A Bar recommended to us by the world weary optimist who ran our B&B – Good Call .
A few Beers – top Tapas – 2 Razzmapolitans & 2 Daft Zombies later …… a few War Stories later, a tour of their cellars and we floated back to bed 😆
30th Sept – Stormy ☔️ Final Day – 6th day hiking . Last few hours heading to the farthest village on the West Coast . The Wall did go this far but being coastal plane and tidal marsh it was mainly earth embankment.
Flat doesn’t begin to describe it ….
If you look hard enough this no account , featureless flatland reveals its secrets ….. who knew that in the nearby Hamlet of Burgh a king had died ??!
… And not just any King ! Edward 1st – The cursed ‘Longshanks’ – Hammer of the Scots . Classic evil English Monarch in Braveheart 🎥. Off to attack the Scots ( again ) in 1307 – gets an ignominious end from Dysentery right here . Who knew ?
He should have known … the Romans couldn’t conquer the Scots – thats why they built a Wall ! and neither could he . it’s tough border country here ……
Even St Michaels is a rare Fort & Church in one!
On to our final destination- crossing into Bowness
and follow Hadrians way through the mosaic floored finishing hut ….
Where we get applause from a lovely group of tourists and this photo !!
And fellow finishers start to turn up too ….
We walk an extra 10 mins to find this iconic sign …. Knowing it’ll feel we’ve fully finished when we do ….
“All roads lead to Rome “
Our first Crossing of England – it’s been emotional
Our last 2 days stats ….. brings us to 188,770 steps over 6 days – we thought 200,000 for the trek so not far off .
This been a seriously strenuous but fun challenge- especially with my first born . The things you can see only a few hours from your house !!
Passing by the immense Lanercost Priory last night in fading light it was difficult to get photos . It’s really unusual as half of it is wrecked ( as you would expect ) after Henry VIII gave it a good kicking in the 1530s but the other half on the right was restored as a parish church 200 years later .
Today is 29 September and we start at yet another top quality B&B . The Scotch Arms Mews was an old pub which is now a luxury B&B in Brampton. Great for hikers , popular on this long distance trail , it’s kitted it out for drying boots, sorting muddy gear , log fires , Late night honesty Bar, and big breakfast super fuel for the day.
….. it has its own well set into the floor through a circular glass porthole.
The day is sunny, dry and perfect for heading to Carlisle. We make good time as this makes such a difference.
Rolling countryside now , idyllic cottages , chickens in the road , being watched by a black cat. Less signs of the wall here but more than made up for it by the ideal conditions.
Broad grassy tracks across Roman quarries where Masons and Artisan Soldiers labored creating Stone for the Great Project . Some banking even used to protect Cambria from flooding.
On Into the valley of the river Eden. All trace of the harsh environment of previous days now gone the closer we get to the west end of the trail.
Soon into the Carlisle outskirts, passed Rickerby Tower . After so much serious fortification — you automatically give this war like tendencies. We love that it was built as a DoveCote in Victorian times ! 👍😘
There’s not a lot of Photos today – it is one of the longer hikes at 31 km in very poor weather and you need to get your head down and just do it.
So much so this one stage has 3 elevation profiles. Never seen more than 1 !
Lunch ; sheltering at Birdoswald Roman Fort – nice visitor Centre – huge gift shop . They even sell complete Roman suits of Armor- £500 !
We took a short detour off the track to see the Poltross Burn Milecastle . The best preserved one of all of its type . Based on the measurements from this one castle – the dimensions of the whole of Hadrians wall – even the height were discovered here.
A short stop for authentic Roman Latté 😁
And loving Graffiti – 2 Millennia old . Just stuck on the wall of an old barn using pillaged stone from the Wall ! 😳
And on to our nights stop – 2 soggy hikers – with a warm welcome from the locals 😏😏
Past 2 days stats – these steps will soon add up !
LOCALY KNOWN AS “CHANGEABLE” Before we go any further – the photographs today look like the sun was on our side. This couldn’t be further from the truth 😆 In between deluges – ( and sometimes during ) – The camera comes out of a waterproof bag and straight back in afterwards. There will be no problem with blisters this walk as the trench foot has beaten them to it.
From there to the temple of Mithras 90 minutes later it’s quite a change. Wonderful really that this exists hidden away minutes from a major road. Built by homesick Romans , underground to re-create part of that God’s story , three senior officers of Hadrians army sponsored each of the three Alters shown in the photographs. And we can stand next to them 2000 years later. Amazing.
