Alston and the North Pennines
A "Walkers are Welcome" town
Alston in the North Pennines is surrounded by a unique landscape of moorland, hills, rivers and waterfalls and is one of England's highest market towns (being about 1,000 feet above sea level).
Designated Britain's first UNESCO European Geopark, the North Pennines Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) is a haven for special wildlife and plants. Surrounding the town is Alston Moor, a beautiful and diverse area known for its rare alpine flora and moorland birds such as black and red grouse, lapwing, meadow pipit and merlin.
This intriguing town with its cobbled streets and fascinating nooks and crannies has been the location for ITV productions of Jane Eyre and Oliver Twist. Alston also featured on BBC2's Britain's Heritage Heroes in 2013, as John Craven found out more about the mining industry in the area.
Enjoy marvellous views over the Eden Valley, Lake District hills and Scottish borders as you climb up to Alston via Hartside, a route named as one of the World's Top Ten Most Scenic drives by the AA.
History and Heritage
The North Pennines used to be one of the wealthiest lead mining centres in Europe and the nearby Roman fort of Whitley Castle (Epiacum) was sited to control and protect the lead mines there.
St Augustine's Church in Alston was built in 1869, but records show a church has existed on the site since 1145 AD. Inside the church is an interesting clock, brought from Dilston Hall, the home of the Earl of Derwentwater.
Alston and the North Pennines have long inspired artists and writers. The poet and writer W H Auden loved the area and described the landscapes around Alston as his 'great good place'.
Places to stay in Alston range from hotels, guest houses and bed and breakfasts (B&Bs) to self catering cottages - many with great views and there's a Youth Hostel in the town.
Alston has a good range of places to eat including hotels, pubs, tea rooms and cafes.
Walking and Cycling
Alston is an ideal walking and cycling centre with the Pennine Way passing through the town and great opportunities to get away from it all in the surrounding countryside. The Pennine Way celebrates its 50th Anniversary in 2015 - look out for special events taking place to mark the event.
Alston has official Walkers are Welcome status. Ashgill Force near Garrigill is well worth a visit.
Things to do
Take a ride on one of the lovingly restored steam and diesel engines on the South Tynedale Railway, a round trip from Alston to Kirkhaugh takes around 50 minutes through the beautiful scenery of the South Tyne valley.
Visit The Hub Museum with its interesting local history and bygone transport collection.
Nenthead Mines have open days with underground trips into the mines.
Follow the Alston Town Treasure Trail and take part in the areas first dedicated QR code Town Trail. Use your smart phone to scan the clues and then go hunting for more whilst discovering the history of the town.
Skiing is available at Yad Moss (south of Garrigill - open only if there is sufficient snow.)
Nearby is Epiacum Roman Fort described as 'the best preserved fort in the Roman empire,' (Stewart Ainsworth from TV's 'Time Team'). Please be aware that the site is in the early development stages and there is no on site interpretation as yet.
Arts and Crafts
Alston is an inspiration to the crafts people who live and work there. There's a host of unusual shops in the town including quality crafts and galleries. For more details of things to do, visit our Attractions listing.
- Alston Community Market - held on the first Saturday of the month (not every month - check our 'What's On' listing for dates
- Nenthead Gala - held in May
- Alston Gala - held in June
- Alston Sheepdog Trials - held in June
- Garrigill Gala - held in August
- Alston Agricultural Show - held in September
- Flower Show - held in September
Further Information on Alston and the North Pennines
- Alston Local Links (Tourist Information Services)
- Visit Alston Moor website
- Explore North Pennines website
A free leaflet 'Visit Alston Moor' is available from Alston TIC and other Eden TICs.