In the UK’s post-pandemic months, when demand for domestic holidays is sky-high, Yorkshire’s expansive green spaces hold appeal for many. But how to explore it without spending hours in a car and cries of “Are we nearly there yet?”
From next month, a new rail service on one of the country’s most scenic routes, between the Grade II-listed stations of Skipton, North Yorkshire, and Appleby in Cumbria (a 90-minute journey each way) will open up a pocket of the UK countryside to cyclists, walkers and visitors looking to explore by train.
The service will operate six days a week from 12 July to 20 September, with return tickets costing £29. The timetable has been designed to dovetail with local and national rail services including those to and from Leeds, which is 40 minutes from Skipton by rail and two hours from London. The trains, which are reconditioned InterCity 125s, will run three times a day in either direction. The guard’s carriage will hold 12 bicycles (spaces must be pre-booked). En route to Appleby passengers will have the joy of traversing the handsome Ribblehead viaduct, which spans Batty Moss.
Adrian Quine, founder of Rail Charter Services, said that as well as being designed for visitors who don’t want to drive, the service is deliberately affordable. “We’re keen to attract families and tourists who would like to see this part of the country and who may otherwise not come,” he said.
With its 900-year-old castle and canalside honey-coloured buildings the market town of Skipton is also the hub for the Yorkshire Dales Cycleway: a 130-mile circular route around the region. A 29-mile circular section to Grassington, for example, takes in the ruins of Bolton Abbey. From Skipton it’s also a 25-minute hop by local train to Shipley for the world heritage site of Saltaire (for Salts Mill), a former textile mill, now an art gallery.
Some 60 miles along the track from Skipton and snug under the Pennine range, Appleby-in-Westmorland is the starting point for dozens of walks into the surrounding countryside.
The mid-morning and mid-afternoon services give about four hours in Appleby – time to explore and do a good walk. For those who just want a scenic journey, the late-morning service dovetails with an early afternoon return departure that allows for an hour in Appleby. The service is also considering private transfers between Appleby, Keswick and Ullswater for those who want a glimpse of the Lakes.
Quine added that the pandemic and a growing appetite for holidays at home has speeded up the launch. “It is really thanks to a newfound can-do attitude and a lot of persuasion and friendly nagging that we have got to this stage so quickly. The industry has been wonderfully supportive, which is very refreshing.”
Necessary Covid-19-safe precautions are in place, with only window seats being sold in order to maintain social distancing, and perspex screens between each seat bay, giving a capacity of 128 seats per train. There are bookable family carriages and picnics to order. If this summer goes well, Quine will press on with plans to roll out dedicated tourist trains in Norfolk, Cornwall and Stratford-upon-Avon.
• From £29pp (minimum of two), family of four from £99, full details at railcharterservices.co.uk
Some train operators are still advising against non-essential rail travel. Please check websites for details.