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I'm a consultant and trainer specialising in the recognition, evaluation and control of health hazards in the workplace. I'm based in the North West of England, but am willing to travel (almost) anywhere

My Hebridean Adventure

2022-05-14 14:42:30

I’ve wanted to visit the Scottish Islands for a long time but never got round to actually organising a trip other than an abortive visit to Arran which had to be cancelled due to an impending storm. But now I’ve got more time on my hands I decided I really ought to sort something out. One of the problems was deciding where to start – which islands should I visit, where should I go and what should I do when I got there and where should I stay? To resolve these questions I took inspiration from John, the husband of Anabel the Glasgow Gallivanter, who had joined an organised cycling trip along the length of the Outer Hebrides. So I looked at the available options and booked a week’s walking holiday on Skye, Harris and Lewis with Hidden Hebrides, who specialise in small group trips. They organised everything (except my journey too and from Inverness where the group gathered to be transported to Skye) – transport, accommodation, meals and routes – which really took the stress out of the holiday and meant I could really relax and enjoy myself. The only thing they couldn’t organise, of course, was the weather and as this was the Hebrides we had a mixture of brilliant sunshine, wind and rain! There’s a lot to write up about this trip so this post will provide a quick overview.

I’ve never done a group holiday before so was a little worried about whether I’d be the odd one out and whether I’d get on with the other people in the group, but there were no problems. There were only 7 of us (the maximum on Hidden Hebrides holidays is 8) and we all had something in common – a love of walking. There were 2 Scottish couples who were close friends but this didn’t create any difficulties. The other two members of our party, were like me, solo travellers – one Dutch and one Brit who had, until recently, lived in Manchester. Everyone mixed and gelled very well.

I travelled up to Inverness by train – An Avanti Pendolino to Edinburgh where I transferred to the Scotrail train to Inverness. It was a full day journey and the second leg took longer than the first, but that was compensated by the excellent views out of the window as we made our way relatively slowly with regular stops via Perth and then through the Cairngorms.

A slight delay meant I arrived in Inverness just after 5 pm. I checked in my hotel – the Premier Inn beside the river Ness – and, as it was a beautiful evening – took a walk along the river to the Ness Islands before my evening meal.

The next day wasn’t so nice. It was a grey start with rain promised and the latter started as I made my way to the station to join our guide and the rest of the group.

After the introductions we loaded our gear into the mini-bus and set off on the road to Skye. The rain got heavier and heavier during the journey which took us along the banks of Loch Ness (no monster seen – the weather was far too miserable so it must have stayed down in the depths of the loch!) and then on to the Kyle of Lochash where we crossed over the bridge onto the island. On the way, we stopped off at Eilean Donan to take in the view of the castle which has featured in films and TV programmes including the well known Highlander film while we ate our sandwiches. It’s very picturesque, even on a miserable day

Eilean Donan castle

After returning to the mini bus it was only a short drive before we were on the Isle of Skye where the weather continued to deteriorate until we were being battered by horizontal rain and strong winds.

We drove around for a while but the rain and low cloud meant there was little we could see of the the high mountains and the conditions were not conducive for enjoying a walk. Nevertheless, we managed to get out of the van for a walk on the Coral beach when the rain eased up. It wasn’t half windy though!

The Coral Beach on Skye

It was good to get out and stretch our legs and enjoy some fresh (and it was fresh) air and the scenery was pretty good, despite the conditions.

Returning to the van we drove over to our accommodation for the first 3 nights of our break. The group was split between two B and Bs and I had a room in the really excellent Ronan House, a real 5 star stay.

After we’d had time to settle in our Guide, John, returned to pick us up and with the rest of the group we drove over to Portree, the main town on the island, where we had a superb meal at the Cuchullin Restaurant on the main square.

My main course – perfectly cooked scallops on risotto

After a good night’s sleep and an excellent breakfast, the early mist started to clear, promising a fine day – a complete change compared to when we arrived.

The view from Ronan House

John, our Guide, who decided on the walking route depending on conditions, drove north from Portree, pas the Old Man of Storr up to the Quairaing at the northern end of the Trotternish ridge. The circular walk is very popular which isn’t surprising due to the spectacular, rugged and dramatic scenery and the views, on a beautiful day, over to the Scottish mainland and the Western Isles.

After a drive round the northern coast we took a short walk to stretch our legs up the pretty, so called “Fairy Glen” near Uig.

In the evening we had another tasty meal in Dunvegan.

We were promised another good day on the Monday but it started out rather grey and chilly. We drove over to Broadford, where we picked up supplies, and then on to the Strathaird Peninsula. Our walk took us past historic Clearance villages, along a sea loch with views over to the islands of Eig and Rum, and then, just after the cloud cleared and the weather turned bright and sunny, as we turned a corner, we finally got a view of the magnificent Cuillin range of mountains.

We were back in Portree for our evening meal

Looking over to the Black Cuillins from Portree

before returning to the B and B. We had an early start the next day as we had to catch the ferry from Uig over to Tarbert on the Isle of Harris.

The next three days would be spent on Harris and Lewis. Although nominally two “islands” they are actually part of the same land mass, which constitutes the 3rd largest island in the British Isles. Harris constitutes the mountainous southern part of the island with the larger Lewis being flatter (although not exactly flat!) and dominated by peat bogs.

The ferry took just short of 2 hours to reach Tarbet where we disembarked and made straight to the Harris Tweed and Harris Gin outlets which other members of the group were keen to visit to “support the local economy”. After they’d spent their money (!) we set out to visit the renowned beaches of the western coast.

After a drive along the dramatic twisting and turning “Golden Road” on the eastern side of the island – so called because of the cost involved in its construction – and a meal in tarbert, we drove down the spine road over to Stornoway, the main town on the island, on Lewis where we settled in to our accommodation for the next three nights. Not as fancy as Ronan House, my room was well appointed and comfortable.

