Distance: 11.5 miles
Today we were faced with a choice again – the high route (more climbs but shorter) or the valley route (flatter but slightly longer). The book described the valley route as the more scenic of the two, so we plumped for that.
Our bodies felt as though they had been walking solidly for eight days. By now we should have been feeling fitter, but we mainly ached. However, we were suitably revived by an excellent breakfast and knew we didn’t have too far to go.
We bid farewell to a young, super fit couple who were walking the Pennine Way and continued on with the Aussies who had been staying at our B&B. Our early animosity towards them had waned as we got to know them better. We spent an insanely pretty morning alongside the Swale river, looking at tumble down stone barns and pretty wild flowers. Every step was another 'oh wow, how gorgeous' moment.
Diverting off our path, we popped into the village of Muker that used to thrive on lead mining in the local area, but now survives on all things wool from the swaledale sheep that populate the area. We popped into the community run wool shop and bought a few knick knacks as these tiny places rely on walkers to stay afloat.
We left the pretty village behind us and continued, following the peat coloured water. We stopped in Gunnerside for a picnic lunch, and said farewell to the Aussies who decided on a pub lunch. As we left our lunch spot, we passed old Keith again, the elderly man walking on his own. He seemed to pop up unexpectedly and we could never quite fathom how we got ahead of us.
After a chat with him, we carried on chatting away, not concentrating on where we were going. We suddenly came about a farm house that looked like something out of a horror movie. The directions in our book seemed to steer us through what looked like old animal pens, which were littered with evil looking hooks and old bits of farming equipment. It was spooky. We readily agreed that we had gone wrong and scarpered before a psychopath turned up. But despite that slightly weird moment, the rest of the walk was just more picture book prettiness set against a brooding sky.
As a result of our little detour, we ended up walking 15.5 miles instead of 11. Once again, we were tired and very much in need of the delicious ice cream we found in Reeth. And who should be sitting on the bench eating an ice cream, but old Keith. Even with our small foray into the farm of the damned, we couldn’t believe he could have beaten us there. So we asked him how he did it. He silently put up his thumb and continued licking his ice cream. So that’s how you coast to coast in your 80s. You just hitch a lift when your feet get tired. I was tempted to try it myself.
We found our way to another very lovely B&B – the Manse Inn – where we were offered complimentary tea and cake. I declined because despite walking miles every day, we were clocking up even more calories. A leisurely shower, a quick look around this James Herriott town, another meal out at another pub (the Buck Inn) and more chatting to our fellow coast to coasters who we now knew really well, and it was back to bed for two tired girls.