August 17 2012

Don’t Mess With the Railways, England

Skipton Castle

Can everyone just agree we should leave railroads alone?

I love to travel by train.  It’s usually comfortable, you get to relax and the chance of an accident is pretty darn low. It is just a great mode of transport, and it allows you to see the countryside.

I’ve decided that I’m heading back to England this Nov. for a multitude of reasons. However, unlike last year, I will be skipping London and just hanging out in Manchester and the surrounding area all week. While I loved London, I felt like I didn’t really experience the country. So my plan is to see two Manchester United matches, and the rest of the time I will be taking train rides out of Manchester in the morning and returning in the evening.

On my to do list this year is the ultimate cliché: I want to see a castle.  Now, there are a lot of castles dotting the countryside, but the large majority of them are in ruins. After a lot of research I settled on Skipton Castle. As the crow flies, it’s only about 40 some odd miles from my hotel, so I figured it would be the perfect choice as its in great shape and fairly close.

Then I looked up the train situation.

There is no direct train from Manchester to Skipton. Instead I would need to take a train to Leeds which is East of Skipton, and then travel North with the entire journey taking about three hours … each way. How does a 40 mile distance turn into a six hour round trip?

I opted to email Skipton Castle to ask if I was missing something, or if perhaps they knew of a solution. I got a pretty prompt and eye-opening reply.

Dear Sean

After Beeching made his railway cuts in the 1960s the direct route to Manchester was lost. Unfortunately the only railway route is now via Leeds. There is a campaign to re-open the 11 lost miles!

A total of 11 miles of railway is turning what should be an hour or less trip in to three hours.

11 miles.

Is it just me or does this seem incredibly silly? It’s been bad enough as I’ve watched the railways be torn up across the United States, but now to learn that a country that is famous for traveling by train, and really spearheaded the concept, can’t keep an 11 mile stretch open that would greatly alter the travel for the Northwest and Northeast portions of the land is just silly to me.

As I begin to plan out the rest of my trip, I wonder what other obstacles I may run into of this nature.

For now, it looks like Skipton Castle is off my list as I just can’t give up six hours of time to just riding on trains in a single day. Heck, even when I went from Manchester to London last year that was only three hours, I at least got other things accomplished that day.

(Yes, I could rent a car, but has anyone seen the price of gas there?)

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