If full steam ahead travel back in time is your Yorkshire cuppa, Rail Discoveries has it down to a tea.
Their rolling stock track record rolls back 30 years, offering best of all worlds - exciting journeys with inclusive hotels, escorted experiences and exclusive excursions, booking flexibility as well as financial protection.
Adventures are available worldwide but, for we northern monkeys, nowhere beats God's Own County for Iron Horse homage, home as it was to 1970 screen classic The Railway Children.
Red petticoats packed, we set off to see the station that still resonates with echoes of “oh, my daddy, my daddy" homecoming tear-jerker, while also travelling further afield to coastal line, similarly staging iconic film locations from Hogsmeade to Heartbeat.
Beauty abounds along scenic routes from rolling dales and vales, through rugged moorland to spectacular coastline, coach transfers taking strain between steam locomotive engine trips, with free time afforded to enjoy delights, many and varied, of such welcome stop-offs as gentrified Harrogate, gothic Whitby, medieval York and full Brontë Haworth, all glistening gems in White Rose crown.
Where to go: Keighley and Worth Valley Railway has witnessed much evolution since industrial revolution saw it serve Heavy Woollen District's mushrooming mill trade. Five miles of track have been backdrop, not only for Jenny Agutter's Bobbie Waterbury and co, but also such small and big screen blockbusters as Peaky Blinders, The Great Train Robbery and Testament of Youth. Without coming over all trainspotter, the service today retains four signal boxes, two tunnels, two level crossings, turntable, assorted viaducts and bridges, all serving six stations.
Ingrow West station and yard accommodates not one, but two, award-winning museums that combine to tell RAIL STORY, collaborative scheme between host railway, Vintage Carriages Trust and exotically titled Bahamas Locomotive Society to develop the site progressively, giving visitors greater opportunities to understand preservation and conservation of rail heritage. Carriage Works, Engine Shed and Learning Coach offer entertainment and education with chance to climb aboard vintage carriages where film stars have sat for filming of 50-plus dramas.
Haworth is all about the Brontës. From burgers to beer, this Fairtrade Village in Worth Valley fold of the Pennines celebrates its literary status among assorted antiquarian and souvenir shops, restaurants, tea rooms and inns, including Black Bull, where brother Branwell's decline into alcoholism and opium addiction allegedly began. But his sisters are true stars, book worms making a bee line for former family home that is Parsonage Museum, grade one listed building celebrating Charlotte, Emily and Anne's prowess with the pen and lasting legacy.
Overshadowed by brooding moorland, Oxenhope boasts literally shed-load of attractions for steam buffs. White Shed and Cow Shed are equally crucial to smooth running of operations but it's Green Shed that makes an exhibition of itself. Opened in stages in 1971 and '73, the building houses locos not fit for traffic long term but in fine enough fettle to store as static exhibits undergoing restoration. What it's not, staff are at pains to point out, is a museum. Rather, working environment, as one guide stressed, "full of stuff we allow public to look round”.
North Yorkshire Moors Railway is like a living, breathing chapter of All Creatures Great and Small, among many screen shoots that also include Simply Red's 1985 breakthrough single Holding Back The Years video, also atop Whitby's 199 steps at abbey ruins, inspiration for Bram Stoker's Dracula, which awaits at end of 24-mile majestic trip from Pickering via Goathland and Grosmont. But, beware! If, like me, you care to hang out of carriages, breathing in nostalgic sulphur ash, you'll disembark looking sootier than circa '64 Dick van Dyke mockney sweep.
Approaching final destination buffers, reflecting through wooden framed windows on times past, I was minded of arguably our greatest poet who was never laureate, Philip Larkin's The Whitsun Weddings "as we raced across bright knots of rail, past standing Pullmans, walls of blackened moss came close, and it was nearly done," safe in knowledge I'll always hold dear whistle-stop memories of "this frail travelling coincidence".
Where to stay: To say Cedar Court Hotel is tree-mendous would be cringeworthy, but that won't stop me extolling virtues of four star attractive accommodation, among Ascend Collection leading locations. Overlooking 200 acres of pristine parkland, this bucolic bolthole still offers easy access to history-rich Harrogate on its doorstep. The venue's own heritage dates back to 1671, site of the area's first hotel, today offering 100 stylish rooms to meet all travellers' needs, round the clock room service and, unique in this compact spa town, extensive free parking.
Wining and dining: Not so much grape, as grain in shape of pure single spirit, just the tonic afore, after or, frankly, during transports of delight. New kids on the juniper berry block, Slingsby gin-spiration has progressed apace since 2015 London Dry debut. Spirit of Harrogate Experience - enjoyable, entertaining and educational in equal heady measure - is home to award-winning mix based on such qualities as 24 botanicals, from rosehip to rhubarb, and aquifer well waters discovered by 1571 adventurer from which the burgeoning brand takes its name.
Complementing hotel's hearty breakfasts, The Porterhouse Restaurant is Cedar Court on-site centre of culinary excellence, exciting new eatery offering delicious dishes aplenty with emphasis on extensive range of locally sourced, succulent steaks including T-bone, Chateaubriand and eponymous house speciality. Carnivore fest as this is for we meat-eaters, menus offer many other options from antipasti platter to tart, torte and tarte tatin - easy for me to say - via Shetland mussels and potted shrimp to sea bass to salads, appetising to any vegetarian.
Legion of TripAdvisor testimonials headed "fantástico" and "fabulous" bear testament to popularity of L’Albero Delle Noci, whose traditional Mediterranean cuisine, complemented by fine wine cellar, is served in cosy surrounds featuring rustic dark stripped wood floors amid light-filled ambient atmosphere. Family orientated time-honoured recipes derive from southern spur of Italy’s boot that is white washed homeland Puglia, dishes from calamari piccata to panna cotta by way of mouth-watering mains including tongue-twister linguine con triglia alla pizzaiola.
Betty's Tea Rooms couldn't be less trad Tyke if it tried, its classy confines far cry from regional stereotypical flat cap-wearing whippet handler, washing down Yorkshire Pud with pint of Tetley's while binge watching Kes & Calendar Girls. Crime Queen Agatha Christie kicked her ankle-strapped court shoe heels for days during her 1926 disappearing act a nearby retreat but it's no mystery why today's ladies that lunch love to make this their civilised continental-style sanctuary, where no customer is offended when waitresses ask "are you the Fat Rascal?"
Way to go: Experience Yorkshire by Steam on an escorted group tour with Rail Discoveries, www.raildiscoveries.com / 01904 734 812, from £375pp, five-day trip including 3-4* hotel accommodation, all rail and excursions and selected meals. https://www.raildiscoveries.com/tours/yorkshire-steam-railway/
"I'm going to be an engine driver when I grow up" - Christopher John Page, aged almost 60. :
Yorkshire GPT images: https://we.tl/uYBAboAVOP Credit Three Little Birds PR
Tour images: https://we.tl/TZ4lBK3EJY
NYMR images: bit.ly/NYMR18Pics