Saturday, 3 January 2009

Random Thoughts

There are many extended walks in the UK, some just as scenic and varied as the Coast to Coast Walk. None, however, have its sociability: the camaraderie between hikers, from diverse ages, backgrounds and nationalities, is beguiling and addictive. The mix is magical. My third crossing was just as enjoyable as the previous two. 

Despite the multiple crossings the bug has not yet been laid to rest. I’ll be back for another go before I finally pop my clogs (all being well), but not just yet awhile.

The stages were about right.

The Borrowdale to Patterdale section could be walked in one day, but why rush through the Lakes? It’s much too good.

On a future attempt I would consider adding an extra day between Patterdale and Kirkby Stephen, as I’d done on the earlier walks, if time permitted (Patterdale – Bampton Grange – Orton – Kirkby Stephen). The chosen itinerary, although tiring, wasn’t too demanding though.

The master stroke was the overnight at St. Giles Farm, near Catterick Bridge. I’d no compelling reason to stay at Richmond, fascinating as it is. By walking through the town I equalised what would otherwise have been an overly short leg from Reeth, followed by a near marathon day to Ingleby Cross.  

The other route conundrum lies between Ingleby Cross and Eskdale. The accommodation opportunities dictate days of disparate length: whether to stop near Clay Bank Top or press on to the Lion Inn at Blakey Ridge?

Of the Clay Bank alternatives (Urra, Chop Gate or Great Broughton) Urra demands the least diversion from the established route, without disrupting the flow of the walk. Maltkiln House is also a very good B&B. The disadvantages, however, are the two longish days to Robin Hoods Bay (but at this point of the proceedings the extra miles come easily).

Pressing on to the Lion Inn involves rushing the delectable Cleveland Hills escarpment, but has the reward of well-spaced walks to the coast. Pay your money and take you choice…

Of the B&Bs all were good in their individual ways and there’s nowhere I wouldn’t happily stay again. Of special note are the aforementioned St Giles Farm and Maltkiln House, together with Gillercombe at Rosthwaite and Brookfield House at Shap.

I used the Coast to Coast Packhorse service and found them to be quietly efficient and well worth the modest cost. Apart from a couple of particularly short days, my bag beat me to the B&B.  

I was pleased with my physical performance: no back or foot problems of note and all the walks were well within my reserves of stamina and strength. Don’t rely on the exercise for long-term weight loss though. Even if you can resist the daily breakfast fry-ups the enhanced appetite persists well beyond the boots being ditched: any modest loss is quickly squandered in the following weeks of indolence.

Monday, 10 November 2008

Glaisdale to Robin Hoods Bay

The Toll Bar, Egton Bridge
The Sherwood Forrester
The last moor, Graystone Hills
Nearly there: Sarah, Jo's hubby, Chris, Jo and Pete

Robin Hood's Bay

The slipway

Wednesday 17 September 2008

(Walking Distance: 18.5 miles)

Dad’s Army had left early after a buffet breakfast. I didn’t see them again. I, however, enjoyed the best breakfast of the walk: a Whitby kipper.

Peter, whom I’d met in the pub last night, was going to have a leisurely day. After walking from St Bees he was content to finish 15 or 16 miles from Robin Hood’s Bay to take a ride on a stream train operated along the North York Moors Railway, before catching another, conventional, train home.

It must have been raining overnight, the path through Arncliffe Wood was sodden and muddy underfoot; the morning was cool and misty. The woods, as always, were beautiful.

I met a couple of American ladies walking along the old toll road beyond Egton Bridge. They were having a slow walk to Littlebeck and they too were contemplating a ride on the steam railway. They’d thoroughly enjoyed the trail after getting over the shock of the Lake District: they’d found the mountains tough and intimidating.

I’d been surprised how many walkers, foreign and domestic, had apparently done insufficient research and underestimated the demands of the C2C, particularly those of the first few days (I wonder what happened to the Israeli lads…).

When I got to Grosmont I felt I should make some minor concession to the railway mania: I had tea and a scone in the railway café. The 'Sherwood Forrester' was steaming up as I supped my brew. Peter clamber aboard; the ladies dithered over buying tickets and missed the proverbial bus.

