Yorkshire Dales Settle-Carlisle railway's 'Staycation Express' becomes 'The Sundowner' for one week only

‘The Staycation Express’ became a hit rail service in 2020. Now its back as ‘The Sundowner’, a sunset ride on the Settle-Carlisle route, for one week only. John Blow reports.

The idea was born from troubled times but it has become a hit with tourists in Yorkshire – a traditional chartered leisure rail service befitting of the Settle-Carlisle line’s amazing landscapes.

And the venture’s latest scheme will allow travellers to enjoy a special view of the region during autumn’s glorious sunsets.

For one week only the rail service known as the ‘Staycation Express’ – created during the pandemic boom for domestic holidays – will adapt to become ‘The Sundowner’, taking to the tracks each evening to coincide with the setting sun over the beautiful Yorkshire Dales.

Adrian Quine, right, with Emilia Steven and Alan Collinson from Rail Charter Services Ltd at Settle railway station. Picture by Tony Johnson.

It will have a special evening drinks menu for passengers to enjoy as the light goes down between Settle and Ribblehead Viaduct.

Adrian Quine, director of operator Rail Charter Services, said: “The Yorkshire Dales might be on our doorstep yet to experience it from a luxury train on the world-famous Settle to Carlisle railway you could be in a completely different world.

“What better way to enjoy it than with a drink in hand, relaxing in a luxurious reclining leather first class window seat while toasting the magical calm scenery as it passes by.”

Fares start from £19.50 per person with the train running from Monday to Thursday and Saturdays between October 23 to 30.

The Ribblehead Viaduct on the Settle-Carlisle line. Picture: Simon Hulme.

The service leaves Skipton at 5.18pm and from Settle at 5.37pm before climbing up into the Yorkshire Dales on the famous Settle-Carlisle line, providing passengers with stunning views of the setting sun before arriving into Appleby at 6.28pm.

Passengers will then need to catch a connecting Northern train back to Settle or Skipton.

In addition, passengers starting in Cumbria can travel south on the afternoon Staycation Express from Carlisle at 3.09pm or Appleby at 3.52pm arriving into Settle at 4.35pm or Skipton at 5.05pm before returning north on ‘The Sundowner.’

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These feature large pictorial windows and dimmed warm white lighting to reduce glare.

The train will feature a buffet car and fully licenced bar, plus an at seat trolley service. There is also a club car with “at seat service”, which can be pre-booked.

Mr Quine says that the service is promoting sustainable travel in the Yorkshire Dales, using the train to window-gaze rather than cars.

Rail company Northern and the Settle-Carlisle Railway Development Company are also supporting the venture.

Under previous circumstances the route was dominated by Northern, which operates many services around Yorkshire, but in March last year the Government suspended rail franchise agreements, initially for six months, to maintain services as passenger demand fell due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

That opened a space for Rail Charter Services’ experiment to take place in the summer that year.

Since then, franchises were scrapped altogether, marking an end to a system that was in place since the 1990s. Mr Quine says that his company wants to work with Northern and sees itself as complementary rather than in competition.

Created to take advantage of increased visitor numbers in the Yorkshire Dales following the first wave of the pandemic, the idea was inspired by “classic” railway journeys seen in places such as the Alps or the Rocky Mountains.

For more information about departure times, prices and to book tickets, visit www.railcharterservices.co.uk or call 01768 353200.