UK rail trip – 2022
Day 9 – 11th April, 2022
It was an early morning arrival at London Paddington – just before 05:00. Today, I decided I’d go to Edinburgh. Instead of going directly from London King’s Cross, I decided I’d take a train from the station next door – London St. Pancras International. After a quick transfer by the London Underground to King’s Cross St. Pancras underground station, I sought out something to eat. About the only thing open was, you guessed it, Maccas. So, a Bacon and Egg McMuffin or two later, I walked over to London St. Pancras International and found a train that would take me to Sheffield – a class 222. The last time I was at London St. Pancras, which was sometime in 2006, Eurostar were still operating out of London Waterloo.
Heading out of St. Pancras, the line to mainland Europe diverges to the right and enters a tunnel. My BritRail Pass lasts a month. As I don’t fly back to Australia for nearly another four weeks after that, I might consider making a visit to France or maybe even Italy. I have a few ideas in mind. But, for now, I’m heading north. These class 222s have a buffet counter. But there was no announcement even half an hour after depature. Maybe it wasn’t open. So, I walked through to the coach were it was situated. Unfortunately, it was closed. There was also supposed to be a trolley service. It seems there wasn’t one of them, either. Maybe it was too early in the morning. Or maybe it was just a matter of staffing issues. Either way, I was glad I grabbed something earlier.
Arriving into Sheffield, just over two hours later, I decided I’d hang around for a little. I had plenty of time to get to Edinburgh. So, after a few minutes outside the station, I left and walked up through Hallam University and Fitzalan Square to Commercial Street to do a little tram spotting.
It was time to head back to the station and catch a train on to Manchester. I was going to be meeting up with one of my work colleagues, Gary, who I worked with when I lived in Manchester. Travelling to Manchester, I’ll be travelling along the Hope Valley line – one of my favourites.
Soon after leaving Sheffield, the train passed through the Totley Tunnel and then into Derbyshire. I regularly travelled along this line, when I lived in Manchester, while taking the train out to Doncaster to do some trainspotting for the day. It was nice to travel along it again. What more could I do but just sit back and enjoy the view and the ride. Not too long after, Greater Manchester approached – Hazel Grove, Woodsmoor, Davenport, then Stockport. Again, it felt like I was coming home.
Leaving Stockport, it was over the Stockport viaduct and into Manchester Piccadilly ten minutes later. I was home. Well, sort of!
It was just on 11:00, but I wouldn’t be meeting my friend for another hour. So, I walked around the station a bit before catching a Metrolink tram to Didsbury. I was still early, so sat outside the The Royal Oak. As the pub didn’t serve food, so, when Gary turned up, we decided to eat elsewhere. We found a Costa Coffee coffee shop just down the road. After catching up and chatting about things for a couple of hours, it was time to move on and catch the train up to Edinburgh. To make sure I had the pick of seats, I decided to catch the tram to Manchester Airport. This also gave me the opportunity to travel along another of Manchester Metrolink’s new lines. The tram network had expanded massively since I’d left in January 2007.
Upon arrival at Manchester Airport station, I found my train to Edinburgh. It was one of Transpennine Express’ new class 397s. Another new train to try out! And it was another example of the changes that had taken place over the last 15 years.
Instead of being a diesel-powered train, it was all-electric. This was due to the electrification of the line between Manchester and Preston via Bolton. After leaving Preston, the route passes into the Lake District – a mountainous and very scenic region that the line would pass through right up to near Carlisle, just south of the border with Scotland. The last time I was here, I caught a train down the Settle-Carlisle line – another line chock a block with scenery. I would like to travel it again, if I have enough time.
Over the border with Scotland, Lockerbie is not too far along the line. A town that became infamous due to an awful tragedy – the downing of Pan Am flight 103 by a terrorist bomb. There is a memorial a Drysdale Cemetary, 1.5 kilometres from town. Another place I want to visit. After branching off the West Coast Main Line just short of Carstairs, the train was on the final leg towards Edinburgh Waverley.
The arrival into Edinburgh was cold – quite cold! I put on my €5 coat I bought from Primark in 2003, which was quite warm. I left the station and walked up The News Steps. Lots of steps. On their own, they’re probably bad enough. But when carrying a suitcase, it was quite a challenge – particularly in the chilly weather. I found my way to the hostel I was staying at tonight – The Castle Rock Hostel. And how appropriate its name was. It was just at the foot of Edinburgh Castle.
I checked in and was given the key to my dorm, which was on the first floor (one floor up from ground). To my delight, outside my dorm’s window was a view of the castle. I should have taken a photo from the window. After check-in, I went outside and up to the castle.
I then went and found dinner and turned in for the night.