The walk up the lane from Grosmont onto Sleights Moor is one last shock to the system: 1:3 in parts and more than a mile long. I was happy to note that I only needed a couple of short “photo stops” before cresting the ridge: much better than my last attempt.

I paused for a break besides the stream at Littlebeck and considered my options. The walk along May Beck is scenic and rewarding. It is one I’ve done several times, not least on my last C2C trip. The path, however, is muddy and veers wildly from the obvious, direct route to the coast. An alternative route to the B1416 and Graystone Hills is available along a single track lane. This option saves 1.5 miles and a lot of mud paddling and bog trotting.

Sad to say, I took the lane.

I met Devon Brian as he emerged on to the road from Sneaton Low Moor. I walked with him across the last moor of the walk, Greystone Hills. The final acres of heather and bog are just as wet and cloying as any met thus far, and the route finding more difficult than most. The Honeymooners breezed past as we came off the moor, the exertions of the trip having taken no discernible toll…

We stopped for a final break on the bench at High Hawsker. Brian walked on ahead after donating much of his packed lunch: he has an eating disorder which, fortunately for me, restricts his diet. I was about to follow when the Aussies and the Manchester Ladies crossed the road.

And so we walked together to the cliff. It was fitting that I should finish the walk with the best of the companions met along the way.

One final surprise: Jo’s husband appeared from the direction of Robin Hood’s Bay fully equipped with champagne and glasses. The Nantwich couple caught up just in time to polish off the dregs.

The last mile of the walk and the subsequent celebration was, as is always the case at the end of a long walk, something of an anti-climax. Still, the half hour session outside the Bay Hotel was entertaining: the Whitby Duo and the Honeymooners were already there. Most were staying overnight.

I said my awkward goodbyes, walked back up the hill and met my lift for home. It had been a good walk.

Urra (Clay Bank Top) to Glaisdale

Tuesday 16 September 2008
(Walking Distance: 19 miles)

Close-up of Roseberry Topping
The Hand Stone, Round Hill

The Face Stone, Round Hill

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The iron stone railway
Fat Betty

Great Fryup Dale Head

Breakfast lived up to Maltkiln House’s standards: more good food in convivial surroundings.

One of the Oxford chaps, nothing if not a purist, insisted on them both retracing their steps to Clay Bank Top before resuming the walk eastwards along the Wainwright route. I was content to take a path from behind Maltkiln House to the intake edge before striking across the moor to regain the conventional course at Round Hill.

I got off to an eight thirty start but only managed to walk a few yards before meeting Mr Broad working in a recently felled plantation: it was pushing nine o’clock when we eventually parted.

It was a cool, dull, but fine and clear day; ideal walking weather. The light had a magical quality for the first hour of the walk, rendering the moor in a subdued pastel shades.
After the initial steep pull onto the tops it was easy going in bleak but splendid surroundings.

I walked alone all day, meeting occasional walkers including a couple of solo hikers heading west to St Bees.

If today’s walk can be criticised it is because it is a little too easy underfoot, particularly after joining the track bed of the old ironstone railway. The walk is familiar, being on across my nearest high ground. It runs across a flat upland plateau with views down into the many valleys which dissects the moor. Whilst the landscapes, sounds and smells of the moor are appealing, the actual walking tends towards the tedious after a few miles.

The long anticipated sight of the Lion Inn on the horizon was welcome indeed. I reached it well before midday. Dad’s Army were already ensconced in the bar. They’d stayed at Great Broughton overnight and had had another early breakfast-free start. They too were heading for Glaisdale.

At the Fat Betty cross I got chatting to a biker out for a blast from South Yorkshire. He’d backpacked the C2C ten years ago and was hankering after a repeat expedition, next time using B&Bs.

I met the Whitby Duo near Great Fryup Head. Dad had had a night at home and had got his knee patched up by his wife, a nurse. After being fed and watered he was again on the trail; hail if not quite hearty. It would have been dreadful to have walked so far and have to retire with the finishing post almost in view.

Rain threatened during the easy but enjoyable hike above Great Fryup Dale and along the long declining ridge north of Glaisdale. It never quite materialised. There was an adder on the road just before the track at Glaisdale Rigg; fresh, but squashed into the tarmac. It was the second adder I’ve seen on the Moors; the previous one was seen basking on a rock in the sunshine on the moor near Goathland a couple of years ago - whilst hardly more animated, that one was somewhat rounder.

