Our last morning was bright and sunny. A glorious morning.
We went for breakfast and was joined at our table by a middle aged brother and sister who had just finished the walk too. It transpired that they were slightly ahead of us yesterday as it was them, from Worcester and Banbury, we had replaced on the white finger post with our village.
Our feet couldn’t quite believe that they were in normal pumps and it was nice to wear jeans and a top, looking vaguely smarter. We realised that we hadn’t really taken photos at the finish, so we headed down there again. And what a difference. It was beautiful. The view stretched across the Solway Firth, towards Annan and Dumfries. That was Scotland. Towards the west, mountains rose towards Stranraer. It was glorious – early autumnal colours. So different from yesterday. We took our photos and went on the pebbly beach. Lovely.
We retrieved our bags and waited for the little Hopper Bus to Carlisle. We admired the scenery on the trip back. It was bright and pretty. We were pleased to see how beautiful it was and erased the gloom of yesterday.
We were dropped off at the bus station and wandered through Carlisle town centre again. There were several shopping malls that were architecturally fashionable in the 1980s, full of Saturday shoppers. We found John Watts, our little cafe and enjoyed a lunch there. On trips to the toilet, you had to pass through a cavernous cellar full of antiquities of the tea and coffee trade. It was like a little stuffy, dusty museum that had been forgotten and really demanded more attention. It had low ceilings and dark corners, a little spooky – I half expected to meet Jack Nicholson hiding there, welding a axe. I hoped the cafe didn’t suffer a power cut while I was on the loo and the furthest from the exit. I would of had a good look but with someone holding my hand.
We waddled down to the railway station, dragging our cases noisily behind us. The railway station was busy and I was delighted to see it was a lovely Victorian edifice, all mellow brick and high curved glass ceilings and ornate ironwork. It was lovely and airy. A steam train with a long line of dining cars with little table lamps in each window, hissed patiently as people boarded. What a great way to dine. We studied the departure board. We had two trains to catch to get home, but the second one had been cancelled due to a mud slip on our little line. It wasn’t really an issue, but then we saw a departure on the famous Carlisle – Settle route. We looked at each other and made an instant decision. Let’s conclude this really great trip with a ride on this train.
Court Square, Cumbria, Carlisle CA1 1QZ
0333 103 1031
The Settle – Carlisle line was nearly lost when British Rail deemed it expensive and unviable, some 20 years or so ago. But it was saved for the nation and what a spectacular journey it is. Through the heart of the Eden Valley, past heather moors, wide rivers, little towns, farms and green fields, with a backdrop of big blue skies and fluffy white clouds, it is beyond beautiful. Past Pen-y-Ghent, across the Ribbleshead viaduct. It was just perfect.
And then, at Settle station as we waited for a taxi to get us home, another steam train hurtled through, chuffing billows of white smoke into the air. Such a romantic sight. Such a perfect ending.