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 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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Over Giggleswick Scar to Feizor

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The Tuesday of our holiday in Settle we spent mooching around the town and the “twin” village of Giggleswick and we went to a concert in the evening at the Victoria Hall to see a band called Moishe’s Bagel who played folk / world music. We’d never heard of them but thought it would be good to get out and we certainly enjoyed the evening. They are, apparently, regulars at the venue and it was certainly packed out with locals.

The following morning I planned a route that would take me over Giggleswick Scar, which we could see from the window in our holiday let, and then on over the moors to the hamlet of Feizor.

So, I booted up, packed my rucksack and set off over the bridge to Giggleswick.

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The view from the bridge (apologies to Arthur Miller!)

I skirted the village and was soon walking up on the open moor towards the Scar

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The view across to the hills I’d walked the previous Sunday
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Starting the climb up towards the scar. The summit of Penyghent just visible in the distance
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Continuing up the hill
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At the top of the climb I took the path under the dramatic limestone cliffs of Giggleswick Scar
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There were a number of caves visible up in the cliffs.
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Drystone walls even up here. It must have been hard work building this one that went right up and over the cliffs
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Towards the end of the scar the path turned right and climber up on to the moor
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Heading north now and Ingleborough appeared on the horizon
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I carried on, and after a while the small settlement of Fiezor came into view
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It’s a hamlet rather than a village but it has a rather good, and popular, cafe. Time to stop for a brew!
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Refreshed, it was time to recommence my walk, climbing over the stile immediately opposite the cafe
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On through a field, passing a couple of grazing donkeys
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and a herd of cattle. That looks like a bull over towards the wall. It was too busy munching to notice me but I didn’t hang around and hopped over the stile fairly sharpish!
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I was back on the open moor now, following the path towards Stainforth on the Dales High Way. That’s Pot Scar over the valley
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with Smearsett Scar further ahead. There was the possibility of climbing tot he top, but I carried on following the Dales High Way path. That’s a climb for another day, I think.
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The summit of Penyghent appeared in the distance
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Looking down into the “Happy Valley”, a glacial valley mentioned by Wainwright in his “Walks in Limestone Country”
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A section of limestone pavement
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Looking across towards Penyghent as I started to descend
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Descending towards Little Stainforth
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Coming off the moor
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Passing through the small settlement of Little Stainforth, also known as Knights Stainforth
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I passed the rather grand Knights Stainforth Hall, an old manor house built in 1672. It’s a Grade 2 listed building
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I carried on down the hill, reaching the old packhorse bridge we’d crossed only two days before. I decided to revisit the water fall and have a bite to eat while resting by the water.
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There wasn’t another soul to be seen – although an RAF transport plane flew over head while I rested. That woke me up, I can tell you!
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I took the path crossing the railway line and passed through Stainforth village, then made my way along the path that climbed up Stainforth Scar.
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The view back across the valley towards Ingleborough
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and over towards Penyghent
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Crossing the fields after climbing up the scar
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Taking the path towards Lower Winskill farm
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Passing the farm, I tool the path through the fields and started the descent towards Langcliffe
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It was a steep descent
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Looking back up the hill.
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Looking back to Stainforth Scar after I’d finished my descent
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I followed the old lanes through the network of fields. We’d walked along them on Monday.
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I reached Langcliffe, emerging by the Community hall,
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and then walked across the village green.
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I decided to take the old road back to Settle and then made my way back to our cottage. I was ready for a brew!

This was another good walk and I could see plenty of scope for variation – including climbing Smearsett Scar and visiting Catrigg Force waterfall. Further exploration of the area is certainly warrented.

Settle and Stainforth circular

The Monday of our holiday in Settle, the weather had changes somewhat, the skies having clouded over. However, rain wasn’t forecast so we set out on a walk. We thought we’d head along to Langcliffe on the old road from Settle and then, if the weather held, carry on to Stainforth- and that’s how it worked out.

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Walking on the old road from Settle to Langcliffe. No traffic at all! The road has drystone walls on both sides
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Looking over the fields towards Giggleswick and Giggleswick Scar from the old road
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Reaching Langcliffe we had a look around the old village with it’s large village green
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There’s been a settlement here from before the Norman invasion, but the village’s heyday would have been in the 18th century with the growth of the textile industry. Spinning was the first process to be mechanised with weaving done at home by hand loom weavers. This was eventually mechanised too and several mills were built in the vicinity. Most of the attractive looking stone cottages would have been the home of textile workers – they’re desirable homes and holiday lets these days
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The war memorial – there are 11 names listed from the First World War, and 4 from the Second World War.
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We set off down the old lane towards Stainforth
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The fields divided by dry stone walls, many of which were built following the enclosure of common land – effectively privatisation of the land – during the 17th and 18th centuries
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Ahead we could see Stainforth Scar.
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However, we back tracked a little and took the easier, flatter (albeit a little muddy) lower level route across the fields
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The route took us past the former lime works with the remains of the massive Hoffman continuous kiln, built for the Craven Lime Company in 1873.
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The remains of the Hoffman kiln
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Carrying on through the fields under Stainforth Scar

