Great Gable

The last day of my holiday in Borrowdale, and I still hadn’t been up on the high fells. It was raining when I woke up and the weather forecast suggested that it would continue for a while before clearing late morning, so I decided I’d have to venture out, and after a hearty breakfast, that’s what I did. Unfortunately, I discovered, yet again, that weather forecasts can be unreliable. On Monday and Tuesday it had been better than forecast, and I was keeping my fingers crossed it would be the same outcome as I set out heading towards Seathwaite, with the intention of climbing Great Gable.

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It was raining, but I was wearing appropriate clothing that would keep me warm and dry. I certainly wasn’t the only fool setting out. I spotted a number of walkers setting out up on to the fells.

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Seathwaite

Although when I reached Seathwaite I stopped to chat with a couple around my own age, who had decided to leave it for another day. Undaunted I continued along the path

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until I reached the picturesque Stockley Bridge,

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where I turned up the path that started to climb up the fells up to Sty Head.

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It’s a good, engineered path (at least most of the way) so I made good progress.

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But it continued to rain and I could see that the tops of the nearby fells were shrouded in cloud. Never mind, I thought, it’ll clear up soon! Looking back down the valley I convinced myself that there were signs that this was happening.

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I made steady progress, enjoying the walk despite the rain (fortunately it was coming from behind me; much preferable than having it hitting me in the face)

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and after a couple of hours I’d made it to Styhead Tarn, which is almost at the top of the pass. Now this is a wonderful viewpoint at the foot of Great Gable and with Scafell Pike, Scafell and their adjacent siblings dead ahead. But today the high fells were largely covered in cloud so most of the summits weren’t visible. In fact I began to wonder whether Scafell Pike actually existed! But I could see that those mountains I could see had a covering of snow towards the summit. Now this wasn’t what I was expecting.

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I stopped for a while to refuel and took stock. A group of walkers ahead of me had turned off and it looked like they were going to tackle the Corridor route to Scafel Pike. That didn’t seem such a good idea to me. And it probably wasn’t such a good idea to head up Great Gable either, as I could see some snow settled towards the top. But feeling optimistic I decided to carry on.

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Looking back to the tarn. Looks like conditions are improving.

Reaching the stretcher box at the top of the pass, just beyond the tarn, I turned right to take the path up Great Gable.

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The Mountain Rescue stretcher box at the top of Styhead Pass, with the Scafells behind. I was hoping I wasn’t going to need this!
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Scafell Pike is in there, somewhere!

It was continuing to rain as I climbed, but I was making good progress.

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The start of the path up Great Gable. Doesn’t look too bad?

But then the rain got heavier and there was some hail mixed in with it. Never mind, carry on. Looking down I could imaging what a fantastic view I would have had on a better day. I could also see a small party coming up the path further down, so that encouraged me to carry on.

Getting closer to the top, there was some patches of snow underfoot. But nothing too serious. I can cope with that!

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But then it started to snow. I reckoned I hadn’t too far to go so decided to carry on, but as I climbed the snow started to come down harder. Eventually I realised that’s I’d reached the summit, but visibility was very poor as the snow continued to fall and it was windy too. So I huddled down behind the cairn.

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Reaching the summit

The summit of Great Gable is one of the best viewpoints in England with views across to the Scafells and down Borrowdale, Wasdale and Ennerdale. But I couldn’t see a thing. I’d been up here once before, when I was about 17 with a party from school led by a Maths teacher who was a keen walker. We didn’t have snow that day but there was low cloud so when we reached the top that day we were in thick mist and couldn’t see anything. This time it was even worse.

The cairn and rocks I sheltered behind was the site of a monument dedicated to the members of the Fell & Rock Climbing Club who died in World War I. The club bought 3,000 acres of land including Great Gable which it donated it to the National Trust in memory of these members. An annual memorial service is held here on November 11th, Remembrance Sunday. I braved the wind to take a look at the monument.