The next day we drove through the rain over the peat bogs to the west of the Island and the remote settlement of Uig (same name as the port on Skye) with it’s magnificent beach where the renowned Lewis Chessmen were discovered.

We parked up near the small Abhainn Dearg Distillery and then set out in the rain for a walk along the dramatic cliffs nearby. Fortunately the rain eased off early in our walk.

Returning to our starting point we left our packs in the van. We then set off for a walk across the beach while John drove over to meet us at the other end .

The weather forecast for the next day wasn’t at all promising so no long walks were planned. During the morning, one of the highlights of the tour, was a visit to Marbhig, a crofting village in the South Lochs region of Lewis. Our guide, although British and from the flat lands of Peterborough, had married a local woman and lived on a croft in the village. As we took a walk around the village he explained about the crofting system, the way of working the land, how peat was cut for fuel, the history of the Clearances and the Pairc area crofts. A real inside view.

During the afternoon we drove over to the other side of the island to visit the Neolithic Callanish Standing Stones 

We had another half day in Stornoway before catching our ferry back to te mainland. We spent it exploring the grounds of Lews Castle, a Victorian Neo-Gothic Stately Home built for James Matheson who owned the island, which overlooks the town

and then visiting the excellent little museum where there were a small number of Lewis Chessmen displayed, which are on a long term loan from the British Museum.

After a visit to the shops in town to “support the local economy” we made our way to join the minibus ready for the ferry journey over to Ullapool on the mainland.

Then we drove back to Inverness for the end of the holiday. The 4 Scots were dropped off at the station to catch their train to Edinburgh while the rest of us were taken to our respective accommodation. We were all staying close to each other so decided to meet up for a final meal.

As there were engineering works on the railway I’d booked a flight back to Manchester from Inverness. This had the advantage of allowing me to return home for the Challenge Cup semi final when we were playing our old “enemy” Saint Helens. I shared a taxi with Liz, who was booked on the same flight. Despite a message to say the flight was going to be delayed we actually left on time and arrived ahead of schedule in Manchester! I said goodbye to Liz and waited for J to pick me up and drive me home. I arrived in good time for the match which, after a nail biting second half, we won!

I’d really enjoyed the holiday. The weather had been mixed, but this was the Hebrides. (I’ve heard that it rains on Harris and Lewis 2 days out of 3!).

I hadn’t done as much walking as I’d hoped, partly due to the weather but also the preferences of the whole group had to be considered. But I had a good time, had seen some magnificent scenery, visited some historic monuments, learned about the history of the islands . I’d enjoyed having some company, making a change from my usual solo walks and trips. I’d definitely consider booking another guided small group walking holiday, probably with Hidden Hebrides (I’d certainly recommend them to anyone considering a walking trip on the Scottish Islands). I quite fancy the Shetlands next!

Well, this has been quite a long summary. Despite that, I’ve a lot more I want to write up to record my memories. So more posts to follow!

A walk from Parbold

Last Thursday promised to be a fine day – time to take advantage of my changed work:life balance and get out for a walk. I didn’t feel like travelling to far so a local ramble was in order. I’ve spent countless hours wandering on the West Pennine Moors ever since I was a teenager, but I’ve never explored the countryside to the west of Wigan – unless you count a couple of stays at the Tawd Vale and Bispham Hall Scout camp sites when I was in the cubs and scouts – and even then we didn’t stray too far. So I decided to take the train over to Parbold (only a 15 minute journey from Wallgate station on the Southport line) for a walk that would take me through over a couple of small hills, down a hidden “fairy glen” and along a stretch of the Leeds Liverpool canal.

After a relatively dry spell of weather the the footpaths over the fields and through the woods were dry and the going was good. However, this would probably not be a good route to follow in the winter (unless there had been a hard frost) as looking at the uneven nature of the paths it was pretty clear that much of the route would be very muddy after a period of wet weather. Wellies would definitely be in order!

I left the station and walked through the village joining a quiet lane and then out onto the path through the fields

Belted Galloway cattle with their calves

After crossing a minor road I reached Hunter’s Hill. There used to be a quarry here, but it’s been transformed into a small Country Park and Nature Reserve

My route skirted the edge of the site from where there were extensive over the West Lancashire Plain over to the coast, with Blackpool Tower visible in the distance. There was a hint of the Lake District Hills on the horizon, but they were hidden in the haze.

Leaving the Nature Reserve my route took me down hill on a minor road

Passing the entry to Harrock Hall

before turning down a quiet lane

which would take me towards my next destination, Harrock Hill

I passed some attractive stone barn conversions (you’ve got to have a few bob to live around here – a pleasant area within commuting distance of Liverpool, Manchester and Preston)

and then turned off, climbing over a stile onto a path that led through the woods and across a field and then onto a path through woods up to the top of the small hill

At the summit there’s the remains of an old windmill, which dates back to the 17th Century

Leaving the summit, I turned south down another path through green fields which had extensive views across to the West Pennines

Looking over to the moors – Great Hill, Anglezarke, Rivington Pike and Winter Hill

Further along the path the views opened up to include Pendle Hill and the Bowland Fells

I was passing land owned by the Harrock Hall estate, my route effectively circumnavigating Harrock Hall, although it was hidden in the trees. The Hall dates back to the 17th Century and was extended in the 19th Century and is a listed building. It used to be the ancestral home of the Rigbye family, local landowners, and John Rigby, a Catholic martyr, was born here around 1670. He lived during the turbulent Tudor period when both Catholics and Protestants were executed due to their beliefs. Rigby was executed in 1600 and was canonised in 1970. A Catholic 6th Form College in Wigan is named after him.

I reached another minor road at High Moor and after a short distance on the tarmac turned down another minor lane and then along a path across the fields

Reaching the main Wigan to Parbold Road, I crossed over and set off down the Fairy Glen another Country Park. It’s a narrow wooded valley created by Sprodley Brook which has, over time, cut down through the underlying sandstone to create a narrow valley with small waterfalls and cliff faces. Despite living only a few miles away, and having driven past many times on the way to Southport, I never knew this very peasant hidden valley was here.