We reached the small village of Stainforth. I’d hoped we might to stop for a bite to eat in the local pub. I was disappointed though – it’s shut on Mondays!! So we carried on, crossing the main road and making our way down the quiet, narrow lane towards Stainforth bridge

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The old packhorse bridge over the River Ribble, built in the 17th Century, links the villages of Stainforth and Little Stainforth (also known as Knight Stainforth) and is today under the stewardship of the National Trust
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We crossed the bridge and joined the riverside path, making our way very carefully along the very muddy and slippy path towards Stainsforth force
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After stopping for a while to admire the view, we carried on along the riverside path back towards Langcliffe
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where we crossed over the bridge overlooking the weir.

We made our back along the old road to Settle where we stopped for a brew in a peasant cafe on the market square.

A longer Settle Loop

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Sunday morning I was up early and greeted by what promised to be a fine day. After a leisurely breakfast I mad up some sandwiches and a flask of coffee and got ready for a walk up on the hills. No need to drive anywhere to start the walk as I was able to set out from the front door.

A few months ago I’d seen Alistair Campbell (not my favourite person) walking in this area on a Winter Walk on TV. Watching this had inspired me to do some walking around here and when we were thinking of where we might stay for a short break, Settle came to mind. I’d seen a circular route from Settle on the Discovering Britain Website (the downloadable booklet describing the walk includes some very interesting information by a local) and had originally thought I’d follow that. However, on the day I decided to extend the walk, heading towards Malham and then looping back towards Langcliffe on the Pendle Bridleway. I could have extended further by popping into Malham, but a quick calculation suggested I’d have trouble getting back before sunset and didn’t want to get stuck in the dark on unfamiliar moors. Going into Malham was certainly doable but I’ll have to save that for another time when longer days would allow me to linger for a while.

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The view from the front door
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The neighbours across the road

I had to walk into Settle and then head up through the streets on to the old Langcliffe Road, before turning off onto the moor.

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Looking down over Settle
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Setting off down the lane onto the moor
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Zooming in onto the row of mill houses and the old mill. I could see our holiday home and our car!
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On the moor now. An old drystone wall on my right. I’d be saying mile upon mile of them during my walk
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I turned off the Langcliffe path climbing steeply up the hill. This is the view looking back down towards settle and the Giggleswick Scar
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Nearing the top of the climb Penyghent came into view
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Close to the summit of the path now, with the Warrendale Knotts on the left
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Well into limestone country now
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The limestone cliffs are riddled with caves
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Attermire Scar came into view
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Looking back towards the Warrendale Knotts
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Attermire Scar. It’s almost hard to believe that these mighty cliffs were created from the skeletal remains of tiny sea creatures
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Looking back again
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I stopped for a brew and a croissant and took yet another photo looking back to the limestome cliffs. The terrain to the left is very different as the scars mark the change from millstone grit to limestone geology. The land to the left is very boggy and that’s the origin of the name of Attermire – “mire” is an old word for bog
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Looking over the mire I had a hazy view of Pendle Hill
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The route now took me over a stile and onto the Stockdale Lane.
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I was on tarmac for a while on the quiet lane but it turned into a rough track after the turnoff for Stockdale farm. A gradual climb now for a few miles on the path towards Malham
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A couple of miles before Malham I turned north. Malham Tarn soon came into view
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zooming in
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A large herd of Belted Galloways were grazing quiety, not paying any attention tot he walkers and cyclists passing by
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I passed a section of limestone pavement
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and this long line of sheep
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The distinctive profile of Ingleborough came into view
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and, a little further on, Penyghent
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All three of the Three Peaks came into view
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Getting closer to Langcliffe I approached more Limestone scars
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There’s Jubilee cave – I popped up to have a quick look inside.
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There wasn’t much to see – just a black hole!
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Approaching the minor road from Langcliffe to Malham
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Looking down to Langcliffe
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Rather than walk down into the village, I cut off across the fields back towards Settle and then back to our holiday home.
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About 10 minutes before I arrived I got a phone call. It was J asking how long I’d be and did I want her to make a brew for when I got back. Did I? Silly question 🤣. And that was good timing!

