Sand  Castles

Spring in your Step - Walking

Birds are singing, days are getting longer, the weather’s warming. Ian Belcher celebrates the start of the new season with eight cracking walks – each designed around some seriously fine pub grub.

Sand Castles - Northumberland Northumberland

Walks are rarely so spectacular, ruins so dramatic, air so fresh. The 13km hike down Northumberland’s coast mixes famous historic architecture with vast blonde sands and, as hunger gnaws, splendid seafood. It’s a trek for the compass-phobic: keep the sea on your left, walk straight and you’re home and dry (almost – the Northeast is yet to issue a sunshine guarantee). 

Start on glorious Bamburgh beach. To your left is the elegy-inducing silhouette of Holy Island’s16th-century castle sprouting out of a volcanic mound; behind you the magnificent Norman bulk of Bamburgh Castle; and out at sea, the cluster of Farne Islands, haven of seals, puffins and terns.

Yomp down the sand for a few kilometres before rising up to the village of Seahouses, home to Swallowfish, where they’ve been smoking seafood since 1843. Returning to the beach, join the coastal path heading south to Beadnell. Pub quiz bores will be delighted to find the only west-facing harbour entrance on England’s east coast, but it’s a mere aperitif for the three kilometre curl of Beadnell Bay beach – if you don’t write that difficult second symphony here, you won’t write it anywhere.

By now empty stomachs are craving calories and, with good timing, you’ll walk alongside the lobster man delivering the day’s catch to the Ship Inn and microbrewery at Low Newton. Savour the likes of fresh crab with herb salad, or Northumberland beef with horseradish mash before enjoying poetic views of Dunstanburgh Castle en route to the finish at Embleton.

Sand  Castles

Travel Details

Ship Inn, Low Newton-by-the-Sea
(0166 55 76 262, shipinnnewton.co.uk). Route
info: visitnortheastengland.com

South Downs Stroll - Sussex Sussex

Haslemere is usually the starting point for city suits catching the 7.40 to London Waterloo. Not for us. Instead, it’s all about walking boots and fleeces as the affluent Surrey commuter town marks the start of a 15km hike through the South Downs National Park to Midhurst in West Sussex, a glorious amble over wooded ridges, lush hills and soft-hued countryside.

Leave town in the shadow of 280 metre-high Blackdown Hill, the highest point in Sussex, whose pine and heather-clad slopes were home to Aldworth, Lord Alfred Tennyson’s house. Cross the open woodland of Marley Common, where the National Trust introduced belted Galloway cattle onto a landscape that spring frescoes greenish-yellow beneath a haze of Brimstone butterflies. Press on towards Fernhurst, drawing inspiration from views of the forested ridge from where you’ll descend to the Rother Valley. On the way you’ll pass churches and pubs, before skirting Verdley Wood and climbing up to Henley and the Duke of Cumberland. The 15thcentury inn offers acclaimed seasonal food including South Downs venison haunch. Refreshed, you now rise to a final viewpoint before dropping into Easebourne to approach Midhurst around Cowdray Park, whose estate shop is dubbed ‘Fortnums on Rother’.

South  Downs  Stroll

Travel Details

Duke of Cumberland, Henley (0142 86 52 280,
dukeofcumberland.com). Route info: walkinginsussex.co.uk

Royal Route- Somerset /Dorset Somerset /Dorset

In the wake of a bloody Royalist defeat at the Battle of Worcester in 1651, ‘Merrie Monarch’ Charles II cut his losses and hot-footed it to France. Or rather he spent six weeks disguised as a lowly servant trekking 990km from Boscobel in Shropshire, south to Trent before crossing the channel. If you don’t have months to explore ‘Monarch’s Way’, the nine and a half kilometre route from South Cadbury to Trent is one of the more picturesque shorter options (Baldrick guise optional).

Legendary stronghold of King Arthur, Cadbury Castle, in the parish of Sutton Montis, is a limestone hill fort splaying across 18 acres of Somerset countryside. Clamber up this Iron-Age fortress for views of Sherborne, and maybe even the Camelot cavalry itself (popular legend has it that on Midsummer’s Day, the site’s centre turns clear, revealing Arthur and his knights at the round table below). Crossing the Dorset border and heading southeast to Patson Hill, you’ll pass Sandford Manor House, a 16th century stately home – a guided tour reveals stained-glass windows, Tudor artifacts and pretty lilac garden. Continuing south along country lanes to Trent, the Rose and Crown pub, your final destination, sits opposite Manor House, where Charles spent days in hiding after witnessing a celebration of his own death in the town square. A menu of dishes such as honeyglazed ham collar, faggots with black pudding rings and mushroom Wellington in suitably courtly (and delicious).

