Day 2 of St Cuthbert’s Way: Harestanes to Morebattle
“Our guidebook says we only have to go 10 miles today.”
“The printout from Macs says it’s only 9.”
“Well, that’ll be a cake walk after yesterday!”
Anna had figured out with her FitBit that the previous day we had managed to turn what was supposed to be 15 miles into 19.
And friends, this is what hiking 19 miles will do to you. It will make you think that hiking 9 miles is no big deal. Which is another way of saying that it makes you delusional.
Breakfast was at 8am at the Allerton House.
Anna was already over the Full Scottish Breakfast, but I went ahead and ordered it just so she could try haggis. Because YOLO.
She did not care for it. SHOCKER.
She had yogurt and fruit and eggs.
We chatted it up with the older couples at breakfast who were doing the walk and were very relieved to discover that they had taken two days to cover what we had done in one, which made us feel a little better about the fact that we could barely move.
One of the couples was from Yorkshire and when we compared notes, we found that we would be at the same hotel again the next night. They left the Allerton House before us but we were certain we could catch them before the day was out. (Ha!)
Jedburgh is one of four abbeys in the Four Abbeys Walk, a circular route that intersects with St. Cuthbert’s Way in a few places. Since the Allerton House is near both routes, it is often full of walkers. Chris had many runs to make dropping us all at our various take off points, and he said he would fill the inn up again the same way that evening.
By the time we had breakfast, suited up and waited for our turn to be dropped off, it was 10:45. We both felt like we were getting a bit of a late start but since we only had a mere 9 miles to cover, we would be fine.
And the sun was shining.
And straight out of the gate, we were hiking next to a yellow field.
Anna might say that the yellow fields were the beginning of all our troubles, because as the keeper of the FitBit and the map, she was hopeful that we were going to make a little bit better time than the whopping 2 miles an hour we were averaging. Stopping to take pictures of yellow fields is not that much of a time sink.
Unless they are everywhere. Around every corner.
But they are just mesmerizing. I have since learned that rapeseed also grows in the US and is the same thing as canola. I can’t believe that I have never seen a canola field but I think that the bulk of them are in North Dakota, which I apparently have never driven through in May. But these fields are everywhere in Europe in May and they are insanely beautiful.
And if the skies are blue, they demand to be photographed a lot.
But no big deal, we only had 9 miles to cover.
We had not even bothered to bring any lunch. We had JUST eaten breakfast, and besides, my breakfast was HUGE!
We had some fruit and some granola bars if we got hungry.
At 1pm we were past hungry. Anna pulled out the granola bars and I asked if we could pleeeeease sit down. It was funny how all along the walk you would see lots of perfectly placed benches, but somehow when it was time to sit down, like when you just HAD to rest, you were never near one of these benches. So we sat down on the ground, which was still wet from the day before. We had opted to wear our waterproof pants even though it was sunny, because of the mud. We knew it would still be super muddy on the trail and we didn’t want to get our hiking pants all muddy. But the waterproof material sort of traps in all the moisture and sweat. After our snack, the slow swish swish swish of our waterproof pants was the only noise you could hear for miles around while we crossed field after field after field of yellow flowers and other newly planted crops.
Each day on the trail was sort of characterized by a certain landscape for us. The first day was river side paths. We weren’t always next to the River Tweed on the first day, but our day began by crossing the river and after going over the Eildon Hills, we were never far from the Tweed. The second day was farmland.
I appreciate so much how farmers have allowed public access to and walkways along their lands and it remains one of the reasons that walking in Britain is so common. We climbed over many stiles, the steps that take you over fences and stone walls from one field into another.
Around 2pm we left the fields for a country road. We were still walking through farmland, but we could see what we thought was our destination in the distance. The green and yellow fields rolled along the horizon in front of us, with a few buildings nestled in a little pocket to the right. Surely we would be there soon. We passed Cessford Castle, which is a ruin that has very little left to it, most notably these thin pieces of the former castle wall that look like they might blow over in a strong wind.
There was a bench near the castle and I was ready to sit down for a while but with our destination in sight and our tummies growling, we pushed on.
I was super discouraged when 2:30 came and went. At one point in our figurings, we had decided that 2:30 was the absolute latest we would arrive.
We finally wandered into Morebattle at half past three, famished and tired, only to discover that the only shop selling food had closed at 1pm. Their hours are from 7am – 1pm. Take note fellow walkers. No sandwiches (or jammy pieces) to be had in Morebattle past 1pm. We found our hotel. There is only one in Morebattle.