I was booked into a very comfy room at the Arncliffe Arms by 16:00 hrs. I’d stayed here years ago when the rooms were small and basic. Now the rooms were large, en-suite, well appointed and warm. The restaurant was probably the best on the walk.

My feet remained blister free.

The clans gathered at the Glaisdale pub for a very agreeable evening: the Aussies, Dad’s Army and the Oxford men were there, together with Peter, an elderly solo walker from the Wirral, and a pleasant couple from Nantwich who I’d met earlier in the day along the old railway, and later in the Lion.

The Aussies had had a very easy day from Blakey Ridge but, true to form, had filled in the afternoon with a walk along much of Eskdale.

The locals must get heartily sick of the C2C banter being replayed by different groups every night of the walking season. I thoroughly enjoyed it…


1 Arncliffe Terrace
N Yorkshire
YO21 2QL
01947 897555
Not the cheapest, but one of the best stops on the route.

Friday, 7 November 2008

Ingleby Cross to Urra (Clay Bank Top)

Monday 15 September 2008
(Walking Distance: 13 miles)

Carlton Moor top towards Cringle Moor
From Cringle Moor towards Roseberry Topping
Carleton Moor from Cringle Moor

Cold Moor

Hasty Bank from Cold Moor

The Wainstones

I was the only C2C walker at breakfast.

Today was another of those crossover days where differing schedules across the Vale of Mowbray and onwards across the moors introduced new faces or impose farewells.

The crossing of the North York Moors to the sea is usually tackled in three days. The topography dictates an itinerary of two long and one short leg. The problem is where to place the short leg. There are possible stopovers in the areas around Clay Bank Top and Blakey Ridge, along the Esk valley between Glaisdale and Grosmont, and, for a half day final leg, at Littlebeck.

The dozen miles along the escarpment of the Cleveland Hills to Clay Bank Top rates alongside the best walking of the entire route: an exhilarating switchback which, despite rising little higher than 1300 feet, has a cumulative ascent of around 2,700 feet. It’s a shame to rush it. The one available on-route accommodation near Clay Bank (albeit with a minor route variation) is at Urra: Maltkiln House - a stopover we’d used on our first Coast to Coast.

It’s another nine miles, a good three hours of easy walking, to the Lion Inn at Blakey Ridge. We’d taken that option on our second C2C: it is a long way, but at this stage of the holiday, with increased fitness levels, is comfortably achievable, with the advantage of leaving an easy penultimate day to the Grosmont area.

I’d booked accommodation at Urra: it was the short day for me today, followed by longer days to Glaisdale and the sea.

By 09:00hrs I was walking steeply uphill through the forest to Beacon Hill. I passed the Whitby Duo on the long pull up to the Cleveland Way path from where there were magnificent, if somewhat hazy, views across the plain east towards the Pennines and northwards along the line of the escarpment towards Middlesbrough…from this distance not at all hideous.

I caught up with the Aussies and the Manchester Ladies at a bench above Scugdale. They were slacking, taking an early breather; all had had a long day yesterday, bless ‘em. We walked in a loose group to the Lord Stones café at Carlton Bank, Jo giving another impressive demonstration on “How to climb hills quickly without getting out of puff”.

I’d heard about the Honeymooners. I first met them when they arrived at the café; she with tight shorts and long, tanned legs: another reason to celebrate the improved weather. They’d married in the Registry Office at Whitehaven, the driver of the taxi from Ennerdale Bridge had acted as a witness. The Coast to Coast walk was the honeymoon.

The others were walking to the Lion Inn at Blakey Ridge so I waved them on their way whilst I settled down to enjoy a rare (for me) chip butty, followed by a slow walk to Urra.

The Whitby Duo called at the café. Dad was looking somewhat crestfallen. His knee was playing up and it seemed he would walk no further than Clay Bank Top where they were being picked up for a night at home in Whitby. The son intended to complete the walk solo.

The remaining miles were magnificent. Hasty Bank rates as my favourite “little hill”. I remember being there one day, shortly after I’d hiked the Pennine Way; the air was crystal clear and the long purple line of the Pennines was arrayed on the horizon. On that day the golf ball shaped radar installation on the summit of Great Dun Fell and the nearby Cross Fell were clearly visible.

