Rail Ale Trails were originally set up in the United Kingdom as a marketing exercise to promote tourism in rural areas of the country. Train and ale fans were encouraged to travel by train to a series of pubs that are situated close to railway stations in rural areas. As well as bringing additional business to the pubs and other businesses in the rural areas, it also increased the number of passengers on the trains and therefore brought in additional money for the local economy.
The scheme was popularly supported by the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) who supports the trails as well as ensuring that the ales served at the pubs were high quality and locally brewed.
The scheme started in 1997 and the first Rail Ale Trail ran on the 1st of October 1977 by Gerald Daniels. The ‘Rail Ale’ term was heavily adopted by the Devon and Cornwall Rail Partnership and organisation which was set up to promote rural train routes around the English West Country. Rail Ale Trails around this area remain very popular today and bring a huge amount of tourism to the areas.
Today, a number of Rail Ale Trails are centred on annual Ale Festivals around the United Kingdom. There are a variety of Ale Festivals around the UK during the summer months and this happens to be the perfect time to travel by train and enjoy the beauty that is the British countryside. A number of railway stations have teamed up with CAMRA and created handy little booklets for people wishing to explore a Rail Ale Trail through their train station. The booklet includes all the train lines and all scheduled stops, key pubs at each stop and a variety of Ale Festivals that take place along the route throughout the year.
Rail Ale Trails appear to be coming back in fashion as petrol prices rise and more people are choosing to travel on the train. Microbreweries and breweries advertising to a younger generation are also bringing in interest for the Rail Ale Trails. The summer truly is the best place to go on a Rail Ale Trail, combine locally brewed ale, beer gardens and the ease of travelling on crosscountry trains with off-peak and inexpensive train tickets and you’ve got the perfect summer weekend.
Here is a map of 10 of our favourite ale festivals that are taking place around the country over the next couple of months, all are on popular Rail Ale Trail routes. Check out this blog post for more details on other Ale Festivals in May. Enjoy!