The Road goes ever on and on; Down from the door where it began;
Now far ahead the Road has gone; And I must follow, if I can;
Pursuing it with eager feet; Until it joins some larger way;
Where many paths and errands met; And whither then? I cannot say.

[JRR Tolkien, Lord of the Rings]

Monday, 22 July 2013

Thursday 18 July: Gayle Wolds to Tan Hill Inn

Thursday dawned a bit cloudy, much to our relief, but by the time we were away walking (just before a quarter past seven) the clouds were clearing and it was already decidedly warm, with promise of reaching ‘baking’ later. With the NHS having issued warnings on Wednesday for people to stay indoors and not even think about putting a toe over the threshold whilst this hot weather persists, I did question our sanity in venturing for miles up hill and down dale, whilst carrying full packs.

What a contrast to the first time we walked this section of the Way, when we didn’t see a thing all the way over to Hawes. This time, we marvelled at the views down to Widdale and time flew such that before we knew it we had covered the first six and a half miles of the day and were heading down into Hawes just in time for second breakfast.

The Chemist supplied us with more suncream to top up Mick’s dwindling supply and the grocer supplied us with a sausage roll and a punnet of local strawberries, but we didn’t buy any water as I knew that there was a water tap behind the public toilets, just outside of town.

Alas, it transpires that the tap has now been declared ‘not drinking water’ and as it didn’t appear to be mains pressure we thought we’d better not risk it and would have resigned ourselves to one of us nipping back into town for some bottles of water if we hadn’t (for once) benefited from my prolonged faffing. By the time I had finished faffing (by which time Mick was seated on a bench some distance away, tucking into the strawberries), the museum opposite the toilets had opened and they were happy to show me to their kitchen to fill my bottles.

With strawberries eaten (it was a big punnet and we made short work of them) our stay in town had been longer than I had expected, the day was hot and I was very aware of the climb we had ahead of us. It was sweaty work heading up Great Shunner Fell (which summits at just over 2300’), but for the most part we had a nice breeze.


Coming off the other side of Great Shunner Fell the Way skirts away eastwards to go around a little hill called Kidson. It’s a very lovely walk, with views over the meadows-and-stone-barns which typify this area, but I have walked that way three times before so didn’t feel obligated to go that way again. Instead, we took a bit of a yomp to the north off the shoulder of the fell, heading down to a shooting hut from where a (unmapped, but perfectly clear on aerial photos) track took us down to Keld whilst cutting 2 miles off the route.

That route took us past a gorgeous swimming hole (complete with a man swimming) and for the second week in a row I rued not having my swimmers with me.


A long stop in Keld refreshed us and cooled us down no end. As we bought ice lollies and pop, we enquired about using the campsite showers (the tea-room and the campsite being part of the same establishment), whilst explaining that we weren’t going to be staying the night. The owner seemed rather thrown by our request and I fancy that the reason for her hesitation was because she couldn’t decide how much it was reasonable to charge for a shower. Finally she told us to help ourselves and to put some money in the honesty box in the car park.

By the time we left the tiny village at 4pm we were sparkling clean (for about five minutes, at least!) and had just four miles to walk over to the Tan Hill Inn, which is where Mick wanted to spend the night (my vote was for a wild camp about a mile short, but it was Mick’s walk, so he got to choose). Thanks to the shower in Keld, I didn’t feel any compulsion to jump into this pool:


Arriving at the Inn at a quarter to six, an hour or so was spent chatting with a trio of cyclists (John, Christine and Michael), who were questioning their own sanity at cycling over roads where the tar was melting and sticking to their tyres, on a day when in direct sunlight a temperature of 42 degrees had been measured. Still, we all lived to tell the tale, even if more than just me was feeling that it had been Jolly Hard Work!

Eventually, we finished our cold pop and dragged ourselves away to pitch a tent:


As the sun went down we were the only tent there, and it was promising to be a peaceful night:


It remained peaceful until 11pm when two chaps in a van pulled into the car park and proceeded to have a good long chat, which woke us both up. After about twenty minutes they must have noticed our tent as one of them exclaimed “Are you allowed to camp here?”. I guess they had been intended to spend the night in the back of the van, but having seen our tent they proceeded to pitch their own. By midnight, peace had been restored and I got on with the important business of sleeping.

The stats for the day were 22 miles walked with 3600’ of ascent.


  1. Great post Gayle, I bet the phone has melted.

  2. All typed on the big keyboard once we got home, Alan, rather than on the phone.

    I did try to send a post or two whilst we were out, but my Blackberry service wasn't working. I'm not entirely convinced it was because the phone had heatstroke though!

  3. Brilliant fun, almost makes me want to be there. Almost? The heat of course (silly silly hot :-( ) I haven't been to Tan Hill Inn for a while!

    1. Did I mention that the heat did make it all very hard work? But, I'd still rather be slogging up a hill, running with sweat (nice...) than sitting in an office!

  4. I had a heavy launch and a couple of pints of bitter in the Green Dragon before ascending HGeat Shunner on my Pennine Way (april 1987). Believe it or not was also a heatwave even at that time of year, and Gt. Shunner was one of the most uncomfortable ascents I can remember. I've been up since from the other side and seen the stone pavement which was not there in 1987 as far as I can remember.

    Your trip has been evocative for me covering very familiar ground. Thanks.

    1. The most uncomfortable bits of the ascent of Great Shunner Fell for us were the steepest bits - not just because of their steepness, but because they were exactly where we became sheltered from the nice cooling breeze.

      Incidentally, those flagstones weren't really needed in last week's dryness!

  5. I've just had a heavy launch as well, Conrad, and enjoyed catching up with Mick's travels. Am wondering whether he'll be sent to Vicdessos to replace Graham!

    1. I'm afraid that Mick won't be pitching up in Vicdessos. I'm sure he'd enjoy me sending him over to join you, but I have to keep him to myself over the next few weeks, as there are things in the diary.

      I'm enjoying following your travels, even if I have been very remiss at leaving any comments.

  6. Hi guys! I have just been refereed to you from this site:

    Can I get in contact with you in regards to your Double Rainbow. I'm a bit curious on whether I should buy or not and have a couple of questions before I throw my money across the pond :)


    1. Hi Chris - Fire away with any questions you have. You can email me at thegateposts at gmail dot com