Tuesday 22 September 2015
Gretna to Port Carlisle (via Carlisle)
Kirkland House Bunkbarn
It was a misty start to the morning but the sun was going to burn through. I walked down the road to the River Sark and the border. Just before the border is the first (or last) house in Scotland, The Old Toll Bar. Another scene of many weddings.
Unlike when I crossed the border into Scotland on the East coast, this time it didn’t rain. I’m hoping that’s a good omen.
Having walked across the border (where were the pipers and Dougie MacLean to bid me farewell?) I promptly walked back into Gretna and caught a bus to Carlisle to avoid a road walk. I was in Border Reiver country and all day I was to be reminded of the incessant tribal warfare that blighted this area for about 300 years, mainly between 1296 and 1603. It wasn’t just between the Scots and the English, but was tribal in the 40 square miles of ‘Debatable Lands’. I have learned the origin of the term bereaved (be-revived).
I needed some new inner socks as my feet have been a bit sore and I worked out that it was my threadbare socks. I popped into Cotswolds to buy some new ones and then walked down the High Street. I couldn’t resist stopping at Watt’s Victorian Coffee Shop and was rewarded with an excellent coffee and cake.
The place is full of Victorian knickknacks and a visit to the toilet involves walking through a basement that could be a museum! It was a shame the man who roasts the coffee wasn’t in as apparently he happily shows customers round his tiny office.
Carlisle has an historic quarter, a castle, a Roman fort and of course it is Hadrian’s Wall country. There is a lot to see in Luguvalium!
I walked past the Norman castle that was once the temporary prison of Mary Queen of Scots and headed out of the city along the River Eden and out to the the route of Hadrian’s Wall and Vallum.
I passed through the villages of Beaumont and Burgh-By-Sands, and stopped in both to look at their respective churches. St Mary’s in Beaumont was built on the site of a fort, the only church on Hadrian’s Wall, and has great views over the surrounding countryside, including Carlise and the Solway plain.
St Michael’s church in Burgh-By-Sands is typical of many of the local churches in having a tower at one end where the locals used to barricade themselves in when their village was attacked by Reivers. This was also where King Edward I (The Hammer of the Scots) lay in state after he died whilst his Army was crossing the Solway Firth to wage war on the Scots in 1307.
I took a detour out onto the marsh land to look at the monument that was erected on the spot where he died (he was old and ill). I can’t believe an Army attempted to cross this marsh land; surely it would have got stuck in the same mud I have sunk in!
The last section of the walk was along the road that crosses the edge of the tidal plain and evidently gets covered regularly during high tides.
The Hadrian’s Wall Path was well signposted all day; it makes such a difference.
I had booked to stay in a bunkhouse and was the only one so I had plenty of room to spread out.
The old lady who owns Kirkland Farm, Daphne, keeps the cleanest Bunkbarn I have ever seen and we had a lovely chat. She has lived in Port Carlisle all her life and she was showing me photos of her at school in 1952. Funnily enough nearly all of her school mates also still lived in the locality; this is one of those places where people never leave.