April 16, 2016
We had to move on today, since the hostel was all booked up tonight and we couldn’t get beds. So we’re moving on to the YHA at Borrowdale, which isn’t that far away. So after breakfast was finished we completed our packing and headed down to Elterwater to catch the bus to Dungeon Ghyll. (No, we weren’t going to walk all the way!) The weather was much improved, with lovely blue sky but bitterly cold winds.
In Elterwater we waited about 15 minutes for the bus to arrive; before we got on board about 20 walkers got off, leaving only one passenger on the bus. The ride to the Old Dungeon Ghyll Hotel took about 20 minutes so we were on the trail shortly after 10 am.
We had walked this section of trail a few years ago while walking the Cumbria Way, so it was quite familiar to us. For an hour we walked along the Mickelden valley which is level for the most part. At the end of the valley the trail splits, with one arm going to Esk Hause and the other to Stake Pass. Ascending the pass was fairly easy on a well-graded trail, with great views but still the bitterly cold wind. Finally at the top we continued along until we found a reasonably sheltered place for lunch. As it turned out our lunch spot was very close to our lunch spot back when we had walked the Cumbria Way.
Descending the far side of the pass was really cold despite the sunshine, so cold that our fingers were turning white. We descended as fast as we dared, along the way having a brief hailstorm to add to the fun. The trail levelled out now, and it was just flat walking until we reached Stonethwaite and followed a road for a short distance to Longthwaite, where the Borrowdale YHA is located.
We arrived at the hostel around 3 pm. We had stayed here when we did the Coast to Coast walk, but that was eight years ago and it didn’t look all that familiar. We checked in and found our rooms; we were early enough that we both got bottom bunks. They told us that they were having a school group tonight (normal procedure for British YHAs) so we booked our dinner for 6 pm to mostly avoid them.
The hostel is on the banks of the River Derwent, so we followed the path beside the river into Johnny’s Wood for a while. There were two Dippers in the river, which was a treat, but Rosemary had twisted her knee on the descent from Stake Pass so we didn’t go far, retreating to the hostel’s lounge instead. Dinner tonight was fish and chips—a huge plate which we could hardly finish. Not quite as good as YHA Langdale’s fish and chips, either. Paul decided on chocolate and banana sundae for dessert, and Rosemary had ginger and butterscotch pudding with custard.
April 17, 2016
Today we were moving on again, but we were only going to Buttermere so we didn’t have to leave very early. There was a bit of ice on the puddles as we left, but the sky was blue and the sun was warm. We had decided to walk up to Honister Pass and then take the bus from there down to Buttermere.
Our walk up to Honister Pass was on the Coast to Coast path, so we would be retracing our steps from our very first long-distance walk, only in the opposite direction. The first part of our walk followed the River Derwent through Johnny’s Wood and then through the fields to the beautiful hamlet of Seatoller. Last time we were here we had heard our first cuckoo, but this time it was April, too early in the spring for cuckoos.
From Seatoller we climbed steeply up the hillside until we were almost on the same level as the pass, and then walked along a good path. Behind us in the distance we could see fresh snow on a range of mountains which we decided ran between Helvellyn and Keswick, and the views towards Buttermere were really good too.
At the pass we went into the buildings there and inquired about tours through the slate mine. We were too late for the 10:30 am tour, and the next tour would be at 12:30 pm—more than an hour away. We didn’t really feel like waiting that long so we decided to catch the next bus to Buttermere. It wasn’t that far to walk, really, but we hadn’t looked at the map closely and thought that all of the trails went over the tops of mountains.
As it turned out we only had to wait 10 minutes for the bus to arrive. The fare was £5 for the two of us, but we only had a £10 note and the driver didn’t have change. Luckily the other passengers on board did have change, though. The trip took about 15 minutes including waiting behind a herd of sheep as they trotted along the road.
The bus dropped us off at the Fish Inn in “downtown” Buttermere, from where it was only a short walk to the hostel. We headed into the self-catering kitchen to make some tea and eat our lunch. Then Rosemary tracked down one of the staff, and he checked us in. We decided to pay extra for a private room, which turned out to be a 6-bed dorm with a nice view over the lake. Naturally we both chose lower bunks!
The weather was still pretty good so we decided to walk around the lake. It wasn’t far to the permissive path down to the lakeshore, but now the sky was overcast and the wind had picked up. We were both glad we had put sweaters on. It took us about two hours to walk around the lake, which was clearly a popular walk. The views of the surrounding hills were very nice and the walk was very enjoyable. Back in Buttermere we noticed the Croft House Farm café, so we stopped in to have tea and a scone. The scone came with jam and clotted cream, so we were having our first cream tea of the trip! It was very very good.
Dinner tonight as the hostel was fish and chips—again! The food was not nearly as good as at Langdale, but for the price we couldn’t complain. The sticky toffee pudding (with custard) was really good, though. Tonight there were only four of us having dinner at the hostel; one of the others was a young guy from rural Montana who had been studying art history in Venice and was now travelling around Europe before having to go home.