The fire alarm jolted me awake at 7am, but it quickly became apparent it was a toast-related false alarm. At least it got me out of bed in time for early breakfast – and yes, the toast did have a taste of charcoal – and I was on the road by eight.
I like supporting local shops, so I stocked up at Greggs with sandwiches and pork pies, mindful of the tough day of hills and headwinds ahead.
I had quite a slog over back lanes and roads, though rewarded with lovely scenery of hills and the Howgills, the Lune Valley with copper-gold autumn colours, and Beck Foot, with its magnificent rail viaduct and olde bridge.
I paralleled the M6 for a bit – everything has to share the valley – before leaving to head out and through Orton over thrillingly remote-feeling moortop to Kirkby Stephen.
I saw on a bench for a bit, and enjoyed an excellent baked spud and coffee in a cafe for lunch. I was ahead of schedule, which was just as well: out of KS there was a climb, and then a steeper climb, and then a really steep climb, into drizzle and zero-vis mist on the long ascent to Tan Hill. Thrilling enough in its own foggy way I suppose, but it would have been nice to see something that wasn’t grey. I get enough of that when I look in a mirror.
Eventually I crested the summit and got to Tan Hill Inn: my first experience of this legendary place, Britain’s highest pub and one of its most remote. I’ve known about it for over 30 years but never visited until now. On this gloomy and wet lunchtime there were no cyclists, no walkers and no views, but a half of Ewe Juice by the fireside was rewarding enough.
And from here it’s downhill all the way to Sunderland… almost. I plummeted down the shoulder of the hill which the Inn tops, east through mist and drizzle, and groped my way along the gently downhill offroad track down to Bowes, and then the straightforward road to Barnard Castle and its L-shaped town centre, my home for the night.
Pub accommodation was plentiful – I could have probably got somewhere cheaper than the £30 B&B single ensuite in a keg-beer pub with clientele unlikely to be discussing Booker Prize nominees, but it was friendly and clean and dry and just the unpretentious job I was after.
I supported the local economy in a generously-spread way: fizzy beer in my B&B pub; a pint or two of real ale in the cosy inn up the street; and a can of lager, bag of crisps and marked-down sandwich from the Co-op back in my room.
I like cycle touring.
Miles today: 55
Miles since Barrow: 100