During our weekend stay in the lovely market town of Richmond, Yorkshire, we embarked on a long trek from the quaint village of Muker to the highest pub in Britain. Alas, I was driving later so I couldn’t have a wine (although on such a walk like this, I tend to have a thirst for water rather than alcohol!)
Muker is situated in Swaledale, in the Yorkshire Dales. All Creatures Great and Small vet James Herriot called it, “the most beautiful part of England”.
The first part of our journey out of the little village is particularly memorable. We stuck to a flagstone path through hay meadows, bordered by dry stone walls, and squeezing past ‘squeeze stiles’. Along the way, bypassing the old-fashioned laithes (cowhouses). The meadows are still managed in a traditional way, which is wonderful for biodiversity. From what I read in my Country Walking magazine, these upland meadows are rare and there are only 1,000 hectares in the North of England.
Alas, as it was February, we missed out on the vibrancy and colour which it appears to have when the wildflowers are blooming. So, note to self, come back in spring.
The next leg of the journey is by the River Swale. We were lucky to spot Oystercatchers and two dippers and Kisdon Force – the waterfall – is a gorgeous sight.
We reached a signpost advertising tea and cake, tempting but we had a job to do so we had to decline our invite to Keld and its tasty delicacies … Interestingly, the sign shows we walked some of the Pennine Way and The Swale Trail (not a walk I’m familiar with) crosses here too.
The river stroll turned into a more swampy moorland trail.
We would look at the map. “Not too far now,” Simon would say in a bid to boost morale. We started to believe we would see the beautiful sight of the pub – like an oasis – at the bottom of every incline.
I ventured, “I hope the pub isn’t too busy and we will find somewhere to sit.”
And then another thought struck us both.
What if the pub was closed and we would have to eat our cold cheese sandwiches out in the cold?
The pub eventually made its appearance, just when I started to wonder if it had closed down and was demolished or that it was an old wife’s tale told to gullible hikers.
But look, there on the horizon, was the inn. The Tan Hill Inn. A lovely sight. Somewhere to sit, a nice cup of tea, a snack…
It was busy (it appears popular with bikers) with a long queue but we found a seat, and enjoyed a hot drink and much-anticipated snack.
I would have been quite happy to stay there for a good while longer but it was time to head back.
I realised that the landscape wasn’t as natural as first assumed. All around are the signs of lead mining, spoil heaps from shafts underground.
These days the pub is frequented by bikers, tourists and hikers. Back in the day, it would have been miners who were regulars.
Later on, I fell in the mud. This tends to happen a lot on my walks!
There are a number of derelict farm buildings. Later I read about Hartland, which is supposedly haunted, and Crackpot Hall, a farmhouse and mine office. I wish I had read about these two features beforehand as now I try to recollect which empty structure was which. This was another curious sight… An old bridge but with possible outbuildings behind?
Other curiosities included a rusting tractor skeleton and this unusual tree within a tree…
All in all, we walked about 17 miles in total that day. It was time to go back to the cottage for a warm shower and a pizza takeaway.
Facts of the Day
1. Tan Hill Inn dates back to the 1600s and is Britain’s highest pub at 1,732 feet (528m) above sea level.
2. During the 1700s, it was used by miners. The last mine on Tan Hill closed in 1929. The pub used to be surrounded by miners’ cottages. These were demolished.
3. On December 31, 2009, New Year revellers were snowed in and were unable to leave the pub for three days!