The Top 10: UK railway stations

From King’s Cross to the West Highlands, the best British cathedrals, churches and chapels of train travel

John Rentoul
Saturday 26 May 2018 11:56 BST
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St Pancras: this masterpiece of Victorian Gothic architecture was revamped in 2007
St Pancras: this masterpiece of Victorian Gothic architecture was revamped in 2007 (Colin/Wikimedia Commons)

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Louise Thomas

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We’ve done the Top 10 railway romances, and the Top 10 most beautiful British railway journeys, but I was prompted by Quentin Letts to compile this list by his defence of Hull railway station. “Why is Hull on a list of worst railway stations?” he asked. “It has a handsome broadness, a substantial sense of civic pride.” And a statue of Philip Larkin. He also liked Eastbourne, Edinburgh Waverley, Brighton and Great Malvern. Here are 10 more.

(Peter Warner)

1. Achnasheen, on the Inverness to Kyle of Lochalsh line. Nominated by Peter Warner, who supplied the above picture.

2. Curzon Street, Birmingham. Will said: “Birmingham has two. Curzon Street, a Grade I listed building which has somehow survived despite the last scheduled service leaving in 1854. Due to be the Birmingham terminal of HS2, restoring regular passenger service after a gap of 170 years. Moor Street, restored to its 1930s heyday, is probably the most charming terminal in any major city.” Tom Joyce also nominated Moor Street, the other end of the journey from Marylebone, a much better journey than from Euston to New Street.

Huddersfield: home to a statue of Harold Wilson and two pubs
Huddersfield: home to a statue of Harold Wilson and two pubs (Richard Harvey)

3. Huddersfield. “Admired by Betjeman, and a Harold Wilson statue outside,” said Mark Bassett. “Externally, one of the country’s most attractive stations,” added Robert Kaye. “And uniquely has two pubs.”

4. King’s Cross. I am not against modern architecture; I am against bad modern architecture. I think the new King’s Cross is wonderful, combining old, new and imaginary, with the permanent queue for platform 9¾. Nominated by Oli Coulson.

5. Norwich. “Beautiful,” said Nick Wyatt. The old Norwich City station was also striking.

6. Oakworth. The gem from The Railway Children, nominated by Nick Clayton.

Rannoch: picturesque and remote (Undiscovered Scotland)
Rannoch: picturesque and remote (Undiscovered Scotland) (Helen / Wikimedia Commons)

7. Rannoch. “Where ice ages begin,” said Doug Haslam. You can see what he means: it’s on the West Highland Line and it’s pretty.

8. St Pancras. “There can only be one best, especially when you regard inside and out,” said Twitter user John-O-Goring, endorsed by James Farrar.

Wemyss Bay: Victorian iron work and an adjacent ferry terminal (wilm, Flickr)
Wemyss Bay: Victorian iron work and an adjacent ferry terminal (wilm, Flickr) (Wilm: Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license)

9. Wemyss Bay, Inverclyde. “It retains its Victorian iron work, incorporates access to the adjacent ferry terminal (gateway to Rothesay) and accommodates its own bar and a book shop,” said Alan Robertson, endorsed by Jonathan Smout.

10. York. “Stunning building and has a footbridge to the adjacent National Railway Museum which is also brilliant,” said Richard Jacks. “Best station overall,” said Realhansard, although Bristol Temple Meads wins “best frontage”.

Hard to judge this one, because it is difficult to separate interiors from the station itself. Leamington Spa, for example has lovely waiting rooms (Steve Van Riel). Stalybridge has a fine buffet bar on platform four (Killie).

In other cases it is hard to separate the station from its setting. Graham Kirby nominated Durham, for the view of the castle and cathedral as you approach and depart, and Dawlish in Devon, part of Brunel’s sea wall railway, which is more notable for its sea view than for its nondescript architecture.

Another honourable mention for Thomas O’Hare, who nominated Cleckheaton Central, “the only station ever to be stolen”. After it closed, “a contractor turned up overnight and took the buildings and canopies for scrap without permission – he was later prosecuted” (possibly also a contender for Top 10 Demolished Buildings, coming soon).

And for Dean Bullen, who said: “I like that Bridlington has three platforms, which are called platforms four, five and six.”

Next week: Politician-sportspeople, such as Sir Menzies Campbell (British 100 metres record holder 1967-74) and Kate Hoey (1966 Northern Ireland High Jump Champion)

Your suggestions please, and ideas for future Top 10s, to me on Twitter, or by email to top10@independent.co.uk

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