Alston

About the village

Picture 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. Natural y it is 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 hil farms recal 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.