I emerged in fields overlooking Ashurst Beacon on the other side of the Douglas Valley

I carried on through fields and woodland where there were displays of bluebells

eventually reaching the Leeds Liverpool canal

I carried on along the towpath towards Parbold

More bluebells on the other side of the canal

I reached Parbold where I left the canal near the old windmill which has been converted into a gallery selling art works.

There’s a pub here

and a cafe

Time to reinvigorate myself with a brew and a cake!

https://explore.osmaps.com/route/12160988/parbold-hunter-hill-harrock-hill-fairy-glen?lat=53.599618&lon=-2.764020&zoom=13.4160&overlays=&style=Leisure&type=2d

The Bridestones and various other rocks

On Easter Saturday I decided to take advantage of the good weather and get out for walk. Travelling over the Easter holiday isn’t always an easy experience – the roads can be jammed and engineering works can make train travel difficult. However, I didn’t have any problem taking the direct train from Wigan to Todmorden for a walk I’d been planning for a while up to the Bridestones up on the hills to the north of the town. I wanted to take a look at the collections of millstone grit outcrops, with stones weathered into weird and wonderful shapes, of which there are a number up on the moors here.

I’d based the walk on a route in The West Yorkshire Moors by Christopher Goddard which I’d bought during a visit to Hebden Bridge a few years ago. It provides a good guide to this part of the Pennines with suggested walking routes with hand drawn maps including directions, walking instructions and background information. I didn’t follow his route exactly – I made a couple of “deviations” but it helped me navigate the otherwise potentially confusing web of paths up on the moors.

Looking up to the moors from the town as I left the station I could see that it was a little foggy, but it was burning off and I expected it to have cleared by the time I got up there – I wasn’t wrong!

I walked through the streets of terraced houses and started the steep climb up the steep rise of Meadow Bottom Row, passing a series small rows of of terraced houses set perpendicular to the road

and then past some interesting old houses

Chimney House on Meadow Bottom Road. This is a rather curious house which seems to have been converted from a former industrial premises and the chimney has been incorporated into the dwelling. I couldn’t find any information about the house but am intrigued as to its history.
Another view of Chimney House
Traditional style Pennine houses. Those windows suggest the original occupants would have been involved in spinning and hand loom weaving before the rise of the all conquering factory system of cloth manufacture in the north of England

The road had turned into a track by now and I turned off down a path that took me through some woods and then up onto the moor

near the golf course and the first collection of millstone grit outcrops that I’d encounter during the walk – the Butt Stones.

I climbed up to take in the view over the moors and down towards Todmoden (I had no interest whatsoever in the golf course!)

The view down to Todmorden. Still a little murkey due to the morning mist
Looking over the moor towards Whirlaw

After clambering back down I joined the Calderdale Way which, here, takes the route of an ancient lane. In the old days travellers would have followed trails high up on the moors rather than have to traverse through the wet and boggy valleys. Albeit the moors up here would also be described as such (and still are!) but it would have been worse down in the valleys.

It was easy walking along the path which climbed gently along the side of the moor. The path was contained between dry stone walls with fields on either side – there were several lonely farms up here.

In one of the fields I spotted some rather peculiar flat faced sheep which looked rather like four legged Teddy Bears. I’d never seen anything like them before. A little research suggests that they might have been Southdown sheep, although I’m no expert and could easily be wrong.

The “teddy bear” sheep. Unfortunately I had to zoom in and the photo isn’t too clear.

I approached Whirlaw and this is where I made my first deviation off the route, taking the path around the hill up towards Windy Harbour farm

joining the Todmorden centenary Way I encountered the stone carving of the Wizard of Whirlaw – looking like a Yorkshire version of an Easter Island statue.

The Wizard of Whirlaw

I haven’t been able to find out who carved this statue, but it was inspired by the novel of the same name, published in 1959, written by William (Billy) Holt, a well known character round these parts. I first came across him way back in the 1970’s when I read Millstone Grit, a book of a 50 mile journey around the Pennine towns of what was then the West Riding of Yorkshire and East Lancashire, which includes an interview with the 77 year old Billy. His life story is fascinating. He started work in a mill when he was 12 years old, but although he didn’t enjoy school he had a tremendous thirst for knowledge, teaching himself German. Like many working class men he joined up in 1914, seeing it as an opportunity to experience some excitement away from the monotony of the mills. After the war he became politicised, joining the Communist Party and leading a protest against the Means Test that led to a 9 month prison sentence. He stood for the local council while he was in jail and, although he didn’t win, came close to defeating the prominent sitting Councillor. However, on leaving jail he stood again and this time was elected.

He became a newspaper correspondent, travelling abroad to countries including Russia and covering the Spanish Civil War and also during and after WW2 did broadcasts for the BBC. Later on he ran a pioneering mobile library service and developed a ‘model’ farm. At the age of 66 he made a trip across Europe on Trigger, an aging ex-rag-and-bone horse he’d rescued. And as he clearly had time to spare(!) he took up painting and writing, authoring several novels and autobiographical works including the Wizard of Whirlaw.

I carried on along the path until I came to the collection of boulders that comprise the Whirlaw stones

I scrambled up on to the top of the rocks to take in the view

before carrying on and re-joining the Calderdale Way

After a short while I came to a squeeze stile which I squeezed through heading north up the hill through the heather

climbing up towards Bridestones moor

Bridestones farm

and cutting across up to the summit of the ridge and the main collection of shattered, weathered rocks

I’d reached the Great Bride Stones

There were a number of climbers “bouldering” – scrambling up the gritstone boulders

This collection of Millstone Grit rock formations stretches for about half a mile along the ridge. The rocks have been eroded by the wind and rain creating weird and wonderful shapes

The most famous being the Bottleneck Bride, a large boulder precariously perched on a narrow neck of rock.

The Bottleneck Bride

There was, apparently, a groom stood next to “her” once upon a time, but today “he” lies prone on the ground next to her having fallen over – or deliberatly knocked down – some time in the past.