Royal  Route

Travel Details

The Rose and Crown, Trent (0193 58 50 776,
roseandcrowntrent.co.uk). Route info: visit-dorset.com

Break For The Borders - Wales Wales

The Bell at Skenfrith provides a ludicrously photogenic base for a seven and a half kilometre circular ramble that embraces Wales and England while fusing local legend and history with widescreen borders countryside. Perfect. You can exploit the hotel’s award-laden restaurant for a post-walk meal feeling you’ve earned a rib of Talgarth beef with roast celeriac from the kitchen garden.

The Knights Templar Trail follows a track between the Monnow River and Ellis’s Woods, where locals once cursed as they passed the home of a 19th century witch (spookily, when the Bell’s landlord assaulted her, local ducks and fish mysteriously died). Following the hotel’s bespoke map, you skirt fields with views of the rounded Black Mountains, before passing The Gwyn to reach the walk’s highlight, St Michael’s Church in Garway. As well as a celebrated Norman dovecote with – followers of the dark arts take note – exactly 666 nesting spaces, the church is splattered with intriguing symbols, and displays visible remains of a rare Knights Templar circular knave. Could this be the
Holy Grail’s final resting place? Perhaps, but if you don’t manage to find the sacred vessel, return to the Bell via Garway Court, before retracing your original steps and enjoying a tipple from the Louis Roederer Champagne List of the Year in 2011.

Break  For The  Borders

Travel Details

THE DETAIL The Bell at Skenfrith (0160 07 50 235, skenfrith.
co.uk) offers six walks including the Knights Templar Trail

Nothern High - Scotland Scotland

Glencoe has long provided a stage for immense theatrics: from its erupting supervolcano and vast glaciers to its infamous 17th-century massacre.

The spectacular U-shaped valley near Fort William is quieter today, but remains a place of potent natural drama, with wild precipitous mountains gripping a landscape of grim grandeur.

The seven kilometre walk to the Pap of Glencoe blends a steep boggy route with a rocky final ascent above the western end of the glen before it opens into Loch Leven. From a parking spot 400m east of the village on the Clachiag Inn road, rise up towards the waterworks, ford a stream, and head along the edge of a small gorge. At 430m, where there’s a sweeping panorama over the village to Ballachulish Bridge, switch left and press on upwards to the back of the Pap’s stony dome with amazing views over Kinlochleven – a side serving to the summit’s main course overlooking Loch Leven to the Mamores peaks.

Return down the same route, finishing with a short walk or drive to the Clachiag for its acclaimed venison, salmon and Highland ales.

Nothern  High

Travel Details

The Clachiag Inn,
Glencoe (0185 58 11 252, clachaig.com).
Route info: walkhighlands.co.uk

Stately Progress - Peak District Peak District

Surrounded by cities, the Peak District is the second busiest National Park on earth, but it takes just a few hearty strides to escape the maddening crowds. The ten-kilometre walk that layers stately heritage architecture on softly rolling limestone valleys starts in Bakewell, on the picture postcard River Wye, for pre-fuelling on the famous jam and almond pudding. Head out over the golf course – ring a bell to warn players high above that you’re crossing their fairway – before dropping down around Chatsworth Estate, home to the Duke of Devonshire. Pass the Russian Cottage – designed from a model farmhouse sent to the 6th Duke by the Tsar – with memorable views of the stately Palladian pile a few kilometres northeast of Bakewell on the River Derwent. Press on along the bank to the estate village of Beeley whose lovely 18th-century coaching inn, the Devonshire Arms, hosted trysts between Edward VII and his mistress.

