Thursday 21st August: Hawes to Tan Hill – 16.5 miles
Another day where we me and Mark made an effort and got ourselves up and ready to go down for breakfast at 8 o’clock. The reason this time was that the weather forecast was terrible; checking the night before, heavy rain was expected all day. After another YHA full English, we have a sit down in the hostel lounge and chat with a large old fellow, presented with an overbearing aspect (amongst his children and grandchildren) but pleasant enough in conversation. As an active walker in his day, he did the Pennine Way himself around fifty years ago (which would have meant that it hadn’t long been inaugurated).
Great Shunner Fell
We were out of the hostel at 9.05 (the earliest, I think on the whole trip) in light rain. After stopping at the local Spar for some extra food, we headed through Hawes and then out towards Hardraw. This took us along a short stretch around some bendy roads and then a grassy footpath over the floor of the dale.
Getting to Hardraw, we noticed the pub in front of Hardraw Force, the waterfall hidden behind it. Amusingly the landlord was advertised on a painted board above the door as “innkeeper and waterfall provider”.
It was too early for us to visit – moving onwards out of the village we began the long approach towards Great Shunner Fell; the rain had eased off for now. The track leading up there for the first two miles was splendid: wide and symmetrically bordered by grass and stone walls.
The climb up the fell was at a steady incline on an easy path: no scrambling, not even any steps to climb up over. One would perhaps think this would be dull, but the surroundings were so amenable even in the rain and mist, that this was a great bit of hiking. The track finished and the walk continued up the hill with stretches of grassy path and flagstones.
We approached the summit around midday, just as a squall arrived above us. We vainly attempted to shelter at the trig point, having five minutes to get a bite to eat. We marched down off the fell in double time towards Thwaite.
Tea and Cakes in Thwaite
As the steady rain continued, the walk down was rougher than the ascent: the path was more up and down, more twisty, more staccato. Another farm track brought us to Thwaite. The rain had eased off when we stopped for a rest, on a park bench in the middle of the village. A host of sparrows toddled by whilst we finished off the remainder of our lunch.
After a good deal of thought, I decided to pop into the village tea room for some tea and cake. As it was a very smart establishment, inside I was obliged to put plastic covers on my boots.
Whilst I was being served another heavy shower passed outside. Back at the bench I found my brother huddled up, soaked. After eating the tea and cake we set off in the middle of the afternoon, heading towards and climbing sharply up the side of Kisdon. The view back over Thwaite was lovely: the village and the surroundings fields, their dry-stone walls and farm buildings.
Then as we circled round the hill, the views of Swaledale to our right and then the descending gills opposite us were even lovelier. At this delightful point another heavy rain shower dampened our progress. We found the path that descending down off Kisdon to the stream crossing at the bottom was uncomfortably overgrown and steep.
By that point it was half past four in the afternoon – we decided to skip detouring into Keld for a look around and carried out. Keld was the northern boundary of the Dales – Mark and me had had 3 ½ days of the most quietly enjoyable hiking.
For the first time since Sunday tea time (and the gale on Pinhaw Beacon), I was walking over moorland. The last three miles towards Tan Hill were not difficult going, being mainly stone track and paths, but the rain was beginning to blow cross us. By that stage as normal, we were quite tired and ready to finish.
Tan Hill Inn
As it came into view in front of us, the Tan Hill Inn was a fantastic sight. A rugged stone mirage: we pushed ourselves forwards towards it. At the end of the track, we crossed over the road, took our boots and packs off in the porch and went in. Before checking into our room, we enjoyed a delightful pint of ale.
The Tan Hill was a splendid pub, very atmospheric in its remote isolation situation. The interior is suitably spare but homely. Dinner was the customary pub meal plus a couple of pints. The next day was originally intended to have been Mark’s last day on this trip, but we decided to carry on together for another three days: I managed to book three more night’s accommodation using my mobile phone and the pub’s WiFi.