There are other Bridestones on Staindale Moor, within Dalby Forest, on the edge of the North York Moors and a prehistoric cairn near Congleton in Cheshire bears the same name.

No-one knows for certain how these rock formations got their name, but one theory is that it is derived from the Celtic diety Bridia, also known as ‘Brigantia’, the goddess of the Brigantes tribe who lived in this part of England before the Roman Conquest.

I spent some time here looking around the rocks before setting off again following the path along the ridge.

before cutting across and taking the path heading down hill by Redmires Water.

At the end of the path I was back to Stony Lane and the Calderdale Way.

I turned left and followed the track and carried on for a while until I turned off down another track towards the next set of rocks the Orchan Stones, passing a couple of friendly ponies in a field by the junction

Reaching the Orchan Stones

I clambered up to the top to take in the views

Looking down to Todmorden
Looking over to Lancashire
Looking back up to the Bridestones

It was time to start my descent back down to the town. My route took me past Lower hartley Farm where I was “greeted” by two sheepdogs who started barking loudly as soon as the saw me. Luckily they were in the farm yard and garden and weren’t able to get out.

After crossing the field and along a track I started to descend

down to Rake Farm

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The 16th Century farm house had been done up very nicely

I carried on down the farm track, passing another farm

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and shortly after that I reached the edge of the town. I walked through a housing estate and then took a path through the woods and fields back to Meadow Bottom Row.

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Passing the little streets of terraced houses I descended and was soon back into the main part of the town down in the valley.

The trains to Manchester are very regular but I wanted to catch the one that went straight back to Wigan without the need to change at Manchester Victoria, so I had about 40 minutes to wait. I had a bit of a mooch around the town centre and bought myself a couple of tins of diet coke from Aldi (I didn’t fancy a hot drink but needed some liquid with some caffeine).

The border between the historic counties of Lancashire and Yorkshire
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The neo-Classical town hall which sits over the historic border between the red and white rose counties

Arriving back at the station I didn’t have too long to wait for my train

Rivington and Winter Hill

The mini “early Summer” was coming to an end – cooler and wetter weather was forecast to arrive. So, before this came to pass I decided I’d get out for another walk, this time closer to home on the West Pennine Moors.

I drove over to Rivington and parked up between the barns, booted up and set off to climb up the Pike. Some work was taking place in the Terraced Gardens which had resulted in some of the paths being closed so I decided to climb up the old road to the north of the Pike

emerging near the Pigeon Tower

Rather than turning right towards the summit I turned left and set off down the old Belmont Road

Looking over Anglezarke Moor

and then took the path up to the top of Noon Hill

where I stopped for a while to take in the familiar views

The peat seemed to be dry after the good weather the previous week so I decided I’d head up to Winter Hill. The path over the moor up to the top is notoriously boggy but I thought I’d take a chance!

and it was dry at first but I soon hit a fairly lengthy boggy section so a little bog hopping was required, but I soldiered on and eventually hit dry ground again.

Long range visibility wasn’t great, so the Lakeland Mountains, Pendle Hill and the Three Peaks were hidden in the haze, but there were good views down to Belmont and the morrs beyond

I carried on over the ridge passing the forest of telecommunication masts, passing Scotsman’s stump commemorating the notorious murder of a travelling salesman on the moor in 1838.

“In memory of George Henderson, Traveller, native of Annan Dumfrieshire who was barbarously murdered on Rivington Moor at noonday November 9th 1838, in the 20th year of his age.”

Reading up about the murder I was surprised to discover that at the time Winter Hill wasn’t as bleak and lonely as I’d have expected. There were a number of mines up on the moor (there remains evidence of some of them if you look hard enough), a brick and tile works, an ale house and even some houses. There was what was probably a well trodden route between Smithhills near Bolton to Belmont and on towards Blackburn. George Henderson wasn’t lost, as might have been supposed, but was on his way to Belmont having enjoyed a pint or two at the alehouse on the moor. There were several people around on the moor that day who were able to act as witnesses at the trial of his murderer.

I carried on along the road past the TV transmitter

and then joined the path over the peat towards the minor summit of Two Lads

The cairns on Two Lads

I’m curious about the name of this summit. Did it originate because of the two cairns standing there or are the cairns a reflection of the name? One story is that two young men froze to death up there, but who they were, and when it happened are lost in the mist of time, if, indeed, it happened at all.

I set off down the path over the moor to Pike Cottage

Looking over to the summit of the Pike from the path to Pike Cottage

where there’s a small cafe. Time for a brew and a snack!

Refreshed I carried on along the track towards the Pike.

I decided against climbing tot he summit but carried on along the track and then descended down the steep path at the edge of the Terraced Gardens by the Ravine, which I’d first “discovered” during a walk at the beginning of the year

Looking up the Ravine
Looking back up the Ravine from the bottom

The Ravine is an “enhanced” natural feature, created by the landscape designer, Thomas Mawson, who was responsible for the design of the Terraced gardens. It had fallen badly into disrepair, but had been restored during the major renovation of the gardens in recent years. 

From the bottom of the Ravine it was easy going back along the gentle paths through the woods to the car.

Bowscale Tarn

The weather just seemed to be getting better every day, so on the Wednesday, when I was due to return home, I wanted to make the most of the time I had left. The B and B said it was OK to leave my car so I set off from the farm with the intention of walking up to Bowscale Tarn.

I walked through Mosedale village on towards Bowscale.

On the roadside I noticed an old sign

A nearby information board told me that it was a boundary sign for the parish dating back to the 1830’s. Before reorganisation in 1934, when they were merged to form the current Parish of Mungrisdale, there were four individual townships in the area – Bowscale, Berrier & Murrah, Mosedale and Mungrisdale. “Township stones” were placed to mark the boundaries and these have been located and preserved by local people. The locations were marked on a map on the information board and I was able to find another one close by

I walked through the small settlement of Bowscale

and then turned up the lane that would take me up into the fells and Bowscale Tarn.

