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South Tyne Rail Trail: Alston and Kirkhaugh

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South Tyne Rail Trail: Alston and Kirkhaugh
Author: Claire, Published: 11 Jun 2018 Walk Rating:star0  South Tyne Rail Trail: Alston and Kirkhaugh walking Guidestar0  South Tyne Rail Trail: Alston and Kirkhaugh walking Guidestar0  South Tyne Rail Trail: Alston and Kirkhaugh walking Guidestar0  South Tyne Rail Trail: Alston and Kirkhaugh walking Guidestar0  South Tyne Rail Trail: Alston and Kirkhaugh walking Guide
Cumbria, North Pennines
Walk Type: Footpaths and byways
South Tyne Rail Trail: Alston and Kirkhaugh
Length: 3 miles,  Difficulty: boot  South Tyne Rail Trail: Alston and Kirkhaugh walking Guide
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IMPORTANT NOTE: This is a linear walk with the initial leg using a heritage rail line – services run seasonally so check that trains are running before you travel.

A 2.5 mile linear walk between the Northumberland village of Kirkhaugh and the Cumbria town of Alston in the North Pennines, with the initial leg enjoying a trip on the South Tynedale Heritage Railway. Your journey begins in Alston, a market town which sits high and remote in the North Pennines Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) and claims to be the highest market town in England. Begin with a journey on the South Tyndale Railway, a pretty narrow-gauge train journey through stunning Pennine scenery, alight at the nearby village of Kirkhaugh and then walk back to Alston using the South Tyne Trail, a simple and easy-going stone track that runs directly alongside the rail line. This fabulous trail gives a surprisingly accessible way to discover the landscapes of the high and lonely Pennine moors. The beautiful River South Tyne will be visible for much of your walk, look out for deer and soaring birds of prey and you may even glimpse a red squirrel.

The walking half of the route is almost entirely flat with a stone-covered surface for the whole length. You will need to negotiate a bridge over the railway (with a handful of shallow steps) plus some simple bridle-gates and a couple of weighted swing gates. The path is fenced away from the train line and the surrounding fields so is ideal for dogs and children. The train journey is via the South Tynedale Railway which runs only a seasonal service so check the website timetables before you travel (www.south-tynedale-railway.org.uk). The single journey (of just one stop) takes about 15 minutes, or you may prefer to buy a Rover Ticket and take the full heritage rail trip to Slaggyford and then alight at Kirkhaugh during the return leg (a train journey of 45 minutes). Dogs are welcome on the trains for a small fee. Check any other access requirements with the railway provider. Allow 1 hour plus the extra time for the train journey.

Alston is located on the eastern edge of Cumbria, close to the border with Northumberland. The walk starts and finishes at Alston rail station, where there is a large free car park for visitors. Approximate post code CA9 3JB.

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Walk Sections

Start to Bridge 52
Start to Bridge 52

Start point: 54.8399 lat, -2.4746 long
End point: 54.8306 lat, -2.4612 long

Begin your adventure by catching the heritage South Tynedale Railway from Alston to Kirkhaugh. You could take a single journey (just one stop), or you may prefer to take the full return trip to Slaggyford and alight at Kirkhaugh on the way back.

Leave the train onto the platform at Kirkhaugh Station. This station appears to be in the middle of nowhere, and that is because it is. When this rail line operated as a British Rail passenger service, there was no station at Kirkhaugh. The station and platform were constructed specially to serve the heritage railway which began life in 1983. Standing on the platform facing the railway, turn left to reach the end of the platform. Follow the fenced grass path continuing ahead, pass through the weighted swing gate, climb a handful of steps and turn right to cross the railway via the beautiful stone arch bridge. You will now have beautiful views of the River South Tyne in the valley ahead.

At the far side of the bridge, turn right down the grass slope then dog-leg right and left to join the South Tyne Trail. This stone path heads back towards Alston with the narrow train line running immediately on your right. Across to your left you will have intermittent views of the River South Tyne. You are now following part of the South Tyne Trail, a shared footpath and cycle path which runs for about 23 miles in total, along the length of this old rail line which closed to passengers in 1976.

Keep ahead, passing through a pair of bridle gates to stay on the track-side path. Further along, the rail path leads you over a tributary of the River South Tyne, Gilderdale Burn. This point also marks the point at which you cross the county boundary, leaving Northumberland and entering Cumbria. Soon after this burn crossing, the rail path leads you under a stone arch bridge, Bridge 52, which carries a vehicle track overhead.

Bridge 52 to End
Bridge 52 to End

Start point: 54.8306 lat, -2.4612 long
End point: 54.8145 lat, -2.4423 long

Continue on the trail, passing through another pair of bridle gates ahead and passing under another stone arch bridge. A little further along, you will see an arrow for a picnic site on your left. This is worth a quick visit as it has lovely views of the River South Tyne. Stay on the rail path and you will pass over a bridge with the River South Tyne flowing directly below you.

Continue past a single property on your left and you will see the engine sheds at the edge of Alston ahead. At this point, follow the signed trail as it crosses the railway via the two sprung swing gates (taking time to check there are no trains approaching first) and continue on the trail, now with the rail line running on your left.

Keep ahead to pass through another pair of bridle gates, pass the engine sheds across to your left and you will emerge directly back into the Alston rail station car park where your adventure began. You may wish to spend the rest of the day exploring the town of Alston which has a surprising number of shops, cafes and pubs. The pretty cobbled streets and preserved station have been used as a film location for TV adaptations of Jane Eyre and Oliver Twist as well as Thomas the Tank Engine.

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Text and images for this walk are Copyright © 2018 by the author clairesharpuk and may not be reproduced without permission.


The information in this guide has been provided in good faith and is intended only as a guide, not a statement of fact. You are advised to check the accuracy of the information provided and should not use this guide for navigational directions nor should you rely on the accuracy of the weather forecast. You are advised to take appropriate clothing, footwear, equipment and navigational materials with you according to the current and possible weather and nature of the terrain. Always follow the country code and follow any additional warnings or instructions that may be available. Some walks may be very strenuous and you are advised to seek medical advice if you have any doubts as to your capability to complete the walk.

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3 gallery images for "South Tyne Rail Trail: Alston and Kirkhaugh"

10943_0Richard1528729940  South Tyne Rail Trail: Alston and Kirkhaugh walking Guide Image by: Richard
Uploaded: 11 Jun 2018
We loved our rail trip. When we visited in June 2018 The Rover Tickets were £10 per adult and £2 per dog.
10943_1Richard1528729940  South Tyne Rail Trail: Alston and Kirkhaugh walking Guide Image by: Richard
Uploaded: 11 Jun 2018
Some of the carriages have open sides - perfect for a sunny day.
10943_2Richard1528729940  South Tyne Rail Trail: Alston and Kirkhaugh walking Guide Image by: Richard
Uploaded: 11 Jun 2018
The train caught us up on our walk back...

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