Day Four. The last leg and the longest. No steep mountain climbs on this stretch of the Pennine Way but a long slog to the ridges above Ribblesdale.
Ribblesdale is the least forgiving of the Yorkshire dales. Shops and towns are non-existent. Cash machines and mobile signal don’t exist. Tall brown grasses and dull heathland cover the hills and much of the dale, shadowed by the dark peaks of Pen-Y-Ghent, Ingleborough and Whernside*.
The whole day could be a chapter from Lord of the Rings. You could believe that Saruman’s tower at Isengard hides behind the peak of Ingleborough or that Mordor lies on the dark side of Whernside’s vast silhouette. The track passes caves and shake holes in abundance. On a misty day you see little but glimpes of other strange twisted trees and long-abandoned stone buildings. Mid-walk the track joins the Cam High Road, the obvious place for Strider to take the conoy off-piste to avoid the chasing Nazgûl…
Imposing forests and coniferous plantations line the road and it takes forever to pass them. Even sheep become sparse as the High Road briefly joins an ancient Roman track before turning North East towards the refuge of Hawes.
The 13 miles are tough after 1) 3 days of walking and 2) a serious misjudgement in not taking a packed lunch (£7 each from the B&B was a step too far for a Yorkshireman and his son!). Sainsbury’s Be Good To Yourself fruit bars and an apple barely powered waking up let alone walking, so it was a rewarding moment to roll off the green fells of Wensleydale and book a celebratory meal at Hawes’ finest bistro (Chaste if your interested). At last the sheep-folds were behind us and we were back civilisation.
We warmed up for our posh grub with Old Peculiar of course, one in each of Hawes’ pubs (an anonymous Dent beer in the establishment that didn’t serve our preferred tipple). Old Peculiar will forever be associated with the Dales in my mind now, as well as drinking with my Dad and sharing precious moments each cradling a Thwaites pint glass and allowing our aching feet some well deserved respite.
Until next years leg of The Way, anyway.
*If you turn the volume on the video up, the sound is purely the wind wrapping around our ears at between 1,000 and 2,000 ft above sea level.