The path climbed gradually up the side of the fell

becoming a little steeper as I got closer to the Tarn. But it was good, easy walking with excellent views on a sunny day up Mosedale and across to Carrock Fell

The tarn sits in a glacial corrie (the hole left after the glacier that sat here had melted) and kept in place by a morraine (a bank of earth and rock dumped by the glacier) on the north side of the corrie. The walk up here was very popular during Victorian times. The path up from Bowscale village that I’d taken is relatively gentle most of the way so not too difficult for ladies in corsets and long skirts! I bet a lot of the well to do visitors would have been taken up in a pony trap or on horseback, mind.

There’s a legend that there are two immortal talking fish that live in the tarn and they’re even mentioned by Wordsworth in his poem ‘Song, at the Feast of Brougham Castle‘.

And both the undying Fish that swim
Through Bowscale-Tarn did wait on him,
The pair were Servants of his eye
In their immortality,
They moved about in open sight,
To and fro, for his delight.

I didn’t spot them so can’t confirm whether they can talk on not. Mind you, I couldn’t see any fish in the tarn.

There are a number of routes up on to the summit of fell from the tarn, one of them climbing up through the rocky crags on the south side of the tarn. You can make it out in the following picture I snapped

It was such a nice day and I was in no hurry to set off for home, so I decided I’d pay another visit to the summit. I decided to take the path up through the grassy section between the crags.

It was quite steep and there was a little scrambling over some rocky sections , but wasn’t too difficult and it didn’t take me too long to get to the top of the path.

Looking down on the tarn as I climbed

I then had a walk up the grassy slope to reach the summit.

Blencathra seen from the summit
Skiddaw and Great Calva

There was one other walker who was already there when I reached the top. We had a chat, as you do, but I didn’t stop long and made my way back down. Initially following the same path but I carried on down the gentler slope rather than negotiating down to the tarn on the steep path.

The view of Carrock Fell as I descended

The final section of the descent of the mountain was steep enough mind and brought me down to a path below the tarn. Then another steep path took me down towards the River Caldew by Roundhouse farm.

Roundhouse farm

I crossed over the footbridge and past the farm to join the minor road down past Swineside and back to Mosedale.

It was only about 1 o’clock when I was back at Mosedale End farm and I wasn’t ready to head home so I decided that rather than drive back to the A66 and onto the M6 at Pensrith, I’d drive in the opposite direction down the narrow country roads and have a look at the village of Caldbeck. I’d never been there before.

It didn’t take long to get there and I parked and had a mooch around. It’s an attractive village with old houses that have been done up very nicely and a few shops.

I took a walk along the river

as far as the old church

The attractive church is dedicated to St Kentigern who is better known in Scotland as St Mungo. It was built in 1112 and still has some Romanesque (Norman) features. But like most old churches there’s been a number of extensions and modifications showing Gothic influences.

Romanesque doorway

I had a quick peek inside but didn’t take any photographs.

The old mill – now housing a couple of crafty shops
Village green and duck pond

It didn’t take long to explore the village but before I went back to the car I decided to have a brew in the little riverside cafe, the Muddy Duck. It’s a hut really with benches outdoors on the riverside. I got myself a coffee and sat on one of the benches enjoying the drink in the sunshine.

Looking over the river as I drank up my coffee

Then it was time to return to the car and set off for home. I’d had a good short break and could have stayed up in the Lakes for longer. I’d done the walking I’d planned but there was the possibility of going up Blencathra from Mungrisdale. However, if I had stayed longer I would have wanted to move on to a different part of the Lakes. But that was academic. I had some commitments the next day.

The good weather continued for a few more days, but then a cold front came in leading to a significant drop in temperature and bringing in rain and even some snow. Well that’s the British weather for you!

Carrock Fell, High Pike and Knott

Another fine day was promised as I set out from Mosedale End farm, heading up the quiet road to Stone Ends where I’d start my ascent up Carrock Fell.

The fells “back o’ Skiddaw” are, in the main, rounded, grassy hills. Carrock Fell is the exception. According to Diana Whaley’s A Dictionary of Lake District Place-Names, it’s name derived from the Cumbric carreg (rock, stony place), means “rocky height” and that is a good description of this fell composed of volcanic rock, including, uniquely for Lakeland, gabbro, an igneous rock that’s also found in the Black Cuillin mountains on the Isle of Skye. The fell is also known for the ruins of an iron age fortress that surround its summit and was climbed by Charles Dickens and Wilkie Collins, an adventure described by Dickens in The Lazy Tour of Two Idle Apprentices. (I managed to download a Free Kindle version from Amazon)

I’d had a good night’s sleep and ready for a good walk. The owners of the farm were busy, it was lambing time, and the fruits of their labour were clearly evident in the fields

The farm stood at the foot of Carrock Fell and I’d considered a number of routes up, including a direct ascent from the village. However, talking to my landlady I decided that the more popular route from Stone Ends, about a mile up the road, was a better bet. Talking to someone later who I met on the summit who’d come up from the village, I think I’d made a wise decision.

Approaching Stone Ends

Reaching Stone Ends the path up the fell, skirting the crags, was visible.

I started to make my way up. The path climbed gradually at first but became steeper as I ascended, skirting the rocky crags.

As I cimbed I could see someone else coming up behind me. He was making good, steady progress and I wondered how long it would take for him to catch me! Well, catch me he did about three quarters of the way up, and we stopped to chat. He’d retired early from local government in the south of Scotland, living just over the other side of the Solway, and was now working as a walking guide. Lucky fellow! he was originally from Hull and was a Rugby League fan, so we had quite a lot in common and had plenty to talk about as he joined me on our journey towards the summit.

It was windy on top, but the temperature was pleasant and it was warm in the sun.

On a good day it’s possible to see for miles over the Solway to Scotland. However, long range visibility was poor so our northern neighbour was hidden in the murk.

