May 8, 2012
Our hostess Sandra served us our breakfast at 8 am in the bunkhouse kitchen. Once we were finished, we packed up and headed out. So far the weather looked promising, with blue sky and fluffy clouds. Our plan for the next two days was a bit complicated: we would walk today, then our host Allan from Holmhead B&B would come and pick us up from our ending point. Then tomorrow morning he would drive us back there and we would carry on walking, ending at Holmhead where we would stay a second night. They had suggested this arrangement because we were having trouble finding accommodations in the area, and this was a win-win solution to that problem.
Once again we followed the path up and down through fields and over stiles, although today there were many more pieces of the wall still intact. We passed by large sections of it which included milecastles, turrets, and gateways. The first main attraction was Brocolita, which had been a temple dedicated to Mithras. The temple itself was quite well preserved, and you could still make out the walls, altar, and seating areas. From here we entered an area with many crags, which were steep cliffs on the north side resulting from a geological formation called the Whin Sill. Naturally this was an ideal place to build a wall to defend against attacks from the north.
The wall was quite intact in this area and it was fun walking beside it. The crags were quite steep and we did a lot of going up and down. By now we were in rain gear as we were hit by sporadic squalls. We found a sheltered spot for lunch and when Neil and Christine arrived, they reported hailstones. However the showers never lasted long and the wind dried us out quickly.
When we arrived at Housesteads fort, we opted not to spend time there but to carry on to our destination. The trail here was very nice as it took us through a forest beside the wall, which itself was on top of crags. The views to the north were good despite the rain squalls. After a very steep descent we arrived at Sycamore Gap, where there is a lone sycamore tree. This in itself is unusual, but the tree was made famous by appearing in Kevin Costner’s Robin Hood movie.
Instead of climbing up and over one more crag, we followed the old Roman military road around it and then headed down to the Twice Brewed Inn, where Allan picked us up. Initially we had planned to stay in his camping barn, but after hearing that it was unheated and that the overnight temperature had been below freezing a couple of nights ago, we inquired whether we could stay in the B&B instead. Luckily they did have room, so we settled into our room, which looked out onto the ruined Thirlwall Castle, and washed out some clothes.
After that we headed down to the pub in the village, where we had a delicious meal of Barnsley lamb chops. Definitely an excellent choice. For dessert Paul had sticky toffee pudding (ranked 4 out of 5 on the Butharlyp Howe Sticky Toffee Pudding Scale) and Rosemary had a banana caramel sundae.