It’s finally here, the most wonderful time of year. Full of family days out, twinkly lights and of course the obligatory visit to Santa. As Piper is now 9, I know we only have a few years left of the full magic of the season (if that) so I’m pretty picky about which Christmas events we spend our precious time at. A crowded, overpriced grotto in a busy shopping centre just won’t cut it anymore. A fun Steam Train journey and a friendly Santa sounded like the ideal solution. And the Churnet Valley Santa Train offered just that!
Churnet Valley Railway in Staffordshire is less than an hour from home so we finished a very festive Sunday in Stoke with a trip on their Santa and Steam ride. We were booked on the last ride of the day which left Froghall Station at 15.15 meaning we would be on-board as the sun went down. How magical! I decided to bring along my parents, my Dad is a huge train geek so was in his absolute element, Mum was more than happy with the promise of a mince pie and Piper of coarse was over the moon to be meeting the big guy himself!
Arriving at Kingsley & Froghall Station
We were told to arrive around half an hour before the train leaves and I’m so glad we did. The station, ticket office and waiting area was decked out ready for Christmas. It looked as magical as most other grottos we’ve visited.
We pulled up to Froghall Station to find plenty of free parking next to the ticket office. And followed the trail of colourful lights next to the platform, past the pretty row of fir trees into the waiting room. We checked in with the ticketing staff (all very efficient and easy) and explored the child friendly features dotted about.
Piper loved writing in the nice list and posing by the vintage props and decorations. There are toilets at Froghall Station and a lovely tea room although we didn’t have chance to stop for refreshments.
On board Santa’s Steam Train
Next it was time to hop on board. Once I’d managed to drag my Dad away from the engine end of the train, we skipped down the platform to our carriage, sweetly named “Vixen” and quickly located our seats.
I loved the old fashioned design of the train, the wooden interiors, small sliding windows and retro seats. We all thought the Churnet Valley Santa Train team had done a great job with decorating the carriages for Christmas.
I’d bought along a few sweets for Piper knowing that busy attractions can take quite a while to serve guests but I needn’t have worried. As soon as we pulled out of the Station, along came a friendly lady, in full costume with a huge basket of chocolates for the kids.
Then it was fruit shoots for the kids and a mince pie and freshly poured glass of sherry for the grown-ups.
Santa’s elves kept us entertained with friendly chat and plenty of smiles for the little ones. And you’re free to wander up and down the carriages should anyone feel restless. Don’t wander too far though – you don’t want to miss the main event!
The Steam train takes you on a journey through the Staffordshire Moorlands to Cheddleton station and we passed some lovely scenery along the way. The whole route is around an hour and twenty minutes and, as mentioned, we were lucky enough to be on-board as the sun set which made the views each way entirely different.
There are toilets on board but no baby changing facilities – these are pretty old trains! Even though it was very cold on the day we visited, the carriages were warm and cosy.
Churnet Valley’s Santa
And finally the bit we’d all been waiting for, the arrival of Santa himself! Dressed in a traditional red and white outfit with big black boots and long white beard he most definitely looked the part.
It was lovely watching all the kids excitedly kneeling on their seats awaiting their moment with Father Christmas. Piper always gets a little nervous meeting Santa, she never knows what to ask for and finds the interactions a little uncomfortable. This Santa however picked up on her nerves, did not push her to come up with any answers and was super friendly without feeling overbearing. What a skill!
Following Santa were his kindly helpers, handing out gifts to each child. The presents were all age appropriate, having given Piper’s age at the time of booking and really good quality. They were even wrapped with was a lovely touch considering most Santa gifts just come as they are. Piper loved her Shaker Baker and the surrounding children’s presents looked wonderful too.
Santa was happy to take the time to pose for pictures and have a chat with the parents. We did not feel rushed at any point in the journey.
What we thought of the Santa and Steam ride
We spent an absolutely wonderful few hours on the Churnet valley Santa and Steam train. The atmosphere was magical, the train was beautiful and Santa himself was a delight for the children. Visiting Father Christmas on a train took away all the usual Santa visit stress of queueing, rushed visits and disappointing presents. I highly recommend booking a trip. Plus it’s a great excuse to explore the gorgeous Staffordshire countryside.
The only thing which could have made it more festive would be some Christmas music along the way.
Book tickets for Churnet Valley’s Santa Train
Prices start at £17 for adults and £12 for children. The trains run every Saturday, Sunday and Wednesday evenings from now until Christmas. They still have some slots available for this year. Book online to secure your preferred time.
You can also book a compartment for between 6 and 8 people which will cost you an additional £30. Perfect if you’re in a larger group.
How to get to the Churnet Valley Santa train
Kingsley & Froghall Station,
You can begin your Santa and Steam ride at either Froghall or Cheddleton Station. We chose Froghall as it’s a little closer to home. The station is easy to find on the A52. The entrance to the station is in Kingsley village, just next to the bridge.
If you’re looking for more festive days out in Staffordshire, make sure you check out my run down of the best Christmas Events in Stoke on Trent.
Or if you want to add another Santa visit to your schedule then check out where to visit Santa in the West Midlands.
We were gifted tickets for the Santa and steam train, as always, all opinions are our own.
Make sure to pin for later for planning your Churnet Valley Santa Train in Staffordshire experience.