We’ve been back in the UK for a week now, basing ourselves at my parents house in Tunbridge Wells, Kent, and have been filling our time with lots of festive days out with the boys. My favourite adventure so far has been our trip on the Spa Valley Railway’s Santa Special. This old train line dates back to 1866 – and it really feels like you have stepped back in time when you arrive at the stations along the route.
We arrived at Eridge Station for the first train on Sunday morning – and spent some time taking in the festive feel of the station before we boarded the train. This is a really, really lovely thing to do to get into the festive spirit; there was an open fire roaring in the waiting room, the smell of chestnuts roasting in the air, Christmas music playing as you wait to board, the sound of the steam engine chugging into the station and engulfing families with steam as they howled with laughter. There was also festive face painting for children – Stanley could choose between a snowman, holly or Christmas tree. After much deliberation (he wanted a tiger), he plumped for a snowman.
After boarding and finding our seats (and excitingly catching sight of Santa and his elf boarding further along the train), we set off through the Kent countryside, keeping our eyes peeled for reindeers out the window. It wasn’t long before there was a ‘ho ho ho‘ and Santa had arrived at the doors to our carriage. The boys were captivated as they were handed gifts (a pretty decent fire engine for Stanley and stuffed elephant for Wilfred).
Arriving at Tunbridge Wells, we wrapped up warm and got off the train, joining a queue of our fellow passengers to have our photo taken with Santa on his sleigh. The queue moved quickly, taking us into a room decorated with a giant tree, twinkly lights, and festive music playing. We were handed coins to play the old penny slot machines in the room – and Stanley enjoyed playing them so much, that he wasn’t exactly thrilled to meet FC when he was dragged away from the machine. After a big photo fail, my sister jumped into the shot to save the day.
After that fun, we boarded the train again for our return journey – and this time, praise be, the refreshment trolley made its way to us and we all warmed up with a festive tipple (mulled wine for the adults, apple juice for Stanley). Just as we had our first taste, Santa was back with a tray of warm mince pies and shortbread biscuits.
It’s a really lovely thing to do – and if you are free today or tomorrow (23 or 24th) there still seems to be tickets left – book here.
For more information, visit The Spa Valley Railway (they do specials throughout the year, including Thomas The Tank Engine, if you have a fan!)