A week in Settle

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To help transition to my life of (hopefully) increased leisure (i.e. working part time) we decided that it would be a good idea to get away for a break. We decided to take a week’s break in Settle on the edge of the Yorkshire Dales which, although is less than 1 1/2 hours drive from home, would provide a good change of pace and scenery. We hired a former mill worker’s cottage on the edge of the small town for a week and kept our fingers crossed that the weather would be favourable and not like just a couple of weeks before when we were faced by three named storms in close succession! I’m glad to say things worked out well for us and I managed to get out for a wander from the doorstep every day only going out in the car the once, on a grey day to drive up to Ribblehead and on to Hawes . We even had a night out at a concert in the old Victoria Hall- the first time I’ve been in the audience at a show for over two years.

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The Shambles, Settle

We arrived on a bright, sunny, but cold, afternoon and parked up ready to explore the small town. It’s a small town centre, but has a number of independent shops (including a good little independent bookshop, Limestone Books) and plenty of interesting old buildings.

It’s an old town having it’s market charter granted in 1249. Historically it was a centre of the cotton industry but only on a small scale and went into decline with the growth of the industry in Lancashire. It has a railway station linking it to the industrial towns of West Yorkshire but is also the starting point for the very scenic Settle to Carlisle line. Today, with it’s proximity to the Three Peaks and some beautiful limestone country, it’s a popular tourist spot. Luckily, being out of season, it was quite quiet during or stay.

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The former Town Hall
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Georgian shop
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A grand Georgian House
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More old houses
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Quaker Meeting House
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The Folly – a large “Gentleman’s residence” built in 1649. It now houses the Museum of North Craven Life and a cafe
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Old workers’ houses in Upper Settle
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Looking over to Bridge End Mill and the weir on the Ribble which has a hydroelectric power plant generating electricity
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Kings Mill – a former cotton mill on the banks of the River Ribble – now converted into flats.
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Another view of King’s Mill – I bet those flats aren’t cheap!
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View over the churchyard towards the hills

After exploring the town and popping in to one of the local cafes for a brew, we drove over to the Booths supermarket on the edge of the town to stock up with supplies for the week. It was only a few minutes drive then over to our home for the week. We unloaded, settled in and spent an easy evening making ourselves feel at home. the weather looked promising the next day and I had a route planned out!

Christmas in York

In 2018 and 2019 we spent Christmas away from home, staying in Haarlem where our daughter was living at the time. We’d enjoyed the experience but last year’s lockdown meant that Christmas 2000 was spent at home in the house watching the telly, reading, and eating and drinking. This year, though, we decided to get away. Despite the resurgence of the lurgy with the Omicron variant, we were all fully vaccinated and boosted and decided we’d get away, booking a rather nice apartment in Fossgate in the centre of York. Like Haarlem, it’s an old city with plenty to see (although only a couple of hours drive from home – M62 willing, of course!) while being careful to minimise the risk of picking up the virus.

Our apartment on Fossgate. The top 2 floors of an old Georgian building above a shop

We arrived late afternoon the day before Christmas Eve returning the day after Boxing Day. After a relatively trouble free drive over the Pennines, we unloaded and then set out to explore the streets of York. It was the last day of the Christmas market and we managed to catch the last few hours before it shut down.

Christmas tree on Parliament Street
The Christmas market

After a mooch around the market and town centre we returned to the apartment and settled in, adding a few Christmassy touches (I was surprised that the owners hadn’t put up a few decorations)

After a few hours relaxing we went out again, but not so far. We’d booked a table in a Polish restaurant, the Blue Barbakan, just a few doors down the street.

Afterwards we had a short stroll around the now quiet streets

The Shambles. It’s usually jammed with tourists!
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The MInster

On Christmas Eve I was up fairly early before the rest of the family and popped out to stock up with some supplies for our traditional Christmas Eve buffet. Later when everyone one was up we set out to explore the city in the daylight. Son and daughter did there own thing but we all met up later for a coffee.

Low Petergate

West end of the MInster

St William’s College
One of the many Medieval churches
St Crux Parish Room
The Kiosk – an excellent coffee shop just across from our apartment

We returned to the apartment and spent the late afternoon watching the live stream of the service from the Minster while preparing and then eating our meal. Lots to eat and plenty of leftovers for Boxing Day!

Everyone (with one usual exception!) was up bright and early on Christmas morning. When everyone was up it was time to open our presents. A few hours later it was time to prepare our Christmas dinner. No turkey for us – we’re not fans and – but we’d bought some good quality steaks. We hadn’t been sure of what the cooking facilities would be like so had opted for a relatively easy approach. The steaks would only need frying and we’d bought mainly pre-prepared veg that only needed heating in the oven.