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By this time the group coming up behind me had reached the summit and, as you do, we had a chat. I was feeling a little vulnerable up on top on my own in the snowy conditions so asked if they would mind if I tagged on to their group as they descended down the “Windy Gap” and then back down to Seathwaite, which was also my intended route down. It seemed the sensible thing to do (as I hadn’t been that sensible carrying on up on my own when conditions were deteriorating).

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Looking down towards Styhead and the Scafells.

We located the path we wanted to take (not so easy in poor visibility) and started to make our way down. It’s quite steep and required a bit of scrambling, a little tricky in descent, especially with snow underfoot. But this path is more sheltered and there was less snow and as we descended conditions underfoot improved.

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The start of the path down to Windy Gap
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It didn’t look too bad on Green Gable, which is lower than it’s “sibling”
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Looking down towards Ennerdale from Windy Gap. Visibility wasn’t great but at least I could see something of the valley and Pillar Mountain with Ennerdale Water just visible in the distance.

Reaching the hause, in better conditions I’d have liked to have climbed the neighbouring fell of Green Gable, but today continued on down the scree covered path that would take us back down to Styhead Tarn.

The Scafells were still hidden in the mist, but looking back I could see that the cloud was clearing off Great Gable and conditions were certainly improving. If I’d reached the top an hour or two later then I might have had a view. Ah well, the Fates are clearly determined to stop me experiencing the great views from the top of this mountain.

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Looking back up to Great Gable. Conditions definitely better. If only I’d set out a couple of hours later 😦
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Looking across the tarn to the Scafells

I continued back down to Borrowdale with the group. As we descended, conditions were certainly improving, although it continued to rain.

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Heading back down the pass towards Borrowdale
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Conditions definitely improving
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The view along Borrowdale towards Seathwaite
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Back at Stockley Bridge

After crossing Stockley Bridge we continued down the path to Seathwaite. A short distance along the metalled road from the farm towards Seatoller we parted company when the group reached their vehicle which they’d parked up on the verge.

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The road back to Seatoller.

I continued the last mile back to the farm and was glad of a soak in a deep hot bath.

So my last day in Borrowdale had been something of an adventure. On reflection I’d have been better if I’d set out a little later. But I hadn’t and encountering the conditions when I reached Styhead, I really should have turned back. I still would have had an enjoyable walk, though I know I’d have been disappointed not to have made it to the top. But hindsight is a wonderful thing and decisions have to be made on the spot. Luckily, I didn’t come a cropper, but on my own I could have done, particularly if conditions had deteriorated still further.

So I’ve been up Great Gable twice and on both occasions haven’t been able to enjoy the views. But the mountain hasn’t gone away so I’ll just have to look out for a good day when I’m not in work and get up there again. Mind you, will I be able to trust the weather forecast?

Walla Crag, Bleaberry Fell and High Seat

The May Day Bank Holiday Monday was the first day of my short break in Borrowdale. I wanted to make the most of my time off so I packed over the weekend and so was able to set off reasonably early up the M6 towards the Lakes. The traffic was lighter than I expected for a Bank Holiday – probably a combination of the early start and a less than promising weather forecast.

I’d planned a walk over on the eastern side of Derwent Water which would take in some moderate sized fells and a couple of well known “beauty spots”. After a fairly easy drive, I parked up late morning in the National Trust car park at Great Wood, donned my walking gear and then set off up the path through the woods.

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Lots of bluebells to be seen

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My first destination was somewhere I’d visited a few times, including last August – Walla Crag. The path climbed up through the woods, eventually reaching a path where we turned right towards Castlerigg farm. Views opened up over Derwent Water, the fells to the west of the lake, and, to the north, Skiddaw and Blencathra.

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Skiddaw
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Blencathra
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After the farm there was a shortish, steep climb up the fell before I reached the top of Walla Crag, where I stopped for a bite to eat and to take in the views. They were pretty good even though it was something of a grey day.

