Janice and Chris Lawson own two weeks at Underscar, one in January, and one in May. They love nothing more than getting out and about and exploring the numerous trails the Lake District, and Cumbria have to offer. Using Underscar as their base, they often plan overnight stays in other B&Bs to complete their walks. Here’s their own account of the Cumbrian Way…
Owner’s tales from the trails…
“We like doing National Trails – taking our time and staying overnight in B&Bs. It is a good way to see the countryside and absorb the varied geography and geology of Britain. It also saves any discussion about where we should walk next day and, if you’re lucky, the pathway is marked. Doing the Cumbria Way based in Underscar gives the different challenge of having to get to and from the start and end point each day but we solved that by asking a friend (and her car) to join us. It was complicated manoeuvre to get cars in the necessary positions for the first three days but worth the effort.
“We used the Ordnance Survey ‘Cumbria Way’ guide written by Anthony Burton, but split the walk into seven days rather than his five.
“We began our journey in May 2015…”
Day 1: Ulverston to Coniston Water
“Starting in Ulverston in the Southern Lakes, we decided we must go back to this area of the Lakes – we don’t often go to the southern end but thought it worth more time than we had to spare with our 11.5 walk ahead of us, following a late start. However, it was easy walking, spurred on by being watched over by the monument to Sir John Barrow the Arctic explorer (and Ulverston boy).
Day 2: Coniston Water to Elterwater
The first part of this 11.5 mile walk followed the edge of the lake into Coniston, on to Tarn Hows and its ice cream van, and then to the tea room at Skelwith Bridge to fuel up for the last mile to Elterwater. I love Elterwater and its beautiful green slate.
Day 3: Elterwater to Rosthwaite via Stakes Pass
This was a challenging day as it included the climb over Stakes Pass. We stopped for a cuppa at the Old Dungeon Ghyll Hotel and, thus fortified, headed for the climb. The challenging zig-zag upwards climb saw us overtaken, inevitably, by a local who did the walk everyday with his dog. But the sun shone and the stop for a picnic lunch (and a cool down for the feet) by Stakes Beck was a real pleasure. Then on to the long path down to Rosthwaite. On this stretch of the walk we met two guys going the other way carrying their bikes over the Pass. They were young! Another 11 miles completed – and hurrah for the Flock Inn café.
Day 4: Rosthwaite to Underscar
The next 9 mile section we did during our January 2016 stay. No doubt this is a familiar route to many Underscar owners – past Castle Crag to Grange and round the west side of Derwentwater. There are beautiful views in the winter across the lake to Underscar and the snow on Skiddaw. The extent of the flooding last December was all too clear as we came round the top of the lake and approached Keswick, but folk were hard at work removing debris from the fields and hedges.
Day 5: Underscar to Caldbeck
This May saw us mentally geared up to finish the walk in two days. Lucky with the weather, we set off from Underscar to walk the 13 miles to to Caldbeck. Skiddaw House is not open during the day, but they kindly leave a box of flapjacks out for passers by to purchase and speed them on their way.
We took the shorter, Eastern route, alongside the beck until we reached the old tungsten mine at Grainsgill. From here it was a climb up towards the highest point of the Cumbria Way at High Pike. Not well marked, we just headed for the brow of the hill and could see High Pike in the distance. By the time we reached it, the wind was up and it was too cold to sit and contemplate the fantastic views from the memorial bench for long . It was difficult to find the right path off the top of here down to Caldbeck, but you can see the village so we made our way down through the gorse but we arrived too late for tea in The Old Smithy (it shuts at 4pm). However, we promised ourselves we’d return another day.
Then came the big debate (or sulk, depending on whose side you are on). Should we do the remaining 15.5 miles in one day, as the book and the spouse recommended, or two days? Well, discretion is the better part of valour (or, I won) and we set out on the penultimate day…
Day 6: Caldbeck to Dalston
A mere 11 miles. A piece of cake, we thought, looking forward to The Old Smithy at the end of the day. We started well, with bluebells and wild garlic in abundance. However, sadly, this stretch of the walk had many diversions due to flood damage. The first of these gave an alternative route that it seemed the local farmer did not support – a barbed wire fence across a stile is not welcoming. But we made it to Sebergham and noted the advice that Bell Bridge was not passable because it had collapsed before we set off on the path to the east of the River Caldew.
Fortunately, the road to the west of the river was accessible to walkers, although closed to vehicles, and we stopped for lunch looking at the remains of the old bridge. The river could have easily been paddled through that day which brings home how powerful and dangerous flood waters can be. There were a couple more path diversions indicated before we got to Rose Castle, but we ignored them and found the path was accessible now the better weather had arrived. We arrived in Dalston too late for the tea rooms and glad we had no further to walk that day.
Day 7: Dalston to Carlise
Our final day was very easy. Five miles of cycle track alongside the railway line. Even with a short visit to Stead McAlpin’s fabric factory outlet just beside the route at Cummersdale, we still made it to Carlisle for lunch. Lots to see in Carlisle, but we had to get back to Caldbeck for a browse round the Wool Clip and other craft shops and, of course, The Old Smithy for tea!
Quite a feat, we’re sure you’ll agree, and a great commitment to dedicate three stays at Underscar to completing this magnificent walk.
If you have completed a walk that you would like us to feature and share with others, please email your story and photographs to [email protected]