AW Wainwright in his A Coast to Coast walk, writes:
Every walker who plans a cross-country expedition refers to his maps, looks for the footpaths and the bridleways and the areas of open access, links them together by quiet roads and lanes that avoid roads and busy traffic arteries, and so devises a pleasant route to his objective that he is free to walk...without fear of trespass or restriction.
This is pretty much what we have done on our Coast to Coast walk but having said that...
The route is not an easy one. If you look through the photos you will see that many shots are taken from the tops of hills and mountains, and the way we got up there was to climb them! There are also pastures and paddocks and fields and moors and bogs. We walked across these to get from one side of England to the other. And the animals? It was an unusual day when we didn't eat lunch with the scent of cow or sheep adding an extra layer of flavour to our meals!
My original intention was to rate the accommodation as we did the walk, but there were all sorts of problems with this such as the differences in the types of accommodation (hotel, inn, B&B) and the price we paid each night. And our party often had different views depending on their personal preferences for things like soft eggs and hard beds (or hard eggs and soft beds).
You might recall that in an introductory post, I told you that our daily commitment was to "Rise early each morning and have breakfast. Walk purposefully and jauntily, in an animated, determined, and energetic manner, to our destination." After walking around 320km in 14 days, with one rest day, I could also add "Don't slur speech (tiredness, not alcohol) when checking in, don't swear when directed to hoist heavy bag up a narrow staircase, don't inadvertently deposit filth on the bed, wash favourite socks immediately or they won't be dry by tomorrow morning."
St Bees: Fairladies Barn. Two nights. Our room was so small we couldn't open our bag. Excellent internet (only in the dining room, but the lady let us sit there all morning on the day before our departure so we could finish off our work commitments). Awful sheets (fluffy yet not flannelette). Reasonable shower. Lady offended Coconut Water by saying "I don't serve fried eggs, only scrambled eggs - and anyway, scrambled eggs are better for your figure."
We ate at a local pub where we discovered the "The Large Glass of Wine." This is a 250ml glass and is apparently equivalent to two standard glasses of wine - a fact that was quickly forgotten because a large glass of wine is only one glass.
Ennerdale Bridge: Shepherd's Arms. Wonderful pub. Good dining room - we ate at the pub. Poached eggs for breakfast so Coconut Water was happy. Rubbish internet. Bath glorious (even though only one of our party's rooms had a bath, I was lucky enough to get it). Bags had to be lifted up the stairs - the beginning of two weeks of climbing stairs with bags.
Stonethwaite: Knott's View Guest House. Lovely little house that was hundreds of years old. Nice breakfast. Rob gave us a lift to the pub. But…..he also told us "Grasmere is only a little walk over the hill away. It'll take you two and a half hours, three hours at most, to get there…." Six hours later we arrived after a very challenging climb, and a long descent. From that time whenever our walks were more difficult than expected we called them 'Rob distances' ' (or more colourfully, Rob bullshit distances). In other words, we learnt that the walks were always much harder than people said they were going to be (maybe they were worried we wouldn't leave their establishments if they told the truth).
Note: Rob was a fell runner in his youth.
Grasmere: Thorney How Independent Hostel. We had to wait half an hour to get into our rooms. Pretty ordinary bunks (considering the price paid). Very ordinary breakfast. Great location, clean and tidy. Internet dodgy.
Patterdale: Old Water Inn Guest House. This is the Guest House that was favoured by AW Wainwright himself. Sherbet Lemon and Acid Drop got his room. Butterscotch Keeper and Coconut Water suspect they got his original bed. Very helpful host with a bog phobia (long story). Great location.
Shap: The Hermitage Guest House. This house was one of our favourites. Dated from early 1800s and everything was set up beautifully by a very nice owner. Great breakfast that got us set on a tinned grapefruit and prune odyssey. Ordinary meal in the pub down the road (half way through The Large Glass of Wine we didn't care).