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Looking over Derwent Water with Bassenthwaite Lake in the distance

Time to get moving again. During previous walks up here I’d turned off down one of the routes back down to the lake but this time I took the path that would lead me over to Bleaberry Fell, a relatively modest fell at 1,936 feet high – not quite a mountain if you take the definition as 2,000 feet. It looked enticingly close, but looks can be deceiving!

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Looking towards Bleaberry fell

Part of the way to the summit the rain that had been promised arrived. But it didn’t last long and had moved on after less than 20 minutes. I was still glad I was wearing my waterproof coat, mind, and needed to use the waterproof cover for my rucksack.

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Looking over to the top of Borrowdale. and the high fells, including Scafell Pike and Great Gable

Another relatively short, steep climb and I was on the summit. Time for a coffee from my flask while I looked out over the fells. Despite the cloud and grey skies, visibility wasn’t too bad and I see over to Helvellyn in the east and the high mountains at the top end of Borrowdale.

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I wasn’t the on;y one on the summit of Bleaberry Fell
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Looking across to the fells to the west of Derwent Water
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Looking over to Blencathra
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It’s raining over Thirlmere. The rain obscuring the view of Helvelyn. But no rain on Bleaberry Fell. That’s the Lake District for you. Rain in one valley and none in the next

I might have turned around and retraced my steps back down the hill, but I decided to carry on to the next summit, High Seat, which was about a mile away. Another fell I’d never climbed. It’s a few feet higher than Bleaberry Fell, and at 1,995 feet is again just short of a mountain

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The modest looking bump in the mid-ground is High Seat

It looks like a relatively easy walk over to High Seat. There isn’t much loss in altitude and the terrain is fairly flat. But looks can be deceiving. The ground is notoriously boggy and Wainwright reckons that  “this is a walk to wish on one’s worst enemy“.

I soon hit boggy ground. Fortunately, we’d had a few relatively dry weeks so it wasn’t as bad as it might have been and I managed to get across the bogs fairly unscathed. It must be horrendous in winter or after a prolonged wet spell.

I made my way to the summit cairn and once again took in the views.

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The trig point was just a few feet away

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Another walker standing on the rocky outcrop to the east of the summit with Helvellyn in the background

Time to start making my way back down. The path which would take me to Ashness Bridge was clearly visible. It looked a much better surface than the one across from Bleaberry Fell

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It was, but there were several boggy stretches to cross as I made my way back towards Derwent Water

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There were a few other people about, but it was relatively quiet

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Getting closer to the end of the descent now

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I reached the popular beauty spot at Ashness Bridge. It’s graced many a chocolate box and postcard!

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I stopped for a brief rest and removed my waterproof coat. It had turned sunny and down off the fell it was feeling warm. Then I set off down the path through the woods towards the car park, about another mile away.

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Reaching the car park, I hadn’t quite finished. I decided to walk the short distance over to Calf Cross Bay on Derwent Water.

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The Hundred Year Stones, a monument created by Peter Randall-Page to mark the centenary of the National Trust, are often at least partially submerged by the water, but not today. The level of the Lake must have been relatively low

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After a short time enjoying the tranquil atmosphere, I walked back to the car and then drove allong Borrowdale to Seatooler to check in at my B and B.

A break in Borrowdale

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Last year I took a short solo break in Coniston after the May Day Bank Holiday. I enjoyed getting away up onto the fells, getting away for a few days to wind down so I decided to do something similar this year, so booked a short break in a B and B in Seatoller in Borrowdale, south of Derwent Water, at the start of the Honister Pass and close to the highest fells in the Lakes. The weather wasn’t particularly kind; it rained a lot, but then I was only staying 1 mile from Seathwaite, allegedly the wettest settlement in England.

But rain wasn’t going to stop me enjoying my break. It was the Lakes, after all, so it’s to be expected! It was good to just get away and after the Bank Holiday Monday, being early in the season, it was very quiet and peaceful.

I was staying at Seatoller Farm B and B, a working farm who have three rooms a cottage for rent and a campsite, in a very scenic location.

