Cornish Riviera Express tips
Booking a ticket in advance is advisable during busy periods, though the First Great Western website is terrible. Singles are often expensive and you need to seek out “super saver return” tickets under a hidden “more flexible options” button. Even then you are not guaranteed a seat when collecting your tickets. :(
If you don’t book, you can get a seat if you stand in the right place at Paddington train station. Stand as close as possible to the platforms whilst keeping on an eye on the announcement boards. With experience you can sniff out the train and once announced dash for coach C or D, the unreserved coach.
When busy (i.e. Friday evenings), some seats generally only free up around the Newton Abbot stop, so prepare to wait standing (hours) till then if you didn’t win a seat. So catching the Express from Reading station without a booked seat is silly. Catching the Express from Exeter St. Davids (perhaps you came via Westbury) means usually just standing for one stop on the Express on a busy evening. Not bad.
After Newton Abbot the Riviera Express is really stunning. The sea a stone throw away… and the Tamar bridge. It’s an incredible train journey… back home to Praze Farm at Bodmin Parkway, my favourite train station. The station is within walking distance of the fabulous Lanhydrock estate.
When travelling weekends upgrade to first class for 20GBP. Highly recommended except beware of their silly positioning of the plugs. The power plug outlets are better in coach/second class.