We have been thinking about our friends and loved ones and left each a coin on the altar. Dee, Roddy, Paul , Steve – these are for you. XXX Well it never hurts to avoid offending someone else’s faith.
Looking for a place to stop for lunch we looked along this horizon stretch of the wall and into the distance we saw like crashing waves against the cliffs – A gale twisted woods that could give us a shelter.
The best was yet to come. An hour or so later we came across a highlight. We knew it was coming – but delighted it was so soon and the rain held off for us . Maybe you recognize this scene when this place was used for location filming of the Morgan Freeman/Kevin Costner movie from 1991. The fight up on the wall at this point has forever made “Sycamore gap“ a prime location.
We are off to watch “Robin Hood – Prince of thieves” – immediately we get home!
Just stunning and picturesque featured on movie posters, T-shirts film trailers worldwide.
Our day ended at the marvelous Twice Brewed Inn . The only Pub I know but it’s own Roman themed microbrewery — ( “Ale Cesar” a favorite) – that has its own observatory and soon a planetarium to take advantage of its “dark sky park status“. Situated next to the new £18M SILL – landscape and activity Center – it’s a brilliant way to run what was a run down roadside shell only a few years ago.
A memorable – in spite of the weather day
And before I go – to explain the strange title of today’s blog post – we developed over a number of rainy hours our own Latin names. ( The sort of thing you do when trudging along ) – I would like to introduce……
It’s Sunday 26th September – an unusually hot day as the promised deluge ☔️ moves to tomorrow’s forecast .
The stay at the Wormold guest house has been rejuvenating – best beds ! . Jane and Ian’s relaxed style – thoughtful renovations and flexibility with our timings was welcome .
A pity to leave really but the trail beckons and the day is fine . So a fond farewell to Wylam . I’ve decided to keep a record of all the Ian’s I meet – my record is 4 in one week on the West Highland Way. 🏴
First Glimpse of the wall .
I’m sure it will wear off 😁 ….. but for the next few days we are going to be unusually happy to be photographed next to 2000 year old stones.
The first two or three days of this trail is on Rolling countryside before we start to cross the Pennines – that’s where it gets trickier .
Where the Waymarkers have a distinct ‘Camino’ look to them . But this time our way is the way of the white acorn .
It’s really hot – but Taking the time to meet the locals is always worth it even if one of them gets a bit carried away and tries to have a good crunch on my salty hand.
Thoms friend was better behaved …. 👍💕
We move uphill from here until we stop for lunch at this viewpoint.
With a Packed lunch with a traditional touch- tied up in brown paper and string -delicious.
Coming up the hill it’s a welcome sight of Holly and Rachel and – we keep seeing each other as we stop and start on the trail and had a quick drink with them at the Robin Hood Inn and official Trail Passport Stamp station an hour or so ago.
A few more hours hiking – passing “plane trees“ where the farsighted William Holden saved this part of the wall being used to build other buildings way back in 1801
And a fast march to meet up pick up for the night. Meeting at the George hotel in Chollerford- lovely village . Nice Inn – loads of character great site with views over the river – sat on Wicker furniture – but oddly run down – Faded Grandeur
And a brief rest before Dave From the Simonsburn Tea rooms – our overnight stay –comes to pick us up from here to drive us to Simonsburn hamlet for the night. He’ll bring us back here tomorrow so we can re-join the trail where we left off.
Spirits are high as Tom takes the part of the black king in full size chess! 😂😂😁💕
A warm welcome awaits in the guest house at Simonsburn – good company at dinner with all the guests talking and telling stories..
A brief check of the past two days activity — gives us motivation we can handle the more difficult parts ahead.
Today started at 5:30 AM and after some lengthy inter-railing ended up here. The start of the Hadrian’s Wall national path . As we’re hiking East to West seems a little odd starting at “Wallsend”
Only a short walk to Segedunum (Strong / Victory Fort ) and a very well funded visitor Center complete with A lecture theater in a glass tower and exceptional views of the archaeology.
The view over the old fort and it’s timeline captures our imagination . Edge of Empire !
And they do it with humor too – Ancient COVID regs’ – who knew 😏
From the Gormley legionnaire to the Roman helmet shaped tower- its a great start to our crossing of England.
The walk through Newcastle along the Tyne is dotted with Bars , Stag & Hen do’s , a strong cycle culture , famous bridges , and more Hints at History…..
