24th May 2013
I went with Mountain Goat tours around the district and to see Hadrian’s Wall and had a fantastic day; there were only 7 of us plus the driver so not at all crowded or squishy. We left at 9 in the morning and got back to Windermere some time after 7 that night; I’ve no idea how far we travelled but we were mostly on little back roads and seemed to cover a huge amount of ground. Our driver guide was a fantastic bloke; he kept up an interesting commentary all day and I’m sure he had an encyclopaedic knowledge of the old languages of the Celts, Vikings and Romans.
We drove along, I think, four of the lakes and stopped at quite a few places. Instead of stopping in the town of Brampton for morning tea, our driver had packed tea, coffee and biscuits for us and we stopped at the little church at Bewcastle. Bewcastle Cross, built around 675AD, is still in it’s original place in the churchyard! It was our first taste of how cold it would be out of the bus, a really icy wind just went straight through you.
Our next stop was at the Lanercost Priory ruins, there’s still an active Anglican church there and the ruins are behind. I’m not sure when the church was built but the big windows at the front of the church have been left plain so the ruins can be seen. Apparently, some time in the dim distant past, some king and his entourage came to visit the Augustine monks and almost sent the monks broke because they stayed so long – another one of our guides fascinating tidbits! Also, like almost every other building along the route of Hadrian’s Wall, the priory was built using stones from the wall. I didn’t see it but there is at least one stone with Roman inscriptions still visible.
Lunch was at the Roman Army Museum and we had enough time to watch their great 3D Edge of Empire video, have a look through the museum and have a bite to eat. The 3D video is about the wall and the soldiers’ life there – absolutely fantastic. The highlight of the day though, for at least 4 of us, was when we walked along (and on) Hadrian’s Wall. It was another of those, shivers down the spine, places for me. I must let my imagination run away because it gets to me when I stop and think – wow, I’m walking where Roman soldiers cut the stones and built the wall a couple of thousand years ago; and where they must have absolutely shivered their bums off patrolling in all sorts of horrid weather. I had my fleece, coat, gloves and beanie on and it was still freezing, so can you just imagine what it would be like in winter?
Another little town we drove through, Alston, had the steepest streets and they were paved with something like cobblestones, all very cute. Our last stop for the day was a very late afternoon tea stop at Hartside Pass; after that it was more drive by pics from the bus. The country is beautiful, and it was wonderful to sit back in comfort and just take it all in, and almost drop off to sleep!