ACTOR Bill Nighy described 'picturesque Settle' as having one of the 'finest landscapes in the country' when he travelled on the luxury Northern Belle from Carlisle for Channel 5’s The World’s Most Scenic Railways Journeys at the weekend.

And engine driver Chris Cubitt, on the footplate of the magnificent crimson steam engine Princess Elizabeth, proudly told viewers that Yorkshire was “God’s own country” before the train left Carlisle to head for the Dales.

As well as raving over the rugged, rainswept scenery, Surrey-born Nighy, 71, called the 1,300ft, 24-arch Ribblehead Viaduct “one of the great Victorian landmarks of northern England”.

But while passengers on the train sipped champagne, the film also showed railway enthusiasts Steve Thomson and Daniel Dobson waiting in the pouring rain to film the train crossing it.

“My wife thinks I’m a bit mad,” admitted a drenched but still laughing Steve, as he tried unsuccessfully to shelter under a windblown umbrella.

The Settle-Carlisle line has been voted number two in the top 10 of the world’s greatest railway journeys.

But the programme also paid tribute to the navvies who toiled in harsh conditions to build it during the 18th century.

Settle historian and novelist Sarah Lister said their lives were tougher than we could imagine and men died of exhaustion as well as in accidents.

More than 200 are buried in the graveyard at Chapel-le-dale.

After arriving back at Preston, Nighy described the Northern Belle as “the Grand Duchess of luxury travel”.

He said passengers had “discovered wonders that lie along the line” during their journey through some of Britain’s most beautiful countryside.

And he added: “Our plush grand tour has been the experience of a lifetime.”

Princess Elizabeth, which once hauled crack expresses through Skipton from London to Scotland, will be steaming through the Dales again on several occasions this summer.

See Bill Nighy in The World’s Most Scenic Railways on Channel 5 plus 1.

For more details on the train excursions,