All aboard the 'Staycation Express'
Updated: Dec 10, 2020
After a lifetime travelling, for many years making rail holidays, I’ve been ‘off the rails’ these last few months shielding from Covid-19. Back out into the wide world I got the opportunity to board the newest rail excursion, the ‘Staycation Express’. It seemed too good an opportunity to miss.
This summer until mid-September the ‘Staycation Express’ offers a special tourist service pulling former first class Inter City carriages three times a day in each direction across the Settle & Carlisle Line. You can join the train in Skipton or Settle at the southern end, whereas Appleby is the excursion’s northern terminus. Whilst not luxurious, the seating is spacious and comfortable, each seat coming with a table and positioned by a picture window to view the Pennines in all their changeable glory. Seating is arranged with four seats with table on one side of the aisle and two seats with table on the other side, each bay separated by unobtrusive perspex screens to conform with these unusual times. At stations, boarding and when walking around the train I wore my facemask, a train design (of course!) hand-made by my daughter. Otherwise, you can sit back mask-free and enjoy a little bit of nostalgia and escapism amidst the moorland heather.
“I’d advise you not to get off at Dent Station. The village is nearly five miles away. There is, however, a bus connection to Kendal. Once a week.”
Our humorous and unassuming train host, Anthony, was in full flow as we approached Dent, at 1,150 feet above sea level the highest mainline station in England and not actually a scheduled stop today. From pretty Appleby in the Westmorland fells the train had fought hostile yet heavenly terrain, heaving slowly up to the line’s highest point at Aisgill. At Garsdale, if you are quick, you can spot the statue of border collie Ruswarp (pronounced ‘Russup’), the only dog to object to the closure of the Settle & Carlisle when the railway’s own end of the line loomed in the 1980s. Up in the moors, in blissful isolation, with roads sparse and wildlife abundant, I felt thankful to faithful old Ruswarp and the 32,000 human objectors who kept this line alive.
After Dent came more drama. Our train trundled slowly above the 24 arches of the Ribblehead Viaduct, more than 100 feet above the valley. Brooding clouds added to the drama before our descent through Ribblesdale to glorious sunshine at Settle, a town very close to my heart. A love of this line reaffirmed in the startling beauty of this island. Catch the ‘Staycation Express’ while you can!
Thanks to Rail Charter Services and Duncan McEvoy for the superb images of the Ribblehead Viaduct.