Day out: Carnforth, Lancashire

Visit the humble yet iconic café that starred in this true classic of British film before boarding a train to explore the surrounding hills, marsh and moors of Silverdale

Old railway station
Published: December 26th, 2021 at 5:40 am
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There aren’t many films that qualify as classics, that retain an enduring appeal long after they are made, but nearly 80 years on, Brief Encounter continues to top polls as one of the greatest British films ever made.

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Adapted from Noel Coward’s stage play, the film was famously directed by David Lean and many of the scenes were shot in 1945 at Carnforth Railway Station in Lancashire, necessary to avoid the blackout restrictions and wartime disruption that affected filming in London.

It is a tale of the romance and unconsummated love between the married characters of Laura and Alec, played by Celia Johnson and Trevor Howard. The station and its refreshment room feature as the backdrop to their first chance encounter and to their final, reluctant, tear-jerking parting.

Watch the film

The on-site mini-cinema at Carnforth has plush vintage tip-up seats where you can sit back and enjoy Brief Encounter on the big screen as well as some of David Lean’s other works. The main attraction is played about 1,500 times a year!

Visiting Carnforth Railway Station  

The station had always been a place of pilgrimage for fans of the film, but until 2003, much of the station was derelict. A group of enthusiasts restored the redundant buildings as Carnforth Heritage Centre and today this award-winning station features period details, that famous refreshment room, a wartime ‘home front’ museum and mini-cinema.

Carnforth is still very much a functioning railway station serving destinations such as Leeds, Barrow and Lancaster, therefore the very best way to arrive and depart is by train. Indeed, if you are paying a visit to the heritage centre, there is plenty on the doorstep to enjoy. It is a short five-minute train journey to the next station down the line at Silverdale, where the famous reedbeds at the RSPB’s Leighton Moss Nature Reserve are a two-minute walk away.

Visiting nearby Warton Crag and Leighton Moss

A more adventurous day out involves a six-mile walk from Carnforth Station over Warton Crag, a Lancashire Wildlife Trust Local Nature Reserve and a fantastic limestone feature, famous for its spring wildflowers. The route heads over the summit of the crag to reveal fabulous views of Morecambe Bay, the Lakeland Fells, the Bowland Fells and the Yorkshire Dales. 

Wetlands
Visit the peaceful reserve of Leighton Moss/Credit: unknown, Getty

It’s an easy descent via Yealand Conyers, Leighton Hall and Leighton Moss to Silverdale Station to catch one of the hourly trains back to Carnforth.

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Check opening times for the heritage centre before you leave home. At the time of writing, the heritage centre and cinema is open Monday to Friday from 12pm to 4pm, although the tearoom is open on Saturdays. 

Authors

Chris Gee is the author of Walking the Yorkshire Coast: A Companion Guide.

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