Settle – Carlisle RailwaySettle - Carlisle
This scenic railway journey of 72 miles is a monument to Victorian engineering, passing through Cumbrian and Yorkshire Dales landscapes, and featuring restored stations, that starts at Carlisle and ends at Settle
Adult ticket from £10.50
6 places to visitView journey Attractions
1 hour 40 minutes
Settle Railway StationHow to get here
Carlisle is the largest city in the English county of Cumbria and has a rich history dating back to Roman times. The city is home to the famous Carlisle Castle, which was first built in 1092 and has played a significant role in numerous historical conflicts, including the English Civil War and the Jacobite Rebellion.
It’s not unreasonable to suggest that this route is right up there as one of the most in scenic in the world. Incredible too that over the years, it has survived attempts to close it, as ‘recently’ as 1984, before common-sense prevailed and the realisation of its amazing tourist potential as well as being a vital link for communities, led to significant investment in this wonderful railway. A monument to Victorian engineering, majestic scenery, upliftingly restored stations reminiscent of a bygone era and the lush Cumbrian landscape and rolling Yorkshire Dales – this is a journey that makes memories lasting a lifetime. It’s also a trip in which all 72 miles are packed with stunning sights and interest, a journey that includes 14 tunnels and over 20 viaducts and a line that captures the hearts of passengers.
Our recommendation is to start the adventure at its northern terminus in Carlisle, with its fab sense of occasion and great connections with the West Coast Mainline between London, the North and Scotland and a station with its neo-tudor, red standstone architecture. Carlisle has a rich heritage, with its origins rooted as a Roman settlement associated with Hadrians Walls and scene for much turbulence back in time, due to its position on the England-Scotland border.
The train then penetrates the Eden Valley and glimpses in the distance of the beautiful Lake District mountains westwards and Yorkshire Penines to the east, with the River Eden criss-crossing, back and forth.
Armathwaite is the first station after Carlisle with its carefully restored maroon and yellow signal box. The train continues and at Langwathby, there’s the ‘Brief Encounter’ Coffee shop and like all stations on this route, there are pristine gardens, blooming flower pots and stunningly preserved station buildings, showcasing incredible heritage.
The train climbs towards Appleby and the scenery of dry stone walls, limestone and lime kilns. The gradient gets stepper still after Kirby Stephen and the landscape more rugged, with grazing sheep looking and delightful waterfalls prevailing. At Garsdale, the view across Wensleydale is simply stunning and then arriving at Dent, the vantage point across Dentdale from this station, situated 1150 feet above sea level, is breathtaking.
Through Blea Moor tunnel the train progresses and out the other side for sensational views of Ribbledale, Whernsdale and Pen-Y-Ghent as well as of the legendary Ribblehead Viaduct of which the train will shortly traverse.
From Ribbledhead station, the train descends gradually through the greenest of valleys, through Horton-in-Ribblesdale and nestling at Settle, the final destination, which is a lovely restored station, that also houses the only remaining water tower on the line. Settle is also a beautiful market town and the gateway to many magical walks and is an excellent starting point for climbing the Penyghent, Whernside, and Ingleborough summits.
A Fab Day Out!
The view from the train window is so enticing, that it’s tempting to stop off at several locations to explore the scenery further on foot and spread the journey over 2-3 days.
Looming over the northern end of town, Carlisle Castle has been the scene of carnage over the centuries.
Once the unwelcome home of Mary Queen of Scots and built with stones pilfered from nearby Hadrian’s Wall, it is the city’s main attraction. Founded in the 11th Century around a Celtic and Roman stronghold, the castle was also the site of a notorious eight-month siege during the English Civil War.
Built from the same red sandstone as Carlisle Castle and founded in 1122, Carlisle’s Gothic cathedral is the second-smallest in England.
During the English Civil War, most of the nave was torn down to bolster the city’s walls and castle. The mesmerising East Window contains stained glass from the 14th century.
In the 2nd century AD, Emperor Hadrian built this 73-mile wall as a border defence to keep out the ancient British tribes threatening the northern edge of the Roman Empire. Today, you can explore all or parts of the wall’s remnants and its forts which are scattered across the countryside.
Tullie House Museum is also a great place and housed in a Grade-I listed Jacobean mansion. It encompasses 2000 years of Carlisle history and The top-floor Lookout Rotunda offers panoramic views of the city.
