-Thames[edit]

# Episode Original airdate
16 "Ashford to Sevenoaks" 25 January 2016 (2016-01-25)
Portillo sets out from Ashford in Kent on the first leg of a trip to Henley-on-Thames, Oxfordshire, lending a hand at a state-of-the-art train maintenance plant that is home to High Speed 1 rolling stock. A visit to the home of a historic make-up brand reveals the foundations of the Victorian cosmetics industry, before he ends his journey at Knole House in Sevenoaks at Knole House, seat of the Sackville-West family.[6][7]
17 "East Grinstead to Guildford" 26 January 2016 (2016-01-26)
Portillo travels from East Grinstead to Guildford, with his trip including a visit to Leith Hill Place to explore the compositions of Ralph Vaughan Williams. He also dons a boiler suit and takes to the footplate of a locomotive on the Bluebell Railway, Britain's first passenger-carrying heritage line, and witnesses the power of dynamite first hand.[6][7]
18 "Woking to Walton-on-Thames" 28 January 2016 (2016-01-28)
Portillo travels from Woking to Walton-on-Thames, uncovering the story of Britain's first purpose-built crematorium and visiting Brooklands, the birthplace of motor racing, along the way. As his journey draws to a close, he goes camping and finds out about the unlikely origins of a leisure pursuit that is going strong today.[6][7]
19 "Hampton Court to Teddington" 29 January 2016 (2016-01-29)
Portillo starts his latest tour as Hampton Court Palace, where he is treated to a private tour of the Great Vine - the world's longest grapevine - before moving on to stately Claremont House, where tragic circumstances led directly to the birth of the Victorian era. He then moves up the line to Wimbledon and the site of a historic duelling event before ending his journey in Teddington, where he hears the story of a reformer whose work revolutionised the care for those with living disabilities.[6][7]
20 "Egham to Henley-on-Thames" 29 January 2016 (2016-01-29)
Portillo begins the final leg in Egham, Surrey, where a historic steam fair offers the original White Knuckle Ride. Across town lies the Royal Holloway College, now part of the University of London, where the ex-politician discovers the institution's philanthropic roots. Moving into Berkshire, he drops in at a factory manufacturing a famous sleep-inducing beverage with historic roots. His journey ends at Henley-on-Thames in Oxfordshire, where he learns that rowing in an eight is a challenging business.[6][7]

Series 8 (2017)[edit]

London King's Cross to Edinburgh[edit]

A journey from England's capital city to Scotland's capital city

# Episode Original airdate
1 "London King's Cross to York - The Flying Scotsman" 2 January 2017 (2017-01-02)
In the first programme, Portillo travels all the way from London King's Cross to Edinburgh on a special train pulled by the Flying Scotsman.
2 "Welwyn Garden City to Peterborough" 3 January 2017 (2017-01-03)
Starting again from London on a more leisurely journey, Portillo begins with a visit to a Swiss garden in Bedfordshire, then goes back to school in Haileybury and finishes at the Rothamsted Research facility.
3 "Newark-on-Trent to Stockton" 4 January 2017 (2017-01-04)
In Retford, Portillo learns about the Victorian rubber technology in Thirsk. He goes to a wildlife centre and ends in Stockton-on-Tees.
4 "Darlington to Dunbar" 5 January 2017 (2017-01-05)
In Newton Aycliffe, Portillo visits the Hitachi Newton Aycliffe factory; he then learns about Charles Dodgson aka Lewis Carroll in Croft-on-Tees; next, he travels to a smokehouse in Craster; he ends with a visit to Dunbar.
5 "Longniddry to Edinburgh" 6 January 2017 (2017-01-06)
Portillo gets a ukulele lesson in Haddington; in Musselburgh, he learns about life as a fishwife; finally, he explores Scotland's capital, Edinburgh.

