The Green Dragon pub in Hardraw, fire lit in August with people gathered around wearing fleeces and jackets. £6 for an alcohol free beer and a packet of crisps. Yorkshire isn’t cheap! But it’s warm and dry in the pub, with people here too. Locals stood guarding their place at the bar.
While sat writing my journal the barman came over to light a candle at my table. Fiddling about with a box of matches, picking out the used ones, he asked me what I was writing about. He seemed really interested and asked if I do any other writing. I somehow completely forgot to mention that I’ve just written a guidebook and replied no not really - what a plonker! I wondered if he might write too and asked him. He does! He told me that he’s been working on a fantasy series for several years, writing it on an app on his phone so that it’s always with him. He lives in Northumberland but works at the pub for four days a week and sleeps upstairs after his shift.
When I ordered another drink I told him about my guidebook, he didn’t really care which amused me. But this did attract a conversation with others in the pub, who I ended up sitting with right next to the fire. It got so hot that one cheek was glowing red!
The campsite is just over the other side of the bridge, opposite a beautiful church where I sat inside for a while, grounding myself at the beginning of this new experience. I’ve pitched my tent next to the river because I love the sound of rushing water. There is only one other tent on the site. Perhaps it’s not the best night to camp with heavy rain and thunder forecast.
The journey from Leeds to Garsdale was beautiful, passing through places that included Horton-in-Ribblesdale and Settle. I’d phoned ahead to book a little white bus to get to Hardraw. It was basically a taxi service but only cost £2. The driver had only come out to collect me. I couldn’t quite believe that a service like this runs and survives! The driver was really friendly, telling me about all of the people he meets from around the world on the little white bus. He said that a lot of people call Yorkshire “God’s Own Country” but he calls it paradise. I’m taking that sentiment with me on my walk along The Herriot Way.
The campsite is run by a small cafe. When I walked in I felt like I’d just walked into my grandma’s dining room. I wasn’t sure if the two women sitting at the table were the customers or the owners, but they were expecting me and greeted me warmly. They were curious about where I was walking and how I’d arrived. Local people followed me in, which is always a good sign I think. I sat drinking coffee and eating cake, feeling very at home.
My experience felt old-fashioned somehow, like going back in time. A place where people have time to ask questions and the patience to listen to the answers. I was curious about how I would feel being alone in Yorkshire. It’s where I was born and used to visit my grandparents and extended family during my childhood. I have memories of looking out of the car window on the way there, my attention drawn to the hills in the distance.
Now I was giving myself permission to walk and immerse myself in the landscape I’ve longed for since childhood. What surprised me was that I didn’t feel alone at all. The people I met and the landscape I walked in felt familiar and welcoming.
I slept really well in my tent that night, despite the wind and the rain, which had mostly cleared by the morning. I spent a £1 coin on a cold shower and then another on a hot one, packed up and headed towards Hawes along a section of the Pennine Way. Is there anything more liberating than carrying everything you need on your own back? I had even more than I needed to be honest.
While walking I smiled as I remembered the 18 year old me who travelled solo on a round-the-world ticket with just a rucksack on my back. Oh yes, here she is. I remember her!
The Herriot Way
A 52-mile (84km) circular route in the Yorkshire Dales, named after James Herriot (Alf Wight), a veterinary surgeon and author who lived and worked in the Dales for many years. Normally walked over four days, each of approximately 13 miles (21 km).
I started and finished in Hardraw because this was the most accessible by public transport. Hawes is also a good option.
Trains from Sheffield to Garsdale via Leeds - £46.90
Little White Bus from Garsdale Station to Hardraw campsite - £2
Old Hall Cottage Campsite - £8 for one night, £1 for 5 minute shower (use the first cubicle) otherwise you’ll be spending another £1 for a hot one.
I rang the day before to let them know I was coming and paid in cash on arrival at The Cart House Tea Room. Good coffee and cake!
The Green Dragon Inn - just over the bridge from the campsite and next to the church. Doesn’t serve food but does have crisps and nuts. Worth going in just to take a look around and warm up by the fire.
Walking The Herriot Way guidebook and website by Stuart W. Greig
This is part one of a series of blog posts about my Herriot Way walk in August 2023. Read part two here. Subscribe to my newsletter to receive my posts to your inbox, or follow me on Twitter and Instagram. If you have any comments or questions please email me: firstname.lastname@example.org or send me a message on social media.