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at 1000 feet (300m) above sea level is the highest town in the north of
England. This small, compact town is centred around it's cobbled
market place with it's covered cross. The nearest other town is
Penrith, accessible via Hartside Pass where the A686 road reaches an
altitude of 1903 feet (570m) and Alston's remote location means it
sometimes gets cut off by snow during the winter.
was historically in the county of Cumberland before the creation of
Cumbria in 1974 which saw Cumberland, Westmorland, Furness district of
Lancashire and a small part of Yorkshire being merged into one new
county. Not far away are the boundaries for Northumberland and
The moors around Alston were extensively mined for lead,
zinc and other minerals until around the mid 20th century and today the
main industry in Alston is tourism with the mines at nearby Nenthead and Killhope being popular with day trippers and mine explorers.
Alston lies at the crossroads of the Pennine Way long distance footpath and the Sea to Sea (C2C) Cycle Route.
There are a good selection of shops in Alston along with two petrol stations and four public houses.
The covered market cross
popular attraction is the South Tynedale Railway, a 2 foot (61cm)
narrow guage railway which runs for five miles (8km) from the outskirts
of Alston to Slaggyford. Steam and diesel trains are operated from
April to October. It is hoped that the line will eventually be
extended to Haltwhistle in Northumberland.