Surrounded by the bleak hilltops of the Pennines, isolated Alston's main claim to fame is its elevation: at 305m above sea level it's thought to be the highest market town in England (despite no longer having a market). It's also famous among steam enthusiasts thanks to the South Tynedale Railway, which puffs and clatters through the hilly country between Alston and Lintley along a route that originally operated from 1852 to 1976.
The line was partly reopened by enthusiasts in 1983. It's now run as a registered charity and a recent £4.2 million lottery grant will fund the long-awaited extension of the line all the way to Slaggyford over the next few years. The return trip takes about an hour; there are up to five daily trains in midsummer.