IMAGINE the perfect day out. For me, I visualise sunshine, a relaxing journey through picturesque countryside, followed by a trip to the seaside with fresh seafood and topped off with ice cream. 

This is exactly what was in store for me the day I stepped into Pickering station in beautiful North Yorkshire. The moment was like magic as I was transported back in time on the rustic platform. 

The Northern Echo: My mum and me at Pickering station. Credit: HANNAH COLLEYMy mum and me at Pickering station. Credit: HANNAH COLLEY

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Being a complete novice to railways and steam trains, I had no idea what to expect. The platform, originally built in 1847 and recently re-instated to its former glory, set the scene for our Seaside Special return excursion to Whitby.

The quaint, 1930s-themed station offered a gift shop and tearoom for those who, like me, arrived early in anticipation of the journey. A handy guidebook for a very reasonable price of £5 allowed me and my family, who were my company for the trip, to learn about the stunning sights and history of the 24-mile railway.  

The Northern Echo: North Yorkshire Moors Railway guidebook. Credit: HANNAH COLLEYNorth Yorkshire Moors Railway guidebook. Credit: HANNAH COLLEY

After a short wait, a giant, black steam train chugged along the tracks to the delight of me and my fellow train-goers who had smiles as wide as the tracks. Being a Harry Potter fan, I was excited to get a glimpse of the locomotive that inspired the Hogwarts Express in JK Rowling’s wizarding world.  

Eager to capture the moment, I was warned to stand back as I took a video of the train rolling into Pickering, which you can see below. As we boarded, I chuckled at the thought of the ‘Mind the gap’ announcements on the London Underground – they really are nothing compared to the huge chasm we leapt over to reach the carriage!  

We were all helpfully assisted by the guards who donned smart railroad uniforms with black hats adding to the authenticity of the experience. You can tell how passionate the volunteers and staff are about their railway and it’s really inspiring to witness.  

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The Northern Echo: Train guards at Pickering Station. Credit: HANNAH COLLEYTrain guards at Pickering Station. Credit: HANNAH COLLEY

The first thing I noticed, as I settled into my carriage, was the striking vintage interior which made me feel like I was in the early nineteenth century, a stark contrast to my converse and jeans attire. The double wooden seats with comfortable blue padded cushions seat four people in a booth in total, two opposite each other. They are also divided by small tables.  

As we got comfortable in our historical surroundings, the guard blew his whistle, and it was full steam ahead. We all happily waved at smiling residents and passers-by out of the sliding windows as the train rattled and weaved along the tracks. 

A big highlight was the smell of coal burning in the air and the iconic train whistle while we slowly travelled through breath-taking North Yorkshire countryside. 

The views from the train windows were extraordinary. We spotted a glorious array of wildlife, including deer, pheasants, lambs and even pigs that reminded us how ‘out in the sticks’ we were! A particular high part for my auntie was seeing all the babbling brooks that followed the tracks and passing over the nine bridges as we crossed and recrossed the River Esk during our 6.25 miles journey between Grosmont station and Whitby.

The Northern Echo: One of the many marvellous views on the North Yokrshire Moors steam train. Credit: HANNAH COLLEYOne of the many marvellous views on the North Yokrshire Moors steam train. Credit: HANNAH COLLEY

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Aside from the nature around us, we also enjoyed passing by the cosy cottages and sleepy hamlets. We especially loved the adorable homes at Beck Hole and the stretch of 33 old mining cottages called New Row that was built for railway workers in the 1800s.    

We passed through four stations before arriving in Whitby, where you could get off and explore. A popular stop was Goathland which is dubbed the ‘celebrity station’ as it was the magical Hogsmeade village in Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone and Allendale in the former Sunday night TV show Heartbeat. We got to explore the stop as the staff geared up for the next leg of our trip.

Around two hours after our departure, we arrived in Whitby to the view of the harbour. As you walk out of the station your senses are adorned by the smell of fish from the wharf and the incredible view of fishermen’s boats and the North Sea.

The Northern Echo: The amazing harbour view half-way up the 199 steps to Whitby Abbey. Credit: HANNAH COLLEYThe amazing harbour view half-way up the 199 steps to Whitby Abbey. Credit: HANNAH COLLEY

Relishing the opportunity to stretch our legs we explored the tiny boutique shops. I enjoyed learning about the gemstone Whitby jet that was prominent in many shop windows we passed. We also climbed the 199 steps to the top of Whitby Abbey. However, the steps weren’t the only thing that took our breath away. Seeing the magnificent views of Whitby beach as the Abbey towers over the top of the hill, was a moment I’ll never forget. It’s also one worth doing if you get the opportunity to visit, but it isn’t for the faint-hearted as the trek is very steep.

Read more: Heritage railway opens two new developments

We topped off our day with a visit to the award-winning Papa’s fish and chip shop where we enjoyed fresh Whitby scampi and chips and battered plaice and chips. The meal was delicious and worth a visit. I particularly loved how their menu was designed like an old newspaper.

After 3 hours we made our way back to the railway station, stopping by the ice cream van on the way to top off an amazing day. We departed Whitby with full bellies and memories that will last a lifetime, reflecting on a brilliant day as the train leisurely chugged through the lush green fields back to Pickering. This really was a perfect day out.

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