Many visitors to the Lake District come for the fell-walking opportunities, to stroll around picturesque villages like Grasmere or to sail across Lake Windermere, Ullswater or Coniston on one of many steamers and launches. But sometimes it’s worth trying something different, which is what we did on a recent visit to the region.
My family and I headed over the notorious Hardknott Pass to reach the small village of Boot for a ride on the Ravenglass and Eskdale Railway. It’s one of the oldest and longest narrow gauge railways in England, transporting people from Dalegarth for Boot to Ravenglass, the sole coastal village in the National Park.
It’s clear to see why the journey along this seven-mile stretch of track became a favourite of Wainwright, the great fell-walker, especially when the backdrop for much of the journey is the Scafell mountain range, home to England’s highest peak.
It’s a real novelty travelling on a narrow-gauge railway and the Ravenglass and Eskdale Steam Railway is a fine example of how to do it right. First, there is a sizeable pay-and-display car park at Dalegarth for Boot station with a small children’s play area alongside; my two kids enjoyed playing whilst waiting for the next departure. The staff are very courteous and helpful and the entire operation runs smoothly like a well-oiled machine.
Steam and diesel engines ply their trade along this line, pulling covered and open-topped carriages. We caught Douglas Ferreira, a diesel built in 2005, but en route to Ravenglass saw, among others, Northern Rock, built in the workshops in 1976.
You can alight at a number of stations along the way, each affording you a chance to explore various walking routes or enjoy other attractions. For example, get off at The Green and try out the easy 1.5-mile circular walk taking in Giggle Alley, a picturesque piece of woodland in which you’ll discover the secluded Japanese Garden, containing bridges, pools and 100-year-old maples. Make sure you pick up a Souvenir Line Guide when buying your tickets; it’s an informative little leaflet telling you everything you need to know about the railway.
A trip on the train is definitely worth it and can be enjoyed by adults and children alike. The scenery is stunning, the trains reliable and interesting – yes, it’s certainly worth every penny of the fare.
Ravenglass & Eskdale Steam Railway
Cumbria CA18 1SW
t: 01229 717171