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Have you ever been on a lovely steam train ride at a garden centre, puffing gently through Hobbit-like tunnels and over tiny bridges?

The La’al Ratty (meaning little railway in Cumbrian) is the affectionate name given to one of the UK’s longest narrow gauge steam train journey, taking passengers on a ‘real’ 8-mile journey through one of the most remote parts of the UK, the glacier-carved Eskdale Valley in the Western Lake District.

Formerly called ‘Owd Ratty’ (old railway in Cumbrian), the original track was even narrower, only 3 ft, and opened in 1874 to carry iron ore from the mountain mines of the popular walking village of Boot. In 1915, the track was rebuilt and widened to the 15” that it is today so that the little steam train could carry passengers. The journey starts in the little-known Lake District coastal town of Ravenglass, a key Roman outpost with a fort established in AD 130. Today you can visit the remains of the Bath House, which are among the tallest Roman structures surviving in Northern Britain. Leaving the estuary’s, the 40-minute ride takes passengers up through a real-life Hobbit land of ancient woodlands, crystal-clear waterways and ghylls, to the foothills of England’s most majestic and tallest mountain, Scafell.

New for late spring 2020 is a host of new carriages, including a brand-new First-Class Carriage featuring 14 sumptuous red seats and large glass windows offering panoramic views. Arguably the most deluxe 15in gauge heritage carriage ever made. For celebrating a special occasion, a new Observation carriage, offering champagne and Afternoon Tea for groups of 4 to 42, has to be one of the most memorable of Lake District experiences. Standard Carriages have also received a make-over for spring 2020, with padded bench seating and more headroom. Oh, plus The Gruffalo will be appearing at Ravenglass & Eskdale Railway on the 21 and 22 March 2020.