It’s tempting to stop here, but a short walk reveals Rowsley, home of The Peacock. The former 17th-century yeoman’s house, all fires, ancient stones and contemporaryflourishes, has  highly lauded AA Rosette scoff including partridge with roast duck’s liver and mushroom purée, and tempura hake: the perfect foundation for the last six kilometres. You’re on different noble lands now, crossing Haddon Park, owned by the Duke of Rutland (a slight detour takes in Haddon Hall, one of England’s finest medieval houses) to rejoin the River Wye for a scenic return to Bakewell and, just possibly, more pudding.

Stately  Progress

Travel Details

The Peacock Hotel, Rowsley
(0162 97 33 518, thepeacockatrowsley.com).
Route info: Walking Weekends Peak District
(innway.co.uk), peakdistrict.gov.uk

Beyond The Dale - Yorkshire Yorkshire

One glance at the start of this 16km walk and you know it’s going to be special. Very special. The Aysgarth Falls, the circular route’s own version of the green light and chequered flag, bisect a handsome gorge spanned by an
ancient bridge, under which the muscular Ure river drops 50m in just over a kilometre among oak, elm, cherry and hazel trees – remains of woodland that once blanketed Wensleydale. Head out northeast towards Thoresby Farm, sole survivor of a thriving medieval village, and onto Redmire, whose green boasts a gnarled oak under which John Wesley preached in the 18th century. A kilometre or so later the imposing bulk of Bolton Castle looms above you. Built by Richard II’s Lord Chancellor, Richard Le Scrope, it has walloping walls, a petite vineyard and atmospheric dungeons where excavators were shocked to discover a skeletal, manacled arm.

Make a more successful escape and follow the old Oxclose Road high above Wensleydale with expansive views, before dropping down to Carpeby. James Herriot stayed here at the Wheatsheaf Hotel on honeymoon while inoculating cattle – the old romantic – and its guestbook includes the entry ‘Greta Garbo, Hollywood’. The reclusive actress was a guest while entertaining wartime troops, and waxed lyrical about the black pudding. OK, that’s our little joke, but with food in mind, a further half kilometre will bring you to the finish at the Aysgarth Falls Hotel. Re-opened in May 2012, it’s attracting praise for the good value, locally sourced, no-nonsense menu, including braised beef cheek and pulled shoulder of pork.

Beyond The  Dale

Travel Details

Aysgarth Falls Hotel, Leyburn (0196 96 63
775, aysgarthfallshotel.com). Route info: Walking Weekends
Yorkshire Dales (innway.co.uk), yorkshirefoodfinder.org

Poetic Views - Lake District Lake District

Walkers are spoilt for choice in The Lakes. But with scenery immortalised by artistic greats, fascinating industrial heritage and a house where famous poetry was penned, this is a unique ten-kilometre hike – and then there’s the wonderful lunchtime pub. 

Leaving Grasmere, you climb up Silver How with increasingly dramatic views of the village overlooked by ochre and grey mountains. Just after Dow Bank, you hit the brow of the hill, providing another show-stopping panorama of Great Langdale valley. Dropping down past Chapel Stile, where workers from an old gunpowder factory once lived, you reach Elterwater, one of Lakeland’s cutest villages. Nearby is the lake, Elter Water, whose curving shoreline backed by the Langdale Pikes inspired Gainsborough’s only Lake District work. You could knock out a copy but lunch is calling. The Britannia, forged from a 17th century farmhouse, sits on the green with tables full of hungry walkers and a menu of seasonal Cumbrian specials, including slow braised shoulder of South Lakes lamb marinated in mint and honey, and Plumgarth’s of Kendal Cumberland sausage.

Unsurprisingly, you’ll start slowly after a hearty lunch. But there’s still six kilometres to go, starting with a yomp back over the ridge, following an old corpse route along which bodies were carried for burial – the stonking vista of Grasmere was truly wasted on the dead. Follow the scenic path through woods traversing the slopes of Loughrigg Fell, before passing the northwest tip of Rydal Water and heading to Dove Cottage. It was in this property, rented by William Wordsworth after spotting it while walking with Samuel Coleridge, that the poet produced his finest works, notably ‘I wandered lonely as a cloud’. Suitably inspired, continue the short way into Grasmere, passing the coffin stone at Town End, where carriers rested their corpses to take a breather. You’ve arrived!

Poetic Views

Travel Details

Britannia Inn, Elterwater (0153 94 37 210,
thebritanniainn.com). Route Info: walkingincumbria.org.uk

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