Sunday, 30 June 2019

Carlisle and the Lake District by Public Transport

17th to 21st June 2019

A week off to go somewhere. Can't be arsed to drive long distances. Got a train to Carlisle and a room at the Hotel ibis Carlisle, in Botchergate, a short walk from the railway station.


GWR train from Sandhurst to Reading. On time, good start.

GWR train from Reading to Paddington. Had booked the 1111 train but that was delayed so just hopped on the 1107, plenty of empty seats. Handy that there are now frequent fast trains Reading to London. Very fast too now that it's all electric IETs. I'll still miss the HSTs though as I grew up with them.

Hammersith & City Line to Euston Square and the short but crowded walk to Euston  Station. People, you really don't need to walk 4 abreast 😒

Virgin Pendolino* to Carlisle. Actual legroom in my booked seat! I'll admit to having gone via London despite it costing slightly more mainly to avoid several hours in CrossCountry's cramped Voyager trains even though I booked via CrossCountry's web site as I've found it to be the least aggravating to use.
Arrived Carlisle a few minutes late to find unexpected sunshine. I seem to have neglected to photograph any of the above trains 😀

(* The spelling checker suggests Gwendoline for Pendolino, I think they should rename them forthwith. 🤣 )

Settled into the hotel and went for a walk and to find food. I was a bit worried to see that the hotel room faced a number of clubs and bars but as it turned out they were all shut so nights were undisturbed. No mobile signal (Three UK) but good free wifi.
Dinner at The Griffin, standard Greene King stuff, explored a quiet Carlisle city centre, and had a couple of swift ones in The Fat Gadgie where you could count the customers on the fingers of one hand. With spares. It's quiet in Carlisle on a Monday evening.


A trip around the Cumbrian Coast Line. Tickets bought via Trainpal but picked up at the station rather than on the mobile app as it would be a long day battery-wise. Better safe than sorry.

A small group of mostly train enthusiasts gathered on the platform awaiting the arrival of a Northern train crew.
Who appeared at exactly the time it was supposed to depart.
Almost everyone sat at the right hand side windows 😀

This line is in every list of the UK's most scenic railway journeys with good reason. Once out of the city it's countryside all the way until it reaches the coast south of Maryport.

Then it hugs the coastline nearly all the way to Barrow-in-Furness.
In places it runs along the sea wall and there are views out to sea along most of the route.

There are some quite remote stations such as Nethertown and some oddly named such as Aspatria and the for some reason amusing Corkickle.

It runs a bit further inland towards Barrow giving views of the southern Lakeland Fells on the other side of the train.

The line also crosses the head of the River Duddon estuary, flat countryside you don't normally associate with the Lake District, you could be in East Anglia or Hampshire.

Barrow was hot and sunny. It's not what you'd call a tourist town though.
Unless you're interested in the Naval Dockyards and they're mostly behind high walls and security gates. I did spot a submarine but too far away to identify it. I suppose it must be one of ours though 😀

The train back was in the rush hour. Which meant that it was lightly loaded leaving Barrow and then very full from Sellafield as all the workers from the nuclear processing and decommissioning site knocked off. Contrary to rumour none of them appeared to have extra heads or other appendages. ⚛


There are no trains to Keswick. The line closed in 1972 so the choice now is drive or bus. The car was at home so at 0900 I joined the other "bus wankers" at Carlisle bus station to get the Stagecoach 554 to Wigton where it becomes the 554 to Keswick. Something to do with drivers shifts and hours I think. Anyway you just stay on the bus and after a fairly scenic drive (top deck front seats are a must) it deposits you in Keswick outside Booths supermarket. Now Keswick really is a tourist town which is probably why it costs you 40p to take a leak and the public toilets accept contactless payment!

My word it was busy but I've been to Keswick before staying at the Camping Club site near the lake side, it always is busy.

Followed the trail along the edge of Derwent Water for a bit, which was also busy then climbed up through the woods to the viewpoint at Castlehead. Steep but worth it for the view over Derwent Water. Only half a dozen other slightly more energetic visitors up there.

