It is not often one travels by train with a real live baron’s grandson to explore family history. Robin Graham, our knowledgeable writer from Southern Spain, was able to dig into the past of early train travel. Ronda, one of the most dramatic cities in Spain, has a train heritage that will make you want to ride the rails.
By Robin Graham
The train isn’t powered by steam anymore (actually it’s rather space-age with its information screens, vending machines and between-seat power points) but the country through which it wends its way from Algeciras to the mountain town of Ronda is largely unchanged and dramatically beautiful.
Rich green country covered in oak forest and lined with valleys and gorges full of rushing water; this was the challenging terrain through which Mr Alexander Henderson, the first Baron Faringdon, was commissioned to build a railway, connecting the British enclave of Gibraltar with the rest of Spain. By the year 1891, his work was complete.
I don’t know much about railroad engineering but if scenery is a criterion I’d say Mr Henderson did a spectacular job. I’m travelling the line back towards Algeciras and although I’ve done it before, this time’s different. Firstly, I’m working – I’ve been commissioned to document my trip by a company that seeks to revive interest in the physical and cultural beauty of the line. Secondly, I happen to be sharing a carriage with the first Baron Faringdon’s great grandson, Lord Faringdon III, and twenty-four of the extended family, reuniting here to celebrate their heritage.
So no, not a typical outing for me but a very enjoyable one, not least because the end of the line is Ronda, one of Spain’s most enchanting towns, and I get to hike the gorge while the great and the good go off to dinner.
Disclaimer: should you choose to explore the region by this beautiful old railway and see it from an angle most visitors miss, making use of all the cultural and gastronomic delights it throws up, it may not be possible for Lord Faringdon to accompany you. You can, however, enhance the historical vibe by staying in one or both of the two lovely hotels his ancestor built at either end of the line – the Reina Victoria in Ronda and the Reina Cristina in Algeciras.
Robin Graham writes about Andalusia, Spain and some other stuff. His stories can be found, with accompanying photography, at alotofwind. He’s a private person but, strangely, doesn’t mind being followed: @robinjgraham or liked on Facebook: alotofwind
Photography at 500px.