I couldn’t get my rucksack packed to my satisfaction. I tried to do it quickly while rain clouds loomed towards me, a magnificent rainbow brightening the valley and reminding me that I didn’t need to rush at all. I slowed down, took shelter when the rain started, then eventually committed to wearing my rain jacket and hit the trail to Muker. Within two minutes I was stuffing my rain jacket back into my bag and walking in the sunshine! A morning of maximum faff which made me smile to myself. My morning walk was characterised by beautiful meadows lined with historic cow houses which were originally built to store hay in summer and to shelter cattle in winter during the 18th the 19th centuries.
This is tiny gate country! After squeezing my way through the first few of the day I came across a lovely woven sheep brooch lying in the wet grass. I picked it up assuming it was broken at first but managed to fasten the pin. As I tucked it into a pocket I wondered how I might be able to return it to its owner, then completely forgot about it. There were a few walkers just ahead of me, two of which I’d passed the night before who had stayed at the same campsite. I’d see the same couple later at the pub, and then again in Reeth.
I really enjoyed walking along the Swale riverbanks, the warm sunshine was a welcome contrast to the wind and rain that had blasted me over Great Shunner Fell yesterday. On reaching Gunnerside I was ready for a rest from carrying my heavy backpack. As I approached the pub entrance, the raincover on my bag got caught on a bike handle and nearly toppled over a stack of bikes onto its cyclists! Oops! Luckily I caught it just in time, saying "Oh shit!" out loud, and only my pride was injured.
I sat outside in the shade of the busy pub garden, overhearing parts of conversations around me. Walkers crossed paths and caught up on how everyone was doing. I love the familiarity that happens on multi-day walking trips. It was a lovely atmosphere as I read my guidebook and drank lemonade. Next I would head up into the hills towards Reeth, entering a 'walkers trance' where the only things I remember are an overgrown woodland and lots of rabbits darting about. No I did not eat any mushrooms other than perhaps in my veggie burger at the pub!
Approaching Reeth along the river, I crossed a big wobbly bridge and then followed a diversion into the village with an American family who assured me that the original route was still impassable. While squeezing through more tiny gates I came across the couple from the campsite again. As I’d seen them several times I felt that I wanted to chat to them. They told me they were walking the Coast to Coast. We randomly started talking about sheep and soon realised that Barbara and I have a mutual appreciation for these sweet curious animals. I suddenly remembered the brooch in my pocket, pulling it out to show her. Well, you should’ve seen her face! It was her brooch and she had just been telling another walker about losing it that very morning. She had bought it during their hike and her delight in having it returned to her was heartwarming to witness.
They insisted on buying me a drink in Reeth as a gesture of thanks and I was gasping for a brew so we headed to the nearest pub garden and sat in the sunshine while Barbara showed me her sheep photos from the Coast to Coast and we talked about all the usual things that walkers do. It was so lovely, I felt that I was catching up with long lost friends. It was Barbara’s birthday so they went off to their hotel and a celebratory meal, while I walked in the evening sun towards the campsite in the next village.
It was a dreamy summer evening. Beautiful big trees full with green leaves, rolling hills decorated with heather and endless drystone walls, locals sat outside the village pub. I felt a little tired, hot and sunburned, but still enjoyed every step of the way up to Grinton Lodge which looked like a castle in the sky. It's a listed building, a shooting lodge in a past life.
After checking in at the youth hostel, I scouted the campsite for a good spot for sunrise. A dog barked at me and as I squinted through the golden light from the evening sun I struck up a conversation with its owner, Vivienne, who was sitting on what looked like an armchair. She got up to introduce Otto the Greek mountain dog who was now acting shy after his voice had so boldly echoed through the hills. She assured me that he rarely barks but may have been spooked by my big backpack and tall stature silhouetted by the sun. He was a beautiful rescue dog and a total softy despite his lion-like appearance.
Vivienne was really friendly, a regular guest at the hostel who has tried every meal on the menu. The “armchair” was hers, a blow-up one which she moves around the campsite to catch the sun. She looked very glamorous in her smart outfit and flowing green scarf, not quite what I was expecting from a YHA campsite! She approached me with such warmth and curiosity. Looking up at me she said, “you look like you’re on a journey” and she was right. That sentiment has stayed with me since she said it. My memory of that evening continues to feel like a dream.
A very welcome pit stop on The Herriot Way, especially when the tea rooms are closed. I received a very warm welcome from this community pub and I recommend sitting outside on the benches in good weather.
Large and spacious youth hostel with an excellent campsite - mainly for the views! This hostel is on The Herriot Way route and surrounded by hills. The staff were very friendly and welcoming. There are cooked meals on site as well as a kitchen. The vegetarian lasagne was good. I wasn't very keen on the vegetarian breakfast the following morning.
I thought the showers were excellent and there's a lounge area where you can charge your phone, watch, etc. You can buy refreshments and snacks from the reception, they make a good brew! It's within walking distance to Reeth where there is a good shop to buy snacks and sandwiches.
This is part three of a series of blog posts about my Herriot Way walk in August 2023. I'm typing these up from my journal which I wrote during the trip. I sat in pubs and cafes, inside my tent, and on trains while reflecting on my experiences.
If you have any comments or questions please email me: firstname.lastname@example.org or send me a message on social media. Thanks for visiting!
I hope you enjoy following this journey.