Mr Henderson’s Railway Trip Planner

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Mr Henderson's Railway Trip Planner

Mr Henderson’s Railway Map

If you haven’t ridden Mr Henderson’s Railway you’re missing a treat – it’s a great day out!

This scenic train line from Algeciras to Ronda takes you to parts of Andalucía most travellers rarely see:

Ride through 16 mountain tunnels and across 20 bridges spanning death-defying gorges

Lunch trackside in quaint Victorian stations converted into trendy restaurants

Meet wallabies and local wildlife at a free-range animal park

Follow in Premier David Cameron’s footsteps on Mr Henderson’s Walk

The railroad is steeped in tales of smugglers, WW2 spies and Hollywood celebrities. More curious still, it’s entirely British built! Train buff Michael Portillo featured the Victorian railroad in the first episode of his 2013 Great Continental Railway Journeys TV series.

What he doesn’t tell you – and the guide books don’t either – is how to plan your trip in the 21st century.

It’s not that easy! Here’s why:

The first time I ever rode the train I bought a ticket to Gaucín, expecting to find myself in the pueblo blanco popular with artists and expats. “Qué va!” a local told me after I’d walked from one end of this small one-horse hamlet to the other in 10 minutes. “Estás en Estación de Gaucín!”

Gaucín Station is a place (also called El Colmenar)! And not much of a place when I visited, years ago (there’s a very good reason to stop there now). But  it had a bar and I got through quite a few G&Ts waiting for the next train, not due for another three hours!

Gaucín Pueblo, the white village I wanted to see, was 14 kilometres away – a long hike over the mountains or an expensive taxi ride.

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Rocky Mountain Highs

Because of the steep terrain, Mr Henderson found it easier to build his stations in the valleys, some distance from the pretty hilltop towns they were intended to serve. That, and the reduced frequency of the service today, means you can’t just hop on and off the train where the mood takes you, unless you want to be stranded in the middle of nowhere for several hours with not much to do.

Of course, no one tells you that! There are no tourist board guides or maps and even the railway timetables are like gold dust.

Sometimes there isn’t even anyone in the ticket office. The man who sells them is also the station master so he may be out on signal duty or having a coffee break.

Hey, this is Spain, remember! 

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How To Get Your FREE Trip Planner

When you love something, you’ve got to tell people about it ….  soon all my friends and neighbours wanted my help to plan their day out.  It seemed easier to tell everybody, once, in a guide. The result is Mr Henderson’s Railway Trip Planner – How to Travel this Victorian British Railroad Under Your Own Steam.

I’d like to share it with you FREE!

I’ve included my picks of what to see and do at my favourite railway station stops so you can plan your own sizzling journey without missing a trick!

The map gives a birds eye overview of the train route, 12 stations and towns close by. The Planner, in clickable pdf format with colour photographs, has links to all the attractions mentioned (walks, zoos, castles,  restaurants ), so you can check directions, routes, opening times and menus directly from the websites. It’s only a beginning (there’s so much we have yet to include) but it puts it all in geographical context at a glance.

To order your free copy, simply click here and scroll to the bottom of the page to Sign up for the Sizzle!

You’ll find out how to:

Dine on the Line

 

Eat trackside in Thomas the Tank Engine-quaint restaurants converted from old stations and goods yards modelled on those built by the British in India in the days of the Raj. Trip Advisor’s Top Restaurant in Andalucía is one of them! The mouth-watering cuisine will change your mind about railway station buffet fare, and you won’t have to drink and drive!

Drive the Line

You’ll need wheels to discover some of the scintillating side trips to attractions not walkable from the stations. We show you what not to miss.

Walk the Line

David Cameron hiked the route known as Mr Henderson’s Railway Walk before he became Prime Minister. Follow in his footsteps!

Bike the Line

This is Easy Rider country! The winding on- and off-road trails following the line’s trajectory are a favourite with the motorbike fraternity. There are mountain bike circuits and family cycle routes, too.

Read About the Line

Truman Capote rode Mr Henderson’s Railway. Here’s his description about riding through Bandit Country.

There are so many reasons to ride this great little railway. I love it that most of the stations have bars on the platform so you can enjoy your café con leche in comfort, trackside, until the train pulls in!

Plied by steam trains when it opened in 1892, this amazing iron road crosses 20 bridges and passes through 16 tunnels and the views through the carriage windows are to die for: fields of sunflowers, nesting stork colonies and towering limestone peaks skimmed by eagles, buzzards and vultures.

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The line was nicknamed after its wealthy British financier, Sir Alexander Henderson, 1st Baron Faringdon of Oxfordshire, and everything from the rolling stock to the company notepaper came from Britain. It’s such a well-kept secret that even his great grandson, the 3rd Baron Faringdon, knew little about it until this year (2013), when he rode it for the first time with his extended family. I met this likeable, avuncular Lord during his trip and you can read about that encounter here.

 

Today the train runs through terrain that was once ‘bandit country’. It skirts the Alcornocales Nature Park, Europe’s largest cork forest. Hollywood stars wintered in the grand Edwardian railway hotels built at either end of the line, WW2 spies used the bathrooms as darkrooms and smugglers passed contraband goods from Gibraltar through the railway carriage windows.