Looking towards Skiddaw

The remains of the fortress, the foundations of the walls, were clearly visible, though. It would have been a hard existence up here, wild wet and windy for much of the year but it would have been a commanding position, on the edge of the fells overlooking the coatal plains. The fort is supposed to have been built by the Celtic inhabitants of this region – the Brigantes. It’s also supposed to have been attacked and destroyed by the Romans. It would have been hard work charging up the steep sides of the mountain so they must have been pretty determined to defeat and dislodge the inhabitants of the fort.

After a rest, sheltering from the wind behind the handy rocky ruins, I set off for my next destination, High Pike – there it is, in the distance.

I knew what to except. I’d watched a youtube video where Ed Byrne and my fellow Wiganer Stuart MaConie walk in the opposite direction, so I wasn’t surprised to find that I needed to do quite a bit of bog hopping . (The Ed Venturing videos, where he interviews comedians / personalities during a walk, are worth watching).

Looking back to Carrock Fell.

Fortunately I didn’t get swallowed up in the peaty depths and it didn’t take too long to reach the summit of High Pike – as well as being the most northerly Lakeland summit over 2000ft, it’s also the only Wainwright on the Cumbria Way, so the final stretch to the summit was on a good path as I joined the route.

On the summit there was a very convenient memorial bench to park myself while I had my sandwiches.

Long range visibility was still poor so no sight of the Solway, Scotland and the Isle of Man ‘😢

But I could make out a murky Blencathra

and Skiddaw

Looking over to Carrock Fell, I didn’t like the look of the dark skies over to the east.

I had my rain jacket in my pack but I wasn’t expecting to use it. The weather forecast definitely had not mentioned rain, but, then, this is the Lakes. I crossed my fingers and hoped the dark clouds wouldn’t come my way. I was reasonably optimistic as the wind was blowing from the south, but you should always be prepared for rain up on those fells.

Where to next? It wasn’t long after midday and I wasn’t in a hurry so I decided to carry on and head for Knott. I took the Cumbria Way which traversed the flanks of Great Lingy Hill. I could always drop down into the Mosedale valley if it started to bucket down.

As I walked over the quiet fellside I spotted what looked like a garden shed perched high up on the fell. What was that doing there? On reaching it, I found that it was the Geat Lingy Hut a bothy maintained by the Mountain Bothy Association.

I had a peek inside

It wasn’t very big or substantial, but would be a welcome resting place for walkers crossing these isolated fells, perhaps when walking the Cumbria Way in rain, hail or snow. Providing it didn’t get blown away, that is. It was windy and the wind could be considerably stronger at times, particularly like during the storms we’d recently encountered. I did notice, however, that the hut was secured by guy ropes so, hopefully, anyone taking shelter during a storm wouldn’t find themselves lifted up into the clouds.

This was the view down to Mosedale from the hut

Unsurprisingly, some bog hopping continued to be the order of the day as I made my way down the valley and then onwards up to the broad, featureless, grassy summit plateau.

Carrying on, I could see my next destination, Knott. Surrounded by other grassy fells, it’s a long way from a road and requires a long walk across the rough ground to reach it. So it made sense to include it in my walk, taking in the summit while I wasn’t too far away.

High Pike and Carrock Fell from Knott
The view towards Great Calva and Skiddaw
The back of Blencathra
A murky view of Lake Bassenthwaite

Time to set back down towards Mosedale. I retraced my steps through the bogs down to Grainsgill beck, crossing over and joining the Cumbria Way. Most people following this trail would be walking in the opposite direction, but I descended down the path towards Mosedale valley.

As I reached the valley floor I passed the remains of the old Carrock Mine, a Scheduled Monument.

Ruins of the mill and processing plant
One of the mine adits that’s been preserved.

Mining for lead and copper had taken place hereabouts since the 16 th century, but early in the 20th Century tungsten was discovered here. Tungsten is a hard metal and when alloyed with steel creates alloys with a number of applications, including armour plating. In 1906 the mine was taken over by two Germans and it’s likely that a lot of tungsten was sent to Germany and used in armour plating on German warships. The mine closed in 1911 but was reopened during the First World war when the need for the metal justified the cost of the ore’s extraction and processing. It closed after the war but was reopened in 1942 again closing after the war. The viability of the mine depended on the price of tungsten and mining began again in the 1970s and continued until it finally closed in 1981. There’s a detailed chronology of the mine’s history on the Cumbria Amenity Trust Mining History Society website.

It was easy walking now along a gravel track which eventually turned into a metalled road

which took me back to Mosedale

After a long walk I was glad that I didn’t have to drive back down the busy motorway. After showering I settled down for a relaxing evening in my comfortable B and B.

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Souther and Bowscale Fells

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With good weather forecast in late March, I decided I’d take advantage of my new working arrangements and head up for a short break in the Lakes, booking a room “back o’ Skiddaw” at Mosedale End Farm. I fancied tackling Carrock Fell and had a route planned that would be a good day walk, but I wanted to save that for a day when I wouldn’t have a drive home at the end. So, after driving up to the Lakes on the Monday morning I parked up in Mungrisdale and set off for a walk up a couple of fells I’d been up before – Souter Fell and Bowscale Fell, but reversing the direction of my previous ramble.

The bridge at Mungrisdale

It wasn’t too busy when I arrived in Mungrisdale, so I didn’t have any trouble finding a parking space opposite the Village Hall. I put paid my £2 voluntary donation and set off. There was a walk along a quiet road, which leads to Scales, before I turned off up the path up Souther Fell. It was a fine day with blue skies, but with a strong breeze, particularly higher up on the fells.

This path is regularly used by hang glider enthusiasts who launch themselves from the summit of the modest fell, but there were none around today, and I didn’t see anyone else as I made my way slowly up the fell, dodging the occasional boggy section.

Reaching the summit plateau, there was a good view over to Bannerdale Crags and Blencathra. From this angle it was clear why the latter is also known as Saddleback.

