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Places to visit in Cumbria and the Lake District. Towns, lakes, shops, fells, castles, museums, restaurants - more


Alston - in the North Pennines.

Alston, Cumbria and the Lake District. Alston Market Cross

History Location Accommodation

Welcome to the EDGE Guide to Alston. The picturesque town of Alston nestles in the beautiful South Tyne Valley, in the majestic Pennines, which dominate the eastern border of Cumbria, a land quite different from the Lake District.

Alston boasts beautiful views of the fells and valleys of the North Pennines. Alston was once the highest market town in England but despite its remote location it is easily accessible.

Designated an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

Alston is remarkable for its charming cobbled stone main street and its Market Cross in the centre of the town; originally donated by a former inhabitant of the town who became a Lord Mayor of London.

The South Tyne Valley in the North Pennines. Cumbria and the Lake District

A stroll around Alston's back streets will reveal other appealing sights and places of interest.

Alston has various small shops, and an Arts and Crafts Gallery. You can buy locally produced specialist foods such as Cumberland mustard -high quality and very tasty.

Why not secure your stay in this lovely corner of the English countryside by booking online now - Click here.

The Alston area is best known to walkers who travel the Pennine Way, one of the longest walks in Britain.

Since the opening of the C to C cycle way (a coast to coast cycle rout across the North of England) a new kind of visitor is coming to Alston Moor.

There are gentler walks for those who want to spend a few hours or a day in the area - you will see the rich and diverse flora and fauna when strolling through the peaceful countryside. The hills and valleys provide good habitats for wild and rare animals such as the red squirrel and birds of prey.

Activities include: walking - hiking - pony trekking - fishing - and golf on the highest course in England!

The South Tynedale  Railway, Alston, Cumbria.

Alston has many attractions for the visitor including a narrow gauge railway found at the old Station.

A restored water wheel is in the town centre. Nearby there are restored Lead Mines open as museums.

The Roman road known as the Maiden Way passes near the Town on its way to Whitley Castle, a mile or so to the north, a Roman fort of which the elaborate defensive ditches are still visible.

Alston: a short history: top

Alston gets no mention in the Domesday Book of 1086, the area was in the control of the Scots at the time.

The manor of Alston (then known as Alderstone) enters recorded history when it was given to William de Veteripont by William I, 'The Lion', King of Scotland in 1209.

By 1280 the area was in the hands of the English, but Edward I king of England confirmed the ownership of the de Veteripont family.

Alston then passed by marriage to the Whytlawe family who in 1443 granted it to the Stapletons of Edenhall. From them it passed as part of their daughter's dowry to the Hilton family of Durham.

Alston and the surrounding fells have been mined for silver, lead, coal and anthracite since Roman times. In 1718 there were 119 mines producing £70,000 a year.

Alston grew rapidly in size to accommodate the ever increasing number of workers, though many miners lived near their places of work, often in appalling conditions.

Since the middle of the nineteenth century mining gradually died out as a major employer and with its demise the population shrank. Some small coal mines still operate today.

Sheep farming has been a constant means of income and employment but now there are new sources with the supply of specialist mountain/walking clothing and hi-tech engineering.

The Alston area has won many fans over the years and some of them have been known to make it their home, this is an indication of how special Alston is.

Why not spend a day out investigating the North Pennines.

Alston: OS ref NY 718465 Sheet 86. Get the map.

Map of Alston, Cumbria.

Be sure to take a drive up to Hartside Pass on the A686 (voted one of the best drives in the world!). You will be presented with a panoramic view over the Eden Valley across to the Lake District and north over Carlisle and the Solway Firth to Scotland.