It wasn’t quite that clear today, but the swallows, hunting insects and playing on the thermals above the precipice, made this afternoon’s hill-top sojourn just as memorable.

I’d glimpsed some sort of large raptor on the col beneath the Wainstones. My first thoughts were that it might have been a Red Kite, although I’ve not read of them being in this area: it was more probably a buzzard.

I met Brian on Hasty Bank. He was a solo walker from Devon characterised by an immense map case and, despite using a baggage transfer service, a grossly overfilled rucksack – if you needed anything from a needle to a bivi bag there was at least one in Brian’s bag. His main hobby was letterboxing on Dartmoor (nothing sexual, it’s a cross between treasure hunting and orienteering apparently). Brian is a fortunate soul; a bookkeeper by trade who finds his work interesting, challenging and stimulating. A kindred spirit…

The mile or so from Clay Bank Top to Urra was along footpaths, at first paralleling the road, then by way of a short steep-sided valley. Although I’d had a lazy afternoon I still arrived at Maltkiln House before four to a warm and genuine welcome. On our first visit in 1994 the Broads had just started their business. They had photographed us then, along with their other early guests: my early incarnation, along with that of Rita, and our American friends Laurie, Larry and Lita, was still displayed in a rouges gallery by the entrance.

My room at Maltkiln House was on the first floor. The floor was shared with a guest lounge and a bathroom – almost a little flat. I was joined in the lounge by a personable and interesting couple, Kate and Peter (he a retired Bank Manager) from Stratford. They were currently walking the Cleveland Way but had walked many of the English long distance walks. Included in past honours was a walk along the Yorkshire Wolds Way, a rare distinction.

Dinner was an enjoyable and sociable affair. Mr Broad went through his well rehearsed mini-lecture on the history and archaeology of the area before a splendid three course dinner. Another couple of C2Cers were staying, an apparently ill-matched pair of men from Oxford: or perhaps they just enjoyed arguing and correcting each other at every turn. They’d had a longer then expected day having walked to Urra from Lovesome Hill on the A167: about twenty miles. The route planner got some stick from his mate…

It was an entertaining evening.


Maltkiln House
Chop Gate
N Yorkshire
01642 778216
Malkiln House is a highly recommended stopover: quirky, comfortable, unique.

Thursday, 9 October 2008

Catterick Bridge to Ingleby Cross

Sunday 14 September 2008
(Walking Distance: 19 miles)

The Jenkins Memorial, Bolton-on-Swale
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Breakfast lived up to St Giles Farm’s exacting standards. I was on my feet by 08:45hrs for the long slog to Ingleby Cross and walked intermittently with the Pilots.

If there is any section of the C2C that has to be sacrificed due to lack of time or funds this has got to be it. It’s not a bad walk, but: the terrain is flat and unexciting, the land is intensively farmed, there’s much too much tarmac and it’s a very long way. Compared with the rest of the walk it’s just …ordinary. As a counterbalance to the remainder of the way however (and as an illustration of vast areas of lowland, rural England) it works.

The last vestiges of the hills are lost after the path drops to the river to pass under the A1. The Swale was swollen and the paths remained wet and muddy.

After more soggy fields beyond Bolton-on-Swale a long, tedious section of road walking ensues. I saw Dad’s Army ahead: they went right at the road; we went left. Whilst walking alone near Streetlam my MP3 player was deployed for the first time: Kate Rusby serenaded me into Danby Wiske.

When I first came this way the White Swan at Danby Wiske was the hub of neighbourhood life and enterprise, servicing the needs of locals and visitors alike. Sadly it has gone into decline. At 12:15hrs on a Sunday lunchtime I was the only customer. Later a former regular told me that one or more of the recent licensees, lacking the flair of the former incumbent, had had too great a fondness for their own wares. I hope the place eventually gets the management it deserves.

Dad’s Army arrived as I was leaving 45 minutes later. They’d forsaken breakfast for a very early start from Richmond and were heading for Ingleby Cross.

After Oaktree Hill, on the Darlington to Northallerton road, more appealing surroundings are encountered: the Cleveland Hills loom ever closer, the road walking ends, the aerials on Beacon Hill gain definition and Roseberry Topping appears away to the north. Soon, after cheating death crossing the A19 duel carriageway, I was sat outside the Blue Bell enjoying a long, cold drink.

