We awoke to another sunny day! Our Lakeland weather thus far had been miraculous! We had slept well, but interestingly, we both remembered the hooting of an owl during the night. We were up early in order to get going before the heat kicked in.
We continued to walk east along the forestry track which runs parallel to the River Lisa, gradually climbing up its valley. There was the option of climbing north-east to Red Pike and following the ridge south-east to Haystacks; but we had doubts as to whether we could cope with this more arduous alternative. From our lower route, we enjoyed clear views of these landmarks to the north, and on the other side of the valley, the impressive Pillar stood sentinel. It was four miles to the dale head – an impressive natural amphitheatre. It was clear that we would have to undertake some serious climbing to get out of it!
Before doing so, we had planned to have a coffee at the Black Sail YHA – an isolated hut in this wilderness. But it was shut, and a note on the door informed us that they were seriously short of water. Not far beyond the hut, we turned north east to follow Loft Beck. This tiny stream plummeted from the ridge way above. This was a really stiff climb, but thankfully the rocks and boulders had been stepped. At the top, the clouds were beginning to role in, but we were still able to enjoy dramatic views down to Buttermere and Crummock Water.
We continued over fell initially eastwards, but progressively veering northwards, our way guided by a line of cairns. Although it was now cloudy and cooler, visibility remained good, with Fleetwith Pike towering over what looked like quarry workings ahead, and a ridge of higher ground to our right running north from Brandreth to Grey Knotts. As this high ridge fell away, we turned abruptly to the right, travelling eastwards down a steep disused tramway ( presumably a relic from the area’s slate quarrying/mining).
We lightened our load, by eating our YHA packed lunches by the tramway. We continued to the bottom of the tramway, and had a post-prandial coffee at the Honister Slate Mine. This is a concern that seems to have diversified into catering, retail, and adventure entertainment. But it still seems to be an active slate works, as can be witnessed through various picture windows in the establishment. From the packed car park, I can only surmise that they’re doing alright.
From Honister, we descended into Borrowdale. The path and the nearby road seemed wet, and we felt quite smug about being in the right place at the right time – it must have rained whilst we were in the slate works. We reached Borrowdale at the hamlet of Seatoller. It started to drizzle, and we stopped on the tiny bridge over Hause Gill, to slip into our waterproof anoraks; we didn’t feel the need for over- trousers. The walk to our overnight stay took us through woodland. Without warning the heavens opened. We sheltered under a large oak; but this was the type of downpour that paid little heed to such niceties. Within minutes we were drenched; it was pointless to waste minutes applying over-trousers. Our path took us to the western bank of The River Derwent, and over stones and boulders which had become slithery. It was more through luck than judgement that we didn’t end up in the river! On the outskirts of Rosthwaite, we stumbled upon the YHA, and sheltered in their porch, and silently dripped.
When the rain eased, we tiptoed around giant puddles to reach The Royal Oak, a quaint hotel in downtown Rosthwaite. When we had stripped off our wet gear, we were welcomed with tea and scones. It wasn’t just the tea and scones – the whole establishment exuded post-war gentility.
Prior to supper, we slipped next door to The Scafell Hotel which boasted a substantial if somewhat dull taproom. It served Thirst Quencher, a delightfully fruity but bitter pale ale, a product of the Keswick Brewery. In fairness, our own hostelry, had Tirril (brewed near Penrith, to the north) on tap. Its Original Bitter was likewise most satisfying.
The Royal Oak’s set menu was surprisingly good (I say surprising because the only deal that they offered was half-board – I had presumed that the evening meal would therefore be …..let’s not mince our words…..an exercise in cost-cutting). A chocolate confection followed stuffed chicken, which itself had been preceded by an impressively tasty celeriac soup!