|Day 39 – May 17||Hawes to Tan Hill|
|Weather: Sun and Cloud||B&B: Tan Hill Inn (£50)|
|Departed: 9:15 Arrived: 16:15||Walked: 5h 12m Rested: 1 hr 33m|
|Distance Today: 15.9 mi / 25.59 km||Total Distance: 619.3 mi / 996.67 km|
|% Complete: ~ 54.18%||Pint of the Day: Black Sheep Bitter|
|GPS Track for: Day 39|
When I looked outside this morning it looked pretty much like every other morning has in May – a bit of sun, a lot of cloud and some wind. There are always a few big black clouds mixed in with the others and so its difficult to know what it will do throughout the day. I decided a pack cover and gaiters were in order and set out from Hawes a little after 9am.
I made my way to Hardraw, a pretty little village just over a mile from Hawes. It’s known for its waterfall named “Hardraw Force” which is accessible via a path that begins in the Green Dragon pub. I’d seen it on a previous visit so I just snapped a photo of the pub and moved on. I’m not sure if the falls would be very impressive these days on account of the dry weather.
From Hardraw the Pennine Way began the long ascent to Great Shunner Fell (2350 ft / 713 m). It took well over an hour to reach the summit as it was a good 3 to 4 mile climb. Much of the footpath is flagged and so navigation was pretty straightforward. The first section to Little Fell was reasonably steep while the second section followed a wide ridge up the spine of the fell and was more gradual. The views in every direction were wonderful because despite the cloud the visibility was excellent.
I met some really nice walkers today. Everyone seemed to be in a good mood and happy to chat. I met a couple resting at the top of Little Fell and then a couple from Toronto taking a break at the top of Great Shunner Fell. These were the first Canadians I’ve spoken to since arriving and so we had a good natter while sheltering from the wind in the stone enclosure built just for walkers.
On the descent I met a lady on her way up who was curious about the route to Hawes. Another good conversation ensued before we headed off in opposite directions. By now I had excellent views looking east into Swaledale, and picked out the villages of Thwaite and Muker. I spent a handful of days exploring Swaledale about 10 years ago and in fact the old map I’m using today still has traces of my walks up and down the dale.
Eventually I descended onto a road and decided to follow it north to Keld rather than follow the PW. This saved at least one mile and since I walked that section 10 years ago I felt there was no need to do it again. It was 2 to 3 miles to Keld and when I arrived I had a rest at a farm that ran a campground and sold cold drinks, ice cream and snacks to walkers in need of refreshment. The picnic tables out front were occupied exclusively by walkers, not surprising as Keld is at the crossroads of both the Pennine Way and the Coast-to-Coast walk. No wonder accommodation books up 3 months in advance! Campers take note: there is a large area set up for tents and so finding a space shouldn’t be an issue for you.
I had another nice chat with a couple who were visiting the Dales for a few days and who were enjoying ice cream cones after their walk from Muker. They mentioned that yesterday they had fleece caps and gloves on and so they were enjoying the change in the weather.
There’s a very nice waterfall at Keld which I passed on my way up the PW. It was 4 miles to my destination, Tan Hill and I never saw another soul until I reached the Tan Hill Inn. The walk involved a good climb out of Keld, a mile long section spent traversing the hillside, and then another climb up to the top of Tan Hill. As I moved up the valley it really began to open up. At times it looked more like the Mongolian Steppe than somewhere in England. To the west I saw a range of hills which I thought might be the southern reaches of the Lake District. One peak appeared to have a bit of snow on it. To the north lay a great expanse of open land and I could clearly see traffic on the A66 several miles away.
When I arrived at the Tan Hill Inn, the highest Inn in England, I bumped into the couple from Keld that I had chatted with earlier. We had another good chat but this time over pints of Black Sheep rather than ice cream. After they left a local man, who had done the Pennine Way last summer, sat down and yet another chat ensued. Doing a solo LEJOG means you spend a lot of time on your own but today I spoke to more people than I have in the last two weeks.
The Tan Hill Inn is not your run-of-the-mill pub. For starters there is its remote location, a single building alongside a road in the middle of the moor. Next, as you approach the pub you will notice the doormen, namely three stray lambs who guard the entrance. Once you negotiate these guys you are greeted by the landlady in true Tan Hill fashion: “Oh god, don’t tell me you’re staying here too? Bugger off!”. All done tongue-in-cheek of course but setting the tone for the rest of the evening. Once inside you’ll also notice the bulletins tacked up in various locations stating the house rules, such as anyone seen using a mobile phone must donate a pound to their charity fundraiser. Once in your room you’ll find another one warning of occasional low water pressure with the caveat “it is at this point that you will hear the mad landlady shouting that she can’t have her bath! And woe betide anyone if she is cooking breakfast in the morning!”
In addition to the pub lambs there is a pub dog, pub cat, pub hen and pub rooster. The latter two stay outside but sometimes the lambs sneak in which causes quite a stir, especially if there is a dog other then the pub dog inside. The pub cat sleeps on the bar or flirts with the pub dog. At one point the cat wrapped its tail around the dog’s head but the pub dog would have none of it.
While all this is going on the landlady is hurling insults, collecting fines or nipping out for a smoke. When I came down for supper I found a half-finished menu board and a line-up at the bar. When the line had dwindled down to myself and two other guys she announced she was going to finish writing up the menu board and so if you want a drink “pour it yourself!”. I couldn’t believe my luck, after 27 years I was finally going to pull my own pint. As you might expect it was a highly charged emotional moment but I held it together and pulled a pretty decent pint of Black Sheep bitter. A fellow patron kindly snapped a photo for posterity.
My supper, a giant Yorkie filled with chips, gravy and a large curled “Tan Hill Special” sausage (I didn’t ask) was very good. A bit of a relief really because the bottom of the menu board read “Enjoy … or Else”. To be honest the accommodation was a bit tired and not good value for money (unless you consider the free entertainment) but any pub that lets you pull your own pint gets two thumbs up from me.