Rail Ale Trail

Chug through lush valleys and pretty villages, take in the stunning scenery and sample some delicious local ales when you join us on our famous Rail Ale Trail.

Climb aboard one of our steam or diesel trains on the ELR as we guide you through the history and heritage of the local area – with a particular focus on the region’s long brewing traditions and the people who have shaped the towns and villages over the centuries.

We’ll hop on and hop off all along the East Lancashire Railway line, stopping at some of the oldest and most popular pubs in the Irwell Valley to sample a pint or two of locally brewed ale.

Alongside some thirst-quenching beer, you’ll enjoy a delicious, hearty lunch in a traditional pub and amazing views across the stunning Lancashire countryside.

Every tour is different (though they all begin at Bury Bolton Street Station), so be sure to check how much walking we’ll be doing before you book. Some tours might only require minimum walking in local villages, while others involve a longer hike between pubs to really build up your thirst.

What’s included

A trip along our Rail Ale Trail includes:

  • An unlimited travel ticket for the East Lancashire Railway
  • A guided tour lasting the full day
  • A bottle of ale to enjoy on the train (Some tours may include beer sampling in a local pub instead)
  • Lunch at a traditional local pub

Please note: Rail Ale Trails dates are subject to a minimum number of tour participants

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What are the Rail Ale Trails?

The Rail Ale Trails are guided tours focusing on the region’s history with stories and anecdotes that bring added colour and insights into the destinations and hospitality venues located along the 12-mile route of the East Lancashire Railway. Every tour includes a steam train ride and an expert led Blue/Green Badge guided tour visiting a handful of pubs along the way.

Each tour includes a full line return ticket, pub lunch and one complimentary bottle of ale unless otherwise stated.

Is beer included?

Tours include a bottle of ale which is issued at the start of the journey unless otherwise stated, and one half pint at one of the pubs along the route.

Any additional alcohol must be purchased by the tour-goer themselves.

What happens on the tour?

The tours start at Bury Bolton Street Station, from there you will take a steam train along the route of the East Lancashire Railway. This route may vary dependant on the timetable or if stated any differently in the tour description. On the train ride you will hear stories about the local area told in a fun and enlightening way by the professional tour guide.

When alighting along the route, you will have chance to visit a number of recommended pubs or bars. The tour guide will continue to talk you through the history of the area and its brewing industry along the way.

After the tour you will return to Bury via one of the ELR heritage trains.

Where and when do the tours start and finish?

Unless otherwise stated the tours start promptly at 10:30am outside The Trackside pub, Platform 2, Bury Bolton Street Station. We ask that guests arrive ideally 10-15 minutes before the start time. Each tour lasts approximately 6.5 hours and finishes back at The Trackside (alighting on the last train of the day at 17.01 unless otherwise stated).

How much time is spent in each pub?

This depends on the railway timetable and nature of the tour advertised, generally the tour guide will allow enough time for everyone to comfortably enjoy half a pint in each venue.

Who goes on the Rail Ale Tours, can I bring pets and children?

Individuals, couples and small groups all frequent our Rail Ale Tours. The tours are intended to provide a quirky and informative mix of local history and storytelling, with opportunities to also enjoy a beer or two along the way.

Under 18s are not permitted on the Rail Ale Trails. Dogs are not allowed on the guided tours.

Can you get on and off as often as you wish?

Our guided tours are structured day trips and feature scheduled stops with commentary along the way. The guided tour includes a full line return ticket. While guests are advised to stick with the guide and their group for the day – and will need to do so if they want to enjoy the lunch included – you are free to deviate from the chosen route if you prefer to do so (however you will need to keep hold of proof of purchase so that you are not charged any separate train fares on the day).

Will we be able to buy food on the tour?

Each tour includes a food stop in the ticket price – this will either be a pub lunch or a combination of pizza and pie served for guests at a couple of stops along the route. You ‘re also welcome to purchase additional snacks yourself if you wish.

How much does each tour cost?

Unless otherwise stated each tour costs £59.50 per person.

Do you have to pay in advance?

Yes, pre-booking is essential.

Can I add people after making the original booking?

You are welcome to increase the size of your booking provided there is availability.

Is the tour suitable for those with limited mobility?

All tours require some walking, which is fairly easy-going but bear in mind that Ramsbottom in particular has one or two steep hills.  Usually there is no more than 10-minutes’ walk between the station and each pub stop. The tour guides will be happy to make arrangements if you feel like you may struggle, as long as they know in advance.

Do you include groups, is there a group discount?

We welcome all group bookings and can offer private tours for corporate and private groups, please contact us at customer.services@eastlancsrailway.co.uk or by calling 0333 320 2830. There is no group discount available for Rail Ale Tour bookings.

How many people can attend a Rail Ale Trail?

The maximum number of attendees on a Rail Ale Trail is 25. This is to ensure that the tour guide can give everyone a complete experience (and that everyone can fit in the pub).

Are Stag and Hen parties welcome on the tours?

Stag and Hen parties are not permitted on the Rail Ale Trail.

How many miles is it by train? How long do you spend on the train?

The East Lancashire Railway is a 12-mile route in total.  From Bury Bolton Street Station by train, Heywood is 15 minutes, Rawtenstall is 30 minutes, Ramsbottom is 15 minutes, and Summerseat is approximately 8 minutes.

Will the tour be on a steam train?

The tours have been planned so that at least part of the journey on any tour will be made by steam train – subject to availability.

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