Kirby Stephen: The Black Bull Hotel. Ordinary pub in good location. Sherbet Lemon fell down the stairs (not too seriously). Coconut Water didn't like her eggs. There were Jelly Beans in the rooms (but not in Sherbet Lemon's room - maybe that's why he fell down the stairs).
Keld: Butt House Guest House. Very nice guest house with lovely owners. Excellent breakfast (and we had dinner there the night before). No Large Glass of Wine - disappointing.
Reeth: Hackney House B & B. This was very nice. Excellent lemon syrup cake on arrival. Sherbet Lemon bumped his head on a low beam that ran between his bed, and Acid Drop's bed (with the benefit of hindsight, and all the Epsom salts (for muscle fatigue) he was consuming, he should have taken the bed closest to the bathroom).
Days 10 and 11
Richmond: King's Head Hotel for two nights. Window overlooked the old town square and the hotel was a lovely old building. This was the heat wave day and it was very hot in the room, but it gave us an excellent opportunity to wash and dry our clothes. The rest of our party stayed at Castle View, a luxury Georgian B & B. Coconut Water liked her eggs.
Ingleby Arncliffe: Somerset House Guest House. Being well aware of the law of defamation I will be factual. This was the worst place we stayed in (subjective statement of opinion). It had an extraordinary number of five star reviews on TripAdvisor (balance of views).
The hosts were pleasant and brought us a glass of wine on arrival. Nice touch (even though it wasn't The Large Glass of Wine). But the advertised 'close to Coast to Coast route' meant it was situated a few metres away from A MAIN ROAD THAT WAS ONE OF THE HANDFUL OF ROADS TO BE CROSSED IN 320KM OF WALKING. Butterscotch Keeper's toilet wouldn't flush. Sherbet Lemon's taps didn't work. Internet useless. Ugly wall mounted animal heads stared at us through breakfast. They could have eaten the breakfast and we wouldn't have cared.
Chop Gate: Buck Inn Guest House. Nice pub with a very friendly host who served good German sausages and a range of beers. Tiny rooms. Loose toilet seat (a common concern).
Blakey Ridge: Lion Inn Hotel. The pub sits on the moors in the middle of nowhere, and the position was brilliant. Rooms were small but clean, and all had a bath. The pub is a popular spot for tourist buses so was very busy. Perhaps our dislike for the busyness was linked to our increased intolerance in dealing with animals other than sheep, cows and the occasional pony.
Grosmont: The Gallery B & B. Excellent location and lodgings, including access to a common area where we cooked dinner (the pub was full so it was lucky we had an alternative). Access to The Large Glass of Wine was assured.
Robin Hood's Bay. Excellent if pricey (and no bath!). Breakfast not served until 8.30am which felt rather odd because we are generally on the road by then!
Advice for Coast to Coasters
Socks and Vaseline
Some people buy expensive woollen socks for walking (The Water Tank). Others buy support stocking types of long black socks (Acid Drop). Some swear by merino socks (Butterscotch Keeper has merino socks, long white surgical socks and a merino vest). Some insist on smearing Vaseline on their feet (Acid Drop again). Aside from giving you smooth moisturised feet, Vaseline is supposed to minimise the chances of getting blisters.
And please don’t think blisters only happen when your boots are new, or don’t fit properly. One day they'll fit perfectly and the next day…it is hotter than usual, the path is steeply downhill (or uphill), the ground is hard, the ground is soft, wet, or boggy (or you had a big lunch, or the stars are out of alignment). Whatever the cause, suddenly there is a sore bit and if it’s not treated immediately there is a blister. And after that there are a host of decisions to be made about popping (or not), band aids, taping, and the amount of complaining that others in your party will tolerate about a tiny little red thing underneath your toe that is AGONISING.
Thank you to my fellow travellers for their excellent humour (and photographic submissions). And thank you to everyone else who has read one, or multiple, posts. You are welcome to continue to visit my blog any time you like. I genuinely hope that you do!
Animals spotted on the Coast to Coast - and a few Scottish cows as well!