Thursday, 26 August 2010

Alston & the journey home from the Lake District

It may seem a bit strange, but the journey going home took me to a higher altitude in the car than most of the walks I had been on during the previous week. The A686 road from the town of Penrith in Cumbria to Haydon Bridge in Northumberland is an interesting road that travels through a mixture of woodland, small villages and bleak moorland. The tourist region is referred to as "The North Pennines - area of outstanding natural beauty"..... otherwise known as England's last wilderness !!. At the summit, there is a viewpoint that in the foreground, observes cars struggling to get to the top and a scenic information indicator board that directs the visitors eyes to famous Lake District mountains and south west Scotland.....on a clear day !

The main focus, however, is the classic Hartside Top cafe that is used by a variety of different customers and is an ideal place for a break in the journey.

If you think it is a problem getting here by car, spare a thought for those on two wheels as there is an (east/west) coast to coast cycle route that passes this point. The cafe provides welcome respite before free wheeling down the other side of the hill.

nearly there

The road as a whole is quite torturous with numerous bends making it exciting for motorcyclists who are another group of people that patronise the cafe as a destination.
Slightly further on is the market town of Alston which is ..... (you've guessed it)... the highest town in England.

As it is a considerable distance from any other town, the road sign becomes a major junction...

The towns history is based in Lead mining with the industry stretching down to the Wear valley. Several buildings can be noted of a historic nature in the town centre.

My personal favourite, although I didn't use it on this occasion, is Blueberry's tea shop. However the view is not always great as there are occasional reminders that the town has other industries that outlived the lead mines !!

Moving along the road to the South Tynedale railway, I was fortunate enough to capture a train about to leave the station.

This was one of the railway lines closed by Dr Beeching in the 1960's and eventually preserved by a team of volunteers with limited services commencing in 1983. The initial plans were to extend to the original junction at Haltwhistle on the Newcastle to Carlisle railway line. Finance and eventually a road bypass put an end to that dream and an additional decision was taken to construct a narrow gauge line on the original trackbed. Over the years, there has been the occasional extension to the line and fund raising activities such as charter rail trips around the UK (which I participated in at that time..... although I'm ashamed to say I have not helped them in recent times by my failure to travel on the railway due to it's awkward location).

The locomotive today "Naklo" was built in Poland in 1957 for use in a lime works followed by a stay in a sugar factory before being transferred to the South Tynedale Railway in 1988.

My journey continued along a mixture of straight roads and hairpin bends ....

 ... to Langley Castle which was built in 1350. This building has had a colourful history with the occupants being involved in the Jacobite uprising and were later executed in the Tower of London for their efforts. Following this incident, the property was given to the Royal Navy who used it as a hospital. During the last hundred years, several generations of owners have gradually restored it and it is currently used as a hotel.

All too soon, reality bites as I reach the A69 road, the first sign of my destination and the realisation that the holiday is over...... until the next trip of course !!!


  1. You're doing a very beautiful trip, thanks for these small pieces that we know wthat you share.
    bon voyage. Felisa

  2. Another entertaining and informative post....I like the style and as and when will retrace your journey.

  3. beautiful pictures and a very interesting article! ... As always!
    Bye !!

  4. Another nice area of England that you've just been to - I'm most jealous ..

  5. Lovely photos. I'd like to join your cyclists but probably should do some conditioning first.

  6. Thank you for sharing this information and those wonderful images!
    Maybe someday, somehow I will take the same road.... who knows!

  7. It is a wonderful view.

    British castles are beautiful designs all.

    From Japan.
    Thank you.

  8. Beautiful images! Thanks for stopping by. Hope you have a wonderful weekend.

  9. Nice pictures and writing. Even tempts me to venture a wee bit south of the border!


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