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I had a very comfortable room with an on-suite bathroom with a bath (good for a soak after a long walk) and there was a resident’s lounge where I could relax in the evening

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View from the resident’s lounge

The farm’s been there a long time. At one time it WAS Seatoller, a remote farm well away from “civilisation”. The hamlet developed when housing was constructed for workers at the Honister Slate Mine. It’s a long hard slog for a mile and a half up a steep hill from the hamlet to the mine where workers would have worked long, hard days throughout the year, before walking back downhill to their homes.

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Some of the local residents
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Looking towards the fells from behind Seatoller Farm
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View towards Glaramara

The weather forecasts during the week weren’t exactly trustworthy. The weather was better the first couple of days and considerably worse on the Thursday when I’d decided to tackle one of the high fells.

I managed to get out for some good walks exploring the valley and nearby fells, so plenty to write up!

Coniston to Black Crag via Yewdale and Tarn Hows

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Last Wednesday promised to be a fine day, so we drove from our cottage in Cartmel over to Coniston. A couple of miles from the village I had to stop to snap a photo of the Lake.

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We parked up on the edge of Coniston, donned our boots and set off on the path up Yewdale.

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There’s the Old Man – no cloud on top today!

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A good view of Holme Fell ahead

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Carrying on up the valley through pleasant woodland

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Looking across the valley to Wetherlam and Tilberthwaite

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Helvelyn and Fairfield in the distance

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Looking back towards Wetherlam

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and there’s the Langdale Pikes appearing over the top of Holme Fell

After an hour or so we reached Tarn Hows which was created in the 19th Century by James Garth Marshall, at that time the owner of the Monk Coniston estate, from a number of smaller tarns. Today it’s a popular tourist spot with a car park that makes the relatively easy walk around the tarn accessible, and, especially as it was a fine day during the school holidays, so there were quite a few other people around

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We stopped for a bite to eat before setting off along the path that skirts the western shore of the tarn.

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At the top end of the lake we made the decision to carry on and climb up onto Black Fell.

After walking up hill through scrub land and through woodland

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Black Crag, the summit of the modest fell, came into view

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We climbed to the summit which is reputably one of the best viewpoints in the Lake District. And on a day like last Wednesday I would definitely not argue with that!

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The views in every direction were astounding. I snapped a panorama with my phone. You’ll have to click on the photos to get an idea of what we could see, even if a photograph really can’t do the views justice.

Looking towards the Coniston Fells, the Langdales, Helvelyn and the Fairfield Horseshoe

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and towards the Eastern Fells, and four lakes (Windermere, Esthwaite Water, Coniston Water and Tarn Hows)

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No question it had been worth the effort to walk up to here.

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We stopped for a while, soaking it all in before turning round and retracing our steps back down to Coniston, taking the path along the eastern side of Tarn Hows this time

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and then back down Yewdale

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Getting close to Coniston

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Reaching the village we decided to grab a meal before driving back to Cartmel and, although it was busy (school holidays, remember) we managed to bag a table in the Yewdale Inn. A bit of a wait for our food, but worth it.

We were lucky to have arrived just before rush hour!

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What a great day!

A walk around Cartmel

Our first full day staying in Cartmel, we decided to get out for a walk. Our cottage was at the foot of the limestone ridge of Hampsfell, so we set out on the path which ran right past our front door and which would take us across the fields and up the hill.

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As we climbed, looking back, we could see the group of buildings where we were staying

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It didn’t take too long before we started to approach the top of the ridge which is covered by an expanse of limestone pavement

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It was windy on top of the ridge and given the ways the trees had grown, it clearly usually is!

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Walking along the ridge Hampsfell Hospice came into view

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The building of the folly was commissioned by the pastor of Cartmel “for the shelter and entertainment of travellers” in 1846.

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It commands 360 degree views over to the high Lakeland fells to the north and Morecambe Bay to the south, particularly from the roof, which can be accessed by climbing some rather precarious stone steps.

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We stopped for a while, sheltering from the wind while we had a bite to eat and taking in the views. Long range visibility wasn’t too good but we could still make out the fells in the distance.

