Waking to laden skies and a thick drizzle, a perfectly presented full-English breakfast was just the thing to kick-start our fifth day of walking, a day that would see us return to civilisation (or Carlisle, as it's better known in these parts). Promising to return, we said a fond farewell to our luxury accommodation and to our hospitable landlady and stepped out into the gloom, spurred on by the promise of "the best coffee in the world" just a few miles down the road.
Having tackled a couple of hilly miles on tarmac, our mid-morning coffee break, and a chance to shelter from the persistent rain, couldn't come soon enough. We had been promised the best coffee in the world and, to be fair, we weren't disappointed. The Reading Room at Walton is a lovely quirky little tea room in a quintessentially English village. A very decent flat white, as close to the classic Italian cappuccino as you'll find in a land that seems to favour half litres of boiling hot coffee-flavoured milk, and a lavish selection of home-baking, it was with some reluctance that we eventually donned our damp jackets and stepped back out into the incessant drizzle.
From Walton we pressed on another few miles through undulating farmland. By the time we reached Crosby-on-Eden we were very much looking forward to a rejuvenating pint at the first pub we had encountered all day, and the last before Carlisle. When we eventually caught sight of the promising exterior of the Stag Inn, it appeared like an oasis in the desert. Imagine our disappointment when we realised it was closed. A devastating blow at this stage in the late afternoon!
Putting our disappointment behind us, we trudged on through the affluent and picturesque suburban villages of Linstock and Rickerby. We had by now joined the path of the meandering River Eden and had to navigate a number of detours that were still in place following the devastating floods that had accompanied storms Desmond and Eva the previous winter. It was sobering to see the extent of the damage caused by the floods, with the high waterlines still clearly visible on the landscape, even four months after the event.
Before long we were negotiating the bustling streets of Carlisle - a bit of a culture shock after 5 days in the Cumbrian/Northumberland wilderness! We are heading towards the Cathedral and our lodgings for the night, the Carlisle city Hostel but, before checking in, we can't resist the temptation of a much needed pint (or two) and the inevitable wi-fi hit.
Before long our exertions of the day are nothing but a damp memory, and it is with high spirits and good humour that we brace ourselves, ready and looking forward to a well-earned night out in Carlisle!
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Richard Hough writes about history, football, wine, whisky, culture + travel.