Lakes & Dales Walkabout 2011

Preparation & Arrival

This walk grew out of a desire to see some of northwest England that I have missed on previous walks. Who I am; Gregg Neilson, American, age 73, and have previously been on eight long distance walks in the UK. You might say I am addicted, as I come to the UK every year just for the walks.

Choosing the Walk

Where have I not been before that would be of interest? I noticed that two lesser known older walks, the Cumberland Way and the Westmorland Way, satisfied this criteria and were linked at Appleby. I then became aware of a relatively new walk, A Dales High Way, that sounded like a satisfying finale to a grand walkabout of about 233 miles.

The trick was to link all three walks together without spending much more than two weeks on the trail so my wife back home in California would not get too anxious about me, or worse, forget me. So here was the plan:

1) Walk the Cumberland Way from Ravenglass to Penrith, cutting out the last day to Appleby by taking the train

2) Walk the Westmorland Way from Appleby to Troutbeck, leaving off the last two days to Kendal and Arnside

3) Jump over to Dales High Way near Newbiggin and follow it down to Ilkley, cutting off the first and last days described in the guidebook.


For navigation, I was able to obtain all three guidebooks, even though the first two were out of print, also a bundle of OS maps and map printouts plus my indispensable compass. I think I relied on my compass more on this walk than ever before. To assure a seamless trip, I booked all my overnights months ahead of time. Train tickets were booked six weeks ahead. Now all I had to do was stay well.

In the eight days before leaving home in Sonoma County, northern California, I did four final conditioning walks with a full pack (16 lbs), 1) 9 miles in Annadel State Park, 1500 ft elev, 2) 10 miles at Hood Mtn, 2740 ft elev, 3) 12 miles in Annadel, 1850 ft elev, and 4) 12 miles at Jack London State Park, 2460 ft elev. Trailheads are at 100 - 150 ft elev.

My boots are my trusty Lowes, but probably for the last time since they are getting a little worn. Same for my Marmot rain jacket which I had to douse with a waterproof renewing agent. For extra warmth, I have a fleece vest. My socks are Smart Wool and Wigwam with Wright inner layers. I am very happy with my Osprey 50L pack which has plenty of room for all my clothes if the weather gets too hot. It carries my 15 to 16 pounds easily. Also, for unexpected cold weather, I have waterproof gloves and an earmuff cap I picked up in Glenridding.

Getting to Ravenglass

My United flight from San Francisco to Heathrow was a freebie using air miles, otherwise I would have flown into Manchester. To get the best advance train fares, I bought separate tickets to Manchester, then to Ravenglass via Carlisle - took a little longer, but worth it for ⅓ the regular fare.

On the train from Manchester to Carlisle, I had two seat mates at our table, one reading the classic “Ascent on Everest” by Hunt. I started a conversation by asking about landmarks we were passing and found both were long time walkers, near my age. Once they started talking about walking I couldn’t shut them up, not that I wanted to.

On the train from Carlisle to Ravenglass, I met another older fellow and complimented him on his unusual wool cape (it was Scottish, as was he). He started talking and practically told me his life story, teaching sailing and outdoor sports in Scotland, building a 45 ft sail boat and circling the world twice, with so many adventures along the way.

Ravenglass was smaller than expected, just a row of houses on the main street looking out on the estuary with several boats. There were two pubs, a hotel and a couple of B&Bs, no shops except for tourist crafts. My single room at Rosegarth B&B was very small but comfortable with a nice view of the beach and water.

My B&B In Ravenglass

Estuary And Beach At Ravenglass Across From B&B - Where Rivers Mite And Irt Meet

A pub is next door but was hosting a large funeral party so, after a shower, I went over to the Ratty Arms. A good selection of ales and pub food, fairly busy. I was not very hungry so I ordered a bowl of soup and the guest ale. The bean and lentil soup was actually a vegetable soup and was excellent, as British soups usually are. They offered my favorite dessert, hot sticky toffee pudding but, thinking it might keep me awake, I reluctantly declined.

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