My Christmas dinner main course – with a smoked wild salmon starter preceding and followed by Christmas pud

Afterwards we sat and chatted before going out for a short mooch around the quiet streets to walk off some of the carbs! Most of the evening was spent eating, drinking and watching TV. Not much different than at home but the change in surroundings made it a nice change. And later on I went out for a short walk around the quiet streets.

Tree dressed up with lights in York Castle square
The Merchant Adventurer’s Hall at night
Bootham Bar
The Minster central tower
East end of the Minster

Boxing Day was spent on more sightseeing along the walls and around the streets of the small city.

The Merchant Adventurer’s Hall
Monk Bar
On the walls
Looking towards the Minster from the walls
Foundations of the original Roman Walls
The Merchant Taylor’s Hall

A number of the shops were open for the post Christmas sales.

We returned to the apartment and spent the evening finishing off the food and drink left over from the previous two days while watching Christmas films on TV before turning in for our last night of our short Christmas break. We’d enjoyed it – it was good to get away for a change of scenery. All being well we’ll be doing it again in 2022.

Last day in Whitby

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The weather changed on the last day of our holiday. The rain came in and the temperature dropped. So it was a day for stopping in, reading, relaxing, drinking tea and eating cake (!) and otherwise occupying ourselves. But I do get itchy feet so during the afternoon, when the rain had eased for a while, I went out for a short walk on the West Cliff and took a few shots to remind me of an enjoyable week in the historic seaside town.

The Crescent – only half of it was ever built!
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The statue of Captain Cook looking out to sea
Looking through the Whalebone Arch – it’s hard to get a chance of this shot on a fine day as everyone wants their photo taken under the arch – not as much of a problem on a colder, wet day!
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A neo Gothic house – a little creepy given which novel is set here
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The Modernist style pavillion by the outdoor paddling pool

I decided to walk down to the bottom of the cliff and take a short stroll on the beach

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A memorial bench on the path
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Visiting Anne

The old parish church of Scarborough, St Mary’s with Holy Apostles, sits just below the castle, on the hill above the old town. Just across the road from the church, slightly closer to the castle, there’s a graveyard. It’s an attractive, peaceful setting. Most of the “residents” died in the 18th and 19th centuries but one of them is better known than most – Anne Brontë, the youngest of the three famous literary sisters. Although associated with the small textile town of Haworth, tucked away in the moors over to the west of Yorkshire, and not so far from Lancashire, she had died in Scarborough which she was visiting in hope that the sea air would relieve the symptoms of TB, which she suffered. Alas, only a few days after she arrived, she died of the disease on the 28 May 1849, aged only 29.

She’s the lesser known of the 3 sisters, although she wrote two novels, Agnes Grey, (1847) and The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, (1848). Like their author, they are overshadowed by her sisters works. However, in recent years her work, and importance, has begun to be re-evaluated as being more radical (in subject matter and style) compared to her sisters.

Anne “is now viewed as the most radical of the sisters, writing about tough subjects such as women’s need to maintain independence and how alcoholism can tear a family apart.”

Sally McDonald of the Brontë Society

always described as sweet and stoic, ….. I found (her) to be fierce and radical, with much to teach us about how to live.

Samantha Ellis

I have to own up to never having read anything by the Brontës, but have always been interested in the story of their lives and their achievement, as women during the Victorian era, to overcome prejeudice against their sex and become famous, well respected, literary authors.

In a book I read recently, Walking the Invisible, the author Michael Stewart writes about the lives of the sisters and describes his walks in their footsteps in a series of walking trails that he developed as part of his Brontë Stones Project. It was when reading the book that I discovered that Anne was buried in Scarborough and so while we were in the seaside town I decided to seek out her grave. It wasn’t difficult to locate in the little graveyard.

The headstone is weathered and the inscription badly damaged by the salty sea air. Commissioned by her elder sister, Charlotte it was meant to read

Here lie the remains of Anne Brontë, daughter of the Revd P. Brontë, Incumbent of Haworth, Yorkshire. She died Aged 28 May 28th 1849.

Visiting the grave 3 years after Anne died, Charlotte found that there were a number of errors and had it refaced. But one error remained – it said she was 28 when she died, but in reality she was 29.

Given the poor condition of the inscription, the Brontë Society installed a new plaque next to the grave in 2011.

I enjoyed Michael Stewart’s book very much and it’s put me in mind to visit Howarth, follow some of the routes he describes and seek out the stones, which have inscriptions of poems by Carol Anne Duffy, Jackie Kay, Jeanette Winterson and Kate Bush. Perhaps I should find time to read some of the Brontës’ novels too. What do you think?