Sunday, July 16, 2006

Great Railway Journeys of the World

Slightly smaller than the Trans-Siberian Railway, but very beautiful and much quicker and cheaper, is the Eskdale to Ravenglass Railway in the Lake District.

You can start at either Ravenglass on the coast, or Dalegarth Station near Boot in Eskdale. The station is currently being refurbished:

The station has the usual Gifte Shoppe but also has an excellent cafe, where large, welcoming ladies provide home-cooked Cumbrian fare at very reasonable prices in portion sizes suitable for hikers. Not a beverage in sight, only drinks.

The journey takes about fifty minutes to get to Ravenglass. I was lucky and sat in one of the open carriages at the very back of the train, which gave me wonderful views of mountains, woodland and finally estuary as we approached Ravenglass, which is a little village with a rather end-of-the-world feel and an interesting old petrol pump in someone's garden, clearly dating from the days when petrol was more reasonably priced:

In the 1960s I found a St Christopher medallion on the beach at Ravenglass, which delighted me. Ravenglass gained its fifteen minutes of fame in the 1980s. It is, of course, just along the coast from Sellafield and some anti-nuclear protesters took a random bucket of sand - the same sand that it was apparently fine for Ravenglass's children to play in - from its beach and plonked it near the Houses of Parliament. Police sealed off half of London, fearful of the radioactive threat from this sand, thus proving beyond doubt what we'd always suspected: Government doesn't give a damn about what happens to the people in the more remote corners of the country.

There's only one thing I don't like about this railway and that's its nickname. It is known as "La'al Ratty" (La'al being the local dialect for little) and that enables them to put cutesy cartoon rats on everything in the gift shop. Yuck. Otherwise, it's wonderful.

If you start from the Dalegarth end, you have to go across at least TWO CATTLE GRIDS on the way to the station. Oh yes, you can rely on me to report back to you from the more distant corners of the globe.


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