Settle - Carlisle Railway
Some transport is about getting from A to B. Some is so dramatic, it's an attraction in itself. With 20 viaducts, 14 tunnels and 72 miles of track, the Settle to Carlisle Railway is an incredible feat of engineering and one of the most scenic transport routes through England. The Settle-Carlisle Railway line opened in 1876, after 6,000 men worked for 7 years to construct the railway line.
This was achieved almost entirely by hand. The line followed the natural pathways through the Pennines so some of its route isn’t entirely logical but it is very beautiful, travelling through outstanding scenery. By 1970 all local stations except Settle and Appleby had closed and by 1981 there was a plan to close the whole line, partly because Ribblehead viaduct was in a terrible state and considered too expensive to repair. It was eventually repaired, and now attracts thousands of visitors who come to marvel at its incredible awe-inspiring structure. After public protests and an increase in passengers, the government decided in 1989 that the line should stay open.
The very memorable journey starts in Settle, which is also the gateway to the Yorkshire Three Peaks of Pen-y-Ghent, Whernside and Ingleborough. You can still see the (now private) Station Master’s house and water tank. The next station is Horton-in-Ribblesdale where a curiosity awaits you in the waiting shelter on the northbound platform: a lithophone. It’s a keyboard, a bit like a xylophone made from limestone from Horton Quarry.
From there it’s onward to Ribblehead where can see the famous viaduct spanning Batty Moss. Ribblehead station now has a small, award-winning visitor centre where you can learn more about the history and importance of this iconic railway line.
Dent station is England’s highest mainline station, with amazing views over Dentdale. It's a little odd because it's several miles from Dent and feels like it’s been randomly stranded over 500 feet above the village! Garsdale near Hawes comes next, then Kirkby Stephen in the Eden Valley, Appleby and finally Carlisle. You can download free audio guides with a commentary synced to what you’re seeing from the train window
Friends of the Settle-Carlisle Line organise guided walks from time to time, and you can also download some great self-guided walks from the Settle-Carlisle Railway website. Look out too for the Ride2Stride Festival, with a packed programme of walks, talks and music along the famous Settle-Carlisle railway line.