C2C - Route 7
Route Section: Keswick > Alston
From Start: 120km (75m) | From Finish: 104 (65m)
Stanhope 40km (25m)
Consett 59km (37m)
The A686 takes you into Alston. It is an exhilarating downhill stretch from Hartside.
If the traffic on this road is bothersome take the parallel lane through Leadgate, which will lop off 2km of the main road, but you will have to rejoin it just outside the town.
Out of Alston to Nenthead
Head up the steep cobbled high street past the Victoria and the Moody Baker.
Bear left on the A689 and keep going passing through Nenthall (4km, 2.5m)
From Nenthall it is 3.4km (2.1m) to Nenthead, with a steep, short climb out of Nenthead.
Picture postcard perfect legacy of the lead mines Alston sits at 280m (919 feet) above sea level and is supposedly the highest market town in England. Picture-postcard-pretty and a firm favourite with outdoor types, it lies in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), a solid bastion of civilisation on the edge of one of Britain's greatest areas of wilderness.
Once a centre for Cumberland wrestling, cattle fairs and races, Alston is unspoilt by developers and has cobbled streets, 17th century shops and pubs that hark back to a former age.
Naturally it has been a magnet for film makers. Oliver Twist was shot here for television - there is even an Oliver Twist trail - and Dickens himself visited in the 1830s to research Nicholas Nickleby.
The town, formed around the confluence of the South Tyne and Nent rivers, owes much to lead mining, started by the Romans before the Quakers set up the London Lead Mining Company in the 18th century. The Mines Heritage Centre has more information. The mines and their machinery are silent but the scattered hill farms recall how mining families grew crops to subsidise their meagre wages.
Places of Interest
Tourist Information Centre: Town Hall, Front St. 01434 382244.
South Tynedale Railway Station: England's highest narrow-gauge track runs along 2.5 miles of former British Rail track. There is a tea room at the old station. Runs every weekend April - October plus some weekends in December, and daily during August. 01434 381696 or, for the talking timetable 01434 382828.
Hartside Nursery Garden: on route one mile from Alston. Rare and unusual alpine plants. 01434 381372.
The Hub, Station Unit, opposite rail station, Alston. Local history museum with eclectic mix. Entry by donation, run by volunteers. 01434 382244.
Where to Eat and Drink
Alston Wholefoods, Front Street, Alston, Cumbria CA9 3QH Run by: Anne Lanham This is a workers' co-operative which stocks delicious local products (and candles), specialising in organic and Fair Trade. Good beers and wines, gourmet ice creams. 01434 381588 www.cybermoor.org
Alston House - seasoned chef, Michael Allchorne 01434 382200 Blueberry's in the Market Place - good meals, snacks and afternoon tea. See below for details 01434 381928.
The Cumberland Hotel - a fine and cosy pub serving good food and good beer. See entry 01434 381875.
Where To Sleep
Run by: Tian Smith
This is first and foremost a lively town centre pub (without music), with accommodation upstairs. It has been welcoming C2Cers for many years and Tian is a great host. But don't expect any frills and DO expect to find a real locals' bar - friendly and welcoming. The Victoria is warm, clean and comfortable offering everything you need. Accepts all major credit cards. Full Indian restaurant. Also doing takeaway. Sunday roasts. Really busy stop-off for C2Cers.
Rooms: 4S, 2D, 2F.
B&B: from £34 for single.
Packed lunch: from £3.50.
Eve meal: around £8 (Indian restaurant).
address : Front St, CA9 3SE
telephone : 01434 381194
Run by: Michael & Carole Allchorne
A restaurant with rooms very popular with cyclists - groups return year after year. Afternoon teas and fabled poached eggs on toast. 'We have lovely spotless rooms all with great views, modern bathrooms some with roll top baths,' says Carole. Great local ales and range of lagers, hearty homemade food and extensive menu cooked by Michael chef/owner whose generosity of portion is renowned. Sit in front of the fire or in the cafe with a latte read the papers, or relax in the garden in the summer. 'We have lots of space and are ideal for groups. It's a lovely old building which has been lovingly updated.' The rest of Alston is just round the corner. There's a beauty room for massages and treatments. Deals for groups and possibly individuals.
Rooms: 6T/D, 3F/Tpl.
B&B: from £50pppn. Single occ of dbl room: £60 to £80.
Eve meal: 6-9pm from £8-£24.
On route: fully licensed.
AA: 4-star 'Guest Accommodation'. TripAdvisor: Certificate of Excellence
The Cumberland Inn
Run by: Guy & Helen Harmer
Great for evening meals and simply wonderful for beer. Not for nothing was the Cumberland voted CAMRA Pub of the Year for the Solway region for the last several years on the trot. All rooms en-suite, bike storage, drying/cleaning facilities. Only stamping point in Alston. Choice of traditional cask ales and home cooked food. Family run and great cooking. Really friendly service and great atmosphere.
Facebook: @TheCumberlandInnAlston Twitter: @Cumberland_Inn
Rooms: 2D, 1F, 2Tpl.
B&B: from £40. Single supplement £15.
Eve meal: £6-£15.
Pk lunch: £6.
Run by: Celia Pattison
Charming split level bungalow with sweeping views south west across the Cumbrian Fells. Celia has been looking after cyclists for 20 years now and provides a hearty supper and formidable breakfast (all the usual suspects and then some more). It's a leisurely stroll into town, past the police station and down to the Victoria or the Cumberland. Tea, coffee and home-made cakes on arrival.
Rooms: 1S, 1T, 1F.
Pk lunch: yes.
Secure space for bikes.
address : Bruntley Meadows, Alston, Cumbria CA9 3UX
telephone : 01434 382182
West Nattrass Tea Rooms & Guest House
Run by: Stephen & Gina Beimers
Phone and book to guarantee the best rates. Just quote the C2C site to get the best. Stephen will also ferry you to and from the centre of Alston (a steepish mile) for a fiver as well as fetch anyone coming the Garrigill way. West Nattrass is a former barn set in idyllic surroundings a mile up the Middleton road, taking the right fork at the top of the village. In the midst of open fells and wildflower meadows there are two en-suite guest rooms, secure lock-up and outbuildings for wet gear. The Beimers provide great evening meals - Gina is from the Philippines and trained as a chef of Middle East cuisine at a famous restaurant in Manila. They will prepare a meal à la Yottam Ottolenghi if you give warning!
Rooms: 1T, 1D.
B&B: £35-£37.50- 80 (£50 & £55 single occ).
Eve Meal: from £10.95. From £18 for 3-courses.
Pk lunch: £8.50.