Past the impressive Tyne rowing club – Balcony Bar – great views – cheap beer – Non members allowed -shame we can’t stop ! and on into Blaydon
Nobody tells you about the final mile Hill – seems endless at the end of a day on the road . Brilliant motivation from Thom – I needed it today as I had started this venture the way I would normally end one – The cumulative effect of the last few months I suppose. So to end up laughing and being physically pushed up the hill and over the finish line was perfect.
We’re ending our first day 25 km at Heddon-on-the-Wall . But staying 2 miles away in Wyram at the delightful Wormald guest house . Run by Jane and our first Ian of trip ! He picks us up from the 3 Tuns pub . It’s been an unusually tiring day – up at 5.30am , 6 hours to get to the start – before we even set foot on the trail. We both agree that overcoming the challenges was worth it .
It’s the final day – it’s Sunday 11th July and the prospect of Fort William awaits
Sound sleep is just one benefit of continuous trekking and a sound start like this breakfast is a bonus …… it’s normally a black coffee and baguette stuffed with whatever’s been lurking in your backpack for 3 days. 😳
The backlash of starting a highland trek in a river valley is obvious . To return to the High Land – you have a steep start 😳
To achieve this – I’m delighted that we head into the clouds for the last time this trip.
Through this “prehistoric” , densely green , humid , mist covered landscape.
We make sure that we have time to appreciate the sheer joy of following the long and winding road.
The forced abandonment of a strongly built Croft and thousands like this , even today , has a significant effect on the highlands and its people – The atmosphere here redolent of those actions.
It’s clear that lunch was required and we stopped as we caught up with Abbi & the Boer – Wild Campers – who we’d seen twice a day , every day 😁 for most of our hike . Each day looking happy but paler and more tired by their authentic camping experience. ⛺️: Lunch on the ancient battlefield where the Campbells were pursued by the MacDonalds had unavoidable fast food overtones. 😉
20Km in we knew we were nearing the end of our adventure- and would have wished for an extra couple of days. We posed beneath Ben Nevis which we would certainly have climbed had we planned more time.
From here it was down hill to Fort William -a quick mid afternoon snack stop for an Enid Blyton moment – washed down with 🍹………….
We took the greener of the 2 options , a little longer by a few minutes , but the original WHW follows the busy main road for a mile of so – too noisy ! …. the Cow Gil route gives you a few more minutes of adventure
Following “Tracker Thom” we go in search of the official finish point .
More than ever I appreciate an energetic distraction and a good laugh – Thom & Luke plus the Highland Way have worked their magic .
Even as we head through the town – 2 local girls say – “Well Done” to us & laughingly say “thought you were just seeing what was up his kilt “ as we take in the history 🤣🤣
Until finally though a lively Main Street with the only decent souvenir shop on the WHW – we spend £8,000,000 on essential tat – and cross the wide steel line set into the pavement near the quayside where the famous “Resting Hiker “ says – “YOU’VE DONE IT !!”
As he’s tend his feet – so do we and take in the sea Loch and the moment of completion 👏🥰👏🥰👏
Giving the moment due consideration- we head off to our B&B – the wayyy too formal , wayyy too luxurious , but super comfortable Buccleuch Guest House .
A beautiful view , a 10 minute walk out of town – we headed along Main Street and tried a few restaurants . Our only stipulation- good basic food – Big TV ! Tonight THE match , THE final was on. After 3 “NO’s “ – we settle on the “Tavern” . And on a million to one – probs more – i.e. Lottery Odds coincidence. ……… Thom meets up with 2 friends who work with him at the Leeds Student Union !!
It was outside this bistro – about half time – I get a phone call . One that brands , Sears that time , that street , that company, that aspect – everything firmly in my mind.
The lovely Katie Cloggs and I talk for a while and while not surprised we measure this moment – and give it the proper weight .
I keep it to myself – It’s not the moment to re-join my “eclectic 💕” expanding table group with that news. Me , Thom , a lovely Gay couple, Leeds Students , 2 tall Sri-Lankan girls ( in tears at penalty time 😊) make this a ever memorable event.
We’ve got an 8 hour train journey tomorrow at 7.44am – time enough for reflection.
MONDAY 12th July We are soo far north that the train journey south the Glasgow takes 4 hours !
The views from the train as our long trek unravelled in reverse were a gentle background to our hugs and talks.