When you open the door to the Templehall Hotel in Morebattle, you have to duck into the bar in order to keep from hitting your head. Locals sit at the few barstools with their dogs at their feet.
While I was waiting to ask about checking in, a man came in and sat down at the bar and the bartender said, “The Usual?” and he nodded.
I actually thought that only happened on Cheers.
The hostess came out of the kitchen to show us to our room upstairs. The room was comfortable and I quickly forgot all about food in lieu of a shower and getting out of my muddy pants. We had tea and biscuits in our room and dinner would be at six. We figured we could hold out.
After our showers, we hobbled around the room, me doing a bit of stretching and Anna, trying not to fall asleep. Her jetlag was plaguing her still and she had been having trouble falling asleep. We tried to read but Anna kept dozing off and we were trying to keep her awake so we decided to go outside.
‘It’s funny,” she said. Usually when I get to a town and get checked into a hotel, I would go for a walk. But when you’re walking all day, you don’t really want to go for another walk.”
Nope, you don’t. I had already taken ibuprofen, but I still felt like my feet were going to fall off when I stood up. We sat outside across the street in some old plastic chairs that were in front of a church that was being renovated into a coffee shop. (Maybe something else will be open by the next time we go to Morebattle.)
We put our feet up on two more chairs and began to imagine what would be for dinner. “I don’t want to get my hopes up,” Anna said.
“I know. It’s kind of a crap shoot.” It was the kind of place that could be surprisingly good and featured on Dives, Drive Ins and Diners. But there was an equal chance that it could be disgusting.
“I think this is my fish and chips night.” Anna figured she would eat fish and chips once while she was in Scotland, but she was waiting for the perfect moment to order it. She went for it and I had the house special lasagna and we both got lucky. Dinner was wonderful.
Around the corner from the bar was a small dining area, which we shared with the couple from breakfast, the one we had never caught up with on the trail.
Now that we had met at two different hotels, we were proper friends and had a lively exchange about the trail and about walking in general. We asked them if they had always been walkers.
Anna and I had been speculating earlier in the day about what predisposed some people to doing these sorts of walks without any trouble at all as opposed to being dead exhausted like us.
“Oh yes. We’re from Yorkshire,” the wife answered.
As if that was meant to help me understand why they were able to cover the same ten miles as us without having to hobble into the dining room. In fact, the lady was wearing pumps. She dressed up for dinner in the evenings after being out walking all day and she had not a hair out of place I tell you. I could barely be bothered to get clothes on at all and would have been more than happy to have someone bring me a sandwich in bed.
They told us they had raised their daughters as walkers and now they were married and their families were walkers as well. “Do be sure and make time one day to walk in the Yorkshire Dales, as well as Wainwright’s Coast to Coast Trail,” they enthused.
We remained fascinated with this couple all week, maybe because in the next couple of small towns, they were the only diversion, but also Anna was determined to discover what it was that British people had that we didn’t that was helping so many people to become walkers.
The interesting thing about a lot of hillwalkers you meet is that they don’t look particularly athletic or even in shape necessarily. In the case of this couple, the lady was tiny. She looked like she might blow away if you sneezed on her. He was about two feet taller than her, and fit enough, but he ate an amount of dinner that would feed a small herd of sheep. Neither of them seemed like they were struggling one little bit with the walk.
Curiously they asked us if we had seen a diversion on the trail. They said that someone had put up a hand-written sign saying “diversion” and they followed it. Generally speaking, British folk seem to be kindhearted rule-followers who actually read small posted notices and take them to heart. Unfortunately, the path they took didn’t lead anywhere and eventually they rounded back to the trail through the bushes. We said we had missed that all together and the husband observed that he thought someone must have being playing a practical joke on them.
Anna and I fell asleep that night giggling at the image of this very proper Englishwoman bushwhacking her way back to the trail.
We were planning to get an early start the next morning so that we would for certain be to the next town before lunch and also we were gearing ourselves up for how early we would have to start on Day 5 in order to beat the tides at Lindisfarne.
We knew we would be out before our Yorkshire friends and Anna asked me if I had a pen and some blank paper because she wanted to hang up a sign on the trail tomorrow that said, “Diversion.”
Disclosure: Macs Adventure generously discounted my booking for our walk in exchange for my being willing to tell you all about it here on my blog, which of course, I am more than happy to do since this trip fits in so perfectly with my Year of Walking. I’m trying to blog #48walks this year. Join me?