Blackpool to Harwich[edit]

A journey from the Irish Sea to the North Sea

# Episode Original airdate
6 "Blackpool to Manchester Victoria" 9 January 2017 (2017-01-09)
Portillo travels from Blackpool to Manchester Victoria en-route visiting Fleetwood. He then travels to Manchester visiting Manchester Piccadilly station before ending up at Manchester Victoria.
7 "Manchester Piccadilly to Silkstone Common" 10 January 2017 (2017-01-10)
Portillo continues his tour of Manchester before heading to Standedge Britain's longest canal tunnel. Finally he travels to Silkstone Common near Barnsley.
8 "Chapeltown to Doncaster" 11 January 2017 (2017-01-11)
Portillo starts in Chapeltown, South Yorkshire before heading to Sheffield University & Conisbrough before ending this part of his journey in Doncaster.
9 "Gainsborough to Ely" 12 January 2017 (2017-01-12)
Portillo starts this leg of his journey in Gainsborough before heading to Lincoln. He then travels to the Cambridgeshire Fens and finally Ely.
10 "Stowmarket to Harwich" 13 January 2017 (2017-01-13)
On the final leg of Portillo's journey he visits the Mid-Suffolk Light railway, the Long Shop Museum in Leiston and Ipswich. Finally he ends this journey in Harwich.

Goes to Ireland: Wexford to Westport[edit]

A journey through Ireland

# Episode Original airdate
11 "Wexford to Wicklow" 16 January 2017 (2017-01-16)
Portillo wears all the colours of the flag of the Irish Republic as he starts this journey in the port of Wexford, where he experiences a 100-year-old lifeboat and learns about John Barry, Irish-born, who became a hero of the American Navy. Portillo then travels to County Wicklow where he visits the Meeting of the Waters at Avoca, and he concludes this leg of the journey in the town of Wicklow where he learns of a 19th century scheme to combat disease in the Irish capital, Dublin, and travels in a Victorian era horse-drawn, barrel-top caravan.
12 "Greystones to Dublin" 17 January 2017 (2017-01-17)
Portillo views the Book of Kells, a 1,200 year old illuminated manuscript Gospel book in Trinity College. He samples Guinness in a Dublin pub before discovering that Victorian royals were sent to Ireland in the hope of easing relations between the island and Britain. Next he visits the spectacular house and gardens of Powerscourt in County Wicklow. Finally Portillo finds out how Ireland was put on the map.
13 "Navan to Mullingar" 18 January 2017 (2017-01-18)
14 "Dromond to Sligo" 19 January 2017 (2017-01-19)
15 "Ballina to Westport" 20 January 2017 (2017-01-20)
On the last leg of Michael Portillo's long journey from Wexford to Westport, a fashionable Victorian seaweed bath is followed by a steamy scene in Ballina.

DVD Releases[edit]

As of 2016, the first 7 series of Great British Railway Journeys have been released on DVD by Fremantle Media under licence from the BBC and the series 1–2 production company, Talkback Thames, and the series 3–5 Production company, Boundless.

Series UK release date Special features
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
Series 1–5 26 October 2015 23-disc box set with all 115 episodes from series 1 to 5
Series 6 22 February 2016
Series 7 8 August 2016
Series 8 13 February 2017


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

Great Victorian Railway Journeys, written by Karen Farrington and with a foreword by Michael Portillo, was published by Collins in January 2012.[9]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Great British Railway Journeys". BBC. Retrieved 25 January 2010. 
  2. ^ "Michael Portillo rides the rails again". Wales On Sunday. 27 December 2009. Retrieved 6 January 2010. 
  3. ^ Clay, Jeremy (6 January 2010). "TV review: Great British Railway Journeys". Leicester Mercury. Retrieved 6 January 2010. 
  4. ^ "Great British Railway Journeys - Series 4 Episode Guide". Radio Times. 
  5. ^ Note: the BBC, IMDB, Radio Times and many others called it Silverton and not Silvertown.
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t "Great British Railway Journeys". BBC. Retrieved 19 February 2016. 
  7. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t "Great British Railway Journeys - Series 7 Episode". Radio Times. 
  8. ^ "Book Details: Great British Railway Journeys". Harper Collins. 
  9. ^ "Book Details: Great Victorian Railway Journeys". Harper Collins. 

External links[edit]