CHUGGING through the East Lancashire countryside at a leisurely pace as the sun breaks its cover and shines down upon our green and pleasant land is a treat at the best of times.

But when you’re also eating a four-course meal and sipping on a cold glass of Chablis while seated in a plush carriage being waited on hand and foot by smiling, attentive servers, its nothing short of heavenly.

The East Lancashire Railway is one of the region’s premier attractions and is something that is loved by tens of thousands of people of all ages – and its very easy to see why.

Lancashire Telegraph: East Lancashire Railway

From the moment we stepped onboard with our fellow excited voyagers, there was no denying we were in for an evening of elegance and sophistication to remember.

Accompanied by my parents who are visiting for the week, we took the short drive to Bury before heading trackside to buy a drink (which we were told we could take onto the train with us), from the newly refurbished bar and restaurant located on the station platform.

A feeling of anticipation rose as the locomotive, named The City of Wells, rolled into sight and attached to the front carriage signalling that it was almost time for our journey to begin.

Cameras snapped pictures and people watched on in awe as the impressive machine, which is one of the biggest engines on the railway, roared into action.

A short time later we were escorted to our seats onboard one of the elegantly decorated carriages where the buzz of eager diners mingled with fun yet muted pop music, created the most perfect dining atmosphere.

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The tables were lovingly laid with pristine silverware and spotless China – but most importantly with a glass of prosecco each to be sipped on as we poured over information booklets which told us of the railway’s history and the hard-working people who have fought to keep the heritage of the line alive.

A map of our two-and-a-half-hour trip through the glorious Irwell Valley was also provided, so we knew exactly where we would be going and the landmarks we would pass along the way.

While we were onboard for the Red Rose Dining experience, the other visitors in our carriage were taking part in a gin tasting session, which involved them trying several different types of the spirit, each expertly paired to each course of their meal.

Not long after we were seated the steam train pulled away from Bury and as we left the hubbub of the town behind us, we were given our entrees – chorizo and halloumi salad for the meat-eaters and falafel and feta salad with a creamy tzatziki sauce for the herbivores. Next up was a tomato and basil soup, served with fresh bread rolls and as much butter as you could possibly wish for.

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The vegetarian entree option was a falafel and feta salad

By now we had made it to up to Heywood where we stopped as the locomotive was detached and rolled down the track alongside us to be re-attached at the now front-end, as we prepared for our voyage back towards Bury before heading up the stunning Irwell Valley.

At this stage we were served our main courses, which was Gressingham duck breast with watercress and l ’orange sauce served with roasted and baby potatos and fresh veg, all served from silver platters carried by staff wearing crisp uniforms and cotton gloves.

By the time the lean and tender duck had been devoured, we had almost reached our destination of Rawtenstall via Ramsbottom and Summerseat. At this stage, the locomotive was again detached and turned around to pull us home.

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Right - Duck with all the trimmings. Left - BBQ Jackfruit and vegetable bake

During the last leg of our trip we were treated to a strawberry and white chocolate charlotte with fruit coulis which was nothing short of divine. Light, fluffy and impeccably delicious – the perfect way to round-off our trip.

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Dessert: White chocolate charlotte

The East Lancashire Railway’s goal with the Red Rose Experience is to transport visitors back to a time of effortless elegance, style, sophistication and superb first-class service, all of which they achieved tenfold – especially when it came to the service provided.

The staff couldn’t do enough for us and were all extremely professional, helpful and friendly.

There was also a bar on board stocked with an array of spirits, wines and beers which is sold at a very reasonable price.

We’re exceptionally lucky to have such an attraction right on our doorstep, which really does have something to offer everyone.

Upcoming family events include the Wizarding Adventure which will see the train transformed into the Grand Old School of Wizardry as it wghizzes through the countryside, mimicking the very famous Hogwarts Express.

Themed nights are also put on throughout the year, so keep your eyes peeled for murder mystery events and the like.

The menus for the Red Rose Dining Experience are ever-changing, so check online to see which would best suit your tastes and dietary requirements. Tickets costs £64.50 each and include a four course meal and welcome drink.

If you’re looking for a special evening out – or just to experience something a little different - look no further, I promise you’ll have an evening you’ll never want to forget.