29th April 2006 – Arrival in St. Bees – 0 miles
As I have mentioned elsewhere, the tricky problem of getting to St. Bees on a Bank Holiday weekend was resolved by the begging of a lift from my very good friend and neighbour Steve. This saved me spending a small fortune and several hours of my life on public transport.
I was later to find out that Packhorse offer a service where you can leave your car parked in their secure car park in Kirkby Stephen and then use their minibus to get to St. Bees. Although this seems like a great idea, it does cost quite a lot (not sure but in the region of £60 I think), it also means that you don’t get to start walking until mid morning and you have to be in Robin Hood’s Bay in time to catch the minibus back to Kirkby Stephen. However, the service does exist.
At mid afternoon, therefore, on Saturday 29th April we rolled into St. Bees and parked up in front of Stonehouse Farm, which is centrally placed, close to the pubs and the train station. I checked in, deposited bags in the room and took Steve for a pint in the Manor House Hotel just up the road from the B&B. It was the least I could do before he started his 3 hour drive back home. My first Coast to Coast beer was a pint of Theakston’s Bitter and very welcome it was too.
After seeing Steve off I decided to make the most of the lovely sunny evening and took a tour of the village. This would also allow me to get straight down to business in the morning. I visited the lovely old Priory Church, which was unfortunately sheathed in scaffolding, so didn’t make for a very good picture. Evening, especially a sunny one, is the best time to visit the church I think, as the light enhances the splendid arch in the Western door.
I took a walk down to the beach to find the lie of the land, and also took a short walk up South Head to get a better picture of the beach and town. On my way down I passed a guy who appeared to be setting off on a walk along the C2C path. He had a small day pack and some serious walking boots on, but I couldn’t understand why anyone would be setting off on a walk at 18:00, with only two or three hours of good daylight left. I found out at breakfast the next day, from the landlady, that he was doing the first 6 miles of the C2C that evening and then starting off the next day from that point.
The St. Bees sign at the sea wall, where everyone gets their picture taken, was missing, although the sandstone blocks to which it is normally attached was still there. I guess it must have been vandalised or was being replaced, but still a little disappointing not to see it.
I headed back to town and had my evening meal in the Queens Hotel (locally produced Cumberland Sausage £6.95) with a lovely pint of Jennings Cocker Hoop. The place was almost completely empty, but they were preparing for a fancy dress party and the bar staff were already dressed up. So my claim to fame for the C2C was that I was served by Kelly Osborne and Frank Lampard.
Back in the B&B the landlady asked me what time I would like breakfast, she said she had a party of 3-Peakers in and they were eating at 06:30. I always like to make an early start when walking, so an early breakfast is very welcome. I settled for 07:00. It turns out that the 3-Peakers were doing the National 3 Peaks challenge, but in three days rather than the traditional 24 hours.
A great place to start your C2C adventure. A warm welcome, good sized rooms, hotel-type facilities in the room and fantastic breakfast all added to a very enjoyable stay at this farmhouse. The TV in the room had some of the freeview channels as well as the usual 5, which is a nice touch I think.
Importantly, an early breakfast is available on request (and I do mean early). Also worth mentioning is just how close it is to the train station – you could easily carry your Sherpa baggage the 50 yards or so.