Sother Fell is a whaleback hill so I turned north and walked over to the high point, before turning south, retracing my steps for a short distance before making my way to the summit which marks probably the best viewpoint on the plateau.

Zooming in on Blencathra with Sharp Edge clearly visible

I carried on down the path heading off the hill and towards Blencathra, but that wasn’t my destination today. Instead, reaching the hause between Souther and Scales Fells, I descended towards White Horse Bent, crossing over the Glenderamackin and then following the path on the north side of the river with Blencathra and Sharp Edge dominating the view.

It was quiet today – I encountered only a few people during my walk – and I couldn’t see any brave soles making their way along the narrow arête.

I carried on climbing up to the col between Bannedrale Crags and Blencathra. I could have turned left now, and made my way up Blencathra via Foule Crag, a steep climb but a route up the mountain I’d like to try. However, time was getting on so that would have to wait for another day. Instead I turned right and followed the path up Bowscale. The ground was soggy underfoot and quite a bit of bog hopping was required, but I managed to keep my feet dry.

Looking across the valley to my right, I could see across to Souther Fell

I reached the summit with good views all round, although longer range visibility was poor.

Blencathra – lit looks different from the top of Bowscale Fell
Looking east over the fell
Zooming in on Carrock Fell
Looking over towards Knott

I walked down the hill a little in a northerly direction, peering over the drop down to Bowscale Tarn

Bowscale Tarn and Carrock Fell

and then retraced my steps back to the summit. I took a short breather before starting my descent, bog hopping down and joining the path that descends down the side of the Tongue to the Gleneramackin

A view of Bannerdale Crags as I descended

Reaching the bottom of the valley I followed the river back to Mungrisdale. After changing out of my boots I drove the short distance through the village and on to Mosedale and my home for the next couple of days – Mosedale End Farm at the foot of Carrock Fell.

Mosedale End Farm is, as it name implies, a real working farm which has three comfortable, rooms let on a bed and breakfast basis plus a Glamping pod. I stayed in the Grainery Suite. All the rooms have basic cooking facilities which meant I didn’t have to go out to find somewhere to eat when I was tired after a good day’s walk – especially as the farm is rather isolated in a very small and quiet village with no facilities (although the pub in Mungrisdale isn’t so far away). After a refreshing shower I made myself a brew and something to eat before settling down for a relaxing evening reading and watching a bit of TV. I turned in early, looking forward to another good walk the next day.

Clapham and Norber round

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Only a week after returning home from our holiday in Settle, I was up early and driving back to the Dales. When flicking through the walking guides on holiday I’d spotted several references to the Norber erratics and rather fancied basing a walk around them. I decided to start off in Clapham (not the one in London I would add) following the route in the Cicerone guide to the Dales (South and West).

Arriving in the small village, I parked up in the National Park run car park. It cost £4-80 for the full day, which I consider to be reasonable – compare that with what it costs in central Manchester. Several other cars pulled up and the occupants of a number of the large “SUVs” which have become popular, (often as a way of showing off) were quite put out by the fee, expressing their dissatisfaction. Perhaps I shouldn’t be surprised that people who like to swank around resent making their contribution to the upkeep of the facilities, which they can surely afford. But if they’re that hard up maybe they should choose a cheaper car.

Rant over!

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So, I booted up and set off walking through the village
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past the church
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and took the track that took me towards, and under the tunnels built by the local landowners to prevent travellers along what was a major route wouldn’t have to cross the Ingleborough Hall Estate.
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There was a short steep climb after the tunnels
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I was soon passing through fields of sheep with views over to the limestone crags and hills.
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I climbed over the stile, leaving the old track and taking the path through the fields towards Norber
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Reaching a fingerpost I took the path up the hill
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and after a short climb reached the plateau
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covered with erratics – rocks that had been picked up by glaciers in the ice age and carried down the glacier and then dropped some distance from their source once the glacier melted.
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The Norber erratics are gritstone rocks, but they were deposited on limestone. Over time the softer limestone was eroded away by acidic rain, but the hardier, gritstone, much less susceptible to erosion, sheltered, protected and preserved the limestone underneath the boulders. So today many of the large boulders are “propped up” by the limestone, standing proud above the ground, perched on their “pedestals”

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I spent a little time mooching around the boulders taking a few snaps
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Then it was time to move on. I headed for the ladder stile and then followed the path across the moor
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passing outcrops of limestone and stretches of limestone pavement.
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I carried on alaong the path, climbing gradually. It was easy, pleasant walking
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Views started to open up of Penyghent
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zooming in
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As I carried on Ingleborough came into view
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I reached this large pyramidal cairn. I carried on a little until I reached the Pennine Bridleway
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I turned onto the bridleway, first of all heading west. There’s Ingleborough dead ahead.
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After a while the bridleway swung to the south
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and carried on down Long Lane back towards Clapham
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Looking across the valley towards the bottom of Trow Gill
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at the end of Long Lane (and it is long!) I reached the track from Clapham I’d walked along a few hours before. I could have headed back down through the tunnels to the village but it was a nice day and still early in the afternoon so I thought I’d extend the walk, so I turned left along the lane retracing my steps from earlier. This time though I carried on past the stile and took another path accross the fields towards the village of Austwick.
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Austwick is another pretty village full of attractive old stone cottages. They would have originally have been the homes of the agricultural labourers and quarry workers who worked in the ara. Today they’re expensive homes and holiday cottages.
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At the bottom of the village there’s a path that leads through the fields to Clapham.
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Getting closer to Clapham – that’s Ingleborough Hall. Originally the home of the Farrer family, the local Lords of the Manor, today it’s an outdoor activity centre owned by Bradford Council
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I arrived back in Clapham
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Time for a brew in the cafe in the old Manor House – a listed building, built in 1701 and converted into a Reading Room in 1790.
A reading room? Apparently :
 “Nearly every village in the Yorkshire Dales was provided at some time with a Reading Room or Literary Institute. Non-conformist communities particularly valued the opportunity for sober education provided by such places and this coincided with the interest of the middle classes in keeping their workers out of public houses.” (source)

After a quick stroll around the village I changed out of my boots and then set of back home. It had been a sunny, but windy day. The weather forecast was looking good for the next few days. That gave me an idea……

A short walk along the Ribble

On the last day of our little holiday in Settle, the weather forecast was predicting rain in the afternoon – the first proper rain we’d experienced during the week. However, it was sunny when I got up in the morning, so I decided on a last walk – a short walk around the Ribble to Langcliffe and back.

