|Day 42 – May 20||Langdon Beck to Dufton|
|Weather: Cloudy with sunny breaks||B&B: Hall Croft B&B (£35)|
|Departed: 9:00 Arrived: 14:30||Walked: 4h 30m Rested: 1 hr 00m|
|Distance Today: 13.3 mi / 21.40 km||Total Distance: 659.82 mi / 1061.88 km|
|% Complete: ~ 57.52%||Pint of the Day: Hawkshead Bitter|
|GPS Track for: Day 42|
Today’s walk to Dufton doesn’t get me any closer to John O’Groats and at this point extra miles are something I don’t need. However there is just no way I can come all this way and not visit one of the least known but spectacular sights in all of Britain: High Cup.
When I looked out the window first thing this morning I saw blue skies to the west but by breakfast a thick grey mist had descended and threatened to obliterate everything in sight. Not good news when I’m about to invest two days of walking for a view of High Cup.
It was 9am before I left the very friendly Langdon Beck Hotel and I made a beeline for a track that would eventually join up with the Pennine Way. The quickly moving clouds and mist did add to the landscape and the occasional patch of blue sky boosted my hopes. As I neared the junction with the PW I noticed another walker heading in the same direction. It turned out to be the German walker I met nearly a week ago on my way to Malham. We reached the junction at exactly the same time and would spend the next couple of hours walking together.
The PW joined the River Tees and followed it through a narrow valley for the next couple of miles. There were some tricky bits that required clambering over boulders and a few sections over boardwalks and flagstones. Before long we reached Cauldron Snout, another impressive waterfall fed by the Cow Green Reservoir towering above it. To reach the weir at the top of the falls we had to scramble up a steep rock face, not a problem going up but it would be pretty dodgy if you were heading down it in wet weather.
Once over the river we ascended the moor which we would follow for the next 4 to 5 miles. It reached 600m at one point before dropping down to Maize Beck, a small but almost bone-dry river that fed the Tees. I haven’t heard the word “drought” used around here yet but the water levels are pretty low for this time of year. It was near a small bridge over Maize Beck that my temporary walking partner decided to stop for a break but I decided to carry on as it was less than 2 miles to High Cup and the current weather window was a good one.
The top edge of the northern face of High Cup was visible about a mile away but this was just a teaser of what was to come. The benefit of approaching High Cup from the southern edge is that it reveals itself in a very dramatic fashion, quite literally in the last few meters.
The pictures I’ve included in my photo gallery don’t do High Cup justice. Suffice it to say I was not disappointed despite my high expectations. This really has to be one of the most spectacular natural landscapes in Britain, it certainly is one the most amazing sights I’ve ever experienced during my many visits to the UK. It’s remoteness keeps it Britain’s best kept secret. If it had road access (heaven forbid) there would be a parking lot stuffed with coaches, tacky gift shops and a tea shop called “The High Cuppa”. Instead I had High Cup all to myself for nearly half an hour. Bliss.
The weather cooperated too as the cloud did not obscure my view and I could clearly see the Eden Valley below and the base of the Lake District hills beyond. What makes High Cup so beautiful is its almost sculpted shape. Looking at it I couldn’t help but think that if it snowed it would create the largest snowboarding half-pipe in the world.
Eventually another walker showed up and I decided to move on and let him enjoy it in peace. Unfortunately a massive bank of low cloud and mist was moving its way up the mouth of the valley and the views were quickly becoming obscured. I followed a trail hugging the northern edge of High Cup that provided the occasional good view back to the head of the valley. Eventually High Cup disappeared into the mist and I made my way down to Dufton a few miles away.
There were some excellent views on the way down including one of Dufton Pike, the impressive conical hill just north of the village. Dufton’s sandstone buildings are in stark contrast to those seen in the past two weeks. By the time I reached the village green the sun was out and I enjoyed a pint at the Stag Inn in the company of another walker. After a good chat I headed off to my b&b just a hundred meters away and was greeted with a large mug a tea and a slice of homemade cake. After a brief rest I headed back to the Stag Inn for a fantastic supper and wrote up my blog on the patio. It’s 7:30pm and its shirt-sleeve weather … a big change from a week ago.
Tomorrow I head to Alston via Cross Fell, the highest point in the Pennines.