The Northern Belle Vintage Train pulled into Wilmslow Railway Station on Saturday the 1st October at 0555hrs and 108 very loyal supporters of the Francis House Childrens Hospice Charity embarked on a day trip to be remembered to Edinburgh.
The guests were greeted with a early breakfast of fruit and muesli and a glass of Bellini. Far too early in the morning was the cry but by the time breakfast proper arrived, of scrambled egg wrapped in a parcel of smoked salmon with crab and hollandaise and pastries, their tiredness had abated.
Dawn was breaking and the scenery was spectacular and waving train spotters en route were busy photographing this magnificent vintage train as we slowly made our way from Manchester to Preston and up through the Lakes having a running commentary from one guest Paul who had come down overnight by car from Morecambe to support Francis House only to travel back up on the train. He used his local knowledge and pointed out the view of Morecambe Bay and the surrounding countryside.
Our arrival in Edinburgh we were piped into Waverley Station and some of the guests boarded the coach to visit the Royal Yacht. It was fascinating to see the simplicity of the Monarch's bedroom and her car which accompanied her on all the journeys. Some of us had afternoon tea whilst on the Royal Yacht overlooking the Firth of Forth. The engineers amongst us who were interested in the engines would happily have stayed another hour to explore the two small steam turbines.
The five hours in Edinburgh was spent in a variety of ways with some passengers walking up to Arthur's Seat, others visiting Holyrood House to see the current exhibition of the Queens wardrobe. Some people visited the local hostelries and others shopped for cashmere, tartan and whisky and just soaked up the ambiance of the Royal Mile.
In true British fashion the passengers assembled at the appointed hour and we departed just before 6pm and sank into our most comfortable of seats. The seating plan had been prearranged in groups of four and two and on the return there was a buzz of excitement as we relayed our daytime Scottish tales. We had beautiful sunshine all the way up to Edinburgh and back down and as twilight arrived we tucked into a splendid meal of tian of confit duck with duck parfait and Cumberland dressing, followed by fillet of beef and trimmings, selection of cheeses from the British Isles, and finished off with banoffee pudding and a milk chocolate ice cream, petit fours and rainforest alliance coffee and tea.
Each passenger was given their own boxed personalised ticket as a collectors Item. There was an opportunity to sample a wonderful selection of wines as well as further glasses of champagne. The comments of the day were "This meal was almost Michelin standard!"
We organised a raffle of six bottles of champagne and overall we raised £8000. A big thank you from Kristina and Irene of Travel by Design of Alderley Edge who organised the event and donated all the proceeds to this very good cause.
Travel by Design are hoping to make this an annual event for Francis House Charity and in the meantime you may wish to consider a romantic journey the Belmond Northern Belle or the British Pullman or even the Orient Express ....... they would make great Christmas presents!
Personal thanks go to the charity organisers Carole Geary and June Powell who tirelessly helped Irene and Kristina organise the day working on the project for about ten months. Congrats to Carole who has just completed 20 years working for the Francis House Charity and was recently in the presence of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge at the opening of the new Francis House Lodge.