I had reached Ingleby Cross at 16:15hrs, footsore but blister free. The Aussies walked by shortly afterwards. They’d hiked the 23 miles from Richmond and had another couple of miles to go. Despite the distance they looked well, if disappointed to find the bar temporarily closed. After an exchange of gossip off they trotted up the hill towards Osmotherly.

The Manchester Ladies and Dad’s Army were in the pub for supper. The Ladies were lively and entertaining company with contrasting personalities and physiques. Jo, slim and athletic, had determined to tackle the C2C before emailing friends for a volunteer companion. Sarah might have regretted accepting the challenge of an eleven day crossing, including several 20-mile-plus days, and forever following in the wake of her friend’s impressive uphill progress.

I had developed a respect for Dad’s Army (I never did learn their real names). Captain Mainwaring was plump, recently retired and, apart from a few training walks, admitted to little outdoors expertise. His companion, pushing seventy, had more extensively rambling experience. They weren’t fast walkers but possessed a dogged determination to complete each day’s walk in full. Dad’s Army cheerfully missed breakfasts for early starts and were content to finish at whenever time it took. And, in a dour sort of way, they kept smiling (or was that a grimace?).

Everyone had drifted to their respective lodgings by nine. I was in bed by ten.


Ingleby Cross
N Yorkshire
01609 882272

The rooms at the Blue Bell are in an adjoining annex with the satisfying breakfast being served in the pub. The accommodation is comfortable, with en-suite shower rooms, but is decoratively tired.

Wednesday, 8 October 2008

Reeth to Catterick Bridge

Saturday 13 September 2008

(Walking Distance: 15 miles)

Below Applegarth Scar
Swale Falls, Richmond


Breakfast was scheduled for 08:30hrs. I was in the dinning room ten minutes early to get a head start. The meal was fine but unexceptional. No other walkers were staying.

I was scheduled to walk to St Giles Farm, near Catterick Bridge today. The extra miles, added to the otherwise short day to Richmond, would reduce the near marathon crossing of the Vale of Mowbray the following day to a much more manageable 19 miles.

It had been raining steadily since yesterday tea time; it was still raining at 09:15hrs when I left the pub kitted out in full wet weather gear. Keen to keep dry feet I stayed on tarmac as far as Marrick Priory. I spotted Gavin and Kathy, braver or more reckless than me, on the riverside path: we didn’t meet up again.

A couple of women walkers, Jo and Sarah from Manchester, caught me up at Marrick after the steep climb up the Nun’s Steps. I was dumping my waterproofs in response to the improving day. The Manchester Ladies were aiming for an eleven day crossing, having walked from Kirkby Stephen to Reeth the previous day (and having walked between Borrowdale and Patterdale in one hop ). Like everyone else but me they were heading for Richmond and a lazy afternoon. We walked together for much of the way to the Applegarth farms.

The two American couples were in Marske emerging into daylight from the innards of the church: they were hunting for a tea room promised in their guide (I could have triggered a scone obsession yesterday). They seemed to be enjoying the walk although the elder male was suffering with a strained, painful knee. It was the last time I saw them: they were taking two days to cross from Richmond to Ingleby Cross.

The Geezers were in an enclosure not too far from the path climbing walls and gates to regain the route. They were meeting up with family in Richmond for a couple of rest days. Richmond is another of those places where schedules diverge and familiar faces disappear.

I was in Richmond by 13:15hrs: it was bustling. The little town felt almost metropolitan after the seclusion of the past nine days. I needed nothing so was happy to walk on through.

The path through the woods - next to the Swale, beyond the malodorous sewage works - is as wet and muddy as any on the entire route. The way hovers in entertaining fashion high above the river, before leaving the trees on a high buff on the approach to an abandoned farmstead. I paused for a break, sitting on one of several large masonry blocks marking the otherwise scant remains of Hagg Farm.

It was a tranquil spot - until three youths turned up on scrambler bikes. Round in circles they went, mounting the foundations of the ruin, doing occasional wheelies and causing general mayhem. I went into grumpy old man mode, muttering and grumbling under my breath and spreading my possessions to limit their range. I savoured the moment when the engine of one of the bikes grounded on concrete with a satisfying crunch.