The 554 is not a particularly frequent bus route at 4 runs per day which meant plenty of time in Keswick.

So I took a boat trip around Derwent Water which was glorious, then ambled around the shops and had a pint in the Dog & Gun which had quite a few of the former but none of the latter as far as I could tell. The beer was good though and was as welcome as the seat in the shade. Before getting the bus back to Carlisle I did a bit of  shopping in Booth's and save myself 40p while I was there. The bus got back to Carlisle a little before 7 pm so I had a quick freshen up in the hotel and then went a few yards down Botchergate to the Shaha Tandoori for a well deserved (well I thought so) curry. It's one of those places which are upstairs so you don't know what it's like until you get inside. A traditional curry house and very good was the answer.


Windemere does still have a railway. A short but scenic branch line runs from the West Coast main line at Oxenholme The Lake District station.

This is a busy little station being as the name suggests the main access to the Lakes for tourists travelling by train.

I got a ticket on my mobile using the Trainpal app which does split ticketing so saved about £3 on the return fare.

Alas the Transpennine Express was late arriving at Oxenholme so I became better acquainted with the station than I'd hoped with a 50 minute wait until the next departure to Windemere. The Northern train arrived and everyone piled on, glad to be on the move again.  Windemere station is nice but of course Windemere town isn't where the lake is.

That's at Bowness-on-Windermere so you have to walk (or get a bus) a mile or so to get there. I walked. It rained. I had looked at the forecast and decided not to take my big waterproof coat. It rained some more and continued to do so every 15 minutes for the rest of the day. I now have (another) new lightweight waterproof jacket. Thankfully Mountain Warehouse had a sale on (Don't they always?) 

I took shelter in The Flying Pig and dried out a bit. Went and got chips by the lake and watched the ducks and
geese getting rained on, and suitably fortified walked back up the hill to Windemere station to get the train back to Carlisle.

The sun came out.

Back in Carlisle and it being only just past 4 pm I visited the castle. Got to try and get the most out of my year's English Heritage membership (otherwise it's £7.50 for an adult) and I can tell you 4.20pm on a Thursday is the ideal time to visit, there were less than a handful of people exploring the extensive castle buildings and grounds.
Carlisle Castle is unusually intact having been in use as an Army base until the 1960s - in fact still used by the Territorials.


Hmm, train doesn't depart until 1249. Fortunately don't have to check out of the hotel until 1130 so had a lie in and then packed and read for a bit (Kate Williams' Rival Queens: The Betrayal of Mary Queen of Scots if you're wondering.) then wandered down to the Market Hall where I found the most traditional market "caff" I've seen in ages and had a full English. 'Cos I'm still officially on holiday and it's allowed.

I found a seat at Carlisle station to wait, to read, and to desperately hope that the hen party also waiting would be at the other end of the train as they'd obviously got on the giggle-juice early. (They were 😌)

At 1249 eleven coaches of Pendolino from Glasgow pulled out of Carlisle and only lost around 9 minutes by the time it arrived at Euston. It's a long walk from the back of an eleven coach train to the ticket barrier, then fight your way across the concourse and down to Euston Square. Circle Line to Paddington arriving about twenty to five.
A curiosity: I had an Off Peak Return with a seat reservation on the 1700 train from Paddington to Reading. The departure boards were clearly displaying a big flashing message that said Off Peak tickets were not valid on this service.

I wasn't up for that argument on a Friday evening so got on the 1652 to Bristol Temple Meads, first stop Reading, and plenty of available seats instead. The train from Reading to Sandhurst was standing room only and unfortunately the part I was standing in contained The Child From Hell who screamed and swore at the other passengers and demanded they move so he could sit down and demanded of his father(?) that he "give me some f*****g chocolate". He got his way on both counts 😒

There are many, many more photographs from this trip in this Flickr Album

Cumbria Trip, June 2019

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