Our last few days on the trail have been quick and gorgeous. Days with late breakfasts and early arrivals and still I neglected to write anything about yesterday’s adventures. They were noteworthy, but finally sinking my teeth into George R. R. Martin’s A Game of Thrones took priority. Having read it once far too quickly, I am happily revisiting the worlds of Westeros and Essos. Blogging can feel somewhat trivial when faced with such an engaging epic.
A Song of Ice and Fire aside, our Coast to Coast adventure is nearing its end. Yesterday, we slept in, ate a leisurely breakfast, and strolled across a high ridge in the North Yorkshire Moors. Our hosts were not expecting us until after 3:00 PM and with only eight miles of ground to cover, we had to occupy ourselves. This task of dawdling on the moors may have been quite oppressive if the clouds had opened up, but they only threatened. The winds were harsh and the skies overcast, but rain only fell lightly and sporadically. Instead, we found ourselves wandering along a ridge that cut sharply between two pastoral valleys, remnants of glacial lakes long since released into the North Sea. We walked our ridge for miles, appreciating its gentle downward slope and its sweeping views. Surrounded by heather, we were exposed as the world around us was exposed to us.
Upon arriving in Glaisdale, we realized that the ridge had thwarted our attempts at a late arrival. The wide path and the gentle slope had turned our meandering walk into a quick downhill jaunt. We arrived far earlier than expected and wandered Glaisdale aimlessly trying to fill the time, eating lunch in a small park overlooking the valley below. Finally, knowing that we were ahead of schedule, we headed towards our B&B, wondering if they would accommodate our poor timing. Not wanting to appear needy, we simply sat on the porch, reading until the door opened and a small woman briskly told us that we were not allowed in for another hour. The door shut quickly after her announcement. That incident was the first of many that would set us on our way the next morning with a feeling that we had been unwelcome in that woman’s home.
With that B&B behind us, today began with a nice downhill stroll to the Beggar’s Bridge, a legendary bridge built by a pirate who wanted to cross the river to visit the woman he loved. No matter how true the tale, the bridge is a beautiful legacy of an era long since passed. We mistakenly crossed it, entranced by its romance, only to find that our route had turned uphill earlier. Whoops! Once we got back on track, we wandered through woods and fields until we found ourselves in Grosmont, a small town built around a railway station. Indeed, it was here that we boarded the North Yorkshire Moor Railway, a fully-functional steam engine that services the areas between Whitby and Pickering. In fact, it was the same steam engine that stood in for the Hogwart’s Express in the Harry Potter films. Sadly, there were no chocolate covered frogs.
The train showed its age, but the station and the locomotive have been maintained meticulously by an army of volunteers with a passion for railway history. Leaving the station, the train accelerated slowly into a tunnel. I could never have expected how eery and exciting it was to watch the steam envelope the car as the darkness swallowed the train. So cool! And then we were off, snaking through a river valley as the train chugged towards Pickering. A team of conductors came through the car checking tickets, answering questions, and pushing food carts. It was quite an experience. On our return from Pickering, we had a bite to eat and I temporarily returned to the world of treachery and cunning in Kings Landing.
Our steam-powered respite, however, was short-lived. We still had to hike out of Grosmont towards the town of Littlebeck. Leaving Grosmont meant hiking up a hill that claimed a 33% grade. I didn’t measure, but it didn’t feel quite that bad. Once we had crested the hill, we were met with our first view of Whitby Abbey, and beyond it, the North Sea. Yet our view was not only clear to the east. To the north and west, we said goodbye to the North Yorkshire Moors. To our south, we saw a continued expanse of heather, flat and steady to the horizon. Dropping down the hill, we wandered through the heather, never really sure if we were on a trail or making our own. Shortly, we crossed the road and headed down to our home for the night: Intake Farm. There, we were welcomed with a warm smile, hot tea, and the smell of freshly baked bread. It was everything that last night was not. It may not have been as tidy or orderly as other B&Bs we had seen thus far, but it was a working farm, a working home, and a working kitchen. It was alive in so many more ways than we had seen so far. What a wonderful place to share a meal and get some sleep.
Tomorrow, we finish the Coast to Coast in Robin Hood’s Bay!