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No Place Like Home
The importance of a good nights rest. As true if you’re camping or renting space in someone’s house. Get lucky with a comfortable bed to lie on following a long hot bath; a tastefully decorated room with just the birds chirping away outside your window to break the silence; a short walk to the local hostelry for essential sustenance and refreshment and plenty of smiles and chat from your hosts and fellow guests and you’ll be as well prepared for the trails as you’ll want. Get unlucky with bad noises, bad smells, bad tastes, things that don’t work, hosts that couldn’t care less and grumpiness is never far away. We had the extremes and points in between.
6th August: Shepherds Arms – Ennerdale Bridge
‘We’re staying with you this evening’ I announce. Mr Receptionist gives a look over my shoulder at the wall mounted clock and then back at me as I approach the check-in desk. A look that said it’s only 2.10pm why don’t you just piss off and walk around the village or sit in the bus shelter for a couple of hours. I wouldn’t mind but there are five big letters on the side of this place: H-O-T-E-L. If the rooms aren’t ready point us in the direction of the public areas or bar until they are. Turns out the rooms are ready.
Just a few questions for Mr Receptionist; simple but important questions that I’ve learnt to ask over the years. We got stuck on the first one: the rooms aren’t above the bar are they? He knew the answer alright. This one’s not – giving the boys their key; this one is – trying to give me my key. Room change requested. Not possible. Rephrase request. Still not possible. Further rephrasing. Silence. Mexican standoff. Boys’ eyes move from me to him and back to me. The bugger had got me. No option but to take the key albeit with some compromise about ‘should there be a cancellation‘.
He then hands me a second key. Err? For my exclusive bathroom. You’ve guessed it. That’s my exclusive bathroom down the corridor; not my exclusive ensuite bathroom. Still, bless them, a torch has kindly been left in my room should I need to use the bathroom in the night. To be fair though there is a sink in the corner of the bedroom.
The pattern is set and nothing that follows is a surprise. The shabby little room furnished I guess via six or seven visits to different car boot sales, the uncomfortable bed missing just the cigarette burns in the eiderdown to complete the experience, the boozers making full use of the licensing hours and drinking up time to laugh more than just that bit too loudly at each others jokes.
We also made the mistake of eating in the bar. I won’t bore you with the details but this place shouldn’t trouble the Good Food Guide.
You can only judge as you find. If we had some smiles and charm from the hosts, interest in the guests, rooms refreshed and food improved this place might just be ok. Not too much to hope; just don’t expect it.
12th August: The Buck Inn – Reeth
Dr Doolittle could talk to the animals and, the Horse Whisperer had special ways with..err…horses. Well it may just be that I have a similar gift when it comes to hotel rooms. This one is definitely talking to me through the plumbing. To you it would be just a series of whooshing, clanging, clonking and burping noises. But to me it has meaning; quite please let the room speak…..’I am the smallest, smelliest and noisiest room you will stay in on your C2C walk’…..anything else?…..’isn’t that enough?’….’you must leave this room immediately, descend the three flights of stairs to the bar and not return until you absolutely have to’. Good advise; this room has been around a bit, seen it all and knows what it’s talking about. I flee, not looking back, pausing only to pick up the boys in their twin room and who have faired only a little better.
I should have listened more attentively to my wise old Room. It said to stay in the bar. The restaurant wasn’t mentioned. I’ve only gone and made a reservation. Let me paint a picture of the restaurant: huge modern warehouse type area – quickly called the Tardis by the boys - with just three tables in use, stacks and stacks of chairs in one corner, six or seven solid wooden doors leading from the place, none of them marked, a film projector and screen. Typical Swaledale dining it ain’t. If only I could have asked the Room what to order. To be honest I don’t think its advice would have helped. It was all yuk; not just our view but also those of the other tables who were also C2Cing.
I have a chat with Mr Proprietor. One very stressed man having only taken ownership of the place two weeks ago. Recognises the problems and plans to get things sorted. With the wise counsel of the Room I’m sure he’ll succeed over time. I ask about my room’s larger unoccupied cousin on the first floor; claims hotel fully booked. I notice still unoccupied in the morning. I hope his pants are on fire (liar, liar) and that his nose has grown six inches.
