After deciding to set off around the world in 2017 I also made a pledge to myself to see more of Britain before I’m unable to.
Stonehenge, Whitby, London Zoo and Swindon Town football ground among the places visited. Not that Swindon was really on the list! Northern Ireland and the Giants Causeway booked. The summit of Snowdon to be slotted in somewhere.
Today I did the Settle to Carlisle railway. And despite the lack of steam train and the remarkably mediocre standard Northern Rail carriages it was wonderful.
Yes, the view of the Ribbleshead Viaduct (above) from the train is a tad disappointing. That’s a majesty reserved for those on the ground below. But the route itself is English beauty. Mile after mile of sensational scenery. Mountains. Forests. Sheep. Rivers. Oldy world railway stations beautifully maintained by volunteers. 72 miles. 95 minutes. Repeated for the return trip.
Arrival at Settle was intriguing. “Disabled badge holders can park free in a designated disabled space”. As those spaces were taken I wondered if I had to pay £2 for parking in a normal space. The ticket price for an off peak return fare was over £20 but discounted with my disability railcard. Better still, after deciding not to pay online I spotted a Day Ranger fare for £15 in the ticket office. This got discounted to £9.90 and the parking was confirmed as free. Hell, I’m already over £12 up!
The train departed on time, but the only on board recognition of the special nature of the line was the cardboard cup they served coffee in. I saved myself another £2 and didn’t bother.
The journey itself was just a normal train trip, except for an announcement for the Ribbleshead Viaduct. But the sight of Victorian railway stations in the backdrop of natural beauty and dry stone walls is stunning from start to finish.
And then Carlisle. Arrival was tempered with a “what now?” thought. No plan. No objective. No idea. I’ve seen Oldham win in the City’s football stadium and I once visited the Halifax branch there for an hour. But I’d given no thought to today.
As it turned out there’s a Cathedral. If in doubt there’s always a church! A bit disappointing outside but some glorious stained glass inside. That’s ten minutes. A walk through the market. Another five minutes. A pint in Wetherspoons! And that’s Carlisle.
As you’d expect the return trip was much the same. You really can’t knock it.
It’s just a shame that Northern Rail can’t offer a special train type to operate this service. It doesn’t have to be steam. But this line is different. It deserves something that’s just a little bit different to a normal commuter train.
Regardless, it’s a trip everybody should do.