Thursday 4 October 2007 Spent last evening in the Old Harkers Arms, a pub I'd picked out of CAMRA's Good
Beer Guide. It's in a refurbished space in the ground floor of an old warehouse along the canal, and I found it to be a
very comfortable place, with a cushy lounge end and a functional bar end. There is a wide range of real ales and a vast
selection of malts. What more could I ask for?
Chester is a very handsome town, and, in Victorian times, its medieval walls were rehabilitated and fitted with a promenade along the top. In some places, medieval towers were dismantled and replaced with memorials or other constructions. It would be unthinkable today to retrofit an antiquity in such a way, but I don't think anyone's unhappy that it was done. I suppose the promenade itself now qualifies as an antiquity, anyway. I commence the circuit and do about a quarter of it, stopping to see a "Roman Garden" built to show off some ancient artifacts. Nearby is the shallow grassy bowl that is all that is showing of the Roman amphitheater. There is a major dig going on there just now, but there isn't much to see. A little farther on I descend to visit Chester Cathedral. More typically than Salisbury's, it took about 250 years to build, commencing in the mid-13th century, and there are bits incorporated from earlier churches, dating back to the 10th century.
I cut back through the pedestrianized commercial center to my guest house...haven't slept too well the past few nights, and I feel wiped out. After a good long nap, I finish the circle of the walls.
Dinner is in the Albion, another CAMRA selection, a pub that bills itself as "family hostile". It's a nice enough place, but very quiet. The Harkers Arms, on the other hand, is jammed. I'd like something in between. I settle for a last pint at the Albion before turning in.
Friday 5 October 2007 I leave Chester, join the M6 between Liverpool and Manchester, and zoom through
Lancashire. From Lancaster, I take the road northeast, through Ingleton and into the Pennines. My destination is Dent, in
Dentdale, which is within Yorkshire Dales National Park, although it is actually in Cumbria. Again, the drive is shorter
than expected, so I bypass Dentdale and drop into Wensleydale. At Hardraw, I stop in at the Green Dragon to see the
landlord, Mark Thompson, who was landlord at the Kings Arms in Reeth when I first landed there. It turns out he is in
France, but a half of Landlord seems in order, anyway. I enjoy it in the sunshine on the terrace out front.
Over Buttertubs Pass, down into Swaledale, along to Reeth. I spent several nights of my trip here for four years, starting in 2000. I don't know anyone here any more, aside from George, the human bar fixture; even the furnishings have changed. I have another half of Landlord, anyway, and poke around the market in the square.
Down the road, at the graveyard in Grinton, I pay my respects to Fremmie.
The back road from Grinton to Harkerside is an old favorite, with great views over Reeth and Swaledale. Then it's up over the moor to Wensleydale, and eventually to Dent. It's a charming little town with a cobbled main street--the local farmers, I'm told, would like to pave it over--and a good pub in the George and Dragon. I have a pint of the local beer in the Sun before the evening is over, as well.
Saturday 6 October 2007 It's Do-Over Day! Another beautiful sunny day, and I have the chance to make up for
missed photographic opportunities past. After an early-morning stroll around misty Dent, I hit the road and make a detour
toward Keswick. I spent several days here a few years ago, but was unable to photograph the nearby Castlerigg Stone Circle
because the field it stands in was off-limits, due to hoof-and-mouth disease. I get lots of good shots this morning, then
cross into Scotland, where I get to make up for last year's dreary weather at Caerlaverock Castle and Cairnholy chambered
I arrive at Bladnoch at about 4:00, and am fortunate to find the shop open--it normally isn't on a Saturday, but there's a book fair on in nearby Wigtown. Books and whisky makes sense to me. I buy several small bottles, and a full one of Invergordon grain whisky, 35 years old, which will be a new experience for me.
There's enough daylight when I roll into Isle of Whithorn to take a nice walk out by St Ninian's Chapel. In this weather, it seems a shame to be here for only one night, but then again, it's nice to be anywhere in weather like this. Dinner and drinks are in the Steampacket Inn, which is also where my room is. It's a nice evening.
Sunday 7 October 2007 Misty gray morning. The owner of the Steampacket walks in during breakfast, greets all,
announces the weather and a season-end sale at the garden shop up the road, and asks if anyone needs any other information.
"Do you have a boat?" asks a lady.
"Yes, that's it there, the Peregrine II," he says, gesturing out the window, "the one with the starlings in the rigging, happily dee fee cating on my deck." He is a cheerful old coot who makes me want to return.
I drive up the west side of the Machars to Glenluce, then over the single-track road to Barrhill, through a decidedly Highland-looking part of the Lowlands. As I descend into Girvan, the sky clears, and Arran smiles at me from across the firth. Through Ayr and Largs I go, on up the coast to Gourock, where I catch the ferry for Dunoon. I chose this route on a whim while looking at the map this morning, and I'm very pleased with myself--it saves dealing with heavy traffic in suburban Glasgow, over Erskine Bridge, and along Loch Lomond. I'm in Inveraray well early enough to squander funds in Loch Fyne Whiskies. My guesthouse is a short walk from town and the George Hotel, where I eat, drink, and watch rugby. Scotland are eliminated by Argentina, 19-13.