I have a last chat with my Room. He knows it’s been tough for me; I’m not the first to have faced these challenges; it wishes me better luck at my next stopover. How sincere it was I don’t know; I no sooner close the door for the final time than I can clearly hear it blow a long loud last raspberry at me.
13th August: - St Giles Farm, Catterick Bridge
You’ll all know that Doreen is retiring and Butt House at Keld is on the market. Never fear, I have found a new Doreen for you all. Jane. A posher younger Doreen; a Doreen for a new age (but never – god forbid - a new age Doreen); a Doreen for a new generation.. There are striking similarities between Jane and Doreen. They both view the world through blue tinted spectacles (many tales of the beloved William; that’s The Right Honourable William Hague MP to you and me), have bags of energy, an interest in people and know ‘stuff and nonsense’ when they see it. Funnily enough they have met. Jane did the C2C herself this year and stayed at Butt House and they both attend William gatherings.
We’d stayed here last year so knew what to expect. It’s right on the C2C path and like last year she wasn’t there when we arrived. She soon appeared in a cloud of dust – abbrakadabbra – as her car came to a dusty halt at the end of her long drive. Tea and lemon cake soon conjured up and much talk of where to site the marquee for the daughters upcoming wedding, the sad state of her old bull (but too soppy to send it to the incinerator) and her own C2C adventure done with her sister-in-law. She tells me I inspired her; I wasn’t quite sure what to make of that but turns out that something I said about ‘thinking of the C2C as just a series of day walks’ was enough to see her on her way and complete the walk. Do you hear that? I’m an inspiration. Of course I’ve known that for years but it’s nice to get the recognition at last. Boys give me a thoughtful look. Maybe they are seeing me in a new light: our dad – an inspiration. But no they’ve just had enough lemon cake and want to get up to their room to see if the tv has sky sports.
Tastefully decorated rooms and lovely home cooked food – dinner and breakfast – in this peaceful setting (apart that is from the distant rumble of the A1) was just great. The house seems to have just about every book on things Yorkshire ever published: history, guides, biographies; it’s all here. What more could you want for. And oh yes the boys got sky sports.
If you found yourself choosing any of the other places we stayed I’d wager that you’d be happy enough, sometimes very happy and occasionally more than very happy.
Stonehouse Farm in St Bees could do with a lick of paint and a bit of updating but was comfortable enough and anyway we’d have paid double the price just to have met the Petersens.
The Langstrath Hotel in Stonethwaite, Borrowdale was by conventional criteria the best place we stayed. A small family run place with tasteful rooms (think urban chic boutique hotel with Lakeland views) and wonderful food (try eating in the bar rather than dining room for better atmosphere).
Oldwater View, Patterdale was somewhere Wainwright himself used to stay regularly. No rural myth this; you can see pages of the guest book as confirmation. The boys got the very room that old AW himself liked to stay in. The man of the house is a walker and occasional guide with some good stories of walking elsewhere in the world. The one about the Appalachian Way is not for the easily distressed.
Above the shop was where we stayed in Bampton; the Village Stores. Nice big recently kitted out modern room for us all. Very welcoming owners; they got a bit of a shock at breakfast in the tearoom downstairs (adjacent to the post office and store) when three plates of the full English appeared with alas no takers. ‘I just assumed you’d want a full breakfast’. Mr owner ate well that morning.
I stayed at Fletcher House in the centre of Kirkby Stephen last year and was pleased to do so this year. A nice Georgian house. Guest satisfaction is taken seriously here.
Park House, Ingleby Cross…..well the address may be Ingleby Cross but don’t be fooled. We are talking a mile and a half beyond the village; mostly uphill. Boys were not impressed at the end of a long day from Catterick Bridge (although they were more so in the morning knowing what they didn’t now need to do). You probably won’t feel like walking back to the village and the Bluebell Inn. Rooms were great; food less so.
High Blakey House, Blakey Ridge has rooms with a view. Our huge room had one wall of glass looking out across Rosedale. Great service but make sure you are back by 10pm at the latest. No last orders here.
Hollins Lodge, Grosmont is a big Edwardian House just off the village main street. Don’t get too excited though you’ll be in the recently converted garage block – upstairs or downstairs. All nicely done but be careful what you say or do – your fellow guests will hear it all.
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