The Settle-Carlisle Railway
The 72-mile Settle-Carlise Railway with its 14 tunnels and 20 viaducts is regarded as one of the most scenic railway journeys in the world. Taking 7 years and the efforts of over 6,000 'navvies', the line opened in 1876 and has stood the test of time ever since, providing both a vital local transport link and visitor attraction.
The line passes through upper Dentdale, emerging from the blackness of Blea Moor tunnel before crossing the two impressive viaducts of Dent Head and Arten Gill. It then pauses at the rather inappropriately named Dent Station - just 4 miles and 600 feet higher than the village itself, and England's highest mainline station at 1,150ft above see level.
For those staying in Dentdale the railway opens up many more options for days out, and many interesting walks and cycle rides can be planned when combining the train as part of your route.
The line is regularly used for steam services and there are some great viewing points for the rail enthusiast.
Heading south from Dent Station the line enters Blea Moor tunnel before emerging again amongst the foothills of Whernside. It is here that it crosses (at over 100 feet above the moor) the 24 stone arches of Ribblehead Viaduct - arguably the most impressive structure on the line before halting at Ribblehead Station.
Ribblehead and Horton-in-Ribblesdale Stations make great starting points for walks up Pen-y-ghent, Ingleborough and Whernside with the Station Inn at Ribblehead providing welcome refreshment.
The Station Inn: www.thestationinnribblehead.com
Continuing further south the market towns of Settle and Skipton contain a good mix of independent shops, traditional Dales' pubs and eateries. From Skipton it takes around 40 minutes to reach Leeds with its many attractions including the excellent Royal Armouries museum.
Visit Settle: www.visitsettle.co.uk
Welcome to Skipton: www.welcometoskipton.com
Visit Leeds: www.visitleeds.co.uk
Heading up from Dent Station, the line passes through Rise Hill Tunnel and into Garsdale, where after a short climb reaches the highest point on the line at Aisgill. The line descends into the Mallerstang valley and from this point follows the newly sprung River Eden more or less all the way to Carlisle.
The market town of Appleby-in-Westmorland was the historical county town of Westmorland and is well-worth a visit for its historic buildings, shops and pubs.
Visit Appleby: visitappleby.com
A visit to the Tullie House Museum and Art Gallery is a worthwhile basis for a day out in Carlisle.
Tullie House: www.tulliehouse.co.uk
Discover Carlisle: www.discovercarlisle.co.uk
If you're planning on doing multiple days out on the train it may be worth considering joining the Friends of Settle-Carlisle Line, which in addition to supporting the great work they do for the line, gives members the option of purchasing of a Dales Railcard. The railcard lasts for 12 months and provides up to 30% off the cost of fares, and with a flat-rate winter offer available between January and the end of March, makes days out using the train very economical.
Friends of Settle-Carlisle Line: www.foscl.org.uk
The Settle-Carlisle Railway: settle-carlisle.co.uk