Distance: 18.86 km
Given the succession of easy days, we expected Day Seven to be a little more hard going but leaving Abbey Mill behind us, we soon found ourselves making rapid progress through gently undulating countryside and farmland. In fact, our progress was so swift that a late lunch at Crosby turned into an early one.
We knew from the internet that the Crosby Lodge Country House Hotel was quite expensive but we reckoned that, after the travails of Abbey Mill, a little largess was not entirely unreasonable. Arriving at Crosby Lodge we found what can only be referred to as a museum of chintz. Taking off our boots on our way in, we padded through a series of rooms filled with expensive and fragile-looking gizmos and gewgaws. The colour schemes were dark, the rooms were empty and the entire place seemed to vibrate with a low-pitch ominous rumble that was either an unseen boiler or the coming of the apocalypse. Either way, it was awesome. It is difficult to put into words why the ostensibly welcoming Abbey Mill felt more uncomfortable than the robustly old-fashioned Crosby Lodge but it might have something to do with the fact that the food at Crosby Lodge is actually very good indeed and so the aloofness feels somehow justified. Despite having won an award for being one of the world’s most romantic hotels, I’m not sure I would want to stay overnight in the Crosby Lodge Country House Hotel but it is definitely worth a visit for its bizarre old-world charm.
Replenished and tickled by the oddness, we made swift progress and got into Carlisle by mid-afternoon. Carlisle is a small city struggling beneath the burden of economic hardship and the city centre seemed to be dominated by kebab shops and chain bars distinguished only by the cheapness of their alcohol. Further investigation revealed that Carlisle does possess some recognisable shops, but these are the same high street-cloggers found in every British town and city. The Hallmark Hotel is part of a chain and so is large, efficient, comfortable but completely and utterly soulless. It also offers its guests cheap access to a local private sports centre and so The Sheep and I got changed out of our walking clothes and wandered through the (not particularly nice) streets of Carlisle to DW Sports Fitness where we enjoyed an hour’s steaming, swimming and stewing in the company of an array of large, thick-necked men with tattoos and noticeably small genitalia. Must be something they put in the water…
Not wanting to chance the (over-priced) Hallmark restaurant, we made a dash to a nearby Nando’s. It occurred to us that we must have made quite a pair, arriving at Nando’s with chlorine-induced bloodshot eyes, sleepy dispositions and outlandish clothes. I was wearing shorts, flip-flops and green toenail varnish while The Sheep was wearing a Star Trek t-shirt and enormous purple flairs. The waiter made a number of comments about us enjoying ‘a quiet night in’ and ‘keeping the hunger pangs at bay’ and with hindsight it occurred to us that they probably thought that we were stoned. Either way, I was rather pleasantly surprised by Nando’s as my past experiences there have not been particularly good. We soon retreated to our room at the Hallmark where we ate some biscuits and watched crap on telly.
In the morning, we ventured down to breakfast and had what was easily the most unpleasant breakfast of the entire holiday. The Hallmark’s breakfast is self-service and the breakfast materials are laid out buffet style. Unfortunately, the cooked elements of the breakfast are insanely greasy and by setting them out, the staff effectively invite them to congeal. I’m not sure quite how they managed it, but The Hallmark’s scrambled eggs and toast transformed upon ingestion into an enormous ball of rubber that sat uncomfortably in my stomach for much of the following morning’s walk. The hotel is pleasant enough but Dear God avoid the breakfasts!
For those of you who may have stumbled across this post, here are all of the posts in the series:
Day One: Tynemouth
Day Two: Tynemouth to Harlow Hill
Day Three: Harlow Hill to Chollerford
Day Four: Chollerford to Saughy Rigg
Day Five: Saughy Rigg to Gilsland
Day Six: Gilsland to Lanercost
Day Seven: Lanercost to Carlisle
Day Eight: Carlisle to Bowness-on-Solway