 

Not many people know that the railway was once connected to Gibraltar by steamship, much to the chagrin of the Spanish authorities who weren’t aware of this cunning ruse to link the Rock with the rest of Europe by land until it was a done deal. Gibraltar was a sore point then, as now! You can read this fascinating twist to the story here.

Train times change, new restaurants open, others close. Once you subscribe for the Trip Planner you’ll be on our list to receive updates. We’ll be exploring the region  in greater depth to sample restaurants and excursions and share what’s hot.

We call it work!

To start your journey with your own copy of Mr Henderson’s Railway Trip Planner, simply click here and scroll to the bottom of the page to Sign up for the Sizzle!

© All photographs copyrighted by contributors

19 Comments

  • Chris Gamble October 27, 2013 at 4:29 pm Reply

    Love this brilliant little railway and now I can enjoy it al the more impressing family and friends with this excellent guide and new found knowledge.

    • Belinda October 27, 2013 at 5:16 pm Reply

      And finding out more for the cause too, thanks Chris!

  • Antonio Sanchez November 2, 2013 at 8:15 am Reply

    Lovely post on this train ride! Is really an inspiring experience to meet these locations. Although I live on the coast, my family lived in that area for years, and I have a special affection for these people. Thanks for writing about it, Belinda

    • Belinda November 5, 2013 at 11:22 am Reply

      Thank you for subscribing and I hope you enjoy using the Trip Planner!

  • Rachael February 27, 2014 at 3:55 pm Reply

    Hi there, I’ve subscibed but can’t seem to get hold of the Trip Planner?? Really keen to take a look if possible – it sounds great!

    • Belinda February 28, 2014 at 12:44 pm Reply

      Hi Rachael, I have emailed you a Trip Planner right now.

      • Rachael February 28, 2014 at 2:03 pm Reply

        Thanks so much – this really is fabulous!

  • How To Draw Step By Stephttp://Www.Youtube.Com/Watch?V=U-T6XmnH4BE April 23, 2014 at 6:27 pm Reply

    We absolutely love your blog and find many of your post’s to be precisely what
    I’m looking for. Do you offer guest writers to write content in your case?

    I wouldn’t mind creating a post or elaborating on most of the
    subjects you write with regards to here.

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    • Belinda April 24, 2014 at 11:03 am Reply

      Thank you for your kind comments. I don’t usually host guest posts but I’m always open to suggestions, if you’d like to drop me an email me with your ideas!

  • Marc May 10, 2014 at 2:51 am Reply

    Hi Belinda,

    Wonderful website & very well written. I’m visiting Algeciras soon and would like to spend a day or two on the railway route. I have signed up for your newsletter, but is there a way to get hold of the planner for those of us who are late to the party?

    Thanks.

  • Lisa July 4, 2014 at 10:10 am Reply

    Thanks Belinda!
    We’ve signed up for the travel planner and are now planning our trip. Train, bikes or walking ?? .. hmmm we’ll let you know the result 🙂
    xx

  • Daithi O Mordha July 5, 2014 at 1:28 am Reply

    Hi Belinda,
    Came across your very interesting article while trawling for information about taking a steam train ride to Ronda from San Roque train station. Having been inspired by Ml Portillos TV series depiction of his train ride from Madrid, which you mentioned.
    Would love a copy of your Trip Planner guide. Why does it take enthusiastic foreigners to highlight some of Spain’s potential tourist money spinners, it’s frustrating trying to unearth information. I know there is a steam train that travels the line from Algeciras to Ronda but I can’t as yet find much information on a running schedule. Also I saw on a timetable you posted on regular trains that there is no service on Saturdays & Sundays, please tell me this isn’t true in a country depending on tourism? Your guide will be invaluable! Oh one other thing before I finish, surely it can’t be true about a possible reduction or termination of passenger trains on this line in favour of increased commercial carriage of goods to Algeciras? What would Mr Henderson think? … I know….things haven’t changed! Thanks.

    • Belinda July 5, 2014 at 10:08 am Reply

      Hi Daithi
      You just have to subscribe at the bottom of this page to get the Trip Planner. It’s not a steam train any more btw, but it’s no less scenic!

  • Sue Cleaver July 28, 2014 at 2:01 pm Reply

    Hi Belinda
    Subscribed for free rail trip planner but no email yet?? Am I too impatient!

    • Belinda August 15, 2014 at 12:51 pm Reply

      You should have it now!

  • Da May 10, 2015 at 6:08 pm Reply

    Hi Belinda,
    Just subscribed and would appreciate if you could forward Mr Henderson’s Railway Trip Planner as soon as possible as we are going to Ronda very soon.

    Many Thanks

    David

    • Belinda May 21, 2015 at 9:30 am Reply

      Done. Hope you got it.

  • Gill September 23, 2015 at 10:26 am Reply

    Hi, currently in the area & would love to travel Mr Hendersons railway..can’t seem to find the link to the planner…could you help please Belinda.

    Many thanks – Gill

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