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and over the Bay – although the tide was out revealing the extensive sands and mudflats

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Looking down to Cartmel

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After our break we set off again walking along the ridge. Passing other walkers, as is usual, we exchanged greetings with other walkers and a couple of fell runners. Then I heard a shout a short distance away. Someone wanted to speak to us so we waited and were joined by an elderly lady. She asked where we were heading and as we were taking the same path she asked whether we minded if she joined us and if we might help her to climb a difficult stile on the descent. Of course we agreed. As we walked we chatted and it transpired that this sprightly lady was 86 years old. She had always been a keen walker and was still getting out and about, today having walked up from Kents Bank, a good few miles away. When we reached the stile she got over without any assistance but we were there to provide reassurance and help to arrest a fall in case she slipped.

Here she is on the left of the photo

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We continued down hill with her, enjoying her company, chatting and exchanging experiences. Reaching the bottom of the hill we continued in the direction of Cartmel and parted company when we reached a cemetery where her husband, who had died only 2 years before, was buried. She was going to visit his grave. We said our goodbyes and continued on. A chance encounter on the hills which had been a rather lovely experience. I hope I’m as efit and energetic as this lovely lady and able to get out on the fells when I’m 86 (no! I’ve a few more years to go!)

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Another mile or so along a quiet road and we reached Cartmel in the early afternoon and we decided it was a good time to stop and have a brew! Refreshed, we decided to continue our walk, heading across the racecourse and along the tracks through the woods and fields towards another hill, Howbarrow to the west of the small town.

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After a stiff climb we reached the summit of Howbarrow

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It’s a modest hill, only 558 feet high, but we were again greeted by extensive views over the Bay (the tide now in) and over to the Fells

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Looking over the Leven estuary

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My photos across the bay didn’t come out so good as the light had turned flat and grey and we were looking into the sun.

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We had several options to return to Cartmel, all a little convoluted, which tested my rusty map reading skills. Our route took us through pleasant countryside of green fields and woodland

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and small groups of farms and other buildings

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Eventually returning to, and crossing, the racecourse

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(not sure I’d have been able to clear the fences!)

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We returned to the village to pick up a few supplies from the small, but well stocked, convenience store, before heading back to our accommodation.

A good “figure of 8” walk, about 10 miles in length but not too taxing.

Street haunting in Galway

I was only in Galway for a couple of days. I had a flight back to Manchester from Dublin late Tuesday afternoon, but I had the morning to have a bit of a wander around the city. The weather was a real mix of sunshine, rain and sleet, but wrapped up warm I managed to have a decent walk around, even getting to a few places I hadn’t previously seen. Here’s a few photos.

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Galway Hooker monument, Eyre Square
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Music shop window
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The Long Walk
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Galway Bay
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The Long Walk
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Galway Swans
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The harbour
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The harbour side looking towards the Claddagh
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Street art
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Irish post box
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Galway Cathed
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Equality Emerging

Oysters at O’Grady’s on the Pier

Last Monday in Galway was a busy day. I met a friend for coffee first thing before heading over to NUI Galway late morning to prepare for my workshop in the afternoon. It seemed to go well.

In the evening I’d arranged to meet my old friend Veronica who was born and bred in the city and lives in Salthill. We always meet up when I’m over and go out for a meal. We both love seafood so usually go to one of the many great seafood restaurants in the area. This time Veronica had booked us a table at O’Grady’s on the pier at Barna, a few miles west of the city.

We had a most excellent seafood meal and I started, as usual, with a plate of oysters. Veronica said she didn’t want a starter but might pinch one of my oysters. In the end, they were so tempting she stole two!

As the name suggests, the restaurant is situated next to the pier on the harbour. Unfortunately, being late January it was too dark for me to take in the coastal scenery (I really have to go back during the summer!). But I could see the pier. It looked familiar and, indeed, it was as it features in the final scenes of the film starring Brendan Gleeson set in Connemarra – The Guard