Stopping off at Dent is a good opportunity to make a day of a long but stunning walk to Ribblehead (maybe returning on the train so that you can enjoy the scenery from the carriage window!). The walk last around 4 ½ hours and is 9.2 miles and is a gentle descent. The trip goes along Dent Fell with incredible views over the dales, down under Arten Gil viaduct, past Dent Head Viaduct and over the top of Blea Moor tunnel and the sight of the amazing Ribblehead viaduct, which is the largest and most jaw-dropping structure on the route, before arriving at Ribblehead station.
Or, if the walk isn’t your penchant, then disembarking the train at Ribblehead, in the heart of the Yorkshire Dales National Park, is recommended and a walk down to view the viaduct and the sites of the old navvy encampments Jerusalem, Jericho, Belgravia, Jericho, Belgravia, Inkerman and Sebastopol which surround the viaduct. The Ribblehead Station Inn, on the approach to the station is also worth a visit and serves excellent food and drink!
Back on the train to Settle, a fantastic market town, with lots of interesting sights, including the Museum of North Craven Life, which showcases the heritage of this fantastic region. The Settle Victoria Hall, which opened in 1852 is the world’s oldest Music Hall and a peruse round is recommended, as well as tea and cake in its Refreshment Gardens. The Quaker Meeting House is an oasis of calm and reflection, whilst Stainforth Force, one of the many natural beauties in the Settle area, is only 5 minutes from the town centre. It is a beautiful waterfall on the River Ribble and where salmon can be spotted jumping through the water on their way up the river.
In terms of architecture, many of the historic buildings in Settle date from the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries, and many of them are Grade II listed. Settle Victoria Hall, a Victorian music hall that hosts various performances throughout the year, and The Shambles, with its six characteristic arches, which houses a range of local stores, are also worth seeing.
For the more adventurous
A great staycation can be enjoyed, starting in the bustling, cosmopolitan city of Leeds, with its fabulous shopping, culture and nightlife then boarding the train along the Leeds-Settle-Carlisle rail, gorging on the amazing scenery, partaking perhaps of many incredible walks, then savouring the grand old city of Carlisle and maybe one of the many tours alongside the famous Hadrian’s Wall. From Carlisle, Stagecoach Cumbria’s great bus services transport you in the heart of the magnificent Lake District, where they run many routes, including open-top services traversing all parts of this world-renowned, scenic region. A boat down Lake Windermere, a bus high up the Honister Pass or another bus to Workington to pick up Northern Trains alongside the solitude and staggeringly scenic Cumbrian Coast through Barrow and to Lancaster with connections to the West Coast rail mainline, including Birmingham and London southwards and Glasgow northwards provides a really joined up sojourn that captures, transfixing Yorkshire Dales pastures, rugged Cumbrian hills, heritage-filled towns and cities, with magical lakes and isolated, coastal gems – it doesn’t get much better than this! Simply wonderful!
Gateway to the Settle-Carlisle railway
By train on Avanti, Transpennine Express or Northern to Carlisle or by Stagecoach Cumbria bus. Alternatively, the service can be joined at Leeds which is accessible by Megabus services, as well as LNER, Cross Country Trains, Northern, TransPennine Express trains as well as local buses.
The uniqueness of the Settle-Carlisle Railway
This is a railway that has mind-boggling scenery juxtaposed with resplendent personality – character in abundance, somewhat as a result of the community focus and contribution provided by volunteers with a deep, rooted affection for the success of the route for generations to come. At the heart of this unique contribution, is the Settle-Carlisle Development Company which was set up in 1992, following the reprieve of the line from being axed 3 years earlier and works in partnership with the rail industry, local businesses, community groups and organisations to encourage socio-economic engagement along the world-renowned Leeds-Settle-Carlisle railway. As station adopter of both Settle and Appleby stations, the Company works closely with a group of dedicated volunteers to maintain the upkeep of the station’s gardens.
Through their Station Improvement Group, the Company works in collaboration with Northern, Network Rail and the Friends of the Settle-Carlisle Line to deliver a variety of station improvements and restoration projects that enhance the user experience and preserve the lines heritage.
Check out About Us: The Settle-Carlisle Railway Development Company to find out more about this wonderful railway and for further inspiration and fascination as well as to purchase tickets for your journey.