May 25, 2013

We woke up to blue sky and sunshine just as predicted! The plan for today was to climb Skiddaw, the hulking mountain which looms over Keswick. So using our Walking the Wainwrights book, we formulated a plan and after breakfast we set out.

We left the youth hostel and started out following the Cumbria Way. There was a short delay as we followed a signpost which appeared to take us down a small trail beside the Leisure Centre and into a cul-de-sac, but once on track we headed up the slopes of Latrigg. We soon began to see signs about a fell-running race, so evidently the runners in our hostel were fell-runners and they would be racing up Skiddaw. On one gate we saw a race schedule which said that the junior women would start from the park at 11:30 am, so we had a fair head start on them.

Our trail angled around the side of Latrigg and arrived at a car park, from which the path up Skiddaw started. There was no problem finding this path—it was a cart track about two meters wide. And since it was a sunny Saturday, everybody and their dogs were going up it. It first headed rather steeply up to Jenkin Hill, near which was a gate which was the finish line for the junior women’s race. Here we met a man who was the father/coach of one of the junior women, who turned out to be the eventual winner. This qualified her to go to the European Mountain Running championships in Bulgaria.

We carried on over Little Man, our first Wainwright of the day, with fantastic views in all directions. From there the trail descended a bit and then started the climb to Skiddaw itself. The wind was picking up so it was getting a bit chilly, and as we approached the summit the leaders of the women’s and junior men’s races started to pass us, since their races ended at the summit. Some of them looked like they could keep on all day, but others were wheezing like steam engines. Some walked the steep bits, but still seemed to keep up with the ones who were running.

At the top we found a sheltered spot to have our lunch. We could see a long way in all directions, including the Solway Firth, the Pennines, and with some imagination the Isle of Man. For our descent we chose to go down towards some other Wainwrights. We found the route by noticing somebody coming up it. It angled down very steeply across a slate scree slope, finally coming down to earth at Carlside Tarn. There we followed a beautiful ridge trail called Longside Edge over to Ullock Pike, thus tallying two more Wainwrights. Once there we admired the view and then retraced our route back to Carl Side. From there the trail angled down very steeply across a heather-covered slope, and eventually we staggered down to a band of quartz-like rocks called White Stones. And after than the trail plunged steeply down the quartzy rocks and finally down a grass field into the village of Millbeck.

Using the Ordnance Survey map we followed public rights-of-way back to Keswick. We made a brief stop at the Coop for some microwave dinners and then headed back to the hostel. Luckily for us the kitchen was not busy, so we didn’t need to wait to use the microwave. Our dinner was good and filling, which was good after a long day of walking.

May 26, 2013

This morning we were a bit worn out after yesterday’s hike. But the blue sky persisted for a second day, so we headed out to walk to the start of the trail for Cat Bells. This involved walking back on the Cumbria Way for a while. Today was Sunday, and as we found out it was a bank holiday weekend, so there were a lot of people with the same idea.

It took us an hour to walk to the place where the path headed up the ridge line to the lower of the two “bells”, where we joined a horde of people already on the path. Wainwright described Cat Bells as being suitable for the whole family including children and grandparents, and indeed they were all there. Once again, rather than using switchbacks the trail went steeply straight up the slope.

Today there were a few clouds, so periodically the sun went behind them and the temperature dropped. We reached the first Cat Bell and then dropped down slightly to a wide grassy saddle before climbing the higher of the two bells. From the top we could see fells around us on all sides, and we were quite surprised to see how close Castle Crag and Rosthwaite were to us. We found a spot to have our lunch which gave us some shelter from the gusts of wind and, unlike yesterday, looked down over the lake. We watched sailboats, kayaks, canoes, and boats of all kinds plying the waters. A very lovely way to spend part of the day.

After lunch we noticed that people were continuing along the ridge instead of returning the way we had come up. It turned out that there was a well-trodden path going down the lake, so we decided to go down that way too. The descent went by quickly and for once it was a reasonably graded trail!

Down at the lake there was a dock close by where we could take the launch back to Keswick. There were already a lot of people waiting for the boat, so we joined the queue. Within a few minutes the launch came by but it was too full for us to get on. But fortunately the company was running extra boats, so we only had to wait a few more minutes for the next one. The ride was really nice, going by many islands in the lake, and it only cost £7.70 for the two of us, so it was a nice way to end our walk.

We dropped off our packs at the hostel and changed from boots into shoes so that we could go and look around Keswick. Paul had for some reason only brought one pair of hiking trousers, and now they had a small tear in the seat, probably from Skiddaw. Keswick is full of outdoor shops and we went into several before we found a suitable pair at Black’s—on sale and they actually fit!

Today we decided to go out for dinner, so about 6 pm we headed out. There were numerous places to choose from, but many of them were very busy. Eventually we settled on the Golden Lion, which was fairly busy but did have a table available. Both of us ordered the lamb shank, but it was rather dry, which put it in a distant third place in our lamb shank competition. The vegetables were scanty and overcooked too.

After dinner we went for a walk back to the lakeshore and along to Friar’s Crag. It was a lovely evening, especially when the wind wasn’t blowing. It wasn’t a long walk to the point but it had good views of the nearby island and the rest of the lake. On the way back we searched out the church we had noticed earlier and managed to locate it. It was in a lovely location overlooking the bay, and the 1930’s author Hugh Walpole is buried there.

May 27, 2013

There was blue sky at 7 am, but at 8 am when we got up it was cloudy and raining. The rain persisted throughout most of the day, so mostly we stayed in our room. About noon we went out in the rain to do some shopping. We found the needlework shop was open today, so Rosemary bought a couple of cross-stitch patterns. One was a Herdwick lamb with daffodils, which we had seen hanging on the wall back in Rosthwaite. Then we went to get one of those plastic map-holders which hang around your neck, to carry our Cumbria Way guidebook in. Those things are brilliant, as they say here in Britain. And surprisingly Black’s had another pair of trousers which were identical to the one Paul had bought yesterday, except for the colour, so we bought that pair as well.

We also bought some pasties from the Cornish Pasty shop for our dinner—microwave meals were getting a bit boring—and some buns for lunch during tomorrow’s walk. At about 5:30 we went down to the kitchen and heated up the pasties in the microwave. Rosemary had a traditional pasty which contained beef, potatoes, swedes, and gravy, and Paul had a steak and ale pasty. Both were really good and filling, accompanied by carrots and our remaining two tomatoes.

Finally about 7:30 pm the rain stopped and the skies looked lighter, so we headed out for a short walk to the Castlerigg stone circle. It turned out to be easier than we thought to find it; from behind the Leisure Centre we followed the old railway line which has been converted to a walking and cycling route, then followed the signs along a road to the top of a steep hill. The stone circle was out in the middle of a field with (of course) sheep. It wasn’t Stonehenge but it was certainly better than other stone circles we had seen, and it was interesting that 4,500 years ago people were carrying out their business on this now-deserted hilltop.

Previous: Rosthwaite to Keswick
Next: Keswick to Caldbeck

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