It was the right time to tell Thom then Ciara that our lovely Roddy had passed on . A 12 month prognosis in 7 weeks . Quiet , dignified , peaceful with the best possible company – his 2 daughters Katie and Lydia telling him stories and reminiscing.
In turn on the train , in the far North , a rough wild land he loved so much , we told our own stories , our own reminiscences, our own tears .
Didn’t see it coming – at least on that day – but in that location it felt somehow complete, somehow appropriate.
We’ll send off the boy in a way he’d have to totally appreciated in a week or so . When he and I spoke about this 30 years ago – he definitely wanted the full Valhalla . Flaming arrows , a longboat , a 3 day feast . This far North , This near to Viking country- it’d be a shame not to .
Back again !! – I really do not like to leave a blog unfinished. So the day in question is the 10th July – a Saturday. Apologies for the pause – but life sends you to other places 🙏sometimes- for the best of reasons.
Due to the Kingshouse having a limited availability due to distancing regs’ they had arranged for a transfer to Ballachulish –overnight and a return in the morning – so we don’t miss a step of the WHW. Ballachulish is on the sea loch – Loch Leven – and even though 20 minutes drive away – for the first time in days we could leave our windows open at night – as on the coast 👏👏NO MIDGES !🤩
GOATS CHEESE BON BON anyone ?
I had called ahead 2 weeks ago – and been recommended for dinner – the Laroch Bar . So far – so normal – it sounded like a classic village pub with decent hearty food.
Nice surprise – turns out this restaurant/bar is run by a Michelin starred chef who wanted to return to his home village and took over this redundant pub. Allan and Eileen Donald are earning their star back all over again – amazing menu.
After a Midge free night we were up early and heading Through the remarkable Glencoe while still mist was low on the hills .
We resisted the Temptation when other hikers got off the minibus at the foot of the Devils Staircase instead of heading 2 miles back to Kingshouse. Two reasons: if you’re walking the WHW you want to cover every step to claim you’ve done it. Also – no one in their right mind would want to tackle the Devils Staircase without a decent walk to warm you up !
A decent warm it is then ….. 2 Miles down Glencoe there’s a sharp right – this is the start of “The Devils Staircase” – I’m amused by the wisdom of Sensei Ciara reaching all this way to the start of our day 👏 . Possibly the stretching secret is Thoms superpower ?
The pace is at least 30% quicker with Thom – fearless , nitro-enthusiasm , fit ….. I can see we’ll make short work of the day if we’re not careful . As I’m reminded by Thom during the day – just to amuse me – “we are quick today dad because you’re with a “Borneo professional“. I must admit the determination and physical resolve it took for Thom to do 10 weeks building and extreme jungle trekking in Borneo some years ago is impressive.
We make a mental note to stop and smell the flowers , talk to the sheep and add some memories for Roddy .
The Devil staircase is a 45° hour long hike which at this time of the day feels a little bit of a killer – but once on top – the view opens up and we start to see the runners from the annual “Great Glencoe Challenge“ – they are 26.2 mile running/walking this terrain ! Respect .
🏴 The Highland Getaway 🏴
And brews that cater for all tastes. Pint of Moretti and a diet Irn Bru 😁 is not my normal order 😆
So this is the 9th July a Friday and Luke – the Young Strider heads back home from Beinglas via the only Taxi for 20 Miles around – you know the score – pre-book 6 weeks in advance and you might stand a chance – but only if he likes you . 😳😆 I’ve got into nightclub openings easier .
But this taxi is owned and driven by Iain #4 – (secret password exchanged and we’re in ) . It’s a numinous experience this week that the only time I’ve been bothered to ask for a name – it’s Ian or Iain ! N.B The word numinous is perfect for what I needed – and was given to me by my first born Thom – my generalissimo of wordage.💕💕
Well –today is THAT day – 30 km from Tyndrum to Kingshouse – i’m told it’s less “Goat Tracky” but hard on your feet as you start to follow the flint sharp 18th-century military roads by Thomas Telford – and if the weather is even slightly dodgy then the vast & lonely inspiring Heather Moonscape of Rannoch Moor without a single blade of shelter is a little more exposed than the average weekend adventurist expects!
BUT ….. whoa – back up a bit . There’s a challenge to be met and proof to be shown. Where of course I’m going to meet a man who made a great claim to me last night. (Iain #3) . They say they’re just off my track as I start to climb out of Tyndrum . They are mixed band of wild campers, car sleepers and mobile home owners – so of course they’re early risers !
