I figure it’s about time I finished up the tale of Mr. S and I heading to the “wilds” of the United Kingdom to hike Hadrian’s Wall.
It’s funny the relationships you strike up on the wall. A bunch of us, couples, groups of friends, families, are all hiking the same distance per day, often at the same pace. And because there’s very little out there on parts of the wall, it means we often stayed in the same places and ate at the same places. We got to know each other. Throughout each day, you’ll leapfrog each other, as you stop for photos or a rest, or they do. Apparently we were the “fast” Americans, who hiked a bit faster than some of the other groups, and who didn’t give up after the first day like some other Americans on the hike.
This night we ended up at the Samson Inn in Gisland, an adorable little pub that had some really tasty food (and it wasn’t all pub food! There was risotto and lasagna!!), chatting with the other hikers about what we’d seen that day, It’s a nice sense of camaraderie.
The hotel, Bush Nook, was incredibly charming, even though it was a LONG slog up the hill from the trail.
The next day we headed out for another “short” day (8 miles). It was short, but it was full of things to see. We started out seeing Birdoswald Fort, which has more than just Roman history (this becomes a good thing after a while, because while Roman history is great…all the forts and milecastles and turrets look the same. That’s actually on purpose. But still). After the Romans left, other people (possibly locally recruited soldiers who were formerly part of the Roman army) remains and settled the fort area. New buildings were built on the old ones, all the way up to a Bastle in the 15th century (a fortified farmhouse, meant to discourage Border Reivers, or raiders. Not the Firefly kind. The Scottish kind. The farmhouse had windows only on the upper floors. The lower floor housed livestock and had only one, very strong, door. The people lived above, and the ladder connecting the upstairs and downstairs could be raised if the Reivers came in to steal your cattle). Now, the site is a beautiful 18th century farmhouse, surrounded by Roman walls.
Later in the day we came to Lanercost Priory, a lovely romantic ruin that used to house Priests, which also suffered a lot from Reivers until the dissolution of the monasteries during the reign of Henry VIII.
(But first, very hairy cow. Very cute. Very hairy)
(The old entrance to Lanercost Priory)
(Romantic ruins are romantic)
(Sneaky PB and J)
Side Note: Apparently PB & J is not the hiking staple is the UK that it is in the US. I never ONCE saw peanut butter anywhere at breakfast or anything. We always got ham sandwiches or turkey with some kind of jelly in it. Maybe because of allergies? But it’s SUCH a great fuel. The ham was fine, but after a while, I really began to crave some peanut butter. Luckily, we brought our own hiking fuel, which included things like trail mix, energy bars, and little single packets of peanut butter! I jury-rigged myself a peanut butter and jelly sandwich as seen above, on a scone. It was DELICIOUS. I have no shame.
In the afternoon we reached Walton, where one of the couples we were friends with (from Holland) was trying to get a cab. Apparently dialing a country code on a cell phone is a headache. But they made a local friend and soon all was well! We ended up in one of the lamer hotels that night, but no spiders.
PS: I am officially sick of The English Breakfast. I want porridge. How do you make that stuff? It’s GREAT.
Hadrian’s Wall: Day the Last
Well, not REALLY the last day. You can hike the trail all the way from Newcastle to Bowness-on-Solway. We were stopping at Carlisle, because we didn’t really have any more time, and because all the best bits of wall are between Heddon on the Wall and Carlisle.
Our final day was 12 miles, which goes VERY quickly when it’s all flat. We raced along and were done for the day in 5 hours (except for the 1.5 hours we stopped at a pub along the way. What?). Hadrian’s wall walk complete!
(And the walk was lined in ADORABLE houses)
(Houses with feline guardians)
(The Stag Inn, where we got lunch and pints. I love that all the pubs look like this. Our sports bars have no personality)
(The bridge to Carlisle! Mission complete)
Yeah, it was only 12 miles of nice flat ground, but it should say something that we got to the final hotel (very nice), and…fell asleep.
But JOY! JOY! We were in Carlisle! It’s a small town but…it has more than one place to eat. And more than one KIND of food! You have to understand that we’d been living on English Breakfasts and Pub Food for days. We got Italian. It was GREAT.
We said a sad goodbye to our hiking companions (so nice! I wish I’d thought to get email addresses or something), and headed to see Carlisle castle. Like everything here, they have exhibit on Mary Queen of Scots (who apparently stayed in the Castle).
There is an old wine cellar in the bottom that was used during the Parliamentariat as a dungeon, and contained slick spots on the wall. “Licking stones”, where the moisture used to run down and which is prisoners licked smooth as they tried to get at the water.
(The shiny bit in the middle)
Side Note: Dear English Heritage, Your tours are lame. You have to pay and then you have to pay MORE for a book, and if you don’t, there’s no signage or anything really interesting to tell you anything about the site! This plagued us throughout our travels. You need an audiotour, guys. The ones at Holyrood House and the Edinburgh Castle were brilliant. Invest in those. We’d pay for them. Love, Me.
The Carlisle Cathedral was also very lovely.
The ceiling inside is particularly stunning.
(Neat floor tiles)
We grabbed some Indian food for dinner, and the next day, it was on the train to London, and then, home (though it should be noted we got stuck in the Tube for about 40 minutes when there was something stopping the central line).
There’s not question it was a trip for the ages! So much fun, and so many lovely things to see. Like this:
(Like this. My favorite sign)
Things I miss already:
1. SCONES. Scones and cream teas. My scones never taste like that. I wonder what I’m doing wrong.
2. The atmosphere of the pubs around there. The fake ones in the US try for it, but never succeed. It’s so nice to be able to sit there, with comfortable seats and nice beer in a quiet, snug place.
3. English bacon. So nice. So ham like.
4. It was so nice and cool!!! Everyone there complained of a heat wave, but no. You have NO IDEA.
Things I don’t miss:
1. Pub food. Sorry. Sausages and potatoes and all are fine, but…
2. Sheep poop.
3. Cow pats.
4. High prices. The people running stuff along the wall KNOW they are the only pub for miles and we’re on foot. And they price to take advantage. That said, it’s not that terrible.
Anyway, thanks for coming along as we re-write our journey!! Who knows where the next world stop will be? 🙂