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The other day Simon, one of our regular bloggers, decided to take a trip, purely for the sake of enjoying the journey itself. Where to go? We settled on the beautiful transpennine journey from Manchester to York. Here’s what you can expect to see through your wide-screen windows on the 70-minute train ride, and an afternoon wander through wonderful York.
I arrived at Manchester Victoria in plenty of time, so was able to have a wander around this vast old edifice. The original building was single-storey and built in 1909 in an Italianate style. It’s been added to many times since then, but retains it’s lovely honey-coloured look and fancy styling. I headed to platform 4 and waited a couple of minutes until my train turned up, and while it wasn’t a brand-spanking new Nova 3, it was fully refurbished inside so it felt ‘as-new’ and I also noticed it had free WiFi. I grabbed a seat and settled into my journey.
The great thing about travelling by train is the range of views that it affords. Setting off from cities, you often get the feeling that you’re back in school, studying geography, as you get a live version of those maps of Urban Land Use that were so important back then. Here you are, setting off from the central business district, but by the time the train has hit half-speed, that’s gone. There goes the inner city right after it. Then for a couple of minutes you’re in the suburbs, then it’s urban fringe and then (if you’re on the train from Manchester to York) it’s the moors...
The Saddleworth Moors are visible from the train in lots of detail, between racing trees, so keep an eye out. In fact, this train journey has amazing views throughout and I spent most of my time looking and snapping pictures out of the right-hand window.
Above the village of Uppermill, you can even make out the ‘Pots and Pans’ war memorial high up on Alderman’s Hill overlooking the tiny village. The memorial was raised with a fund of £2,000 by the people of Saddleworth in 1923 to honour the men from the area who served in WWI and it’s been a waypoint for walkers ever since. If you get the opportunity to clamber up to it then leap at the chance – the views are fantastic. You might even make out the train as it thunders over Saddleworth Viaduct.
Straight after Saddleworth it’s into the Standedge Tunnel, under the moors and under the Colne river. The sound changes in the tunnel and the bassier notes of the engine kick in. You also notice on the Eastbound journey that there’s a slight downward slope on the tunnel track. Originally there were four tunnels, one for the canal and three for rail, but now only the canal tunnel and the 1848 rail tunnel remain. Although it’s one of the longest railway tunnels in the UK, after just a few minutes you’re through and flooded by the light of Marsden. While you were under the moors you also crossed the border and you’re now in God’s own country: Yorkshire. Moments after this you’ll be pulling into Huddersfield, on the right-hand side of the train you can see right down Swan Lane to Victoria Tower a mile-and-a-half away on Castle Hill. And then it’s on again, Leeds next and another urban planning lesson as you rapidly shift from the fields to the suburbs and straight to the heart of the city. Then, 22-minutes of flat greenery later you’re pulling into York station – on the left-hand side you might be able to make out the tree line of the 15,000-year-old Askham Bog, about 2.5 miles from your stop.
Getting off the train (yes, I remembered my bags) I got the chance to look around the station for a moment, stretching my legs after the sit down. Just look at that incredible glass and steel roof... When it was first built in 1877, York Station had 13 platforms and was the largest in the world and it doesn’t seem any less grand today. It wears its engineering on its sleeve and is all the more breathtaking for it.
Heading out of the station and bearing left, I decided to keep on stretching my legs and head into the city. Just over 10 minutes later I was standing in front of York Minster, with a view that took up my entire field of vision.
There is no way to pay enough poetic justice to this building in just a few words in the middle of a blog. In every niche and finial there is enough beauty and craftsmanship to inspire the most savage of hearts. So be assured that if you stand in front of the Minster your trip will have been worth it. People have been making pilgrimages to this site since AD 627 – I just hopped on the 10.32. I decided to wander around the Minster to get my money’s worth (walking around the Minster costs nothing). And while doing that found more inspiring views like this one down Chapter House Street at the side of the National Trust’s Treasurer’s House.
After this I decided to grab a bite to eat and had some fabulous tapas in Ambiente on Goodramgate. Walking along the street from there I then discovered a brilliant and incredibly friendly comics shop called Travelling Man.
When you’ve been wowed by the beauty of one of England’s greatest cathedrals, snuck down secret cobbled streets, had a wonderful tapas lunch and bought some comics, then the only thing missing from your life is bread and cake. Luckily my next stop was down The Shambles. Here you will find all manner of tourist boutiques, witchy, wandy Harry Potter shops and also two amazing carb stores.
Pinder and Scott was calling to me the moment I rambled into The Shambles and immediately after buying one of their olive-filled focaccia loaves I whirled around and in two steps I was standing in the Bluebird Bakery. From there I got an award-winning brownie and scurried off down the 14th century street before I grew too large for its narrow gauge.
After wandering out beyond the city walls, I headed back to the station, but as I had time to spare I took in the Castle and the Castle Museum. At the latter I came across Raindale Mill a beautiful Instagram-friendly little mill that’s been fully restored on the banks of the Foss.
Incredibly, just an hour-and-a-half after I took that last image (and with some lucky timing) I was pulling back into Manchester Victoria after a nice sit down, a coffee and that delicious brownie.
If you fancy following in my footsteps, book an Advance train ticket right now and you could save over 50%.