And God bless him he offered me coffee as well as proof from his flask of both types
And so –with proof and a fond farewell – I set off on my long track through the early morning –: my first waymark being the delightfully Tolkien named Bridge of Orchy. I hope the Orchs 😈 are friendly this morning!
But little did I know what inspiring sights would come as this almost “lost world“ emerges as the track ascends
There is no one on this Camino at this early hour and I feel privileged to be here
Bridge of Orchy is 15 km into this walk and if I can be there by 10 am – I am on schedule to meet Thom
I get to the bridge of Orchy by 10:30 am – got to be the most picturesque rail station. I need to get at least a 4.5 km average to be on time to make the meeting with my first born.
Where at a particularly idyllic lonesome spot I leave a wish stone for my lovely Roddy at a roadside Cairn
Where if you’ve made it this far they ask you if you’d like to sign a board – which I duly did from both of us 💕
Climbing out of the valley I see the start of these renowned 18C Military roads .
To the monumental isolated wide open spaces of Rannoch Moor
Where after several sweaty miles I found a resting place on a bridge side with several travellers I had met during the day as we overtook, stopped and overtook each other again. Drinks, protein , trail storys and snacks swapped and a couple of exchanged photos later – I moved on. 🙏
The Moor eventually, unbelievably finishes – with one eye on the clouds it’s (sort of) a relief to have crossed it.
90 minutes left on the clock and I’m in good time – heading for Glencoe and my destination for the day – hopefully be there waiting for Thom – it’ll be great to see him.
Suddenly this dizzying, immense almost overwhelming “Glenscape” opens up – hard to believe this country has so much open space.
Happy as a little hiking piglet – I’m here 40 minutes before Thom is due.
Before I start describing the travels of the day can I skip to the end?
The destination is Tyndrum – and it was in the Tyndrum Inn ….. Full of walkers, bikers and campers.
Billy Connolly has a sketch about asking a perfectly normal question & getting the most unusual, unexpected answer.( hence the title)
I’m sat outside the pub at the end of today and get talking to 2 guys – One turns out to be a musician about 70 years old who worked at some stage with a couple of Billy Connolly‘s bands . Interesting enough – so I turned to the other guy and say “are you walking the way then?He replies “Gold Panning” – I snort my beer and say is that the wind up that you tell tourists around here? No seriously he says I still use traditional methods but today I’ve been “sniping” I spent the entire day in a dry suit with a snorkel in a shallow stream . I tell him I’m still being wound up – and a couple of the guys join in to a tell me that this is actually a real thing in the area. A major company has opened up a long closed goldmine and already taken £2 million worth of gold just from the”tailings” of a long closed goldmine – ie the waste that technology in those days could not extract gold . These guys are just hobbyist freelancers.
I say they need to prove it 😆 and they promise to meet on the trail and show me as I set off tomorrow as they start early as will I be doing for the longest 30k day over Rannoch Moor – let’s see !!
I just love pub chat.
….. otherwise this day is July 8th – and i’m doing the Falls of Falloch to Tyndrum .
Yes of course we had a spectacular white water like the Falls of Falloch – quiet and tranquil today but …….
Which only a few months ago in full flood had taken out several of the bridges one of which still did not exist which meant a detour to find steppingstones upstream
But the trail lifted from the floodplains and after a steepish climb started to give the traditional welcome views.
Heading eventually through dense forest to the famous Crianlarich crossroads . Famous for red coated soldiers, anxious drovers and nervous coach drivers finally crossing into bandit territory. It also happens to be the halfway mark on the West Highland Way! Yay 😁 !!
We moved through historical sites – bloody battles won and lost – famous names like Robert the Bruce, Edward the first ( The Cursed Longshanks) . Ruined priories once hundreds of feet long, the height of religious glamour and wealth , reduced by 360 degree fate to mere mossy shadows the size of the serf roundhouses they are previously oppressed.
Then to find this fascinating stone. Legend of the Lochan of the Lost Sword. It’s just lying there next to the trail !
Eventually taking us into the busy little village of Tyndrum .
These are the rows of ex-lead miners cottages – I’m staying in one of them –the guy I was talking to last night – who looked after Billy Connolly‘s bands. Well His great great grandfather lived in one of them and he was making a four minute video for the BBC about it. Nice coincidence and one of the joys of travelling.
I’ve got no fitness tracker stats today as this is all I’m getting from my Fitbit – it appears to be making fun of me . No information just this annoying grin at my expense 😏