Day 34 – Last Train to Slaggyford

Garrigill to Slaggyford

Imagine this. You’re walking the Pennine Way and you have two nights in a B&B half way between Garrigill and Slaggyford. Do you a) get up early, take a taxi all the way back to Garrigill, yesterday’s destination, walk back past your B&B to Slaggyford and then take the same taxi back to the B&B or b) stay in bed all day?

Garrigill looked better in the sunshine when I leapt from the taxi and I greeted the usual sheep as I walked along a damp river track and out onto the pastures. I can’t believe this weather. No rain forecast for the next few days.

Soon I arrived in Alston, a former mining village (lead, copper, zinc, coal etc.) and the highest market town in England (320m). The village store served coffee and had a single table with an old sign saying they belonged to the chatty cafe scheme. Occupants are required to chat to others at the table. Somebody came in wearing a face mask to buy a bag of sugar but that was it.

Instead of walking through more bog, I headed to Alston station where the South Tynedale Railway starts its picturesque run to Slaggyford. It’s an old mining railway which also carried passengers until 1976 when it closed. Restoration work started some years later. A new narrow gauge (2 ft) line has been laid (the highest in England) and it’s fully operational with gold star sustainability, no plastic cutlery, special services for people with additional needs etc. Except the rust is settling on the lines and everything is locked up because of the virus.

There is a walking trail alongside the track and I love nothing more than walking alongside a railway so that’s what I did. It’s a glorious walk and there are two little stations along the way. It’s become popular with Pennine Way walkers despite a grim warning in the Pennine Way guidebook about cheating. Anyway it’s fine for Weybridge to Holy Island walkers, says I.

Last Train to Clarksville was the song if it wasn’t obvious. Late 1966 chart topping Monkees’ debut single. I used to watch their TV show when I should have been doing my homework. I didn’t understand the lyrics back then. I’m not sure I do now but I love them. Is there a subtle reference to Vietnam?

At the end, I waited by the level crossing for my taxi back to Alston where I ate lunch and stocked up with KitKats before returning once more to the Pennine Way to walk to the B&B. So, it was a funny sort of day walking forwards and backwards and ending where I started but good fun.

The usual sheep at the start of the day

Grouse moors where a lad can now earn £50 a day for beating the grouse.


The railway runs alongside the Tyne

A Pennine Way Walker (not cheating)…

Slaggyford station

13 comments on “Day 34 – Last Train to Slaggyford

  1. Fantastic to see the HS2 extension going through Slaggyford at last!

    • Indeed! London to Slaggyford in 2hrs 37minutes. What a boost for the local economy and we’ll have fresh lamb for dinner every day.

  2. Tassie Kaz

    Ahhh, so the ol’ pressure (silent or otherwise…)over doing the walk ‘properly’ so prevalent on other trails even seeps into the Pennine Way.
    I’ve never understood that attitude. There’s no point in tackling these walks if you don’t enjoy it so if theres an alternative to match your interests, weather conditions, etc, go for it.
    No path is truly authentic anyway…they have all been modified to some extent over the years, decades or centuries.
    Your walk, your way Tim! 🤗

    • I completely agree with you. This was a great change from the bog which is endless. Some paths go to ridiculous lengths to avoid a bit of road. But sometimes, like the Le Puy route, you are rewarded for staying on the path rather than taking the short cut down the road. It’s all about the moment.

  3. Peter Mastenko

    Just catching up with your adventures at last as we ‘enjoy’ the requisite 14 days of quarantine after a holiday in France. I remember staying in Alston whilst cycling London -Edinburgh-London in 2009. Enjoy the good weather promised for the next few days!

    • Hi Peter, happy quarantining! I’m going to quarantine when I get home for at least two weeks. Was Alston your one overnight stop between London and Edinburgh?

      • Peter Mastenko

        Hope you don’t need to quarantine! Can’t remember all the overnights offhand, but it was 109 hours to Edinburgh and back. On the way there apart from Alston, we also stopped at Thorne rugby club and I slept under the bar…not the best option!

  4. Philippa

    Hi Tim, sounds like a great walk & I wish we had more railway walks here. Guess I’ll have to make do with my old Julia Bradbury DVD, if I can find it 😊. I agree that being a purist about walking isn’t helpful, but was there a particular part of the Le Puy route you thought was worth sticking strictly to?

    • Hi Philippa, I loved the Le Puy walk and my advice is to stay on the path all the way. Sometimes it climbs hills to visit a shrine but those who short cut along the roads miss the whole experience. It’s different on the VF where you can be more flexible.

  5. Jane Sherratt

    Hello Tim, Look out for amazing endurance runner Sabrina Verjee who is running from North to South and aiming for an 82 hour finishing time on the Pennine Way. Enjoy the amazing weather, Jane & all next door.

    • Amazing 😉 she’ll probably run past me while I’m asleep in bed.

  6. Hmmmm…….option A or option B? 🤔🤔🤔 I would have gone for option B…..but then regretted my choice the next day wondering what I would have missed out on!

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