The first day of our Cumbria Way hike exhausted us completely, but we had heard from the guys at the pub that our second day should be easier. The woman who brought us heaping plates of eggs and sausage for breakfast agreed. Now that we have hiked the day, I would agree it is indeed easier than the first day, but still challenging for my dad and I, novice hikers we are. Fewer fields, but a lot more up and down.
Starting the Day
We hit up the small Tesco store and each bought a sandwich, a drink and a few snacks for lunch. I bought a flapjack from the cafe attached to our guest house and we were off.
The way out of Coniston led very much up but spent a lot more time in forests than in sheep fields, which was to be the theme of the day. We actually had a fair amount of the trail on day two with a real path and even a road in a few places. Navigation was not as challenging both due to the well marked paths and because of all the lessons we learned on the first day. We only got lost once, but mainly because I missed counting a gate somewhere along the way.
This was the day were dad added “roots” to the list of things that slow down walkers. Hiking in a forest is nicer than across open ground in some ways. The ground is softer for one. But roots still make for difficult footing in places. This and the constant up and down was the main challenge for the day.
Dry Stone Walls
These walls are common all over England and we got to see our share of them up close on the Cumbrian Way. They are called dry walls because there is no mortar. The wall is held up just through the artful stacking of stones.
This particular wall that we came across early on the day was my favorite of the whole trip. It was covered in moss on one side and not so much on the other. I’m sure it was just some trick of the weather patterns, but I liked the fantasy symbolism that crossing the wall meant it really was a different place on the other side. This wall also had a really interesting pattern of stones, with occasional layers of flat stones.
At snack time on day two, we hit Tarn Howes, the first of two lakes for day two. It is apparently man-made, but no less attractive. It is also a national park and a big tourist draw. There were plenty of people enjoying the day on the nicely packed paths around the lake. That is until we found the sign our book spoke of and we struck out into the ruggedness again.
After leaving the tarn, the trail takes a line toward our end goal of the Old Dungeon Ghyll hotel. Until it makes a sharp right to go the long way around a big honking peak of Lingmoor Fell. The valley on the other side is Great Langdale and we spent the afternoon walking around into it.
Unlike the previous day, we passed through several towns. We had the chance to use a real bathroom and be tempted by several pubs along the way. Skelwith Bridge is the halfway point of the day and although we cut around town, we still got to see the bridge over a rushing river. Then we walked along the only lake of the day called the Elter Water, into the town of Elterwater. Nice how the names match up. Finally up a little hill to Chapel Stile for our afternoon snack break and then off across the valley floor.
Towns meant for some of the day we had really nice paved paths intended for daywalkers and just strolls with the dogs. It was a nice change from the fields and farms of the day before. The final stretch to Old Dungeon Ghyll (after you turn at the “fine barn” as our book told it) though was pretty rocky, although because it was up on the side of the valley it gave great views.
Old Dungeon Ghyll
As a part of our trip, we had accommodation booked for us each night and a service to transport our bags. Old Dungeon Ghyll was the best of the places we stayed on the hike. It is not a town at all. It is a pair of hotels about ten minutes walk from each other. The old and the new. We stayed in the old, which is a beautiful hotel with a pub and a patio.
We actually arrived to the hotel early on the day, several hours before dinner. So I took a shower and went down for a beer, while dad took a short nap. During my shower, the lights flickered and went out. I didn’t think anything about it, assuming the steam from the shower had shorted something. It was still light out and I headed down to the picnic tables with my book. I went into the dark bar and realized, nope power is out. A quick conversation with the bartender told me two things. One, most importantly, beer taps do not need power to run. And two, it was likely the entire valley and might take a bit to restore. A half beer later, dad came down and went in to figure out what food we could get without electricity. He came back having ordered two plates of chili con carne, which ended up quite excellent. By the time dessert time had come the lights had come back on. A had a sticky toffee pudding and dad got a piece of cheesecake.
We would burn off all those calories the next day climbing Stake Pass.
Learnings of the Day
- Having food is really important.
- Rocky paths are orders of magnitude more difficult to walk on than smooth ones.
- Apparently Cumbria is Raptor Country (I love the sign below we found outside a pub).
- Beer taps don’t need power to run.
9:30-4:30 : 7 hours
1 liter of water drank, but 1.5 liter carried.
Photo Credit: The hotel picture, all of the path pictures and the one of Coniston are from my dad. He was much better at taking pictures than I was.