I was just a little humbled when, without irony, one of the lads apologised for disturbing my peace before they all rode off and serenity returned.

Just before St Giles Farm I chatted to a couple walking to St Bees: I warned them about the dusty, parched paths ahead - apparently it had been dry on the North York Moors too...

I got to the farm for 15:30hrs and was welcomed with tea, a chat and cake, before being shown to my large, comfy room. A couple of blokes arrived later, followed by two couples walking with dogs. All had set out from Reeth that morning.

Supper was a satisfying, enjoyable affair. The two blokes were Mersey River Pilots walking the route in two and three day chunks as shift patterns and domestic considerations allowed: they made good and interesting company. The dog walkers went to the pub.

After messing up a Sudoko I was asleep by eleven.


St. Giles Farm
Catterick Bridge
N Yorkshire
DL10 7PH
01748 811372

St Giles shares the “best B&B award” with a couple of other stops. It offers excellent accommodation, terrific food and has welcoming, interesting hosts. It is ideally situated to break the two stages between Reeth and Ingleby Cross into more equal bits.

Keld to Reeth

Friday 12 September 2008
(Walking Distance: 13 miles)
Swaledale near Crackpot Hall
Ivelet Bridge
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Meadows near Gunnerside
Walltop path, near Isles Bridge

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It was an excellent and interesting breakfast. I’d seen a low flying helicopter during supper last night. This morning the craft was parked in a field behind the hotel. I was stowed next to the driver. An interesting chap he was too: ex-army. He had an arrangement with the owner of the aircraft whereby he rented it from him when it wasn’t needed. He used the helicopter down time for what amounted to a high class cab business.
The pilot had ferried a Banker (I’m sure that’s the spelling) up from London last night and was flying back to the smoke later in the day. Taxiing shooting parties up to the northern moors was a regular earner apparently.
It could have been half-way blues, but I felt a little bit off colour today: nothing specific or uncomfortable, just not quite on form. I decided to take the easier, more scenic, valley route and was away by 09:15 hours, passing the Whitby Duo leaving their digs in the hamlet. The day was again fair and made for an easy walk down the dale.
All along Swaledale there were hundreds of dead rabbits. It was obvious that many were miximatosis victims; another thought was that the saturated and recently flooded ground had left some animals vulnerable to hyperthermia and disease.
Gunnerside’s Tea Rooms provided the opportunity for a welcome mid morning scone and Earl Grey. I got the distinct impression, however, that the proprietor wasn’t too keen on muddy, scruffy hikers loitering outside her wannabe genteel establishment. No more encouragement was needed; I took my time over the snack, watching the world go by and chatting amiably to her more refined customers.
When I eventually prised myself out of the seat and walked round the corner to find the path, I bumped into the two, thirsty looking, soil encrusted, American couples last seen at Shap. We swapped greetings before I pointed them in the direction of the Tea Rooms: one likes to help local enterprise…
The remainder of the walk to Reeth was pleasant and largely uneventful; the paths were very wet and occasionally flooded; the wall-top path, near to Isles Bridge, was as entertaining as ever; the ford at Barney Beck was high and impossible to negotiate dry-footed. There was one nasty little sting to the day: a heavy, cold, twenty minute long shower; just enough to rehydrate drying trods.
On the outskirts of Reeth I met the Aussies: they’d walked from Muker along the river to Gunnerside, there following the beck to join the high route at Bunton Hush. We arranged to meet later in the pub.
After booking into the Buck at around 15:30hrs, I showered, changed and went for a wander around Reeth. It didn’t take long. When the rain started I made my way back to the Buck and logged into their internet connection. Whilst sat in the bar a procession of familiar faces filed through the village.
I had something of a pub crawl later, visiting all the hostelries and chatting with the Aussies and Gavin and Kathy. Later, back at the Buck with Gavin, I ordered and paid for my customary non-alcoholic lager. It was only when I got back to the table that I realised I’d been given a Mackison Stout: it would have been currish to take it back – it tasted rather like liquid liquorish.
After the booze it was bed: I slept the sleep of the just.

Buck Hotel
N Yorkshire
DL11 6SW
01748 884210

The Buck was fine, if somewhat pricey – the most expensive of the trip. The room was comfortable but tired.