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Alston is a small town in Cumbria, North West England. Alston lies within the North Pennines, a designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Alston is noted for its cobbled streets and 17th-century stone buildings. The Pennine Way, the UK's first National Trail, passes by the edge of Alston and the Sea to Sea Cycle Route (C2C) passes through the town.

Understand

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St Augustine's Church

It shares the title of the 'highest market town in England', at about 1,000 feet (300 m) above sea level, with Buxton, Derbyshire.

The landscape of the area is built up from limestone, sandstone and shale. The area is rich in minerals, in particular lead deposits, and the landscape has been heavily influenced by the effects of varying methods of mining over the centuries. Historically the area has been mined for lead, silver, zinc, coal and fluorspar. The nearby Roman fort of Whitley Castle (Epiacum) may in part have been sited to control and protect the lead mines there.

Get in

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There are good transport links into Alston. Although the railway is no longer running, main roads extend to Alston from Carlisle, Hexham, Penrith, and Barnard Castle. Each of them is 20–30 miles distant.

By foot

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Alston and Garrigill are on the Pennine Way.

Get around

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Map
Map of Alston

Wrights' buses run a daily service in the summer months to Penrith, Newcastle (via Hexham), and the villages of Garrigill and Nenthead.

Alston is set in a designated area of outstanding natural beauty. There are many walks to be had on the moor, and the Nenthead and Garrigill walks are good, 8-mile (13-km) round trip walks which can be taken along the rivers Nent and Tyne respectively.

See

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  • 1 The Hub Museum, CA9 3HN (next to South Tynedale Railway). A local museum dedicated to transport and history of Alston. Although small, it has some impressive exhibits and knowledgeable staff.
  • 2 Alston Town Hall. The Gothic Revival style building, which was commissioned by the local metallurgist and businessman Hugh Lee Pattinson, was completed in 1858. It also contains the tourist information centre and the public library. Alston Town Hall (Q26400255) on Wikidata Alston Town Hall on Wikipedia
  • 3 Ashgill Force waterfall, Ashgill Beck CA9 3HB (easily accessible from the B6277 (which crosses a bridge over the beck just above the falls) or from Garrigill village, downstream of the fall), +44 7842 633 232. The beck downstream of the main fall features several small cascades. It is a home to several wildlife species, including a much loved staple of British streams: dippers. There are ruins of former industrial buildings nearby, possibly from lead working, which the area was once famous for. Ashgill Force is an impressive fall, plunging 55 feet over a rocky shelf. Ashgill Force (Q15637852) on Wikidata Ashgill Force on Wikipedia
  • St Augustine of Canterbury Church. The parish church was built in 1869 on the site of two earlier churches. The church spire was completed in 1886. A unique item in the church is a clock which belonged to James Radclyffe, 3rd Earl of Derwentwater, who was beheaded for treason. It is believed to be of 16th-century origin, and was restored in 1978.
  • Killhope is a lead mining museum east on A689 in County Durham, see Stanhope. It's closed for refurbishment in 2024.

Do

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  • 1 South Tynedale Railways, Alston Station, Station Rd. Weekends and holidays from April to October, 3 times a day. The railway used to run from Alston to nearby Haltwhistle, but was closed in 1974. Since then narrow-gauge track has been laid and steam trains run to Gilderdale, some 4 miles from Alston, offering a short journey through pleasant scenery. One way: adult £7.50, child (age 3-17) £3.75, infant (age 0-2) free; day passes £15/£7.50. South Tynedale Railway (Q7568688) on Wikidata South Tynedale Railway on Wikipedia
  • 2 Open Mike night at the Turks Head, Market Place, CA9 3HS, +44 1434 381 148. Wednesday nights. This popular event draws musicians from all around Cumbria, Northumberland and Durham and is popular with the locals. Anyone is welcome to join in.
Town Hall
  • Friday 'early doors', The Cumberland. Many of Alston's residents start the weekend early with a few beers at the Cumberland on a Friday night. The Cumberland is serious about its real ale and is a good place to stop if you wish to sample something local to drink.
  • Events at the Town Hall. Music night are held roughly every two months in the town hall over the winter months, and show good variety from rock to reggae. Also features the infamous 'Alston Raffle' which beggars description.

Itineraries

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  • 3 Garrigill Walk (starting from Alston, there is a gentle walk to be had following the Pennine Way to Garrigill along the Tyne river). From its mighty endings in Newcastle, Garrigill is very close to Tynehead where the river originates from springs. The small square in the centre of the village makes a tranquil place to sit outside. Roundtrip: 8 miles.

