Sunday 11th August 2013
Although in the far north of England this is the Midland Hotel. This apparent anomaly is easily explained by the fact that it is outside the railway station. This is on a line that was built and operated by the Midland Railway, hence the name. This is the old main line that ran from London St Pancras to Carlisle via Leicester, Sheffield and Leeds. At Carlisle its trains run on to the Glasgow & South Western Railway to provide a through service from London to Glasgow. In 1923 the whole route became the London Midland & Scottish Railway.
It is now a local railway; the expresses long gone; yet it is an important part of the railway network. Yet it was very nearly not the case as it was slated for closure in the 1963 Reshaping of the Railways Report. The threat lingered to the 1970s when the last fast train, the "Thames-Clyde Express" lost its title when the competing West Coast Main Line was electrified in 1974. The train lasted two years longer and then was dropped from the timetable. It was the last train to connect Appleby, when it was the county town of Westmoreland, with London.
The threat of closure was finally lifted in 1978. It then received some investment on infrastructure but really not enough, basically just restoring the damage caused during its run-down.
It is still subject to an overall 75 mph speed restriction, sufficient for the all-stations stopping trains and also for the many trains that carry imported coal from the Scottish west coast to the power stations on the banks of the River Trent. However, with this speed handicap it will never see long distance through trains again.
Nowadays it is branded as the Settle & Carlisle line and is often featured in television programs. Appleby station was opened on 1st May 1876 and although it was built to the standard Midland Railway design it is, I think, the only station on the line constructed in brick rather than stone.
It is still in original condition and is a handsome building; as is the Midland Hotel, just below the station.
It would have opened right at the opening or very shortly afterwards. The station is high above the town and one can imagine the pleasure of being able to take a drink after the steep walk uphill; likewise for horses pulling carriages.
It was a Marston's pub when I first visited and I thought it a long way from their brewery and heartlands of Burton-on-Trent. This is explained by observing that Marston's took over the pubs and Appleby brewery of Alfred Bertwhistle & Sons in 1928. It is worth noting that both Burton and Appleby were served by the Midland Railway, so getting the beer to the town was not a problem. They probably used the old brewery as a distribution depot.
The modern day Midland Hotel is now a free house and a very good one too. It is very loyal to small Cumbrian breweries. There are normally have three local beers on offer. Unfortunately they were down to two when I visited. They were Hesket Newmarket (Crown Inn, Hesket Newmarket, Cumbria) Sharp Edge Summer Ale (3.4%) and Old School Brewery (Warton, Lancashire) Textbook Blonde (3.9%). I could have also had Medium Perry (5.5%) or Traditional Cider (6.0%) from Oliver's of Ocle Pychard (true!) in Herefordshire.
Clive and Annie Bissland are the proprietors and they took over in the spring of 2011. Since then the once two-roomed pub has been completely redecorated in a modern style. They are acquiring a good name for the food offered. One thing that should not be forgotten is that it is a fully functioning hotel as the name implies. There are five en-suite letting rooms that have all been completely refurbished in the last few years. With its connections it is a very good base to explore the fells and Lake District; I'd like to stay there one day.
The Midland Hotel, 25 Clifford Street, Appleby, Cumbria CA16 6TS. Tel: 01768 351524
Open: Tuesday 17.00-23.00; Wednesday 17.00-23.30;
Thursday-Sunday and Bank Holidays 12.00-23.00. Monday (not Bank Holidays): Closed.
Food: Wednesday-Saturday 12.00-14.00, 17.30-20.30;
Sunday 12.00-14.00 with bar meals 14.00-20.00
Trains are operated by Northern Rail and are relatively infrequent because of the rural nature of the line. They run daily throughout from Carlisle to Leeds via Skipton.
The only bus of any use is the 563 and it runs about every two hours from Kirkby Stephen via Appleby to Penrith on Mondays to Saturdays.