Why getting out of London is not just about the hiking

Catherine in "Pub Photograph" pose again

There’s something wonderfully exciting about gingerly creeping down an icy, slippery lane in the dark on the way to the pub, a mile from your B&B. Despite the fact you’re dicing with death with every footstep, you can’t really see where you’re stepping and all you have is the moonlight to light your way and you think you might fall over at any second.

It’s fun though, isn’t it?

And at the end you find this lovely cosy village pub with dogs and pints of ale and a roaring fire that’s so scaldingly hot you are sweating five seconds after having gone through the door, and a strong smell of soot in the air.

Dogs by the fire in the Golden Rule pub, Ambleside

Yep, one of the things I like about going on hiking trips is not just the walking itself but the whole experience of staying somewhere remote, pottering around a little village somewhere, visiting a teeny local pub that probably you would otherwise never ever ever get to see, and just having a good old lovely time there for the evening.

You really feel like you’re properly getting away from it all on weekends away.

You know when you go somewhere new and your senses are all alert and buzzing and it snaps you out of your usual boring, foggy, tedious routine of your daily commute to the office where everything is the same day in day out? That.

The Fox and Hounds, Watlington

On this particular trip we were in the middle of a two-day weekend hike on the Limestone Way in the Peak District, from Castleton to Matlock.

It was snowy and icy, and on the way up to Sheffield on the train one of our relatives who lives in the North texted: “please don’t tell me you’re coming North this weekend?”

We scoffed. We were only doing the Limestone Way, not struggling through dangerous icy bogs in the Cheviots. We wouldn’t exactly need crampons.

But actually, the snow had turned to ice and as we struggled slowly up Cave Dale from Castleton on the first morning, trying to find a way up what was effectively a steep river of ice, I realised that we were going to be a lot slower than we normally would in these conditions, and that it was pretty easy to slip over and break something.

Leaving Moneyash

I wished I’d brought my walking poles with me to offer a bit of stability, but I’d foolishly left them at home yet again.

But, as we reached the top of the Dale and emerged onto the beautiful snowy, sparkling moorland under crisp blue skies, all that was forgotten. It was wonderful.

Accomodation was scarce and so we ended up staying in a farm B&B just outside a small village called Flagg. The nearest pub was a mile away in Monyash, down the aforementioned icy lane.

And that is why we found ourselves slipping and sliding slowly in the dark, occasionally doing the ‘full nappy’ walking pose (you know what I mean) to try to stablise ourselves.

The pub was lovely though. One of those busy local pubs where you feel welcome and can just settle in for the evening and relax, rest your aching legs, dry off, and nurse your wounds.

You know the type, don’t you?

The Old Silent Inn, Stanbury, Yorkshire

However as the time grew closer to head back to the B&B we reconsidered our options. Walking back UP the icy lane in the dark after a few pints, well that didn’t appeal. The only other option was to take the long route, a 3 mile walk along dark – but quiet – country roads.

But that was fine. I seem to often end up on long dark walks down roads which probably the ordinary person would think was utter madness. This often happens after wedding receptions, for some reason. There was the time we decided it was a good idea to walk the 3 miles back to our hotel after the wedding in Knutsford, at 2am. And the time a group of us walked a couple of miles back to our hotel after a wedding at Hinckley Island, partly walking along a dual carriageway verge.

Sometimes it’s just nice to say “shall we walk it?”. Even if it is in the dark, down an icy lane.

Especially if there’s a pub at the end.

A friendly welcome at the Star Inn

I know if you’re reading this you’re the kind of person who gets it. After all, one of the benefits of London living is the fact that there is always somewhere new to go, somewhere new to explore.

So you understand the fun and the excitement of discovering the new places, of not only having the same old places to go to.

There are so many memorable places I’ve been!

There was the pub on the West Highland Way with the stuffed bear in the lobby.
The pub near Hadrian’s Wall with the biggest piles of chips I’ve ever seen in my life.
The pub in Malham where we entered dripping wet and the landlord started the fire for us.
The pub on the Pennine Way with a duck swimming in a tin bath in front of the fire.
The pub on the Coast to Coast where we chatted to that memorable Australian camper.
The pub in mid-Wales which was like stepping into a time-warp.
The pub on the Ridgeway which got our group booking wrong, meaning four of had to share a room.
The pub in the Pentlands where we tried to un-fold the crumpled, sodden map and played cards whilst we waited for the last bus back to Edinburgh.

Getting out of London isn’t just about the hiking.

It’s about the whole experience of being away in a beautiful place.

With a group or on your own, it doesn’t matter.

It’s new, it’s exciting, it’s invigorating, it’s energising, it’s bloody brilliant.

Catherine had a beer too.

For ideas of where to go, check out my walking trip ideas section.

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