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The Long Walk Back....

The weather has been very good recently, and for those of us who have had the opportunity, it has been great to get out walking. But there has been one vital ingredient missing....
One of the great pleasures of going for a proper walk has always been finishing off with a proper pint in a proper pub.

Sadly, at the moment of course, this is off the agenda, and whilst you can grab a refreshing drink when you get home from your government-prescribed walk, it's not the same as when you have come down from a day high on the Lake District fells, or the Yorkshire moors, or completed that long, canal side trudge. The pub and the prospect of that first pint is what kept you going for those last few miles, a deserved reward for all the effort you've put in. You've earned it. Of course you could always go home and have a drink there, but it's not the same. Unless you've been walking with someone from the same household, you can't enjoy that post-walk collective wind-down.
Closed till further notice
And it is always done best in the pub. The joy of that first pint - other drinks are available - as you rest your aching limbs and relax in the warmth and chatter with your companions, mission accomplished. Bits of the walk may be re-enacted verbally, banter may fly, tales from previous walks may re-surface, future missions may be planned. Boots may be removed. A last remaining sandwich scoffed. Limbs may well be stiff or ache or both as you get up from your seat with a groan to make your way to the bar for that second pint. If you've managed to grab those last seats, great, frustrated looks from latecomers met with a faux-sympathetic glance which really means 'loser!' And on those rare occasions when you may have claimed the spot right in front of the fire, the territory is guarded tenaciously, even as you start to wilt in the heat. The natural order of the post-walk drink hierarchy - he who comes first bags the best seat in the house.

Whilst I have enjoyed some great local walks in the better-than-average early spring weather, when I have arrived home, grabbed a beer, and sat on my stool in the kitchen, my thoughts have frequently turned to some of those pubs where I have enjoyed a post-walk pint with friends in pre-lockdown times. And there are some crackers amongst them.
I was in one of them earlier this year, when the urge to get away for a winter break lured me to the Lake District. I stayed at the Sun Inn in Coniston, just out of the village and on the way to several of the ascent routes to Coniston Old Man, the 2,634ft mass which maintains a constant presence over the village, lake, and surrounding area. And as you return from your trek, the Sun is a welcoming sight as you long to rest your legs and quench your thirst. With a bank of hand pumps to gladden the heart, and a great choice of beers from small independent Lakeland breweries, a post-walk pint here is one of life's great pleasures. Stone-flagged floors, stone walls, wooden beams, and one of the finest fires in the Lake District add to the experience, but if it's warm enough there is an outdoor terrace where you can take in the views of the village and surrounding fells.
A pint at the Sun Inn, Coniston
My own favoured route for climbing up Coniston Old Man involves starting out from Torver, a few miles down the lake from Coniston and then heading up farm tracks until you meet the ancient Walna Scar packhorse route, from where you climb up Brown Pike and follow a ridge path to Buck Pike and then on to Dow Crag. This offers tremendous views of the southern Lakes countryside, and then following a descent off the ridge, it is a steady walk from the col up to the summit of the Old Man. Back down in Torver, there are a couple of pubs in the village, with one of them, the Wilsons Arms, having an old-fashioned red telephone box outside that was at some point converted into a fish tank!

Another Lakes pub that is not to be missed is the Old Dungeon Ghyll in Langdale, an ideal spot to wind down after climbing so many of the iconic Lakeland fells - the Langdale Pikes, Bowfell, Crinkle Crags, Pike O'Blisco. This is serious walking country which demands a special kind of pub at the end of it, and this simple bar, attached to the more upmarket Dungeon Ghyll Hotel, more than meets that requirement. A good range of beers on hand pump greets you, there is an old range, bench seating, and wooden beams, with the thick stone walls keeping even the most adverse weather at bay.
Hiker's Bar, Dungeon Ghyll Hotel, Langdale
One pub that I used to call in regularly when walking in the Yorkshire Dales was The Hill Inn at Chapel-le-Dale, situated on the road between Ingleton and Ribblehead, although it is many years since I last called in. It is in the middle of some wonderful walking country, with Ingleborough looming above behind the pub and Whernside facing it, and it acts as an ideal stopping point on the famous Three Peaks Walk. This was always a great place to finish up with wooden beams, a roaring log fire, and beer on hand pump from the relatively-local Dent Brewery amongst others. At one time, they used to make their own scotch eggs, which were phenomenal and almost a meal in their own right. The atmosphere was something special, with that special kindred spirit that exists between fellow walkers. At one time there was overnight camping, plus a bunkhouse, and festivals took place, but I believe that these days it has become more of an eating place rather than specifically a walkers' pub.
The Hill Inn, Chapel le Dale 
Another Dales pub I always enjoy visiting when walking in the area is the New Inn at Appletreewick, in Lower Wharfedale, and when we finally get out of lockdown and it is possible to visit again, this will be one of the first places I venture to when I manage to get on a day out. Whether it is following a stroll along the River Wharfe or a more ambitious walk up to the top of Simon's Seat, the New Inn has that special atmosphere that feels like a bolt hole from the world outside. And the other pub in the village, The Craven Arms, complete with its own cruck barn, is also well worth a visit. I wrote about both pubs a few years ago here.
The New Inn, Appletreewick
Locally, as most walks have tended to be over recent years, many have centred on Hebden Bridge,which is in the middle of some fantastic walking country, and whilst it inevitably involves a climb to get out of the town, unless you are walking by the canal, the results are well worth it with stunning views over some wonderful countryside. And when you get back into the town again, there are plenty of cracking places to have a recovery pint. We inevitably call in at Calan's, but more often than not there will also be a visit to one or more of Drink?, the Fox and Goose, Vocation & Co, or The Old Gate. And depending on your route and the time in the week, there may be a chance to call in at Midgehole Working Men's Club, aka The Blue Pig. This is an amazing place, set in a beautiful valley a mile and a bit from Hebden Bridge. Opening hours even in non-lockdown times are very limited, but it has a special atmosphere of its own and is another great spot for walkers.
The Blue Pig, near Hebden Bridge
Sadly, though, for the time being at any rate, I am just going to have to carry on drinking my apres-walk beer sat on my kitchen stool and carry on dreaming about when I will be able to visit some of the afore-mentioned and other fantastic places once again. And when I do, I am likely to break into a run for that last mile as the thought of that first pint becomes overwhelming!

And I won't even be bothered if I don't get a seat....


Follow me on twitter: @realalemusic

Comments

  1. There’s definitely something missing from a walk in the country at the moment. To me there’s nothing finer than calling in at an unspoilt pub, either part way through the hike, or at the end – when several pints can be enjoyed without affecting one’s walking pace.

    Just looking at the examples in your post is making me both thirsty, and keen to head back out into the countryside. Like you and many others, I can’t wait for the pubs to reopen.

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    Replies
    1. Glad you agree with me, Paul! Thanks for taking the time to read and comment!

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