Eat

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Like much of Cumbria, after the Foot and Mouth crisis in the early 2000s, many businesses combined and diversified, leaving Cumbria with a gastronomical edge.

  • The Moody Baker Co-op. A bakery specialising in home-cooked vegetarian fare, although quality meat pasties and pies are now available. Their steak and ale pie; the Wolf Pie is made with beer from the local Allendale Brewery.
  • Alston Wholefoods. Well stocked with wholefoods, but also stocking local produce from the surrounding catchment. Helpful staff will also talk you though one of the most impressive cheese counters around.
  • 1 Alston House Hotel, Townfoot, Alston Moor, CA9 3RN, +44 1434 382 200. Upmarket menu and surprising meal selections.
  • Country Kitchen. Does the best BLT in Alston!

Drink

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Alston used to have many pubs considering its small size. There are fewer than 2000 people living on the whole moor and the village used to 10 pubs. Each pub had its own individual character and many of were free houses, serving local beers from the microbreweries of Cumbria. In 2014 just four pubs remained open (Cumberland, Angel, Turks Head, and Victoria), and one hotel/restaurant (Alston House), although the Cumberland and Victoria also provide accommodation.

In Alston Moor

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Here is a guide to the pubs of Alston Moor.

  • 1 The Victoria Inn, Front St, CA9 3SE, +44 1434 381 194. Good bed and breakfast accommodation. Good bar food including several items from the Moody Baker Co-op and an Indian restaurant (the Victoria Spice).
  • The Turks Head. Very old pub, low ceilings, open fires in the winter, reasonable selection of beers including local ales. Home of the Open Mike night on Wednesdays.
  • 2 The Angel Inn, Front St, CA9 3HU, +44 1434 381 363. Growing reputation for good food, beer garden out the back. The Angel Inn (Q26612377) on Wikidata
  • The Cumberland Inn. Favourite of Alstonites for an after work, or even just afternoon pint. Stunning vista with beer garden over the playing fields and across the river Tyne. Great place to try a local well-kept ale and watch the sun set. Also offers food and accommodation. just won Camera's pub of the year award.
  • Alston House. It offers fresh surprising menu, and good choice of wines and spirits, with few beers. Comfiest sofas in Alston.

Out of town

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  • 3 The George & Dragon Inn, Valley View, Garrigill, CA9 3DS, +44 1434 382 691.

Sleep

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  • Alston Art Apartments, Pigeons, The Butts, Alston, CA9 3JQ, +44 1434 382975, . Group of three artfully-converted cottages, each sleeping 4-5 people. £400-600/week.
  • Alston House Hotel, Townfoot, Alston, CA9 3RN, +44 1434 382200, . 7 en-suite rooms with the expected mod-cons (flat-screen TV, wifi et al) in typically Cumbrian historic hotel building. On-site are a restaurant, a café, a bar and a pizza takeaway. Dogs welcome. From £50/night.
  • Cumberland Hotel, Townfoot, Alston, CA9 3HX, +44 1434 381875. En-suite B&B accommodation with restaurant and bar. Email via contact form on website. Pets welcome. £40/night, special offers and reductions available.
  • 1 Lowbyer Manor, Hexham Road, Alston, CA9 3JX, +44 1434 381230, . 4-star guest house in a grade II-listed Georgian manor house. 9 en-suite rooms, with breakfast and dinner served in the manor's restaurant. Limited wifi. Most rooms £78/night, breakfast included. Lowbyer Manor Hotel (Q26612372) on Wikidata
  • 2 Alston Youth Hostel, Firs Edge, The Firs, Alston, CA9 3RW (next to the Pennine Way, South Tyne Trail and the Coast-to-Coast (C2C) cycle route), +44 1434 381509, . Youth hostel on the edge of town with red squirrels in the gardens. Breakfast and evening meals (not included) are served every day, and packed lunches are available on request the night before. Sharing adults: £20.50-25/day; sharing under-18s: £16-17.50/night; private rooms: £36-120/night.
  • Lovelady Shield Hotel and Cottages, Lovelady Shield Hotel, Lovelady Lane, Alston CA9 3LX, +44 1434 723213, . This renovated Georgian country house hotel features 14 en suite rooms, most offering views of the River Nent and the picturesque hills and pastures.

Go next

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Routes through Alston
EdaleDufton  S  N  Hadrian's WallKirk Yetholm


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