This final part of my walk (the part that should have been after-lunch, but wasn’t because of the shut pub) turns out to be the nicest part of the day. Running on the shore side of Bowness is an Edwardian promenade, called The Banks, restored in 2002. It provides a shady walk and great views across the Solway Firth.
Here they’ve built a pretty pavilion, and this marks the beginning of the Hadrian’s Wall Path. (Unfortunately my photos are poor due to difficult light conditions.)
On this side, a sign reads: “WALLSEND 84 MILES. GOOD LUCK GO WITH YOU.”
On the other side, the sign reads: “WELCOME. THE END OF HADRIAN’S WALL PATH”
It’s a much more impressive end (or beginning) than the Wales Coast Path, which just kind of petered out on the way to Chester, marked only by a couple of big rocks. I decide that one day I’m going to do the Hadrian’s Wall Path. Another long-distance walk to add to my growing list!
The walk along The Banks doesn’t last for long. You soon have to rejoin the road, and leave Bowness along a quiet lane that follows the edge of the marsh. “Road liable to tidal flooding” warns another sign. Yes. But it is low tide at the moment.
There is some traffic whizzing along this road, so it’s not as pleasant as it could have been. Here another sign tells me that “WHEN WATER REACHES THIS POINT MAXIMUM DEPTH IS 1 FOOT”. It might just be me, but I find that a little confusing.
Is it supposed to be reassuring? Don’t worry, the water here is never more than a foot deep. Or is it a warning? Beware this water is up to a foot deep.
I soon reach Port Carlisle, where the footpath leaves the road and follows a track. Here’s a nice sign. “NO VEHICLES” but “WALKERS WELCOME.”
I’m still hoping to find a pub open for lunch, so the little blackboard sign seems a good omen. “Hope & Anchor. Meals, snacks, teas & coffees.” Excellent.
The trouble is… there’s no sign of a pub. I meet a couple walking their dog, but they seem as unsure about the way to the pub as I am.
“Look, there’s Hadrian’s wall,” the man says, and points to a brick structure standing on the other side of a waterway. I think he’s joking at first. Then realise he’s deadly serious.
“Um, I don’t think that’s the Roman wall,” I say, carefully. “It’s probably the ruins of a jetty. This place is called Port Carlisle.”
Hadrian’s Wall actually runs just inland of Port Carlisle, according to my OS map. There are no stones left – they’ve been plundered to construct local buildings – just a raised bank is all that remains in this area.
The couple seems to lose heart at this news. They follow me for a while, but turn back. Perhaps they find the pub eventually? I realise I’m past the point of hunger, so I carry on.
The official Hadrian’s Wall Path turns inland as some point, but I stick to the shore. It’s too muddy to walk on the foreshore, so I walk along the grassy bank instead. This too is soggy and is clearly being eroded by the tides.
The sun is sinking lower in the sky. Ahead is a high outcrop of land, almost a cliff! It has no name on my map, but it’s where Milecastle number 77 used to stand, one of the many Roman forts that guarded the wall.
I’ve joined a little footpath, but it comes to an end at the base of this low cliff. I was hoping to find another right-of-way, as shown on my map, that leads up over the cliff and then joins the road to Glasson. But there is no obvious sign of a path. I scramble up the slippery slope, hoping to pick up the footpath in the field above.
At the top of my mini cliff is another military structure, a ruined tower. I’m sure this isn’t really Milecastle 77, but probably something left over from the second world war. Or, maybe, even an agricultural building. Anyway, I enjoy pretending I’m a Roman soldier, and stop to take a photograph looking across the Solway Firth, which appears to have grown even wider at this point.
I find my footpath. It’s a very muddy farm track. I make my way as far as the Trig Point (another military invention!) but then give up. I’m only wearing walking shoes, and the track is covered in half a foot of cow slurry. Yuck.
I strike off down the hill, crossing a very boggy field, aware I’m trespassing. At the bottom of the field is a barbed wire fence and a hawthorn hedge. I throw myself over the fence, and push my way through the hedge, tumbling onto the marsh below with a few new scratches.
I splosh through the marsh to join the road, grateful for firm tarmac beneath my shoes once again.
I soon spot the sign to Glasson and decide to stop here and see if the pub is open. I have an hour before I need to catch the bus. But I notice the sign also tells me that Kirkbride is only three miles away! I’ve nearly come round in a full circle.
I was bracing myself for another disappointing encounter with a closed pub. But I needn’t have worried. This is the Highland Laddie Inn, and it’s OPEN ALL DAY!!. Yippee!!!
The landlord is reading his paper by the fire. I’m past the point of wanting lunch, so I order a half of cider and a packet of crisps. There is only one other customer in the place, so I don’t know how he justifies staying open all day, but I’m very grateful for a warm seat and a refreshing drink. Also grateful to learn the bus stops right outside the pub!
The landlord turns out to be a haaf netter fisherman. I’d read about this method of fishing, and was thrilled to see his photo, along with his poles and net, on the wall. This ancient method of fishing on the Solway might have been invented by the Vikings. You can read about it here: Haaf Netters Fishing
Miles walked today = 14 miles
Total distance around coast = 3,017
High Point: joining the famous Hadrian’s Wall Path.
Low point: discovering the bus fare from Glasson to Whitrigg costs over £5:00 and the trip involves a tortuous journey back to Bowness, then on to Anthorn and back again, before the bus lady dropped me off at Whitrigg Bridge. If I’d only realised… I’d have walked the three miles back to my car!