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Just a short distance to the bridge over the Ribble – this is the view looking upstream towards the weir.
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I took the path on the right bank of the river, heading upstream. This shot shows the back of the former Watershed Mill and the row of cottages where we were staying.
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Walking along the riverside path
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Looking across the fields towards Giggleswick scar
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The path turns away from the river, through the fields towards the small hamlet of Stackhouse
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There was a short stretch on the tarmac of a quiet, minor road to reach Stackhouse
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Some nice stone cottages in the small hamlet
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Former workers’ cottages in the main – I bet they cost a packet these days.
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I took the path leading back towards the river and Langcliffe
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There’s the weir – a couple of men are doing some maintenance work by the looks. They’ll be getting wet!
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I crossed the footbridge – this is the view downstream
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There’s a large paper mill a short distance downstream of the weir. It’s been there a long time but is still operational. This row of cottages were no doubt were originally occupied by mill workers. Amazingly, there’s a caravan site adjacent to the mill.
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There’s the mill ahead/ the water you can see is the mill lodge which stores and supplies water for the paper making process.

I passed the mill and then took a quiet minor road which led up to the B6479 just a short distance north of our holiday cottage. A few minutes later and I was back inside heading for the kettle! The weather had remained reasonably fine – overcast but interspersed with some periods of sunshine. A nice final walk of about 3 miles.

In the afternoon we wandered into Settle and did a little mooching and shopping. The rain arrived a little later than forecast and we were back indoors before it really got gong. Time to relax and do a little reading before a final meal.

Ribblehead and Hawes

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Thursday, during our stay in Settle, was something of a grey day. I had to run a web tutorial early evening, which limited out options a little, so we decided to go out for a drive – the first time we’d used our car since we’d arrived for our break the previous Saturday.

We headed north on the B6479 up Ribblesdale, through Horton-in-Ribblesdale and on to Ribblehead where we stopped to take a look at the rather majestic Ribblehead viaduct.

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The viaduct stands below Whernside, the highest of the three peaks, and is overlooked by Ingleborough. It takes trains across the windswept moor as they make their way from Settle to Carlisle.

The line was built by the Midland Railway company, which before nationalisation of the railway network, was in competition with the London and North Western Railway (LNWR). The Midland Railway wanted to use the LNWR’s lines to run trains up to Scotland but they refused. The Settle Carlisle line was the Midland Railway’s way of getting round this. The route was surveyed in 1865 and the Midland got permission from parliament to build it. However, before work started they had second thoughts due to the cost – but the Government insisted that they go ahead. So the line was constructed, running through some dramatic countryside in the Yorkshire Dales and Westmoreland.

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Back in the 80’s, British Rail wanted to close the line. Ribblehead and other viaducts and bridges needed repairing and they saw this as an expensive luxury. However, a campaign was launched to save the line by rail enthusiasts, local authorities and residents along the route and they persuaded the government to save the line. As it turned out, the repairs were nowhere as expensive as projected and the renewed interest in the route has made it popular with tourists. Scheduled trains are run by Northern Rail (that’s one of their trains crossing the viaduct in the picture above) and special excursions are also run along the scenic route, on trains often hauled by steam engines.

We parked up the car and took a short walk up to and under the viaduct

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The viaduct overlooked by Whernside
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Looking over to Ingleborough
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The arches (24 in all) stand 104 feet (32 metres) above the moor

After inspecting the viaduct and taking in the scenery, we got back in teh car and set of down the road through Widdale towards the village of Hawes at the head of Wensleydale. The road wound through bleak, but scenic, moorland. Not that I could see much as I had to keep my eyes on the road!

It didn’t take long to reach the village and, being out of season, we didn’t have any trouble finding a parking space. There’s been a market town here since 1307 and they still hold a market every Tuesday. We had a little mooch while we looked for somewhere to eat. Everything seemed to be constructed from stone and looked very quaint and attractive. I suspect that many of them aren’t as old as they perhaps first appear – probably Victorian (but I could be wrong)

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After we’d had a good look at the viaduct we returned tot eh car. We’d decided to drive along Wensleydale to Hawes, where we hoped to get a bite to eat.

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Being something of a honeypot, there were plenty of places to eat. Peering through the window I liked the look of the White Hart Inn. Although there wasn’t a menu posted outside I had a good feeling about it and was proved right as we enjoyed a rather tasty, freshly cooked meal far better than your average, unimaginative pub food.

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We ate in a cosy lounge with a real fire in a range set in an old fireplace

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After our meal we had an hour or so before we needed to return to our cottage. Now Hawes is known for being the home of Wensleydale the favourite cheese of Wallace of Wallace and Grommit fame.

Cheese was first made in the area by monks from a nearby monastery and cheesemaking continued even after they’d left. In May 1992, Dairy Crest, Board, closed the Hawes creamery transferring production of Wensleydale cheese to the Longridge factory in Lancashire. This didn’t go down too well in Yorkshire! However, following a management buyout, production restarted in Hawes. The business has flourished – helped by the publicity to Wensleydale cheese in the Wallace and Grommit films.

We decided to visit the creamery where there’s a shop and restaurant and factory tours. Unfortunately we’d missed the last tour so had to console ourselves by purchasing some cheese in the shop.

Returning to the car we drove back along the road to Ribblehead and then back down Ribblesdale. The weather had brightened up a little and I stopped to grab a photograph of Penyghent, partially lit up by the sun.

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